2018: a monoblogue year in review

Can you tell this was an election year? If not, read on and you’ll figure it out.

But it began by figuring out (in a tongue-in-cheek fashion) what I’ve been doing wrong all these years. Seriously, January got moving with my look at what my top 5 monoblogue music artists over the last four years have been up to and kicked into political gear with the annual countdown to terror.

That terror got underway quickly as General Assembly Democrats slapped down a Hogan veto and made employers sick. And the campaign wasn’t ignored either as Democrat Ben Jealous made some chicken poop claims and I had to dredge up my old sidebars.

I also found out our neighbors to the north were doing something right and got around to revealing perhaps my most unusual story idea ever from a Christmas card. I made the plea for common sense to wrap January, and as February dawned I found out my original pick for President in 2016 had put some in the Wall Street Journal with a piece on the post-2020 GOP. Later that month I got to play the Lord’s advocate (a refreshing change) but still had to lecture people that, in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, guns aren’t the problem.

It took me awhile, but I got March backwards: it came in like a Lamb. In light of Conor Lamb’s surprise special election win I asked if a Lamb would be slaughtered in the First District. (Turns out his clone was.) It wasn’t as backwards as the furious backpedaling a number of Maryland Republicans made once their votes on the “red flag” bill were revealed, though.

It was the spring of my discontent with the state of the ballot as well, but it did give me an opportunity to go into some website plans – which, by the way, were delayed to an extent but now may be closer to realization thanks to a nice Christmas gift I received.

The month of April began by planting a farmer’s lament, but moved quickly into a look at our federal races. That was short-lived because I had to remind people that, in 2018, we determined General Assembly session winners and losers months after session was over. I also spent a perfectly good Saturday seeing the dregs of the Democrat gubernatorial field go through the motions of a debate at Salisbury University. (Combined, those who showed ended up with 24.7% of the vote, so dregs it was.)

The next week I spent a perfectly good Friday evening downtown, giving me the opportunity to put my thoughts on 3rd Friday to pixels.

Honestly, May wasn’t much to write home about, since I did a lot of repetitive items like record reviews, odds and ends, and the return of the Shorebirds of the Month. But I found time to address a critic and return to a tradition of detailing my Memorial Day weekend.

I didn’t have a June swoon this year, thank goodness. Instead I got revved up talking about wind energy, releasing the final Maryland edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project, making my endorsement in the state’s U.S. Senate race, and advising those vying for Central Committees across the state how to be a successful member. I also took the time to spin a tale of two events.

July began when I revealed my worst-kept secret: I have an agenda. In this case, it was a chance meeting with the Governor as an opportunity to promote school choice. It was much better to write that than it was a litany of big spending that some other guy running for the job had on his platform: I covered two of the most egregious examples during the month. But I got to see both gentlemen at the latest rendition of a long-standing political event – honestly, though, the runup to the Delaware primary was more interesting to write about.

And I wasn’t through with the First State, restarting a long-dormant series with an outdoor show featuring a Christian band and spending a night at the fair.

Speaking of fairs, I took two August posts to recount the Wicomico County version. But I also returned to politics with the announcement of my Delaware version of the mAP and another part of shooting fish in a barrel – some may call it a platform critique. It was already getting tiresome, so I spent some energy digging into where an “independent” campaign got its money.

In September I finally put that platform critique to bed because the Jealous campaign was going nowhere anyway. With Neal Simon’s campaign as inspiration, I took closer looks at financials on several groups of races: Wicomico County campaigns, District 37, and the most interesting one of all: District 38. By month’s end, that District 38 money was ending up in my mailbox as full-color mailers.

Once again I revived the tradition of remembering 9/11, but on a more light-hearted note I selected my Shorebird of the Year (going off the board, so to speak) and expressed my picks and pans as a Shorebirds fan. I even found time for more odds and ends.

October was a crazy busy month that focused on different angles for the election: people who couldn’t be bothered to file required campaign finance reports, neat ways to convert poll data to votes (as well as a second helping), critiques of mailing after mailing after mailing, and a direct comparison of voting records in the District 38 race over the last four-year term. One of those contenders also got a supportive visit from the Governor while our Congressman came to say a word for the U.S. Senate candidate. But I also found time for yet more odds and ends as well as October traditions the Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival as well as the GBF and AWF music as Weekend of Local Rock pieces. I also supported a great cause with a funny guy.

We all know what happened in November, and the election hits kept coming: a look at early voting, pregame thoughts, and two parts of immediate postgame analysis for starters – and, of course, associated odds and ends with the campaigns. Then I took a few mental health days before returning with my Thanksgiving message and shopping advice for Cyber Monday.

Wrapping up in December, I began the end-of-year watch by writing about my moody teenager and performing one of my favorite tasks: inducting new members for and updating my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. Speaking of baseball, I opined on how Salisbury could be a better minor league town, too.

But the year’s last month brought a new look to odds and ends (and the site in general.) I also got to compare the Indivisible movement to the TEA Party (which relates to my forthcoming book, which also got a placeholder website during 2018) and provided the other usual year-end goodies of my Christmas message and top 5 records I reviewed for the year.

So that is how 2018 went. With a couple days to go, I’m some significant number of degrees of Rushalanches away from readership in my halcyon decade of 2007-16. Hey, at least I made 5 digits at 10,372, but then I really don’t promote the site on social media anymore, have fewer posts to link to, and found that people don’t think of me as much for political horserace analysis and advice nowadays – in large part because I’ve consciously stepped away from that scene. While I devoted a large part of my year to Campaign 2018, I was only made more jaded and cynical from the results and the easy manipulation of the electorate by “fake news” such as the overwhelmingly negative coverage of President Trump. If people don’t get the concept that fewer regulations and lower taxes at the federal level makes life better for them because they have more freedom to choose how they live their lives and spend the money they earned – well, I don’t know how else to help them. Lord knows I couldn’t influence the formerly Republican-held House to do its stated task of eliminating Obamacare.

So I’ll look closer to home, as perhaps I should have all along. If the Good Lord is willing to provide and answer my prayers in a positive manner, 2019 has the prospect of being an exciting year for me: a new (or new to us) home across the border, and the release of my second book The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, which has already received a glowing pre-review from a major early participant.

Granted, there will be the fun of watching Democrat presidential contenders try to leapfrog farther and farther to the left. (Well, it’s fun until someone gets hurt or – Heaven forbid – we actually elect one of them.) Let the whole host of them try to appease the Indivisible Left, splitting the vote from the progressive wing while the establishment Democrat wins the nomination – just like the 2012 GOP Presidential race with the TEA Party. And Lord help us all if Hillary runs again.

