On Halloween

October 31, 2013 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on On Halloween 

There’s really not a lot of political news today – aside from the fact that Charles Lollar debuted his revamped website, which will probably draw criticism from some quarters because he did it on Halloween – so I thought I’d check in with an observation about the day.

First I have to give you some background: I am 49 years old, so my prime Halloween time was about four decades ago. At the time I lived in a more or less middle-class portion of Toledo, but when I was 11 we moved to a rural area so I think the year I was 10 was the last time I went trick-or-treating. It seemed to me that just about every house on the street participated, so my brothers and I really only needed to go up and down our block (probably 15-20 houses each side) to get our fill of candy; if not we could easily catch up on the next street over.

Now allow me to fast-forward a couple decades to when my daughter was around 10 years old, which would have been the early 1990s. Again, at the time we lived in Toledo although I would say the neighborhood we lived in at the time was more toward working-class than middle-class. Perhaps 1/3 to 1/2 of the houses participated, and with fewer per block we normally went down Atlantic (our street) for its three blocks and National (the street behind us) to loop back.

Yet there were already other key differences. Gone were the occasional popcorn ball or apple we would get as a kids. Instead, we received practically everything in wrapped form and we had to come home and inspect it. A few years earlier they began the whole procedure of x-raying the bag of candy because people were paranoid about razors, needles, or other foreign objects inserted into the candy. (I’d always heard that legend, even as a kid, but I don’t recall an actual case.)

During those years I volunteered to sit at home and pass out the candy, I noticed that the average age of the trick-or-treaters had gone up significantly. Of course my memory is fuzzy about childhood, but it seemed like I was pretty much average when the last year I went trick-or-treating was the year I turned 10. But when passing out candy as an adult, I think the average age was 11 or 12, with way too many high school kids for my liking. Shouldn’t Halloween be for the little ones?

Of course, nowadays Halloween is an event, with decorations, gatherings, and merchandising beginning before Labor Day. We also have actual government-sponsored festivities billed as a “safe alternative” to soliciting candy from strangers. Does it bother you that the subliminal message is that it’s up to the government to provide regimented activities to keep your kids safe?

We were happy to get out, get the bag of candy, and watch Charlie Brown – now it’s almost like a monthlong buildup to a week of activity. In a lot of ways, the hype surrounding Halloween is more and more like the buildup to Christmas, with candy replacing toys and games as the premium kids expect. (The commercial where the family schemes with their smartphones to avoid the dentist giving out floss reminds me of that attitude.) At least with Christmas, though, you have the benefit of family and time off from school and work – maybe the pagans will demand that next for Halloween.

But now that the candy’s been passed out, the “safe” activities sponsored by your friendly neighborhood governmental unit are done for the year, and the sugar buzz begins to die down, one thing is certain: the commercial blitz we used to call “Merry Christmas” will begin tomorrow. Retailers have a lot of work to do because Thanksgiving (remember that holiday, the one we’re supposed to count our blessings? thought not) falls late on the calendar this year, and there’s only four short weeks between the two holidays.

So I hope you enjoyed your Halloween if you chose to go all out and celebrate it. Me, I just did my job as it was just another Thursday. Maybe that’s the way it should be for adults, at least those who don’t have kids under 12.

Maybe this will put me in a better spirit? Anyone else remember these guys?

I guess they’re still around, although I doubt with nearly as much hair.

Losing valuable time

Sometimes the best of candidates are derailed by bad management, bad preparation, or just plain bad luck. I’m not sure how much any of those three apply to a campaign which initially held promise, but it’s sad to see Charles Lollar get such bad press. Some, like blogger Jeff Quinton, are comparing Lollar to Doug Gansler – to me that’s way out of bounds. On the other hand, this push against Lollar has been greeted by a somewhat shrill retort by Julie Brewington, who is my local Lollar campaign coordinator. That light you see on the horizon is all those bridges she’s torching.

Still, both have some valid points. I’m going to focus on three which are holding him back.

At this stage in the game, the most valuable introduction to a campaign is their website, which is supposed to serve as a one-stop shop for getting to know the candidate, soliciting donations and volunteers, and keeping abreast of their comings and goings. Certainly there’s a place for Facebook, Twitter, and other social media as well, but I prefer to have all of this information in a single point source and I’m sure others do too.

So I have to question why the Lollar team has had three separate URLs, including a .co which made little sense as a political website. While the other campaigns have registered a fairly simple, straightforward .com address, these guys can’t settle on a site.

On the other hand, I disagree with Quinton in that the new Lollar site (assuming its layout and design remains as he’s pictured) looks to me very clean and easy-to-use. It would be a contrast to the photo-heavy splash pages of all three Democrats; more businesslike. The other two GOP contenders have intro pages which seem just a bit too busy to me, but it’s all a personal preference. I’m sure my layout isn’t for everyone either.

