Weekend of local rock volume 20

December 31, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Weekend of local rock volume 20 

It’s New Year’s Eve, so let’s relive a party.

Saturday brought the 13th rendition of 12 Bands of Christmas, hosted as always by local radio personality Skip Dixxon. Even though there were only nine bands, there still was entertainment aplenty for seven hours of (mostly) local music.

Generally acoustic acts have gone first but this time an exception was made for the Aaron Howell Band. They had another show to do down the road so they led things off with their blues-influenced rock, mostly covers but one original called “Different By Design.”

The Aaron Howell Band (Aaron's on the left) led things off with straight-ahead blues-based rock, mostly covers.

After Aaron and his cohorts left the stage, we did get the lone acoustic act, Woodstock.

No, it's not sheet music. Woodstock just wanted to remind himself on the arrangement of the medley he performed to open his portion of the show.

Woodstock closed his playing with the crowd favorite original “Bacon, Eggs, and Jager” then sang over the instrumental track of a song from his upcoming CD. I thought that was interesting so we’ll see how the new compilation does when he releases it sometime in the next couple months.

Give ‘n Take restarted the “plugged” part of the show, and borrowed a “special guest” for the drumming work.

Give 'n Take turned things back up with a series of cover songs. Host Skip Dixxon didn't have it as easy as he thought he would as he graciously stepped in for a missing drummer.

The drummer is the guy who puts all this together, along with several other local music events. I think if it weren’t for him, I’d only have about 10 volumes instead of 20.

Having just seen them a couple weeks before, I knew I’d enjoy Phantom Limbs, who played next. They get two pictures because theirs came out well.

This is the more conventional shot of Phantom Limbs, who has put together an entertaining set both times I've seen them now.

I was shooting this one as guitarist Ryan Abbott was 'Zombified', which is a quirky but neat original Phantom Limbs does.

They yielded the stage to the next group, the local favorite lower case blues. Seems like we had a lot of trios to start.

If you like hot blues, lower case blues is the group to see. They don't play a lot of slow numbers.

These guys can play, but perhaps the one the crowd dug most was the last song, a rendition of ZZ Top’s “Tush.”

Another of my personal favorite local bands came up next, Lower Class Citizens.

Lower Class Citizens turned up a half-dozen or so of their original songs. They got the gathering crowd into things, picking up where lower case blues left off.

It’s sort of odd that LCC has a sound a lot like Led Zeppelin, but while I’m no big fan of Zeppelin I really enjoy Lower Class Citizens.

A band who I think must have a fairly unique set of influences was the lone non-local band in the show, although I’m wondering if Ocean City isn’t its second home.

A shot of Skitzo Calypso I took at arm's length above my head turned out to be a great band shot.

This picture of Skitzo Calypso lead singer Brad Cox turned out pretty well, so I decided to throw it into the post.

These guys must have an EZ-Pass because Skitzo Calypso is in the area a lot. Picked up their new CD while I was at the show as well, so they got their gas money and I got some new tunes to dig.

Next up were some familiar faces.

My buds from Semiblind drew the second-to-last slot.

As always, they played their rockin’ cover tunes (including the one Christmas song anyone did, you know it as “Mister Grinch”.) They did a pretty short set to save some time for the night’s final act, Blake Haley.

Blake Haley also had to borrow a band member, this time he was the bassist from lower case blues. It made for some interesting songs which he figured out on the fly.

And that was that; another 12 Bands of Christmas was in the books. Actually Blake had a fairly crowded dance floor at closing time.

Since New Year’s Eve tends to be a retrospective time and this is the 20th volume of “Weekend of local rock”, I decided to do a little bit of enjoyable research.

As one may suspect, Semiblind has been a subject in 13 of the 22 posts – there were two posts I titled “Support your local music scene” prior to adopting the “weekend” moniker. But some other bands have made a number of appearances as well – Lower Class Citizens has been featured 5 times, and 4 has been the lucky number for Aaron Howell (once as a solo act), Skitzo Calypso, Left of Avalon/Project Sideways, and going way back to a band that sadly isn’t around anymore, the Barking Crickets. In all, I’ve featured a total of 70 local and regional bands. That, my friends, is a lot of weekends and a whole lotta rock. (This doesn’t count other semi-related festival posts I’ve done where bands were present.)

But my ears and weekends continually crave for more, so I’m sure I’ll be out checking some live music soon enough.

This is my last post for 2008. I have no idea how many I’ve done this year, but hopefully you enjoyed all of them. May 2009 be the best year in all of our lives – Happy New Year!

2008 in review/2009 preview

December 31, 2008 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comments Off on 2008 in review/2009 preview 

Each time we toss out the old calendars, make whatever resolutions we figure we can break easily enough before Valentine’s Day, and get ready to spend the night with friends or watching the ball drop on TV, I sit here and figure out where this website has been and where I’d like it to go. Okay, that’s only been the last three years but traditions have to start somewhere you know.

By far, this was a year I did the most posts for the site – not to mention the other four sites I add content to. While I was contributing to Red Maryland in 2007, this year I added the Pro-Maryland Gazette, That’s Elbert With An E, and Red County Wicomico to my writing resume. There’s more eyes on what I write, despite the fact my readership here at the flagship was down somewhat.

And while that readership number is disappointing on its face, the fact is that I wrote a lot of stuff I was pretty proud of over 2008, particularly my coverage of the local Congressional race, the monoblogue Accountability Project, and the resumption of my Ten Questions series. It’s apparent that others liked what I did as well, otherwise I wouldn’t have been asked to partake in the writing opportunities that I have.

However, the little bit of coin I do make from this site depends in large part on readership, so I suppose I need to figure out where I can improve what’s here.

