Murphy’s man

After teasing the Maryland public over the last week, 2010 gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy made it official: he’s not running for the U.S. Senate. Instead, he’s backing a first-time candidate who’s spent most of his professional career in law enforcement and who believes, “we did nothing wrong, government failed us.” If you look at this hopeful’s issue page it reads as a fairly conservative platform both economically and in foreign policy.

Daniel Bongino is a 36-year-old Severna Park resident who has no political resume, but instead has worked for both the Secret Service and the New York City police department over the last sixteen years. It would seem a curious choice for Murphy to be backing this neophyte, but Brian hasn’t played by the conventional wisdom yet and probably won’t be doing so anytime soon.

Of course, the obvious question is whether Bongino will be able to take advantage of Murphy’s backing to vault past the other contenders for the GOP’s U.S. Senate challenger slot. Most figure incumbent Democratic Senator Ben Cardin a virtual lock for re-election for a second term but Daniel joins a fairly diverse field of five Republican contenders; a field which includes 2010 GOP nominee Eric Wargotz. Other Republican aspirants are former District 31 State Senate candidate William Capps, political neophyte Rick Hoover, and perennial candidate Corrogan Vaughn.

Wargotz would have to be considered as the odds-on favorite, but it’s worth noting that Eric only garnered 38% of the vote in a 10-man race last year so a better, well-funded candidate could defeat Wargotz in the primary. (In that primary Jim Rutledge, who had a much smaller campaign war chest but considerable TEA Party backing, finished second with just over 30 percent of the vote.) In theory, the blessing from Murphy, also a TEA Party favorite, could allow Bongino a 25-point base in the primary based on Brian’s support.

If events run true to form, the Republican primary for U.S. Senate next year will attract between seven and ten candidates for the nomination. Some of these will be on the ballot for the umpteenth time and others won’t even file with the FEC because they don’t (or won’t) raise enough money to wage a serious campaign. Given that background and the high-profile support of Murphy, a candidate like Daniel Bongino – even as a first-time officeseeker in a statewide race – will be one to contend with as next April draws closer.

A weekend to remember

May 30, 2011 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 2 Comments 

Some people go to a Memorial Day weekend picnic, others head to take advantage of sales or see a movie, and judging by the traffic heading westbound on U.S. 50 today a LOT of people spent their Memorial Day weekend in Ocean City. But I march to a somewhat different drummer and chose to honor those for whom the event was created in both traditional and nontraditional ways.

This is where Kim and I spent a large portion of our Sunday, for a good pair of causes.

No, it wasn’t your traditional celebration. I’m going to talk about the music itself in a future post, but the Concert for a Random Soldier up in Millsboro, Delaware featured other events as well. This classic Dodge pickup from 1941 was the winner of the modest car show held there.

This was a place where veterans could get together and comfort each other. The concert began as a method for one set of grieving parents to heal and honor their son’s memory six years ago and has grown from a small gathering to an annual event which is getting more coverage in the local media. One local radio station did a remote from there.

Terri Clifton (left in photo) is the face behind the Concert for a Random Soldier, but she doesn’t do it alone. There are literally dozens of volunteers, supporters, and people who find a way to help out behind the scenes. Consider the musicians who create the draw for the concert, which featured seven bands and a number of various acoustic acts this year – many of those have performed at the show several years in a row (for free) because they felt the need to help out.

Add in the vendors who provide the food and secure what turns out to be a very pleasant and visible venue along Delaware Route 24, and it’s obvious that pulling off an event like this doesn’t come that easily.

Without getting too much into the musical content (since I’m saving that for another post) it’s fair to say that there was something to appeal to most veterans, whether Vietnam-era or those who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. I noticed that the crowd was considerably less gray as the day wore on since the more modern acts were scheduled last.

But regardless of who was playing, the theme was the same: we support our troops.