While I admire Julie’s tenacity in sticking up for her chosen candidate, the question she doesn’t answer is why Charles has missed a number of key events, including the opportunity for free media on Pat McDonough’s radio show last week (for which he ran a few minutes late.) Far be it for me – of all people – to be a subscriber to conventional wisdom, but there are times to play the outsider and times where it doesn’t pay to. I’ll grant that perhaps Charles was out meeting voters and working on retail campaigning rather than hang around with people who would almost certainly at least vote for him if he garnered the nomination (in the same grudging respect that many Brian Murphy supporters like myself bit the bullet and backed Bob Ehrlich in the general election) but there are places where your face needs to show once in awhile to be considered serious. Out of the three contenders, Charles is the only one who’s not won a general election. (The same can be said, though, for Larry Hogan if he gets into the GOP race.)

Whether Karen Winterling has to go, or whether former jailbird Jason Boisvert is a help or hindrance to the Lollar effort – that’s really only relevant to some political junkies and others looking for blog fodder. (I think Jason’s a halfway decent writer, though, at least insofar as education is concerned.) Most of that does weigh into my decision on the race as intangibles, but to me what really matters are issues.

So at this particular moment in time the piece which irks me most is the website being down because I’m working on dossiers of the GOP candidates for use in future posts about the race. An issues page is quite useful in that regard – heck, if the Lollar campaign is reading this (I’ll bet they are) can you shoot me an .html of the issues page of the website? Or just get it up and running?

I think Charles is learning that being a statewide candidate is an entirely different animal than working around a Congressional district. Let’s hope the road from here on out becomes a lot less bumpy.

A radical proposal (or two)

I got to thinking the other day – yes, I know that can be a dangerous thing – about the 2014 electoral map for Maryland and an intriguing possibility.

Since State Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned a few months back, a sidebar to the story of his succession – as well as that of selecting a replacement for former Delegate Steve Hershey, who was elevated to replace Pipkin – is the fact that Caroline County is the lone county in the state without resident representation. However, with the gerrymandering done by the O’Malley administration to protect Democrats and punish opponents, it’s now possible the 2015 session could dawn with four – yes, four – counties unrepresented in that body based on the 2012 lines. Three of those four would be on the Eastern Shore, and would be a combination of two mid-Shore counties and Worcester County, with the fourth being Garrett County at the state’s far western end.

Granted, that scenario is highly unlikely and there is probably a better chance all 23 counties and Baltimore City will have at least one resident member of the General Assembly. But what if I had an idea which could eliminate that potential problem while bolstering the hands of the counties representing themselves in Annapolis?

The current composition of the Maryland Senate dates from 1972, a change which occurred in response to a 1964 Supreme Court decision holding that Maryland’s system of electing Senators from each county violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, Marylanders had directly elected their state Senators long before the Seventeenth Amendment was passed in 1913. Over time, with these changes, the Senate has become just another extension of the House of Delegates, just with only a third of the membership.

So my question is: why not go back to the future and restore our national founders’ intent at the same time?

What if Maryland adopted a system where each county and Baltimore City were allotted two Senators, but those Senators weren’t selected directly by the voters? Instead, these Senators would be picked by the legislative body of each county or Baltimore City, which would give the state 48 Senators instead of 47. Any tie would be broken by the lieutenant governor similar to the way our national vice-president does now for the United States Senate.

Naturally the Democrats would scream bloody murder because it would eliminate their advantage in the state Senate; based on current county government and assuming each selects two members of their own party the Senate would be Republican-controlled. But that would also encourage more voting on local elections and isn’t that what Democrats want? It’s probably a better way to boost turnout than the dismal failure of “early and often” voting, which was supposed to cure the so-called ailment of poor participation.

If someone would argue to me that my proposal violates “one man, one vote” then they should stand behind the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. How is it fair that I’m one of 2,942,241 people (poorly) represented by Ben Cardin or Barbara Mikulski while 283,206 people in Wyoming are far more capably represented by John Barasso or Mike Enzi? We have counties in Maryland more populous than Wyoming.

No one questions the function or Constitutionality of the U.S. Senate as a body, knowing it was part of a compromise between larger and smaller states in the era of our founding. It’s why we have a bicameral legislature which all states save one copied as a model. (Before you ask, Nebraska is the holdout.) What I’ve done is restored the intent of those who conceived the nation as a Constitutional republic with several balances of power.

But I’m not through yet. If the Senate idea doesn’t grab you, another thought I had was to rework the House of Delegates to assure each county has a representative by creating seats for a ratio of one per 20,000 residents. (This essentially equals the population of Maryland’s least-populated county, Kent County. Their county could be one single House district.) In future years, the divisor could reflect the population of the county with the least population.