One thing I noticed was when I reached my peak of readers (aside from the Rushalanche) is that it came at a time when I had more local content. While I aspire to be more than the big fish in the little pond, I now have an outlet that would prefer I restore some emphasis on local and state events in Red County. Couple that with local elections, and it’s an opportunity for me to get back into the local mix.

But I can’t ignore what’s going on at the state and national levels either. With the ongoing monoblogue Accountability Project for Maryland’s General Assembly and a new Congressman who’ll likely do all he can to obfuscate his record when re-election time comes around, that needs to stay in focus too. It also goes without saying that with the changeover from Bush 43 to Obama will create many writing opportunities.

I’ve come to the conclusion that as things stand with work and other commitments I have on my time, the pace I had of about 10 to 12 posts per week is about all I can sustain unless I write several posts in advance on the weekends for the following week. But there are a few long-term projects I’d like to accomplish during the next year.

First and foremost is completing the 2009 Guide to the Maryland Blogosphere. At this time, I have over 50 sites which will comprise the bulk of the first guide, which will probably expand once this rendition is complete and people stop and say, hey what about so-and-so’s site? I’m expecting to do a part 2 in the spring and once I have that base, it’ll be easy to follow through on an annual basis. This will also give me an excuse to greatly increase the number of website links I keep on my right column.

In the new year, another plan I have is to set up two new left-hand column areas – one small one devoted to the local Salisbury city election, which will be up until the middle of April, and the other one a more comprehensive area to check out local and regional bands by expanding on the information provided here. No, I’m not going to attempt to keep tabs on who plays where when but I think the local music scene is a great one and I’ve found most who participate are pretty cool people even without an instrument or microphone in their hand.

Another goal for monoblogue is getting more Ten Questions posts and interviewing more people who readers would find interesting. I enjoy doing the interviews and getting to know the subjects a little bit better.

Many of you may not know this, but I’m on Facebook and I’ve established a group called “Fans of monoblogue.” It’s a group I’d like to expand the base of and I update it on a regular basis when I do or find out about something having to do with my site I find newsworthy – usually it’s when I’m linked on other sites or I do a post I feel is quite good. I’m fairly certain that I’m going to be placing some important updates on there as the New Year is dawning over the next few weeks.

Finally, I suspect that my “Blog ideas” e-mail folders will stay pretty full. I’m going to close this post by referring to someone else’s compilations that I found humorous as well. The Media Research Center has come up with their best “Notable Quotables” of 2008 while their Times Watch division skewered the Old Gray Lady with the Top 10 Lowlights of the New York Times. We’ll see a lot of these lists as the calendar turns and surely I’ll share those I find interesting, along with other items I think are worth sharing.

2008 State of Wicomico County

December 30, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2010, Delmarva items, Politics · 3 Comments 

This morning County Executive Richard Pollitt gave a speech the County Charter dictates he give annually, the State of the County address.

In a departure from tradition, he had ordered that the curtains of the Council chamber in the Government Office Building be opened up, and despite the dry rot he claimed the curtains had from being closed so long the reflected sunshine shone into the chamber. It was to symbolize the “sunshine nature” of county government, which he wanted to portray as a “glass house” to take the mystery out of county affairs.

After a nod to PAC-14 (the local public access channel) and their live broadcast of the event, Pollitt commented on the pending reorganization of the channel, asking citizens to “let the county government know how you feel about this asset.” It was among a number of topics Pollitt covered in the address, which lasted less than a half-hour.

While the County Executive praised the “strong sense of community” in Wicomico County as a blessing, he also cautioned that we faced challenges greater than we’ve seen in our lifetimes. And no longer can the excuse of changing over to the strong executive form of government be used; Pollitt termed that this “transition is complete.” Instead, the time of adjustment needed to be converted to a time of action, something he opined was “well underway.”

For 2009, Richard’s goal was to restore confidence in our county government, which had been shaken by previous profligate spending. That spending led to the adoption of a revenue cap earlier this decade. But, he noted, our fiscal success since has been “remarkable”, with Standard & Poor’s recently bolstering Wicomico County’s financial rating from A+ to AA-. Further, a conservative budget allowed the county to not yet require some of the cuts that other governmental entities were being forced to make.

Other successes Pollitt pointed to were the upgrading of the Wicomico Housing Authority from “troubled” to “standard”, the rating of the county’s nursing homes as 4 stars of 5, both marinas being assessed as “environmentally friendly” by the state of Maryland, a $1 million grant from the state to acquire conservation easements, and America’s Promise once again selecting Salisbury as a Top 100 city to raise children in, for the third year in a row.

The County Executive noted at the top there would be challenges, though, and 2009 promised to be a trying year due to the difficult economy and the constraints of the revenue cap. After all, Pollitt said, the county was not spending “just for the fun of it.” Items that we wanted already cost a lot of money, and would cost more in the future.

With property tax revenues in a “steep decline” – county residents now pay the same assessed rate as they did in 1991, Richard claimed – it amounted to a decline which “cost us $8 million.” At this point, Pollitt continued, we need to “take stock of (our) quality of life” and make the tough decisions about where to cut the budget. In short, because of the revenue cap, Pollitt insisted that we had to decide what services we want and how to pay for them. His suggestion was to either adopt a tax rate cap or higher revenue cap.

Nor would the state provide much in the way of help, as Richard insinuated that those in Annapolis would be less likely to assist a county which had a revenue cap in place. We had to “come to grips with the burden on our back.”

Another challenge Pollitt pointed to was how to manage growth. One goal was to control sprawl by removing the pressure on landowners to develop their land through compensating them now in exchange for placing their property off-limits to future development. But, he warned, the county shouldn’t adopt regulations that “take something important or personal from (the people).” He mentioned that, next to taxation, the greatest impact government had on the citizenry was regulating their homes and property.

