Refuse to Comply. Decline to Test. Petition Governor Hogan to Cancel Membership in PARCC.

By Cathy Keim

The Worcester County Tea Party recently sent an email out requesting that people sign the petition entitled: Immediate Repeal of Common Core State Standards and Cancellation of Membership in the PARCC Consortium in the State of Maryland.

As both Michael and I have mentioned previously, Governor Hogan has the ability to remove Maryland from the PARCC Consortium. The time for action on his part is running out, so Antonio Piacente is gathering signatures on a petition to give the governor the political courage to pull out of the contract. Go here to read and sign the petition, and then send it on to all your friends.

It would be a shame to lose the opt out clause in the PARCC contract. However, without massive pushback from parents, nothing will be done. Governor Hogan has appointed two new members to the Maryland State Board of Education, Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Andy Smarick, both of whom have connections with the ‘Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a think tank with ties to the Gates Foundation that supports education reforms such as the Common Core State Standards, school choice, and accountability testing.”

Since Gov. Hogan appointed new state school board members that are supporters of high stakes testing, it seems unlikely that he will drop out of the PARCC agreement without intense pressure.

If the governor and our legislators do not listen to the parents, then it may be time for the civil disobedience option.

Charles Murray’s book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, makes the case “that American government today is so far divorced from the nation’s founding principles of limited government and individual liberty that it can’t be returned to those principles through normal political action. No presidential administration, congressional turnover, or set of SCOTUS appointments will restore the Commerce and General Welfare clauses. Thus, he writes, supporters of liberty should try to effect change through carefully chosen but broadly adopted acts of civil disobedience against publicly unpopular regulations.”

The Federalist follows up with an article saying that widespread resistance to Common Core could be just the wedge that Charles Murray was hoping for.

As more and more parents become aware of the follies inherent in the premise behind common core, we may finally reach a critical mass of citizens that are willing to say no to the federal government’s grab for control over the public schools.

It’s time for a governor to say, “To heck with Congress’s inability to send our federal education dollars back with fewer strings attached. The cost of compliance with federal regulations is higher than the funds we get back from the feds. They can keep our stinking money. We don’t need the A-PLUS Amendment. We don’t need federal education funds at all. We can run our schools better, on slightly less money, without federal micromanagement.” Local school boards could do the same thing, especially those who don’t get much or any federal funds.

The costs to comply with all the government mandates are enormous. Just trying to get all the technology in place to implement the testing regimens is going to bankrupt the school system. And as we all know, technology has to be replaced frequently, so it is not a one-time cost per student. Then you realize that not only is the technology expensive, but it is helping to implement the data mining of your student’s every move which is then kept in his permanent record to track him from pre-school to the work force.

One other important point is that there is a difference between a test and an assessment. The two words are used interchangeably, but parents should be aware that what is occurring in the schools now is not the type of tests they were used to taking. A test measures a student’s grasp of facts such as 2 + 2 = 4. It can be graded the same for everybody. However, an assessment is to measure change such as can the student cooperate in a group better this month than last month or has the student’s attitude “improved” on a certain subject matter.

Teachers are not trained to evaluate attitudes, but these assessments will follow your student right into the workplace. Combine them with all of the personal information that the assessments ask about the student’s family, religion, and other areas that are not the school’s business, and the data mining that is done by businesses and the government and soon you have a system where everything about your student’s abilities, beliefs, and weaknesses are carefully documented in a neat little file. Some bureaucrat can use that information to send your child to a good college or to block him from attaining his goals.

Parents need to realize that even though they do not have any spare time, this education crisis needs their attention. Sometimes things are big enough that we must make time for them right now. This presidential election cycle is the time. Bring Common Core front and center. Parents need to insist that the presidential contenders address their concerns.

The thousands of parents across the country that are standing up to the educational leviathan need you to join them. Sign the petition and encourage Governor Hogan to be a leader against the federal takeover of our schools. Without your input, it seems clear that he will just follow the Common Core path that is before him. Parents can make the difference. Speak up now while you can.

Editor’s note: I signed on Friday evening and was number 622. We need to do better, people.

Maryland enters the fray

Yesterday we had the spectacle of Martin O’Malley using the Baltimore skyline as a backdrop for the announcement we figured would eventually come the moment the 2010 Maryland gubernatorial election was called for him. Color me unsurprised that he’s running for president in 2016.