But I’m really looking forward to the personal things I described two paragraphs ago. Over the last couple years this blog has sort of evolved from a political diary to a more personal one, reflecting (as always) what interests me and prompts me to write. So as 2019 dawns I wish it to be your best year ever, despite the seeds of chaos that will be sown by forces of darkness.

A better minor-league town

This definitely goes in a unique “stack of stuff” but to me it’s also a springboard to a relevant point. Plus it’s a dead week between Christmas and New Year’s so it’s not a political week.

If you go back to post number 2 – number one being the “soft opening” URL placeholder – in this long-running saga of my political thoughts and life in general, you will find it’s related to my hometown baseball team. So it is with this post, as Toledo was named the nation’s top minor league town.

The hometown rag had a good time with this, but if you read the piece you’ll see why Toledo was selected. And it’s worth mentioning something the writer of the original assessment said in the Blade story:

“They took a big risk coming back to downtown when they did, and deserve a lot of credit for the excitement in downtown revitalization,” said Birdwell-Branson, who recently moved to Toledo. “Essentially, it came down to this: Toledo is not Toledo without its Mud Hens or its Walleye.”

“Toledo ranked No. 1 among minor league sports towns”, Mark Monroe, Toledo Blade, December 12, 2018.

Just for context’s sake, Toledo, with its metro area of about 600,000 hardy folk, has two major professional sports teams. Most not under a rock have heard of the Mud Hens baseball team, in large part thanks to a guy best known as Max Klinger, the dress-wearing corporal in the TV series M*A*S*H. (Far fewer know him as Jamie Farr and only real trivia buffs – or Toledo natives – know him as Jameel Farrah, but that’s his real name.) While 507,965 made it out this season, it was a down year for attendance: the Mud Hens’ worst since moving to Fifth Third Field in 2002 and despite winning their first IL West title since 2007. (Perhaps eight losing seasons in a row prior to 2018 dampened enthusiasm.)

It could also be that some of their thunder was stolen by the Walleye, as the hockey team set new attendance records in the 2017-18 season and finished second in attendance in the 27-team ECHL, a league analogous to the AA level in baseball. Had their Huntington Center been larger, it’s likely they would have led the league in attendance as the Walleye averaged 102% of capacity. In 2018 the Walleye season didn’t end until early May when they lost in their division finals – they have won their ECHL division in the regular season four straight seasons – so there was an overlap between the two teams that may have cut the Mud Hens’ attendance.

In the minds of ownership, however, it doesn’t matter if the fans flock to Fifth Third Field or the Huntington Center because both are owned by the same entity: Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club, Inc. (The Walleye are owned by the subsidiary Toledo Arena Sports, Inc. They purchased the former Toledo Storm ECHL hockey franchise in 2007 and put the team on ice, as it were, until the Huntington Center was finished in 2009.) It’s a business entity with an interesting background:

The unusual ownership structure was inaugurated in 1965 when Lucas County formed a nonprofit corporation to buy and manage a team. A volunteer board of directors appointed by the county board of commissioners owns and operates the team, with the county as the ultimate financial benefactor.

“Toledo Mud Hens, Walleye reorganize top management”, Bill Shea, Crain’s Detroit Business, June 15, 2015.

In Toledo, then, Lucas County (Toledo is county seat) owns both the teams and the venues, which are conveniently within blocks of one another in downtown Toledo. Spurred on by government money, the county has also invested in Hensville, a renovation project taking existing adjacent building stock and creating an entertainment center with the ready-made prospect of 7,000 or more fans at an adjacent venue on about 100 nights a year, mainly on weekends in the winter and spring and any night during the summer. (Note this doesn’t count concerts and shows held several nights a year at Huntington.)

Now let’s compare our scenario: the recent (2015) addition of Sussex County, Delaware and Worcester County, Maryland to the existing Salisbury metro area gives it a population of about 390,000, about 2/3 of Toledo’s but spread over a much wider geographic area. This difference, as well as the disparity in levels as the Delmarva Shorebirds are three steps below the Mud Hens, more than likely explains why attendance for the Shorebirds is less than half that of the Mud Hens, barely eclipsing the 200,000 mark in 2018 as an all-time low. Moreover, even if Salisbury had a hockey team, as has been rumored for the past few years, it would probably be at the commensurate level to the Shorebirds, and at least one step below the ECHL.

On that note, the two most likely possibilities for pro hockey in Salisbury are the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), a 10-team league as currently comprised, and the Federal Hockey League (FHL), which has six teams at present. The SPHL is the more stable of the two, and has better-attended games: league average attendance for the SPHL is 2,870 so far this season compared to a puny 1,409 between the six FHL squads – but only two Federal League teams are solidly in a four-figure average; a third is at 1,010 per game.

Unfortunately, the travel scenario for a Salisbury-based SPHL team would be dicey: the league’s closest franchises are in Roanoke, Virginia and Fayetteville, North Carolina and both are just under six-hour trips; moreover, six of the ten teams lie in the Central Time Zone. The most likely way Salisbury could be added to the SPHL would be in a pairing with another expansion team along the East Coast and a switch to a format with two six-team (or three four-team) divisions. On the other hand, while the FHL is somewhat spread out over a geographic area ranging from upstate New York to North Carolina to Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois, Salisbury is within the footprint and the league only schedules games on weekends, with one team generally playing two consecutive nights against the same opponent. Placing an eighth team in the Midwest would allow the league to have two four-team divisions (and possibly even adding a weeknight game within the four-team blocks, expanding the FHL’s current 56-game schedule. The schedule is similar in the SPHL; by comparison the ECHL plays a 72-game season.)

While the lack of a hockey team is a major stumbling block, the bigger issue is a lack of synergy between the two venues because they are several miles apart. And since a downtown location is out of the question for these facilities, the next best scenario to me would be to eventually replace one of the two facilities and move it adjacent to the other. Of course, having just spent millions of dollars of state and county money to repair both facilities as part of renovations requested in part by the Orioles (for Perdue) and a county study (for the WYCC), that’s not happening anytime soon, either.