Looking back to an event which grabbed local headlines in 2008, the County Executive admitted that a promised report on the theft of items from the county landfill was still in progress, but was expected to be completed early next year. Many of the steps suggested by an outside auditor had been undertaken though. As for the resolution of the criminal cases, Richard conceded that he was disappointed in the light sentences handed down to the offenders, but warned that those on the county payroll who steal from the public till “will be fired.”

Looking ahead to 2009, Pollitt anticipated the “almost complete” report from the Civic Center Committee, and announced the formation of a Council for Physical Fitness, with local resident and onetime Green Bay Packer and Washington Senator baseball player Tom Brown as the titular head of the effort. As part of this effort, Richard was going to work on trimming some of his own excess – just like millions of other Americans, the onset of 2009 will be time for Pollitt to get in shape.

While I applaud Richard for his desire to trim his waistline, I’m not as enthused about his wish to raise or remove the revenue cap.

That $8 million “cost” to the county reflected in Pollitt’s remarks is money that wasn’t drawn from the wallets of county property owners. And with our housing market in the tank, anything that can help sales such as a relatively low tax rate is advantageous. (The sales also bolster the transfer tax revenue.)

It also occurred to me that Pollitt ran on a promise to prioritize the budget. Sure enough, from the monoblogue archives of October 13, 2006:

(Pollitt said) that he “would do better by fire companies” in the budget but the budget had to be prioritized. In fact, Pollitt claimed that each year he started the Fruitland city budget from scratch and built it as a whole (rather than the federal style of baseline budgeting.) Pollitt advocated a “climate of thrift and economy” with incentives for department heads to save money.

A week later, I added on this post:

One comment on his literature reads that within the first year of a Pollitt administration, he will begin to “(p)repare a budget that provides the most bang for the buck within the limits of our funding resources while acknowledging that there will be serious needs under-funded until our community finds the will to fill them.” (emphasis mine.) I can’t say that this statement advocates less intrusive government as getting the additional funding resources almost always means John Q. Public has to dig deeper into his pockets.

While the literature comes from 2006, the term he was elected to is four years and he’ll have to deal with the financial hand he’s dealt.

Another item I happened to receive from attending the event was a full-color 12-page county report with an insert depicting the General Fund revenues and expenses from FY2008. As it turns out, education far outstrips the remainder of the General Fund budget and now, in FY2009, comprises over half of expenditures. Obviously some portions of that educational budget need to be trimmed for FY2010 if revenue is faltering. That’s one possible solution; certainly other cuts can be made far from the public’s eye. Perhaps the “economic summit” Pollitt is planning to kick off his citizens’ advisory panel for the county’s financial health can also comb through the budget.

With that, let me throw something else into the hopper. One other item that has come up on the state level (albeit unsuccessfully) and should be looked into on a local level is what’s been actually achieved by the number of commissions, boards, and other entities which have been created under both Pollitt’s watch and by previous County Councils when they ran the affairs of Wicomico County as a body. My point on this is, while the idea of a citizens’ advisory panel for fiscal affairs or a Council for Physical Fitness has some merit, I fear that they may go the way of another good idea gone bad, the Wicomico Neighborhood Congress. There will definitely be a need for strict limits on the power and function of these new bodies, lest they begin (using the physical fitness one as an example) to push for new fitness-related sources of revenue like a “fat tax” or additional expenditures such as money for bike paths rather than maintaining county roads.

As it is with practically all localities at this point in time, the State of the County could use some improvement. Rather than pine about what could be if the revenue were available, we need to set our priorities and fund them as best we can, keeping in mind that the more money left in the hands of the private sector, the faster the recovery here and nationwide will be. That will make the State of our County strong in the long run.

Could Joe be right (for once?)

Readers in my locality know that there’s a particular blogger who I am more often than not at odds with; the “Joe” in question is one who delights in attempting to hasten the demise of our local newspaper. This story is for him.

It came to me over the last few days from the folks at Pew Research. According to this report, the internet has overtaken the newspaper as a main source for national and international news. More striking are the figures for the Millennial Generation (ages 18-29) where the internet and television are dead even as a news source – 59% of young people cited one or both as a main news source.

A graph showing the percentage of Americans who receive their news from various sources, from the Pew Research Center.

After skimming through the report, I had two immediate conclusions.

One is that the claim of media bias in the news may pale in comparison to the chasm in conservatism vs. liberalism on the internet.

The second is that, with the lack of journalistic standards practiced in some quarters, people (particularly the youth) may be more ill-informed than ever.

In this age of wireless technology and video streaming, certainly it’s possible to witness events in real time and make up one’s mind about what goes on within the range of the camera taking the video. However, the vast bulk of news isn’t from eyewitness accounts, but from someone reporting the news. In olden days, we counted on newspapers to relate the story but often the information was at least second-hand if not more remote. This improved to some extent with the advent of radio and television; the former allowed newsmakers to speak directly with the people while the latter could be present where news was being made.

Now we have the technology that allows people to be their own reporters in real time. Certainly, the age of videotape allowed news gathering by non-professionals (one example was the Rodney King beating, caught on videotape by a person playing around with a camcorder) but that still needed the prism of someone at the evening news deciding it was a story worth relating. With the advent of Youtube and other video streaming repositories, that filter is eliminated to a much greater extent.

On the other hand, as a society we still must by necessity gather our news via a second-hand source who relates events to the reader, listener, or viewer through their eyes. Obviously my post is one example – I’m taking an event which happened (a survey of adults concerning their preferences for learning about the national and international news affecting them) and shaping it in a second way, the first being what Pew Research chose to report on. In this instance, I’m adding my opinions to the mix about what I feel was newsworthy and why it was so. Unless we happen to be witness to a momentous event in person, practically everything we gather as information will by necessity come as at least second-hand knowledge, regardless of whether we read it in the newspaper, hear it on the radio, or see it on television or the internet.

