Shorebird of the Week – April 30, 2015

April 30, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – April 30, 2015 

Early on, pundits were convinced that Jomar Reyes would be the Shorebirds’ third baseman this year. The obvious question, though, was how the bonus baby – to the tune of $350,000 when signed just weeks before his 17th birthday in January 2014 – would handle himself in full-season baseball after a season with the Gulf Coast League Orioles last year.

It’s a small sample size, but through the first 19 games Jomar is playing quite well. His .284/1/4/.799 OPS slash line is very comparable to his GCL numbers (.285/4/29/.758 OPS in 53 games) and it took him until last night in game #19 to commit his first error (after committing 13 in 45 games last year.) You may not get the defensive wizardry of Manny Machado, but it appears Reyes can hold his own.

Another “wow” factor is his transition from the Dominican Republic to the United States. Most often, players from that nation spend at least a season with the Orioles’ Dominican League teams, but Reyes began his career here in the States and is playing full-season ball just a couple months past his 18th birthday as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League. According to Baseball Reference, Jomar is 3.5 years younger than the average SAL player, who is often a year removed from college or three years out of high school. Many kids his age are playing as seniors in high school.

The high expectations for Reyes began early, but so far he’s on track to meet them. And while some believe he may be in Frederick by mid-season, I don’t think there’s any rush to move Reyes up. Currently manning third base at Frederick is another gifted hitter fans may be familiar with in Drew Dosch, so unless the upper levels are ravaged by injury or a series of poor performances I wouldn’t be surprised if Reyes stays here all year and gets the opportunity to grow into some monster numbers. It only took him a couple weeks to move up the batting order from seventh to fifth, and I think he could be a solid #3 hitter by season’s end. Let’s see how he does now that the weather is getting warmer.

Maryland: contrarian again

April 29, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on Maryland: contrarian again 

It’s been awhile since I looked at the energy industry, what with legislation, riots, and other general mayhem. Fortunately for me, I have several sources in that industry to return me to speed and one is writer Marita Noon, whose piece on NetRightDaily today detailed the efforts of forward-thinking states to repeal their renewable energy mandates – some by whopping margins in their legislature. In those states, the market-bending allocations to renewable energy are coming to an end, leveling the playing field and perhaps saving their taxpayers millions of dollars.

Unfortunately, Maryland isn’t one of those states rolling back its mandates; in fact, the only piece of legislation dealing with the renewable portfolio was a liberal Democrat-backed scheme to expand it some more. House Bill 377 and Senate Bill 373 both were aimed at significantly increasing the percentage of renewables up to 40% by 2025 – current law peaks renewables’ share at 20% by 2022. (Both these figures are a pipe dream.) The Senate version lost in the Finance Committee by an 8-3 vote, and the House version was withdrawn before it was voted upon.

It was good that a bad bill was thwarted, but it was unfortunate that no bill was introduced to repeal these mandates. Maryland would be in far better shape energy-wise, eventually with lower utility rates, if true reform was achieved: repeal of the renewable energy portfolio, the withdrawal of the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, repealing the subsidy for offshore wind, and encouraging energy production from hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling.

Over the course of the O’Malley administration, energy companies took the brunt of new regulations and changes in the market; in particular, their cost of doing business was affected by the renewable energy portfolio and the RGGI. If you assume the goal of the utility is to provide energy as cheaply as possible to make a profit – while keeping prices low enough to maintain and grow a customer base – having the dead expenses of the “alternative compliance payment” made necessary by falling short of renewable goals and the CO2 allowances auctioned off by RGGI as a sweet redistribution scheme aren’t helping the cause. Meanwhile, more exploration and investment in energy infrastructure could bring Maryland closer to being at least even as opposed to a net energy importer.

I wouldn’t expect any repeal of these bills to pass on the scale that they’ve moved through some state legislatures, but 71-70 and 24-23 are perfectly fine margins to me. It would also likely require getting around the committee process and bringing the package directly to the floor. (The portfolio repeal, RGGI withdrawal, and repeal of the offshore wind subsidy could be one bill: call it the Maryland Energy Reform Act of 2016.)

The trick is getting the right people to advocate for the changes by showing how much can be saved by consumers. That portion seems like a job for a group like the Maryland Public Policy Institute, while the lobbying on the part of the energy providers should include a pledge of reducing rates. Shaving 2 cents a kilowatt hour off the bill may not sound like much, but it translates to about $216 a year based on average residential usage of about 900 kWh a month. I don’t know about you, but an extra $18 a month would be nice for me. Just think of the economic benefits we received last year when gasoline skidded to $2 a gallon – benefits being lost now as prices have edged back up over $2.50 a gallon.

To help in prosperity, Maryland needs cheap energy. As it stands now, we don’t have it but I think we can get it if the political will is there.

A city’s black eye

April 28, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2016, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A city’s black eye 

All of us in Maryland, whether we were born here like my better half’s family or came here as I did, have been glued to news and social media over the last few days as the rioting in the city of Baltimore reached its peak yesterday, the day before the Maryland National Guard arrived in force and a citywide curfew took effect. While it seems like strong medicine to some, sometimes the role of government is to restore order in a crisis and here’s hoping the MNG’s stay is short and uneventful.

But there is another side of this which I think will last far longer. In the coming months and years, much discussion will occur about how Baltimore can bounce back from this crisis. There are the immediate effects in certain neighborhoods which have suffered the brunt of the damage and whether these business owners will reopen, but few outside the neighborhoods or city at large will know. Even the facts the Orioles had to postpone two games, will play a third in an eerily quiet stadium closed to the public, and will have to become the St. Petersburg Orioles for a weekend as they play scheduled home games in their opponent’s stadium will eventually become a historical oddity, particularly if the Orioles advance in the playoffs.

