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.

Are we really one generation away?

Over the last few years, there’s been a fairly quiet development in the film industry, one which highlights faith-based stories. The other day I found out about a documentary film which looks at the state of religion in America, with the unique pitch of turning places of worship into its world premiere theaters.

It was passed along to me via the vast mailing list of Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices organization, but Santorum’s EchoLight Studios has put together a documentary called “One Generation Away.” The title borrows from the Reagan speech where he warned freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. Naturally, the film has its naysayers from the secular community, but those who have a basis in their faith must feel like persecuted second-class citizens these days.

Yet given the obvious role of church as gathering place and the investments many have made in their own theatrical-quality audio and video systems, the Santorum strategy of pitching the documentary and other upcoming EchoLight movies as something to be seen at a church (as opposed to a regular theater) has some merit. As they sell it:

Imagine premiering world class, redemptive films in your church, building community within and reaching outside the four walls to engage those within your city.

First of all, while many may balk at being seen going to a theater which is playing that movie, how many would even go to a church to watch it? You could accuse the filmmakers of preaching to the choir, but it seems to me that’s what they want to do. There will be some small percentage of viewers who might become churchgoers thanks to the screening, but it will likely be the fellowship which attracts them moreso than the content of the movie drawing any new worshipers back. I could see this being akin to a long sermon, one which doesn’t focus on a particular Biblical passage, but the concept of religious freedom in America circa 2014. Notice the artwork depicting a church standing on the precipice – it’s obvious those who created the film feel like they’re under attack from the secular side of society.

One other advantage of this sort of marketing is that they don’t have to fall under Hollywood’s rules on what constitutes a successful movie. If “One Generation Away” had gone into theatrical release and grossed, say, $2 million its first weekend, the conventional wisdom would be it was on the bomb on the scale of these from last year. Certainly there would be some cost involved for patrons, but it’s likely the distributor won’t mind a loss on OGA in the hope to make some back on video sales and build a market for future films. It’s not like the OGA movie had a large budget to begin with.

So I checked into the distribution locally and found the movie wasn’t slated for any area locations, even as the premiere period began September 1 (it runs through November 28.) More than likely, though, some area church will be interested enough to give it a try.

But the question remains: with Judeo-Christian values under assault from popular culture and the government, is it all up to the Millennial Generation to keep the flame of religious liberty alight? We need more than a movie to answer the question, but hopefully some hearts and minds will be changed.

AC Week in review: September 14, 2014

September 14, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Personal stuff · Comment 

First of all, let me get you up to speed on what I wrote.

In my first featured piece, I took a look at what’s being called a “skills mismatch.” It’s the reason a million jobs are going unfilled. I also got resolution at long last on the vexing problem of dumping a steel product called Oil Country Trading Goods, where Korea was found to be indeed running afoul of the law and had punitive tariffs placed on their products.

And that’s where I left it. But there are reasons.

Back at the end of August, just before Labor Day, I found out the editor who I was working with at AC was leaving the company. In his place came another editor, but also a fairly dramatic change in the purpose of the American Certified blogs. Instead of featuring news, analysis, and information, the new direction would be along the lines of quirky, list-driven stories, more in the style of a BuzzFeed. It’s just not something I enjoy writing, so I decided after some thought to part ways with them for the time being. If they decide they want to get back to meatier content, they know where to find me.

Listen, I hope the new direction works well for them because the overall concept of the company is something I’m firmly behind. If it takes a BuzzFeed clone for them to drive business and succeed, I’m happy to step aside for their good. But I have the opinion that there’s always room for gravitas.

Moreover, this experience has piqued a new branch of interest I enjoyed working with. My intention with the Sausage Grinder site was along the lines of what the company originally intended:

Finally, American Certified will feature news and blogs depicting thorough analysis and trends related to the most recent happenings in American manufacturing and consumption. Members of the press and AC shoppers can sign up for a free weekly news summary, reporting on the Buy American movement from all sides, without bias.

I thought I did my part toward that end, but perhaps it just wasn’t something worthy of attention. It would have helped to have more faithful writers to build the readership, but that is what it is. I found out coming up with content is tough when you aren’t doing it full-time.

But as it turns out, though, I’m not sure they ever did the weekly news summary – as part of seeking that job I put a mock version together. That was a pity because I thought I did well in knocking the test summary out. Now it’s all water under the bridge.