And here is where a nonbiased view and accuracy come in; that is, journalism in the truest sense of the word. Sadly, that seems to be lacking more and more in the 24/7 news cycle we now live in. What good is all the incredible amount of information we can gather if it’s presented in a slanted manner which highlights only one side of the story? Even worse, if people act in a particular manner on information which is later found incorrect, the future direction of society can be altered negatively.

In 2008, America had a Presidential election where even the most hardened observers noted the coverage of candidates was slanted negatively toward one and positively toward the other. (Pew did some research of election news and how the candidates were perceived within that coverage.) While there were opportunities to hear what the candidates had to say directly in joint appearances – to the extent that a moderator shaped debate questions he or she felt were appropriate for the electorate to hear – there was still spin afterward as spokesmen and network coverage talking heads let everyone know what they needed to think about what they just saw.

While I’m fairly pleased that the medium I dabble in most is beginning to penetrate a greater audience, the truth remains that those who look for news generally just go to the website of whatever news source they trust instead of flipping to their channel or buying that particular paper at the newsstand. It’s unfortunate that Pew apparently didn’t ask further whether the internet sources used by respondents were connected in that manner; however, much of my sourcing to do monoblogue comes from sites affiliated with either newspapers or television networks, and for the near-term future bloggers will rely heavily on those same sources to put their own spin on things.

If we denizens of the internet really want to be informative and take advantage of the growing audience, we need to put an emphasis on accuracy and hold ourselves to the journalistic standards which seem to be missing from more and more news outlets who’ve become cheerleaders for one side or another. It’s a goal I strive for when I report on events and if more sites would take that into account when they place what they do for all of us to see, we could turn America into a more well-informed nation.

2008’s influential blogs

December 28, 2008 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 21 Comments 

I’m back to live blogging after my Christmas trip to Florida…did you notice?

As you may have guessed from my summertime forays into Shorebird of the Week, I’m a bit of a statistics freak. So when the minds of BlogNetNews.com came up with an “influence ranking” obviously tracking the ratings through time appealed to me. (It didn’t hurt that I was one of those ranked; in fact, each week Maryland has had a ranking monoblogue’s been included. I think the streak is 81 straight weeks, including this week’s #3 ranking.)

For the first time, we have a full year to go by insofar as the overall rankings go. During the summer, however, they added several subcategories of interest as well – dividing the Maryland blog world into conservative and liberal camps, and adding an “experimental” per-post influence rating. Thus, I have four Top 20 lists (I’m including the Delmarva list I participate in as well) and one Top 10 list. Oddly enough for a state considered blue, there’s only a handful of liberal-leaning blogs which were rated by BlogNetNews so they only have a Top 10 list.

This is going to be ancilliary information to my upcoming 2009 Guide to the Maryland Blogosphere, which I’m attempting to finish for the first full week of the new year.

Let’s begin with the overall list for Maryland. The Eastern Shore is well-represented on this list, and the number in (parentheses) afterward is the applicable 2007 ranking.

Maryland’s politically influential blogs 2008 (overall)

  1. Salisbury News (4)
  2. monoblogue (2)
  3. Red Maryland (5)
  4. Pocomoke Tattler (7)
  5. PolitickerMD (-)
  6. Brian Griffiths (1)
  7. Charles County Cafe (17)
  8. Worcester Right (15)
  9. Maryland Politics Watch (19)
  10. Delusional Duck (8)
  11. Free State Politics (3)
  12. Delmarva Dealings (18)
  13. On The Record (-)
  14. Baltimore Reporter (9)
  15. Gunpowder Chronicle (-)
  16. The No BS Zone (-)
  17. Inside Charm City (-)
  18. Maryland Politics Today (10)
  19. Annapolis Capital Punishment (14)
  20. The Duck Unplugged (-)

Blogs which fell out of the Top 20 from 2007 included The Hedgehog Report, The Candid Truth, Annapolis Politics, Kevin Dayhoff, gaithersblog.net, and The Main Adversary. Most of those remain active but didn’t compile enough points to make the 2008 list.

There’s two sites which may not make the 2009 list because they’ve been placed on hiatus, those being Free State Politics and PolitickerMD. As always, tastes of readers and the effort placed into the sites by their editors also can make a difference.

As I noted above, there were several new categories of websites which made their debut in 2008. I’ll begin with the per-post category, which essentially to me means each post has more bang for the buck. It gives some advantage to infrequent posters, but based on the list above the rankings BlogNetNews came up with seem relatively fair.

Maryland’s politically influential blogs 2008 (per-post)

  1. monoblogue
  2. Pocomoke Tattler
  3. Brian Griffiths
  4. Salisbury News
  5. O’Malley Watch
  6. The No BS Zone
  7. Crablaw (now WB & A Blog)
  8. Maryland On My Mind
  9. Howard County Maryland Blog*
  10. Anne Arundel Maryland Politics
  11. Annapolis Politics
  12. Maryland Conservatarian
  13. Lost On The Shore
  14. Conservative Refuge
  15. Maryland Politics Today
  16. Aquaman Questing For Atlantis
  17. Just Up The Pike
  18. Beltway Progressive
  19. The Dagger
  20. Baltimore Reporter

* I needed a tiebreaker…HCMB was ranked in 18 weeks, AAMP ranked in 17.

This was a very strange category indeed, as no one ranked first more than 5 times and 24 different sites ranked first in a particular week. The site Jousting for Justice only ranked twice, but was first both times. The category seems to reward sites which post regularly but not frequently, as a larger number of posts would dilute the per-post rank. And while I had the top overall rank, there were a number of weeks my site didn’t make the weekly Top 20.

