Predicting the spin cycle

September 23, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Campaign 2014, Mainstream media, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I’m back in the swing of news, and this gem from DaTechGuy hit home because it’s so, so predictable. The stories he cites are the ones which can be used to prop up Barack Obama’s approval numbers or distract from what’s really going on – in the grand scheme of things, is the NFL scandal really that important or newsworthy? It’s pretty sad when actions on the field take a distant back seat to actions which happened months ago far off the gridiron.

But how long have we known the mainstream media is in the tank for liberals? I mean, Dan Bongino’s supporters have stated chapter and verse that at least one major newspaper in his district ignores him, and it plays right into the outsider image Dan is trying to cultivate in this election. Chances are that same paper will endorse opponent John Delaney, as most local newspapers tend to endorse incumbents over challengers unless the incumbent is a Republican and even less likely when the Republican is a TEA Party adherent.

I’ve seen this over and over again over the last twenty to thirty years I’ve studied the media. And notice how that cadre of news dinosaurs tut-tuts at any challenger to its dominance, whether it was conservative talk radio a generation ago or the rise of the internet media in the opening years of this century? I may not have the circulation of a Baltimore Sun or even a Salisbury Daily Times, but the potential is always there for something I say to be cast before a huge state, national, or even global audience. Their lack of a monopoly on news is what frightens the other side.

So it’s quite predictable that their coverage dictates what is considered news to the masses, but at the same time people aren’t being informed as well about important issues of the day. In my youth I would read the local paper cover-to-cover, and it would be maybe 32 pages – a 12-page section of national and state news with the last 2 pages being editorial content, a 16-page second section with local news, 4 pages or so of sports, a few pages of classified ads, and the comics, and a 4-page “Peach Section” with the features, a smidgen of entertainment news, and the TV listings. It seems now the lines between all of this have been blurred, with entertainment and sports news hitting the front pages and editorials being placed willy-nilly as part of the news.

In short, the avalanche and overload of information we’re fed on a 24/7/365 basis may be allowing the most important stuff to slip by unnoticed, and that’s a shame.

Twisting in the wind

No, I’m not talking about a political figure today. Instead, I received an e-mail from the American Wind Energy Association telling me about the state of the wind industry and how its costs are falling rapidly. (This blog post at Into the Wind, the AWEA blog site, has the same information.)

If you look at points 1 through 4, they make varying amounts of sense. With the maturation of the market, it’s no stretch to assume that costs would go down just as they would for any technology. Personally, though, I disagree with the premise that additional carbon emissions are necessarily bad, particularly when the idea is to blame them for climate change. Nearly two decades of steady temperatures combined with the increasing emissions seem to me a fairly good testament that increasing emissions aren’t the problem.

It’s point number 5 that’s the payoff for me, because I knew it would be coming sooner or later.

5. Policy support is still essential for the U.S. to keep scaling up renewable energy

The Lazard study also highlights the need for clear, long-term policy support for renewable energy. While projects located at some of the best wind resources in the country are now cost-competitive, it notes that this is still not the case in most regions. The most recent expiration of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) resulted in a 92% drop in new wind projects from 2012 to 2013.

The PTC helps correct for flaws in our electricity market design that do not value wind’s benefits for protecting the environment and consumers. Wind energy creates billions of dollars in economic value by drastically reducing pollution that harms public health and the environment, but wind energy does not get paid for that even though consumers bear many of those costs.

Wind energy also protects consumers from price increases for fuel, but that is not accounted for in the highly regulated electricity market because other energy sources get to pass their fuel price increases directly on to consumers who have little choice in the matter.

Policies like the PTC correct for those market failures to reach a more efficient market outcome. The PTC has expired, however, for any project not started by the end of last year. An extension is now urgent to avoid shutting down the U.S. manufacturing base, and to ensure that more wind farms are built so that more consumers can benefit from these record low prices.

Yet what if the lack of subsidy isn’t a market failure as they describe? In the original blog post there’s a graphic which shows that every time the tax subsidy is cut, the amount of wind capacity installed plummets. Between that subsidy and the various renewable portfolio standards enacted by many states (including Maryland) it seems to me they artificially prop up the wind energy market, which can’t stand on its own otherwise. This approach is the same argument which posits a carbon tax is necessary because fossil fuel users aren’t paying for the supposed destruction of the environment and public health they create, but discounts the increased standard of living brought on by the usage of reliable sources of electricity to, among other things, improve public health.

Another thing worth pointing out about these studies and reports is that they look strictly at land-based wind turbines. While they are falling in price, researchers around the world are finding that residents nearby are complaining about a litany of health issues derived from the constant noise. Naturally, naysayers would contend that other methods of power generation, such as fracking, also have ill effects but these are anecdotal as well.

