Best-laid plans

August 31, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Best-laid plans 

As I write this, Wicomico County Republicans were slated to host a gala to formally open their headquarters. But all that was pushed aside by an event which occurred last Thursday – the sudden, tragic passing of Sylvia “Cookie” Harris, wife of our Congressman and leader in the Maryland pro-life community.

With services for Cookie Harris this weekend, one of the three local political events slated for today have been pushed back to next Sunday. The only event that remained on the schedule was a fundraiser for Delegate candidate Christopher Adams, which was tied into the Shorebirds game this evening and couldn’t be changed as their season ends tomorrow; meanwhile, a fundraiser for County Executive candidate Bob Culver which was to feature Harris is being rescheduled with a date to be announced.

I bring all this up because it’s a reminder that nothing is a given in politics (or life in general, for that matter.) In my life I’ve seen people 17 points down in a poll 10 days before Election Day come out a winner, the sea change in political attitude that occurred from the events of 9/11, and other instances where conventional wisdom was turned on its head in a matter of days or hours.

It got me to thinking about the GOP-sponsored poll from a couple weeks ago that showed Larry Hogan was making a race of it, despite the fact that most national observers already have Anthony Brown ready to measure for new drapes at Government House because Maryland is a “blue” state, don’cha know. In terms of voter registration, it is, but a lot can happen between now and November to convince people Hogan deserves a shot.

By the same token, one can look at the massive difference in funding between Democratic incumbent state Senator Jim Mathias and his Republican challenger Delegate Mike McDermott. Yet when you see the sources of that funding, it’s worth asking why these people are paying so much to keep him in office? The same can be said of Delegate Norm Conway, but the conventional wisdom holds that both will be re-elected because they’re “really nice guys” who “bring home the bacon.” Still, anything can happen between now and Election Day and these two may fall out of favor among their constituents.

In all honesty, I could have written this without the tragic circumstances surrounding the passing of Cookie Harris, and I certainly join the many who have extended their thoughts and prayers toward the Harris family during this time. It’s also a shock to the state’s pro-life community, which lost far too much ground over Mrs. Harris’s lifetime. But all involved will heal with time, and the world will return to its way for everyone – the events postponed today will be resumed at a later date. Yet it serves as a good reminder.

The message here is to take absolutely nothing for granted, not just in a political sense but in life itself. The message I often hear when someone passes is that the deceased wouldn’t have cared for all the tears and sadness by mourners because they lived their life in the best way they knew how, no regrets. It was up to us to do the same as the truest way to honor their memory.

And as it says on the sidebar of my website: never, never, never give up. Whatever life throws at us, we can overcome.

monoblogue music: “The Last of the Originals” by Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders

August 30, 2014 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “The Last of the Originals” by Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders 

With all the attention being paid to country music these days, there are a lot of people trying to cash in on the imagery and adopting that “gone country” attitude. Billy Roberts is one of those guys, but as a native of Australia where country is not nearly as much in vogue, he had to embark on a journey to Nashville to take the initial step toward his dream of being a musical star.

The funny thing is: he didn’t really make a country album, or at least not one which would compete for space on the country charts with folks like Luke Bryan or Florida Georgia Line.

Granted, on “The Last of the Originals” many of the songs have country roots in them, but it’s more the classic traditional country you hear in tracks like With You, Not That Special, or the lyrically poignant I Was Young.

But you can also find a lot of other influences as well – the rollicking and rocking Mrs. Jones leads off the album and makes the listener believe this may not be a country set after all. Nor do you normally hear the sort of plucking rhythm guitar of the next song, I’m Gonna Get That Girl, on your latest generic country set. My Baby Gone Cold, conversely, has a more bluesy feel to it, and later on in the lineup No More Mr. Nice Guy is not a rehash of the Alice Cooper classic but an original shuffle featuring a dash of harmonica. As the album’s closing song, Red Head Baby is a good rocker to leave listeners with.

There are two tracks which deserve a special mention, though. The seven-minute long (and how many country songs go past five?) Davy Crockett and the Alamo is a slow ballad in its first half before kicking it up several notches for the finish. And I really, really liked the haunting guitar and harder edge of Never Know.

That song, coupled with the refreshing lack of twang in Billy’s voice and the use of production tricks like vocal distortion, set “The Last of the Originals” apart from the rest of the pack, and make it, well, original.

So what’s not to like about it? One thing Billy will learn as he moves on with his musical career is how to better frame songs to his vocal range. At times he gets a little too monotone with his vocals, and it gets me to thinking how others could have handled the song. Musically this is a fine effort, but the vocals could stand some polish.