Maryland’s politically influential blogs 2008 (conservative)

  1. monoblogue
  2. Red Maryland
  3. Brian Griffiths
  4. Delmarva Dealings
  5. Gunpowder Chronicle
  6. Worcester Right
  7. Baltimore Reporter
  8. Kevin Dayhoff
  9. The No BS Zone
  10. Pillage Idiot
  11. Aquaman Questing For Atlantis
  12. Anne Arundel Maryland Politics
  13. Baltimore History Examiner
  14. The Hedgehog Report
  15. Annapolis Politics
  16. The Political Octagon
  17. Maryland Conservatarian
  18. What A Smell?
  19. Howard County Maryland Blog
  20. Maryland Chesapeake Blog

I’ll grant that this list is not greatly representative because there are only 26 sites which accrued ratings for the year. On the liberal side though there were only 13, so they only get a Top 10.

Maryland’s politically influential blogs 2008 (liberal)

  1. Maryland Politics Watch
  2. Just Up The Pike
  3. Annapolis Capital Punishment
  4. Crablaw (now WB & A Blog)
  5. Maryland On My Mind
  6. Duck Duck Goose
  7. Lost On The Shore
  8. The Duck Unplugged
  9. Beltway Progressive
  10. Insane Baltimore

Something I found interesting is that the liberal side shared 36 weeks’ worth of top rankings among eight sites, with none gathering more than eight. On my side, I’m a greedy SOB since I had 31 #1 rankings out of 36. (I have no idea why since we all put up good stuff.)

Since I also participate in the Delmarva BlogNetNews rankings, I thought it appropriate to check that side as well. These ratings came into being early in 2008, and what made this a little difficult to do was the addition of a number of sites to the Delmarva roster (primarily from the Delaware side) in July. This meant several sites which ranked well early on were bumped out by a large number of new sites.

What I’ve decided to do is a Top 20 list compiled from July 20th, when this influx of new sites began, with the overall year position in (parentheses).

  1. Salisbury News (1)
  2. Delaware Liberal (8)
  3. Delmarva Dealings (9)
  4. monoblogue (4)
  5. Delaware Way (14)
  6. Fix Red Clay (16)
  7. kavips (17)
  8. Pro-Maryland Gazette (18)
  9. Delmar DustPan (5)
  10. Two Sentz – Spreading The Blue Truth (19)
  11. Delaware Curmudgeon (-)
  12. Duvafiles (2)
  13. The Colossus Of Rhodey (-)
  14. Pocomoke Tattler (3)
  15. Delaware Watch (-)
  16. Up A Creek In Lower Slower Delaware (-)
  17. Worcester Right (6)
  18. Delawarepolitics.net (-)
  19. That’s Elbert With An E (7)
  20. Tobinville (-)

The sites which made the overall Top 20 based mainly or solely on the strength of their rankings during the early part of the year were Average Girl In An Average World (10th overall), Talk Of Delmarva (11), Oceanshaman (12), The Shores of Delmarva (13), ShoreIndie (tied for 14th), and ShoreThings (20). Amazingly, nearly 70 sites had at least one top-20 finish in at least one week.

As was the case with the Maryland rankings, at least one of these will likely not make the 2009 rankings as Duvafiles went on a hiatus after the elections concluded.

Perhaps this exercise was somewhat self-serving, but there’s at least one other ego which will be stroked by the results. My contention is that the only way I can improve my craft is to compare it to others in a peer group and try to become the best in the group. I’d love to see a national Top 100 ranking sometime if BlogNetNews really wanted to try something a little more adventurous.

Tomorrow I’ll delve back into politics, although posting will still be somewhat slow with the lack of political news out there.

Some scary stuff well past Halloween

Today I debut a new category which deals with the upcoming city of Salisbury elections. With my reach expanding into the Red County: Wicomico site that places emphasis on local issues along with state and national concerns, I can come back into the local realm for items to feed that site as well as inform the folks here. That’s not the scary part, though – for the frightening content you need to keep reading and follow along.

I think that everyone running for Mayor and City Council in Salisbury needs to read this report put out in October by the Center for Immigration Studies. While it sort of languished on the bottom of my “blog ideas” folder, the reason it remained in the stack and wasn’t deleted earlier was because I foresaw a day where I thought it was worth putting on my site, and as we approach municipal elections in a city that indeed has a gang problem and a large immigrant community it seems to me this research is extremely important to peruse.

This is the press release CIS put out at the time, which gave some of the conclusions of study authors Jessica M. Vaughan and Jon D. Feere.

A new Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder finds that immigration law enforcement has been highly effective in fighting gang activity around the country. Local law enforcement agencies that shun involvement with immigration law enforcement are missing an opportunity to protect their communities, according to the authors. Since 2005, ICE has arrested more than 8,000 immigrant gangsters from more than 700 different gangs under an initiative known as Operation Community Shield.

The Backgrounder,’Taking Back the Streets: ICE and Local Law Enforcement Target Immigrant Gangs,’ by Jessica M. Vaughan and Jon D. Feere, was funded by the Department of Justice and describes the unique public safety problems posed by immigrant gangs. The authors present previously unpublished statistics on gang arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), describe how immigration law enforcement authorities are used to combat gang activity, and offer policy recommendations to improve federal-local cooperation, and without damaging relations with immigrant communities.