It’s something which seems to be lost nowadays simply because we’re several generations removed from an all-out war effort. You can ask those who grew up in the World War II era about rationing and war bonds, but that generation is slipping away quickly. A world which has recently seen the passing of the last veterans of the “Great War” (what we call World War I) is perhaps thirty years removed from that same disappearance of World War II veterans and maybe two generations from losing our Korean soldiers.

By the time we got to Vietnam, the attitudes changed, and many of those Baby Boomers who didn’t get drafted into that war were the ones protesting it. Practically no one likes war, but there are those who chose to fight and paid for that decision with their lives.

Most of us do what’s politically correct, festooning our abodes with red, white, and blue – besides, it comes in handy for the next big holiday as well. And don’t get me wrong: I’m glad Memorial Day weekend is a big tourist attraction for Ocean City. But I believe we are losing sight of the sacrifices made by those in the military because so few of us are affected anymore. Less than 1 percent of the general population is now active-duty military, so we don’t have the streets with houses with blue or gold stars in the windows as we did nearly 70 years ago. (Yes, the next Pearl Harbor Day will be the 70th anniversary one. That’s why we’re losing World War II veterans at a increasing pace, since they’re now in their eighties or nineties for the most part.)

And I saw a few of those veterans at the more traditional celebration Wicomico County holds at the Civic Center each Memorial Day.

It actually was a very pretty day for a service.

And it appeared to me, since I’ve covered a few of these in a row, that the crowd was roughly the same as it had been in previous years.

And the veterans were still there to honor their individual service branches.

But there were some subtle changes to the program. An addition was giving certificates of recognition to two people: the widow of a Veterans Memorial board member and a retiring JROTC coordinator. The students caught a break as well, as they were released from flag duty once the colors were lowered. No longer did they have to stand at attention throughout the ceremony and risk passing out from the heat and humidity as a few have over the years.

Also, instead of having veterans recognized by branch of service, they were recognized by conflict. It pointed up the dwindling number of World War II and Korean veterans who could get to the program.

Even the bell ringer was new. But, the one thing which didn’t change was the number of names read – it stayed the same as last year as no one from Wicomico County lost their lives in an active war zone.

While there are many who are earnest in their desire to see us no longer need to fight wars, the stark reality is that we will always have enemies among our brother nations. We’ve become close friends with our first enemy as well as those we fought against in subsequent wars, but one never quite knows where the next threat is coming from and it’s a reminder we need to be ready.

The events of this weekend make me proud to know there are those among us who respect the fact freedom and liberty are worth dying for.

Christie appears courageous while O’Malley is oblivious

I wouldn’t have expected New Jersey to take the lead on this, but under Chris Christie’s leadership they’re renouncing their membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – this according to Tim Wheeler at a Baltimore Sun blog. I hope this is the start of a trend, with Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Maine racing to see who’s next to pull out of an organization which is unecessarily increasing electric rates in the name of combatting so-called global warming.

It’s interesting as well how Wheeler couches the $162 million Maryland has “raised” (read: extorted out of utility companies and job creators) from the series of auctions held over the last couple years. In truth, our state has helped to create yet another vast wealth redistribution scheme, with dollars flowing from “rich” companies to poor home occupants who need help paying their bills, which are increasing thanks to the state’s mandate. These increases aren’t helping the utilities’ bottom lines.

Yet before I praise Governor Christie for his decision to withdraw, it’s clear that he only believes the organization is “a failure” because his state has passed laws which more directly address the issue. Unfortunately he’s still swilling from the green Kool-Aid, and those who believe he could be the savior of the Republican Party’s 2012 chances had better know where he stands on this issue – it looks pretty well left of center to me.

Certainly Maryland can claim a similar set of regulations in addition to the RGGI statutes, but Governor O’Malley still believes that combatting so-called manmade global warming is “a fight for our children’s future.” At the rate Martin’s driving jobs out of Maryland, our childrens’ future will be spent in states like Texas, Virginia, or Florida anyway.