But this album, if promoted right, can have crossover appeal. Traditional country fans would probably prefer certain songs while those of us who occasionally enjoyed The Eagles or Neil Young – who Billy lists as an influence – will like the edgier tracks.

Just released a couple weeks back, I can implore you to not just take my word for it – listen for yourself and see if modern country is ready for an Australian influence.

Crossing the aisle

While it’s at a point in his career where there’s little political fallout, it’s still interesting to note that retiring Democratic Delegate John Wood, Jr. of St. Mary’s County has endorsed GOP standardbearer Larry Hogan for governor over his own party’s Anthony Brown. The story on TheBayNet.com by Dick Myers notes that Wood also endorsed Bob Ehrlich and has endorsed the Republican seeking to replace him in Annapolis.

Wood is one of the few Democrats who would regularly buck his party in Annapolis, and was a six-time winner of what I called the Top (Blue) Dog Award from the monoblogue Accountability Project. That award goes to “the Democrat who ranks the highest in my ratings, showing signs that there is a small but rarely-seen centrist element to the Maryland Democratic Party. It’s the way the aisle should be crossed.” Wood had a lifetime 46 rating on the mAP, by far the best of any Democrat and slightly better than retiring Republican Robert Costa, who finished with a 44 rating.

It proves that the 15% of Democrats who expressed a preference for Hogan in a recent internal Hogan poll are a legitimate part of the electorate, receptive to the fiscally sound message Hogan is trying to put out. Thar number is clear improvement from a July CBS News/New York Times poll where just 8% of Democratic voters favored Hogan. Obviously given the vast gulf of registration numbers between Democrats and Republicans in Maryland it’s essential that some Democrats like Wood cross the aisle to back Hogan. To buttress that fact, there are dozens of “Democrats for Hogan” stickers available at our headquarters.

So welcome aboard, Delegate Wood. And bring a few other thoughtful souls to our side.

Shorebird of the Week – August 28, 2014

August 28, 2014 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – August 28, 2014 

For the Shorebirds in the second half, it’s been a tale of patching together a rotation and bullpen. Injuries and players moving around have meant that just two of the original Shorebirds staff are still here; meanwhile, over half have arrived since the second half began. One of those earlier arrivals has done a nice job in the bullpen and leads the second wave with 18 appearances. Until a rough outing last night, Garrett Cortright was statistically the best available bullpen arm.

It’s always difficult to pick the last two or three SotW players, but Garrett has pitched well since his July 1 arrival so he gets the nod for the final spot. This is perhaps quite appropriate given Garrett was the last player selected by the Orioles in the 40th round of last year’s draft and was the lowest player selected in the 2013 draft to actually play in 2013. (One player drafted after him made his debut this season, but Cortright was the 1,209th player of 1,216 selected.)

Still, the New York native and product of Canisius College has pitched well in the GCL and with Aberdeen over the last two seasons. After going 5-1 with a 1.11 ERA in the Gulf Coast League (40 2/3 innings in 11 games, with a 29/14 K/BB ratio) Corrtright took advantage of a cup of coffee with Aberdeen to pitch five scoreless innings in 2 games at the tail end of 2013. And once he began 2014 in much the same manner – allowing just 1 earned run in 9 2/3 innings – the Orioles decided to push him to Delmarva.

It hasn’t been quite as easy here, although Garrett had a sub-3 ERA until last night. Now he’s 1-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 18 appearances, spanning 31 innings. He’s allowed 33 hits, struck out 21, and walked 11, so Cortright is finding this to be more of a challenge but doesn’t appear overmatched. And since he doesn’t turn 23 until after the season, there’s a chance he could be here to begin 2015 but also the prospect of cracking Frederick’s bullpen. Many of the pitchers we’re seeing now, though, will be the mainstays of our 2015 staff.

As always, next week I will review the fate of the 22 players who were picked for Shorebird of the Week this season, look at how the Shorebirds stacked up to the rest of the league in various categories, and select my Shorebird of the Year. The week after that I’ll do my annual picks and pans, then wrap up until the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2014 – if there is one – takes center stage in December.

District 38 Senate: Mathias vs. McDermott

A few weeks ago I promised to start once again looking into where our candidates get their money.

The first race I wanted to delve into on the financial end was the District 38 Senate race between incumbent Democrat Jim Mathias and challenger Republican Delegate Mike McDermott. As you’ll see, Mathias has the clear financial advantage.