(snip)

Among the findings:

  • Transnational immigrant gangs have been spreading rapidly and sprouting in suburban and rural areas where communities are not always equipped to deal with them.
  • A very large share of immigrant gang members are illegal aliens and removable aliens. Federal sources estimate that 60 to 90 percent of the members of MS-13, the most notorious immigrant gang, are illegal aliens. In one jurisdiction studied, Northern Virginia, 30 to 40 percent of the gang task force case load were removable aliens.
  • MS-13 activity was found in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
  • The immigrant gangsters arrested were a significant menace to the public. About 80 percent had committed serious crimes in addition to their immigration violations and 40 percent were violent criminals.
  • The ICE offices logging the largest number of immigrant gang arrests were Atlanta, San Francisco, and Dallas. Some cities with significant gang problems, such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Houston, had few arrests. These cities had sanctuary, or “don’t ask, don’t tell,” immigration policies in place over the time period studied.
  • While many of the immigrant gangs targeted were neighborhood operations, others were ethnic-based, such as Armenian Power, Kurdish Pride, or Oriental Killer Boys. But nearly half of the aliens arrested over the period studied were affiliated with MS-13 and Surenos-13, two of the largest and most notorious transnational gangs with largely immigrant membership.
  • Nearly 60 percent of immigrant gangsters arrested by ICE were Mexican citizens, 17 percent were Salvadoran, and 5 percent were Honduran. In all, 53 different countries were represented.
  • Immigrant gang members rarely make a living as gangsters. They typaically work by day in construction, auto repair, farming, landscaping and other low-skill occupations, often using false documents. Some gangs are involved in the production and sale of false documents.
  • The research found no “chilling effect” on the reporting of crime as a result of local law enforcement partnerships with ICE. Instead of spreading this misconception, immigrant advocacy groups should help reinforce the message that crime victims and witnesses are not targets of immigration law enforcement.
  • All gang task forces should include either an ICE agent or local officers with formal immigration law training, such as 287(g). Programs aimed solely at removing incarcerated aliens, while helpful, are not as effective in addressing gang activity as investigative programs.
  • While immigration law enforcement is a federal responsibility, ICE cannot do the job effectively without assistance from state and local law enforcement, particularly when it comes to immigrant gangs.

Both Vaughan and Feere work for the CIS, Vaughan as Director of Policy Studies and Feere as Legal Policy Analyst. The CIS also has a video introduction for the report, pay particular attention from about the 6:30 mark on (it’s a little over 8 minutes long):

Aside from the odd and slightly distracting camera angles used at times, the video serves to reinforce the conclusions in the report.

I was quite tempted to bolden a few of the CIS statements above, but instead I think it’s most noteworthy to point out the lack of arrests (read: free pass to operate) in so-called “sanctuary” cities. The other point which jumped out at me regarded the “worker by day, gang member by night” trend the research showed.

Much of the reason Salisbury is plagued by the crime problem it has is the available cash on the streets. Because many immigrants, particularly illegal ones, don’t use banks because they don’t have a Social Security number to open an account, they immediately cash their paychecks at a retail outlet like Wal-Mart (who cashes checks for a small fee) and return after shopping with a large sum of cash, easy prey for robbery. Or they may later need extra cash to pay a bill and without a savings account they turn to a loan shark who is likely part of a gang. Welcome to the crime problem as drug dealers and prostitution also flourish in areas where cash is easily had.

As we approach the elections in March and April, a legitimate question to ask the hopefuls is how they’ll deal with safety on the streets of Salisbury, so this report should be studied carefully.

Pay-for-play in America?

December 26, 2008 · Posted in Business and industry, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Pay-for-play in America? 

Hopefully your Christmas went well! But for Big Labor, Christmas came a little early, say November 4th. And apparently the situation in Illinois was just the tip of the iceberg (h/t NetRightNation):

The group is called Americans for Job Security, and frankly I hadn’t heard of them before I was alerted to this commercial. (Apparently this spot is intended for the North Dakota media market, such as it is. Reminds me of the Delaware media market, except North Dakota is much larger geographically.)

Regardless, AJS is on point in believing that there is a payback anticipated for those millions dumped into Democratic campaigns across the country; dollars that found their way to a whole lot of Congressional races including our very own First District battle. Big Labor ended up donating six figures to Frank Kratovil’s victorious-by-plurality campaign.

As the situation in Illinois slowly resolves itself, perhaps it’s time to revisit the “culture of corruption” theme the Democrats used so effectively in 2006 to unseat the Republicans as the majority in Congress. As Lord Acton famously noted, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We have a number of examples in government everywhere which prove Acton exactly correct, but Illinois is one where the light shone and the roaches scurried for cover.

A Merry Christmas 2008 to my readers!

December 24, 2008 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

As has become tradition, I’m not going to post on Christmas Day. Instead I wanted to wrap up this holiday today with a few observations.

First of all, I’m spending my Christmas with part of my family once again, this time in sunny Florida. Trust me, living in the Midwest for 40 years I don’t need to have a white Christmas. It’s a bittersweet holiday for me this year because a family member is not well and I was told what time he has left is in God’s hands. So I pray this is not the last Christmas he sees.

All this makes me grab on to my friends much more closely. Moving here and literally knowing nobody aside from those who interviewed me for my job and renting my apartment, I had to establish roots and slowly I have. And while I’ve gotten Christmas cards from people down here before, generally they were business associates, and in one respect the same applies here. But one pair of cards I received from some special folks really made my day, here was one of them – the other was a picture of that happy couple who front the band.

I like this better than my White House card because I know it came from the heart.

I hope their holidays rock too. But the point is more about finding friends that become like family in the strangest of places.

In our hustle and bustle of society today, we often lose track of things that are important to us. Certainly I’m blessed with the means to see my family, who I admittedly chose to leave behind when I decided to come here. And while sometimes you become close to those you work with, more often than not you’ll see them eight or nine hours a day for a couple years before they move on. My profession is somewhat notorious for that. With our increasingly mobile way of life, we tend to shelter ourselves behind fences and locked doors, which saddens me to some extent. We wistfully wish for a Currier and Ives Christmas but when we have the opportunity to recreate one we don’t always follow through because there’s that one more gift to buy for Aunt Suzy or Uncle Bob. Maybe they’d appreciate a dinner invitation or a helping hand with theirs instead.