Besides, any decrease in carbon emissions may well be traced to the economic slowdown rather than any impact RGGI has created. There was a reason cap-and-trade died in Congress last year, and it was because the issue was properly couched as a job-killer and wealth redistribution scheme designed to favor particular “green” businesses at the expense of more tradtional, proven energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas.

And notice what Christie has to say about coal in New Jersey: “(f)rom this day forward any plans that anyone has regarding any type of coal-based generation of energy in New Jersey is over.” Never mind that coal’s cheap, effective, and with proper management not all that polluting – Governor Christie is foolishly taking it off the table in order to be a “leader” in unreliable wind and solar energy. Perhaps there’s more hot air eminating out of Trenton than Annapolis, but the results of wind and solar power for New Jersey will likely be similar to those in Maryland.

In essence, those who are skeptics like me welcome Christie’s decision to pull out of RGGI but believe his reasoning is flawed. For us to expose these hucksters covering a wealth-redistribution scheme in green fig leaves, we need more bold leadership than Christie is exhibiting here.

And while O’Malley is critical of Christie, but for reasons way off base. The proper move is to scrap the mandates along with the membership, and hopefully some other state will lead the way on debunking the cap-and-trade scam once and for all.

Feelgood legislation is one thing, but securing a real, solid-paying job really makes one feel good. Stop listening to the scammers and start reverting to common sense.

Update: Isn’t it interesting how this AP story by Dina Cappiello highlights Christie as a 2012 GOP Presidential example, even though he’s not in the race? Yet it doesn’t bring up the points I make about the remainder of his comments last week and how environmentally friendly they were – must not be in the template.

Odds and ends number 29

Since I started cleaning out my video archives last night, today seems like a perfect time to do the same with my e-mail box. As always, these are interesting items but ones to which I need only devote a paragraph or two.

In the 2008 election I found the Club for Growth a valuable resource, as did Andy Harris (for a different reason.) And once again they are preparing white papers on each of the major GOP candidates; so far they have released two for Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty. Others on the horizon (once they officially announce) are Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain. (They may have to add Texas governor Rick Perry to that list.)

One thing which might be a campaign issue for the Club to consider is the price of gasoline. While it’s retreated slightly from its peak of a few weeks ago, there’s still a long way to go before we reach the price point of a couple years back when our current President took office. But instead of shifting blame, the problem could be solved in a matter of weeks according to the Heritage Foundation:

Others, like the American Petroleum Institute, are chiming in as well. The fact of the matter is that increasing our domestic production could assist in bringing down the price because over 2/3 of the price comes from the crude oil itself. More supply to meet the demand commonly means lower prices.

And maybe I should share this graphic with the Maryland General Assembly – I know a lot of them read here – since they’re trying to cut the western end of the state out of the Marcellus Shale bounty.

(Thanks to some good friends of monoblogue, Ericka Andersen and Jane Van Ryan, for sharing. I have another Maryland energy-related piece for tomorrow too.)

And then we have the newly redesigned fuel economy stickers for 2013 models. Now there’s a little bit of sense in trying to compare the apples and oranges of electric cars vs. conventional fuel models, but the EPA isn’t telling the full story. And considering their original intent of giving letter grades for fuel economy (with electric vehicles rating an A and SUVs generally getting a D) we can see how they’re trying to influence behavior of the carbuying public rather than letting the market determine our fate.

Let’s change the subject and return to someone mentioned above. Perhaps you recall how Newt Gingrich savaged the Ryan plan for Medicare, much to the chagrin of conservatives and others who feel Medicare is unsustainable. Well, in an e-mail to supporters and others who happen to be on his list, he furiously backtracked:

The only way our country can win the future is by engaging our fellow citizens in serious discussions about major reform—not by avoiding hard choices. Congressman Ryan has made a key contribution to entitlement reform, courageously starting the conversation about how to save and improve Medicare. And that’s exactly the kind of national conversation I want our campaign to be about!

There is a reason over 1.4 million Americans are joining me in the online conversation to help win the future.

Yes, Newt, you were busted. But it is interesting to know that you have 1.4 million on your e-mail list.