[gview file=”http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Senate-38.pdf”]

This file is something I composed as a composite which includes all four financial reports due since the beginning of 2014 – the 2013 annual, the two pre-primary reports, and now the first pre-general report.

So we can see that, in this race, incumbent Democrat Jim Mathias has raised a lot of money compared to his opponent, who is also an incumbent in the House of Delegates. Mike McDermott was more or less forced to run for a different office thanks to being squeezed into a single-member district with fellow Delegate Charles Otto by Democratic gerrymandering.

Where did the money come from? More than most others whose financial forms I’ve studied, Mathias gets a lot of donations from ticket sales, presumably to his relatively frequent fundraisers both in the Ocean City area and occasionally across the bridge. Almost 2/3 of his income came that way, with most of the rest being PAC contributions. Having looked as well at the records of his fellow Democrat incumbent Delegate Norm Conway, it’s apparent that PACs are very happy to give plenty of money to Democratic incumbents, but not so much to Republicans because Mike McDermott has negligible PAC money compared to Jim Mathias.

Moreover, there are a lot of big-money donors from Ocean City (and beyond) who have opened up their wallets for Jim Mathias, while only a handful are supporting McDermott. Given the huge disparity in money allotted to fundraising – for every dollar McDermott has spent on fundraising, Mathias has forked over $17.30 – it’s small wonder there’s a big gap in cash on hand.

It’s also worth mentioning that nearly half of Mathias’s total spending has gone to one entity – Rice Consulting of Bel Air, a frequent client of Maryland Democrats. Whether directly or as a pass-thru to other entities, Mathias gave $37,320.16 to Rice Consulting out of $78,388.97 spent.

McDermott has used a pair of outside consultants: Campaign On out of Owings Mills for $3,087 and Scott and Associates of Annapolis for $5,000. That represents about 40% of McDermott’s spending, but it’s going to media rather than fundraising and “strategic incumbency protection,” which are Rice Consulting’s specialties. Personally, I’d prefer strategic taxpayer and citizen protections.

It’s also worth pointing out that several current and former Annapolis and Baltimore Democratic elected officials have chipped in for Mathias from their campaign accounts:

  • retired Delegate Ann Marie Doory: $100
  • District 6 Delegate and State Senate candidate John Olszewski, Jr.: $150
  • District 11 Delegate Dan Morhaim: $250
  • retiring Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski, Sr.: $450
  • retiring Delegate Brian McHale: $1,000
  • District 40 State Senator Catherine Pugh: $1,000
  • retiring Delegate James Hubbard: $2,000
  • retired Senator (and onetime Congressional candidate) Rob Garagiola: $2,250
  • District 13 Delegate and State Senate candidate Guy Guzzone: $6,000

The only elected official contributing to McDermott’s side thus far is Wicomico County Republican Central Committee-elect member Greg Belcher, who donated $154.18 in closing his election account.

So it’s very obvious that Maryland Democrats and their patrons are throwing the kitchen sink into keeping this seat. Mathias has a war chest which will likely land him some television time and allow him to once again carpetbomb the district with full-color mailings which obfuscate his real record.

But it’s also a fact that Mathias only won one of the three counties in the 38th District last time, winning in Worcester County by just enough to overcome his deficits in Somerset and Wicomico counties. He outspent Republican opponent Michael James $300,835.32 to $225,556.44 in the process, so indications are he will be able to spend the same amount (or more) this time.

Next up will be a look at the Senate race in District 37. My plan is to do each local district on a Tuesday or Wednesday, so look for the other Senate race after Labor Day.

EPA slow-walks unpopular mandate – again

August 27, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on EPA slow-walks unpopular mandate – again 

It may not have been such a bad idea at the time, but the thought of adding corn-based ethanol to automotive fuel to stretch the oil supply seems rather silly in retrospect given our recent prowess in finding new supplies of black gold. In 2005, under the George W. Bush administration and a Republican Congress, the EPA was given the first Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) mandate to include ethanol in motor fuel. It was at a time when many still believed in the theory of “peak oil” and determined we had to look past this resource in order to meet our growing needs.

Fast-forward to the present day and we find that, because of issues with decreased consumption of gasoline combined with increasing statutory requirements for the inclusion of ethanol in automotive fuel, the EPA took the unprecedented step of reducing its mandated amount of ethanol for this year; meanwhile, the RFS which was supposed to come out in November of last year is still on the EPA drawing board.

In reading a summary of energy news I receive daily from the American Petroleum Institute, it was revealed that retailers and other petroleum marketers have their own concerns about the prospect of E15 fuel being approved for use in order to achieve the mandated amount of ethanol required for these increasing RFS numbers.