The corollary to this proposal is setting up a system of districts which do not overlap county lines, meaning counties would subdivide themselves to attain one seat per every 20,000 of population, give or take. For my home county of Wicomico, this would translate into five districts and – very conveniently as it turns out – we already have five ready-drawn County Council districts which we could use for legislative districts. Obviously, other counties would have anywhere from 1 to 50 seats in the newly expanded House of Delegates. Even better, because the counties would have the self-contained districts, who better to draw them? They know best which communities have commonality.

Obviously in smaller counties, the task of drawing 2 or 3 districts would be relatively simple and straightforward. It may be a little more difficult in a municipality like Baltimore or a highly-populated area like Montgomery County, but certainly they could come up with tightly-drawn, contiguous districts.

And if you think a body of around 300 seats is unwieldy, consider the state of New Hampshire has 400 members in their lower house. Certainly there would be changes necessary in the physical plant because the number of Delegates and their attendant staff would be far larger, but on the whole this would restore more power to the people and restrict the edicts from on high in Annapolis.

Tonight I was listening to Jackie Wellfonder launch into a brief discussion of whether the Maryland Republican Party should adopt open primaries, an idea she’s leaning toward adopting – on the other hand, I think it’s nuts. In my estimation, though, these sorts of proposals are nothing more than tinkering around the edges – these ideas I’ve dropped onto the table like a load of bricks represent real change. I think they should be discussed as sincere proposals to truly make this a more Free State by restoring the balance of power between the people, their local government, and the state government in Annapolis.

WCRC meeting – October 2013

October 28, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – October 2013 

This meeting had a much different vibe than the previous three simply because there was no guest speaker. Instead, we broomed the speaker’s portion of the agenda in favor of catching up on old business and soliciting ideas for new ways of conserving our funds and raising more. Suffice to say there were plenty, which worked out well given club President Jackie Wellfonder’s request in her report to make suggestions. (One other suggestion was to post minutes rather than read them at the meeting, which took effect this month. Soon minutes of meetings extending back to 2010 will be available for online inspection.)

Now we did get our treasurer’s report, but without the physical reading of the minutes or speaker we moved rather quickly into the Chairman’s Report from Dave Parker. He related that we have a “bunch of candidates” for County Council but none had given the green light to make their plans public. Parker also reminded those attending that the Central Committee would meet one week hence in the same location so we can make plans for our state convention November 22-23 in Annapolis. He also spoke a little about the issues of gun control in the state, pointing out problems with our registration system and remarked that “everything about Obamacare is botched.”

The abbreviated schedule also enabled us to hear from a number of candidates, who updated us on their efforts.

Mary Beth Carozza, running for Delegate in District 38C, let us know she was “staying on her three tracks”: door to door, fundraising, and events. She commented that her reception had been great thus far, and “folks do want to believe” they can make a difference.

Christopher Adams, a Delegate hopeful in District 37B, credited his work over the last three years on behalf of a business group as providing the motivation for him to run. New regulations were “unpalatable” to him. He also recalled the situation where he was to testify on a sick pay bill but was cut off because the gun law had to come to a vote at the behest of the Obama administration.

Turning to local races, Marc Kilmer mentioned his work in his district as well as meeting voters at the Autumn Wine Festival. He contended, though, that “rural Wicomico County has a lot of challenges.”

Meanwhile, Muir Boda was also a fixture at many of the same events Marc had attended, but his focus of late was on local land use issues, as people were showing “a lot of concern about that” as well as about property rights. He was planning on visiting a number of local municipal meetings over the next month or so to familiarize himself with those communities.

Since the tier maps subject had come up, I took a moment to remind people that our lack of an approved map meant we could not subdivide any parcel into more than seven lots.

A less weighty subject was our annual Christmas party, which promises to be quite an event with a buffet dinner, cash bar, live and silent auctions, raffles, and entertainment by Peter’s Voice – all for $20 (or $35 for couples) with advance purchase. It will be held December 15 at Mister Paul’s Legacy from 5 to 8 p.m.

We also had a discussion of whether to enter into the Jaycees Christmas Parade, which was left unfinished until more information was gathered. Much of the conversation was about just how much exposure we would receive.

I gave an update on our candidate recruitment, which Dave Parker remarked was as good as he’d ever seen. I added that interest in the club and its events was quite strong, which led me into a report on the Good Beer and Autumn Wine Festivals. Despite the poor weather, I assessed them as vital to our mission in gathering exposure for candidates – a point echoed by many who were there.

We then batted around ideas for a spring fundraiser, with a number of recently popular events in mind. We just had to work around the Lincoln Day Dinner to be held in March 2014.

Opening up the meeting to comments from the gallery, we were asked about the idea of a “Contract with Wicomico” – an idea some favored while others disagreed.

