Back to a Tuesday…

September 11, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comment 

As this posts up, we once again pause to recall the events and immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The passage of 17 years, however, has not only seen the weekday cycle back to Tuesday for a third time (as it was in 2001) but has also seen a number of key players exit the stage – some who perished at the hands of the very nation attacked and others who passed from more natural causes. The recent news that the “cesspool of cancer” also known as Ground Zero is cutting thousands more lives short means the pain has returned for many families of survivors.

Of course, life on this earth is cyclical and doesn’t last forever. A child who would be celebrating his or her 17th birthday today is most likely a senior in high school. I mentioned last year that 27% of the U.S. population was under the age of 21, and while that percentage isn’t significantly different the group that remembers little to nothing about that day will naturally grow and the population of those of us who lived through it will dwindle. You’d have a hard time finding someone who clearly remembers Pearl Harbor now, but when I was 17 those folks were simply known as our grandparents because they were at least middle-aged and often somewhat older.

Yet while we often refer to the lives lost in 9/11 and its aftermath, we don’t often think about the aftereffects. During the Cold War, we called it Civil Defense, and I vaguely remember seeing the triangular CD logo and (moreso) the black-and-yellow “Fallout Shelter” signs in places like my school. In looking it up, I found out that Civil Defense was absorbed into FEMA in the late 1970s as their focus shifted away from nuclear holocaust and more toward other emergencies and disasters. But in the wake of the WTC attack we have an entire Department of Homeland Security, PATRIOT Act restrictions, and TSA molestation at the airports. In the seventeen years since 9/11, the federal government has placed us on a war footing for a battle which perhaps doesn’t exist anymore – not that the threat from radical Islam has completely vanished, but the rules of engagement seem to have changed from large-scale events like 9/11 and regime change among nations in the “Axis of Evil” to smaller-scale attacks such as the San Bernardino or Pulse nightclub shooting and dismantling the so-called Islamic State caliphate. (As an aside, those shootings also have the added benefit to the enemy of riling up gun control supporters.)

Instead, I think the happy medium would be to return to a more subtle vigilance without the overbearing hand of Uncle Sam. Certainly he should protect us – after all, it IS a Constitutional mandate – but I don’t think we need the nanny state anymore. The way I see it, each freedom we lose is a victory for the terrorists.

And one more thing: over 3,000 people woke up on September 11, 2001 expecting to get through their day and return to their home – but the Lord had plans to call them to His home. To me, it’s a good time to remind my readers to ask themselves: what if today were your final day? I know my debt is paid, so I invite you to enjoy that peace of mind, too.

Wicomico County Fair 2018 in pictures and text (part 2)

August 21, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Wicomico County Fair 2018 in pictures and text (part 2) 

So when I last left you, I promised to tell you about Blue Ribbon Drive. For those who don’t know the area too well, it’s the street that bisects Winterplace Park (where the WCF is held) from north to south. But over the weekend it was a pedestrian mall of sorts.

Looking north along Blue Ribbon Drive. It was a clever usage of the street so the path these vendors were on wouldn’t be muddy.

Now I’m looking south. One of my favorite vendors (insofar as tweaking the Left is concerned) is second one in – the Atlantic Tactical Firearms Trainers tent.

The only people who may have been disappointed with the setup were the people who ran the rides, but they were actually closer to the action this year even being across the street.

I don’t do rides, but I’m sure the kids wore them out.

Nestled toward the south end of this road were my erstwhile colleagues at the Wicomico County Republican Party.

Ellen Bethel was one of many GOP volunteers – I saw Mary Beth Carozza there for the second time this weekend, after catching her coming in as we were heading out Friday evening too. That woman is everywhere. My old friend Bill Reddish, meanwhile, was manning Andy Harris’s space.

I heard there was a lot of angst on the Mathias side about this sign. Notice how he’s trying to get closer to Larry Hogan these days?
Sorry, Jim, but your voting record is very Jealous-like. Birds of a feather and all that.

I noticed on social media that the Governor made his rounds Saturday before we arrived. This actually did us a little bit of a favor as it turned out. While I have another point to make in the meantime, don’t worry – I won’t forget to close that loop.

Moving the vendors and the rides left a nice space. I guess you could call it a beer garden but it served as food court and musical entertainment center.

I’m looking from the west end of the shady main lane toward the stage in this shot that was taken Friday evening.

Perdue was all over this event, as you may expect. Unfortunately, a Korean BBQ chicken sandwich or Old Bay Alfredo wings didn’t sound too good to me. Hope that wasn’t their Wing War entry.

So it was an unusual place for this tent.

The Wicomico County tourism tent. I guess it was too big to just put along the road – or they wanted the captive audience?

Speaking of unusual, look closely at this equestrian photo.

I’m probably glad I didn’t catch this guy’s act. It’s called The Jump of Death with Sir Barchan of Renaissance Stables.

We spent a lot of time this weekend, though, watching my wife’s favorite equestrian event: the Mason Dixon Deputies mounted shooting.

The perfect photo. I finally figured out how to get good motion shots using the “Burst” function on my cell phone camera. It made for some great action photos since old, slow me can’t outwit a 1/10 second snap if I hold halfway still.

Consider that the next two pairs of photos are 1/10 second apart and you’ll see the quick reactions this sport requires. (And how good it makes a schmuck photographer like me look. But I selected the shots and cropped them a wee bit.)

Now you see ’em, now you don’t. But you never hear the balloon pop over the sound of the revolver firing.

The red one on the left? My wife loved the late (yes, it was extra, she already got stuff) birthday present.

Now my wife and stepdaughter can coordinate – one has the red version and the other black.

It’s been a really good fit for the Wicomico County Fair since they brought the Mason Dixon Deputies in three years ago – the four-stage event takes up three to four hours. In this case they went Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon – the former, in particular, packed the bleachers so I’d say 300 to 400 were watching.

In between runs, the riders made sure their horses got plenty of water and (especially) shade.

The daytime hours were fit for neither man nor beast at times thanks to the humidity.

Oddly enough, their Saturday stages were supposed to begin at 2 p.m., but because Governor Hogan was here and loud gunfire would (understandably) put his security on edge, they didn’t start until after 3, just as we arrived. So Kim got to see pretty much everything before we left to see the Scrapple. (Normally they’re the Delmarva Shorebirds. Considering they won Saturday night as the Scrapple and are 0-2 since, maybe they should have kept the unis.)

Besides the Mason Dixon Deputies and checking our photo entries, there is one other thing at the fair which is a must-do for us.

My wife has known Pastor Oren Perdue for years, ever since her daughter began going to the Salisbury Baptist Temple summer camp (the one with the weekly rodeo) as a six-year-old. (This summer she finally aged out after thirteen summers.) So over the last three years we’ve played hooky from our church to listen to Perdue’s much more impromptu service.

Pastor Oren Perdue, founder and pastor emeritus of Salisbury Baptist Temple. For the last three years, he’s been delivering a church service at the WCF. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.

Definitely not the most formal church setting, and probably not a tent revival either. But we still had music. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.

If I had a bone to pick with this year’s fair – which was otherwise the best in the three years under the current format – it would be that either the church service needs to allowed to begin at 10 a.m. or the rest of the events go off at noon. I understand the desire for something like the Mason Dixon Deputies to want to get an earlier start and avoid the heat of the day for the sake of the horses, but that and a church service really don’t work and play well together.