Naturally, this is from the perspective of what’s derided as Big Oil – on the other side, you have officials in corn-producing states beseeching Barack Obama to stand firm on these standards, while desperately attempting to secure infrastructure to provide the even higher E85 blend for flexfuel vehicles, such as the “I-75 Green Corridor” which has a lot of gaps.

The whole flexfuel idea was popularized a few years ago by a group I gave some pixels to during the $4 a gallon price surge called NozzleRage, which was the brainchild of another group called the Center for Security Policy – their goal in creating yet a third group called Citizens for Energy Freedom was to mandate cars be equipped as flexfuel vehicles. Even though it’s essentially a free option, there are few takers for flexfuel cars as they occupy a tiny proportion of the market – about 1 in 20 cars sold are flexfuel cars (although that number is higher for government vehicles.)

Obviously the hope for ethanol proponents is to expand the number of facilities where E85 can be purchased in order to eliminate the need to go to an unpopular E15 blend while simultaneously being able to ratchet up the RFS figures. If even 15 percent of the cars can run on E85 and the price is competitive, then corn growers would be happy. (Never mind the folly of using food for fuel.)

Personally, though, I’m hoping they scrap the RFS altogether. It was an idea which may have had merit (and a lot of Congressional backing from farm states) a half-decade ago, but we can do better because our oil supplies are much more plentiful thanks to new technology. That’s not to say that technology can’t eventually be in place to use another source for ethanol (like the sugar cane Brazil uses for its much more prevalent ethanol market) but how about letting the market decide?

And while it’s unrelated to ethanol, I thought it was worth devoting a paragraph or two to note that North Carolina – hardly a conservative state – is getting closer to finishing the rulemaking process for fracking in the state. Most noteworthy to me in my cursory reading of the rules is that North Carolina is looking at a fairly sane setback distance from various impediments – nothing more than 650 feet. They also seem to lean heavily on industry standards.

On the other hand, Maryland was looking to set rules which would require a completely arbitrary 2,000 foot setback and require plans for all wells proposed by a drilling company, rather than single wells. In short, we would do to fracking in Maryland what Barack Obama is doing to the coal industry nationwide – strangle it with unneeded and capricious regulations. That should not stand in either case.

It’s been my philosophy that an area which doesn’t grow will die. It may take a while, but killing growth will sooner or later kill the economic viability of a city, county, region, state, or nation. Putting silly regulations in place because a minority believes the debunked hype about a safe process is a surefire way to kill a vital region in the state, not to mention impede the possibility of prosperity elsewhere. We can do much better when common sense prevails.

WCRC meeting – August 2014

Safely ensconced in our new headquarters, the Wicomico County Republican Club held its first official meeting there, with the special guest speaker being State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello. Matt has the enviable position of needing one vote for another four-year term because he’s unopposed.

Before we heard from Matt, though, we had the usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of distinguished guests, a list which included our state party Chair Diana Waterman. We also received a brief update from Larry Hogan’s regional coordinator Joe Schanno, who was pressed for time. He noted the need for volunteer help for the Hogan campaign, and pointed out the recent poll results that showed the race within the margin of error.

We also learned Larry would be here on Sunday for a series of events: the official opening of our headquarters from 2 to 4 p.m. followed by a fundraiser for District 37B hopeful Christopher Adams at Perdue Stadium from 4 to 8 and an appearance at a fundraiser for County Executive challenger Bob Culver from 5 to 9 at a private residence. There may be some other visits with local businesses added to the schedule, said Schanno.

After Joe wrapped up, we introduced Matt Maciarello. He recounted that when he took office in 2011 it was about the same time as Salisbury police chief Barbara Duncan was selected, a time when “crime was out of control.” But with Duncan and Sheriff Mike Lewis, they planned a line of attack on the spiraling situation. Matt’s areas of interest in that regard, naturally, were the district and circuit courts, although there’s also a children’s advocacy center and drug task force.

It’s the latter item which creates much of our problem, said Maciarello. He claimed that there’s “one (fatal heroin) overdose a week in Wicomico County” and surmised that the appetite for opioid drugs “fuels a lot of crime.”

In combating crime, Matt also noted he’s been an advocate on the legislative level, monitoring legislation and providing input, both as testimony and direct discussions with legislators. After a bill is passed, his office provides roll call training to street officers to make sure they understand new and revised laws.

Much of his time of late, said Matt, has been spent compiling and writing reports on a pair of recent police-involved shootings, reports he personally wrote and took the time to talk with the families of the victims about the reports if they were inclined to discuss them.