And while the storyline about OCTG I cited above came to a conclusion, there are a lot of others I don’t want to leave hanging. Go back through these “AC Week in review” posts and you’ll find a lot of topics worth discussing. I’m hoping to add more of that content here as sort of a step away from the horserace aspect of politics and into more of a policy arena.

But again, I wish the AC crew the best of luck. I was hoping it would be more than a four-month endeavor, but at least I got the experience, a few dollars along the way, and a great opening party in a town I’d never heretofore visited. And as I said before, I’m not closing the door if they’re not.

So now I will have to find something to fill my Sunday space again. Sheesh, no more Shorebird of the Week on Thursday or AC Week in review on Sunday – I might have to become creative.

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.

Picks and pans from a Shorebird fan – 2014 edition

September 11, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comment 

To be perfectly frank and honest, this could be a very short entry because I read last year’s version and the wish list is exactly the same. Attendance was up 3,358 from last season’s all-time low, but we filled three more dates (65 openings vs. 62) so the average attendance per opening declined by 102 patrons, or 3 percent. Out of the last ten years (where records are handily accessible) the average is the third-lowest.

It’s interesting to me that the team’s support has deviated so little over the last decade despite the poor economy we’ve been saddled with, arguably since around 2007. From 2009 to 2011 the average plummeted 14%, but that’s the extent of the difference as the Shorebirds have averaged no fewer than 3,072 per game nor any more than 3,576 per contest in that span of a decade. Over the course of a year that translates to about 35,000 extra fans but we’re always at the mercy of the elements – I’m sure Shorebirds GM Chris Bitters prays for the stormy weather to hit here during roadtrips, or at the very worst on a Thursday night when maybe 1,500 are rattling around the stadium.

Instead, what happened this year was that storms seemed to hit on the nights fireworks or other events were scheduled – witness the August weekend where two games were lost due to wet grounds. If I recall correctly, the first was Faith and Family Night (always a packed house) and the other day was the Float for the Fund date where local celebrities scoop root beer floats for the Shorebirds’ charity. Both had to be rescheduled, and that’s a hassle. It’s why we had Sunday evening fireworks on Labor Day weekend.

As it turned out, many of the games I attended were at the tail end of the schedule and I just got the sense that a lot of people around the place were relieved the season was almost over. On the other hand, I wish we had back the old Maryland Fall League (which existed for one year, 1998) and its Delmarva Rockfish.

But since I have no new complaints, I want to bring up a couple points.

Consider, for example, that the Shorebirds will be celebrating their twentieth season next year. Although they’re not the oldest franchise in the South Atlantic League (eight of the other thirteen are longer-established), Perdue Stadium is roughly in the middle of its expected lifespan in this day and age. Seventeen of the thirty major league parks were opened in 1996 or later, with one of those (in Atlanta) already slated for replacement in the next few years.

A new stadium is not in the cards anytime soon for us, and the prospect of a downtown stadium like many other cities have doesn’t seem to fit Salisbury. But there should be some thought given to long-range planning for a new facility, perhaps in the same location. Once there were plans to replace the Civic Center with a new building next door to Perdue Stadium so it could share parking and I think that’s a superb idea. Many communities have adopted the idea of having sports facilities share those same common resources – Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Detroit are just a few examples where NFL teams exist close by their MLB counterparts. It may be a problem once or twice a season, but generally the arrangement works well. Similarly, my birthplace of Toledo did the same with its Huntington Center – home of the Walleye hockey team – which is just a block from Fifth Third Field and the Mud Hens. Between the two, there’s only one “dead” month – the Mud Hens play from April-September while the Walleye play from October-April.

I understand that the focus of Salisbury city leaders is the revitalization of downtown, but there’s potential for another entertainment district on the outskirts of town. As part of extending water lines to the area just down Hobbs Road from the stadium, parcels of land along Hobbs were annexed to the city a few years ago – so development would be a shot in the arm for our town.

The to-do list I’ve had for Perdue Stadium and the Shorebirds’ operations is one thing, but it wouldn’t hurt attendance to make the area around Perdue Stadium more than just a one-stop destination. The concessionaires of Ovations may lose a portion of their sales in the short run, but that could be made up if we get back to the days of 250 or even 300 thousand making it out to see the Shorebirds. We’ve done well to keep a team 20 years, but there are always greener pastures beckoning. Let’s work to keep the Shorebirds here for generations to come.