So we have to make do with what we have. While it won’t necessarily be pedestrian-friendly, there is available land adjacent to both venues that could be developed into further entertainment options. In all honesty, there are pros and cons to development at both locations: the Hobbs Road site has great highway access and open land with infrastructure in place as it’s already annexed to the city. Would it be out of character with the area to have an urban-style development close by Perdue Stadium? Perhaps, plus there’s also the aspect of certain city leaders who seem to want all the entertainment options to be downtown and not develop the outskirts as a competitor.

On the other hand, redevelopment of the Old Mall site would be a welcome lift to that part of Salisbury but it’s not going to happen without a steady stream of events at the Civic Center, and minor league hockey seems to have the same level of fickleness as independent league baseball.

Every town is different, but I think Salisbury is missing out on some opportunities. I’m truly hoping that renovations in progress at Perdue Stadium bring out some of that entertainment district element and the WYCC gets that hockey team tenant to help fill the venue another 30 or so nights a year. It’s probably the best we can do for the immediate future.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2018

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke 2:8-20 (KJV)

I’m not going to write a lot about this Christmas season, preferring instead to simply wish you a merry one. As usual, mine will be spent with Kim’s family so the site will be dark tomorrow.

Teenage angst: monoblogue turns thirteen

To the consternation of many, this website has survived another year.

Considering the frequency over the last year nearly matches that of the year before, it appears I have found my comfort level of posting that averages out as twice a week. It’s likely the days of daily content are behind me given the circumstances in which I find myself: while the first three years of monoblogue were done with me having a full-time job, I also was single – so what else did I have to do besides blog? Now I have a great wife and take time out of my week for bowling (while that was an activity I did pre-marriage as well, it was easier to write with bowling on Friday nights as opposed to midweek) and small group at church to go with the full-time gig. Until recently there was also this book thing going on, too.

But when I look back at all the things I have done and written about, vast portions don’t seem as important as they once were. The hot takes have gone cold, the newsmakers are making news elsewhere, and yesterday’s political flavor du jour is today’s ant heap of history. But there are posts that I still like to consider as a diary of sorts, and they’re generally my photographic posts. An ongoing project I can hopefully get back to is that of salvaging as many posts as I can where the photos were lost thanks to the demise of the old Adobe photo service. Those who say the internet is forever, though, never followed the dead links to my Examiner pages where half my good stuff was placed. I think this is the year I’m going to try and set the record straight.

You know as well as I do that politics has been my site’s bread and butter from the very beginning. But frankly I am just sick and tired of the whole thing and my growing distaste of social media isn’t too far behind it. Sometimes I feel like I’ve given months or even years of my life to try and convince people who can’t be convinced, just like leading horses to water and watching them turn up their noses. Call me jaded or accuse me of a lack of empathy, but I’ve stopped caring whether they die of thirst or not and I’m arriving at the point where I think I need a different and more productive obsession. Add to that the whole “fake news” phenomenon and the increasing difficulty of using social media to build an audience and maybe it is time to set that whole thing aside. (My website kept screeching that it can’t properly connect to Facebook, so I bagged the connection. It’s a sign.)

I suppose one thing I may get to in the next year is my 5,000th post. Had I stayed on my frenetic pre-2016 pace I would have likely blown by that mark around the middle of last year but at 100 or so posts a year it might be the middle of next year. And that’s all right with me.

Perhaps it wasn’t in the cards for me to be a world-famous writer who made his fortune with a simple blog of his questions, problems, thoughts, opinions, or comments (to paraphrase Mr. Geer, my freshman science teacher.) But it doesn’t mean I can’t try to make this the best blog I can, and one of those aspects is writing about things that interest me in such a fashion that I don’t lose any sleep at night worrying.

In the more immediate future I have some final record reviews to write to finish the year and my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame has some new players – ones that can finish filling out a 40-man roster. I may not be as political but I still have some old standards to work on as I begin year number fourteen.

Happy Thanksgiving 2018

In Ecclesiastes 1:9 we are told “there is no new thing under the sun.” This Biblical line is well-suited for my message this year, as I was tempted to put last year‘s back up because it pretty much still applies. I still like growing older with my wife.

I suppose, though, there are some things that have changed, even if they’re not really new. Since matters electoral remain the bread and butter of my writing it’s worth noting that politically we are entering a brave new world of divided government under a populist Republican president – the last time that happened I was still in college. (That, kids, was a looooong time ago.) I guess I should be thankful the “blue wave” didn’t crest as high as once thought.

One thing about our present climate still bothers me, though. Too many people can’t get along because they see the political registration, hear the wrong talking points, or walk around in different colored hats. It seems lately, though, that I talk online quite a bit more to Democrats than I do Republicans. (Those folks I catch offline, as you’ll find why in a bit.) Sure, the Democrats know I’m barely left of militia but we can talk about issues and choose to disagree or occasionally even find a patch of common ground. It’s a good balance because most of my church family leans to the right, and I’m sure a few of them may, from time to time, fall short when it comes to decorum with those on the other side politically. I try not to, although the “progressives” make it difficult sometimes!

So I suppose that besides the obvious blessings I have of food, family, friends, a steady place of employment, and roof over my head, I should give great thanks for being blessed with the insight to see beyond the political labels and into the content of character. I can’t say I’m completely immune from getting my exercise through jumping to conclusions, but I feel like I’m getting better about it. Heck, even my in-laws don’t always agree with me but we still get along all right.

Anyway, I am going to conclude by taking one bit of license from previous writing because I still like the material:

Some of our prayers are simple expressions of thanks for His works, and it’s with that in mind that I hope you share today that which you are thankful for with our Creator. I understand for some that list may be far too short, and for others I’ll grant that they haven’t quite learned their long list of blessings is there in no small part thanks to His intercession. (I think He is certainly approving of the endeavors and efforts one undertakes in pursuit of those blessings, though.)

So I pray that all of you have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. Enjoy your dinner, friends, and family, and (above all) count your blessings.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

Coming attractions

Thank goodness the election is over, notwithstanding events in Georgia and Florida. I even got around to tossing out the political mailings.

So now we get a little break, although there’s one recent piece of interesting Maryland political news: an announcement in the wake of the Fourth Circuit’s edict that Maryland redraw two of its Congressional districts to re-enfranchise Republican voters who were gerrymandered out of the Sixth Congressional District, a district that became much less compact and contiguous because Martin O’Malley and Maryland Democrats wanted to create a Congressional seat for onetime State Senator Rob “Gas Tax” Garagiola. To achieve that goal, they shifted the district southward to cover a large portion of Montgomery County – the fact that it covered Rob’s State Senate district was just a coinkydink, of course – excising Republican-rich swaths of Frederick and Carroll counties from the Sixth District and placing them in the MoCo-dominated Eighth Congressional District. By next March the districts are supposed to be redrawn, presumably back close to their pre-2012 configuration.