But he concluded by stating that citizens have a choice on where to live, and the perception that a place is safe is important to an area’s well-being.

Matt then answered questions, many of which queried him about gun laws. A recent profile of Sheriff Lewis as one who would refuse to enforce federal gun laws led to a discussion on nullification, which he felt was “more symbolic than anything.” On that subject, “I want to be on solid legal ground” – for example, what exactly would be nullified? So while he felt parts of the Firearm Safety Act were “clearly unconstitutional,” he believed opponents should get the advice from a Constitutional scholar before proceeding in order to pick and choose the best points for a legal counterattack.

Asked for a definition of “good and substantial” cause, Maciarello said, “I personally believe the burden should be on the state.”

He also spoke about the relationship with the local NAACP given some recent tensions, explaining that “I see my role…as a public safety job. You have to represent justice.” He’s tried to be as transparent as possible in all his office’s dealings.

Jackie Wellfonder, who had attended the previous forum with several GOP candidates, noted that “we had an interesting dialogue.” The GOP presence was “a first step.”

After I gave the treasurer’s report in the absence of our regular treasurer, Jackie gave her formal president’s report, gushing that the headquarters has done “a complete 180” from the state it was in when we took it over. She pointed out that donations would be welcome to help defray the expenses, and volunteers to man the phones and greet visitors would be great as well once we get the ball rolling on Sunday.

She also read a thank-you card from Elizabeth Mills, one of our two WCRC scholarship recipients.

David Warren, who is in charge of the headquarters, remarked again about the “once in a lifetime chance” we have to win seats in District 38.

He gave way to Diana Waterman, who commented about the ease of operating the “very user-friendly” phone system, and urged us to “step out of your comfort zone.” She also talked up the September 27 Allen West event and announced our Super Saturday would be October 4, just before the Andy Harris Bull Roast in Queen Anne’s County.

Dave Parker gave the Central Committee report, giving more details on the Allen West Patriot’s Dinner and repeating the information on the October 4th events.

It was then time to hear from some of the candidates in attendance.

Speaking on behalf of Larry Hogan’s campaign, Ann Suthowski revealed he would have a fundraiser featuring Chris Christie in Bethesda and there would be a day for LG candidate Boyd Rutherford in this area as well as for Hogan. She was looking for sign locations and letters to the editor as well.

Jackie Wellfonder spoke again, this time on Chris Adams’s behalf. She repeated the information about his Perdue Stadium fundraiser as well as the Bob Culver gathering that will also feature Andy Harris.

County Council candidate Larry Dodd acknowledged he took a little break after the primary, but pointed out while his opponent claims to be “moderate” he was really “100 percent Democrat.”

Johnny Mautz of District 37B introduced his local campaign coordinator and promoted three events: fundraisers for him in St. Michael’s and Easton on September 20 and 21, respectively, and a Larry Hogan event at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge on September 28. The Easton event he’s holding has as a special guest author and commentator S.E. Cupp.

Carol Rose spoke on behalf of Mary Beth Carozza and announced her fundraiser would be held at Frontier Town near Ocean City on September 7. She also noted a Worcester County TEA Party event featuring Carozza along with the other three Republican District 38 candidates was “fantastic.”

Marc Kilmer was pleased to have finally met his opponent. But on a more serious note, he was ready to resume doorknocking and was looking for volunteers to help at the Sharptown Heritage Days parade on September 20.

Muir Boda wasn’t a Republican candidate anymore, but revealed he was one of a dozen applicants for the vacant Salisbury City Council position. We will probably know Wednesday who will fill the unexpired term of Terry Cohen, he said.

We also heard from the unopposed County Councilman John Hall, who said his campaign was “going just swimmingly” and received an update on the September 6 WCRC Crab Feast.

So after one piece of new business, our formal meeting was done. But many stayed around for this. (Photo by Jackie Wellfonder.)

The Ice Bucket Challenge got another “victim” and this time it was MDGOP chair Diana Waterman. I guess “water” is appropriate in this case.

I’m not sure how we’ll top this in September, but someone else will have to let you know. I get a personal day from the next meeting, and those of you who know me well will know the reason why.

The pleasing poll

It was just about this time in 2010 that Bob Ehrlich had his last positive poll – a Rasmussen Poll had the Maryland race tied at 47-47. Granted, the former election calendar dictated a primary was still to come but it was presumed early on (particularly as the state party had its thumb on the scale) that Ehrlich would be the nominee.