So my mailbox is now relatively clean, and hopefully you’re much more well-informed.

Friday night videos – episode 66

May 27, 2011 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music · Comments Off on Friday night videos – episode 66 

Maybe you missed the 6:00 sneak peek? I forgot for a moment this has a 24-hour clock!

Anyway, you can subtitle this the ‘spring cleaning’ edition, just in time for the unofficial beginning of summer. I decided to clean out some of my archives of videos I’ve taken over the last few months (or years) and pick out some good stuff I hadn’t uploaded yet. (On some rainy day or two I may just upload a batch, since I may have a dozen or two good videos I’ve never used.) But part of this episode came from a backlog of not doing an episode of FNV the last couple weeks.

I’ll start with some video I took back in March at the Spring Luau. In order, these come from 7 Days Wasted, Jason Lee (solo, without Crookedfinger), and Lethal Dose.

Lethal Dose rocked so hard and was so loud the video didn’t sync quite right.

I have a special video from my vault, featuring my friends from Semiblind – but one in particular. Watching Jim Hogsett do ‘Seven Nation Army’ is an experience because he never plays it the same way twice. I caught this a few months back at The Lagoon here in Salisbury.

Now I’m going to go way back on you.

You’ve seen Witches Brew before here, but this video was shot at the 2010 Spring Luau, I do believe. They wanted to put us in a ‘Cold Sweat.’ Sound is a touch rough but passable.

Even farther back, we have two to close from the aptly-named (but no longer together) Order 6-D6. (It’s a shame because this episode was perfect for them.) From Pork in the Park 2009, this is their version of the Misfits’ ‘London Dungeon.’

Finally, they did a song which should rank among the longest song titles I’ve ever featured. It was one of the first videos I did, with a camera I no longer have. To be honest, I think it came out okay but I didn’t play it through. The lighting was a little funky to be sure.

If I get a chance this weekend I’ll be adding to my archives, since there’s a number of multi-band shows lined up (including the Concert for a Random Soldier currently featured in my sidebar.) So I don’t (and won’t) have a shortage of items, but if bands want to set me hip to their stuff they should drop me a line – ttownjotes (at) yahoo.com.

Shorebird of the Week – May 26, 2011

May 26, 2011 · Posted in Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – May 26, 2011 

Mike Flacco has seen a lot of time at first base this season.

Mike Flacco has made some more meaningful bat magic since this snapshot earlier this month.

If I haven’t already selected a player as SotW, it’s pretty much automatic that when a Shorebird is named the South Atlantic League Player of the Week I follow with my honors. Such is the case with Mike Flacco – in truth, this press announcement from the Shorebirds reads a lot like what I would normally say.

Obviously one has to wonder whether his more famous brother may have influenced the Orioles (as opposed to another team) into selecting Mike out of Catonsville Community College – while he played his college ball in Maryland, Mike is a New Jersey native who was indeed picked fairly late in the draft as a 31st rounder. Yet Mike is into his second year of success at this level, having hit .324 with a .804 OPS in 29 games here last season. (Mike was also 3-for-19 in a late season 2009 cameo with the Shorebirds.)

Since he is 24 and in his third season at this level – although he’s only played 68 games with Delmarva, less than a half-season’s worth of work – perhaps we should expect this sort of overall performance and the 17-for-29 mark he had last week (it’s actually a .586 clip, as opposed to the .538 on the presser) just established Mike at his normal level after a seasonlong slump. Perhaps the one thing holding him back is a lack of power, since he’s hit just one home run (back in April) in over 240 at-bats here. However, he is just three back of his career high in doubles (15 in 2009) in less than half the at-bats he had that season, so perhaps Mike can wind up as a doubles-hitting machine like onetime Shorebirds Brian Roberts or Nick Markakis.

In an organization brimming with talented young first basemen up and down the chain, Flacco will need to keep having weeks like those for which he was honored to attract notice for himself and step out of the long shadow cast by his older brother.