It was also brought up that the WCRC would soon be able to accept payments online through our website, which will be of great benefit for fundraising.

Since County Council member Gail Bartkovich was in attendance, an onlooker asked what the body was up to. They had taken a short break but were preparing to tackle the aforementioned Tier Map issue in a work session, said Bartkovich.

Woody Willing piped up that 32 precincts and 10 polling places had been approved, with some more work to finish before all is complete. One new wrinkle is a requirement that all polling places allow electioneering, which some had forbidden in the past. Those will no longer be used.

This was a productive meeting – a work horse as opposed to a show horse, if you will – but our next meeting November 25 will feature local 2014 candidates as well as reaction from the state party’s Fall Convention.

A tough time for a challenger

The news hasn’t been kind to Democratic gubernatorial challenger Doug Gansler. Thought to be a frontrunner early on because of his massive financial war chest, buoyed in part from being unopposed in the 2010 election, he’s found his financial advantage diminished by the union of current Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who were the next two on the fiscal totem pole. The selection of Delegate Jolene Ivey as Gansler’s running mate won’t help much in that regard as she had only $32,754.59 in her coffers as of the last reporting period in January.

But a pair of scandals have done their part to cripple the Gansler effort. In the short span of a couple weeks we’ve learned that Doug Gansler fancies himself above the law insofar as driving regulations go and isn’t exactly practicing the anti-teenage drinking message he preaches, as evidenced by his involvement in a Delaware house party over the summer.

Now one can argue whether word of these imbroglios were planted by the rival campaign of Anthony Brown, which has the advantage of knowing where the bodies are buried thanks to the current officeholder and Brown supporter, Martin O’Malley. One can also question whether this will end up being a fatal blow to the Gansler campaign, and if so, when. Considering the polls have Gansler 20 points behind at this stage, the odds are against Doug being the nominee.

My purpose this evening, though, is to provide my thoughts on answers to these and other questions.

First of all, if there is weakness from Gansler being sensed by those in Democratic circles, I would interpret this as a signal that could bring Second District Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger into the race; indeed, he’s now talking about an announcement around Thanksgiving. Much has been made about the absence of a Baltimore-area politician from the race for the first time in decades, and the argument for his entry is bolstered by Gansler’s foibles.

My theory about a four-person race being too much for a Republican primary is also true for Democrats, but the current dynamic there for 2014 is much different because one candidate (Heather Mizeur) is polling far weaker than any of the would-be GOP contenders in their race, at least according to the unscientific polls which are publicly available for the Republican contest. I suspect Mizeur would soldier on just to make a statement, but should Dutch jump in he would likely become the strong #2 in the gubernatorial race with a Baltimore base which recalls his executive experience and push Gansler to third.

There’s another side to the story, though. Given the situation in Maryland – or any other state controlled by one party for a significant length of time – the road to the top is generally set in a manner of “wait your turn.” Yet in Maryland the lieutenant governor has never succeeded his boss (although our first modern LG, Blair Lee III, served as acting governor in the late 1970s when then-Governor Marvin Mandel was incapacitated by a stroke.) Lee, though, lost in the 1978 Democratic primary, as did Melvin Steinberg in 1994. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend made it one step further, winning the 2002 Democratic primary but losing in the general election to Bob Ehrlich. So Brown is running against history despite the fact the skids are seemingly being greased for his ascendancy.

Thus, when statewide positions open up in such a situation, there are normally a number of ambitious politicians who jump at the chance for the brass ring. Once the Martin O’Malley/Anthony Brown ticket won the 2010 election, with Gansler and Peter Franchot securing re-election as Attorney General and Comptroller, respectively, the state was set for a contentious 2014 as all were thought to be possibly running for the open seat as governor. Franchot diffused some of that energy by opting to remain as Comptroller, but one other statewide prize still remained.

At this point there are four main Democratic contenders for Attorney General, all of whom currently serve in the General Assembly from what would nominally be considered safe seats. So what would happen if Doug Gansler decided to drop his bid for governor and revert to the job he already holds? Chances are that he wouldn’t do this, but if Doug did there would be a lot of angry Democrats cascading back down the line to General Assembly seats they would rather vacate for a higher office. Gansler would probably find himself in a contested AG primary with his opponents using the same information gathered against him in the governor’s race.

The second reason this wouldn’t happen, though, is the chance that Gansler survives the AG primary but faces an actual Republican opponent this time around. There’s no way the Maryland Democratic Party wants those damaged goods on a statewide ballot because that photo of Doug Gansler standing in the middle of teenage revelers would be seen 2 or 3 times an hour. Someone would make sure of that.