So while offshore wind would seem to be a solution, the cost is far more prohibitive. Maryland’s 2013 offshore wind bill, for example, subsidizes the effort through both an increase in the required renewable energy portfolio and $1.7 billion in direct subsidy over 20 years, parceled out as an $18 annual surcharge to residential consumers and a 1.5% hike for businesses. (A business paying $1,000 a month, such as a restaurant, would have to add $180 a year.) Naturally this doesn’t take into account the penchant for our General Assembly, once a new tax or surcharge is enacted, to declare it’s not enough and raise the tariff accordingly. I give it no more than 5 years before someone demands to raise the fee to $30 or $40 annually and hike commercial users up to a 2% or 3% a month surcharge just to keep the business in Maryland’s waters.

It would seem that wind power is a logical way to create electricity in certain locations and situations, but for general use it has the drawback of not being as strictly reliable as fossil fuels are. The fact that we have to create a renewable energy portfolio tells me that the market has otherwise spoken.

We really haven’t heard about this as an issue for the 2014 election, but I would presume the Brown administration would continue on this path as they promise to:

Expand our renewable mix with investments in (read: subsidies for) Maryland-based solar and wind, which can both create new jobs and reduce air pollution that affects the health of everyday Marylanders.

It would be my hope that Larry Hogan would revisit this effort, backing legislation to eliminate this expensive renewable energy portfolio and repealing the prospect of higher electricity rates come 2017 – at the very least, recast this scheme as an opt-in program just like consumer choice has already created with companies like Ethical Electric, which I wrote about last year. Let the market decide how much it wants to support the renewable energy boondoggle, and how many of us simply crave the reliability of knowing that when we flip the switch, the light will turn on.

Odds and ends number 74

Believe it or not, this feature which used to be a staple of my site has gone dormant for over 18 months. But I decided to resurrect it because all these financial reports I’ve been doing as well as other regular features have taken up my time and allowed my e-mail box to become dangerously full of items which were rapidly running out of shelf life. So here you go: the return of odds and ends for what promises to be a cameo appearance.

As evidence of that shelf life, I wanted to bring up a thoughtful piece by my friend Rick Manning – not to be confused with the former Cleveland Indians outfielder – regarding the prospect of a continuing resolution for federal spending which would expire in December, necessitating a lame duck session.

Manning is right in believing that the strategy is fraught with peril, and if the pre-election polling is correct and Republicans take over the Senate come January this only invites Democrats to lay a few traps as they back out the door. Of course, if Congress (read: the Senate) would actually do its job and get the budget work done before the federal fiscal year begins on October 1, this wouldn’t be a problem.

One Senator, Rand Paul, received some criticism from Timothy H. Lee of the Center for Individual Freedom, who noted Paul’s flip-flop on foreign policy neatly coincided with a shift in public opinion regarding the Islamic State.

Returning to the fold of NetRightDaily – which has been on a content roll lately – I found someone who agrees with me on the Seventeenth Amendment. Tom Toth lays out the case, although I think we should do a couple other amendments first. Obviously this would probably change the composition of the Senate rather quickly to an almost perpetually Republican body, but someone needs to look out for the states and that element is missing in modern politics.

Something else Congress should get to (but probably won’t) are curbs on civil forfeiture, the subject of a recent push by the Institute for Justice. The bills themselves were introduced back in July by Sen. Paul and Rep. Tim Walberg, but while IJ has been doggedly against what they call “policing for profit” for several years, this latest offensive stems from a petition drive and video the group has done detailing abuses of the process in Philadelphia.

It’s clear the libertarian-leaning group doesn’t like the idea, and with good reason. Think of it as the step beyond speed cameras.

Philadelphia also figures prominently into my next piece. I’ll explain this more on Sunday, but there were a number of pieces I was perhaps intending to use for my American Certified site but instead will be mentioned in brief here.

One group which has made it to those pages a lot is the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Certainly they complain a lot about the trade deficit with China but AAM President Scott Paul (no relation to Rand Paul) also made a great point about the continuing lack of manufacturing jobs.

This jobs report is a big disappointment for factory workers. While we can never read too much into just a month’s worth of data, a goose egg for manufacturing doesn’t look like progress to me. And it will be hard to consistently move the manufacturing jobs number up unless our goods trade deficit with China comes down.

Two years ago President Obama campaigned on a pledge to create one million new manufacturing jobs in his second term. Our #AAMeter shows progress toward that goal is stalling. A national manufacturing strategy could help get us back on track.

Yes, they track the progress toward that elusive one million jobs, and Obama stands at a puny 193,000. It’s surprising because as Rick Manning stated in an earlier piece, we have the energy resources to bring American manufacturing back. We’re now number 1 in natural gas production, and our energy dominance serves to stabilize world prices, says Mark Green of API.

Looking at it from the perspective of state government, a recent video by Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan explained his thoughts on creating opportunity.