A sad passing

May 25, 2011 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on A sad passing 

In the back of one’s mind it was certain his prognosis was grim, but the word is now out that the man best known as “the Wig Man,” Daniel Vovak, has passed away from cancer at the age of 39. I guess I’m sensitive to this having experienced the same with my own family almost a year ago.

Alan Brody at the Gazette does a good job of summarizing Daniel’s life, but I wanted to share some of my experiences with him as well.

I last saw him at the Spring GOP convention, where he indeed pleaded for unity as Brody alluded to. For most (including myself) it would be the last time we saw him alive. The last time I spoke with Daniel (briefly) was in Corrogan Vaughn’s hospitality suite the night before, and it was clear that his illness had taken its toll. It was a very sudden and jarring change considering that he looked the picture of health during our previous fall’s convention; a time when we compared our picks for state party chairman.

But I prefer to recall the healthy and humorous Daniel Vovak, and the lengthier conversations we occasionally had. Every so often Dan would call me up and pick my brain regarding state politics based on the respect he had for my writing; meanwhile I’d ask him about that business since he had some experience there as a ghostwriter and published author in his own right. It wasn’t all that long ago, but seems like a lifetime because this happened before he fell ill late last year. He was always good for an interesting press release, and sometimes I would use them as fodder for my own thoughts on political subjects.

Most, though, will remember the wig and the many quixotic runs for elected office Vovak conducted – and almost invariably lost. (Seventh out of nine was good enough to put him on the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, though.) But he was humble enough to thank our county for supporting him for party chair. Maybe he wasn’t the most qualified officeseeker, but he was the most earnest. To me he was the better candidate of the two presented.

Still, it wasn’t in the cards for Daniel Vovak to be a political success. For those who knew him and admired his work, his success was measured in the quality of his friendship. Daniel may be gone, but it’s doubtful he or his wig will be forgotten anytime soon.

WCRC meeting – May 2011

May 24, 2011 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – May 2011 

It’s a rare meeting that I get away from with one page of notes, but last night’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting was one of those occasions.

Not that we did a lot out of the ordinary to start, engaging in the usual opening routine, but the subject matter was a little different. Instead of having a guest speaker, those of us who attended learned the ins and outs of voter registration presented by Anthony Gutierrez and Debra Hickman of the Wicomico County Board of Elections. Most of us will be certified to do mass voter registration drives – an important part of growing the GOP both locally and nationally.

So we had a relatively short meeting, as many of those who normally give reports passed up on the proceedings.

Mark McIver, doing the report on behalf of Andy Harris, wanted to get input from those in attendance on key issues, taking the pulse of the public.

After that, I was pressed into service to give the Central Committee report, so I covered the recent state convention, a few upcoming events, and plugged mdpetitions.com.

We were also quizzed about the status of a proposed scholarship and whether we wanted to send letters to recent registants encouraging them to join the Republican Club.

And that was about it. In a meeting which lasted less than an hour, there wasn’t much to write home about.

 

Taking a waiver off the table

May 23, 2011 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Taking a waiver off the table 

To me, this is a confusing request Rick Pollitt has made. In a letter released today, he told the state to not bother giving Wicomico County a Maintenance of Effort waiver for the next budget year:

Wicomico County Executive Richard M. Pollitt, Jr., announced today that he has notified the Maryland State Board of Education that he is withdrawing the county’s application for a waiver of the Maintenance of Effort (M.O.E.) standard for funding public education for Fiscal Year 2012. Pollitt was to lead a Wicomico County delegation to Baltimore to appeal to the State Board for a waiver on May 24, but the withdrawal negates that presentation. Wicomico is the last of the six counties that initially filed for the waiver to take this action.

In a letter to the State Board, Pollitt said, “Withdrawal of the requested waiver does not indicate that Wicomico County will reach the M.O.E. level of funding in the next fiscal year. In fact, it will not.”