Seeing that, an opportunity has arose for my two-time monoblogue Accountability Project Legislator of the Year Neil Parrott to run from cover by forming an exploratory committee, perhaps doubling the mAP LoY delegation in Congress as he would presumably join Andy Harris in the House. Add to that, in an unrelated story, reigning and two-time mAP Top (Blue) Dog Jim Brochin trying to pay off campaign debt with a “bipartisan” fundraiser, and you can tell it’s the silly season of politics.

Aside from those above diversions, politics tends to slow down quite a bit. Sure, there may be an issue or two that emanates from the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, but for the most part things are buttoned up during the holidays only to be ramped up as we return to normal after the new year.

As it works out, this post-election hiatus provides for me a chance to catch up on a couple other things. One (which is really sort of a navel-gazing set) is contemplating my annual Thanksgiving message for personal thanks and the “state of the blog” anniversary post as monoblogue becomes a teenager this year, with all the moodiness and angst to go with it – although the last couple years have foreshadowed that to a great degree.

The second is updating my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. Fortunately or not, the early Thanksgiving gives me a little extra time to do it as I generally take the page down on that day so I can update it in time for the first Thursday in December, which falls a full two weeks after Thanksgiving this year. I have five players to add, but with a number of trades made I also have some photos to update. I can’t keep using the Zach Britton, Manny Machado, and Jonathan Schoop photos I’ve had for years because they’ve suited up elsewhere.

So I may not be posting much before Thanksgiving, in part because I also want to work on a different website: the one I’m creating for my book. (I’ve had the domain name for a few months now, so it’s time to make it active.) Maybe my anniversary here will also be the debut there.

It’s time for a few mental health days.

Reviving the circle of life

Last Thursday night I had the opportunity to assist a great local cause and ministry, the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center.

Now I’m probably not the best at relating to mothers or fathers-to-be in need, which is among the things they do. But I can laugh with the best of them (and sign a check) and that’s what I did a lot of that special evening – okay, one check but plenty of laughing. It’s something I will get to in due course.

When I last wrote about one of these events three years ago, they had a somewhat different approach to the issue of fundraising and securing a speaker: generally it was a message from someone who combined the desired Biblical message with a significant helping of appeal for donations. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good formula, but perhaps it was a formula getting less and less effective. (Which probably explains in part why I didn’t do a post on the 2016 event, the last time I attended.)

So I liked the change in format as well as location, as they have moved to the more intimate parish hall at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Salisbury. (It also meant the dinner was a lot better, as Black Diamond Catering did a fantastic job.) I’m hoping the results made this nice lady’s ministry a lot easier.

“By the grace of God, at least 60 babies have been saved” in the past year, said ESPC director Jackie Seldon.

The goal was compatible with that which I recalled from previous years, and I made sure to share a little more of those blessings I received this year. What they shared was the testimony of one of their clients and her mentor through the experience, and as Seldon noted the ESPC has now been around long enough that they are beginning to see second-generation client families.

I don’t recall the exact reason I failed to attend last year’s event, but among the things I missed was this gentleman’s debut with the Labor of Love banquet.

Repeat parenting offender and comedian Gordon Douglas was the featured performer.

Once named (with his wife, of course) as a Parent of the Year in Pennsylvania, Gordon Douglas had some unique takes on parenting, and – more importantly – the blessing of being a good and caring person.

The part of the story that captivated me was how he got started in the business of parenting. (The comedy part in Hollywood is interesting, too, but I don’t recall all the names he dropped and that’s not the red meat of this narrative, anyway.) I just hope I’m doing justice to the story in a few hundred words and so-so memory.

As a teenager Gordon was the same rail-thin self he is now, but was not particularly athletic or popular and had an impoverished upbringing because his disabled father could not work. Thus, it was perhaps understandable that Gordon wrote a school paper detailing his questioning why he should go on living when the “best time of his life” was so miserable. What did he have to look forward to?

Perhaps Gordon had a guardian angel, for the teacher grading the paper took him under his wing and gave him the encouragement he needed – not to say that it was all smooth sailing from there, as there were other funny mishaps in his high school days and then his young adult life once he got married. But because he found a mentor at his lowest point, when Gordon got started on his initial career in youth ministry he had business cards with three things: his name, his phone number, and a quarter taped to them. The message was: if you needed someone to talk to, he would be there, day or night. Soon enough a 14-year old with a terrible home life called him up, and when he went to ask the parents if the boy could stay overnight, the parents said, “Keep him.”

So he did. For Gordon and his wife, this boy was the first of many children they took in. Besides, when you desire children and are told you can’t have them, what’s the next best thing? Well, that is, until you have a miracle and don’t stop until you have five.

To make what was a long story much, much shorter: between children, wayward young adults, and even a couple prisoners they’ve taken in from the detention center (“you can’t tell it’s them if you don’t see their ankle bracelets”) there are upwards of two dozen kids they’ve taken care of over the years. Some couples have the baseball batting order, but the Douglases filled out the whole roster.

Needless to say, it was a great story, I also had the pleasure of speaking to him afterward as I offered to make him famous. (Or, I guess, infamous, depending on your perspective of this website.)

Gordon was also a quick change artist. Actually, he had copies of his printed and recorded works on sale, and some folks (myself included) got autographed copies. There’s nothing wrong with some entrepreneurial spirit, and hopefully he’s sold many more books than I have!

It should be noted that Gordon comes by this specialty of assisting pregnancy centers like the ESPC naturally as he served for many years on the board of his local pregnancy center. Now he helps others with his comedic talent, although he pointed out that when he started there were 4,000 Planned Parenthood facilities and 300 pregnancy centers, but now the numbers are becoming reversed, which is a blessing.

I stayed awhile afterward to see if the ESPC made its goal, but had to leave in order to finish one of my other jobs (on deadline writing for The Patriot Post) before I could find out. But if I find out in the coming days what the total was I’ll certainly update the post.

Of course, it doesn’t mean you can’t help them out yourself, as the ESPC definitely serves the least of us, as in the message of Matthew 25:35-40. Or put in a somewhat more secular way: to have the pursuit of happiness you need liberty, but to have liberty you must have life. They’re put in a specific order for a reason, so I encourage the support of these budding lives where I can.