But Baltimore’s recent events created even more baggage for O’Malley, who led Maryland through a recession that is still lingering for those portions of the state not within commuting distance of Washington, D.C. That forgotten region includes the city of Baltimore, where the unemployment rate is usually among the highest in the state. In general, Maryland’s better-than-average jobless rate is a result of the federal workforce – take that away and you might have numbers more in tune with struggling states like West Virginia or Nevada.

Granted, if you look at politics through a liberal lens you may see a lot to like with O’Malley. With a friendly and compliant General Assembly backing practically every move, in his first term O’Malley won his prized environmental initiatives with bills like the Clean Cars Act and EmPOWER Maryland utility mandates, increased sales and income taxes while expanding Medicaid, and legalized casino gambling. In his second term he doubled down with the passage of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and same-sex marriage, beating back spirited efforts at the ballot box to rescind them in 2012. He also championed wind power and a scheme to help with EPA compliance in cleaning up Chesapeake Bay.

That last initiative, officially called the “Stormwater Management – Watershed Protection and Restoration Program,” eventually was boiled down to two words: “rain tax.” It, along with his mismanagement of the state’s Obamacare insurance exchange, proved the demise of Anthony Brown’s campaign to replace O’Malley from his lieutenant governor’s chair, and coupled with this spring’s Baltimore riots may perhaps have become the legacy of Martin O’Malley.

In comparison to his Democratic opponents for the Presidential nomination, though, he and Lincoln Chafee (who is planning to announce his entry next week) are the only two with executive experience, and O’Malley the only one to win re-election. On the GOP side you can cite a number of two-term governors (among them Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal as a partial list) but in terms of governing experience on the Democratic side O’Malley is above the rest.

Yet a record works both ways, and Maryland is arguably the most liberal state in the country. The advocacy group Change Maryland began pointing out the O’Malley economic record shortly after its founding in 2011, and state conservatives can quickly rattle off the key facts: 6,500 businesses lost, 31,000 residents leaving the state with $1.7 billion in net income out-migration, and – most importantly – 40 tax increases. That won’t play in Peoria.

For those of us who have been bruised and battered by a recession without a recovery, Martin O’Malley’ paean to populism rings hollow. He may talk about how crooked Wall Street is, but his prescriptions for the problems with Main Street will only enrich those who stroll along Pennsylvania Avenue.

As a meme making the rounds this weekend implies, those former residents of Maryland who fled the state’s punitive taxation and regulation during the O’Malley years won’t have anywhere to go if he becomes president. While Larry Hogan hasn’t necessarily been the answer here, job creation has bounced back since he took over and he has worked to address the state’s structural deficit without the usual O’Malley answer of a tax increase. Why should America dig itself a deeper hole with Martin O’Malley?

Meanwhile, last night on the other side of the Transpeninsular Line residents of Delaware were stunned to learn of the passing of Beau Biden.

From a political aspect, though, and despite his health issues, the younger Biden was the odds-on favorite to be the Democrats’ nominee for Delaware governor next year after an eight-year run as the state’s Attorney General. Now the race on the Democratic side has opened up and those who were quietly considering a run due to Biden’s condition may step out of the woodwork after an appropriate mourning period. The most likely candidates may be Congressman John Carney, who ran in 2008 only to lose to current term-limited Governor Jack Markell, and New Castle County Executive Thomas Gordon.

Whether this loss will affect Joe Biden’s 2016 plans is unknown; however, he hadn’t planned to announce anyway until late summer at the earliest.

Weekend of local rock volume 64

May 30, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music · Comments Off on Weekend of local rock volume 64 

Last weekend was a good weekend for local music buffs, particularly in the Long Neck, Delaware area. I’ve often wondered if those people who live by American Legion Post 28 there sit outside on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and listen in. Of course they could just come on down, too.

Anyway, the Concert for a Random Soldier began at noon but since we were still in church at that time we were casually late enough to get there just in time for the longtime event staple 33 1/3 to wrap up; meanwhile, one of the acoustic acts played while we grabbed some lunch.

So band number one on my agenda was Pros from Dover.

Despite the name, none of them are from Dover. The name is actually a reference from the book version of M*A*S*H.

They played somewhat of a country-tinged set in song selection, which was fine for an event which generally works its way from oldies to classic rock to heavier and more modern as the day turns to evening.

Speaking of country, you can’t beat the unusual start to the set of Slinging Daisies.

It’s probably been 25 years since I heard the old C. W. McCall chestnut “Convoy” and it wasn’t a cover band that did it. They did a set that featured a handful of originals, but also played the song that’s tradition at the Concert for a Random Soldier: “Paint It Black” from the Rolling Stones.