But I think I have the 2018 Wicomico County Fair pretty well covered – Lord knows I spent enough time there to get the flavor of it.

They even had a reminder of the next item on the docket.

Next up in less than eight weeks…

Just hope the weather cooperates for that one. The GBF is my favorite local event, but the Fair gained a lot of ground this time around.

Announcing: the 2017-18 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware Edition

August 6, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Announcing: the 2017-18 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware Edition 

For the second time, I have graded all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. The final product can be found in its usual sidebar location, or right here.

One new feature because Delaware has staggered elections is an indicator of whether the legislator is running for another term, and if so what sort of opposition he or she faces. Some have a free ride through the primary, while a select few have no general election opponent.

Without getting too much into it – after all, I want my friends in the First State to read and share the information – it was another discouraging session for the Delaware General Assembly. But even the darkest sky has a few stars in it, and one shone very brightly as a beacon of conservatism.

The 25 votes I used were split with nine being dealt with in 2017 and 16 having final action this year. At least one of these bills took nearly the full two sessions to be finalized, but most of them came along earlier this year. In truth, I had the tallying completed several weeks ago but, like in Maryland, I had to wait for the prescribed post-session signing deadline to come and go. It’s my understanding that bills not signed within thirty days of the end of the second-year Delaware legislative session are pocket vetoed, and two of the mAP – DE bills were in that category. By my count, thirty days (excluding Sundays) from the end of session fell on this past Saturday: hopefully I won’t have quick editing to do.

And if you were sharp-eyed last night, you would have noticed I did the usual “soft opening” by updating the widget before this post was finished and set to be placed up at this early hour.

So, Delaware, here is the voting guide you need this fall – use it wisely.

A night at the fair

July 25, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, Politics · Comments Off on A night at the fair 

The other night my wife and I had an evening to ourselves – the kid stayed at a friend’s house and we really had nothing on the social calendar. With a less pessimistic forecast than the rest of the week, we decided it was a good time to make our annual pilgrimage up to Harrington for the Delaware State Fair.

This year is the 99th annual Delaware State Fair – we’ll see what they do for the centennial edition next year.

I will give you a pro tip: if you’re parked where we were, wait on the tram. I think we spent the first 15-20 minutes there walking to the main gate! So once we got inside, we were visually assaulted by the midway.

The Delaware State Fair has some of the cheesiest attractions on its midway, just to part people with their dollars.

One thing that interested me and was the first stop was a house, but not just any house: this house that claims to be net zero energy.

Built by Beracah Homes in Greenwood, Delaware, the second ZeMod model is a charming 1,204 sf, 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom cottage style home. It features a super insulated building envelope, an all-electric heat-pump HVAC system, ENERGY STAR® rated appliances and lighting, and a rooftop solar system. Its design makes it not only affordable, but also a healthy and comfortable living environment.

In essence, the home is built to be exceptionally insulated and weathertight, with the idea being that of the solar panels providing enough energy to offset the usage by the home’s residents. If it were a real world home, it would be a two- or three-person house with just two bedrooms. (I didn’t take the grand tour to see how big they were.) But it is scalable, according to the nice person I spoke to there – and with $40,000 in incentives it ought to be.

But the biggest objection came from my better half, who couldn’t live without a gas stove. It was explained that it could be done but there’s a tradeoff in the penetrations required to run the gas line from the outside (and the venting required since it is a gas appliance.) More telling to me was the premium of about $20-30 a square foot, as it came in about $147 a square foot (the price has increased since the original flyer was created.)

But you really don’t go to a fair to see a house, do you? It’s a reminder of a rural lifestyle, so you see these critters.

Moo-ers and shakers.

My wife is much more partial to these kids.

Up close and personal with a black goat, which luckily wasn’t interested in making a snack of my phone.

Delmar represented.

It’s nice to see the FFA is still alive and thriving, too.

The FFA has lost the blue jackets – or it was just way too warm for them – but the group is still around.

And don’t forget how much of Delaware’s economy runs on agriculture.

Toys for the big kids. Actually there’s several hundred thousand dollars tied up there.

Those who didn’t have animals had other opportunities to shine.

This came from the kids’ side of the exhibit hall. We like to see the winning photographs on the other side of the room.

Something interesting about the Fair this year: even though there was a main act playing in the grandstand, they had another band playing just outside, by the casino. Basically this band, Red Head Express, is on a weeklong gig at the fair as a free feature, 2 shows a night. They’re sort of a cross between bluegrass and country, which makes them popular around here.

Red Head Express filled up the area in front of the main grandstand.

If chicks dig bass, what can you say about this band?

Since it was well after 8:00, the exhibit hall was sort of dead. However, I did find out a piece of good news about a plot of land we’re considering: it’s in the Delaware Electric Co-Op service area. But the guy was really showing off his Chevy Bolt I decided not to take a photo of.

Instead, I saw our President and First Lady.

You know, I thought our President and First Lady would really have more depth to them.

That got me to thinking: I wonder whatever happened to the Sarah Palin cutout our former county chair had?

Anyway, speaking of TEA Party figures, I couldn’t resist this one. Too bad Gene wasn’t around to discuss his allegiance to the TEA Party.

In reading his platform, I wouldn’t necessarily have associated Gene Truono with the TEA Party – moreso his in-state opponent. It’s an interesting strategy.

We opted not to go into the merchant’s building because we really didn’t want to be talked into buying sheets or buttonholed for some other useless trinket – besides, we had checked the forecast and knew that if we stayed too long we would be poured upon. Just as we got to our car after the tram ride out, it indeed began to rain.

The midway is pretty by night. Still cheesy, though.

I guess as fairs go this is the biggest one I regularly attend – the Ohio State Fair was (and is) in far-off Columbus, and the Maryland State Fair is across the bridge. Perhaps to start a new century of service the Delaware version will do a little freshening up, and maybe get really lucky and draw a nice day on a weekend when we have more time to explore.

If you want to go, they are there through Saturday.

42nd annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

And away we go…

Thanks to the much better interface of photo captioning I’ve adopted since my WordPress update awhile back, this one can literally be handled with photos, captions, and text. You get all three in one gooey, chewy, oh-so-sweet and ooo-ey mishmash of photos that will basically take you through my day – except for the tired feet.

This was the scene when I arrived about 10:45.

Local supporters of Jom Mathias were coordinating their efforts at the gate, Quite a few of those shirts found their way onto people at the event.

I Tweeted this next photo the day of, as I recall.

I wonder who pulled the strings to get Jim Mathias the plum spot up front. If you were coming this way to a corporate tent or the Crab Trap, you had to walk by.

Inside, people were getting set for the show to begin.

This is almost like a class photo. I’m sure 20 years from now, these runners will be looking at this, laughing, and wondering whatever happened to some of these nice folks.

Runners assigned here had a LONG way to travel.

The Crab Trap is a relatively new idea. It’s sort of a cross between a corporate tent and an after-party, and for a $20 premium you could enjoy the day from there.

Before I get too much farther, I could kick myself for not getting a photo of those doing the cooking. They are the heroes of the day and don’t get thanked enough for a hot, nearly thankless task for which they still willingly volunteer.

Speaking of thankless, volunteer roles…

You know, it’s a good thing this truly isn’t up for election. Could you imagine a split ticket winning that one?