District 38B House: Conway vs. Anderton

It’s hard to knock out someone who’s been in politics for over half of their life, but in District 38B Delegate Norm Conway, who at 72 years of age has held elective office since 1974, has a challenger in 41-year-old Delmar Mayor Carl Anderton, Jr. (Put another way, Anderton was but a mere toddler when Conway was first elected.) It’s also hard to knock out someone who has as much in the campaign bank as Norm does, but Carl is getting some help on that front as well.

Download (PDF, 5KB)

There’s no question that Conway has many of the same financial traits as fellow Democrat Jim Mathias: a plethora of businesses and PACs support his effort to remain in the House of Delegates. But it’s interesting to note that, after putting in a spate of local contributions dated January 7 of this year to be placed in the 2013 report (from a January 5 fundraiser in Willards, which ironically is now outside his district) and comply with the law prohibiting fundraising during session, Conway’s local contributions have all but dried up since that January accounting. Conway has raised less than $5,000 in individual contributions since the January report, with significant money coming from Rickman Firstfield Associates ($1,000) and PGA One Charles Center, L.P. ($2,000.) Rickman Firstfield is connected to William Rickman, who owns Ocean Downs and has been implicated in skirting Maryland’s ban on casino owners donating to political candidates. PGA One Charles Center works back to asbestos lawyer Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles.

It’s worth asking why they care about a local Delegate race, particularly since 96.4% of Conway’s individual contributions since his January report have come from outside the 218xx zip code area.

In that light, Anderton’s is for all intents and purposes a local effort: no PAC money and only a small percentage out of the district. Granted, the largest single donation comes from the vast coffers of Congressman Andy Harris, who gave $4,000, but that pales in comparison to PAC money finding its way to Conway. Others who have helped out Anderton are fellow Delegate hopeful Christopher Adams in District 37B, Wicomico County Council candidate Marc Kilmer, and Anne Arundel County Councilman Jerry Walker. Politicians have also transferred money to Conway: Wicomico County Council candidate Ernest Davis, Delegate Patrick Hogan (a Republican), and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz have chipped in.

But a consistent 25 to 35 percent of Conway’s take comes from Maryland PACs, with some of the largest contributors being the Baltimore Gas and Electric PAC ($1,000), Comcast PAC of Maryland ($1,000), Health Policy Leadership Alliance, the PAC of the Maryland Hospital Association ($1,000), Medical PAC Maryland ($1,000), SEIU Local 500 PAC ($1,000), Maryland Realtors PAC ($1,300), and the biggest by far: MSEA’s Fund for Children and Public Education PAC – the teacher’s union gave Norm a cool $5,150.

So it’s sort of telling in a way that Conway spent a tremendous amount of money on fundraising, spending over $17,000 to create just over $41,000 in individual contributions with events in Salisbury, Willards, and Annapolis. (For the Annapolis one he used our old “incumbency protection” friends at Rice Consulting, which received $4,361.93 for their trouble.) Meanwhile, the $15,880 on media was actually for billboard advertising with Clear Channel.

Conversely, Anderton seemed to have a lot more bang for his buck when it came to fundraising, spending $1,156.48 to generate $12,966.01 in individual contributions. EVO was his choice for venue, as he spent the entire sum there. All told, it’s worth pointing out that since the January report Anderton has outraised Conway $10,366.01 to $8,462.50 – granted, there were 90 days where Conway could not fundraise but practically all of the local money over the timeframe has gone to the challenger. (As full disclosure, I’ve chipped $10 into the Anderton effort although I didn’t attend a formal fundraiser.)

I was driving home yesterday along U.S. 50 when I noticed a Conway billboard – whether it’s the one he paid $15,880 for or one subsequent is not important. But on it Conway cited his “Eastern Shore Values” as a reason to be re-elected, so it’s funny that most of the money he’s used to pay for it comes from people who likely don’t share those values because they live in Annapolis or other parts of the state. Food for thought.

Next week I wrap up the series with a look at the District 37 House races. I’m just going to do one post and look at all five contenders.