Some have already touched on how things appear looking forward, whether at the tourism angle as Rick Manning does or just the absolute disgust with the situation expressed by Joe Steffen. However, I tend to look at things from the political side and there are a number of effects this recent unrest will create.

Fortunately for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a 2012 law change changed the Baltimore City elections from 2015 to 2016; otherwise, this unrest would have been a more current campaign issue. But it still should be a topic of campaign contention, and it’s likely several aspirants may spring up seeking to take the Mayor’s chair from Rawlings-Blake. Certainly her actions in this crisis don’t add to her resume for another term should she seek one.

But the problem is that most of these contenders will be the same politicians who got the city into the situation to begin with. In Baltimore City, based on recent results, the real election will take place in April when the Democratic primary is held. 2011’s election featured just eleven Republican candidates in total, with the only two contested elections being two-person GOP primaries for mayor and city council president. (Only 7 of 14 Council districts had a Republican running.) GOP mayoral candidate Alfred Griffin got just 13% of the vote in that election. Republicans can pay lip service to reaching out to the minority community, but this is a process that could take several elections and change is needed now.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that in 2011 the real big winner was apathy – Rawlings-Blake received 40,125 votes but 324,885 voters didn’t show up so the task may not be as Herculean as imagined. Just get some of those who were disinterested to show up and vote for real change.

Yet the politics of the problem extends far beyond who actually votes for whom. It’s easy to complain about lack of opportunities and blame problems on those officials at the state and federal levels – particularly if they happen to be of the opposite political party. But this rioting was years in the making; it just needed the right series of events to occur to touch things off and the death of Freddie Gray was the spark.

One of the Baltimore images that’s etched on the minds of many was a scene where a young rioter was berated by his parent. Yet my question is this: where was mom during the previous 16 years? And what about dad? Most boys raised in two-parent families would have faced the wrath of both their mom and dad if they even breathed in the direction of that riot, but Baltimore is a city of single mothers who have to enlist help from their own parents to raise their children because, in many cases, the fathers are absent. In a city that’s roughly 2/3 black, and at a time when over 7 of 10 black births are to unmarried women, the odds are pretty good that a Baltimore City child is raised in a single-parent household and that government does more to support these children than the father does.

To be perfectly blunt, Baltimore doesn’t change until that statistic changes. To me the best way to change that is for the upcoming generation to stay in school, go to church on Sunday, and keep things zipped up until marriage. But what did the black generations pre-Great Society know, anyway?

Another way to help is to try and create job opportunities for blue-collar workers. Former gubernatorial candidate Ron George said it first, but it should be on the mind of Larry Hogan as well: “I want to build a tax base in Baltimore.” I realize it’s not that simple – particularly given an entitlement mentality exhibited by some in that community – but if the right conditions can be created the rebuilding can be permanent, and we won’t be revisiting this situation in a dozen years or so.

Needless to say, my perspective on Baltimore is definitely that of an outsider: I live 2 1/2 hours away on the other side of a significant body of water in a place where the culture is far different. But common sense is common sense, and the lack of it over the last few days is doing significant damage to Maryland’s flagship city. Maryland doesn’t need to have the reputation as a real-life version of “The Wire,” so those citizens who really want to help improve Baltimore (as opposed to those who want to enhance their political and/or criminal empires) need to step up their games and show some of the leadership that has been sadly lacking.

WCRC meeting – April 2015

We ha an unusual meeting tonight. It wasn’t devoted to club business; after we did the usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of several distinguished guests we were a treasurer’s report away from the first of three main events of a packed program.

Our first event was the presentation of the WCRC Scholarship to Andrew Boltz of Mardela High School. Boltz is active in the community, including an Eagle Scout project involving backpacks for the homeless. Boltz plans on attending Salisbury University to begin his pursuit of an engineering degree.

Sarah Rayne next addressed the group on behalf of 1st Saturday, a “free, family-friendly” event in downtown Salisbury intended to focus on the performing arts, as opposed to the visual arts highlighted at 3rd Friday.

She noted that the event was timed to be after Saturday chores but allow for patrons to partake in the downtown entertainment venues and restaurants afterward, adding that no food trucks would be present to help with steering business to local eateries – in turn, they would be encouraged to make known their specials for the evening. It’s a “bring your own chair” event, modeled on a similar set of gatherings in Georgetown, Delaware, Rayne added.

Just as clarification, I asked if it was an all-year event. Sarah responded that 1st Saturday was “a warm-weather event” which would run April to October.

The final part of the evening was something that turned out to be a roundtable discussion of the latest General Assembly session by the Republican members of the Wicomico County delegation: Senator Addie Eckardt and Delegates Christopher Adams, Carl Anderton, Jr., Mary Beth Carozza, Johnny Mautz, and erstwhile member Charles Otto, who was redistricted out of the county.

Each representative began by speaking a few minutes about their perspective on the recently-completed session. As the one with the most experience, Senator Eckardt assessed our group as “a wonderful team…this is not a shy group.” She was pleased to have the opportunity to try and get our highway user revenues back, and called it “exciting” to have a Republican governor to work with on the budget. And while the goals of the administration were to cut spending, taxation, and regulation, the sad fact was that most of the governor’s initiatives did not pass.

Some of the budget battles that were fought included funding for the Geographical Cost of Education Index and maintaining the promised $300 million catch-up payment for state pensions. While the budget passed wasn’t fully in line with the initial expectations, Eckardt thought the governor “was in a good position going forward.”