Weekend of local rock volume 74

This will be a unique post in the WLR annals because I’m going to depart from chronological order.

As I noted the other day in discussing the AWF, I wasn’t there as long as I had been in the past – so out of six bands listed here I only saw the last two.

By the schedule in front of me, we came while The Haymans were playing.

These guys really looked cold. “Yeah, a ‘second season’ outdoor show – that should be fine!” Uh-huh.

While this duo plays often about town, this was the first time I saw The Haymans. I call it a duo because there’s two of them, but they also incorporate a backing track into their set to provide the rhythm section. That was a bit distracting and somewhat a bummer because I like watching musicians play.

Now if you liked watching a lot of women who had sampled the grape dance, this band was just the ticket.

I don’t know how many consecutive years they’ve done it, but I’m certain that some people go to the AWF on Sunday just to see On The Edge close it out.

If it was that “funky music” recorded between oh, maybe 1964 and 1994, and you can dance to it, On The Edge most likely plays it. And the fun part (besides watching the lead singer test out the limits of his wireless microphone circulating through the crowd) was seeing the migration up front.

This is almost the same shot I used Friday to show where everyone was at 3:00. They were waiting to dance it off.

The guy in the red Phillies regalia by the sound board? Yeah, he’s the singer next to the few dozen already shaking their groove thing. Pay attention to the picnic table at photo right.

Fast forward about a half-hour…

You probably couldn’t walk through up front by this point. Just two left at the table…

…and now they’re gone too. Had to join the rest of their crew.

On the way out I met up with Jim Mathias, who was coming in to sing with these guys. He thanked me for being engaged (presumably in the political realm) so I thank him for supporting local music, which is much better for the sanity in this current climate.

Maybe this current climate needs a dose of part 2 of this piece. As I said, I usually work in chronological order but in this case I saved the best for last. I’ve often bent the “local rock” definition to fit national acts playing local shows, and the AWF weekend kicked off with a trio of Christian artists at the Civic Center. Here are some of my favorite shots from the concert featuring MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, and Tim Timmons.

Timmons was the opening act, and while he only played three songs he got some assistance from the headliners at the end.

First up was Tim Timmons, a walking miracle: he was given five years to live with his cancer 14 years ago.

A little help from his friends.

Tenth Avenue North is a high-energy group. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t get a good shot of the singer milling through the crowd.

I really only got one good shot of Tenth Avenue North, but this was a cool moment too.

I actually liked them a shade more than I did MercyMe, but to each his or her own.

This was from the opening song MercyMe did.

Maybe the best shot I got all night comes from MercyMe.

We ended up doing the Happy Dance to close out the night. It was a long show – 7:30 until almost 11.

They were doing the Happy Dance in the Civic Center as the confetti blasted out.

So that, folks, was the weekend in local rock.

2018 Autumn Wine Festival in pictures and text

Just like the Good Beer Festival last week, my photographic series on the Autumn Wine Festival returns after a three-year hiatus. And like the GBF, a lot has changed over the last three years, but not necessarily for the better. The best thing is that it gives me a break from political posts.

Once again, I can allow the captions to help tell the story.

As we arrived about 1:30, the party was already underway despite a blustery, chilly Sunday.

I’m not going to have a ton of photos this year. Unlike other years when I was somewhat of a captive to the event as the guy who coordinated the GOP tent for almost a decade and hence was there almost the entire time, this time I was a “civilian” who was simply serving as DD for my wife and generally just tagged along for about 2 1/2 hours Sunday – enough to get a flavor of the place. So a lot of my photos were taken of the two bands I saw as part of an upcoming WLR segment.

Speaking of political hostages…

Notice anything missing? The Democrats didn’t have a tent – however, they were not the only ones baring it in the sunshine.

This was the Democrats’ space. In looking at it in the photo, I’m wondering how much extra property they took outside the 10′ x 15′ square you’re usually assigned to get all those signs up – including perhaps the only two Ben Jealous signs in Wicomico County. (Okay, I’m kidding on Jealous – but I don’t think I’m kidding by much.) But seriously – it looks like they are way outside their boundaries.

Shawn Jester (behind table), Woody Willing, and a little of my finger were representing for the GOP.

By comparison, the GOP wasn’t overstepping by too much. They had a reasonable business going, but not spectacular. Nor did I see a whole bunch of folks at the competing spaces for Bo McAllister and Chris Welch. I got Welch’s space in the photo below.

On the left is the tentless space of Chris Welch, whose crew abandoned the tent on Sunday morning thanks to the high winds.

I thought I caught McAllister’s tent in a shot but it turns out I did not. It was just to the right of this photo, and you can see the dearth of people on this side.

Just off the right side of the photo would have been Bo McAllister’s tent. By the time 3:30 rolled around this end was about dead.

I’m looking up toward the food court here. The arrangement was somewhat similar to the GBF as far as the food and stage were concerned.

I will say the food selection was excellent. I tried a place called The Street Kitchen, which is the white truck way off in the background of the shot – good pulled pork and outstanding slaw some may kill for. Come on back to the next festival!

Unlike last week, those who wanted to sit and watch the game on a comfy couch were indulged. Or maybe they had the Hallmark Channel on, I dunno.

One thing I did before piecing this post together was read my previous posts (2007-15) from the AWF. (2007 was the first year I worked it, so the cool thing is the institutional knowledge – which will get even better when I dig up the photos missing from a couple of those years.) Once upon a time they had a VIP area, so I wonder why they did away with it?

The real VIP area on this day would have been smack dab in front of this fireplace. If you could see the stage from this spot I think there would have been a whole cast of people camped out there – including me!

Here is another vendor who can come back. I walked by there coming in and felt the heat.

I noted the stage in my last caption. These are views looking toward the front of the stage at 3:00 and 3:30.

They were already beginning to camp out in front of the stage by 3.

I’m looking down from the south end of the winery tents toward the stage. People had pretty much vanished from the end tents by 3:30-4:00.

Even the lines to the porta-potties were practically non-existent by the time we left, right around 4:00. To be perfectly honest, the vendors could have packed it in about 3:30 and Kim said a couple were.

So I took some shots of signs and wine bottles I liked.

Love the play on a phrase.

New variations on the old Gollywobbler theme. It’s a popular drink.

The old sun + wine bottles shot, in this case courtesy of il Dolce Winery.

Olney Winery had the neatest bottles, though.