The key phrase in this video comes early on, when Hogan talks about his appointments. This is an opportunity which is rarely discussed, but when Democrats have run this state for all but four years of the last forty, the pool of those who get to be department heads becomes ossified. The Glendening appointee to one office may have been O’Malley’s point guy somewhere else and would be on the short list for Anthony Brown.

But if Larry Hogan can resist the temptation to overly rely on his buddies from the Ehrlich administration, we have the potential for real reform and new ideas at the department level.

Another reform is being pushed by the Maryland Liberty PAC, and Republicans will be pleased to know they are firing in the right direction by attacking the “toxic track record” of District 34A Democratic nominee Mary Ann Lisanti. They didn’t catch this gem, though.

Finally, I wanted to promote something a fellow blogger is trying. Peter Ingemi (aka DaTechGuy) has a radio spot for you:

It’s near the end of the year when everyone’s ad budgets are pretty empty so as I’ve got some ad space left on my radio show I’ve got an offer to make exclusively to the bloggers, advocates & folk on my e-mail blast.

Produce a 15 second plug for your blog, podcast or web site and for only $30 I’ll include it on my radio show DaTechGuy on DaRadio for a FULL MONTH.

That’s not only 70% off the normal price but it also means your plug will be included on broadcast replays, my own podcast replay, the live replay on FTR Radio and all four weekly replays on the 405media Tuesday through Friday. And if you want an even better deal I’ll give you 30 seconds for just $50 a month (or I’ll replay your 15 second spot twice).

This is a great chance to get your blog some national exposure on multiple platforms that you might not currently be reaching. (His emphasis, not mine.)

He’s the consummate salesman, is he not? But I have him beat, at least in terms of price. I’m not doing a radio show anytime soon, though.

And I may not be doing another odds and ends soon either. But it was fun to go back and put one together for old times’ sake.

Preserving my space (and penalizing greed)

August 24, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry · Comments Off 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addressing the challenge

Many years ago, when I was a mere political babe in the woods, I volunteered to help out a candidate by the name of Maggie Thurber. At the time, she was running for a full term as Clerk of Courts in my former home of Lucas County, Ohio, having won the office in a huge upset two years earlier. She went on to win that election and one more, plus serve a term as a County Commissioner before leaving politics.

She parlayed that political success into a stint as a radio host and also has blogged for several years at a site called Thurber’s Thoughts, although now that seems to be used as additional material for her work on Ohio Watchdog (a subsite of Watchdog Wire.) And that’s where I pick up the story.

I happened to come across a piece she wrote regarding the “Live the Wage” challenge, something set up by this website. This movement is backed by the same people who connived Maryland into raising its minimum wage earlier this year.

The premise of this challenge was to buy groceries and gas on $77 a week, which was the amount deemed to be left over once taxes and housing expenses are paid. Thurber writes that:

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland gave up. He started on a Sunday, but ran out of money by Thursday, he explained in a column for Politico. He said he skipped meals to save money and ate smaller, less healthy meals.

“Because fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to find at a price within a minimum wage budget, I turned to bread, peanut butter, bananas and bologna more than anything else,” he wrote. “That was what I could find when I took this budget to the grocery story (sic) last Sunday. And that’s why I ate lunch from the McDonald’s dollar menu.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, spent his money foolishly, paying $7 for sardines and crackers, $5 for a Burger King Whopper, $2 for a cup of coffee and his “last couple of dollars to buy trail mix,” he explained on his Facebook page.

It’s obvious to me Strickland and Ryan didn’t take this seriously; otherwise they would have done as well as Thurber and her husband did. She bought a week’s worth of gasoline for $44 (using points from her local Kroger grocery store) and spent $82.83 on a basic menu of groceries for the week, with a couple splurge items. As for the leftover money?

We approached the challenge as if we had both lost our jobs and taken minimum wage jobs to get by. Under this scenario, we’d have some items on hand, like paper towels, detergent, aspirin, condiments and corn to make popcorn for snacks.

But with $27.17 remaining in our budget, or going without our two splurge items, we’d be able to purchase those supplies as we needed.

Of course, the banshees came out of the woodwork in the comments section and shrieked that she should live like this for a year or so before talking. Well, these (very well-paid) politicians didn’t even try hard to make it through a week – what does that say about their compassion, let alone their eating and cooking habits?

As I noted above, Thurber expanded on this Ohio Watchdog piece on her own site, which gave politicians a new challenge:

Don’t you think it’s funny that no one ever tries to live like a small business owner for week? To feel what it’s like to try to make a payroll, deal with government forms and mandates, handle local government rules and regulations, deal with happy and angry customers, supervise a work staff, promote your business, do the accounting and somehow find time for family and friends and an actual life outside of work?

One day in the life of small business owner is much more difficult and stressful than trying to live on $77 a week.

That’s the reality of this ridiculousness – and that’s why the whole “live the wage” publicity sham is such a travesty.