The key to holding a one-party state is having the opportunity to move up the food chain, and those who would succeed would-be statewide officers are counting on those veterans taking their shot. Losing control of one or more statewide offices would certainly cramp the Democrats’ style, since they’re accustomed to being treated like political royalty. And while multi-candidate primaries are okay for seats which open up due to term limits, Democrats seem to prefer to unify behind one candidate when the rare necessity of taking a statewide Republican seat opens up – for instance, Martin O’Malley was the only main Democratic gubernatorial contender in 2006. The state party did all sorts of gymnastics to try and avoid a divisive primary there, including an unsuccessful bid to move that year’s primary up to June; fortunately for them then-Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan abruptly exited the race days before the filing deadline and ceded the nomination to O’Malley.

If you add up all the General Assembly members, county executives, and other muckety-mucks in the Democratic party – who feel, of course, that they are entitled to statewide positions in perpetuity – there are a whole lot of ambitious politicians and only six such posts available (governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general, and 2 Senators). So the thought of Doug Gansler being damaged goods may well terrify Maryland Democrats enough to convince him that a nice four- to eight-year sabbatical to rehabilitate his image may be in order.

Weekend of local rock volume 58

October 26, 2013 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music · Comments Off on Weekend of local rock volume 58 

As is often the case, when I do this post for the Autumn Wine Festival the definition of “rock” is tossed out the window. Much of the musical selection there would be classified as jazz, with a few other genres thrown in. Moreover, with just six bands playing on one stage the menu is more limited and this post will be appreciably shorter than the last one.

And yes I said six bands, which I’ll explain in due course.

The jazz theme was firmly established early on with the group Sideways.

And while it was music which would make the aficionados of the genre happy, I have to point out that I have never heard an instrumental jazz version of Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ before. It was an interesting take on what is probably among my top 10 favorite songs.

They gave way to a more traditional classic rock and pop cover band in Naked Blue.

It may not show up in the smaller resolution I use for the site, but those vertical streaks in the photo are raindrops, as we battled a steady drizzle to light shower through most of the day.

It only dampened the crowd a little for the main attraction, TR3.

Most famous for his collaboration with Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds (top) and his band of bassist Mick Vaughn (center) and drummer Dan Martier (bottom) stopped by the AWF in the midst of a brief East Coast tour which had them over in Cambridge the night before and in New York City the following evening before more stops in New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. (The last stop is tonight in Ridgefield, Connecticut.)

Buoyed by a number of originals, TR3 also put its stamp on rock classics like ‘Kashmir’ and the old Focus song ‘Hocus Pocus.’ Yes, they yodeled to close out the show.

So when Sunday dawned I wasn’t expecting any yodeling from the traditional Sunday opening act, the Backfin Banjo Band.

Instead, theirs was a collection of traditional music. As you can see, the day turned out much brighter as well. It was a good day for a picnic, and Picnic indeed was the middle band of the Sunday trio.

They went through a group of songs ranging from oldies to classic rock, but I think they improved once they added the female vocalist.

Oddly enough, it turned out they were the only Sunday band with a female singer, and this lent them a dimension missing from the initial songs.

The Larks were supposed to be the penultimate band on the posted schedule, but as late as the bands were running I think the posted schedule was in error and The Larks were supposed to be the closers.

While they had more of a “wall of sound” with the horn section, they took us back around full circle to that which Sideways had begun on Saturday, with a jazz-heavy final set punctuated with originals.

It’s interesting to me that both venues mixed a number of local or semi-local acts with one or two more nationally-recognized acts. This is a pattern which seems to work for the local festivals as they continue to be successful despite adverse weather for most of the four days they occupied this year.

Gubernatorial?

If you were handicapping the chances of Larry Hogan jumping into the race for governor, the odds may have shortened a little more based on the roadtrip he’s making this week. Change Maryland provides the details:

The O’Malley-Brown administration has submitted, for legislative approval, regulations that will have a sweeping effect on how Maryland’s already struggling farmers can manage their land. The proposed Phosphorus Management Tool is an intrusive regulation that will significantly impact how and when farmers can apply poultry manure fertilizer to their fields. Farmers have used poultry manure as fertilizer for years.

“It appears the O’Malley-Brown administration is not content with just restricting farmers’ property rights, but also insists on mandating how they use their property,” stated Larry Hogan, successful businessman and Change Maryland Founder.

Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance told a meeting of farmers last week that his department has no idea what the economic impact of the new regulations would be for farmers until it is up and running. “It’s Obamacare for farmers,” Hogan said, “we have to pass it in order to see what’s in it.”

According to a University of Maryland survey conducted by the designers of the Phosphorus Management Tool, 61 percent of the farms surveyed would be impacted by the new regulation. Virgil Shockley, a Democratic member of the Worcester County Board of Commissioners and a farmer himself, estimated the new regulations would cost the Lower Shore $120 million.