I didn’t see Yumi at Tawes (not that I would necessarily be able to pick her out in the crowd) but I saw her husband make the rounds. More on that in a bit.

Luckily it was still before 11 when I took this – whoever was in charge of slapping up signs had a lot to do!

As the 11:00 hour rolled in, people were still busy getting ready for the crowds.

The Somerset County GOP was getting their tent space set up with plenty of signs and stickers.

It was at that point I realized that even 13-year veterans can make rookie mistakes: I left my box bottom in the car. A box bottom is a key component for Tawes because it serves as your food tray and (for some) a place to festoon with campaign stickers.

So on my way out I got a shirt. First time ever.

They had a good selection of shirts this year. I picked out a nice blue one.

By the time I trudged my way back in after a good half-mile round trip, I saw that food was already being served.

These seem like long lines, but most of them went fast and I have seen longer. I think having the runners has cut down on wait time.

So I found my way to the Somerset GOP tent and crashed their party. While I was there, Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford was already making the rounds. I took a few photos but with a bright background from a tent in the shadows they didn’t work well.

After I finished eating, I spied these two guys – part of a modest contingent backing unaffiliated U.S. Senate hopeful Neal Simon. They were circulating petitions at Tawes to get Simon on the ballot.

Backers of U.S. Senate hopeful Neal Simon fish for petition signatures.

Now this photo is nowhere near as important as a photo Neal put out Wednesday with the aforementioned Governor Hogan. And I’ll get to that in a little bit, too.

But first I ran into a guy who’s in the catbird seat – my Delegate, Carl Anderton.

With no election opposition, Delegate Carl Anderton can afford to give the thumbs-up.

He was just the first of a whole host of political and semi-political folks I got to chat with over the next 3 hours or so as I wandered around. There are some people who take “all you can eat crabs” as a challenge, but I’m to a point where I can barely make it through what I’m given in one trip to four lines, none of which are crabs.

Yes, it is campaign season. And since Wicomico County (and its media) are prominent there, you see a lot from our candidates.

In an indication of what was to come, Boyd Rutherford was rather popular.

The crowd of supporters surrounds Boyd Rutherford. I wonder if he will be here in 2021 as a candidate, and whether it will be to succeed his boss or upend the socialist?

Smaller groups chatted with the more local and regional politicians.

While Delegate Chris Adams (on the left in white) has one general election opponent for the two seats of District 37B, even that guy admits Adams and Johnny Mautz (who was also there) are prohibitive favorites to return to Annapolis.

Because State Senator Jim Mathias had his own tent, the group at the main Democrat tent was smaller. It wasn’t exactly a blue wave.

Regarding the Democrat tent: I did get to meet and say hello to Jesse Colvin, who is the Democrat opposing Andy Harris. He had his wife and baby boy with him (he was the holder) so I opted to skip the photo of Colvin. I will say he doesn’t seem to have the spunk and gift of gab that Allison Galbraith – who I met at Tawes 2017 – does, but perhaps that’s a military trait. Still, I would be interested to see debates between Harris, Colvin, and Libertarian candidate Jenica Martin. (I’m not sure if she was there – I know Andy was a little busy, as were federal counterparts Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.)

There were a number of business tents as usual, but they didn’t seem to draw a lot of interest. It seems anymore that the Tawes event is used as a company picnic of sorts.

I’m going to return to the subject of business tents later as I wrap up, but in taking the photo I saw a person I wanted to meet. In fact, in speaking to him I found out he’s visited this site a time or two.

This is one of the few times you’ll see someone to the right of me, if only in a visual sense. Actually, Neal Simon and I had a nice conversation.

In speaking to Neil I found out he had gotten the Hogan signature I alluded to above at the event and that he was going to make the announcement about having the sufficient number of petition signatures the next day, which was yesterday. He just told me to keep it under my hat until the time came, which wasn’t a problem since I had other things to write on and it was pretty much a fait accompli anyway.

Next up, though, is my favorite picture.

You just gotta like Carol Frazier. That’s all there is to it.

It gives me a chance to say thanks to one of my biggest fans and supporters. And speaking of such, I had the opportunity to see someone I hadn’t seen since Turning the Tides five years ago. It’s just a shame I neglected to get a picture of Cecil County Council member Jackie Gregory, a longtime friend and supporter of monoblogue. Even Delegate Kathy Szeliga saw me and gave me a greeting hug.

But when it comes to big fans and supporters of Tawes, I’m not sure anyone beats Bruce Bereano.

If this guy ever stops coming, I suspect they could have Tawes in the Food Lion parking lot.

For those politicians whose district doesn’t include the region, this is the place to hang out and eat. I think the Crab Trap idea was inspired by Bruce’s tent since people could see the political in-crowd live it up and wanted a version for their own.

That guy in the center with his hands up – he’s the governor. Larry Hogan always draws a crowd.

He may have pissed off various swaths of the Maryland electorate for various reasons, but the people don’t seem too upset at Governor Hogan here. Maybe a little bit of a smaller group circling him, but still significant.

Even the host city welcomed him.

The City of Crisfield tent. Since everyone in town who could afford a ticket was down here anyway.

I shouldn’t pick on Crisfield, since our former County Executive Rick Pollitt is their city manager. He stopped and said hello with a warm handshake.

This is one of the strangest sights, although I’m sure it’s the way of the news business these days: talking to a camera on a tripod.

It didn’t seem like the media was all over like before, but I saw all three local stations: WBOC channel 16 (and their associated FM radio station) and WMDT channel 47 out of Salisbury as well as WRDE channel 31 from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – now that was a trip from one side of the peninsula to the other. I also saw channel 7, which I think is out of Washington, D.C. I know there were print and radio reporters as well, but they did their jobs in places I wasn’t, aside from WRDE who wanted to speak with Simon as I was talking to him.

I took this photo a little after 2:00.

The tall guy in black in the center, that’s Ben Jealous. He’s trying to take Hogan’s job.

In the last three Democrat campaigns for governor (2006, 2010, 2014) I witnessed their favored or chosen gubernatorial candidate walk into Tawes surrounded by a posse of supporters clad in campaign shirts to help rouse support. However, Anthony Brown skipped Tawes in 2014 since it was by then post-primary – his blue shirts came the year before.

Regardless, the lack of campaign savvy on the Jealous team was very apparent – few supporters and not much engagement. It was almost like Ben used the event as a photo-op but the optics weren’t nearly as good as they should be in an area that’s heavily minority and majority Democrat. Even I quickly worked my way up to say hello and express a concern I had, as I did later to Governor Hogan.

Finally, I’m glad I helped convince this guy into coming – or maybe he already made up his mind and likes to humor his supporters.

Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford on the left, U.S. Senate candidate Tony Campbell on the right. Wait a minute, I thought the GOP was exclusively for white people.

Hopefully Tony followed a little bit of my advice: I told him to not just concentrate on the circle of tents in the back but go and speak to the people in the pavilions up front. And this is where my commentary on Tawes begins.

Earlier I alluded to the business tents, and in the last few years I’ve noticed it’s been pretty much the same businesses and entities are present at Tawes, and they bring a particular group of people to the event. Needless to say, the political entities also bring their own supporters and hangers-on as well. All of them stay pretty much within an area that’s bounded by the tents and the food lines up front. Of course, with the Crab Trap and addition of food runners over the last few years, Tawes has gotten to a point where one doesn’t have to come out from under the tent to partake in the event.