Getting PMT regulations as opposed to statutes and repealing the rain tax law allowed Addie to declare a couple victories. “From my perspective, I was floored” with the things accomplished during the session, Eckardt concluded.

From the House perspective, Delegate Otto was rueful that Wicomico County residents could no longer vote for him, but added he still represented us as the chair of the Eastern Shore delegation – a group that was expanded to include residents in the 35th District, covering Cecil and part of Harford counties. He was pleased the budget grew by less than projected revenue growth, a departure from the previous administration.

Otto noted that “everything bad for agriculture” came out at the House this year, including the “chicken tax” bill and a measure eliminating sales tax exemptions farmers can employ.

Delegate Adams felt “blessed to be a Republican in Maryland” right now because it enabled him to stop items detrimental to our interests, especially at the committee level. One highlight to him among the bills passed was several enacting the recommendations of the Augustine Commission, which included a cabinet-level Department of Commerce. His assessment that Maryland was too dependent on federal employees made him hopeful that the business climate could be changed.

“What a strange, fun, exciting ride it’s been,” said Delegate Anderton. He urged us to ignore people who say “you can’t do it” because he did get things accomplished: the Evo bill which will add 50 jobs in Salisbury while preventing 70 others from leaving, a grant to Three Lower Counties to assist them with a new OB/GYN clinic, and money for improvements to Perdue Stadium essential to keeping the Shorebirds here. And while he was “scared” about the PMT regulations, Anderton believed we had “built a great foundation.” Overall, his first year was “an experience better than I could have imagined.”

Delegate Mautz said the Eastern Shore is “working closely together” and trying to get leverage for its legislative goals. However, he noted that watermen and seafood producers were “under tremendous pressure,” detailing abuses by the Department of Natural Resources. As it turned out, watermen, hunters, fishermen would have been the beneficiaries of many of the bills Mautz worked on, while cheese producers will get a boost.

Yet while Mautz believed Governor Hogan “controlled the debate” on fiscal issues, there was still “serious partisan divides” in the General Assembly. He predicted “a lot of legislation” in the next session.

Johnny also called the events going on in Baltimore “a major setback” for the area and state as a whole. Delegate Carozza picked up on that, asking the group to take a moment of silence and prayer for the city, adding the National Guard had finally been sent in.

Mary Beth also believed we had a “terrific Shore delegation,” agreeing that Governor Hogan had “set the tone’ in his first session. While the budget had a smaller increase than previous years, though, she only voted for the original House budget. She voted against the conference budget because of the raids it made to the pension funds.

“We still need your help,” she added. “Divided government is really tough.” We were encouraged to express our opinions on issues like charter schools, tax relief, and regulations because opponents were relentless and having the constituents as backup strengthens our position. And Democrats “are already coming after (Larry Hogan),” she said.

She gave a couple examples of bills she worked on. One that passed with ease was a bill allowing Seacrets to move its distillery operations to Maryland – Mary Beth got support from Senator Jim Mathias and convinced lawmakers that bringing jobs back from Delaware was worth fighting for.

On the other hand, a veterans procurement bill which sailed through the Senate had a tough time in the House for several reasons, at least one of them territorial as a particular committee chair wanted to do a more large-scale procurement bill next session. She learned that she had to sometimes sell bills, and ended up with a compromise that doubled veterans procurement from 0.5% to 1%.

Once this part finished, we opened the floor to comments and questions. Naturally, a perspective was sought on why we did not get an elected school board vote and what we had to do.

“It’s an easy fix,” said Delegate Anderton. “Eliminate the excuse.” By that, he meant have the public hearings Senator Mathias sought, as two people noted he was on record as supporting the idea with public input. We also learned the Wicomico County Education Association actually supports a fully elected board.

But Senator Eckardt added we “need both Senators in agreement” to get the bill through.

A related question came about school vouchers, which weren’t brought up in this session. Rather, a lot of discussion went toward charter schools because it was the governor’s initiative, said Delegate Carozza. Delegate Adams added charter school reforms enjoyed bipartisan support, while Senator Eckardt noted the BOAST tax credits had been introduced again – these would allow private businesses to direct funding to private and public schools.

On that same front, it was asked if a Religious Freedom Restoration Act-style bill was introduced, and none was to their knowledge.

Turning to taxation, Senator Eckardt stated that few tax rollbacks were surviving the Ways and Means subcommittees.

Farming issues were the subject of a couple queries, and the industry as a whole was considered “low-hanging fruit” by environmentalists, said Delegate Adams. Even though 27 percent of Chesapeake Bay’s phosphorus could be traced to the silt behind Conowingo Dam – according to the Army Corps of Engineers, a fact which came out in a hearing on one of the PMT bills – environmentalists still demanded more regulations on agriculture.

Finally, Anderton responded to a question about road funding by noting he had helped bring it back to some extent through his memory of where the money was placed last year. The state found it again, to the tune of $19 million to municipalities and $4 million for counties. However, he added, some counties were reticent about full restoration because they wanted to use it as an excuse to have their own gasoline taxes.

All in all, it was a chock-full meeting you should be kicking yourself for missing. Because the next fourth Monday of the month is Memorial Day, we next meet June 22.

Fred Barnes featured speaker at Wicomico event

April 26, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Fred Barnes featured speaker at Wicomico event 

I’m a few days later than I would like to be with this post, but there’s still time to act. As the organizing committee writes:

Please join us for the 5th annual “National Day of Prayer” Breakfast. For over 80 years, Christians have carried on this tradition of fellowship and goodwill across the country as witness to the importance of spiritual values to this great nation.

Prayer breakfasts richly reward the spiritual growth of communities. They give us the opportunity to fellowship and share our faith in the Living God, to worship and rejoice in a spirit of unity at the breakfast hour.