The reason this song gets Terri Clifton onto the dance floor is that it was her son Chad’s favorite song.

Another band that’s been doing the CRS annually in recent years is Judy Sings the Blues. They come as advertised, playing a number of standards and one original about Judy’s fear of spiders.

One band that didn’t come as advertised was Semiblind. Due to an unfortunate series of mishaps, the band was truncated down to its founding members Jim and Michele Hogsett. These longtime staunch supporters of the CRS played instead as their acoustic duo Dog & Butterfly.

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Things then got a little funky, as Conjunction Funktion took the stage with some brass.

Again unusual for a cover band: how many would lead off with “Josie” by Steely Dan? These guys did.

Sadly, we had to leave as Conjunction Funksion played so I missed the band I would have liked to check out, Modern Day Addiction. Besides those guys and 33 1/3, other bands on the bill were Oh Boy, JB Duo, Beach Trip, Captain Mike, and The Runner-Ups. Several of these also have played the event in recent years, and they should be thanked for supporting the Guitars for Vets cause.

So next year, on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, the 11th annual CRS will likely feature a number of these same acts for a day of music, food, and fun.

A toast to our neighboring states

May 29, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A toast to our neighboring states 

Summer has arrived – the kids are out of school (in some cases, like ours), the weather is warm enough to fire up the grill on the deck, and people are hitting the beach in droves. And it’s the weekend to boot. In many cases such as this, the setting is not complete without a cold one by your side.

So my interest was piqued by a piece in the Daily Signal asking how high the beer taxes are in our state. When it comes to high taxes, Maryland is generally right near the top and the data from the Tax Foundation found beer taxes in Maryland, expressed in their cost per gallon, are no exception – they rank among the highest in the nation.

But there were two surprises in the data. First is that states in the Deep South, which generally have the reputation as low-tax bastions, have the highest beer taxes int the country. I suspect this is a hangover (see what I did there?) from their days as the Bible Belt. While Maryland is 9th in the country, they are well outside the top 8 and the top four (Tennessee, Alaska, Alabama, and Georgia) have rates at least double Maryland’s 49 cent-per-gallon toll.

Second, though, is the large disparity between Maryland and its surrounding states, which rank no higher than 24th (Virginia.) A beer in Pennsylvania costs 41 cents per gallon less in taxes, as their 8-cent rate is tied for the sixth-lowest in the nation. (Wyoming drinkers only pay 2 cents per gallon in tax.)

Maryland may make a little more money soon, because recently two local breweries (and perhaps others yet to be created) were the beneficiaries of a bill signed into law by Governor Hogan at the behest of the Wicomico County delegation. Dubbed the “Evo Bill,” it allows Wicomico County brew pubs to create more product with their current licensing structure. This is good, but only slightly dampens the effect of a increased alcohol tax that took effect under Governor O’Malley.

So now that Larry Hogan has rolled back tolls, maybe it’s time for him to give more assistance to a fledgling industry by removing the additional 3% sales tax on alcohol. Remember, we exist next to a state which has no sales tax so we’re now at a 9% disadvantage to our neighbors to the north.

Shorebird of the Week – May 28, 2015

May 28, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – May 28, 2015 

After a very shaky start, this season’s been an uphill climb for Matthew Grimes. Tagged with an ERA that flirted with double-digits after the first couple starts, he began whittling it down in earnest upon an April 28 start in Savannah that saw him allow just one hit in five innings while fanning 11. Even as he was roughed up a little in his last start at Hickory, most of the runs he allowed were unearned so his ERA dropped to a season-low 4.57 to go with a 3-2 record.

Matthew is an interesting case – drafted out of a Georgia high school by the White Sox in the 4th round in 2010, he instead chose to go to Georgia Tech. Grimes was drafted again in 2013 by the Phillies as a 31st rounder and finally the Orioles picked him up in the 18th round last season. One could argue he left a lot of money on the table, but obviously college was important to him and Matthew is still on track development-wise as an older 23-year-old at this level (he will turn 24 just before season’s end, on September 4.)

With Aberdeen last season his numbers were pedestrian – 1-3 with a 5.32 ERA in just 22 innings spread over 10 appearances (five starts.) The Orioles used him very gently as none of his outings lasted over three innings, so stretching him out as a starter this season is a little surprising. So far in 2015 his longest outing has been 5 2/3 innings at Augusta; however, Grimes has consistently turned in five or more innings. Just one of his last seven starts has gone fewer than five frames and that was a four-inning start at home, also against Augusta.