And let’s all hope 2009 is a better year than the one that has passed; whatever your political persuasion I think we can all agree we as a world could use some improvement. Tomorrow is supposed to be a day for Peace on Earth, so I’m contributing.

Last year, I placed a song in my Christmas post that I enjoyed hearing, this year I secured a new version! Naturally, this is my friends from Semiblind with their portrayal of ‘O Holy Night’.

With that, I hope you received everything you wanted for Christmas but more importantly gave everything you could.

Regular posting resumes on Friday.

What we’re up against

December 23, 2008 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, National politics, Politics · 2 Comments 

I’ve made mention of this before, but I’m one of those on Barack Obama’s campaign mailing list. On Friday I got an e-mail from David Plouffe, who helped run the campaign. Indeed, it’s looking like the re-election campaign is already underway:

You helped build the most powerful and effective grassroots movement in America.

Now, you’re helping to define how this movement will support President-elect Obama’s agenda and continue to bring the change we need.

The more voices that are part of this process, the better the results will be.

And so far, the response has been remarkable — 550,000 people completed the online supporter survey. And this past weekend, supporters organized more than 4,000 Change is Coming house meetings in 2,000 cities across all 50 states.

Take an inside look at a house meeting in Virginia. Watch the video, see photos from meetings all across the country, and share your feedback.

Supporters like you are deciding how this movement will go forward. And your dedication is incredible.

House meetings were held in 2,000 cities. In Florida there were 302 events across the state. In Pennsylvania there were 165, and Ohio had 160.

From these meetings, survey responses, and thousands of conversations on My.BarackObama and email, your ideas about the future of this organization are taking shape.

Here are a few things you shared in the survey:

  • House meetings were the primary way supporters got involved in the campaign
  • People are excited to volunteer around a number of top issues, including education, the environment, health care, poverty, and the economy
  • 86 percent of respondents feel it’s important to help Barack’s administration pass legislation through grassroots support
  • 68 percent feel it’s important to help elect state and local candidates who share the same vision for our country
  • And a staggering 10 percent of respondents indicated that they would be interested in running for elected office

This feedback is essential to our next steps, because this movement is fueled by your ideas and your passion.

(snip)

Between now and Barack’s inauguration, we’ll continue to collect your ideas and feedback.

After the inauguration, we should be able to announce a clear plan for the future of this movement — a plan determined by you.

Thanks for being a part of this journey to bring about change in the years to come,

David

David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America
(all emphasis in original)

The advantage the Left has piled up is rooted in Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign and expanded further during the 2008 election runup. With a tech-savvy Presidential election staff and a leader who’s telegenic and has generally avoided mistakes so far that his lapdog media can’t smooth over, we on the right have a lot of catching up to do.

While whoever heads up the Republican National Committee doesn’t necessarily hold the position by a popular election (instead, the winner will be the one who draws the majority of the votes of those who sit on the RNC, a membership of 168 votes or so), for lack of an elected leader that person becomes the titular head of the Republican movement by default. Hopefully that person can also be the leader of the conservative movement as well but that may not necessarily be the case; it depends on who the RNC rank-and-file select.

In any case, one major focus for the winner will be to tailor a message that stays true to GOP principles and focuses well on the Facebook generation. We only picked up about 1/3 of the youth vote with John McCain and our side will have to act quickly before these voters become lifelong Democrats simply by habit.

With the constant barrage of e-mail that employs cutting-edge graphics and video appealing to a generation who’s coming of age with Youtube and other non-traditional media outlets, Barack Obama’s generation (which is mine as well) has already employed a cadre of idealistic youngsters to appeal to newer voters online. In large part, they were the contributors to an overwhelming ground game and had the energy to see it through. Combined with the unions who always have willing servants to the Democrats’ cause, the momentum was difficult to stop – but stop it we must in future elections.

Consider this a shot across the bow to the establishment Republicans – doing “what we’ve always done” just won’t cut it anymore. What worked for Bush in 2000 and 2004 may as well be so 20th century.

Giving money away for nothing

December 22, 2008 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry · 2 Comments 

Hans Bader of CEI is a blogger I’ve quoted before, and last week he posited that the Federal Reserve’s rate cut is truly going to punish savers and resume blowing up the credit bubble that popped this year, splattering effects like shrapnel throughout the economy. He brought up something that’s sort of rolled around in my mind for awhile but basically flew under the radar screen in this era of bailout.

A lot of us (myself included) have money socked away in a savings account that’s drawing pitifully low interest – even some of the best rates are about 3% and that’s not keeping up with inflation long-term. However, many may also be invested in a stock market where the Dow Jones Industrial average dropped by almost half in the space of about 14 1/2 months; possibly they could be in commodities which have also tanked in the last year. The only thing that seems to be going up is the tax burden of government, as even consumer prices have settled back into an almost deflationary cycle.

Normally conservatives call for a cut in the capital gains tax to help stimulate investment and promote growth, but with the current economic bust in full swing and many people needing to sell assets to survive it’s not at all a certainty that there would be gains to tax. That sea of red ink people see on their 401.k’s and portfolio programs may well actually serve as a deduction from income as a capital loss if they indeed need to hold a fire sale of their holdings. In turn, the tax collector would get just that much less because 15% of nothing is…nothing. And less income to tax means less revenue – but a larger refund because the withholding may have been based on higher expected income, which is good news for the recipient but terminates their interest-free loan to the federal and state governments.

Then we have the complicating factor of all the bailout funding finding its way to a point where it can help the economy. Unfortunately those who placed their trust in banks restarting the credit market have thus far been disappointed as they instead firmed up their bottom line or purchased smaller banks with their cut of the bailout cash.

And what of the states? They also want bailout cash as all but a handful of the 50 states are staring down the barrel of a budget deficit but aren’t inclined to alienate voters by raising taxes (which likely would be counterproductive in raising revenue anyway) or making cuts to popular programs.