Come on Thursday, May 7th to observe the National Day of Prayer, let us give praise to God and seek His guidance in our daily lives and in the development of our communities on Delmarva.

The organizing committee has to be excited and pleased, though, about the speaker they secured.

Nationally-acclaimed writer and commentator Fred Barnes is co-founder and executive editor of The Weekly Standard. He has been senior editor and White House correspondent for The New Republic, covered national affairs for the Washington Star and Baltimore Sun, written for the American Spectator, Reader’s Digest, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Spectator, The Public Interest, Policy Review, London’s Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times, and hosted or appeared on TV programs Beltway Boys, Special Report with Bret Baier, The McLaughlin Group, Fox News Sunday, CBS This Morning, Nightline, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, News Hour with Jim Lehrer and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

More importantly, when Fred and his wife Barbara asked Jesus into their lives in 1980, he says, “Our lives changed dramatically – for the better. It had taken a decade for us to reach this point, a decade of reading, prayer, and meeting many Christians. We saw what Christ had done in the lives of believers. We wanted to live as they did, seeking to emulate Christ. Our faith supports us. We’ve learned a lot about forgiveness and prayer and being servants. I’ve enjoyed writing and television enormously, but they are secondary to family and faith in Christ.”

Fred graduated from the University of Virginia and was a Neiman Fellow at Harvard. He and Barbara have four children, nine grandchildren, and attend Christ the King Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Barnes is perhaps the most noteworthy speaker the event has secured in its half-decade, so it’s well worth the $20 if you can make it – be advised it’s not an event for the night owls as the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center doors open at 6:30 in the morning.

Tickets can be secured at the Country House in Salisbury, or by mail – however, the deadline is coming up quickly as it is May 1. (Hence my chagrin at taking so long to post it.) The mailing address is Salisbury Area Prayer Breakfast Committee, P.O. Box 521, Salisbury, MD 21803, and checks should be made payable to the Salisbury Area Prayer Breakfast Committee.

I would expect there to be a packed house in the Midway Room, which seats up to 600 people.

It’s not often that the worlds of religion and politics intersect in a positive way these days, so this may be an event worth attending.

Pork in the Park 2015 in pictures and text

April 25, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Pork in the Park 2015 in pictures and text 

Cool weather, clouds, and a threat of rain didn’t help make this year’s Pork in the Park a success. (In fact, the rain this evening forced its closure at 8 p.m. rather than the planned 10 p.m.)

But I think the die was cast months before when the decision was made to scale back the event dramatically. First of all, you may notice that among my photos you won’t find any detailing the competition aspect of the event because there was none. Yes, you read this right. So I took far fewer photos.

Freed of the need to wonder if enough teams would enter to make up the prize pool, they reduced the admission charge down to $3. But they made other changes as well. I read on Facebook beforehand that there were no rides there this year; indeed, that was the case as they were replaced by a row of bounce houses and an entertainment stage for kids in their own section.

If that wasn’t enough for the kids, there was the opportunity to watch pig races. No wagering, please.

They also had dachshunds with bun costumes racing, from what I understand. PETA hasn’t shut down this New Jersey-based company yet, but I’m waiting.

The pig and “hot dog” races were intended to fill the half-hour changeover between bands. And you can tell crowds were down when this was the attendance for a well-known local singer like Randy Lee Ashcraft.

It’s not like there wasn’t a talented band on stage – there just weren’t a whole lot of people there on this Saturday afternoon.

Of course, there were a few holdover events the organizers opted to keep, such as the beer beach.

It didn’t seem very full when we were there, but then it was early afternoon on a chilly day. To me, beer is more of a warm day and late afternoon/evening beverage.

They also brought back the Eastern Shore Wing War.

In a three-hour event, participants bought admission for $10 and received 20 tasting tickets for the various vendors vying for wing supremacy. I’m not a big chicken wing fan, but this was one of the two relatively popular attractions (the other being the pig races, for which I witnessed a few hundred people looking on.) According to Pork in the Park’s social media sites, The Deli was judged the overall winner, with Sub Runners and The Corner Grill garnering second and third, respectively.

All this food and beer could be worked off in their cornhole tournament.

As a whole, though, the event was fairly disappointing when compared to previous renditions. The park just seemed so empty.

2015 was the twelfth annual event, which means Pork in the Park began about the same time I arrived in the area. As I recall – and a little (very little) research bore out – the weather was less than cooperative for most of the early versions of the event as well. The first year it really took off was 2007, the fourth edition of the event. Granted, at the time the economy was much better as well, but if you look at that post you’ll notice the day was nice and sunny. Ironically, had Pork in the Park held their traditional third weekend in April date in 2015 the weather would have been fantastic. (Go back and look at my Third Friday photos from last week.) Instead, they opted for the dates vacated when the Salisbury Festival pulled the plug after thirty-plus years.

Even with as much promotion as I heard for it locally, the event stands at a crossroads. If it’s considered a failure this year due to low attendance, the problem can’t be determined very easily – is the poor weather to blame or a lack of entertainment options? The festival went for broke last year with its entertainment selections, bringing in two national acts plus the eating contest, but it also departed from its traditional date and shifted to Mother’s Day weekend because Easter fell on its normal third weekend in April – so the number of KCBS competition teams was way down from previous years, when well over 100 teams would bid for the various prizes.

Meanwhile, there is now competition from a similar event in Snow Hill called the Pig and a Jig BBQ Festival, which will be held in late May. As of this year it became a KCBS-sanctioned event so Pork in the Park wouldn’t be locally exclusive for that distinction anymore.