If there’s a knock on the Grimes resume, it’s that he tends to give up a lot of hits: 57 in 43 1/3 innings so far this season, leading to a WHIP of 1.62. It’s surprising because he has strikeout capability, having fanned 40 vs. 13 walks in those 43 1/3 innings. Naturally, the cat-and-mouse game is on; as the league adjusts to him Matt will have to refine his offerings.

My suspicion is that Grimes will become more of a reliever as his career progresses, as he seems to do better facing batters just once. But he may surprise us and become a pitcher who misses bats more often in the second half. There was a lot of promise for Grimes out of high school, so we’ll see if that hype was well-placed or not.

So believers now equate with the KKK?

Over a year ago, the wheels of justice began rolling with a lawsuit questioning whether the Bladensburg Peace Cross inappropriately established religion. In the ensuing months, the claims and counterclaims have trickled in, and onetime Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Richard Douglas has occasionally kept me (and others) updated on the process.

But now the case has taken an interesting turn:

Question: Should the federal courts allow comfortable white atheists to use the suffering of black Americans as a battering ram to force their opinions on all Americans?

Answer: We’re about to find out, with the Bladensburg Memorial WWI Peace Cross case.

Earlier this month, the atheists filed an “expert witness” opinion about the Memorial. In their opinion, the “expert” chosen by the atheists pulled the Ku Klux Klan card, associating the Memorial Peace Cross with the Klan and its racist ideology.

It is not the first time in this case that the atheists have hijacked black suffering in America to force their views upon the rest of us. In their initial complaint in federal court, the atheists attacked the Memorial Peace Cross on two fronts: first, under the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment to the Constitution ; and second, under Title 42, United States Code, section 1983 (42 USC 1983).

42 USC 1983 dates to the aftermath of the Civil War. It was one of the so-called “Klan Acts” enacted by Congress to protect newly-freed black people from mistreatment by state and local governments. Today the atheists are trying to use 42 USC 1983 it to dismantle the Peace Cross. So much for congressional intent.

In my judgment, playing the Ku Klux Klan card is an atheist “Hail Mary” pass (with apologies to Our Lady) to try and rescue what is in my judgment a doomed lawsuit. By pulling the KKK card, they have drawn a line in the sand and dared federal Judge Deborah Chasenow to step across.

In 2015 the Bladensburg WWI Memorial Peace Cross has about as much to do with the Klan as the guillotine has to do with modern humanism. Pulling the KKK card to attack the Memorial is the next-to-last refuge of a scoundrel. Let’s see if this group of privileged white malcontents gets away with it.

Knowing the political climate in Maryland, they just might. Bear in mind that this case has dragged on for over a year, and it’s fortunate that Douglas is assisting the defendants on a pro bono basis.

But it’s always fascinating to me to see what else Douglas is up to, and it turns out he has a couple other irons in the fire.

One is a PAC he created called the Job Homes Future PAC, which, as its mission, “aims to put the American workforce back where it belongs:   in first place on our nation’s priority list.  It is time to pick a fight with Congress on behalf of the American workforce.” (Emphasis in original.) As in many cases I’ve seen over the years, I suspect this may be the prelude to a political run.

Further evidence comes in a cryptic comment left on Richard’s Facebook page after he appeared before the Charles County Republican Central Committee in April:

Great having you join us. I really enjoyed your words to us. I totally agree with your positions and look forward to supporting your campaign to give Maryland a responsive representative in 2016. Hoyer must go.

It’s interesting that, while no one has filed the FEC campaign finance paperwork to challenge Steny Hoyer on the GOP side, two candidates are already on the GOP primary ballot – Mark Arness, who lost in the 2014 GOP primary to Chris Chaffee, and Charles Faddis, a former CIA officer for whom Congress runs in the family – his grandfather, also named Charles, was a House member in the World War II era. So Richard would be joining in a contested race should he choose that route, but neither of the two have raised a significant amount of money yet. With the recent entrance of Chrys Kefalas into the race, the Senate nomination would also be contested should Douglas choose that route again.

Of course, Richard may also choose to stay on the civilian side as he’s become a reasonably in-demand political commentator based on his experiences with luminaries like Senator Jesse Helms and with foreign policy and the role of the Senate.

In any case, he will be one to watch as 2016 approaches and this court case reaches its conclusion in the federal district court.