Our nation finds itself in desperate times, and as a supporter of our incoming President noted in one memorable audio clip, “America’s chickens…are coming home…to roost.” It almost seems like we have to look back at the last few years and do certain things in reverse, particularly when it comes to the growth of government and branching it out into many areas where it doesn’t belong or can’t do anything about (think climate change.)

In that aspect, America needs a leader – someone to step up and say, “I’m willing to invest my fortune in America and will do my part to create wealth. In return, I want the tax and regulatory burden lowered on the producers and a shifting of items which are more properly done in the private sector back to where they belong.” One industry that I’ve argued could effectively do this job is the oil and natural gas industry, but there are others which might qualify – even the Big Three could do so if they were freed from the more egregious shackles of their union contracts.

Barack Obama has pledged to create millions of jobs through the repair and replacement of infrastructure. Fair enough, as there are needs in that sector which can and should be addressed; but when the project is complete where does the next job come from if the private sector is still prevented from stepping in because of tax burdens or excess red tape? The only answer then would be more government-sponsored infrastructure at inflated cost. Obama’s plan has the dubious potential of choking off other possible investment by being the 800-pound gorilla of monetary policy, another Fedzilla beast which needs more raw meat to survive on.

Unfortunately, hindsight is the only sight which can truly be 20/20 and we haven’t learned a whole lot from the past. A perfect time to really streamline and trim government would have been the time when everyone was fat and happy because those pencil-pusher jobs would have been absorbed by a growing economy. Now it’s a little bit more difficult, and we may have to put up with the situation we’re in for a little while.

The next time the worm turns (and it will) is the time to be ready to make the call. The private sector is getting leaner and meaner in bad times, so when we get back to the roaring economy it must become government’s turn.

Appeal for a cause I hold near and dear

December 21, 2008 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

For the last six years or so, I, along with many others in the American community, have received the internet newsletter now known as the Patriot Post, and I’m pleased to devote thousands of pixels to the large advertisement in the left-hand column.

Some of my friends know that I’m also a contributor to the newsletter, although like most of my fellows we’re considered pseudononymous and don’t receive a byline. Most weeks they ask me to write a short contribution to Friday’s Digest; this week I added the item on the outcry about merging two traditionally white colleges in Georgia into two traditionally black schools. (With some minor editing on their end, it’s on Page 8 here.)

Unlike my website, the Patriot Post doesn’t accept advertising and relies on the goodwill of their readers to contribute and support their efforts at putting out content three times a week to the thousands and thousands on their distribution list, all for free to the reader.

Whether it was because I’ve donated regularly in the past or for my written contributions to the Digest, I was surprised yesterday to find a package from them delivered to my door, with this inside:

This was an unexpected surprise.

They also sent me a nice, new pocket edition of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution that I can place on my desk. (Not sure what I’ll do with the old one…maybe send it to Frank Kratovil?)

Once again, yesterday I donated to help the effort out, and hopefully you’ll read the Digest I linked to (which is the last one for 2008; they’ll resume their normal schedule on Monday, January 5th with what I presume would be the 09-01 Brief) and decide to send a few bucks their way as well to help spread the message of Constitutional government.

A visit to ‘Club Gitmo’

December 20, 2008 · Posted in National politics, Politics · Comments Off on A visit to ‘Club Gitmo’ 

I’m not sure if these folks will say ‘hi’ to those we’re still holding there, but the MAF pro-troop care package tour I talked about a few days back has a new final stop:

Move America Forward, the nation’s largest pro-troop grassroots organization, announced today their nationwide tour to support the troops will include a stop at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Melanie Morgan, Chairman of Move America Forward, said, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be able to personally tell the United States military personnel at Guantanamo Bay how much we appreciate their service to America.  We especially appreciate those who have had the difficult duty of containing the worst terrorists, who are imprisoned at the Naval Facility.”

Move America Forward has been conducting a nationwide tour to support sending care packages to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The tour began in Sacramento, California, with a parade to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the California Vietnam Memorial and will now end at the U.S. military facility in Cuba.

“With Americans focused on the economic problems facing our country, we have to ensure that our troops in harm’s way are not forgotten during the Christmas and Hanukkah holiday season.  Our care packages are heading to Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is also important to remember our troops who are keeping the terrorists at bay just 90 miles from our shores,” said Morgan.

The trip is being facilitated by Kylie Williams, official ambassador for veterans’ advocacy for the State of Florida.  Traveling on the tour in addition to Morgan will be MAF staff members Catherine Moy, Danny Gonzalez and Ryan Gill.  Also accompanying the group will be Gold Star Mom and MAF spokesperson Debbie Lee, whose son Marc Alan Lee was the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq.  Lee said, “Move America Forward made possible a trip to Kuwait and Iraq so that Melanie and I could join our troops during the holidays last year and personally distribute Christmas and Hanukkah cards to our troops. This year we are honored to travel to Guantanamo Bay to express our thanks and see for ourselves the honorable work done under difficult circumstances by our military.”

“With so many politicians irresponsibly criticizing the job being done by American troops at Guantanamo Bay, we thought it was important for us to go there and personally tell them that the American people are 100% behind them – despite what a few self-serving politicians have to say,” Morgan concluded.

As the Long War continues to fade somewhat from the national conscience, it is easy to forget that we still have thousands of fighting men and women doing battle, holidays or not, against radical Islamic terrorists in Iraq, Afghaniatan, and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Those who claim to “support the troops but not their mission” have a chance to show their support by purchasing a care package through the MAF website. Perhaps Move America Forward’s drives will become semi-annual events, since they also did a internet telethon earlier this summer. In either case, those who volunteered to help keep our nation and freedom safe deserve a little love too.

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