The Phosphorus Management Tool is part of the O’Malley-Brown Watershed Implementation Plan, which also foisted the onerous ‘rain tax’ on Maryland home and business owners.

“We all want a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay, not only for us but for our children and grandchildren,” said Hogan. “However, instead of focusing on workable solutions for all Marylanders, Governor O’Malley has chosen to pad his presidential resume by pandering to environmental special interest groups, and has placed burdensome regulations on our hard working farmers.”

Today and tomorrow, Hogan will be touring the Eastern Shore speaking to local farmers and local community leaders. The Eastern Shore is where the majority of Maryland’s farmland is located and where the proposed regulations will have the most devastating financial impact.

Most people who are in the real estate business aren’t going to make a farm tour of the Eastern Shore. But if you’re seeking the Republican nomination for governor, it’s certain you will be talking to your base and that number includes a heaping helping of Eastern Shore hospitality.

I would have to speculate that, for Hogan, this listening tour will give him ideas for the agricultural and environmental planks of his platform. For those who deride Larry as a clone of Bob Ehrlich, though, the tour may serve as a reminder that it was Bob who originally enacted the “flush tax” that Martin O’Malley has doubled.

But since Larry didn’t schedule a meeting with me – which is fine because I’ll be out working – a few other suggestions I have on the land use front may be helpful, and they go hand-in-hand with each other.

First of all, I think we should begin to wind down (or at least level-fund) Program Open Space, with the intent of having private entities such as land trusts purchase the property and, if they wish, donate it to the state. I’m not a fan of taking land off the tax rolls unnecessarily, for I have the belief the government controls too much land as it is.

Because of that belief, I think an idea Bob Ehrlich had should be expanded, and the Baltimore Sun and environmentalists can go pound sand. Now I wouldn’t do this until land values began to rebound, and certainly the sale can be a slow process of a few hundred acres at a time scattered around the state. I wouldn’t put an entire state park on the market, but non-contiguous areas around the margins would be good places to begin.

Finally, the idea of transferable development rights should be re-examined, with the intent being changing the terms from permanent to generational, or about 20 to 25 years. This way succeeding generations of a family can decide whether they would prefer development rights revert back to them or whether to accept further compensation from the governmental entity providing them.

Over the last few decades, the balance on property rights has shifted far too much to the government’s side. Egged on by environmentalists who dream of wildlife corridors without human interaction, the state is not only a huge property owner but sticks its nose into matters more properly conducted at the county level as well. It’s time to reverse that trend, and one key question in the upcoming campaign is who will have the stones to do it.

And now for something completely different:

I didn’t want to write a lot about this – at least not a full post, because I’m no expert on it – but I felt my friend, author Bob McCarty, hit a home run with his thoughts about the plausibility of explanations surrounding last year’s Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan; a crash which snuffed out the lives of thirty American servicemen, including many who served with Seal Team 6 and engaged Osama bin Laden in his last stand. It’s worth considering.

Maybe Hogan or McCarty should consider a GO Friday feature on their respective areas of expertise. I can always use a break.

A deal which doesn’t shock me

October 24, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Sports · Comments Off on A deal which doesn’t shock me 

Given how its scumbag previous owner sold an entire city and rabid fanbase out for a proverbial thirty pieces of (taxpayer-provided) silver, it really doesn’t surprise me that the Baltimore Ravens accepted $130,000 to promote the Maryland Health Connection, our state’s version of an Obamacare exchange.

What surprises me, though, is the disappointment expressed by a number of people who should know the state has its dirty little fingers all over the Ravens’ pie.

Take our Congressman, Andy Harris, for example. On Facebook he wrote:

Today it came to light that the Baltimore Ravens have received $130,000 in taxpayer money to promote Obamacare. I love the Ravens but I think this is ridiculous. What do you think? Should the Ravens be promoting Obamacare? Should they receive taxpayer money to do it?

Honestly I don’t think so but that ship sailed a long time ago with all the professional Maryland sports teams. Even when I go to Shorebird games I’m bombarded by state-sponsored messages about smoking and seat belt use and promotions from the Maryland Lottery. It’s simply regurgitating all the taxpayer dollars they confiscate from items like the cigarette tax or lottery proceeds back to the teams to promote their message to a captive audience ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands per night.

Nor is it just sponsorship. Since I’m discussing state influence in sports, let’s also talk about facilities.

Now I understand the government also chipped in to build Perdue Stadium in 1994, just about the time the Browns deal came down. (However, it was not a Maryland Stadium Authority project, unlike newer facilities in Aberdeen and Waldorf.) In our case, the loss of Albany, Georgia was our gain because the onetime Albany Polecats became the Shorebirds after a brief four-season run in south Georgia. On the other hand, two decades on Hagerstown didn’t get a stadium deal together for their Suns and will be losing its minor-league team after one final season next year.

