Odds and ends number 95

Back with bloggy goodness in bite-sized chunks of a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Let’s see what the e-mail bag has in store.

A pro-life concern

Political e-mail is often chock full of hyperbole, but I found a recent e-mail from the folks at the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance PAC interesting – is there really a renewed pro-abortion push here? They call it a “political attack group,” a 501 (c)(4) which “will be able to take massive checks from outside Maryland starting from Day 1.” But I didn’t find any news story on the subject, which makes it sound like just so much hype.

To me, theirs is the kind of e-mail that sets back the cause. Don’t just tell me there’s an AP story, give me a link – for all I know this was three years ago. It’s bad enough that a group with less than $1,000 in the bank, and a group that didn’t spend a dime on candidates in the 2018 election, is asking for money to counter this phantom threat.

More bad news for Maryland business

The headline of a Maryland Public Policy Institute business climate study made it sound like businesses are becoming less optimistic about business conditions in the state overall, yet they remain relatively positive.

But buried in the remaining information was an interesting dichotomy between businesses along the I-95 corridor, where companies believing the state was business-friendly prevailed by a 49-16 average margin, and outstate companies which only deemed the state business-friendly by a 39-35 count. Given that the overall mark was 46-19, it’s apparent that the outstate entities were but a small portion of the survey – probably no more than 15%. However, that’s 100% of the issue here on Delmarva.

Add to this the war on plastic – which is in the process of having the good guys lose in Delaware – as well as the laughable job creation numbers proponents of the maglev boondoggle are touting, and we may have seen an economic peak on Delmarva until people with real sanity are placed back in government, at least in the view of the MPPI.

But their annual magnum opus is the Annapolis Report, which grades the Maryland General Assembly on its work for the session. If they were a college student, the MGA would be on academic probation.

The Democrats’ deplorable problem

For decades the prevailing belief was that Republicans were for the business man while Democrats were for the working man. In 2016, however, that philosophy was turned on its head as thousands and thousands of union workers ignored their Big Labor bosses who backed Hillary Clinton and pulled the lever for Donald Trump, enabling him to win in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

But, as David Catron recently argued in The American Spectator, the Democrats who think those voters are the key to 2020 victory are barking up the wrong tree. He contends:

(S)upporting Trump simply isn’t the done thing in polite society. To do so is to risk loss of social status – if not outright ostracism – and open conflict with friends or family. Trump supporters mislead pollsters or simply refuse to answer their questions pursuant to similar psychological and social incentives. All of which leads to a lot of confusion concerning who it is that supports President Trump and precisely why. This, in turn, renders it very difficult for round heel politicians like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren to pander to “working class” voters they badly need to “win back” to the Democratic fold in the 2020 election cycle.

David Catron, “Why the Dems Will Never Win Back Trump Voters,” The American Spectator, June 24, 2019.

I’ve talked about this a couple times on the radio, and Catron makes the argument as well: I sensed this back in 2016, which is why I did “Bradley effect” updates on the Presidential race. If you believed the actual polls on a state-by-state basis, Hillary Clinton should have had upward of 300 electoral votes. But if you assume the polls underestimated Trump by five points, your blue map becomes a shade of pink that carries The Donald to victory. My last couple “Bradley effect” maps suggested a narrow Trump win so I wasn’t as shocked as I thought I might be when it really happened.

On another deplorable front, the pull of Big Labor doesn’t seem to be as strong as it used to be. I remember writing on this situation for The Patriot Post back in 2014, but even after another half-decade of trying the UAW still can’t get its hooks into an auto plant south of the Mason-Dixon line, failing again to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This latest update comes from my friends at the Capital Research Center.

More on the Presidential sweepstakes

I have a number of different items here.

Let’s start with Erick Erickson, who points out in a brief but concise Resurgent article that Joe Biden’s not a racist – it’s just proof of how far the Democrats have moved the Overton window on that subject.

And if you want bat-crap crazy Democrats, look no further than the Indivisible crowd.

After the recent Democrat debates, the Astroturf group polled its followers and found that their preferred candidates didn’t line up with the ones on top of the mainstream polls:

We asked Indivisibles to identify which candidates they are considering voting for and which they are definitely not. The results revealed that the historic candidacies of women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates are faring well among the movement and have plenty of room to grow as the field narrows. It also revealed that some of the presumed frontrunners may hit a ceiling with activists, given how many Indivisibles say they aren’t considering them at all.

Indivisible news release, July 2, 2019.

In other words, identity politics is alive and well. “(I)f the election were held today, 35% of people said they would vote for (Elizabeth) Warren and 31% selected (Kamala) Harris,” they said. Compare this to the Morning Consult poll from yesterday (July 16) where Warren and Harris combined for just 27% of the vote, a number that still trailed frontrunner Joe Biden. In fact, those “women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates” only account for about 40% of the vote, trailing those white males in the top 2 slots and scattered among the rest.

I’m not going to sit and do the math, but I daresay that Indivisible isn’t much of a movement when the candidates 66% of their group support can’t even muster half that amount of support in a wider poll.

Who’s really gerrymandering?

This is a fascinating study from the CRC. While the Democrats contend that independent redistricting commissions will best address the issue of gerrymandering (which, of course, only became a problem after the TEA Party wave election of 2010, which got the break of getting to draw districts for this decade), this study suggests the hype from Democrats is overblown.

Two more states – but a bunch to go

If you’re a fan of the Constitution Party, the good news is that they kept ballot access in two states (Arkansas and North Carolina) and their goal is access in 35 states. Maryland will probably not be one of them because their 10,000 signature threshold is daunting for the two minor parties which generally qualify for the ballot, the Green Party and Libertarian Party, let alone a smaller entity such as the CP. In Delaware they need over double their number of registered voters by the end of 2019 to qualify, which seems unlikely unless a concerted effort to flip members of other minor parties occurs.

And last…

You may notice this is the day of Tawes, but there’s no pictorial.

After 13 or 14 years of going, I just lost interest in the event the last few years. And considering this is a pretty much dead year on the election calendar – no 2020 Senate election and not much going on in the Congressional realm – it was not worth taking a day off to go and overpay for food, a little bit of beer, and a crapton of diet Pepsi. Since I’m not an invited guest to the tents where the real action is, I’m happier being home.

To my friends who were there, I hope you had a good time. But it just isn’t that much fun for me anymore.

Radio days volume 23

With the emphasis this time on “days”…

Last week was something I had never tried before, but The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party is creating conversation and interest. So I was on SIX different radio shows in six days, although they weren’t distributed equally: I had Monday and Thursday off but did three Friday.

The week began on Sunday night when I spoke to John Whitmer, who does a Sunday night show on KNSS-AM and FM in Wichita, Kansas.

Now that I’ve listened to it again, it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was initially. But there are days I write better than I talk and that was one. I felt like I had vapor lock a couple times, but those pauses that seemed like 10 seconds of dead air to me weren’t that bad. I did hit most of the points and John seemed patient enough – I didn’t know he had a guest right after me so maybe he was rushing through it too.

So, to say the least, I was really, really nervous about Tuesday’s show with Carol Ross and The Ross Report on KPEL-FM in Lafayette, Louisiana, particularly with Whitmer’s show fresh on my mind.

But for whatever reason, I got my mojo back in about two minutes with Carol and it was an outstanding pick-me-up. Maybe it’s because I knew she was prepared for the show: she had actually read my RAF website and the sample chapter, then bought the book. So she had questions about the book I could answer and we had a wonderful HOUR. (I was expecting more like two segments.) Of course, the ONE SHOW where they couldn’t get me a podcast was that one. Complete bummer, because we had a great conversation.

With that conversation out of the way, I felt much more at ease going into Wednesday’s talk with Gail Fallen and “Mornings with Gail” on KFKA-AM in Greeley. Colorado. And Gail was actually rather funny; as you can tell we had a lot of laughs. I come on at the 17:25 mark, although getting to listen to the whole hour meant I could get the promos too.

(Now about that train reference: I work within 40 yards of an active railroad siding. A train comes by, usually twice a day, and this one just so happened to be coming past and blaring its horn just as I went on air. I was sure they could hear it on the other end!)