Under normal circumstances, if a county funds its local school system to the level designated as Maintenance of Effort, it receives millions of dollars in new State aid. However, as a reflection of the current state of the economy, no additional State funds are at risk next year for failure to meet M.O.E.

Pollitt noted that there is currently a legal challenge involving the Montgomery County Board of Education and their county government where the Board claims that M.O.E. is mandatory upon the counties and the only way to avoid funding M.O.E. is through the waiver process. “We, along with the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo), are watching that case with a great deal of concern as a ruling favorable to the Montgomery Board could be devastating to county fiscal policy. I believe the major risk to failing M.O.E. is the loss of additional State money. With no new money at stake, the exercise is moot.”

Recently, the Wicomico County Board of Education, by a tie vote, declined to endorse the county’s application for the waiver. Pollitt noted without the support of the local educational community, gaining the waiver would have been unlikely. Pollitt was successful in receiving a waiver last year but then had the support of the local school system.

Pollitt concluded, “providing adequate funding for the superior education of our young people is the most serious challenge we face. While I deeply believe that most Maryland jurisdictions have a strong commitment to do the right thing for our children; the precarious state of the economy, further exacerbated by an antiquated system of public school funding, points to a troubled future for local school funding and I have called on the State Board of Education to join with MACo, local boards of education and the Maryland General Assembly to work vigorously to develop a better plan for funding public schools.”

I suppose I can see the point if the question is moot, but it can’t be determined whether the point is moot until the court decides the Montgomery County case, can it? Perhaps leaving the request in may have been a better move. Sure, there’s no state money at stake – for now.

But more interesting to me is the tie vote at the Board of Education. Since there are seven members of the board, my question is who abstained, who voted to seek the waiver, and who voted against the deal. All I know is that it was a 3-3-1 split.

So apparently our ball is in the court of the court deciding the Montgomery County case. If things don’t go Wicomico’s way we may have another fiscal emergency come up later this year as the county scrambles to cut other areas to feed the beast that is our Board of Education.

Update: I’m told the three “no” votes were Don Fitzgerald, Ron Willey, and Michelle Wright, with Robin Holloway abstaining.

A Third Friday report and review

For some time, the city of Salisbury has highlighted its downtown Plaza one day a month, as the powers that be chose the third Friday of each month for the event.

The new Third Friday logo.

As they promoted their new logo, it was my first opportunity to enjoy the festivities. Normally I’ve had one of two conflicts: league bowling or a Shorebirds game. Since neither was in effect Friday night, my significant other and I went down to see what it was all about.

Looking west down the Plaza.

It was a sort of sparse crowd when we arrived, as folks were just getting set up. This picture was taken just before 6:00 and, as you can see, there wasn’t much going on.

The local artist whose professional moniker is “Y-Hate” was making the rounds with a bucket of mud. Why? To do these temporary sidewalk paintings. They’ll be gone and off to the storm sewage system with the next good rain; ashes to ashes and all that.

Floral mud art by Y-Hate.

The mud art in context with the landscape.

The second picture was taken roughly 6:45 and you can see business picked up a bit.

I guess when the Third Friday concept was hatched, it was based on the “Arts on the Plaza” portion of the Salisbury Festival. Just like at the Salisbury Festival, 3F was promoting themselves at this event too.

Third Friday had a table at its own event.

Indeed, there was an art show indoors at the building which used to house the Escape restaurant (more on that building later.) I didn’t get any pictures of the artists’ work, but I did scope out the shows.

Also, there was music. Ben Rayne is a guitarist who picks out a location in the Parker Place lot and sets up most warm months.

Guitarist Ben Rayne, playing at Parker Place.

Yet he wasn’t among the ‘featured’ artists. J Guy and Carter were the two acoustic musicians set up on the makeshift stage in front of the WMDT-TV studios.

The acoustic duo of J Guy and Carter, from Easton way.

Meanwhile, way down the street at Flavors one could find the acoustic sounds of Goatbag vocalist Josh Pryor.