In speaking to a vendor (in this case, the wife of a candidate) I was told they had 2,400 people there Saturday – in that case it seems like a down crowd. Granted, it was cloudy but it was also about 10 degrees warmer and about 1/4 as windy. According to the vendor application, though, the county expects an attendance of 3,500 for the weekend.

So I think they were probably about there, and even though I’m not a great judge of crowds it’s sort of sad to see the lowered expectations. In doing some digging I found out the event eight years ago drew 4,651 (and the first-ever GBF had 2,378.) But the problem for the vendors is that they need to sell probably a net $500 worth of merchandise just to cover all the fees associated with the event, let alone make up for the time. My older pictures of the event show long rows of vendor tents, but this year’s had some large gaps in them.

And when you think about it, what is the county providing? It’s their property, but it’s paid for. You have to pay for two nights of security and rent of generators for a couple days as well as pay the talent and for the printing of the tickets, I know this (as well as the GBF) is supposed to be a fundraiser, so then the question becomes how cheap is too cheap?

I’m a guy and I don’t drink wine, so right there I seem to be eliminated from their target audience as Women Supporting Women is a lead sponsor. But I am also the DD for someone who is in their target audience, so you may want to rethink a couple things next year.

In the more immediate future I’m thinking you’ll see two WLR posts over the weekend as I clear out that docket.

Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (last of four parts)

Late edit: Need to get up to speed? Here are parts one, two, and three.

In this final installment comparing the differences between District 38 State Senator Jim Mathias and his challenger, District 38C Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, we have the second-smallest number of voting differences between them for this term. But as I wrote in my wrapup of the legislative year for the monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP):

Turning to this year’s session, one conclusion is inescapable: the last four years have been a steadier and steadier test of wills between a governor who is trying to promote a particular agenda and a state majority party that had its apple cart upset and is being begged by the special interests that control it to put those apples back and bring back the regular order of things where everyone was fat and happy except the private-sector working families and taxpayers. We’re at the point now where political victories are more important than improving the citizens’ lot, on both sides of the aisle.

In 2018, Mary Beth got just 12 votes correct out of 25, although she stumbled into the twelfth by changing her incorrect vote on HB1302, the “red flag” gun bill. Jim Mathias may have always intended to vote the correct way, but the 22-day hiatus between Mary Beth’s vote and Jim’s tally was punctuated with a loud outcry from the 2A community that Mathias had to hear. [However, despite the NRA support Mathias joined Carozza on a vaguely-written ban (HB888/SB707) of so-called “bump stocks.”] Jim’s only other instance of getting a vote correct (a term-low 2 correct out of 25 votes) was sustaining the veto for HB694 – but that was the “ban the box” bill he originally voted for!

Is it any wonder that people like me can be cynical about Jim’s record?

A major bill that the pair parted ways on will also be decided in this election – same-day voter registration is already in place during early voting, but HB532 established a referendum for this year that mandates its inclusion on Election Day, presumably beginning in 2020. Jim Mathias may not mind this extra work for poll workers and increased risk of voter fraud, but Mary Beth stood against it.

That government we elected last time around kept trying to usurp power from the executive branch, and they succeeded with a pair of measures that Carozza and Mathias voted opposite ways on: Mary Beth was correct in attempting to stop HB230/SB290 (a bill requiring legislative approval to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative scam) and the sour grapes represented by SB687, laughingly referred to as “state vacancy reform.” Unfortunately, Jim Mathias backed an effort that succeeded in creating an unelected board to distribute school capital funding, removing the duty from the partially-elected (2 of 3 members) Board of Public Works – a slap at Democrat Comptroller Peter Franchot, who apparently votes too often with the Republican governor. (To his credit, Mathias voted for a floor amendment to restore the BPW to its place, but its failure was not enough to either dissuade him from voting for final passage or overriding the veto.)

The Big Labor interests that have supported Jim Mathias to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars over the last twelve years got their money’s worth this term – bills that dealt with making new hires opt out of being harassed to join the union rather than having to opt in (HB1017/SB677), another allowing disgruntled employees disputing prevailing wage decisions being allowed to take their suit directly to court (rather than to a state arbitrator, part of HB1243/SB572), and a huge gift as the precedent was set (with Jim’s support) for paid parental leave in SB859. This was on top of getting the veto override of HB1 from 2017, in part thanks to Mathias.

Mary Beth stood with providers by opposing a bill written by the insurance companies (HB1782) establishing a re-insurance program through a renewed assessment (formerly on a federal level, but being shifted to a state one) on those same insurers. Jim Mathias obviously isn’t into fee relief.

Finally on the environmental front, Mary Beth was on the right side of a proposal (HB1350/SB1006) that mandates certain state-funded construction projects be adapted to conform with weather conditions brought on by supposed global climate change. It may be prudent in some instances, but will certainly bust the budget elsewhere.

Because District 38 is my home district, I have been paying particular attention to the race. But it’s worth noting that a similar race exists in Senate District 8 which pits Senator Katherine Klausmeyer against Delegate Christian Miele.

While the differences aren’t as stark between those two as they’ve been between Carozza and Mathias, they are still there: over the last four years where they have served together, Klausmeyer has racked up annual mAP scores of 32, 2, 24, and 4 for an average of 15.5, while Miele has scored 58, 44, 60, and 26 for an average of 47. On the average, then, Miele would get 7 to 8 more mAP votes correct than Klausmeyer each term, which can mean more money in your pocket and more opportunity for businesses to thrive and create good-paying jobs. The records are there for inspection on the sidebar.

One final word. We can talk about voting records all day, but there are those who swear by Jim Mathias because he “works hard for the district” or some variation of that remark. As proof they can point to social media, where Jim is often going live at some event or gathering – even if it’s walking in a parade 100 miles outside his district. Look, I’m into hometown pride as much as anyone given my affinity for particular sports teams and number of my friends still hailing from mine, but the whole “look at me” attitude seems a little artificial and contrived after awhile.

Over this campaign I’ve pointed out the perceived flaws in Jim’s record in both the votes and money he takes for and from special interests, groups that seemingly are more concerned with combating the good things Governor Hogan does (yes, there are a few) and keeping the state as the East Coast’s answer to California and Chicago than they are with the needs of our diverse district. It’s telling that the latest charge by the Annapolis Democrats against Mary Beth is that she’s a “Washington insider” because she’s worked for several members of Congress and in the George W. Bush administration. If the party roles were reversed, they would call that “a career of public service.”