I talk about business climate a lot on this site because, as a state, Maryland is far too dependent on one industry – the federal government. In that, it mirrors the city of my birth which is overly reliant on the auto industry. But in catering to the auto industry you at least do things which benefit other businesses around the state, and overall Ohio is a diverse state with several distinct metro areas as well as a significant rural component.

In contrast, Maryland seems to work only toward enriching government and those businesses connected to government by hook or crook. So raising the minimum wage was no big deal to most of Maryland – it’s a world of almost automatic annual raises and the job security one receives when you work for a government which rarely, if ever, cuts itself. People can shoulder that burden more easily along the I-95 corridor.

But when you come out to the forgotten parts of Maryland, a minimum wage raise means jobs lost – there’s no other way around it. There were efforts to waive or slow down the increase for counties here on the Eastern Shore, but they were rebuffed in the General Assembly.

And if you think buying groceries on minimum wage is difficult, just try it being unemployed. That’s going to be the result of these shortsighted policies once the political stunts and game playing are forgotten.

Thoughts on the Rascovar column

I’ve seen a lot of discussion about a anti-Republican screed reprinted on the Maryland Reporter website, so I’ve decided to add my two cents.

I have plenty of respect for Len Lazarick and his fellow writers at Maryland Reporter. While conservatives read his site, though, I don’t necessarily consider it a liberal or conservative news outlet, aside from the fact they link to a variety of news sources from around the state. Most of them are left-leaning but they’ve also linked to a few conservative bloggers in the search for political news. Thus, its content is generally either a daily news aggregation roundup or more in-depth reporting by its contributors. And I’m cool with that.

Having said that, it really doesn’t bother me that Maryland Reporter uses the columns penned by Barry Rascovar, who I’m told has been covering Maryland politics since, oh, about the Mesozoic Age. If Len Lazarick thinks it’s a good way to get eyeballs, well, have at it. So I don’t agree with those who urge people to boycott the Maryland Reporter site (although I don’t see evidence that Dan Bongino specifically asked for a boycott as Lazarick alluded to) based on the “outrageous and slanderous” column, as MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman described it.

One bad column does not a bad website make. The best approach is to ignore Rascovar just like people seem to be ignoring his home website, Political Maryland, where he wrote a companion piece yesterday. (It has an Alexa rank of 5,069,099 which leads me to think he gets his readership from the 224 subscribers and that’s about it. I’ll add to your total, so you’re welcome.)

Many of you probably know I wrote columns for a time for a small syndicate called Liberty Features, so I have an idea of how to work in the format. You have 600 words to grab the reader’s attention and make your point, and it can either be done with a dash of humor or a serious discussion of issues. If Rascovar were any more shrill with his column it would have broken glass, and I’ve read much better from him.

Now let’s talk about the situation at the border. I thought the idea of a border was to have a secure perimeter with only certain checkpoints to allow people in or out. Obviously in this day and age of air traffic our borders extend to international airports and harbors but for the most part people who cross do so by land. It gives those in charge of our security an opportunity to check if the person seeking entrance has permission and wishes to do so for a valid reason.

What bothers me about this situation is that it seems to be encouraged by our current administration, which couldn’t get amnesty by legal means so they’re trying an end run around the law by abusing the designation of “refugee.” It’s the complicit assistance of their host nations and Mexico that’s also troublesome – once Mexico was upset enough about the drain of their best and brightest to call for their return but now it seems too many nations to our south depend on remittances from those who have made it here, legally or not.

Back in 2007, Mexican President Felipe Calderon stated:

I am from Michoacan, and in Michoacan we have 4 million people – 2 million of those Michoacanos are in the States. We want them to come back, we want them to find jobs here in Mexico. We miss them. These are our best people. They are bold people – they’re young, they’re strong, they’re talented, they have overcome tremendous adversity – who are working so they can come back to their country someday.

Seven years later, it seems now that the United States is a dumping ground for youth, a group for whom the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras can’t attract the investment to create jobs. They would rather depend on the chances their “children” – many of whom are teenagers – can stay in this country and either find menial work or receive some sort of government aid, enough to send back to their families who will eventually be allowed to follow this generation. The only “someday” they’re waiting for is the day they can re-create their squalor here, on the backs of taxpayers.

The problem is that we simply can’t afford it. The best thing for these children is to send them back home with a message for their leaders to reform their systems and build their own economies.

Today is the day

June 25, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 5 Comments 

Well, I didn’t win my election. But there’s another place I can be a winner with your help.

There are a number of bloggers competing for prizes in a contest sponsored by Troopathon 7, which goes online tonight. (Later this afternoon I will set up a live feed as I have done before.) Sorry, no live feed. I got home much later than I thought.

I found out last night that this humble blog is in fifth place overall, neck-and-neck with Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs, and I’m not all that far out of the lead. So if you want to help out me and a good cause, donate through the box on the right-hand side of the page (it accrues to my score.) With some help I can win this thing.