One thing that impressed me about Gail is how she used the information with which I provided her. In doing this media blitz, I have created a press kit of sorts and she certainly reviewed it before I came on – and this was one of the more quickly-arranged stops on the tour. But I came off that one on a Rocky Mountain high because it was an enjoyable experience.

So I was still in a pretty good way come Friday, which I knew was going to be interesting as I piled three shows on top of one another. The latter two were scheduled just last week, but my first stop was on a station I remembered from my days at Miami University, 55KRC in Cincinnati. (More formally, WKRC-AM, but they have gone by 55KRC based on their 550 frequency for decades; even before the similarly-named sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati made its debut.)

After the hour I spent with Carol Ross a few days earlier, my chat with Brian Thomas was my best conversation of the week. It had good flow, I got most of my points across, and it was obvious he was nicely prepared – in fact, he links to my website from his website, too. This meant I didn’t need to spend precious moments pushing it myself. I think it was because Brian’s interview was planned well in advance – I seem to recall we set the date back in late June when I reached out to stations in the Midwest. (There’s another Ohio station I was supposed to be set up with, but somehow that’s fallen through for the moment.)

And I could relate very well to Brian’s embarrassment about John Kasich – how many of us have backed a candidate we swore up and down would be conservative because he or she talked the talk, only to find out their walk was a headlong run to embrace the Left?

Later that afternoon I returned to Wichita, Kansas to do a show called “The Voice of Reason” on KQAM-AM with host Andy Hooser. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a podcast on it.

Unlike Brian’s, this was a spot which was arranged rather quickly – Andy reached out to me on Wednesday and originally wanted to do Thursday, but I like to have a couple days to prepare so Friday it was. Initially I thought Andy’s show was on a group of stations, but in looking deeper into it I found it’s just on the one in Wichita. (From what I gather it recently became a midday show, too, moving out of a morning slot.)

I think it was an okay performance on my part from what I recall, although I remember more of pacing around my back yard – with two dogs sleeping in the house and a plumber who had fortunately had finished up just before I started, my mind wasn’t completely on his show. For some reason I don’t get the comfort level at home that I do when I’m on radio shows from my workplace – aside from the random train it’s normally pretty quiet there and I know the boss is cool with it (I just stay late to make up the time.)

And that carried over to my last radio show on Friday, reaching across to the Left Coast to be on The Trevor Carey Show on KALZ-FM and KRZR-AM out of Fresno, California. (I come in around the 21:30 mark, after a lengthy discussion of immigration raids and such.)

It took me awhile to get my bearings with Trevor, but toward the end I thought I made several good points, especially the mission field comments. Trevor definitely has some good bumper music, too.

And I get the impression from the advertising and rhetorical style that Trevor is looking for a younger audience, which fits well with what I’m looking for, too. People of my generation aren’t going to make a lasting change as much as those of a younger age can be taught in the way they need to go.

So this was an unprecedented week, one which may not be repeated anytime soon: I still have a number of leads out there as well as one show slated for Tuesday, but this week was probably the peak of on-air encounters. I’ll keep plugging away to spread the word, though.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: June 2019

So far it’s been a memorable season for Shorebird fans. Who would have thought that, by the end of June, they would have won more games (57) in their first 80 games then they won in an entire season from 2011 to 2013, and already punched their postseason ticket?

There have also been some great performances, with two players and two pitchers previously being rewarded as Shorebirds of the Month. This month we make it three straight with a new pair; in this case they are a pair of holdovers from last season (but first-time winners.)

For Cadyn Grenier, Delmarva is the only pro team he’s ever known. Plucked out of 2018 NCAA champion Oregon State’s lineup with the “Competitive Balance A” pick (37th overall), the former Oriole regime decided to pre-emptively advance Cadyn past Aberdeen and onward to Delmarva. His July 2018 debut was highly anticipated, but for a player known as a great-fielding shortstop in college, neither the fielding (10 errors and a .939 fielding percentage in 39 games) nor batting numbers (.216/1/13/.630 OPS in 43 games) were enough for Grenier not to repeat here for 2019.

Cadyn, who was initially drafted out of a Las Vegas high school by the Cardinals in 2015 before heading to OSU, now shares time at shortstop with fellow prospect Adam Hall, with the odd man out usually playing second base. And it looked for a time like that transition wasn’t going to work well for him, but Grenier has slowly picked up the pace: a .229 mark through April had edged up close to .260 by June’s end thanks to a .278/3/11/.832 OPS month that was good enough to win him Shorebird of the Month honors. Cadyn hit in 16 of 17 games at one point and that’s bound to increase the average.

The test will be in the next couple months, as the now-22 year old wore down a bit at the tail end of last season – however, given the fact Grenier now has a full season under his belt one would think he’s a bit more accustomed to the routine. Another question is whether the Orioles will keep him here to participate in playoff baseball – it’s a spot where the CWS experience may come in handy but the case could also be made that, since he’s already won a College World Series, Cadyn needs to compete against a higher level after a full season at A ball.

And speaking of Adam Hall, for the third month in a row he was right there in the mix for position player of the month in what really became a two-person race once Will Robertson was promoted. Had he not missed a few games with a family issue, Hall may have taken the award.

On the pitching side, this month’s honoree has overcome a mid-season demotion last year to step up his game at this level in 2019.

Gray Fenter was placed here to start last season but never really got untracked, allowing runs in his first seven appearances and 10 of 13 overall before being demoted to Aberdeen once their season began. The numbers weren’t stellar but certainly good enough to give him another bite of the apple this season, and Fenter began June by pitching his first 13 2/3 innings as shutout ball, finally yielding a single run on June 30. He wrapped June with a 2-0 record, 0.59 ERA, and 0.72 WHIP for the month.

Fenter’s been in the system awhile as he was the 7th round selection out of West Memphis High School in Arkansas back in 2015. He turned in a nice 2015 GCL season and would probably have been ticketed for Aberdeen to close the 2016 season, but missed the entire campaign due to TJ surgery. Basically Gray had to start all over in 2017, repeating the GCL except for one forgettable Aberdeen appearance. Perhaps the intention was to demote Fenter all along last season, but his mediocre performance here didn’t change anyone’s mind off that idea.

He has been very successful this season as part of a tag team with May pitcher of the month Drew Rom, but at some point those training wheels have to come off. Fenter has pitched seven innings once in his career, doing so last season in a start for Aberdeen; his longest appearance this season was six innings in a doubleheader start against Augusta. (Both were shutouts, by the way.) So he has the ability, just has to develop consistency.

This month was a tight contest between Fenter and starter Nick Vespi, who turned in his own outstanding month (and arguably deserves the honor based on slightly lesser numbers but several more innings pitched.) But the head-to-head favored Fenter so I went with him.

Since this is the post for Independence Day, I hope you have a happy one! And in case you’re wondering, the Shorebird of the Week has never taken a break for the July 4 holiday, although the leap year calendar has meant the concurrence has only come once: pitcher Matt Taylor was that fortunate honoree back in 2013. (Maybe that was his career peak: the lefty never made it past Frederick in two subsequent seasons.) I suspect we may do better with at least one of these two monthly honorees.

Weekend of local rock volume 75

While I have seen live acts here and there over the last several months, I didn’t feel like I had enough of a flavor to write a quality WLR post. I like to catch a good selection of songs that have my attention, so seeing a band in passing, such as at a couple recent Third Fridays, doesn’t really make the cut.

My intention last Friday was to arrive early enough to catch the back half of The Permilla Project as they opened up for the Paul Reed Smith Band. Unfortunately we finally made it there just as TPP was concluding their set, so we heard it – and they sounded really good – but we didn’t see it.

What that meant was we had to endure a (thankfully short) changeover which featured the tunes (and I use the word loosely) dished out by a DJ team that had two strikes against it: one, they were playing a horrible mix of music and, two, they had the most obnoxious ID loop that they played all too frequently. Look, I know you want people to know who you are but I really don’t need to hear it about every 60-90 seconds. And don’t try to come off all ghetto when we can see you’re a couple white guys.