Josh Pryor relaxes after his set.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware he was playing until after he was finished. But I imagine it was a departure from his other job singing with what could be best categorized as the goth metal stylings of Goatbag.

And that leads me to my first complaint. Maybe it’s because I’d not been to Third Friday before, but my perception was the activities would be conducted within the Plaza and perhaps a bit around the corner. Maybe these signs were a bit confusing.

Signs were there to point out the 'schtuff.'

Then again, it pointed into the Plaza. But other vendors were farther down Main Street and I had no idea until I wandered down to the Flavors end of the block. That’s where I found this guy.

Mayor Jim Ireton enjoying the festivities.

He was holding court in Flavors, and was nice enough to pose for this shot after briefly discussing the disagreement between a $78 parking space and a $100,000 condo before retreating inside to reunite with his rapidly-warming beer.

As I mentioned last night, both featured artists were selling their wares.

The tip jar and CDs of J Guy and Carter were right by them on stage.

Josh Pryor worked on building up his contact list.

Gee, were they figuring the sales tax on their tip jar or CDs? I should be careful though, since I may get Josh Pryor ‘Cold Busted.’ (Inside joke.)

Yet that’s a serious omission if done with enough volume.

And speaking of sales and songs, peace sells – but who’s buying?

The Peace Alliance of the Lower Shore had a table - I bet they do every month.

I had a brief disagreement with one of the women handling this table because she had a flyer that claimed 39 cents of each federal dollar went to fighting wars and handling veterans affairs. This pie chart by the Concord Coalition begs to differ. Sure, I know, to these guys 20 cents out of a dollar is too much, but we do need to “provide for the common defense” somehow.

Let’s go back to the pretty pictures, shall we?

Looking west in the Plaza again.

I took this one as the sun was setting and lighting turned from natural to artificial.

Again, the crowd managed to increase as the evening wore on – I took the top one about 6:30 and the bottom about 8:00. One nice thing about the Plaza is the photographic opportunities different lighting scenarios provide.

Obviously the focus of the event is on the arts. So what were these ladies doing here?

The Salisbury Roller Girls.

Promoting their upcoming matchup, of course. Then again, this poster does have artistic elements in it.

A spiffy poster to promote an upcoming bout.

I could see that hanging in someone’s den, particularly if they’re interested in sports memorabilia.

Keeping my promise of earlier in the article, I wanted to share something I noticed about the Escape restaurant. It almost looked like the Rapture hit there a few months early.

The vacant Escape Restuarant looked like it was set for another night's business. It's been closed since last fall.

It sort of creeped me out that the place looked like it was ready to open for another night’s business, as if the owners expected to be back later that evening and never arrived. Maybe that’s intentional (because who needs to see yet another obviously vacant space downtown) but the care didn’t extend outside the building.

The porch for Escape no longer is a musical venue - at least until someone makes it so.

It’s a place begging to be a musical venue but no one was there.

Still, a lot of merchants downtown get a share of the revenue brought in by the additional foot traffic. Here’s a nice young lady in Mike’s Downtown Deli closing up shop after what was hopefully a successful evening for them. It was a successful night for me, too, as I snagged a former advertiser once again (see sidebar.)

Mike's Downtown Deli closes for the evening.

While I was down there, I spoke to one business owner who’s attempting to solicit financial support for a second day per month where downtown stays open through the evening. Some have even suggested we do this every Friday night, but I don’t think the concept would last if done too often.

The way I see it, what makes Third Friday work to the extent it does is the fact it stands out from the other days of the month. It seems to me that the concept could be expanded to a second day of the month only if the weather is conducive for strolling (as it was on Friday) – in the wintertime this may not be enough of a draw to convince people to leave their homes for an event with multiple indoor venues.

My other suggestion would be to simply put out the information on where musicians are playing and artists are setting up. Had I known Josh Pryor was down at Flavors I may have wandered down to hear a few songs. Like this article in spots, Third Friday has a certain disjointed character which may appeal to some but not others. Since I’m not really a member of the arts-and-croissant crowd, the main draw for me would be the music so I want to know who’s playing where.