Sharia, gay marriage, and the First Amendment

By Cathy Keim

On May 20, 2015 I received an email from the American Freedom Defense Initiative announcing that they are buying ads on Washington, D.C. buses and train dioramas.

AFDI President Pamela Geller said in a statement:

Because the media and the cultural and political elites continue to self-enforce the Sharia without the consent of the American people by refusing to show any depictions of Muhammad or showing what it was in Texas that had jihadists opening fire, we are running an ad featuring the winning cartoon by former Muslim Bosch Fawstin from our Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest in Garland, Texas.

The attack on the event drew a lot of criticism aimed not at the jihadists, but at Pamela Geller and AFDI for hosting such a “provocative” contest. In this convoluted way of thinking, the jihadists could not be held responsible for their attack because they were provoked into it!

Here is the ad so that you can see for yourself what the fuss is about.

While this controversy is important in its own right, the following quote from Pamela Geller made me think of another first amendment issue that we are facing:

Putting up with being offended is essential in a pluralistic society in which people differ on basic truths. If a group will not bear being offended without resorting to violence, that group will rule unopposed while everyone else lives in fear, while other groups curtail their activities to appease the violent group. This results in the violent group being able to tyrannize the others.

The progressives have been very eager to push gay marriage on the American people. The Supreme Court ruling that many expect to legalize gay marriage in every state should come down this summer. If or when that happens, do not think that this is over. The gay marriage fight is really not about gay marriage at all: it is about destroying marriage and the family unit and replacing it with the government.

If it were only about being able to be with the partner of their choosing, then why do we have the vindictive attacks on Christian photographers, bakers, and florists that decline to participate in gay marriage ceremonies? Why is this issue being pushed so hard?

The gay mafia has not resorted to chopping off heads, but it has put many Christian business people through a hellish experience resulting in fines and losing their business because they did not want to participate in gay marriage ceremonies.

As a reminder, the First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is true whether the speech is politically correct or not.

Americans are facing tough choices on First Amendment topics. If we do not resist the onslaught to demonize any open discussion of what Sharia requires of Muslims and how that is not compatible with the Constitution, then we will soon be silenced on any topic when threatened. For example, besides saying that you cannot draw Mohammad, Sharia law says that women are not equal to men. It allows men to have four wives. It also says that if you convert from Islam, you are to be killed. Now how can that be reconciled with our Constitution?

Yes, we can draw pictures of Mohammad in the USA and we have an obligation to do so to show that we will not back down on our First Amendment rights.

Christians have the obligation to state the Biblical position on marriage. Marriage is only between one man and one woman. If the Supreme Court declares marriage to be something else, then the religious freedom that we have known will be gone because rather than choosing another baker, photographer, or florist, the gay mafia will seek to destroy and intimidate anyone that does not fall into line and state that gay marriage is as good or better than heterosexual marriage.

Tolerance in both situations is a one-way street. If you do what the bully says, then he will tolerate you. If you do not toe the line, then he will seek to destroy you.

Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, states:

Religious liberty is under direct threat. Just days ago the Solicitor General of the United States served notice before the Supreme Court that the liberties of religious institutions will be an open and unavoidable question. Already, religious liberty is threatened by a new moral regime that exalts erotic liberty and personal autonomy and openly argues that religious liberties must give way to the new morality, its redefinition of marriage, and its demand for coercive moral, cultural, and legal sovereignty.

The totalitarian impulses behind Sharia enforcers and erotic liberty advocates both result in the same end: the loss of personal freedom. Our country was founded on the belief that all men are created equal and this came from the Biblical worldview that all men are created in the image of God. This profound concept is what led to the birth of our country.

If we walk away from this truth, then we also walk away from America as we know her.

Mohler points out: Human rights and human dignity are temporary abstractions if they are severed from their reality as gifts of the Creator. The eclipse of Christian truth will lead inevitably to a tragic loss of human dignity. If we lose religious liberty, all other liberties will be lost, one by one.

So draw a cartoon and support marriage between one man and one woman or soon you may find that you can do neither. If everybody draws a cartoon and all Christians stand up for marriage, then it will be much harder for the jihadists to kill all of us or for the gay mafia to destroy every business that doesn’t agree with them, but if we are cowed by the threat of violence, then the First Amendment may still be in the Constitution – but it will not be relevant.

A weekend to remember, 2015 edition

May 25, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on A weekend to remember, 2015 edition 

In previous years I have detailed some of those events I have attended, and this year is no different except I decided to take fewer pictures and enjoy (or take stock in) the events more.