If you ask me, the problems with Pork in the Park began the year they decided to revamp the arrangement of the food court. But I was reading that post and it reminded me just how large the event became, even in a bad economy. There was plenty of interest because the admission price was still pretty low – I don’t remember if it was still $2 or had jumped to $3, but it was a far cry from the $7 they charged last year.

This year’s event just seemed dull and lifeless. Perhaps the crummy weather played a part, but I thought the competition aspect gave it character as well as provided a little boost to the local economy. I doubt there are nearly as many competition teams these days as the BBQ craze is somewhat played out, but we once had the second-largest competition in the country and it’s a shame all that went away. The first step in bringing it back, though, is to make clear that 2015 wasn’t the final Pork in the Park.

What we had this year was not the ending the event would deserve after a great run.

Maryland’s loss

He was mentioned for political posts ranging from Congress to head of the state police to perhaps even governor, but like many Maryland families Dan Bongino’s is heading for the sunny climes of Florida. As he noted on social media:

My family and I will be relocating to Martin County, Florida within the next few months. The reasons are beyond the scope of this platform and, for that reason, I explain a bit more in this week’s podcast show. I will speak more about it over the coming weeks as I see many of you individually and during the radio fill-ins, but I felt that you deserved to know as soon as I did. You have allowed me into your lives in this small way and I feel like you are a part of my extended family.

(In case you are wondering, Martin County is along the Atlantic coast, north of Miami and Palm Beach. Its western border is Lake Okeechobee.)

Whatever the reason, Dan will be missed in Maryland politics as an effective, articulate spokesman for conservative values. His departure from the scene leaves a void which, quite frankly, is begging to be filled by someone – but there’s no one on the state’s political scene who can bring that combination of conservatism and charisma.

Naturally, naysayers will say that he never won a general election in either of his two tries, and this is true. Yet he was successful at one thing: nationalizing races that otherwise would have escaped the attention of political observers. I think that it can be argued that his success in that regard in 2012 helped a little in getting Larry Hogan elected two years later, as he made people believe races could be won here by a Republican.

The withdrawal of Dan Bongino may have effects on the Democratic side as well. I think it cements John Delaney as the contender to beat for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 because now he has an easier path to re-election in 2016. (If Bongino were to have entered a 2016 contest, my thought is that he would have made a second try at a Congressional seat rather than another statewide race.)

I have a couple reasons for this line of thought. If you look at the U.S. Senate race for next year, you have two sitting Congressmen already eyeing the seat: Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards. It wouldn’t surprise me if another one or two get in, particularly John Sarbanes as his family name is still associated with the United States Senate. While Delaney is not hurting for money and could compete on the level required for such a high-powered field, I’m sure the state Democratic leadership is having a collective heart attack as more Senatorial aspirants come from the ranks of relatively safe Congressional seats. So his staying put may be rewarded down the road as far as the party goes.

On the other hand, Delaney is trying to make a name for himself as being a bipartisan player, and Democrats in the know realize that part of Larry Hogan’s appeal was the promise to work on both sides of the aisle. Those Democrats who crossed over to back Hogan probably don’t budge for a Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or one of the also-rans in the 2016 Senate race, but they just night for Delaney as he is the Democratic mirror image of Hogan as a business owner. The biggest difference is that Delaney won his bid for Congress while Hogan lost his.

Now I don’t think Dan is going to fall off the face of the earth, as I’m sure he will maintain his thriving broadcast career. I’m sure he’s looking at this as a different door opening rather than one being closed.

But for someone who, four years ago, was known to hardly anyone as he commenced what I’m sure most people thought was the crazy notion that he could be a U.S. Senator, Dan’s done well for himself. Yet don’t forget that his career is rooted in that of another upstart who also made a political splash for a short while before returning to private business – Brian Murphy. It was the onetime gubernatorial candidate who chaired Dan’s campaign at the start.

I guess that’s the problem with conservatives. They’re too busy being productive to play politics, and Dan Bongino is a pretty productive guy. I hope he finds success and happiness for his family in Florida, but as a force in Maryland politics he will be missed.

Shorebird of the Week – April 23, 2015

April 23, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – April 23, 2015 

At this level, where pitchers generally are held under an innings limit, throwing complete games is a rarity – in the entire SAL last season there were only 31 thrown. This is even with the higher number of shortened games, such as those played as part of a doubleheader. Long story short, those guys who pitch in innings 6 to 8 are a key part of the pitching staff.

Zeke McGranahan is one of those guys, and in his last outing he was stretched to a career-long 2 2/3 innings against Hagerstown. Exclusively a reliever in his brief career, the 2014 23rd round pick just missed (by one spot) being the first player ever drafted out of Georgia Gwinnett College. So far in 2015 he hasn’t allowed an earned run in four appearances covering 7 1/3 innings, scattering just three hits along the way.

Zeke profiles as a power pitcher – a high number of strikeouts (10 so far) but a high number of walks as well (five so far.) It’s a continuation of his play from last season, which he mainly spent in the GCL (2-1, 1.50 in 18 innings with a WHIP of exactly 1) before getting four appearances with Aberdeen (allowing three earned runs and seven hits in five innings, a 5.40 ERA and 2.20 WHIP.) In those 23 innings, he gave up just 16 hits but walked 13. The former is great, the latter too high for advancement. It’s great that McGranahan misses bats, but he can’t miss the plate so often.

Zeke is on the older side for this level, as he turned 24 in January. But his professional career is barely 30 innings old so if he can work on improving the strikeout-to-walk ratio he will certainly be given the opportunity to catch up, as it were. And the guys who serve as the bridge between the starter and closer or soak up the late innings to back a struggling starter can be the ones who become starters (or closers) down the line. The way Zeke goes will be dictated by how he performs in his first full season.