On the other side, behind the AFSCME local that always camps out by the restroom building and the City of Crisfield tent, is the portion of the main pavilion where those who are there simply to eat and socialize with their friends go and sit. They have their own DJ, they’re not far from the bathrooms, and in my travels I notice it’s more of a minority gathering – it’s almost like that’s where the locals stay and they let the out-of-towners have the other side. That’s where I advised Tony to go, and it’s not a bad idea for any candidate. (Toward the end I found Mary Beth Carozza over there doing a radio spot so I presume she had been through there, too.)

In my years doing the Tawes event, one of the benefits I enjoyed about it was the opportunity to speak with people from the other side. For the ten years I sat on the Central Committee and was active in the local Republican club, I obviously saw the local Republicans once or twice a month and my GOP friends from around the state twice a year at the convention. On the other hand, if you were a Democrat and a friend of mine (or a candidate with whom I wanted to place a face with the name, such as Jesse Colvin or Ben Jealous), just about the only time I got to see you was at Tawes. And even though I haven’t been nearly as active on the GOP side of late, the same still holds true on the Democrats’ side. For the most part I have no animus with them aside from their short-sighted political views.

Unfortunately, there isn’t the mixing of people on a political level like there used to be and a similar phenomenon is beginning to take place at Tawes as groups become more insular. Surely there are people who never set foot outside the Crab Trap or Bereano tent from the time they arrived to the time they went home, and that’s sort of a shame. I have no idea on the attendance figure, but I think it may have been lower than in past years – on the other hand, there may have been people I never saw hiding in their safe spaces.

Unfortunately for a person like me, 2019 looks to be a year dull as dishwater politically. Sure, we may have some Presidential campaigns underway on the Democrat side but you don’t see a lot of them represented at Tawes and it would be a shock to see a Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, et. al. walk through those gates. It’s not a statewide office election year, and in 2020 Maryland will have no Senate race. All that leaves is Congress, and whatever Democrat opts to step up. It’s pretty thin gruel.

I don’t want to say the event is past its prime, but I suspect there are diminishing returns for a politician who isn’t statewide or represents an area outside the 37th or 38th District. To make things a little better there, we need to recall what we have in common, not what divides us.

The first piece of advice

July 3, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on The first piece of advice 

If you haven’t figured this out in the 12 years, 7 months, and a bit of change since I began this here website, I have an agenda I want to share with you, and sometimes that intrudes onto other parts of my life. I also have gained in my 53-plus years on this planet a little bit of institutional memory and sometimes that dictates my actions.

One case in point occurred a few weeks back and it was because I knew several things would be true and coincide with things I was already planning to do anyway.

  • First of all (and again, in case you didn’t notice over the last 13 seasons) I am a regular devotee of Delmarva Shorebirds games. One season (before I met my wife) I think I made it to about 60 home games out of 70 scheduled. Since I’ve been married I’ve toned it down somewhat, but I will be somewhere in the high 20s this year I believe. Anyway, my favorite days to attend are Sundays and Thursdays, so I got my half-season package in order for me to attend most of those games. Thus, I knew I would be there for the game on Sunday, June 10.
  • Secondly, I had found out a few weeks earlier that Larry Hogan would be in attendance for a game against the Hagerstown Suns, with the reason being that of inaugurating an annual competition between the two called the Governor’s Cup. It turns out we are the only two pro teams in a major sport that are Maryland-based and play each other annually in the regular season in the same league. The date: June 10.
  • Now this is something I didn’t plan for many years ago when I secured the seat, but it so happens that most of those who participate in on-field ceremonies walk up the aisle right by me. So I have had the pleasure of meeting many of those who sing the National Anthem, throw out the first pitch, and so on.
  • Knowing all that, I decided it was time to do a little promotion for a cause I held dear, and create a message at the same time. And thank goodness I lent my cell phone out because the “official” photo from the staff photographer was nowhere near this good.

The big guy on the left is big because he runs a state. The big guy on the right is at least losing a few pounds.

So what message do I want to impart to the reader? First of all, if you’re looking for a good Christian school in the Salisbury area you should consider Faith Baptist School, which is the educational ministry of my church.

But it also gives me an “in” to talk about an issue that I think needs to be brought into the gubernatorial race. Why do you think I picked that shirt?

Back in April, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) endorsed the primary campaign of eventual Democrat nominee Ben Jealous. Echoing the teacher’s union, Jealous has this as a priority for his campaign:

Before Governor Hogan took office, Maryland’s public schools were ranked first in the country for five years running. Now, under his leadership, we’ve slipped to sixth. As governor, I will reverse this trend by making sure we raise teacher pay by 29%, fund full-day universal Pre-K by legalizing and taxing marijuana for adult use, and force Annapolis to finally keep its promise to use all of the casino and lottery revenue to increase education spending, not replace money they’ve shifted to other priorities.

In addition, Ben has this plan in mind: “Jealous proposes implementing recommendations from the Kirwan Commission and expanding vocational training in Maryland’s high schools so that every child graduates career and college ready.”

While I don’t mind some additional love to vocational education, here’s the rub: his agenda won’t significantly increase our ranking, which is based on a number of factors as defined by Education Week. That publication, in turn, has its own sponsors and trustees who cheerlead for public education. But Maryland being in sixth place is really as meaningless as Maryland in first place if Johnny can’t read and Suzie can’t do simple math or point out Maryland on a map.

So let’s first talk about the Kirwan Commission: if there ever was a group who was ready and willing to raid the pockets of taxpayers, this would be it. This one was doomed from the word go just based on who appointed people to it. (The sad thing was that not one Delegate or Senator objected to its creation.)

And it’s interesting to me that, when you look at the numbers, the Jealous plan can’t even support the teacher raises, let alone the rest of the wish list:

The first four years can be paid for with the phase-in of the Fix the Fund Act that ensures $125 million in FY2020, $250 million in FY2021, $375 million in FY2022, and $500 million in FY2023 will be added to school funding through casino gaming revenues. The fifth year can be covered by $500 million from the Fix the Fund Act and revenue generated by requiring combined reporting for Maryland taxable income. (Emphasis mine.)

Welcome to tax increase number 1, slamming multistate employers who do business in Maryland. (I’m not even counting the pot tax because that’s simply a new tax that’s going to hit the poor hardest – just like the casino tax will, come to think of it. How many rich people go to casinos?)

And the funny thing is: we spend more on education than ever before – just not as much as the teacher’s union wants. (Aside to teachers out there: do you really want sin taxes to fund your schools – more importantly, do you really want your dues supporting this agenda? Now you can take advantage of Janus rights and I encourage it.)

But I don’t want to get into the weeds of taxes because it goes without saying a Democrat will raise them: it’s what they do.

I believe there is a solution that obviates the need for tax increases and produces better results for all Maryland children and parents: school choice. (Or as I like to call it, money follows the child.) Democrats HATE this issue because it’s broadly supported by one of their key constituency groups (inner-city minority voters) yet feared and despised by one of their main financial contributors (unions in general, teachers’ unions in particular.) And who’s winning? Follow the money.