I noted four years ago that many of Mary Beth’s former cohorts provided the seed money for her campaign, but in this round it’s become far more local as she has gained the confidence of those who donated to her. Mary Beth wasn’t someone I knew well prior to her 2014 campaign: I met her years ago when she worked for the Ehrlich administration, but it’s not like our paths crossed a lot.

One thing I’ve noticed as she’s run her two campaigns, though: that woman is everywhere. But she isn’t one to plaster it all over social media, opting to be more of the work horse than the show horse. Maybe that costs her a few votes among those who like glamour and popularity, but the thoughtful voters notice.

I saw Jim on Sunday at the Autumn Wine Festival, just as Kim and I were leaving. While he probably shook more than a few hands while he was there, the reason he came was to sing with the band that was playing to close out the event – more on that band in a future post. It’s nothing new, as Jim has sung with On The Edge before at the AWF and, in general, has been around the local music scene as long as I’ve been aware of it. Obviously that’s something he enjoys doing, and I don’t see a thing wrong with that – in fact, I wouldn’t mind him having more time to sing after this November.

In short, the reason I’ve been on this race so much and for so long is that I think Jim’s a fine enough and likable fellow, but is also a political mismatch as a representative of this district – he seems to be much more suited for a district across the bridge, a place from where a significant portion of his financial support comes. Here we have a district that is much more right of center than he is.

So while she’s not as far to the right as I would prefer, I think that in order to make a better team for local success throughout District 38 we need to promote Mary Beth Carozza to be our next State Senator. I urge you to vote accordingly, whether at early voting beginning tomorrow and running through next Thursday or on the traditional November 6 date.

2018 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text

It’s been a few years since I got to share my experience at the GBF, for various reasons: I involuntarily skipped the 2016 event (because I couldn’t go that Saturday and Sunday was rained out) and last year I went but lost all my photos when my phone crapped out a few days later. So since the last time I got to do such a post a whole lot has changed – including the captions I can add.

I’m going to begin by thanking my DD, who is better known to most as my wife. She got this photo coming in to pick me up.

We were nicely welcomed to the grounds of Pemberton Park. You can tell she was coming to pick me up by the sunshine. Photo by Kim Corkran.

One major difference was having the GBF move to a Friday evening – Saturday schedule. From what I could gather from asking around, attendance Friday night was decent but not earthshattering – probably akin to a normal Sunday. But since photography isn’t nearly as good at night and being an amateur photojournalist is half the fun for me at the GBF, I chose to only attend Saturday.

I arrived there a little after noon for a 12:30 opening and the crowd was pretty strong already.

They added a few different games for the people to try, like the large-scale beer pong and unique bowling alley.

This is harder than it looks. I think I’ll stick to the bowling where they return the ball to me.

It was a modest beginning to the day. Seemed like a lot of people in line, but once they scattered it looked a lot emptier.

This is the local beer garden. It seemed to me that there were a larger proportion of local breweries vs. out-of-towners than before.

The beer garden from the “back” end.

If there’s one thing the GBF was not hurting for, it was food. This didn’t catch every food vendor, either – there were a couple around the corner.

I had a really good brat with peppers and onions. My only suggestion would be to get real Polish kielbasa for the sandwich.

On Friday night, this was the karaoke barn. On Saturday college football ruled the day.

It used to be that they had couches and comfy furniture at The Pub. Maybe that’s why no one was in there.

This was one of a few tents with the non-local breweries.

The first beer tent I stopped at, a half-hour in. I tried a couple, but missed out on the cider when I went back later. Bummer.

Not that I needed a map, but this was the substitute for the guides they used to give out.

It wasn’t Google, but it did the trick.

The problem with not having the guides (although most of us don’t carry a pen around, either) is that I had nothing but my phone on which to write down the ones I liked. As I’ll expand on later, though, they were few and far between.

Of course I stopped by to see my friend Shawn Jester, the leader of the local Republican club. It was his turn to be the hostest with the mostest.

I guess you can call this my old stomping grounds. It was nice to be on the outside, though.

Being a local election year, I was very surprised to not see them on the GBF video I saw from Friday night. Shawn explained that flooding at the warehouse where their items are kept put the kibosh on getting set up before the event, so they came early Saturday morning. Nor was the GOP weren’t the only vacancy, as there were a couple other open spots.

However, it’s worth noting that both Clerk of Court candidates were there: Bo McAllister was set up to the left of the GOP a few spots down and Chris Welsh to the right. It was good because I finally got to speak with Chris.

The aforementioned McAllister tent is third on the left, red with the orange tablecloth. An hour in and the crowds were still modest.

The Lions Club ran the cornhole tournament, which seemed to draw decent enough interest. There was usually someone playing as I walked by.

Not sure who won or how much the Lions Club made, but hopefully it was a successful run.

Finally, the sun came out and the crowds came out of nowhere to frequent the beer garden. This was taken about 2:30, two hours in.

Once the sun came out, so did the people.

Among that larger crowd: someone with a hat like this comes every year.

This is always a fun look.

Remember that shot I took of the back of the beer garden? By 4:00 the place was hopping.

Where did all these people come from? Too bad the event was over in an hour or so.

Even the human foosball was finally happening.

Human foosball. That sounds like a way to work off those alcohol calories.

I had to leave about 4:00 when the event ended at 5:30 because of a family event. So here’s my parting shot, photography-wise.

Still going at 4 p.m.

Now that I’m through with the photos, it leaves room for a few thoughts.

I really can’t be a judge of how it went Friday night because I wasn’t there. But to me the issue with doing the event in this manner is that it discourages tourism – if you live across the bridge you would have to take off a half-day to attend and I don’t think all that many are willing to do so – particularly if Saturday looks bad weather-wise. I guess they were trying for a 3rd Friday vibe but I’m doubtful they succeeded. Nor did I think going to this sort of event after sunset was a smart play, particularly barely 24 hours after a torrential downpour from Tropical Storm Michael. (Notice the amount of straw in the photos.) Unfortunately, it meant I missed the better of the bands.

And speaking of that: I truly miss the two-stage setup. Sure, it left room for the games on one end but those were really underutilized. And they actually could have placed the main stage on the south end, kept the karaoke tent on the north end, and used that as the side stage. I guess as a cost-cutting move they hire fewer bands by having one stage.