But as time wore on and people began to pay attention, the thought of returning to the era of Ehrlich seemed to turn voters off, as the race which was single-digits until mid-October turned suddenly and forcefully Martin O’Malley’s way in the end, as he won going away by 14 points. This blowout for O’Malley had a few coattails as well, as the GOP lost two Maryland Senate seats (but gained six House of Delegates seats, solace in an otherwise contrarian election here in Maryland given the 2010 national TEA Party wave.)

We have no idea if the same will hold true with different players in 2014, but the Maryland GOP was pleased to release a poll which showed the race between Larry Hogan and Anthony Brown was within the margin of error. Granted, it was from a Republican pollster and perhaps slightly oversampled Republicans but the results still have some merit.

As the OnMessage, Inc. pollsters write:

The ballot currently stands at 45% for Brown, 42% for Hogan, 4% for Libertarian Shawn Quinn and 9% undecided. In deep blue Maryland, that signals real trouble for Governor O’Malley’s right hand man. More importantly, Independents favor Hogan by 8 points with a quarter still undecided. That’s remarkable considering that Hogan is still unknown to most Independents with an image of 27% favorable and 14% unfavorable. But Independents know Brown better and don’t particularly like what they see. Brown’s image among Independents currently stands at 32% favorable to 39% unfavorable.

I can easily gather two things about this race: one is that Shawn Quinn will get 1% if he’s lucky, and the other three percent will likely break toward Hogan by a 2:1 margin. It’s also an axiom that undecideds tend to break for the challenger; despite the fact the seat is an open seat Brown as LG has to be considered the incumbent. It’s a scenario which could be a repeat of the 1994 gubernatorial race.

Insofar as the numbers go, the sample used by OnMessage is a 51-32 D-R split, which oversamples registered Republicans by about five points. However, if Republicans are motivated to turn out and Democrats are dispirited, that turnout model may not be bad. And when just 51% of Democrats feel the state is on the right track (while 64% of independents and 88% of Republicans think things are going the wrong way) the motivation should be on the GOP side.

It’s also worth mentioning that Brown is already leaking 15% of Democratic votes to Hogan while just 3% of Republicans back Brown. The only reliable constituency Anthony Brown has is the black vote, which is at an 87-5 margin – hence the Michael Peroutka scare tactics being used as a dog whistle to minority voters.

Even though it’s a Republican poll, the trend has to be a little disturbing to Democrats. Earlier in the summer, Brown had a massive lead over Hogan – up 18 in a June Washington Post poll, and up 13 in separate July CBS News and Rasmussen polls – so to see that melt away to no worse than single digits has to shake up the Brown campaign. It explains why they’re throwing the kitchen sink at Hogan on social issues, trying to distract attention from Brown’s pitiful and puny record of political accomplishments.

Obviously the fight in this election will be how well Hogan can stick to his message of fiscal responsibility. Now that the primary is over, we don’t have to fight on degrees of difference so when the Democrats try and change the subject I’m not going to allow it. It’s time for fiscal responsibility and competence, and Maryland Democrats over the last eight years have shown little of either.

Preserving my space (and penalizing greed)

August 24, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry · Comments Off on Preserving my space (and penalizing greed) 

You all know I sell advertising on my site. Wait, you didn’t? Go here.

Anyway, a couple months back I was reading the reaction to a post I did when someone mentioned they saw a full-page ad for Durex condoms. On my page!

Now I run what I consider to be a family-friendly, PG-rated site with a minimum of profanity, damn it. (Surprising when I could easily cuss like a sailor about how this state and nation are currently being governed.) So a condom ad is about the last thing I would knowingly approve, particularly a full-page one – first of all, it covers up the advertising for which I am actually paid!

So I looked into this and a lot of people were thinking it was malware of some sort, trying to clean out their computers and finding they were fairly clean. I did that as well, and mine was fine.

But the ads would still come up – essentially it’s a large pop-up ad which supposedly goes away after 30 seconds. I never ran across a condom ad but they were for other relatively familiar products, and I found them annoying. I often search my site to verify my back links are the ones I’m wishing to use – an example is when I write the AC Week in review as I did yesterday for this morning – so I would see these ads every so often. It wasn’t every time, but maybe every 20th or 30th.