If Larry Hogan wants to drive a wedge into a core constituency of his opponent and peel off a few voters in Baltimore City, he could travel into some downtrodden neighborhood to find a rare success of a school, then make the following statement:

My opponent wants you to gamble more and smoke marijuana just to raise the money to plug into the schools you know aren’t doing the job. I believe we can do better by giving you the power to send your children to whichever school will take them – public, charter, private, it does not matter. If you wanted to send your child to this school (points back at said successful school) we could give you the opportunity. You can decide which option is best for your child.

So let’s talk about private school – in my case, Faith Baptist School.

Right off the top of my head I don’t have the number for tuition for next year but it’s certainly nowhere near the $12,249 a year the local, state, and federal government spends per pupil for our public schools. I’ll bet it’s not more than half of that, but let’s say the state adopts such a program.

First of all, this could allow FBS to increase tuition and better compensate their teachers and staff. Just picking a number, we’ll say tuition and fees come in at $8,000 a year, which would certainly be enough to provide raises and hire more teachers for the need – perhaps from the ranks of former public school teachers fed up with the eradication of God from the public school classroom. (FBS has one such refugee on staff.)

But Michael, you say, that wouldn’t be a benefit to us because you are encouraging these non-market forces to artificially raise the school’s tuition. Again, please read the Jealous plan and his goal to raise teacher (and staff) salaries significantly, and ask yourself: which teachers would you rather reward? And it’s not like I didn’t think about this aspect.

The kicker would be that, for parents who choose to send their child to a school that costs less than the state-allotted sum for the county (the $12,249 a year) the program would allow a portion of the savings to be passed on to the parents. Now I’m not saying they stroke a check directly to the parents, but instead a share of the savings (perhaps 20%) would be given to an account for the child created within the existing 529 program the state has to encourage college savings. They could maintain the same stipulations on use that already exist.

So here are the benefits:

  • Parents are free to send their child to any school which would accept them. This is key because it makes parents accountable for a child’s behavior – perhaps they will encourage good, respectful behavior from the children so as not to be expelled from a school that promotes good teaching.
  • Those parents would accrue money toward their child’s higher education – using my difference of $4,249 as an example, a 20% credit to their 529 plan would be almost $850, simply for shopping for a good deal and having a child accepted.
  • It would also create an incentive for public schools to both cut their costs (to help negate the advantage private schools have on cost) and improve themselves to be more attractive because, remember, having the child in the public school does not add to the college fund. But not all private schools have vocational programs, extracurricular activities, or athletics at a high level. For example, the large public schools locally are able to have robotics clubs that competes regionally and nationally whereas a small school like FBS just can’t.

And don’t think I forgot homeschoolers, who in theory cost the state nothing. They could be eligible for a small stipend from the state – perhaps $1,000 for an academic year and the 529 benefits the other parents get based on the larger savings – it would be over $2,000 a year added to that account.

And because these 529 funds are generally only allowed to be used at Maryland schools, it would create a boost to enrollment for those institutions as well as incentive to broaden their offerings.

The big loser in all this: a moribund public school system that’s been resistant to grassroots change and local control. They would remain as the backstop provider of education as they always have been. Yes, they will have the problem children but remember these children are problems because they weren’t brought up to behave properly and in a manner conducive for learning for those around them. Yet there could be a private school created to give these children the support they need, whether it’s just encouragement for slow learners or tough love for those who refuse to behave.

So this is some free advice I can give to a governor who has let me down in myriad ways since taking office: ignore the naysayers who tell you school choice is a bad thing. I’m not going to tell you the writer makes all invalid points, but I believe the bad seeds would be weeded out in short order because the public schools would be the first to tattle. After all, school choice is a winning issue because people get it.

Those who fret about school choice bringing on “the destruction of public schools” obviously sell themselves short. Sometimes we all need a kick in the behind to motivate us and two things are clear: the status quo isn’t working and simply throwing money at it isn’t changing that fact.

Given this will appear just before Independence Day, maybe it’s time to free those parents that care from the shackles of poor-performing public schools.

A tale of two events

It’s been awhile since I’ve given you a pictorial post and added the captions, so I thought it was time.

It may be an unfair comparison – the reboot of a longtime staple of Salisbury cultural diversions against an established old favorite – but I have to wonder just went wrong with the Downtown Salisbury Festival, which seems to me somewhat of a failure in its new time slot of early June.

I will say, however, that weather probably played some role: while I was taking these photos at the Downtown Salisbury Festival, Ocean City was getting a historic deluge of rain. Salisbury was hit by the next line of storms a couple hours later. Yet I don’t think it was all about the weather.

Looking eastward along Main Street to the narrow row of rides that spanned a block.

I turned around and looked westward down the next block. Still not much traffic.

It was a little better down the block. Since it’s political season, it should be noted the tent on the left (with the orange-clad folks) belonged to the Clerk of Courts campaign of Bo McAllister.

But as you worked westward on Main Street, the crowd thinned out. On the left is the luckless campaign of Democrat Michael Brown, a Salisbury resident running for the right to challenge incumbent Andy Harris.

This was from the west end of the art area. It’s hard to see them, but the local Democrats were camped out in front of the Chamber of Commerce building on the right, without a tent.

In future years, it’s likely the DSF will be centered along the riverfront and the amphitheater under construction. But construction wasn’t done for this edition.

Another photo along a deserted riverfront.

Some of the food court was along the river side.

The food court had plenty of choices, but didn’t have much business.

At least there wasn’t a line for the petting zoo.

I’ll grant that I wasn’t there for the DSF on Friday night and the crowd may have been better. But I think in the future they’ll either need to condense the event a little bit or perhaps institute a shuttle to ferry people from stop to stop – maybe 3 or 4 stops. I didn’t think late April was a really bad time to have it, either. On the first weekend in June people are thinking about graduations or the beach.

Conversely, the weather was picture-perfect Friday night for Third Friday and people responded.

I walked onto the Plaza and what did I see? Lots of people!

The event was also hot and cold running politicians. The local GOP was set up across from District 4 County Council candidate Suzanah Cain.

On the other side of the spectrum, we had the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus a couple spots in front of County Executive challenger Jack Heath’s spot. It’s also noteworthy that Suzanah Cain’s opponent Josh Hastings was walking about with his sign.

My friend Sarah Meyers has a cool job: she’s the curator of Poplar Hill Mansion. She was out at 3F promoting their festival next Saturday, the 23rd.

This month’s theme may have helped with the promotion: people were encouraged to bring their dogs. They could have partaken in this course.

Even at 7:30 there was still a serious crowd out there.

This month’s band was one of the better ones I’ve seen.

Muskrat Lightning was the band, making a great soundtrack for the event.

It took several years for Third Friday to find its stride, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on the Downtown Salisbury Festival. But I remember when they tried to use most of Main Street and being so spread out meant something was shortchanged. It’s become successful since they focused on the Plaza and the Division Street side of the courthouse.

So if the DSF wants to take advantage of the riverfront, maybe they need to place the exhibitors where the food court was and use one of the side streets as a food court. There was a visual effect missing on this layout – if you were at the rides or checking out art vendors you wouldn’t be aware of the food court or stage, which made the event seem small. It needs to be tied together better, and maybe having the amphitheater done will help in that regard.

I guess we will find out next year for the DSF, as well as the First Saturday and Fridays at Five events – the latter two on hiatus for this year as construction occurs at both sites. Maybe we will get better weather, too.