Reliable bogeymen

You know the other side has nothing in their bag of ideas when you see this recycled old chestnut of an appeal for cash:

This from the side with a President who regularly finds millionaires willing to fork over big bucks to get their slice of the government pie.

But I presume these guys are counting the Americans for Prosperity as part of the “hundreds of millions of dollars,” which is funny because while reports attempt to spin the news that the Koch brothers are raising up to $290 million to spend, it’s not like Democratic backers like Tom Steyer and the venerable George Soros are standing still.

Yet what do all these participants stand for? In the case of Soros, he’s donated millions over the years to reliably left-wing causes and opined after the 2010 election wipeout that Barack Obama didn’t fight hard enough for cherished progressive causes. Instead:

While Soros’s comment gave some attendees the impression that he’d cheer a primary challenge to the president, the point, sources say, was different. Rather, it is time to shuffle funds into a progressive infrastructure that will take on the tasks that the president can’t or won’t take on.

“People are determined to help build a progressive infrastructure and make sure it is there not just in the months ahead but one that will last in the long term,” said Anna Burger, the retired treasury secretary of SEIU. “Instead of being pushed over by this election it has empowered people to stand up in a bigger way.”

“There was frustration,” said one Democratic operative who attended the meetings. The main concern was about messaging. I think they are frustrated that the president isn’t being more direct. But I did not get the sense that anyone’s commitment to the progressive movement was wavering… The general consensus is that support has to move beyond being about one person and more about a movement. I don’t know if we’ve moved beyond there.”

One of those “movement” ventures is an outside-government arm to match conservatives in the 2012 elections. For several weeks, discussions have been led by Media Matters for America founder David Brock about the need to create a group that will run advertisements, conduct opposition research and perform rapid response functions. (Emphasis mine.)

As an example of this concept, just look at the movement to increase the minimum wage. I don’t think the SEIU is doing this by themselves.

In Steyer’s case, he’s out pushing for the extinction of fossil fuels, despite being a major benefactor from them over the years. (This would be a fun debate to watch.) Imagine the increase in costs and decrease in living standards a wholesale overnight embrace of renewables would cause. Until we can make the sun shine and the wind blow steadily 24 hours a day, we have a problem. (In terms of naturally occurring energy gathering, it would seem hydroelectric would be the best choice, but that’s also climate-dependent: a drought would dry up supply.)

So consider what the Koch brothers have helped to create: the Cato Institute, a libertarian, small-government think tank and Americans for Prosperity (who would be against prosperity?) They also built up the family business and became billionaires in the process – isn’t that the American Dream writ large? (They also support other causes, as this tongue-in-cheek post notes.)

If the Democrats have to use the Koch brothers – who built a successful life for themselves with a minimum of government assistance and would like others to follow in their footsteps – as an example of evil because they support Republicans, we know they have nothing.

A question of semantics

I’ve written and researched a lot this week (and already laid some groundwork for next week) so this will be short, sweet, and to the point.

Yesterday I got an e-mail announcing a local event:

Michael –

Please join us Sunday (9/7/14) at 4:00pm for the Grand Opening of our Lower Shore HQ!

HOGAN FOR GOVERNOR HQ
4:00PM
1801 North Salisbury Blvd
Salisbury, MD 21801

Stop by and see Larry and pick up your Hogan supplies!

As a member of the Central Committee, I’ve been referring to this building as the Lower Shore Victory Center, or just “headquarters” or “Mister Paul’s” (the former occupant.) The Wicomico County Republican Club calls it the “Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters.” Did I miss something?

Do Republicans want Larry Hogan to win? Well, all but three percent of them did in a recent poll. But the last time we had a Republican governor, there was something missing: party development. All of the effort and money went toward getting Bob Ehrlich re-elected and not so much in candidate grooming and local campaigns which could have used the help. So we ended up with a debt-ridden party without a bench, and I’m not interested in a repeat of that mistake.

So I have a problem with being invited to the “Hogan for Governor” headquarters, even though that will be one of its primary functions. To a lot of local people, it’s more important to elect Addie Eckardt and Mike McDermott to the State Senate, Carl Anderton, Jr., Christopher Adams, and Johnny Mautz to become our newest Delegates, and Bob Culver as our County Executive. Many of my friends are pounding the pavement for those races, figuring Hogan can take care of himself – so why is he looking for all the credit? (It also just dawned on me that it would be a complete turnover in those particular positions, something sorely needed.)