If it’s cultural appropriation you want, done well, then you should have come to see the band. Then again, is it appropriation when the party is evenly split between races and the female lead singer is balanced out by the older white guy namesake of the band?

I used this photo as the tease the other night, but this is most of the Paul Reed Smith Band at our downtown amphitheater.

There’s no doubt PRS crafts a fine guitar, or so I am told, but he can certainly play the instrument, too. And the best part was that he looked and sounded like he was having a lot of fun. This wasn’t just a gig he was doing as stop 23 on a 40-city tour.

I’m what you would consider a recovering ’80’s hair metal fan, and although my musical horizons have been expanded quite a bit by doing four-plus years of record reviews, I still love my blues-based music. PRS had a heaping helping thanks to the good rhythm section provided by the Grainger brothers. (Besides PRS and the Graingers, the rest of the band is Michael Ault and Bill Nelson on guitars, and Mia Samone as the lead singer you just can’t miss – and not because of her electric-blue hair.)

Unlike a lot of other bands which play local events, the PRS band stayed away from doing cover songs – one exception was a long, drawn-out version of B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone – and instead played a variety of original songs. Presumably these came from the two albums PRS has put together over the years, 2011’s self-titled release and 2017’s Time To Testify.

(Interesting note in looking up the band’s history: they are a very big hit in China, of all places. I never thought of China as a nation that liked American blues, but it goes to show that music is a global language.)

Yet the beauty of the band came in how restrained the leader was. Obviously everyone knows there’s a virtuoso-grade guitar player on stage, and certainly he played an outstanding lead guitar where needed. But to his credit PRS didn’t make the music about him, which is probably why the band seemed to work together very well. As they are not a constantly touring band, I think that keeps them more fresh when they do play out.

A closer view of the Paul Reed Smith Band playing at last weekend’s Downtown Salisbury Festival. Worth checking out if you’re in the area.

I’m certain that the PRS band sent the folks hope happy – and not just because they were giving away copies of their CD’s to some lucky fans. I suspect they may be back for another event in the coming months because they probably gained quite a few fans in Salisbury.

Thoughts on the Downtown Salisbury Festival 2019

It used to be one of three events I looked forward to; the trio of spring harbingers which came and went each April: opening night for the Shorebirds, Pork in the Park, and the Salisbury Festival to wrap up the month. Regarding the latter two, I made it to most of those over the last decade of their runs, missing a few because of prior engagements but generally having a good time. Pork in the Park came to an inglorious end a couple years ago when the county decided to focus its efforts on other events.

By that same token, after its 2015 rendition the Salisbury Festival went on hiatus, or in the description of the new incarnation, the concept was “retired.” In its place last year, moved back on the calendar to a new early June timeframe, was the newly-rechristened Downtown Salisbury Festival. Unfortunately, the 2018 event was marred by the same rainy weather which seemed to dog us every weekend last year.

While I attended last year’s event on Saturday, with the vendors strung along a couple blocks of East Main Street, this year our one opportunity to show up was Friday night. And thanks to construction along East Main Street as well as the completion last summer of the riverside amphitheater, the venue was set up a lot differently.

Instead of their traditional placement in Lot 10 or closer to the library, this time the rides were placed across the river from the amphitheater. To me that made things more festive.

The food court pretty much stayed where it has always been, and the selection wasn’t too bad. (We decided on dinner at a different venue, though. *Read to the end for a mini restaurant review.)

Some of the selections in the food court. It used to be just booths and tents – for many years the Wicomico County Republican Club was a staple there selling hamburgers and hotdogs right off the grill – but now it’s a fair number of food trucks, too.
More of the food court. It was a cloudy but not overly hot Friday night, so I thought the crowd was a little on the modest side.

I would have thought there would be a few more people down there, although the threat of rain may have dampened things a tad bit.

But because I was there on Friday night, all of the action was centered around the riverwalk. It made for a nice overall photo from the pedestrian bridge.

Looking eastward from the pedestrian bridge toward the amphitheater. This was the crowd as The Permilla Project was wrapping up.

In years past, I remember going to the old Salisbury Festival a couple of times on a Friday night and this was where the musical stage was set for that particular party. Now that’s become the main stage as opposed to using the steps of the Government Office Building or the makeshift space in the Plaza. So I gotta hand it to the city: the amphitheater is truly a nice venue to watch this size of show. There were probably 200-300 people there – maybe more – but it didn’t seem overly crowded at all. It probably could have (and should have given the talent level of the performers) held twice or thrice that many just fine.

So the question I have for anyone who read this and remembers last year: were there the same number and quality of vendors on Saturday? I missed it this year because of a previous engagement, but I thought it was misleading that the maps showed vendors but didn’t point out they were only there on Saturday (and maybe Sunday, although that was pretty much a washout.) In that respect, though, they really haven’t departed from the Salisbury Festival tradition – all they have done is moved the venue out of the Plaza and over to the riverfront. I suppose this works well for making it different from Third Friday.

Still I think the June date is a bit problematic. I’m not sure what the target market is for this event, but at least this year they picked a weekend that wasn’t crowded by high school graduations. On the other hand, we are also into beach time as well as vacations for the family. While the weather wasn’t as cooperative, I think as a regional event this always worked better in late April. If the idea is a little bit lower-key event, then June is okay.

The DSF wasn’t hurting for sponsors, at least. But there are a number of charitable and government entities here as opposed to local businesses. That’s why I wish I knew what vendor turnout was like.

I’m not done with the posts on this, though. Most of the reason I stuck around was to bring back a series dormant for too long. Here’s a hint.

Headlining Friday night was the Paul Reed Smith band. This weekend will feature a brand new edition of Weekend of Local Rock. Yeah, it’s been awhile!

Once they get through with remaking downtown perhaps this festival will get back to its peak, just like the Salisbury Festival did in the mid-aughts. (They had some great local bands there, to be sure.) I know a lot of the air gets sucked out of the lower-tier events because the city of Salisbury is concentrating on the National Folk Festival and its post-2020 successor but this is one worth fighting for if they can make a few tweaks.

*Oh, and by the way: I almost hate to say this because we literally pretty much had the run of the place by the time we left, but if you want to try something good, the new Salisbury Pit n’ Pub was excellent. It’s right by the old Monkey Barrel (site of several renditions of WLR) across from SU. We actually ate at the 28th Street OC location on a church couples’ retreat over last winter so we were glad to see one opened here. It definitely made me miss Pork in the Park.

Hogan takes a pass…on 2020

It’s no surprise that Larry Hogan, the now term-limited governor of our fair state of Maryland, decided to disappoint the #NeverTrump whisperers in the moderate wing of the Republican Party and skip his chance at being cannon fodder for Donald Trump on The Donald’s way to the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. As CNN put it:

“I truly appreciate all of the encouragement I received from people around the nation urging me to consider making a run for President in 2020,” Hogan tweeted Saturday. “However, I will not be a candidate.”

Hogan said that he would instead focus on his second term as governor and his upcoming role chairing the National Governors Association.

“That work is important, and I believe both of those roles will give me the opportunity to make an impact on the direction of my party and our nation,” he added.

“Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says he won’t challenge Trump in 2020,” Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN, June 1, 2019.

I’m sure Larry won’t be voting for Trump next year given our governor’s track record, and truth be told he’ll have the advantage of a fairly dull campaign year in 2020. Barring a heretofore unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate, there are no statewide races on the 2020 docket, and aside from the possibility of a spirited race in a redrawn Sixth Congressional District, the House races will likely be decided in their respective primaries. So Larry won’t have to demean himself by campaigning for any of those icky conservatives – not that he has much in the way of practice.

However, Larry has established an eerie parallel to his abortive 2010 campaign for governor; a campaign that barely got out of the starting block before he pulled the plug, deferring to his old boss Bob Ehrlich. Out of that came Hogan’s Change Maryland organization, which served as a foil to the governorship of Martin O’Malley and paved the way to Hogan’s 2014 victory – a victory he gloats about.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is not a career politician. He spent nearly his entire career as a small businessman. Fed up with high taxes, politics as usual, and decades of a one-party monopoly, he started Change Maryland, the largest non-partisan grassroots citizen organization in state history. In 2014, out-numbered in party registration by more than 2-1, and outspent by more than 5-1, Governor Hogan pulled off the biggest upset in America to become only the second Republican Governor elected in Maryland in 50 years.