Help for the next Senator

Maryland has not had a Republican United States Senator since the final of three terms of Charles “Mac” Mathias came to a close in 1987. He was succeeded by Barbara Mikulski, who held office for thirty long years before finally retiring before the 2016 election won by Chris Van Hollen. Mathias, who previously represented portions of western Maryland in both the House of Delegates and Congress before taking his success statewide in the 1968 election, was known for being a staunch member of the now practically-defunct liberal wing of the GOP.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Class 1 seat that’s now occupied by Ben Cardin, who succeeded another thirty-year veteran in Paul Sarbanes back in 2006. With his Senate election, Sarbanes had ended something one would think to be impossible in Maryland – a Republican monopoly on U.S. Senate seats thanks to the single term of John Glenn Beall, who parlayed his spectacular failure at re-election (losing to Sarbanes by 18 points in, admittedly, a bad post-Watergate election cycle for the GOP in 1976) into an even worse 40-point plus shellacking at the hands of Harry Hughes in the 1978 gubernatorial race.

However, since that fateful 1976 election Maryland Republicans who have gone up against Mikulski, Sarbanes, and Cardin have mostly pined to be as close as 18 points in a Senatorial election. (They were even swamped in the open seat election in 2016.) In all but one instance, the Democrats have come away with victories in the 20- to 40-point range. The one exception? Ben Cardin’s 10-point win over Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele for the open seat in 2006 – another bad year for the GOP.

I believe it’s in that Mathias vein that Christina Grigorian entered the 2018 Republican Senate race as a first-time statewide candidate. And I say that because of statements like this from her social media:

In my opinion, women are not voting in greater numbers now than they used to – rather, they are giving a great deal more thought to the candidate who deserves their vote. Women want SAFE SCHOOLS AND NEIGHBORHOODS, GOOD JOBS for themselves and their family members, and HEALTHCARE for all those entrusted to their care, from their newborn child to their elderly parent. In Maryland, we have the opportunity to make sure this voice is heard in the 2018 election – given that our ENTIRE FEDERAL DELEGATION is male (8 male Congressmen and 2 male senators), it is time for the 52% of us in Maryland who are WOMEN to VOTE GRIGORIAN on June 26 and then again on November 6!

Setting aside both the Caps Lock and the fact that the last GOP nominee for Senator was a woman, and there were a number of female candidates who ran for Congress in the last cycle representing all four on-ballot parties here in the state of Maryland, I wonder why she so often chooses to play the gender card. Obviously I’ve voted for women in the past and surely I will do so again if the right ones come along. But I don’t think she’s the right one.

This is particularly true in the light of how Tony Campbell is running his campaign. I have not heard Tony say that someone needs to vote for him because he’s a minority candidate – granted, this could be a function of more than one being in the race, but he’s not come across as the affirmative action candidate.

Rather, in the last few days I’ve noticed Tony has received a couple important ratings and endorsements that check off important boxes with me.

First, I got wind of his AQ rating from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, which is basically the best rating a non-elected candidate can get. The Second Amendment is a hot-button issue right now, and Tony added that he “believes our 2nd Amendment liberty protects all of the other rights, our families and our property.” On the other hand, his opponent Grigorian seems to have the more tepid support, saying “I support the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller opinion which ensured that the 2nd amendment’s right to bear arms extends to individuals.”

(You’ll notice I only talk at length about two of the many Senate candidates in this piece, but there are reasons for this I outlined here.)

Then today I read that Tony was also endorsed by Maryland Right to Life, which is a good omen for turnout. While it’s most likely that MRTL will endorse a Republican candidate in a particular race, with this many hopefuls a pro-life endorsement is a good one to get.

On the flip side, Campbell has touted his winning the Red Maryland poll for several months in a row. Now I caution readers to take their results with a grain of salt because it’s not a scientific poll, nor is Red Maryland much use for the more moderate Republicans who would likely be attracted by Grigorian. Just as unscientific, but important to make a point, is the social media presence of each candidate – oddly enough, the largest in raw numbers comes from the otherwise obscure GOP hopeful Nnamu Eze, who ran for Congress as a member of the Green Party in 2016. He has over 1,300 Twitter followers but has followed over 3,000 others to get them. (Eze has no Facebook page.) Another longshot candidate, Bill Krehnbrink, who also ran as a primary candidate decades ago in another GOP bloodbath, has 223 Twitter followers without a campaign Facebook page, while Chris Chaffee is at 120 Twitter followers with no other campaign social media. The Twitter-only social media campaign of Albert Howard stands at 11 followers.

Only four candidates have active campaign Facebook pages, with Evan Cronhardt holding 158 followers (plus 10 on Twitter), Grigorian 606 followers (all but 12 on Facebook), John Graziani 673 Facebook followers (his page has been active for well over a year), and Campbell a total of 756, with 85 on Twitter.

It may seem like a small drop in the bucket, and it is: Ben Cardin has almost 31,000 Facebook followers and nearly a quarter-million on Twitter. Even the otherwise unknown Democratic challenger Eric Jetmir is more popular on social media than the Republican leaders, and this doesn’t count Bradley “Chelsea” Manning’s following. Granted, many of those followers aren’t there for the Senate campaign.

Yet social media prowess doesn’t erase a fact: too many in Maryland are held back by the system as it currently exists.

On Election Day, Ben Cardin will be 75 years old. He won his first election at the age of 23, taking his uncle’s seat in the Maryland House of Delegates and winning re-election four times afterward until he decided to run for Congress in 1986 (the seat Barb Mikulski was vacating.) That victory was the first of 10 for him in what was admittedly a heavily Democratic district, and now he’s running for a third term in the Senate.

So let’s do the count backwards: 2012, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1992, 1990, 1988, 1986, 1982, 1978, 1974, 1970, 1966.

Fifty-two years.

Seventeen elections without a loss for Ben Cardin.

But what has the state won? An unhealthy dependence on government at all levels.

So I think it’s time for a change. I think it’s time the rest of Maryland – the hard-working, productive people of the state who just want to live their lives and not have to worry about Uncle Sam intruding therein – gets a voice in the United States Senate. Let’s put an “and one” on Ben Cardin’s final record.

Let’s help Tony Campbell become our next Senator.

The deal with ‘misinformation’

Over the last week or so we’ve been treated to some of the most furious backpedaling we’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it’s the same elsewhere in the state, but the Eastern Shore delegation has been taking an earful from constituents about a bill with the innocuous title “Public Safety – Extreme Risk Prevention Orders.” But that’s not the bill’s original title: as first introduced it was “Seizure of Lethal Weapons – Lethal Violence Protective Order.” Unfortunately, the bill still deals with seizure and arguably does little to promote the safety of the public.

Arguing there “has been some misinformation” about this bill, three members of our local delegation (Chris Adams, Carl Anderton, and Mary Beth Carozza) issued a joint statement vowing that if certain defects aren’t fixed, they won’t back the bill when it comes back from the Senate. Of course, that makes the assumption that the majority in the Senate won’t just pass this unmolested and dare Governor Hogan to veto a bill many in his party detest. (Hint: he won’t. It may not be graced with his signature, but he won’t veto it.)