Maybe it’s just bad optics to me. But it’s worth remembering that Hogan didn’t win this county, David Craig did.

So I’m hoping that when Larry comes down, he will refer to it properly as an Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters and not “his” headquarters. When you need 65-70% of the local vote to have a chance, a little respect goes a long way.

And while I’m thinking about Hogan, a few words about his fundraiser with Chris Christie. Do I agree with Chris Christie on a lot of issues? In a Presidential sense, not really. Does it bother me that Larry Hogan is bringing him to Maryland to fundraise? Absolutely not. Christie isn’t my cup of tea, but if it raises a lot of money that’s good for everyone.

On the other hand, Allen West is more my cup of tea and he’ll be here later this month. So save the date of September 27 and your pennies because these events will be helping three different entities: West’s Guardian PAC (which is supporting, among others, Dan Bongino), the state GOP, and the local party units.

Some good news for Big Labor, for a change

September 1, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry · 1 Comment 

After a tough stretch for Big Labor, this Labor Day finds some good news for them in the New York Times, of all places. It seems that union membership in the New York region is on the upswing, according to a study by two professors at the City University of New York Graduate Center. The pair credit more work in the construction sector as well as gains in the hotel industry.

Needless to say, these particular jobs are somewhat cyclical and can be lost at the drop of a hat. (Just ask thousands of Atlantic City casino workers whose employers close after this weekend.) But any good news is manna from heaven for Big Labor.

I also noted in reading the Times piece that the two professors who did the study, Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce, downplayed the impact of fast food workers and their attempts to organize. Yet in a separate op-ed in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky AFL-CIO head Bill Londrigan singled out the fast food industry as one where workers:

…have labored long and hard and not benefited in a satisfactory manner from the fruits of their labor. They have been pushed too far. The pendulum has swung too far away from workers, the poor, elderly, children and those that need the help of others for their survival.

The problem they have, though, is that fast-food workers are very replaceable. And Londrigan has to throw in an obligatory whine:

The rich have gotten too rich and the poor too poor and the rest squeezed in the declining middle.

Take your class envy card someplace else. I’ll agree that it is getting harder and harder for the middle class to get by, but it’s not necessarily that the rich are getting richer in general – it’s the rich who use the power of government for rent-seeking and weeding out potential competition. The unions don’t mind so much when the UAW benefits from a General Motors or Chrysler bailout, but just let various local politicians speak out negatively about the prospect of a unionized Volkswagen plant in Tennessee and suddenly government is the bad guy.

Perhaps unions aren’t completely to blame for the long, slow decline of American manufacturing over the last 50 years, but they haven’t necessarily helped the cause, either. Collective bargaining for the workers of one company is one thing, but enacting protectionist policies to discourage competition or discouraging productivity with onerous work rules are completely different animals. Some of the local unions have wised up, but too many just exist to collect worker dues and pay off politicians.

On a day to celebrate American labor, I stand for the right to work.

District 38 Senate: Mathias vs. McDermott

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

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

Download (PDF, 5KB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPA slow-walks unpopular mandate – again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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    First District - Congress

    Andy Harris (R)
    Bill Tilghman (D)

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    Maryland General Assembly (local)

    Senate District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R)
    Christopher Robinson (D)

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    House District 37B

    Republican

    Christopher Adams (R)
    Johnny Mautz (R)
    Rodney Benjamin (D)
    Keasha Haythe (D)

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    Senate District 38

    Mike McDermott (R)

    Jim Mathias (D)

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    House District 38A

    Charles Otto (R)
    Percy Purnell, Jr. (D)

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    House District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R)

    Norm Conway (D)

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    House District 38C

    Mary Beth Carozza. (R)

    Judy Davis (D)

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    Wicomico County

    County Executive

    Bob Culver (R)
    Rick Pollitt (D)

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    County Council at-large

    John Cannon (R)
    Matt Holloway (R)
    Laura Mitchell (D)

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    Council District 2

    Marc Kilmer (R)
    Kirby Travers (D)

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    Council District 3

    Larry Dodd (R)
    Josh Hastings (D)