Governor Hogan quickly got to work and set an example for the nation, accomplishing what many believed was no longer possible: reaching across the aisle, and working together to achieve real bipartisan, common sense solutions.

As Hogan was taking the hard pass on a 2020 run, he traveled a familiar road in setting up an organization primarily dedicated to keeping his name in the limelight. Dubbed An America United, Hogan is obviously setting this group up to prepare for a centrist run for the GOP nod in 2024 – basically the same lane John Kasich had in 2016 and held prior to that by guys like John McCain and Jon Huntsman. When most of the news glowingly featured on the site comes from the Washington Post, New York Times, or CNN – the farthest right source of his front-page news is the now-defunct home of #NeverTrump establishment Republicans The Weekly Standard – it’s a pretty safe bet that the group is not going to venture too far right of center.

Naturally the group has its goals, expressed in the standard bromides about “bipartisan, common-sense solutions to create more and better jobs, cut taxes, protect the environment, build our infrastructure, and improve education.” Unfortunately, based on his record in Maryland, what he considers “common sense” is just slowing the long-standing drift away from the ideals that made the nation great. After all, he turned his back on creating jobs in the energy industry (private-sector jobs), squandered opportunities to cut taxes further by asking for ever-larger budgets, and contracted the Democrat disease of believing that to “improve education” is to spend much more money on it rather than allowing the billions that’s already there to follow the child.

In 2024 the nation will be in a quandary: either facing an uncertain political future after eight years of Donald Trump or dealing with the backsliding which will be occurring should one of those in the Democrat “clown limousine” be running for re-election. I honestly suspect that’s what Larry is hoping for, knowing that only once in the last 90 years has a Republican president been elected to succeed a fellow Republican (Bush 41 after Reagan.) John McCain in 2008, Gerald Ford – who served as President but was never elected in his own right – in 1976, and Richard Nixon in 1960 were the last three to try, but you have to go back to Herbert Hoover winning in 1928 after Calvin Coolidge chose not to run to find the previous example before the late George H.W. Bush.

(However, the string is even longer for Democrats: the last time a Democrat succeeded a Democrat, aside from death in office, was 1856 as James Buchanan served one term after fellow one-termer Franklin Pierce. To tell you how long ago that was, Pierce in 1852 succeeded the last Whig to be President, Millard Fillmore. Your Presidential tidbit.)

So don’t think Larry is uninterested in the 2020 race. He’s just choosing to bide his time, perhaps believing that America electing a far-left President will allow him to escape the crocodile that will call any Republican “extremist.” But I have news for Larry: even if he became a “blue dog” Democrat to run, he would still be on the menu regardless.

A return to Troopathon

A Memorial Day weekend tradition of mine that’s sadly missed is the Concert for a Random Soldier, which for many years featured a late, lamented friend of mine and her husband as part of the band Semiblind and oftentimes double duty as they also played as an acoustic duo called Dog and Butterfly.

With that event’s demise due to issues with the venue, I thought this could fill the bill as somewhat appropriate for Memorial Day weekend.

It was back in 2008 that I became aware of an event designed to help the morale of our armed forces fighting overseas. And since the event was patterned after the longtime successful Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethons for muscular dystrophy, it was called Troopathon.

Despite a struggling economy, a presidential election where our foreign policy was a key source of debate, and a general weariness of overseas fighting against the irregular forces of radical Islam, the first Troopathon was a huge success, bringing in well over a million dollars that purchased care packages for these overseas trips. It was such a success that they did it again the next year despite the change in administration and shift to a more inward-looking foreign policy. Once again they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for these care packages.

Over the next few years, they took advantage of coverage from websites like mine to use them as conduits for contributions. For awhile I had a badge on my site telling readers I was a part (small, but nonetheless a part) of a silver-medal winning blog team led by the Hot Air website. I brought it back for a cameo, as you can see below.

Back in the day.

But as the years went by the Troopathon concept became a more modest one. Goals which were once lofty such as $500,000 dissolved to $300,000 and the withdrawal of most of our Iraqi troops allowed people to place this event out of sight and out of mind. Even I pretty much stopped covering this after the 2014 session, as bloggers raised a paltry $600 combined. The last time I mentioned Troopathon was three years ago, when I sheepishly realized I missed the event.

So I was happy to see that Move America Forward (MAF) was still plugging away with trying to support the troops through the one-night telethon, which is scheduled this year for June 28. Instead of having it at a presidential library, as has often been the case over the years, Troopathon 12 will be broadcast from the studios of Newsmax TV, which has partnered with MAF to broadcast their event to cable, making it available in over 60 million households. This year it should eclipse the $6 million mark in total donations.

It’s also interesting to me to ponder if there’s a local angle to this. In the Salisbury area we have an organization called Operation We Care, which also packs troop care packages – about 2,000 a year, according to their website. I suspect these are two separate organizations, but perhaps they could figure out a way to join forces, even if the Operation We Care volunteers do the packaging of the care packages for which Troopathon raised the money.

It turns out that several young men my family knows are in the military now, with at least one or two deployed overseas (although not necessarily in a “hot” theater of operations.) While they (and all other military recruits) are promised long-term benefits for sacrificing their time and efforts in the short-term, it’s good to see people still care enough to back these groups.

While I’d love to see the need for a Troopathon eliminated because our nation has peace through strength, we’re nowhere close to a pax Americana at the moment. Thus, our troops are worth supporting whether it’s through Troopathon or by Operation We Care.

Losing the middle class

Most of my readers know that, after months of speculation as to his fate, former Delaware Senator and Vice-President Joe Biden entered the 2020 tournament for the Democratic presidential nomination a couple weeks back.

I had the opportunity to find this out a little in advance as I’ve been on his American Possibilities e-mail list for awhile. Of course, that’s morphed into the Biden 2020 mailing list so now I get regular missives from him on a variety of topics. Most of them I ignore, but this one begged for a counterpoint. I’ll pick it up after the formalities and omit the appeals for money as I go point-by-point. He’ll be in italics and I’ll be in regular font since it works better than a blockquote.

Michael, this country wasn’t built by bankers, CEOs, or hedge fund managers. This country was built by the American middle class.

It’s nice that you know my name, Joe, and in many respects you are correct. But most “bankers, CEOs, or hedge fund managers” were once members of the middle class – they just used hard work, talent, and aptitude to rise above the rabble that may not have had those same priorities, abilities, or desire to succeed. And the country needs ditch-diggers, too: there’s no shame in hard work. America was built by this team effort.

But today, the middle class is under attack, and too many families are being left out. They are working longer hours for less pay.

That’s why I’m calling for a $15 minimum wage — so we can build an economy where everyone has a chance to get ahead. (Emphasis in original.)

An hour is really still 60 minutes, but I get the point. But it seemed to me that median wages were increasing faster than inflation was since your successor took office, and government figures bear me out. They also prove that the Trump administration is succeeding much better than your old boss in addressing the situation.

I’ll grant the numbers come in at the tail end of the Great Recession (on the cited chart they begin in 2010) but in constant dollars the time period from 2010-2016 saw a net increase of just $5 a week during that six-year period. Moreover, while women’s earnings increased $10, men’s earnings actually declined $2 a week in constant dollars (based on 1982-84.)

Conversely, under Trump men have increased by a full $10 in nine quarters and women are up $2. Overall, the numbers are up $6 despite a hiccup at the end of 2017 that saw a sharp decrease in all categories. In 2018-19 men are up $11 a week, women $4 a week, and overall we have gained $10 a week. (Remember, that’s in 1980’s-vintage constant dollars. In actual 2018-19 terms the numbers since the end of 2017 are $51 a week for men, $29 for women, and $44 overall. A full $20 of that overall figure came upon the enactment of the Trump tax cuts between 2017Q4 and 2018Q1.)