This morning it happened again, but in the search for the cause I found a number of places which blame a long-time feature of this site. This is a reply deep in the linked thread:

UPDATE: It looks like the vector for this exploit is ‘Sitemeter’ — after ‘sitemeter’ went bankrupt, their domain-name was bought bought up by the same “Black Hats” who own ‘adverstitial’ and ‘vindico’, and the “Black Hats” are now using the ‘sitemeter’ URL to inject the JavaScript ad exploit via any webpage whose owners were careless enough to neglect to remove their ‘sitemeter’ code on the theory that it was “mostly harmless”… >:(

So if any of you still have ‘sitemeter’ code on any of your webpages, it would be a good idea to delete it, ASAP.

Another blogger named Jennette Fulda found the same thing in a much wittier fashion – apparently her site had the same issue.

So after about eight years or so, it’s goodbye to SiteMeter for me, too.

It’s not like I don’t have other ways to count visitors, as I have Google Analytics and another service as well. But I did have the principle that my SiteMeter was (almost) always open, while most other bloggers I’ve run across were oh-so-secretive about their readership. (Yet one often claimed to have “record days.”)

I noticed as well that SiteMeter’s privacy policy changed right around the time people began to notice these ads – it could have been a coincidence, but since I don’t want their large ads they don’t need to put cookies on my site.

Regardless, I’m sure someone saw the thousands and thousands of sites which used SiteMeter to measure their traffic as an advertising gold mine given the data they collect, particularly as many didn’t have any advertising to begin with. Well, as word of this gets out SiteMeter is going to lose what little business they have because no one is giving us a cut of this and I don’t have to have their services when there are others out there which don’t intrude on my site in such a manner.

Listen, I don’t make a lot of money from this site. Yes, I have several political advertisers who pay me but come November that gravy train goes away. I’m hoping they are replaced by non-political businesses and have some prospects in that regard, but there’s always room for more. And every so often I get my tip jar rattled, which is nice.

I also get frequent e-mails about advertising, guest posts, or “traffic exchange” on my site from various entities on a regular basis. Just this month alone I’ve been hit up by Nova Media Networks, Vanbex.com, RTB System, Kitara Media, and Global Ad Space. Never heard of any of them, and I’m betting it’s the old pennies per CPM trick. (The Vanbex is a bitcoin exchange, so I think I know how I got on that list.) I would rather have more control on the content, so I keep my Amazon spaces, Newsmax (which pays me a small fee per month for the space), and the advertisers you see herein. (Some pay more than others, but the Patriot Post gets a free space because I write for them.)

I also get a modest fee for writing the music reviews, which is nice because I like listening to many different types of music – or at least can tolerate it to write an honest review. (If you’re surprised about the monetary aspect, I noted it up front.) I know a lot of other sites sell merchandise, promote themselves incessantly on what passes for their radio network in an effort to fish for advertising, and so forth – we’re all trying to monetize our websites somehow.

It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if they had come to me and offered me a piece of the action, but what SiteMeter forgot is that we don’t have to use their service. So to heck with ’em.

AC Week in review: August 24, 2014

August 24, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items · 1 Comment 

I didn’t get as much in as I would have liked, but as promised I did speak to some trade issues last week.

In the meantime, my AC cohort Ed Braxton continued his look at how manufacturing is moving beyond labor. In the first decade of the 21st century, a net of 5 million workers exited the manufacturing field; meanwhile, the composition of those who remained began to change.

This actually goes hand-in-glove with something I featured a few weeks ago, summarizing a report where the authors’ contention was that the standard tool of future manufacturing workers wouldn’t be a wrench but an iPad. While there will always be a need for human hands to make certain things, the lack of physical activity required for manufacturing many common objects shows the need for brains exceeds the need for brawn.

My editor Sean Keefe is now part of the writing team, with his first piece being an interview with an American brush maker. Interestingly enough, one piece of advice Alan Schechter of Gordon Brush Manufacturing Company had: “Have a strong voice to your politicians to support American made.” That brings me to my two pieces for the week.

The kernel of one post began as a remark Andy Harris made at his recent town hall meeting. I think I’d heard it before, but the fact that Russia halted imports of American agricultural products in response to our sanctions for their bad behavior in Ukraine reminded me that “made in America” still has to serve a global market, and trade wars hurt all of us. Yet trying to put these pacts together and iron out differences is akin to herding cats, particularly when a dozen nations sit around the table and Congress is feeling left out. Both are the case with the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

So it was a somewhat slow week, although late last week I read that one story I’ve followed for awhile has reached a resolution. There’s also some movement in the energy sector that may spur a story, too.