In defense of Haddaway-Riccio

On Thursday Red Maryland noted that David Craig’s LG candidate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voted five years ago for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009. Although it’s a bit of a stretch to say she “put the VMT tax on the table,” she was one of a handful of Republicans who voted for the measure.

And even though Red Maryland has already expressed its support for Craig’s opponent Larry Hogan, the Craig campaign felt compelled to put out talking points rebutting the piece by Mark Newgent. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to defend this law within these quarters.

#1 – The VMT tax was proposed by the O’Malley Administration and was the result of an O’Malley Executive Order, not legislation.

Indeed, we have not seen a VMT tax come to fruition as legislation, although we have had, over the last two sessions, a bill to prohibit collection of such a tax introduced and heard in the General Assembly.

#2 – The legislation Delegate Jeannie Haddaway voted in favor of (as did other Republicans) ensured that other states do their fair share to improve air quality standards so that Maryland citizens – and Maryland utility companies – do not bear the full burden in the effort to clean the air (especially since our airshed goes all the way out to Ohio). Air pollution costs MD millions of dollars each year (it accounts for one-third of the acid deposition in the bay, crop damage, health care, etc).

Maryland was actually ranked highest in the country for deaths related to air pollution.

In reading the bill, I see no assurances of the kind. Much of it was based on future legislation. Moreover, we can’t guarantee any other state does its “fair share” just as they can’t guarantee we do things for them. This legislation wasn’t part of a compact, so Ohio can do as it wishes in their part of the “airshed.”

#3 – This was good legislation for Maryland taxpayers. The legislation resulted in tens of millions of dollars in ratepayer relief for ratepayers that would be reflected on their utility bills until the O’Malley/Brown administration took the money and put it in the General Fund.

But we don’t know that, as such reductions were not explicitly spelled out in the bill or the fiscal note. It did mandate that changes not adversely affect certain electric ratepayers (or manufacturing) but that was something the state would judge, not those affected.

#4 – Who are democrats and independents that care about the environment and the economy going to vote for in the General Election? A team that can balance the environment with our economic needs or a real estate developer that has developed 35,000 acres and doesn’t care about the environment?

You’re talking to the wrong person if you want to go on an anti-development screed, because there’s nothing wrong with development. If a state or region doesn’t grow economically, it dies. However, while it’s possible Hogan does care about the environment, his agenda has never been formally spelled out. In a subsequent conversation Newgent stated Hogan wanted to address the sediment behind the Conowingo Dam, which will assist in restoring the Bay’s water quality, but we still don’t know where he stands on other aspects of environmental policy such as pulling out of RGGI, or what Chesapeake Bay measures he would cease or continue. Actually, I hope Craig revisits some of the legislation that’s already passed as he said he would.

#5 – Maryland’s economy depends on clean air and water. Farmers and watermen depend on a clean environment, our tourism industry depends on a clean environment. Delegate Haddaway has successfully balanced jobs and the environment; she has consistently earned high scores for her environmental record while still maintaining a 100% business rating (MBRG).

I don’t doubt that because where Jeannie usually falls short on the monoblogue Accountability Project is in the realm of environmental votes like the vote being discussed here. It’s why her lifetime rating is only in the 70s. Government tends to forget the earth does a very good job of healing itself.

So I really don’t buy the talking points. But I also have to consider the source of this slam on Haddaway, and remember: the assertion was that Haddaway’s vote “put the VMT tax on the table.” That cause-and-effect doesn’t compute, because in this term no bill has been introduced to enact a VMT levy. nor did Haddaway write the state’s master transportation plan. Unfortunately, neither VMT prohibition bill ever got past the hearing stage so we don’t have a recorded vote (although she was not a co-sponsor.) Even without the legislation or the master plan, though, it’s likely the greedy Maryland tax collectors would be among the first to seek a VMT whether the GGRA was passed or not. By this token, Haddaway should be given credit for voting against the “rain tax” that some Republicans backed.

Yet this post of mine may never have happened without a patented parting shot from the guys at Red Maryland:

Now this brings us to our friend Michael Swartz, who, in his endorsement of David Craig, wrote that picking Haddaway-Riccio “sealed it” and made “the difference” in his endorsement.

This is curious given Swartz is such a critic (and rightfully so) of the very policies Haddwway-Riccio  not only voted for, but sponsored.

It’s true that I disagreed with the vote, but when I weighed all the evidence I still came out with the Craig team on top. This would be true of any legislator, and had I been here in the initial days of the Ehrlich administration I may not have agreed with all of Larry Hogan’s appointments. As I’ve noted on my Facebook page, Larry was praised by Red Maryland for selecting “the most bipartisan, most inclusive, and most diverse administration in Maryland history.” As I asked there, what about conservative? Being “bipartisan” only seems to work one way in this state.