Given that the average wage is now $23.31 an hour (and has risen about $1.50 since Trump came into office): I think the middle class is doing pretty well in this economy. But let’s soldier on:

And Michael, I’m asking you to stand with me on this, Sign your name to call for an increase of the national minimum wage to $15:

No, you’re standing by yourself on this one, Joe. Aren’t I already on your mailing list anyway? (By the way, that was originally a link to the money page.)

The middle class isn’t a number — it’s a set of values. Owning your own home. Sending your kids to college. Taking care of your geriatric parents.

The cost of all of these things is rising. And wages? Those aren’t.

We need to fix that. (Emphasis in original.)

Didn’t I just prove that wages were rising? Surely not everyone has an equal bump in pay, but as a whole they are.

And let’s talk about these milestones, shall we? One huge issue for the Millennials is the student loan debt they carry thanks to a society (aided by government regulatory policies at all levels) which requires a college degree for most of the desirable jobs. But not every degree is created equal; hence you get the proverbial womyn’s history majors working part-time as a barista at Starbucks while many engineering majors make serious coin. (Moreover, a large percentage of STEM majors are foreign students – look at a list of graduates from any engineering program and you won’t see a lot of common American names.)

And why is college so expensive in the first place? Conveniently, this chart happens to go back to my senior year of college and is in constant 2015-16 dollars – so you can see how the cost has grown so much faster than inflation. It’s been almost twenty years since I set foot on the campus of my alma mater but even in that fifteen years between graduation and my last visit there was a LOT of building on that campus – mainly in the category of student amenities such as a recreation center and complete renovation of the student center. Yeah, there were a couple new academic buildings (and they were gutting and expanding the architecture department building at the time) as well but that’s not what really attracts the kids.

Add to that the multitude (as in growing at a rate twice as fast as student enrollment) of new administrators – who surely receive an upper-middle-class salary and benefit package – and you have the beginning of a rampant increase in costs.

But the kicker was finalized by your old boss. Once the government shifted from guaranteeing loans – a practice for which the modern incarnation began in the early 1990s as a pilot program under Bush 41 – to becoming the sole provider in 2010 as a codicil to the Obamacare act, schools had no incentive to keep costs in line – why not dip your greedy mitts into that sweet manna of taxpayer dollars and keep everyone working on campus fat and happy? They had their money, so who cared if the government didn’t get theirs? That was on the student!

So the graduates (if they finished at all) have no money for a house, which is why many millions still live at home. And since their Boomer parents seldom put enough away (perhaps because they’re still supporting Johnny and Sally) for retirement and old age – believing Social Security and Medicare would somehow be enough to cushion their lavish lifestyles – those Boomers and their kids got a rude awakening when it was time for long-term care: Medicare doesn’t cover it and Medicaid will help itself to your estate for reimbursement.

Maybe it’s time to reconsider how much the government has already “fixed” for the middle class here? And don’t worry, I didn’t forget about ol’ “Creepy Joe.” Here he is again:

We need to restore the basic bargain for Americans so that if you work hard, you are able to share in the prosperity your work helped create.

To do this, we need to start with paying fair wages from the beginning.

Joe, did you forget that the true minimum wage is zero? Chances are, if you work hard and learn the skills needed to succeed in the workplace, you won’t be a minimum-wage worker for long. Yes, you may have to relocate or do tasks you might think are “beneath” you, but there are still paths to success in America – even in states where the minimum wage is set to the federal minimum.

Honestly, if we wanted “fair” wages we would have no minimum wage. That would be the ultimate in fairness as you are paid what you are worth to the employer. Don’t forget: employers aren’t there to give you a job, they are working to make a profit for themselves. If that doesn’t suit you, there are many opportunities to be your own boss – be cautioned, though, that there’s a much smaller safety net underneath you. But you would definitely “share in the prosperity your work helped create.”

I’m asking you to speak up, with me, and call for a raise of the national minimum wage, as the first step of many to have the back of American workers.

I told you no once, Joe. Get the government off the back of American workers.

This is just the first step. I look forward to sharing more about my plan for America in the future. Stay tuned.

Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of. When your plan consists of rightsizing government to conform to the Constitution – that would be a good first step. Until then, you’re just a guy who’s lived on the taxpayer dime for way too long.

You know, Joe, I was only six years old when you were first elected, and in that interim time I’ve worked in the private sector for thirty years or so. (For about fifteen of those I was paying off student loans – and that was only for about $10,000, plus scads of interest.) You made it all the way to vice-president, and I’ll give you props for dealing with the tragedies in your life. But arguably you have less in common with a working man than Donald Trump does, even though you talk a good game and he’s a billionaire or whatever. Trump took risks and had spectacular failures but he’s signed the front of checks for thousands of employees, too.

And comparing his economic record to that of your former boss – well, I don’t think there are too many who want to go back to that malaise. I know I don’t.

I don’t know what your domestic situation is, but I would be curious: what do you pay your hired help? Hopefully it was more than your charity giving once was.

Anyway, it was nice talking to you, Joe. Good luck in the debates – you’ll need it.

Destroying a national party, too

The moment Martin O’Malley ducked the TEA Party wave in 2010 and won re-election – in no small part thanks to a rematch of the 2006 race for Maryland governor against the moderate Bob Ehrlich – the conventional wisdom knew MOM was pointing toward a 2016 race for the White House. So in term number two O’Malley worked on burnishing his far-left credentials for a national run, getting gay marriage and in-state tuition for illegal aliens passed in the General Assembly and leading enough to see repeal efforts for both fail at the ballot box. The state was also on the receiving end of an offshore wind boondoggle O’Malley pushed through the Maryland General Assembly, making it certain he was checking all the progressive boxes for a 2016 Presidential bid. Even the prospect of an all but gift-wrapped U.S. Senate seat thanks to the impending retirement of longtime Senator Barb Mikulski couldn’t deter O’Malley from his goal.

But a funny thing happened to Martin in 2014: the conventional wisdom that he would be a witness to Maryland history by being the first governor to have his lieutenant governor succeed him – as a bonus, checking off another Democrat box by making Anthony Brown Maryland’s first black governor – was tossed out the window when Republican Larry Hogan took three years of constant criticism of MOM’s tax-and-spend record via the Change Maryland organization and parlayed it into his election as Maryland’s 62nd governor. Granted, Anthony Brown ran a campaign as uninspiring as his name, but the criticism of O’Malley’s record was so fierce – and the national Democrat skids so greased for Hillary Clinton – that O’Malley was barely a cipher in the 2016 race for the White House. And even with every Democrat and his or her brother or sister jumping into the 2020 race for the Oval Office, MOM has already taken a pass on it.

On the other hand, Larry Hogan came into office with a broad fiscally conservative agenda. To the extent he could lower tolls and redirect transportation money away from the black hole of Baltimore’s Red Line and toward actual fixing of highways, Hogan was a hero to Republicans. But over time he lost conservative support by compromising too much on items like the hated Phosphorus Management Tool, being squishy at best on the Second Amendment (a sore issue for 2A backers thanks to another MOM initiative, the so-called Firearm Safety Act), reneging on a pledge to overturn an O’Malley fracking ban, and flip-flopping on retaining the Roger Taney statue that once stood at the State House until being removed in the dead of night, among many other reasons.

Yet despite the loss of conservative support, Hogan was all but assured re-election when a plurality of Democrats chose onetime NAACP head Ben Jealous from a crowded primary field to oppose him in 2018. Hogan had already dodged his first bullet when Congressman John Delaney declined a bid for governor (or a surefire re-election to Congress) for a quixotic Presidential run – announcing his intentions in mid-2017 when absolutely no one save hardcore political junkies was paying attention – so the far-left loonies sticking together and selecting Jealous for 2018 was the break Hogan needed to secure perhaps even 1/3 of the Democrat vote to go with his 90-plus percent of Republicans and well over half of independents.