We’ll come back to Hogan in a moment, but in the last few days since the vote we have heard many excuses from the GOP, most of whom voted for the bill. It doesn’t take the cake of Delegate Barrie Ciliberti co-sponsoring the bill then changing his vote to be against it (unless that change is made for some arcane parliamentary maneuver) but much of the blame has come from being “misinformed” or being “led to believe” Second Amendment groups were behind this. There is an argument to be made that there is so much information being thrown at these elected officials (with this year’s docket exceeding 3,000 bills to be considered over a 90-day period) that mistakes can be made, but then one has to ask: what else are they missing? “You know, the bill sounds good, and it IS public safety…”

It should be noted, though, that the Judiciary Committee in the House did a complete bait-and-switch on this one, perhaps seizing on the hot-button topic of the Parkland shooting. HB1302 was completely gutted and replaced by the Judiciary Committee that the original sponsor (Democrat Geraldine Valentino-Smith) doesn’t sit on. That event happened between the initial introduction and the House hearing, but the bill was marked up in committee on March 12. It passed by a 12-4 vote, and notably several Republicans did not vote on the bill in committee: Delegates Susan McComas, Neil Parrott, and Deb Rey were excused, and Delegate Trent Kittleman abstained. The other four (Joe Cluster, Paul Corderman, Glen Glass, and Michael Malone) voted against it; however, Cluster and Glass were absent from the third reading vote and Malone voted in favor of the bill. Of those on the Judiciary Committee, only Corderman and Parrott voted no.

It’s patently obvious to me that the House Republicans were trying to appeal to the so-called popular opinion that everything gun-related is bad. They read the tea leaves and newspapers and everywhere you turn you’re being assaulted with anti-Second Amendment propaganda. Yet out of our local District 37 and 38 delegation, the only Republican with a really difficult race is Mary Beth Carozza and that’s because she’s opted to try and advance to the Senate. (Valid question: will this vote tip the scale to another NRA endorsement for Democrat Jim Mathias? Ask the liberals in District 38 how they like his receipt of NRA money.) The other Republicans either voted no on HB1302 (Charles Otto) or have stiffer opposition in the primary than they do for the general election – Adams and Mautz have two primary opponents but only one Democrat is in the race.)

Yet this brings up another point about the top of the ticket. Last night I did a bit of research and remembered the 2014 election – you know, that one Larry Hogan shocked the state and won? Well, a significant part of the reason was carrying the suburban counties like Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, and Frederick with over 60% of the vote (collectively, since he was 59% in Baltimore County) and blowing out Anthony Brown in the rural areas with anywhere from 65 to 82 percent of the vote. That made up for soft numbers in the D.C. region and Baltimore City.

The problem Larry Hogan has this time around is twofold, and has a little bit of irony to it: for a Republican to succeed nationally in the cause of limiting government he has to put a chill in Maryland’s economy. Thanks in no small part to the Trump administration, Larry Hogan will be lucky to get 35% in Montgomery County – compared to 36.7% last time. That may not seem like a lot, but out of 300,000 votes losing a 2% share is 6,000 votes.

You can argue, that’s fine, he won by 65,000 the first time. But what if his reversal on the fracking ban costs him 10% of his vote in Western Maryland? The three westernmost counties combined for about 70,000 votes last time and were a significant portion of his victory margin. That could be another 7,000 votes. Taking a similar share from an Eastern Shore upset at his Second Amendment stance and early cave on phosphorous regulations could be another 10,000 votes lost. Without touching the suburban counties, we’ve eroded 1/3 of his victory margin and the rest may come from Democrats who decide to stay loyal and vote for their candidate. (Fortunately for Hogan, the Democratic field seems to all be trying to leapfrog left of each other so turnout may not be as great as the Democrats think they will get. The biggest break Hogan has received in this cycle was not having to contend with either John Delaney or Peter Franchot, either of whom would probably have easily won the nomination against this field.)

Simply put, there are a lot of people who held their nose and voted for Larry Hogan the first time in the hopes he would govern as a conservative. Well, they were surely disappointed and the fear is that they just stay home this time around: why bother voting when you have the same results regardless of which party is in charge, they say. Perhaps it’s an information silo I reside in, but I often see people claiming they won’t vote for Hogan this time (meaning they’ll likely stay home or skip the race) but I never hear of a Democrat who voted for Brown being convinced the Republican is doing the job and will get his or her support. Most Democrats I hear from already voted for Hogan last time.

So this gun bill has really exposed some fissures in the state GOP, and the party brass has to hope their electoral hopes don’t fall through the cracks.

Playing the Lord’s advocate

February 24, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, NFL News, Sports · Comments Off on Playing the Lord’s advocate 

The football season ended three weeks ago with the playing of Super Bowl LII, but there is still a little bit of good news being made. This morning I came across a video that portrayed the Philadelphia Eagles and their faith. (I’d love to embed it, but I couldn’t figure out how.) Now you have likely seen the news about how certain Eagles players will skip the obligatory trip to the White House that major sports champions take after their title run, but it’s less likely that you have ran across the video describing the Eagles’ faith. (I will say, though, it did have 23 million views as of this morning.)

The video is a production of the Independent Journal Review (IJR), which is an interesting animal in and of itself: this video was promoted by the Red division of IJR, which leans toward the conservative side of the spectrum. In looking for a place to embed the video I found out they have a Blue division that presumably slants toward the Left, and a News division that I guess reports news.

But I wanted to make a different point, and the focus on who is skipping the trip and why actually helps in that regard.

During the off-season, and at times within the midweek that NFL teams are practicing for their next Sunday’s game, the focus often shifts to a player’s off-field behavior. Not too long ago Marlon Humphrey, a player from the Baltimore Ravens, was arrested for robbery – an incident which his attorney claimed was a misunderstanding over a phone charger. You hear much less often about the player who donates his down time and money to charitable causes, is faithful to his wife and family, and has a good relationship with the Lord. Obviously some of this is by design on the player’s part since we’re exhorted to be humble servants of the Lord, but we’re also charged with doing our part to share the Gospel, too.

Yet in terms of media coverage, it’s not enough of a “man bites dog” story to talk about a Carson Wentz, who ministers to fellow players and churchgoers. (A similar Eagles player who comes to mind is the late Reggie White, who was dubbed “the Minister of Defense” because he was one.) But here was the evidence, in front of tens of millions of Americans on live television, that there are successful people who give all credit for their success to the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a refreshing change.

So contrast this with that same network and their media coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics – in fact, let’s extend the comparison to USA Olympic media coverage in general. Who have we heard the most about: our gold-medal winning athletes (including the USA curling team, believe it or not!) or the 10th-place figure skater whose biggest claim to fame is an attraction he has to other men? We have dozens of other athletes who gave it their all only to be also-rans but no one is pursuing their stories.

We live in an upside-down world where things that are of this earth are portrayed as good and things we should strive for are demeaned. So these Eagles who proclaim their faith publicly are going to walk around with targets on their back – not just from the other 31 NFL teams who are itching to dethrone the champions, but the culture at large who will call them hypocrites if they make one wrong move – and as sinners who fall short of the glory of God, it’s certain they will. Just look at the criticism Tim Tebow endured in his NFL career and continues to weather as a 30-year-old minor league baseball player trying to get to The Show. (Granted, a .226 average isn’t a lot to write home about, but that’s about what Orioles prospect D.J. Stewart hit in his first full season equivalent – 2015 with short-season Aberdeen and the first half of 2016 with Delmarva – and now he’s a non-roster invitee to the Orioles camp just as Tebow is for the Mets.)