One big difference between the Shorebirds move and the Browns relocation, though, is that the Georgia franchise was purchased outright from its previous owner. Oftentimes a change of scenery will follow such a transaction.

In the end, given all that government involvement, I can’t say I’m shocked the Ravens sold out – only that it was so cheaply. To me, the state health exchange is just another sponsor, and it’s fairly likely I’ll hear their claptrap sometime during Shorebird games next year as well. The shrewd marketing is about the only thing the Maryland Health Connection seems to have going for it right now.

Are Dems caving on Obamacare?

October 23, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Are Dems caving on Obamacare? 

You know, after the hullabaloo we had to endure over the Obama-Reid government shutdown, one would think the Democrats would be feeling their oats and confident of 2014 success. But maybe not.

Earlier this week, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen called for an extension of the individual mandate and an evaluation in the penalties inherent in failing to enroll:

Given the existing problems with the website, I urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014. Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll.

Further, in light of the difficulties individuals may be having with enrolling through healthcare.gov, I ask that you clarify how the individual responsibility penalty will be administered and enforced. If an individual is unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems with enrollment, they should not be penalized because of lack of coverage.

Isn’t it funny that the Democrats, who rebuffed a Republican attempt to delay the process by a year, now are having second thoughts because there’s no government shutdown to blame the GOP with?

Well, perhaps some of these Democrats are looking at the polls. In Maryland, which is still heavily Democratic for the time being, Obamacare had a 57% approval rating in the latest Maryland Poll. But Democrats in other states which are up for grabs next year may have a tougher row to hoe. Take Bill Clinton’s old stomping grounds of Arkansas, where Obama has an anemic 29% approval rating. There respondents to the Arkansas Poll, conducted by the University of Arkansas, blamed Democrats for the Obama-Reid government shutdown by a 39-27 margin over Republicans. Like Shaheen, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor is up for re-election next year and a 34% approval rating isn’t conducive for continued political employment.

So, if CNN’s Dana Bash is correct in stating:

then the prospect of a delay actually occurring in the Senate is greatly enhanced. Remember, those Senators up for election in 2014 last faced the voters in the Democratic wave election of 2008, so they may have much stronger headwinds for their re-election. Not all of them are in “red” states, but enough would be to swing the balance of power – if the GOP holds together. The House would certainly follow suit.

Perhaps the electorate is taking the statement that the Democrats “can’t spin this turd” of Obamacare to heart. They may have the dream of single-payer health care, but most won’t sacrifice their office to achieve it.

Getting while the getting is good

In the nine years since I’ve moved to Maryland, I’ve attended a handful of political fundraisers and other similar events for which the common denominator seems to be crabs and camaraderie. But that equation seems to be changing as the O’Malley gun bill takes effect.

While I was out at the Autumn Wine Festival on Sunday, a much different event was occurring a few miles away in Mardela Springs. I don’t think WBOC did justice to the gathering, billing it as “a fundraiser against gun control” and making sure to find some poor downtrodden person to counter the argument with feelgood platitudes about “I just think we need to control (guns).” But they raised $6,000 at the event and when you compare that to what we raise at a Lincoln Day dinner, I think we may need to steal the idea. In this neck of the woods people like to shoot guns – it’s as simple as that.

In fact, gun raffles and outings seem to be more popular than ever as a means of raising money, which leads me into the next event.

The Maryland Citizen Action Network (the group which also sponsors the annual Turning the Tides conference) is having their own “Skeet and Eat” fundraiser where participants can fire their weapons. There will also be other family activities as well, but the main point is to keep those skills sharp and the aim true. Certainly the money raised will help them support conservative candidates and also put on another great Turning the Tides conference this coming year.

So if you happen to be in that area, or would like to support the fine work MDCAN does, be sure to sign up now – space is limited! It’s likely I’ll be at another local family-friendly event (see below) but MDCAN is certainly a worthwhile cause in need of support.

[gview file=”http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/FSK-Event.pdf”]

If you want to support a candidate or cause, now is the time.

Yes, it’s still “drill, baby, drill”

October 22, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Yes, it’s still “drill, baby, drill” 

I ran across an interesting piece of polling thanks to the Energy Tomorrow blog. Their American Petroleum Institute parent group commissioned a Harris Poll of likely voters in four states – Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia – and asked them a series of questions to gauge their support for offshore drilling. As I would expect, the topline numbers showing support for the practice are quite solid, ranging from 64% in Florida to 77% in South Carolina. (Virginia weighed in at 67% and North Carolina at 65%, so it worked out to roughly 2/3 overall.)

But before you assume this is going to be another shill for offshore drilling (which I indeed support) I wanted to point out a glaring flaw in the poll methodology. For example, read through the Virginia polling data and see if you can figure out what’s missing. I’ll give you a second.