But you would think that, with a comfortable 11-point victory, the Hogan coattails would be quite long. Instead, his were tucked in because Republicans lost a net of seven seats in the General Assembly. While their ranks in the Senate swelled a slight bit from 14 to 15, it was far short of the ballyhooed “drive for five” the Maryland GOP sought to give Hogan veto protection. Meanwhile, the House elections were a disaster as the GOP ranks plunged from 50 to 42, with the carnage particularly severe in suburban areas around Annapolis and Baltimore. Several good Delegates were shown the door thanks to the additional Democrat turnout, as those voters only circled one GOP oval for Hogan. This trend also doomed the already uphill battles of good Republican candidates for U.S. Senate and Attorney General (Tony Campbell and Craig Wolf, respectively) who Hogan rarely failed to ignore on his campaign trail.

This was nothing new for Hogan, though. A vocal critic and opponent of the Trump administration, Larry famously admitted writing in his dad’s name for President in 2016 instead of voting for the GOP nominee. But even as Trump has proven to be something of a miracle worker on the economy and not been the disaster feared by many on other fronts, Hogan hasn’t been a cheerleader. While the signs of a 2020 Presidential run weren’t as blatantly obvious, certainly there are some out there who knew Hogan either already had a bigger position in mind or could be swayed into making a bid based on the theory that he’s a compromising, work-across-the-aisle-for-the-common-good governor in a blue state. After all, he already had the SuperPAC.

It’s been a couple weeks now, but as a headliner for a New Hampshire event considered a ritual for presidential wannabes, Hogan said the following.

“Here in New Hampshire, for example, they like to be independent, they like to look at the candidates and kick the tires and meet people one-on-one. I’m pretty good at retail politics. That’s how I won my state with no money,” Hogan said during a subsequent news conference with reporters, prior to heading to the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper for an editorial board interview and meeting with the publisher.

“There are, I think, 23 states that have open primaries of one sort or another, so independents and Democrats can cross over and vote,” he said.

“Larry Hogan edges toward 2020 challenge to Trump: ‘I’m taking it more seriously'”, David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, April 23, 2019.

To win the Republican nomination it appears Hogan is counting on non-Republican votes. Sound familiar? It should, since in early 2016 there was always the question of how many Democrats were trying for their own “Operation Chaos” by voting for Trump in open-primary states, knowing that they would vote in November for Hillary Clinton.

Hogan’s New Hampshire appearance drew scads of local interest in both Maryland and the Granite State, as one may expect. But did it bear fruit?

Last week we found out a little bit. A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll drew the most attention for placing Joe Biden atop the Democrat field in one of the first major polls since he declared (more on Biden in an upcoming post), but it also surveyed the GOP race as a somewhat hypothetical one between President Trump and three governors (two former, one current): Hogan, 2016 GOP also-ran John Kasich of Ohio, and 2016 Libertarian VP candidate William Weld, a long-ago governor of Massachusetts.

In the poll, which sampled nearly 400 New Hampshire Republicans, Hogan was dead last in the GOP field with exactly 1 vote, which translated to 0.2%. The good news is that he beat two Democrats: another current governor, Jay Inslee, and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel since both had zero. The bad news: two guys who aren’t even in the race yet (Montana governor Steve Bullock and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio) are either tied (de Blasio) or ahead of Hogan. Then again, Larry hasn’t formally declared either and may not until later this year when it’s time to get on primary ballots.

Speaking before that New Hampshire audience, Hogan “called for the Republican Party to appeal to a broader base, operate with civility and govern by consensus.” As the WaPo noted, “The audience included some activists who are thirsting for an intraparty fight.” In and of itself, I really don’t mind a primary fight that much – Trump can take care of himself. But if those were my four choices – well, that primary ballot would be left blank.

And if Hogan is, by some reverse miracle, the Republican nominee that becomes President, it may be the best thing ever for the third-party movement because the Republican Party would be no more. Conservatives would revolt, especially if the Democrats captured the Senate and kept the House, because Larry would be rolled on a national stage even worse than he is in Maryland. Of course, that would be huge for Democrats as their opposition is splintered and they would take the opportunity to consolidate power even further, using the fig leaf of bipartisanship at the times when they needed it.

Granted, the odds of an insurgent campaign defeating an incumbent from a party are quite small: it was last tried on the GOP side by Pat Buchanan in 1992 and Democrat Ted Kennedy made a bid in 1980. While neither came close to succeeding, it can be argued they weakened the incumbent enough to ensure his defeat later on in the general election.

If that’s Larry Hogan’s aim in running for President in 2020, he may as well go ahead and change his affiliation to unaffiliated. (He could still run as a Republican just like Bernie Sanders runs as a Democrat.) As I’m a principle over party guy, I think Larry’s lack of principles and unwillingness to stand up to the far-left opposition in Maryland place him squarely in the unaffiliated camp anyway.

Odds and ends number 93

There’s been a lot piling up in my e-mail box as I prepared The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, so now that I have that wrapped up I can move on to a few long-overdue things, like this one. As always, it’s things I can speak to in a couple sentences to a few paragraphs, wrapped up in a rhetorical bow.

On the Maryland front

I’ve received a number of items from my old friends at the Maryland Public Policy Institute but these few stuck out at me. First was Marta Mossburg’s assessment of our governor’s Presidential election chances:

If Gov. Larry Hogan decides to challenge Donald Trump for the presidency, he will lose before stepping into the ring.

A man who in the State of the State and at his second inauguration tried to out Roger Mr. Rogers with calls for bipartisanship has no chance outside the small neighborhood of Maryland. Anyone with an R beside their name is evil to those on the progressive left throughout the nation even if they never don a MAGA hat. And what in his record will speak to the national Republican base so loudly they would be willing to dump Mr. Trump for him?

“I lowered tolls!” isn’t a rallying cry to stir the masses. Neither is “I stopped Democrat overreach!” And “I supported the most expensive public transportation project in the world” won’t win him an invitation to break bread with wealthy Republican donors who want to shrink government.

“Maryland needs to win for Gov. Hogan to win higher office”, MPPI blog, February 5, 2019.

Not to mention we already have a socially-liberal #NeverTrump in the running for losing the GOP nomination. But the point remains: Donald Trump, for all his faults, is probably more conservative than Larry Hogan is. A conservative Larry Hogan would veto practically everything the Maryland General Assembly passes (instead of caving in to some of their worst proposals) because how often do they even consider his sponsored bills? Add to that the fact that Trump will actually campaign for conservatives (unlike what happened to a certain Maryland U.S. Senate candidate last time around) and the thought that Hogan would be wise to concentrate on Maryland makes more sense.

And if that wasn’t enough, MPPI scored big with their assessment of Maryland’s spending problem and long-standing alternatives to a job-killing $15 per hour minimum wage.

A fast-growing industry

Speaking of Governor Hogan and caving in: despite Maryland’s foolish refusal to get in on the game, extraction is the nation’s fastest-growing industry. But even Andy Harris has been reluctant to advocate for offshore drilling despite its potential benefits, as this op-ed suggests. As I often say, the reason environmentalists oppose seismic testing isn’t the harm to creatures but is truly that of what we may find is out there now that testing methods have improved over those of 30 years ago.

On the other hand, those trying to kill industry in the country are hard at work trying to fool people. Two cases in point come from the Capital Research Center, which posted a couple good pieces on union influence in politics these days in left-leaning states as well as the federal government. But if you really want to take the cake, just listen to what Slow Joe Biden said a few days ago:

It’s time we told the truth about what unions have really done for America.

With the dues they paid, the picket lines they walked, the negotiations they sweated through, those union workers weren’t just standing up for other union workers.

The rights they fought for benefited every American worker.

Minimum wage. Overtime pay. The 40-hour workweek. Safer working conditions. The elimination of child labor, for crying out loud. The list goes on and on.

This country wasn’t built by a few Wall Street bankers, CEOs, or hedge fund managers. It was built by the American middle class.

“It’s Time To Tell The Truth About Unions.” e-mail from American Possibilities.

Here’s a little more truth: I was often told by a relative – who was a union steward, for crying out loud – that “unions are for the lazy man.” When the incentives become perverse, like intentionally slow-walking a task so the productivity expectation remains artificially low, it’s apparent that unions provide a floor level of benefits but also create a ne plus ultra of accomplishment. The most productive and innovative have no place in a union.

Good news for the Constitution (party)

Did you know the Constitution Party has 110,000 registered voters around the country? It doesn’t seem like much but worth remembering is that not all states specifically allow registration to any party but the big two.