On Sunday our family made a regular stop, honoring the veterans through music at the Concert for a Random Soldier in Long Neck, Delaware.

The event is now in its tenth year (more on that in a bit) and it benefits this veterans organization, Guitars for Vets.

Naturally, local veterans organizations use this both to inform others who may be interested in their service and to gather together.

Since this event has now reached a decade in duration, I found it very cool that the Delaware General Assembly saw fit to honor it with proclamations from both their House of Delegates and Senate. Senator Ernie Lopez presented the Senate version to event creator Terri Clifton.

Delegate Steve Smyk did the same for the House, but that was prior to our arrival.

Originally I wasn’t going to do a second post but as it turned out I had enough band photos that I will do a separate Weekend of Local Rock post next weekend. The Concert for a Random Soldier also featured a modest car show, raffles, and good food. Next year you should make plans to join in this worthwhile family Sunday.

Another event which has become an annual tradition here in Salisbury is the Memorial Day ceremony at the Wicomico County Youth and Civic Center.

As it has become tradition, I decided not to do a full pictorial of the event – if you want the blow-by-blow, previous coverage will suffice.

But each year I notice that, while there is a handful of new people there, the majority of those who attend and participate have some number of gray hairs. It’s worth pointing out that the revival of patriotism that was a reaction to the mistreatment of those who returned from Vietnam almost a half-century ago is itself nearly 25 years old. (The Reagan years birthed the resurgence, but it began in earnest when we sent troops over for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1991.) Those who served in that particular theater of war are now themselves middle-aged.

Instead, those in the present generation of fighting men (and women) are once again saddled with the fact they fought in what became an unpopular war where any victories gained were squandered by subsequent military decisions and strategy. I sense at times that patriotism is once again becoming a parody of itself – talking about “‘Murica” and all that. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the current political leadership, but to me it’s still there.

Memorial Day, however, is a day to set aside political feelings for the conflicts we find ourselves ensnared in, for the thousands and thousands who have perished in defense of our land are the ones we should be remembering today. Just because the federal government made it a three-day weekend, replacing the traditional May 30 date to instead insure it’s always on a Monday, doesn’t mean that the sense of loss for the families comes to an end or that the sacrifices were any less ultimate.

I hope those who are growing up come to understand the true meaning of the holiday, for I sometimes get the bad feeling their generation may bear the brunt of future observances. Let’s hope my hunch is wrong.

Shifting out of PARCC

As I noted yesterday, there was an item brought to my attention by the Worcester County TEA Party. Fortunately, their version is slightly inaccurate in a good way.

According to their communication, Governor Hogan only had until June 1 to act. That date is problematic because he will be in the opening stages of a 12-day trip to Asia to drum up business for Maryland. I’m definitely not crazy about this trip – considering many on our side chastised Martin O’Malley for doing the same thing – but it is what it is, and that’s really not the subject of the post.

Let me refer to the actual authors to set things straight. This is from the Stop PARCC in Maryland group:

In June 2010, Governor Martin O’Malley and former State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick signed a Memorandum of Understanding that committed Maryland to the various guidelines, by-laws, and responsibilities of membership in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium.  (The complete Memorandum of Understanding can be found by clicking here.)

Section VII, Subsection B of the Memorandum of Understanding states:

“In the event that the governor or chief state school officer is replaced in a Consortium state, the successor in that office shall affirm in writing to the Governing Board Chair the State’s continued commitment to participation in the Consortium and to the binding commitments made by that official’s predecessor within five (5) months of taking office.”

On January 21, 2015, Governor Larry Hogan was inaugurated and took office as Maryland’s 62nd Governor. According to the Memorandum of Understanding, Governor Hogan has until June 21, 2015 to recommit Maryland to the PARCC consortium.

We believe that the “shall affirm” provision, in this case, is directory (non-binding) and not mandatory due to the nature of the agreement as well as legal precedent.

We believe that the Governor has the authority to nullify Maryland’s agreement with the PARCC consortium simply by declining to reaffirm the state’s commitment within this five month window.

We believe that Governor Hogan is in a unique position to reclaim, remodel, and rediscover Maryland education.

In looking through the Stop PARCC website, I also found a letter from Delegate David Vogt in which he implores Hogan to withdraw, citing Florida as one example of a state which has done so. In fact, there are over a dozen states (including neighboring Virginia and Pennsylvania) which have already withdrawn from PARCC or a similar testing regimen called SBAC or joined neither in the first place – Virginia is one of four that never adopted either idea.