The culture wars and Common Core (part 2)

April 22, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Education · Comments Off on The culture wars and Common Core (part 2) 

By Cathy Keim

Second of two parts.

Where to go? What to do?

In Part 1, I wrote about how Common Core teaches reading in such a way that content is stripped of its context. Every student can read into the passage whatever they feel, which can lead to major problems when it comes to transmitting our culture to the next generation.

Common Core is all about the redistribution of education, just like our president is all about the redistribution of wealth in the economic realm and Obamacare is the redistribution of medical care. Now all students will get a mediocre educational experience (except for our elites which will have special opportunities just as they are exempt from the laws that they impose upon us.)

I promised to give some options to fight back in Part II. First and foremost, I would strongly encourage you to get your children or grandchildren out of the public school system. Our government is so out of control that I do not support giving them any opportunity to indoctrinate any child that I am responsible for and love.

This does not mean that we can abandon the fight for our educational system. Even if we pull our children out, there are many defenseless children left in the government system that need our help.

Unfortunately, the Common Core Standards are now driving the new SAT tests for college admission. This fact has led to many private schools adopting Common Core even though they are not under government control. The private schools, including Christian schools, are so afraid that their students will not score well on the nationwide tests if they do not teach the Standards that they have given in without a fight.

This same fear of doing poorly on the College Board exams will lead many homeschoolers to adopt Common Core textbooks. The public school system is so large that all other methods of teaching tend to follow in its path.

As stated in Part I, we have lost our republic and we must now work to restore it. That means that you as parents will have to take a more active role in your child’s education. If you continue to send your child to the public schools, then you had better plan to spend time each day undoing the indoctrination and trying to repair the damage.

We need to be much more intentional in our child rearing. You cannot leave them to the schools, television, and gaming worlds and expect them to grow up with any understanding of Western Civilization. If you want them to be able to think, then you had better plan to teach them how to think yourself.

Personally, I homeschooled my five children because if I was going to have to deprogram them everyday, then I might as well teach them correctly in the first place. To homeschool your children well, you have to see it as a long-term commitment. You must plan, prepare, and learn material yourself or find friends that can trade their areas of expertise to compliment yours.

If you absolutely cannot homeschool your children, then a private school is your second best option, but you must be very careful to see what and how they are teaching. The public school system is your final and least desirable option. I know that there are many dedicated, responsible teachers in the system. I am not aiming this at them. However, their hands are tied by the restrictions placed on them by the system. Also, the lack of discipline interferes with their ability to utilize their time to teach and the testing schedules that are wildly increased under Common Core eats up more instruction time. Add to that the politically correct positions that must be taught and you have teachers that are thwarted at every turn.

One possibility is to pull your child out of school whenever they are giving the standardized tests. Use that time at home to read something of value.

Take your children to museums, exhibits, historical sites, concerts and art galleries. Let them see for themselves the beauty of Western Civilization in paintings, music, and plays. We studied art and then would go see the original piece if possible. Study a Shakespeare play and then go see a live performance. Read about energy production in science and then visit a historical coalmine. If you cannot see a live performance, then find a well-done movie or act the scenes yourself.

We have been sold the line that you must have an education degree to be able to teach. This is a lie. If you love your children, you can teach them. Isn’t that what you have done since they were born? You taught them to talk by talking to them. You can teach them to read and to do math. There are plenty of resources out there. You do not have to be a master of the subject to teach your children.

I grew up with the wonders of New Math and sight word reading, so I learned phonics when I taught my children to read. My first four children studied Spanish because I had studied Spanish. The fifth one wanted to do Latin, so we learned Latin together. I could only do that because he was the only one still at home, but it shows that you can teach a subject that you have not mastered previously if you are determined.

Go to church with your children. You need to teach them a worldview to live by and the church will help equip you and give you a community to encourage your whole family.

The pervasive moral decline can be offset by an intellectually rigorous Christian worldview. Give your children Christian principles and a strong faith to live by.

Then inspire them with great literature. Equip them to confront the culture, not to be destroyed by it. Literature provides them with examples of bold characters standing up for truth against great odds. Isn’t that what we hope our children will do? Give them encouragement by reading to them when they are younger and then guiding them to great books when they are older.

Our hearts yearn for heroes, but our culture provides us with irony and complex situations of gray. In The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien presents characters that fight on against hopeless odds because it is better to die for truth and honor than to live as slaves. Frodo and Samwise Gamgee portray friendship even to the point of death. Gandalf show great wisdom and compassion. Aragorn is the epitome of the servant king quietly protecting people for many years before returning to claim his crown. Faramir is as noble a character as you will ever find.

(I will point out that the movies that Peter Jackson made from the books, while good, do dilute the characters’ greatness. It seems that Jackson had to bring them down from the lofty heights that Tolkien placed them, to more human levels. I would contend that Tolkien knew what he was doing when he portrayed his characters in the heroic tradition. They are there to inspire us.)

On that note I will close. I hope that I have inspired you to not settle for education as the government says it must be done. Instead seek to educate your children to be able to think and reason well and to have the character to live in a heroic fashion by doing their duty to God and man.

The Corker bill: another major sellout by our GOP elites

April 21, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The Corker bill: another major sellout by our GOP elites 

By Cathy Keim

The repetitive nature of our GOP leadership is wearing thin. Once again they are setting up a situation where they will pretend to try very hard to stop the very thing that they are in fact enabling.

The president is pushing hard for a terrible agreement with Iran. Senator Tom Cotton and 46 of his colleagues published an open letter to Iran explaining that the president could not bind the USA to an agreement with the consent of Congress.