But I love the contributions being made by an unknown person who goes by the nom de plume “Digital Paul Revere.” In one statement, DPR said a lot about the type of person the Constitution Party should attract:

I am writing to you because I have witnessed firsthand the absolute horror of socialism. These essays are not newsletters. They aren’t meant to bring you recent Party news. They are long-form commentaries on current events happening in our country. They are viewpoints, seen through the lens of a Millennial American who has lived for a significant length of time under a true socialist dictatorship: China. These essays are meant as an olive branch to young Americans, frustrated by the perversion of the political process today, alienated by the major political parties, crushed under unimaginable debt with little hope of ever having the means to repay it, and “politically homeless”. They are also meant to give older generations of Americans a glimpse into the future that awaits your children and grandchildren, should you fail to act now.

In these essays, I hope to provide a point of view that will help fellow American patriots see the danger that our nation is in and call to action all who wish to see the situation improve. I can tell you with absolute conviction that many Americans do not know the extent to which socialism has corrupted our systems and institutions. I didn’t know either. It is only after having lived under true socialism that I can see the telltale signs of its growing influence on our country.

“Introduction to a Reformed Millennial,” DPR.

In a similar vein, DPR writes that it’s better to be an American. I like that.

The Constitution Party also gained a couple more officeholders thanks to partisan switches – one from Republican and another from a conservative Democrat who was elected based on their votes in a North Carolina race. In looking up the results, though, I found this gentleman was an incumbent county commissioner who turned out to be a primary election loser that took advantage of the CP’s newly-won ballot access to avenge his primary loss. In most cases, “sore loser” laws would prevent this, so his victory comes with an asterisk, too. It’s tough to compete with the duopoly, though.

The Kochs of the Left

The penultimate piece before I go is a groundbreaking report from the Capital Research Center on a left-wing dark money entity called Arabella Advisors. If you ever wonder how these left-leaning “grassroots” groups suddenly pop up out of nowhere, this piece may help you to understand that it’s some serious Astroturf. And they had the nerve to call the TEA Party “Astroturf?” Sorry, I know some of the TEA Party founders and believe me, they are legit. If you’re still not convinced, read this.

Flogging the scamPAC horse

That’s not to say that the TEA Party didn’t eventually sell out, though. Call it flogging a dead horse, but the TEA Party Express is coming off like a scam PAC with an appeal that claims:

The recent polls coming out are showing President Trump behind many of the Democratic candidates.  Now, as financial disclosures are due for the first quarter of the year, we see that these Democrats are raising unheard of millions of dollars – over $70 million and counting.  So Trump is behind in both the polls and in the critical fight for financial resources to communicate with the American people.

We launched the “Tea Party for Trump” to get conservatives off the sidelines and back in the field to preserve the tremendous gains we have made over the last two years and achieve even more victories ahead in a second term of Trump-Pence.

“Fight back for Trump” e-mail from Sal Russo of the Tea Party Express.

There are no less than seven different linked appeals for donations.

Now I’m not sure if the TPX (as I called it for shorthand in my book) ever ran a bus tour for the 2018 midterms – if they did it was nowhere near my radar and I think I have a decently attuned one. But if Lloyd Marcus is to be believed they may get the band back together for Trump 2020. We will see.

Still. it’s a shame how far the TPX has fallen. Luckily my friend Mark Williams isn’t dead or he may be rolling in his grave about this one.

Now that I have pretty much cleaned out my e-mail, I think we can put odds and ends to bed for a few weeks.

A welcome respite

The sign said Andy Harris was welcome. But how would the crowd feel?

The last time I went to an Andy Harris town hall meeting, it was a time when “Indivisible” passions ran high and the “traveling roadshow” was out in force. One successful re-election for Harris later, the group on Monday was more subdued.

My spot of activity this week didn’t allow me to get to this right away, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I was sort of curious to see if any of his other stops would be controversial and it doesn’t appear they made a splash in the news cycle. And speaking of news cycle, this was a familiar sight.

WBOC wasn’t the only TV station at the event, but they were set up in the lobby when I walked in.

As a matter of fact, had I chose to I could have been on TV myself (on local rival WMDT) but I just didn’t feel like I could answer their questions. My thoughts and recollections are better suited for this space.

After doing it for almost a decade, perhaps Andy has figured this town hall thing out. First of all, you couldn’t help but admire his work in getting a local veteran named George Hornsby the medals and commendations he’d been owed for over fifty years.

Something else that was different (and better) was how the questions were selected. Rather than soliciting index cards for written questions for a moderator (and leaving himself open for the charge of not answering difficult questions) each person had a number given to them and when their number was drawn, they were given the opportunity to stand up and ask their question. In a little over an hour, we got to about 15 people that I wrote down.

And I thought the questions were nicely varied, which made them a little bit difficult to categorize. As a summary and not a blow-by-blow, I think I can take a bit of editorial license and group questions into more broad categories.

The first is a sort of “role of government” track. People had concerns about the direction of the House, and were asking what he could do to assist President Trump. There was a person concerned about robocalls, another who asked about sanctuary cities, and someone else who asked about the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Regarding the direction of the House, Harris just reminded us, “everybody has a vote” each two years. It’s the worst system – except for all the rest, he continued, conceding that the voters wanted divided government. “I try to represent the district,” he added, noting his belief he’s conveying the wishes of the majority of the First District.

Unfortunately, being in the House minority means there’s “not a whole lot” he can do to help Donald Trump, a President he agrees with “90 percent of the time.” One of those cases will be his vote to sustain President Trump’s veto of the rescission of his state of emergency. “My vote will sustain his veto,” said Harris.

One reason he cited was funding for border security. “As a nation you have to control your borders,” he said. Andy also alerted us to the 90% of our heroin that comes across the southern border, not to mention the amount of fentanyl – enough to kill 9 times the population of Maryland from one particular recent seizure – that we stop.

Eventually the conversation on the border led to a question on sanctuary cities, and whether we could cut their funding. Andy told the questioner there was no statutory authority to do so, but having sanctuary cities also “creates a lack of rule of law,” which was something we needed to get back to. I also learned how Andy would handle the DREAMer situation: a “legal pathway” with permanent residency status but no citizenship unless they returned to their home country to start the process there.

All that made the concern about robocalls, which was a concern he agreed with – and even spoke to the committee chair regarding it – rather mundane. It also has an international aspect to it since most originate in foreign countries but spoof domestic numbers.

Harris also agreed the Kavanaugh confirmation was “a spectacle,” although as a member of the House he was but an observer like the rest of us. “In the end, I think the American system worked,” he added.

In a sort of peripheral way, those couple people who were concerned about environmental issues were looking at the government for help, too. One was concerned about garbage, which is a problem in, of all places, the middle of the Pacific. In that case, one of the issues was that China no longer takes our garbage. The reason? We are dirty recyclers: oftentimes the leftover products originally encased within the plastic containers are still present in enough quantity to make recycling less cost-effective. Perhaps a solution is in “waste-to-energy” or chemical recycling.

Their other concern was Bay funding, which President Trump’s budget cut from $73 million to $7 million. The Maryland delegation is working to at worst level-fund it, although if there is a continuing resolution the spending would continue as before, too.

Here Andy brought up one area where he and I part ways: stating that offshore drilling needs the permission of the state, Harris stated his opposition to not only offshore drilling, but offshore testing as well. That is a short-sighted approach, but I think opponents like him are afraid that there’s a vast supply of black gold or natural gas out there. I’m not sure why that’s something to fear, but why not do the testing anyway to verify one way or the other?

A lot of people had guns on their minds. There are “too many guns in this country,” said one questioner. But we have the Second Amendment, which makes us unique among nations.

And guns aren’t necessarily the problem, said Andy. We’re not dealing adequately with the issue in several respects:

  • The celebration of violence in video games, which was even something President Obama spoke about.
  • The lack of control of gangs and drugs. Are laws as enforced as they should be?
  • A decrease in religious observance, which you could also consider a lack of morals if you prefer. (My words, not his.)