But the video was inspiring to me, and I’m hoping these Eagles continue their off-field success in the game of life.

Let’s just stop with the gun grabbing talk

February 18, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Let’s just stop with the gun grabbing talk 

For the past several days, we have learned more and more about the latest in what has become a depressing string of mass-murder incidents involving firearms of various types. Just as we as a society got all good and righteous over “bump stocks” along comes an obviously troubled teenager who hatched a plan to draw out unwitting students from the school he once attended into his own personal free-fire zone. What amazes me still about this perpetrator is that he’s still drawing breath – unlike most assailants in this style of massacre, he didn’t end the spree by blowing his own brains out.

I think we can all agree, however, that 99.9 or maybe even 99.99% of people could look at a gun, pick up a gun, or even shoot a gun (outside of self-defense) without the intention to cause harm to others. Unfortunately, that .01% in a nation of 320 million people, give or take, is still a sum of people that’s roughly equal to the population of our city of Salisbury. One of those people decided he was going to act out his fantasy of blasting his way through a school on Wednesday, and the resulting news cycle has once again stirred up the gun debate.

Look, it’s not the guns. Certainly this made the situation more dramatic but there’s nothing that says he couldn’t have killed as many people by driving a car up the sidewalk by the bus loading zone. I’ll concede, though, that for the sheer brutality, power in choosing victims, and making headlines the gun was the way to go. Sadly, the person with the gun who could have stopped him was nowhere to be found before the killer slipped away, blending in with the crowds fleeing the school.

But the extreme, draconian measures of banning so-called “assault weapons” (simple semi-automatic rifles) or repealing the Second Amendment aren’t realistic, either. Some take advantage of the ignorance and misinformation generally fed to the public in these situations to maintain that anyone can secure a fully automatic weapon, but that’s nowhere near the truth. And even though some are trying to tell us the Second Amendment is only about self-defense or that it’s no longer applicable because we have a National Guard, there’s zero chance a repeal of the Second Amendment would get a 2/3 vote in each house of Congress and pass muster in 38 states (although Maryland would waste no time in ratifying it.)

So let me give you the real question: have we as a society even considered this is the harvest we reap when we sow the cheapening of respect for life?And I’m not really talking the idea of violent video games where the “people” that die are just pixels on a screen (or, in that same vein, actors playing a role for a paycheck wallowing around in fake blood in a movie or TV show – surely some actors have “died” dozens of times on screen) or the fact that “choice” dictates we can murder a baby in the womb practically to the moment of birth – although all these contribute to the issue.

Is the real “mental illness” a distortion of the concept of right and wrong stemming from the fact it was never learned? We would expect predatory animals to cull the weakest from the herd of prey without compunction because their sole instinct is survival. A fox doesn’t stop to ponder their conscience or the chicken’s sense of (for lack of an equivalent term) “humanity” before tearing it apart to serve as an uncooked dinner – it only acts to stave off starvation and maintain the strength to reproduce. What sets humans apart from the lower realms of the animal kingdom is that conscience, but it has to be given some sense of direction. It’s obvious this young killer either didn’t get the guidance or chose to ignore it for reason only he knows. Of course, the same goes from the dozens of more anonymous young men who chose to take a gun and end someone’s life for reasons other than self-defense.

It’s extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around the mindset that it’s perfectly all right and justifiable to walk into a venue with a loaded rifle and wantonly kill defenseless people. And yes, I have seen the bumper stickers and memes that talk about the desire to kill people you find offensive or who burden you with a bad day, or the idea of revenge for a grievous wrong done to you. But sane people don’t act on those desires and eventually kick themselves for thinking that way in the first place because it’s wrong. Something about turning the other cheek?

So. my friends on the Left, banning guns is not the answer, nor can you prohibit people from buying them just because they give you the creeps. A gun ban puts us in a situation where a man with no conscience not only doesn’t know right from wrong but also knows he has his own free-fire zone enforced by people who can keep his conscience clean by doing the killing themselves. Leaders like Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and so forth probably executed few (if any) of their millions of unarmed victims themselves, but they had plenty of men with no conscience to do it for them.

In another time, the young gunman would have been right at home as a Nazi prison camp guard or a Bolshevik enforcer. When dealing with flawed humanity, we need all of the tools we can get and guns are a good line of defense.

 

A plea for common sense

January 29, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off on A plea for common sense 

This could be the most unusual story idea I’ve ever had.

Back before Christmas I received the usual card from my parents, with some of what’s going on with them since we had previously spoken at Thanksgiving. So this evening I was cleaning off the coffee table and found the card, which I had kept out because enclosed was a clipping of a local op-ed piece where she wrote “Write a chapter about this!!”

At that point I remembered I was indeed going to write about it – not as a chapter in my book since it’s not TEA Party-related, but certainly it would be worth a blog post. The writer in question is a guy named Tim Smolarick, who is the editor of the Highlands News-Sun (their local paper.) So I dd a little bit of digging to link the article, called “More common sense and less red tape” for your perusal.

My mom’s highlighter isn’t the best, but this was the part she highlighted:

We have a two-party dominant system that spends entire cycles between elections blaming one another for all the problems that exist and, at the end, whoever convinces us better gets the seat. That has to stop. Back in the day we really believed in the people we voted for, not the party rhetoric. (That part was the most highlighted.)

The overall article talked about hunger as an issue brought up to the writer, and how, if the people of Highlands County put their mind to it “with common sense and less red tape” they could solve this problem. And, to be quite frank, I see no real reason they couldn’t do it on a local level.

(Just to set a scene: if there were an Eastern Shore of Florida, Highlands County might be it. Substitute orange groves for chicken houses and you get the picture. Unlike the perception most people have of Florida, Highlands is a very rural county that’s smack dab in the middle of nowhere insofar as the Sunshine State is concerned. But it’s where my late grandparents chose to go when they retired so my parents were familiar with it. The county compares with Wicomico County as far as population but has over twice the area.)

My mom’s point is valid in this day and age where we pit the Red Team against the Blue Team in an ongoing struggle for political power; one where people will look past the character flaws inherent in candidates if that candidate represents your side. Once we expected better of our representatives, but over the last 20 to 30 years we’ve become more forgiving of flaws in the pursuit of power.

Yet the beauty of Mr. Smolarick’s approach is that it transcends politics. If you’re not worried about who gets the credit and not in it to perpetuate a problem just to keep your job, there is a lot that can be accomplished. I tend to look at this as a faith-based operation because it’s a model I’m most familiar with, but there’s nothing that says it has to be denominational in that manner either. An atheist who has a good idea shouldn’t be dismissed on that basis alone.

As a society we’ve become conditioned to look to government as the only available problem-solver, forgetting that we have means and methods at our disposal if only we choose to employ them. “There oughta be a law!” scream the people, but sometimes they hold the solution in their own hands.

So I hope some people in the middle of Florida step up and figure out how to address their issues without having to hold the hand of government every step of the way. Back in the day that’s how Americans used to do it.

Say, maybe this is a TEA Party-related article after all – didn’t Tim Smolarick just advocate for limited government? I think he did! And thanks to my mom for the inspiration.

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