Andy McCarthy presents the situation:

Thus, the Constitution mandates that no international agreement can be binding unless it achieves either of two forms of congressional endorsement: a) super-majority approval by two-thirds of the Senate (i.e., 67 aye votes), or b) enactment through the normal legislative process, meaning passage by both chambers under their burdensome rules, then signature by the president.

This put the GOP leadership in a bind. They do not want to constrain the president for unknown reasons, but they do want to appear to their constituents back home like they are trying.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senators Robert Menendez (a Democrat) and fellow Republican Lindsay Graham submitted a bill that will solve this impasse for the GOP elites.

The fact that the Democrats, including Maryland’s Ben Cardin, are jumping on board with the Corker bill is evidence that something is very wrong. As Politico notes:

The low-key Cardin engaged in a furious round of negotiations with gregarious Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, prompting something that was once viewed as almost unthinkable: a bipartisan deal for Congress to review an Iran nuclear deal — with the blessing of President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

This bill looks tough because it forces the president to submit his Iran agreement to the senate, but as McCarthy adds:

Once the deal is submitted, Congress would have 60 days (or perhaps as few as 30 days) to act. If within that period both houses of Congress failed to enact a resolution of disapproval, the agreement would be deemed legally binding — meaning that the sanctions the Iranian regime is chafing under would be lifted. As Corker, other Republican leaders, and the president well know, passage of a resolution of disapproval — even if assured in the House with its commanding Republican majority — could be blocked by the familiar, lockstep parliamentary maneuvering of just 40 Senate Democrats. More significantly, even if enacted in the Senate, the resolution would be vetoed by Obama. As with the resolutions of disapproval on debt increases, it is nearly inconceivable that Obama’s veto would be overridden.

Instead of the president needing 67 senators to approve his Iran deal, now the Senate will need 67 votes to block the deal.

What? Why would the senators subvert the Constitution, turn the process upside down, and virtually ensure that they cannot block whatever the president presents?

This is the same old story of the leadership voting yes to let the bill out of committee so that they can futilely vote no on the floor. What they could kill in committee, they willfully let advance and then make a big show of voting no to their constituents back home. The details are different, but the story is the same.

Do not be taken in by this craven show of weakness by the GOP leadership hidden by a pose of strength. We have been sold down the river once again.

The other side of session

Since the General Assembly session came to a close last week, I’ve received my share of end-of-session wrap-ups from a number of members. But one has stood out because it focused as much on what wasn’t done as it did on the accomplishments. Sometimes keeping bad ideas from becoming law is as much a victory as any bill which is signed.

So when I read Mary Beth Carozza’s assessment of the recent session, I noted that a significant part of her remarks focused on what did not pass.

While serving you here in Annapolis, sometimes the bad legislation we are able to stop is just as important as the bills we are able to pass. This year a number of new tax increases were proposed but did not pass due to our efforts to stop them. Among the worst of this year’s proposed tax increases was the so-called “Chicken Tax,” which would place a 5-cent per chicken tax on every chicken raised in the State of Maryland.

Another agriculture-related tax increase we were able to kill this year was a proposal to repeal the sales and use tax exemption for agricultural products and equipment, such as feed and tractor fuel, that go into producing a final good for sale. The repeal of this exemption would have increased taxes on our state’s farmers by approximately $212 million starting next year and increasing to $251.2 million by 2020.

Other taxes which did not pass this year include the “death tax,” which would have eliminated the “death tax” repeal passed by last year’s General Assembly, a “bottle tax” that places a 5-cent tax on every bottle, a “bag tax” that would ban plastic bags and place a 10-cent fee on paper bags, a $90 million increase in the tobacco tax, and a tax on utility bills for solar and wind that would eventually ramp up to a $566 million annual tax.

Having studied the General Assembly for several years, I can tell you that many of these tax proposals reappear session after session. The “chicken tax” was around last year, a number of Democrats were upset that the death tax repeal passed last year (as they were the ones who voted against it), and the others are proposals which are perennial. The repeal of the agricultural products exemption is a fairly new one to me, though.

To hear Democrats tell it, we need all those new revenue streams for various pet causes. As examples, one version of the “chicken tax” was going to pay for cover crops and to help replace failing septic systems, one previous incarnation of the “bag tax” was intended for stream cleanup through the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and a small portion of the increased tobacco tax was (ironically enough) slated for a smoking cessation fund. (Most was intended for that vast fiscal hole we call the General Fund.)

But taxes weren’t the only thing needing to be stopped:

Members of the Eastern Shore Delegation also were able to kill another bill that would have increased the regulatory burden on farmers known as the “Farmers’ Rights Act.” This bill would have required the Attorney General’s Office to review all livestock production contracts before they are approved. In order to meet the bill’s requirements, the Attorney General’s Office would have had to hire three new, full-time Assistant Attorneys General at an expense of over $200,000 per year. This proposal is another example of an attempt to grow government bureaucracy at the expense of our citizens, especially our farmers.

I also worked closely with the Hogan Administration and local small business owners to pull regulations that would have hurt small arcade businesses in Ocean City and across the State of Maryland. For the last several months, the State Lottery Commission had been attempting to advance a proposal which would regulate these small businesses in the same way the state regulates casinos. I am happy to report that Governor Hogan directed the Lottery Commission to pull these proposed regulations.