The objection to each of these is simple: they were adopted as a one-size-fits-all scheme in which hundreds of millions of federal dollars were shoveled to states to bribe them into compliance. The concept of local control is being usurped more and more by these standards; meanwhile, we are finding more and more that Johnny not only can’t read, but he has trouble with math and knows little about basic science, history, and geography – however, he is programmed to regurgitate whatever topical talking points are popular with the teachers’ unions.

Maryland is supposed to be one of the best states for education – so why are we lowering ourselves to “average” standards? We can be a leader by encouraging innovation and letting local districts work to educate students in the basics, with the emphasis on teaching in time-tested methods proven successful rather than catering to a testing regimen that takes up valuable classroom time.

“Be Prepared” – it’s a motto to live by

May 23, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Education · 2 Comments 

I bring you this not necessarily as an event to attend – although if you are in the Smyrna area and/or interested in the 9-12 Delaware Patriots it’s probably well worth your while – but as something to keep in mind for future reference. In this region there’s someone who knows about such survival techniques as these.

You can dismiss this as the paranoia of the far right – those dismissed as “preppers” – but many of these skills may be useful if (or perhaps when) we run into a situation where food, water, and electricity are in short supply or unavailable for weeks. Those who were directly affected by Superstorm Sandy had a taste of this life, but if the dire predictions of an EMP-induced power failure are correct we could be in such a situation for months at a time. (At that point, however, the prospects of canning and sustainable farming may be much less important than the marksmanship aspect of the course.)

It seems to me that this sort of course could be useful in a location closer to home – perhaps as an event for the Worcester County TEA Party. (Something they sent to me will be the subject of a post tomorrow.) Most of those on the other side of the political aisle will be instead waiting for the white knights of FEMA to roll in and save the day, but the government can only do so much for you – it’s what they can do to you that worries many on the conservative side of the spectrum.

Put another way, many of these skills were second nature to our great-grandparents, but having the ease and comfort of a modern society made them irrelevant for the modern world. When dinner is as easy as going online and using your debit card to have something delivered to your front door, the usefulness of fire starting without matches, canning, and hydroponics can be questioned. Take that ease and comfort away, though, and the tune changes rapidly.

America has been blessed for a long time, in no small measure thanks to the sacrifices of those we honor this weekend in general and Monday in particular. But a little rugged individualism never hurt anyone and it would be interesting to bring such an event to our part of the peninsula.

Addressing the crowded stage

May 22, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Addressing the crowded stage 

A few months ago, sensing the GOP may have up to 15 candidates in the race, I wrote about how the Republican presidential primary debates should be structured. With the addition of several candidates over the last month – I have 15 now listed on my sidebar – that may become a reality.

So the question is how these debates will be structured. According to Matea Gold in the Washington Post, Fox News will only take the top 10 in an average of national polls for their debates, while CNN will do the same with a twist – giving the bottom-feeders their own forum as well.

And forum seems to be a more operative word because there are a number of issues these candidates will agree on. Of course, the moderators (with the possible, but doubtful, exception of Fox News) will likely concentrate on the issues they perceive will create the most “gotcha” moments for the Democrat’s campaign to exploit – look for questions on social issues, repealing the most popular aspects of Obamacare, and “tax cuts for the rich” to lead the way, along with trying to get the candidates to throw George W. Bush under the bus.

My thoughts on the contenders buying their way into a debate and splitting the field into three (or more) groups, randomly selected, is one thing. But commentator Dan Calabrese believes in the flip side: “Get rid of the debates. They’re stupid.”

These meat parades are about the silliest spectacles ever to rear their heads in politics, and let us count the reasons this is true:

1. They are not debates. A debate is an argument between two people who disagree about something, or about many things. These are attention-grabbing contests in which each person on stage is trying to convince you of the same thing – that he/she is the true conservative, the true heir to Reagan, the true believer in small government, the real tax-cutter, whatever. Or they’re looking for the opportunity to say that someone else on stage (or maybe everyone else in stage) is not those things. I’m not sure what you call that, but I know what it isn’t, and that’s a debate.

2. The media should have no role in this performance theater, and certainly not as the “moderators.” Having them there simply makes it a glorified joint press conference, but it’s a bizarre press conference in which the people holding the press conference have no idea what they’re there to talk about, because the media could ask them about anything from Syria to health care to boxers vs. briefs. (And they will.) When the media rides its hubris for all it’s worth, you remember the media more than you remember the candidates. Bernard Shaw. Candy Crowley. Unless they want to run, get them off the stage.