And unfortunately there was a lack of context in what Newgent quoted, since the reason Haddaway sealed it and made the difference was that Ron George picked a weaker LG candidate. At that point Hogan/Rutherford wasn’t even in the running.

But a particular reason I selected Craig/Haddaway over Larry Hogan was the vague platform Larry’s put out thus far. And the Red Maryland bloggers aren’t helping in that cause – instead, they seem to focus on attacking everyone else in the race. In many cases, it’s legitimate criticism of the others, but they seem to turn a blind eye to actually educating voters on the merits of the candidate they support through discussion of his proposed policies. “Jobs, middle class families, and restoring our economy” are nice catchphrases, but how will you get there?

I did a little reading through Red Maryland just to see what light they have shed on Hogan. Since January they’ve done a total of 17 posts on Larry, ones I found by typing “Larry Hogan” in the search box. A number of those posts were radio show promos, but here’s what else came up:

  • May 21 and 22 posts about the “coordinated effort,” as Ron George and David Craig questioned the connection between Change Maryland and Hogan’s campaign, a legitimate query which RM called “desperate times” from George and Craig.
  • A series of posts May 12 concerning a poll that the authors claimed was evidence Larry could “compete if not win on November 4.”
  • A May 5 article claiming that, “Most candidates have talked solely about reducing taxes, though Larry Hogan…has also focused on the need to reduce spending.” Yet David Craig notes under “Taxes and Fiscal Responsibility” that he will “use this (budgeting) authority (as Governor) to make actual cuts to the budget.” Ron George is a little more vague, but points out he would be “cutting any waste found by these (independent) audits” and would level funding “whenever the economy slows.” The assertion is only correct about Charles Lollar. On May 1, they also promoted Hogan’s “reduce-spending first strategy” as a discussion topic for their radio show.
  • Other articles dealt with milestones like Hogan’s fundraising, first television ad, and initial web advertisement. Hogan was also peripherally mentioned in the Media Matters and Baltimore Sun controversies.

And what did we learn about the others? In 13 posts about David Craig and/or Jeannie Haddaway, they noted the aforementioned VMT tax, her wobbly stance on bond bills, her support of film tax credits which helped her district, and property tax rates in Harford County under Craig. Most of the 13 could be construed as negative. They grudgingly praised Craig’s idea to eliminate the income tax, although the focus of that piece was to hammer Charles Lollar (more on him in a bit.)

Ron George merited just six posts, with just a couple being negative – mainly he was a peripheral mention in a larger Hogan context, although in the controversy over film tax credits Ron got a much larger role when the RM crew railed against fellow blogger Joe Steffen. They did give Ron the chance to clarify his position on the film tax credit issue, but did not on the “desperate times” posts.

And while Hogan had 17 posts, Charles Lollar rated 15, with nearly all of them severely negative towards him. Indeed, Charles was caught in a number of contradictions (as I also noted in my endorsement post) but the venom toward Lollar was palpable. You’d have thought Charles was Anthony Brown, who received 18 posts in the same time frame – in that case, the negativity was more justified.

In all, Red Maryland has done 235 posts (as of this writing) in 2014. As I noted, just 17 promoted Larry Hogan in some way, with 22 others (by my count) talking about other gubernatorial candidates. I will grant I rarely listen to the RM radio network so I don’t know what conversation has come up there, yet it seems that the majority of Red Maryland‘s time is spent painting their non-endorsed candidates in a negative light. And that’s fine because politics ain’t beanbag.

Yet one has to ask: does that help the overall cause for Republicans in Maryland? I’m not saying by any means we should just parrot the talking points, because each candidate has areas which need improvement. When people ask me, I can honestly tell them good things about the four Republican gubernatorial candidates as well as places where we may disagree. Perhaps the RM crew can do the same, but their stance on Hogan seems to be one of “trust us, you’ll like him and we need the change.” I don’t dislike Larry but I do dislike trying someone unproven, and even many who endorse him don’t know all Hogan stands for. They just equate leadership of a development company and a popular social media group – which has brought a number of good issues to the forefront – with being able to run the state. I don’t.

And look what Red Maryland has reaped from this approach, which makes this post seem prophetic. Obviously their promotional appeal fell on deaf ears: there are no candidates advertising on their website or radio network, which only attracts a few hundred listeners a week as shows have dropped off for other outlets or simply faded away over the last several months.

Just as a contrast, this post will be number 191 on the year for me, so the comparison is relatively apples-to-apples. By my count, I have written about Larry Hogan the most (59 posts), with Ron George meriting 45, David Craig 44, and Charles Lollar 36. (Obviously many posts feature more than one candidate.) Many have been critical, but my goal has been to enlighten voters and let them decide. It also helped me out because I was truly undecided on the governor’s race right about up to the time I wrote my endorsement. While I don’t have a radio show (nor any plans to begin one) I do have a solid cadre of local candidates who wanted to advertise here.