And while Baltimore “went after their police force,” they are “allowing young lives to be destroyed” there. And as an homage to Captain Obvious, Harris said “we will never disarm non-law-abiding citizens.”

He had some unkind words about Maryland, too, noting that while the state has universal background checks, they are one of the worst states at reporting mental health issues to the federal government for those checks. Don’t do more gun laws if you’re not enforcing the ones you have, he said: for example, out of the thousands who knowingly stated falsely they didn’t commit a crime – thereby committing perjury on a federal form – only ten of those cases were prosecuted because former AG Eric Holder didn’t make it a priority.

Andy’s opposition certainly had its say, although to their credit they were reasonably non-disruptive. The only exception was a case where two people objected to Andy’s reticence to commit to an hour-long face-to-face meeting with that constituent who disagreed with Andy’s stance against Obamacare. The tension got thick when Andy was accused of anti-Semitism for meeting with a “Holocaust denier” as well as chastised for a visit to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Victor Orban, leader of a “center-right” government. (Harris, a first-generation American whose parents fled Hungary amidst a Communist takeover, leads the Hungarian-American Caucus in Congress.) It’s “pretty repulsive to me” to be called anti-Semitic, Harris countered. But the disruptive pair were not escorted out as cooler heads prevailed.

While Harris objects to Obamacare, it should be pointed out that he’s for several reforms to Medicare Part B – specifically, the area of prescription drugs administered in a physician’s office or hospital where Andy remarked “Medicare has no leverage” to deal with increasing costs. As it stands now, these providers are allowed a 6% surcharge on top of list price reimbursement, as I understand it. (I’ll plead ignorance since I am not on Medicare.) Apparently HHS Secretary Alex Azar has a plan to revise this scheme to account for the reduced price other nations pay to allow these drugs into their market – a gatekeeping system Medicare doesn’t have. Using a weighted average of the prices charged to 12 other leading industrialized nations plus a 30 percent premium is “a pretty good compromise” according to Harris.

I suppose if the drug cost us $10, the weighted average of the 12 was $5, and the 30% premium added $1.50, yeah, there could be some savings. Of course, I have no idea about the actual numbers.

(It should also be mentioned that opioid addiction was brought up in the meeting. His opinion: “It will take a long time to fix,” because the problem isn’t just drug companies or overly aggressive doctors. But no one ever did any studies on how addictive these painkillers could be until much more recently.)

A more significant part of the time was spent by Andy explaining his opposition to H.R. 1, the (so-called) For The People Act. “What part did you object to?” he was asked, answering “why not (send up the provisions) one at a time?” rather than a 400-page bill that’s been amended several times. “We have to stop doing bills like this,” he continued, holding up a copy of the bill that takes up half or more of a ream of paper.

“Really, it’s an incumbent protection plan,” Harris added, and while in that respect he theoretically should favor it, his primary complaint on it was that “it tells states how to conduct their elections.” He wasn’t in favor of public financing of elections and had a problem with its oversight provisions, such as voting in other states (as a former opponent of his was caught doing.)

Yet a GOP amendment making “ballot harvesting” illegal was defeated – its main flaw is allowing anyone to bring in ballots, rather than specifically a family member or guardian. I personally see it as a chain of custody issue, and ironically the same technique that turned the tide in several California House races was the reason North Carolina voters in their Ninth District have an upcoming “do-over” in their race, won on election night in 2018 by a Republican. Ballot harvesting is illegal in North Carolina, precisely because of those chain of custody issues.

One last thing I’ll bring up is the charge Andy often receives about not having empathy or sympathy. “I take care of patients!” he replied. His job is to pay attention and read the bills, and when it comes to health care it’s to maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions and keep insurance affordable. Personally, I just think there are too many people who equate big government with empathy or sympathy but would object to a faith-based solution because it’s “pushing their religion on people.” To those whose god is government, perhaps I’m tired of you pushing your religion on the rest of us. I’d just like to render unto Caesar only what is supposed to be his and not all of my freedom, too.

But a nice lady had her number called shortly after this and told the audience she had dealt with Congressman Harris’s office regarding her mesh implants and thanking him for helping her with the issue. It’s one where the public and physician databases need to be better integrated so that doctors can be better informed with real-time reporting and analysis. “Sunlight solves a lot of problems,” said Andy.

We also talked about suicide, which was a byproduct of the same culture that’s led to so much gun violence. In a nation founded on religious principles, it’s no surprise to me that being religious cuts the risk of suicide in half – at least that’s what Harris claimed. “If we abandon religion, we abandon some of those (founding) principles,” Harris remarked.

I’m certain there were those agnostics in the room who scoffed at that assertion. “There’s a separation of church and state!” they thunder, and if there could be a border wall built between the two that’s a wall they would support 200 percent and have that sucker built a mile high and twice as deep, halfway to God or Gaia or who/whatever they believe in.

In a letter from John Adams to officers in the Massachusetts militia (October 11, 1798) our second President remarked as a close to a longer point, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If you presume that “any other” is the irreligious lot we have now, Adams was probably right and, as a group, they tend to be the ones who want to revamp our founding document.

But I get the idea that our Constitution was Divinely inspired, and as such I like to see us hew to it as best we can. While it does need some modern-day tweaking, including a pruning of the amendments ratified in 1913, the Constitution can continue to serve us well if lawmakers just remember their oath to defend it. I think Andy Harris does a reasonable job of that and I’m glad he stopped by.

What comes around, goes around

I’ll tell you why! Those of you who have been here awhile know that I do an annual “picks and pans” as a Shorebird fan after each season. Today’s post is a long time coming since I spent part of my 2015, 2016, and 2017 picks and pans talking about the subject of today’s photo essay.

The 360 degree concourse was originally slated to be built between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, but the final funding wasn’t put into place until last spring. And yesterday it was formally opened up. I missed the ribbon cutting and didn’t win any of the giveaway prizes.

But I got a batch of pictures to share. How’s that?

Our first unique and new view is from the right field corner. I suspect the kids will soon figure out this is the place to beg for t-shirts and frisbees. There’s something new about that aspect, too, as I’ll get to in due course.
From where I was on the above shot, you are right under the scoreboard.
If you went as close as you could to dead center – a spot from which you couldn’t see the field because of the batter’s eye – this is what you would see.
This is taken from the left field corner looking toward center. It’s one location where there is no drink rail and one of the few disappointments I had. I was hoping they would have a wider area here where they could set up a stage or higher platform for seating, but they left a lot of unused space there.
Part of the saving grace is adding the metal drink rail along this fence, a space I suspect is going to be very popular for families – especially those with kids who like to chase foul balls. It will also be fun for those who like to check on the bullpen.
I stopped by my summer home for a few minutes – about as much as I could brave the chill.
Before I finish the tour, I noticed the Shorebirds got a new truck for Sherman, since the old one advertised a dealer who is no longer with us. You sure would miss them. But he has new wheels from which to toss those frisbees and shirts.
This is one of the new tables in the upper section of the Hardball Cafe, which also features the nifty new chairs. These same tables and chairs are up on the luxury level on the third floor.
The low tables, though, are half-round along the rail and the chairs for them swivel and have a mesh seat. Very comfy and surprisingly not cold to the behind on an evening like last night.
The suites aren’t set up any differently, but it looks like they got new finishes. Only 2 of the 6 are corporate-owned now – a couple years back there were 4 corporate and 2 left open for nightly rent, now we have the reverse.

Since this current phase of renovations of our now 23-year-old ballpark began after the 2015 season, they have rebuilt the entire field and sub-surface drainage, renovated the clubhouses, put in new seating throughout the stadium (with the possible exception of the outfield picnic areas, which I didn’t check out during my rounds), installed a new scoreboard and video board, and now have completed the concourse. About the only thing they need to do now is modernize the food service and perhaps renovate the restrooms, front office space, gift shop, and Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame. (Not to be confused with the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, which is constantly renovated each off-season.)

So old Arthur W. Perdue Stadium is looking pretty good now. In a couple weeks I think it will be time to return to a short-lived tradition and take my wild guess as to who will be sporting the Shorebird black-and-orange this summer. That will be fun.