The flowers set the stage for this shot.

As the event closed up, most people packed up to go home while a few others drifted down to Flavors to catch the ‘after-party.’ And while 3F was an interesting event, I’d like to see it supported better by the local community since I don’t think there’s going to be any city money involved hereafter. (The businessman spearheading the effort for a second day per month is going the private donation route – the only city involvement would be to close down the Plaza to traffic.)

I’ll likely drop by next month to see what’s new and unusual, so why not do so yourself? The Plaza looks better with a few hundred people in it than it does when it resembles the vacant patio of Escape. Obviously there’s a lot to do in the summer, what with Shorebirds games, various festivals, and the draw of Ocean City nightlife, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a little time and support some local businesses either. Once the crowds come down, the buzz will follow and the event will kick into a higher gear.

The next Third Friday is June 17. There is no Shorebirds home game that night, festivals usually run two nights, and Ocean City isn’t going anywhere. You have no excuse.

Entrepreneur vs. Big Government

My Missouri blogging friend Bob McCarty has uncovered quite the story: a couple who ran afoul of the law unwittingly by selling a few hundred rabbits now faces a settlement offer of a $90,000 fine but could incur a $4 million toll from an unrelenting USDA.

It sounds ridiculous on the face, doesn’t it? Maybe the federal government didn’t get their initial cut so they’re looking to make an example out of the intrepid Dollarhite family.

But it also sends a message to anyone who wishes to provide a service or sell a product – you can’t participate in getting ahead until the people in charge get some scratch. Let me give you an example closer to home.

A friend of mine is a fairly avid photographer and wished to sell her wares at a local art show. It was fine for her to sell the pictures, they said, as long as she made sure to collect the sales tax due. They even suggested she price her items in such a manner that the included tax would make the items an even dollar amount – in other words, a photo would actually sell for 94 cents but $1 would be charged.

Granted, the state needs some taxation in order to survive but burdening a person who just wants to make a little bit of gas money off some of the photographs she’s most proud of and wanted to share? Perhaps there should be a sales threshold one has to achieve before collecting taxes in this situation – obviously a permanent brick-and-mortar business would be expected to collect this increasing burden, but why should the person who may be lucky to gross a few hundred dollars a year?

As you’ll see tomorrow, a couple of the musical artists at Third Friday were selling CDs of their work. Were they collecting sales tax? Maybe, maybe not.

Returning to the Missouri case, McCarty’s account of the story told the tale of a family which wasn’t mistreating their rabbits, which were sold in good condition to pet stores and other end users. Even the USDA inspector found little aside from picayune violations, but that was enough to send up the red flags and alert the authorities. Seemingly they found the most obscure regulation to nail this otherwise law-abiding family.

But if one can be harassed over a few hundred rabbits, what about someone saying things critical of the government or participating in a protest over policy? Since Bob has a merchandising business on the side and is working on the latter stages of a book which details the story of a soldier wrongly convicted of rape and other charges, perhaps he’s not on the government-approved list these days. You never know who may be looking into those financial dealings.

The safest way anymore may be to shut up and take that government check, as more and more people seem to be doing these days – but some refuse to play that game. Let’s hope more decide to break the chains.

As reelection looms for Obama, is Big Oil in or out?

May 20, 2011 · Posted in Pajamas Media · 3 Comments 

My latest on Pajamas Media:

Energy industry advocates were pleasantly surprised when President Obama finally bowed to the public clamor to do something — anything — about high gas prices. In an announcement last week, the president promised to speed up lease approval in Alaska and open up a number of new leasing areas in the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps he’s seen the light?

Not so fast. Consider this breathless excerpt from an “Obama for America” e-mail sent out by campaign manager Jim Messina:

The CEOs from the five major oil companies — which together booked $36 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2011 alone — went to the Senate on Thursday to try to justify the $4 billion in tax giveaways they’re receiving this year.

(continued at Pajamas Media…)

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