If you assume the polls are correct and Larry Hogan wins the primary, I’m assuring you he’ll get my vote in November. It’s the baseline level of support any Republican should give a GOP candidate. But the question is how much support will those who backed other candidates give to Hogan? In some respects, Red Maryland has burned quite a few bridges in the last few months by dropping any pretense of objectivity and becoming Larry Hogan’s attack dog, and that could spill over to other races they involved themselves in, such as the Hough-Brinkley race in Senate District 4 or the free-for-all in House District 31B.

These tactics could shift those races. Already I hear a number of people who say they’ll sit out November if Hogan wins, and that’s not good for any of us. I encourage those people to reconsider, or at the very least find some local races to get involved in.

I probably don’t speak for everyone, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say Red Maryland has let us all down as “Maryland’s premier conservative source.” Endorsing Larry Hogan before he even formally announced was their right, but their actions since haven’t endeared them to many conservatives around the state.

“Thanks for everything you guys have been doing…you’ve been doing a terrific job.” – Larry Hogan on Red Maryland Radio, June 13, 2014.

AC Week in review: June 15, 2014

June 15, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

It’s been a productive week for me over at American Certified. By the way, I know you read my blog there but have you ever checked out their selection of goods? Promoting American-made goods with the power of Amazon is a pretty good combination if you ask me – and even if you don’t.

As you likely know, my blog is called The Sausage Grinder. But I made a “guest appearance” on another AC blog called The Urban Omnivore to talk about EPA rule changes affecting the coal industry.

Back on my home site I took a look at how the Obamacare health insurance tax, or HIT, is going to affect consumers and industry. It’s part of the ongoing theme of the site, and why I called it The Sausage Grinder, as government can have an outsized effect on how we make things in America. Perhaps that’s why manufacturing jobs lagged in the most recent employment reports.

But there are pockets of hope, and I found reason to celebrate positive developments in my home state. Maybe Cleveland’s sports teams prolong the old “mistake on the lake” reputation (as a Browns fan, don’t I know that) but there is a growing influx of younger, better-trained workers moving there.

I also followed up on a trade story which now involves the Teamsters, who have joined their steel industry brethren in asking for better enforcement. I can tell you that I just filed yet another follow-up which will likely be added Monday or Tuesday, depending on how my editor sees fit to include it. Look for that on next week’s AC review, along with job prospects in a rapidly growing industry.

 

 

The return of Troopathon

June 9, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

troopathon2014_banner_160x240 As I have done for the last several years, I’m supporting Troopathon 7, which is a continuing effort by the group Move America Forward to send care packages to our troops on the front lines in the Long War. Even if you don’t necessarily support the mission and would prefer the troops come home, while they are still there we should do what we can to make their lives a little more comfortable.

The format is the same as previous events – on June 25 there will be an 8-hour internet telecast from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library featuring longtime hostess Melanie Morgan and many other conservative heavyweights in the media world. Generally they update their site regularly on the status of special guests.

You may recall that in past years I have been a member of a team of bloggers called the Hot Air Steamers – it was a solid lineup which garnered the second-highest amount of contributions in 2012. The folks at MAF have decided to retire that competition, though, and now every blogger works on his or her own to qualify for prizes in specific tiers, with the overall leader receiving an AR-15. Now you all could surprise me, but I’m not going to hold my breath that I can get to that level – just making it to the first tier would be a nice achievement. (It would take about 20 or 21 donors from this site to do so.)

So on the right-hand sidebar, just down from the political ads, you will see a icon similar to the one on the upper left of this post. If you click it you’ll go to a page where you can fill out an order form and anything purchased there is credited to my account. Once I verify all is in order (they’re West Coast-based so I’ll find out this afternoon) I’ll start the ball rolling myself, although if you want to go first by all means do so. It matters less that it accrues to me than it does assisting them.

It’s a cause I believe in and every little bit helps. And don’t forget you can watch the Troopathon online June 25 – as I recall it runs from 4 p.m. to midnight EDT. Their goal is a modest $300,000 this year so let’s see if we can help them get there.

The grand tour

In previous years I’ve told you about a number of bus tours – everything from national and regional tours sponsored by the TEA Party Express and Americans for Prosperity to the jaunts which opened two of the four gubernatorial campaigns.

But this time the tour will serve as the coda to a primary campaign that the sponsor hopes is a prelude to bigger things in November. Over 14 days Larry Hogan’s campaign will be bussing it around the state. Here’s the regional itinerary; individual stops will surely be made public in the 24 to 48 hours beforehand.