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to bury my next AC review on Labor Day weekend or wait two weeks, so sit tight. I guess it depends how much I write over the next week – hopefully it will be a productive one in all aspects.

monoblogue music: “A Scandal In The Violets” by Michael Leonard Witham

August 23, 2014 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “A Scandal In The Violets” by Michael Leonard Witham 

Sometimes there’s a mood for songs which tell a somewhat rambling story, with twists and turns behind every corner. In listening to the ten tracks which make up Michael Leonard Witham’s forthcoming debut release “A Scandal In The Violets” it’s apparent that Witham is working in that storytelling vein, using a sound which veers between weepy classic country to more of a country-rock or classic acoustic feeling.

To hear him tell it, Witham is far from classically trained – he found an old, broken guitar sitting on a Louisiana dumpster, repaired it, taught himself to play it, and just a few months later:

In early 2011, a mere 5 months after the pivotal dumpster dive, he was chosen as one of a handful of artists to perform in the Arkansas Times Musician’s Showcase, an annual music event in central Arkansas which features the best talent in the region. Over 200 bands submitted music, and Witham was the only solo performer selected on the strength of his home recordings made in a closet with an iphone.

That is the legend, so how is the finished product?

As I said up top, the ten songs on the album tell a story, and some have great titles: the opening track Sorry Girl But The Show Is Over, Sideways Grin & A Wandering Eye, Last Plea To Ashley Ann, and my personal favorite The Good Doctor’s Double Vodka Blues. The country influence comes out most in Down For Good and Ordinary Hand, where Witham laments that he had an “extraordinary hand” but “played it wrong from the get-go.”

There’s more of a Dylanesque sound to some songs thanks to the harmonica, like Oh The Evil!!! or Where The Witches Live, while Miss L.A. is perhaps the one edging most toward country-rock.

Another take I received from listening is that Witham “fills” his songs with lyrical content. Most of the songs don’t have a bridge in the middle, although I noticed a short one in Defective Heart. At times he would use a long instrumental coda, though, such as in Sideways Grin or Double Vodka Blues.

But the one thing a listener will notice from the beginning is Witham’s voice. At times I found it a little cloying, and for many it could be an acquired taste. I don’t think Michael would get very far on “American Idol” because his is not a typical singing voice with lots of range, yet for the most part his songs have an honest quality about them which may not work with the more mainstream generic pop or country star singing them. It’s a hint of weariness and desperation which comes through in the vocal styling.

Normally I tell people what I think but invite them to listen for themselves. But because this is a forthcoming release, I got to listen to the whole thing but only a couple tracks are set for public consumption – a teaser, if you will. Still, the two tracks – Sorry Girl But The Show Is Over and Oh The Evil!!! – do provide a very good sample of what Witham is about. So listen to that sampler for yourself and, if you’re still enjoying it come the scheduled release date of October 21, rest assured the rest is something you’ll like as well.

The silly season

August 22, 2014 · Posted in National politics, Politics · Comments Off on The silly season 

Normally on Thursday night I write a piece for the Patriot Post. But this week my editor came to me and said that the news was so slow I had the week off. Basically they’ve covered their fill of Ferguson and the Islamic State, and it’s sucked most of the oxygen out of the news cycle. It’s all about people behaving badly these days, I suppose.

And I think the general public senses that as well. I’ve seen a number of exasperated people on social media being grateful for a football or baseball game to take them away from the news cycle. Even if it was a Philadelphia blowout over the Steelers last night, it was three hours people could more or less escape and talk about something else for a change.

It’s times like these I’m glad I don’t do wall-to-wall politics. Last night I did my penultimate Shorebird of the Week for 2014, as their season is rapidly coming to a close. Tomorrow I will have another record review and Sunday I review my other blog. Some may call it filler, but I consider it sanity. Indeed, we live in interesting times.

I don’t often get writer’s block but it’s worth pointing out I have done and redone this opening set of sentences three times. Mentally I think we just all need a break from the two top stories, particularly Ferguson. We need to remember that one man is dead, another scarred for life, and dozens who made their livelihoods from affected businesses have taken a financial blow as well. Yet there’s not really a political solution to the problem because it’s more a question of culture and upbringing: the ending of Michael Brown’s short life was the compounding of multiple bad decisions on his part. And they came not just on the day of the incident, but for hundreds of days prior and perhaps his whole life.

I don’t profess to be any sort of expert on raising children, but the one I was most involved with is married and has a steady job working with mentally challenged individuals. I can guarantee she and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on political issues, but she seems to have a good sense of right and wrong and a solid work ethic, so if I had anything to do with that I’m grateful to have helped out. If only all children were given that same direction and desire.

I’ll return with political direction and desire over the coming weeks, but for now it’s a couple easier days. Sometimes it helps to just start freeform to deal with writer’s block.

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