3. Momentary anomalies come to define candidates in ways that should never happen. Rick Perry was the worst victim of this I ever saw. A momentary mental block kept him from recalling one of the three cabinet-level departments he had proposed eliminating, and the brain freeze was instantly seized upon as the end of his campaign. Which it was. That was crap. Say what you want about whether Perry would make a good president, but anyone can lose their train of thought in a moment, and what usually happens is you say to someone, “Hey, I’m having a mental block, what was that thing?” And they tell you, and you say oh yeah, and that’s that. It has nothing to do with your ability to do the job of president, nor does your reaction to someone’s zinger or a brief look of surprise that someone decides to call a “deer in the headlights moment.” These isolated events are stupid and irrelevant, and yet they are used to define you by people who are stupid and should be irrelevant.

4. We never learn anything. In fact, we often come away from a debate more ignorant than we were when it started. If you want to know a candidate’s position on something, go to his web site. If you want to know the legitimate criticisms of him, research that independently. If you judge anyone – positively or negatively – based on what they can say for themselves in a span of 30 seconds, you should be disqualified from voting.

I’ve often said that a candidate can’t (and shouldn’t) be judged on a 30-second commercial, but the sad fact is that a majority of voters do just that. It definitely bothers me because I lay a lot of time and effort into the process of selecting my candidate based on how they address the issues I care about and document my search – unfortunately I reach but a tiny fraction of the voters even one 30-second spot on a cable news network would (with the possible exception of MSNBC, where my readership may match their viewership.) Even if a half-million people actually watch the GOP debates, all the negative statements and gaffes (like Perry’s) are immediately beamed to a much larger audience.

Yet if we don’t have these forums, there is the question of whether certain issues would be addressed. I realize this can lead to pandering to a particular audience, which is a complaint I’ve had with some local forums such as the NAACP ones, but at least it’s understood going in that the audience will be listening for the answers to their particular concerns. If I had a forum, I’m sure I would ask a certain roster of questions, too, and sometimes when I attend these events I indeed have my questions asked.

So there’s really no fair process in place. Eventually the problem will work itself out to the extent that a few candidates will be out before the leaves change color, but Calabrese has a point.

My contention and wish, though, is that people do their due diligence in determining who they would vote for. I don’t think this was done sufficiently in the last two Presidential elections, so look at what we got. Granted, neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney may have been the answer, either, but I think we hardly could have done worse. Go back to 2007 and I can tell you why.

Shorebird of the Week – May 21, 2015

May 21, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – May 21, 2015 

Let’s face it – if a minor league player puts up a slash line of .196/12/67/.635 OPS, comes from a relatively small and unheralded baseball program, and wasn’t drafted until the 29th round, the chances of extended employment generally are bleak. Yet all three describe Conor Bierfeldt, and the Orioles’ faith in him after his struggles with Delmarva last year has been rewarded thus far with an improved average and the South Atlantic League RBI lead for Conor, who leads his now-injured teammate Alex Murphy, 36 to 28. No one else has more than 26 knocked in.

It’s not that Bierfeldt can’t drive in runs – the 67 he drove in last season led the Shorebirds and he was among the NYPL leaders in both home runs and RBI when he played with Aberdeen in 2013 – but the average had to be a concern, particularly when he hit .264 with the Ironbirds. While “on pace to” is always a dangerous assumption, so far Conor is working toward 15 or more home runs and well over 100 RBI over a full season. In 208 pro games Conor has 29 home runs (and plays home games in a notoriously tough park for home runs, as just 5 of his 17 Shorebird home runs have come at home), so it’s obvious the longball potential is there.

So it looks like Bierfeldt is making the adjustments needed to maximize what Buck Showalter likes to call the “contact to damage ratio.” A team can live with a .236 batting average if those hits drive in runs – as an example, I snapped the photo above after his only hit of yesterday’s game, a 2-run triple. The 1-for-4 performance only fractionally affected his average, but the 2 knocked in allowed him to pad his league lead and opened the scoring for the day, staking Delmarva to an early 2-0 lead (although they eventually lost 6-5.)

If you look ahead for Bierfeldt, there’s a reasonable chance he may not be here the full season to see if he can secure that RBI title. Making the adjustments to increase his average is the key to moving up, and there are a couple weaker links in Frederick’s outfield which could be replaced. We’ll see if Conor rewards the Orioles’ patience with him as the season develops.

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