These were all well and good, but I remain disappointed by the PMT regulations which will disproportionately affect local farmers, who are the victims of the “good faith negotiations between all stakeholders on this issue.” Remember, the eventual success of these regulations hinges on being able to use the excess chicken manure that local farmers can no longer use. If these schemes of creating energy or other by-products don’t succeed in creating a viable market, the state either has to continue to subsidize these failing enterprises or will simply leave local farmers hanging. Given the usual preference of Annapolis to side with environmental interests over those of farmers, I suspect the latter will eventually be the case, although we may be forced in the meantime to use millions more in taxpayer subsidies as the state tries to goose that manure market along.

I can tell you that I have picked out all the bills I will use for the monoblogue Accountability Project. Over the next few weeks I will be compiling the votes and seeing how all the new Delegates and Senators (as well as the holdovers) did. Will the change to a Republican governor be reflected in a more conservative overall voting pattern? Stay tuned.

The culture wars and Common Core (part 1)

April 20, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Education · 2 Comments 

By Cathy Keim

First of a two-part series.

I have been writing about traditional marriage, traditional family, and sanctity of life issues for several years. I have been increasingly aware of the inability to communicate with people why these traditional values are important to them personally and to our society as a whole especially in our political realm. It is hard to win political battles if we cannot defend our positions cogently and make a compelling case for them.

There is the ever-present problem of media bias, which skews decidedly towards the progressive values, but our positions are true and have facts to support them. We can cite studies that show that children do best in a home with their married father and mother. We can demonstrate that babies have a heartbeat at about six weeks in a pregnancy and that they can feel pain by 16 to 18 weeks.

Why is it so hard to engage voters with our traditional values? Why do our facts fall on deaf ears? Donald Williams, PhD, makes a compelling case in his recent article “Discerning the Times.” (This is from the print version of the Christian Research Journal.)

We paid insufficient attention to changes taking place in our colleges in how reading and writing were taught.

(snip)

The attempt to discover the author’s message to his original audience was replaced by a new view in which authorial intention is irrelevant at best and meaning is in the eye of the beholder. When people are taught to read this way, the authority of all cultural texts- including our founding documents and Scripture- is undermined, so that even good arguments for traditional values lose their traction. To reverse this defeat, we must recognize the importance of reading and how it is taught.

Tea Party activists, pro-life advocates, and judicial restraint supporters all point to our founding documents and our Judeo-Christian heritage and beg for people to resist the “hope and change” that has been unleashed on our country. Our history is firmly on our side of the argument, but people look at us as though we are speaking gibberish.

I remembered an article about a teacher complaining about a Common Core lesson plan in the Washington Post several years ago. I looked it up and sure enough my memory was correct: the teachers were to teach the Gettysburg Address in a particular manner.

Another problem we found relates to the pedagogical method used in the Gettysburg Address exemplar that the Common Core calls “cold reading.”

This gives students a text they have never seen and asks them to read it with no preliminary introduction. This mimics the conditions of a standardized test on which students are asked to read material they have never seen and answer multiple choice questions about the passage.

Such pedagogy makes school wildly boring. Students are not asked to connect what they read yesterday to what they are reading today, or what they read in English to what they read in science.

The exemplar, in fact, forbids teachers from asking students if they have ever been to a funeral because such questions rely “on individual experience and opinion,” and answering them “will not move students closer to understanding the Gettysburg Address.”

(This is baffling, as if Lincoln delivered the speech in an intellectual vacuum; as if the speech wasn’t delivered at a funeral and meant to be heard in the context of a funeral; as if we must not think about memorials when we read words that memorialize. Rather, it is impossible to have any deep understanding of Lincoln’s speech without thinking about the context of the speech: a memorial service.)

The exemplar instructs teachers to “avoid giving any background context” because the Common Core’s close reading strategy “forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all.” What sense does this make?

(snip)

Asking questions about, for example, the causes of the Civil War, are also forbidden. Why? These questions go “outside the text,” a cardinal sin in Common Core-land.

According to the exemplar, the text of the speech is about equality and self-government, and not about picking sides. It is true that Lincoln did not want to dishonor the memory of the Southern soldiers who fought and died valiantly. But does any rational person read “The Gettysburg Address” and not know that Lincoln desperately believed that the North must win the war? Does anyone think that he could speak about equality without everyone in his audience knowing he was talking about slavery and the causes of the war? How can anyone try to disconnect this profoundly meaningful speech from its historical context and hope to “deeply” understand it in any way, shape, or form?”

This teacher points out many of the problems with reading without any context. However, you must remember that the proponents of “New Criticism” have been entrenched in our universities for over fifty years. While most of us ignore the academic world, it does not ignore us. The professors of the academy have been educating our children and setting them loose on our society to wreak havoc. We have been undermined from within. Few of us, or our children, can articulate these concepts in the academic jargon that the scholarly journals use. In fact, we do not read the journals because they seem ridiculous to us, but the concepts have filtered into our society so that appealing to the original intent of the founders of our country or declaring that our Judeo-Christian heritage tells us that marriage is between a man and a woman has no weight or credibility.

If our citizens have been taught that it doesn’t matter what meaning the author intended to convey, but only what they interpret it to mean to them, then we cannot convince them by our good arguments from the Constitution or the Bible.

Williams adds:

(W)e must adjust our rhetoric to address the audience that actually exists, not the one that was here two generations ago. We need to stop berating people for departing from a position they never held.

(snip)

It is too late to preserve the American republic (we have to restore it). We have lost the opportunity to appeal to the old consensus and we need to stop acting like it is still there.

If you have had a hard time crystallizing your concerns about Common Core, then I hope that this information will help you identify a key problem in an easy to share example. I find that many people just cannot grasp what is at stake in our schools.

Sadly, we lost the culture war over fifty years ago when we let the academic world be overtaken by progressive professors. Common Core is just one of the final steps in destroying our society.

Part II will address what we can do to remedy our situation.

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