The first piece of the puzzle I would have liked to see would be a breakdown of support in coastal areas vs. inland. Using Virginia as an example, it would be nice to know how the question did in the 757 area code, which covers the Norfolk area and the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I would bet that support in that particular area was closer to 50-50, if not slightly negative.

But the key omission was the question: “Would you support offshore drilling off the coastline of your state?” The API’s point is that much of our coastline is off-limits to drilling because of shortsighted policies which ignore the overall safety record of the industry as well as the “peak oil” hysteria helped along by those same environmentalists who wouldn’t mind putting aquatic birds at risk with offshore wind turbines. But their point would have been buttressed even better if they had a clear majority of Virginians (or any other affected state) indicate that drilling off their coastline was an acceptable practice.

While these particular states were probably selected due to the length of their coastline, I wonder how Maryland and Delaware would feel with the same question posed to them. Granted, between the two there’s just 59 miles of Atlantic coastline but they indeed have oceanfront within both states so they could be hosting oil exploration and extraction in their waters someday. My guess is that they would still fall in the 60 percent range as far as drilling support, but only run 30-35% for drilling off their coastline. (A large part of that might be because so much of it is state- or federally-controlled parkland.)

Certainly it’s reassuring that offshore drilling still enjoys support after all its bad press over the last half-decade, but I’m not convinced the impetus is there yet for much motion on the issue. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the question is pretty much moot until 2017 at the earliest so we have time to create the necessary shift in public perception.

Real firepower

I think I’ve trod down this road before, but a post Sunday by DaTechGuy (aka Peter Ingemi) brought the name Jimmie Bise back out. And the points he made echo the points I made when I wrote my piece in early 2012 and the thoughts Bise had back in 2009. So I wouldn’t call this a tragedy – because Bise is still very much alive – but more like a case of lessons not being learned.

Yesterday I wrote at length about a piece in the Baltimore Sun which was repeated by a fairly liberal blogger who happened to be a statehouse reporter for decades. I don’t know who else, if anyone, wrote about this report but considering the paucity of Maryland-based conservative outlets it’s pretty likely I was the only one. (I checked a few and indeed I seemed to be the only one paying attention; then again, it fit in with my interests.)

And when I say paucity of conservative outlets I think it’s safe to say that our combined efforts – and by “our” I’m including the dozen or so regularly updated conservative sites in Maryland, including this one – might reach an audience perhaps 1/10 of what the Sun draws for its print edition daily (about 170,000 readers). Note that doesn’t count their online services, which probably draw another 100,000 or so per diem.

So what if some conservative bought the Baltimore Sun? This isn’t completely far-fetched, since there was some interest in the Sun‘s parent company from the Koch brothers, but the likelihood of the owners selling to overt conservatives is slim.

That leaves the internet, which is the venue of choice for most of those whom we want to reach anyway.

It’s helpful for this exercise to remember that a person is only allowed to donate a maximum of $10,000 to Maryland candidates this election cycle, with $4,000 the maximum to a particular candidate. If you figure even $1,000 per person donated to the ten most conservative members of the General Assembly (or conservative challengers) that’s going to give you 10 members of the body out of 188, assuming they were all elected – and in the state’s current political climate that’s one hell of a crapshoot. If you want to build a conservative movement in Maryland, you have to do better and begin with spreading the message among the populace.

I know Bise talked about running a national news agency on $500,000 a year, but if you took even half that money and spread it around the twelve or so top conservative sites in the state we could build a tremendous online following. We could work day after day pounding home the proper message, pointing out the frequent hypocrisy of the liberal state regime, and figuring out new ways to reach the desired audience. It would be an investment repaid eventually in better opportunities for all who live and work in Maryland.

As it stands, we in the conservative blogosphere along with a handful of talk radio hosts around the state probably feel like the 300 Spartans desperately fighting our own Battle of Thermopylae against the hordes who would tax and spend Maryland into oblivion, driving away the productive and leaving only the parasites who feed off the government and those producers unlucky enough to be still stuck here.

And it’s not just Maryland, either. Most of the northeastern part of the country, the West Coast, and pockets of the Midwest suffer the same problems our state endures. Certainly there’s a conservative movement crying out for help in those areas, with the thought that changing hearts and minds make winning elections down the road much easier.

People tell me that we may as well give up on Maryland, but I cede no ground. It doesn’t take a majority to “get it” to instill change, just a majority of those who vote. If we don’t have the conservatives in Maryland ready to not just dash to the polls the moment they’re open but also grab their like-minded friends and neighbors to do the same, we’ll be in for yet another four-year cycle of misery. And contrary to popular belief, our misery doesn’t love company – our special brand of misery drives company away.

We can do much, much better, with a little help. (Why not rattle my tip jar? My annual server fee is coming due soon.)

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