Sunday, June 8 – Edgewater, MD - Hogan-Rutherford Picnic, Camp Letts: 2PM-5PM, 4003 Camp Letts Rd Edgewater, MD
Monday, June 9 – Montgomery County
Tuesday, June 10 – Somerset, Worcester Counties
Wednesday, June 11 – Dorchester, Talbot, Queen Anne’s Counties
Thursday, June 12 – Anne Arundel County
Friday, June 13 – Harford County
Saturday, June 14 – St. Mary’s, Calvert Counties
Sunday, June 15 – Washington, Frederick Counties
Monday, June 16 – Howard, Carroll Counties
Tuesday, June 17 – Cecil, Kent, Caroline Counties
Wednesday, June 18 – Wicomico County
Thursday, June 19 – Baltimore City, Baltimore County
Friday, June 20 – Charles, Prince George’s County
Saturday, June 21 – Allegany County
Sunday, June 22 – Garrett County

Obviously we don’t know what the content of the individual stops will be, but it looks like June 18 will be our lucky day here. Most likely it will give Larry the opportunity to go through his well-rehearsed ideas about “jobs, the middle class, and restoring our economy.” In fact, that’s about what he said:

Boyd and I are excited to kick off our Change Maryland bus tour on June 8 at Camp Letts in my home town of Edgewater. Our grassroots campaign to bring fiscal restraint, roll back taxes and clean up Annapolis continues to gather momentum as we approach the June 24 Republican primary. The tour will enable us to revisit communities across our state and engage voters who have had little voice during seven years of one-party rule.

I did see an interesting note about the picnic I thought worth sharing:

Media: The Camp Letts picnic is open to credentialed media; to register contact Hannah Marr (at her contact info.)

The Hogan camp has a reputation of not being particularly enamored with bloggers, although Red Maryland may be an exception. It may be only perception, but that sort of statement might just reinforce the stereotype. It’s probable the Democratic campaigns are already sending someone out for “gotcha” moments at public Republican events like this bus tour, so critical bloggers may not make a difference anyway.

But if you want one last chance to judge Larry Hogan in person and not base your decision on thirty-second commercials, here you go. Just make sure the bus has a Maryland plate.

AC Week in review: May 25, 2014

May 25, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry · Comments Off 

AC logo.As you likely recall from previous posts, recently I announced my newest client, American Certified, and earlier this month I joined three other bloggers to kick off the blog portion of the e-commerce site. My subsite is called The Sausage Grinder, and in that space I focus on issues of importance to making things in America; specifically, the areas of trade, energy, and regulation.

And while I had discussed the possibility of cross-posting between my site and TSG, I think it may work out better – since I strive to do three to four posts a week for the American Certified site – to debut a weekly feature where I summarize and link to my posts on their site. You’ll find the subject matter and style are different enough to where it almost seems like it’s not my writing. In truth, I model these posts on those I submit twice weekly to the Patriot Post, with a different “sweet spot” of about 300-400 words.

In my debut, I pondered the effect of new power plant regulations on the coal industry. There’s something else I’ll share about that one shortly.

Next, I tackled energy issues and political involvement as part of a Kentucky visit by National Association of Manufacturers President/CEO Jay Timmons. I didn’t note this in the story, but NAM endorsed Mitch McConnell during the visit and he indeed emerged victorious against primary challenger Matt Bevin.

The final two I’ll highlight could have served as a couplet, for I discussed the GOP thawing toward a higher minimum wage and the fact that wages for STEM workers aren’t increasing rapidly because we have a glut of them in this country, despite calls by some to allow more foreign STEM workers in.

If you read about the new power plant regulations, you’ll notice I alluded to a previous article I wrote. When I sent in pieces to populate the blog in the week or so before launch, I was assuming they would all find their way onto the site, but it looks like some didn’t. If they’re not going to be used, I may seed them in with this week’s regular posts as supplemental material – why let good writing go to waste? The pieces are more or less evergreen.

But since having the context is good, here is the post about the rally, titled “Ohio rally first of several condemning steel dumping.”

**********

In advance of a Commerce Department ruling expected in July on whether South Korea is illegally dumping a product known as Oil Country Tubular Goods, or OCTG, the first of several rallies organized by the advocacy group Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) occurred last week in Lorain, Ohio. The U.S. Steel Lorain Tubular site was selected to be first as its products compete directly with those Korean imports.

Sen. Sherrod Bown (D – Ohio) claimed that imports comprised half of the American OCTG market, with South Korea being a major culprit. In its own report, the AAM suggests that “(t)hese conditions make it impossible for domestic mills to take advantage of strong demand resulting from drilling in shale gas fields.”

But a local news report noted all was not bad news, as another Lorain steel plant unveiled that same day a $110 million electric arc furnace which promises to create 450 jobs. The Republic Steel facility got a sendoff from Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and several Republic Steel officials, who pointed out the new furnace adds 1 million tons of capacity for the plant and could add $1 billion in economic activity to the state and local area.

**********

Finally, by all means you should check out the other bloggers (Ed Braxton, George Pitsakis, and Kim Pezza) as well. They touch on a number of different subjects and give the site a more well-rounded perspective.

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