In reading my older posts on the GBF, it’s apparent that either the number of breweries represented has declined somewhat or they are just not doing as many varieties. It was said there were 100 beers on tap, which may have been the case: but do you have to have half or more be IPAs? There are those of us who like the lagers, pilsners, blonde ales, and hefeweisens just as others like the stouts and dark brews. I felt a little underrepresented, although there were also a smaller number of pumpkin beers there, thank goodness. Of course, without a booklet guide it was hard to see where I wanted to go and what to try.

I also don’t know if you increased the vendor price but that seemed to be lacking, too. Granted, my experience was as a non-profit so our rules were a little different but the row of vendors seemed to be more anemic this time around. I also liked the previous practice of having the local beer garden more defined instead of just seemingly a random segment of tents that were clustered together.

I guess it’s time to stop beating around the bush with this piece: this year it felt like the GBF was the red-headed stepchild no one wants (not the craft brew of the same name.)

It seems like a whole lot of corners were cut this time around: for example, they always wanted the setup to be on Friday but having a Saturday-Sunday event meant two nights of security. Shift Sunday to Friday night and suddenly you only need one night of security, plus the lights that had to be there anyway could be taken down early Saturday night once the breweries were broke down.

Or make the Pub a karaoke tent and now you don’t need to rent a lot of seating. They’ve done one stage for a couple years, anyway, but by chopping time off each day of the event (it was a 5 1/2 hour window on Friday and 5 hour window on Saturday, instead of six both days) and cutting off the band time even further by the bands wrapping up a half-hour before the “official” end they’ve succeeded in cutting maybe 11 hours of live music down to eight. But you still have to have the sound set up so why cut the music?

When we lost Pork in the Park after a fairly successful run, we were told it was because the county wanted to concentrate on its other event held at Winterplace, the Wicomico County Fair. But the writing on the wall for Pork in the Park came a few years earlier after they mismanaged one year’s event into a cluster that angered a good number of vendors, then decided to double the admission price in the hopes a more well-known musical act may save the day. When neither worked, they downsized the event too much and never got the momentum back; meanwhile, our food tastes moved away from barbecue and on to other things. Now we have no such festivals when for a few years two had reasonable success.

I’m surprised to find that Maryland is one of the least successful states for craft beer – perhaps due to antiquated laws or just a population group that prefers other adult beverages. (By contrast, Delaware is a heavy-drinking state.) Another interesting fact: excluding Prohibition, the number of breweries in America hit its all-time low in 1978, when there were only 89. (Now just between Maryland and Delaware there are 94, a small segment of 6,372 American breweries listed in 2017.)

But at some point we will reach saturation. Remember how there were so many coffeehouses two decades ago? There is still a thirst for coffee, but the industry has consolidated: there are a few major players, particularly Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, while regional and local shops such as Rise Up or Pemberton Coffeehouse remain as well. I suspect we are ready for a similar shakeout in breweries because tastes change and markets are fluid.

By the same token, where the Good Beer Festival was a rather unique event on its founding eight years ago, there are now beer festivals occurring in this region most weekends between spring and fall. Basically, I think the Good Beer Festival needs to become more of a destination: instead of dropping Sunday to add Friday night, go the opposite way and make it a whole weekend. Go back to multiple stages for music and catch those good up-and-coming regional acts like you did when you began. Perhaps try to get more beer-related vendors there, almost like a trade show. I think there can be a larger tent on the south end just for them so that aspect can be rain or shine.

By doing this and expanding the scope, you create an event that people interested in craft brewing regionally may want to spend the weekend at, sort of like how Pork in the Park used to attract BBQ teams from a wide area – except these folks won’t be camping outside cooking pigs, they’ll be using our lodging and eating at our other restaurants after hours – speaking of which, why not a 5:00 to 10:30 Friday, noon to 10:30 Saturday, noon to 5 Sunday event? Make it worthwhile.

Oh, and one more thing (and I can’t believe I’m saying this): they need to put a little fill line back on the cup. Maybe others need the full shot glass to taste, but I can get a good enough swallow with a half-shot to know whether I like it or not. People that stand at a tent and try six different brews have basically just consumed half a six-pack when it comes to alcohol (since craft beer is generally stronger.) I didn’t see too many unsteady people being held up by their friends yesterday but I didn’t stay until the end either.

The event this weekend came dangerously close to “meh…” for me, and if 40 people feel that way and stop showing up that’s $1,000 less the event brings in. As this is a fundraiser, one would think they would work on maximizing revenue by making it more attractive rather than get overly greedy for a subpar event or nickel-and-dime it to death like they did with Pork in the Park.

Oh, and I didn’t forget the music. There is a WLR upcoming from this, too.

Odds and ends number 88

As you might guess, the mailbox groans with new items when it’s election time. So this is a fresh edition of stuff I can deal with in a sentence to a few paragraphs.

I regret not bringing one of these items up a few months back when it came out, but as we get ready for state elections there are two key pieces from the Maryland Public Policy Institute that voters should not miss.

First of all, you all know that I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project for several years, with this year’s intention to wrap up that work.** While it doesn’t evaluate individual voters or bills like my evaluation does, their 2018 Annapolis Report is a useful, broad look at the overall picture and where it can stand some improvement in the next term, It’s nice work by Carol Park and our own Marc Kilmer.

It seems like a new Democrat strategy (besides cutting and running to Virginia) to combat Larry Hogan’s effective campaign is to talk down the state’s economy, but Park puts the lie to that in a more recent piece. Notes Park:

(I)t may be more helpful to look at Maryland’s future economic prospects than to focus on the historical figures to assess the validity of Jealous’s claim. After all, 2015–2017 was a period of strong growth nationally, so it may not be fair to attribute every aspect of improvement of Maryland’s economy to Hogan, nor may it be fair to criticize him for perceived shortcomings relative to other states.

There are a number of indicators that macroeconomists consider important for predicting a region’s long-term economic growth prospects: wage, entrepreneurship, innovation, and income inequality. We can look at these figures one-by-one to assess whether Maryland is in fact faring poorly compared with other states in the Mid-Atlantic region under Gov. Hogan.

It turns out Maryland isn’t doing so bad after all according to the selected figures. Now I know the whole deal about lies, damned lies, and statistics, but if you ask almost any Marylander whether he or she is better off than they were four years ago, the answer would likely be yes – unless you work for the federal government, in which case times may be a bit difficult. If – and this is a really, really big if considering we are over two years out – the Republicans can maintain their grip on Congress for the next two cycles and President Trump is re-elected – we may see a significant rightsizing of government that will likely put Maryland into recessionary status given our addiction to the federal crack pipe of taxpayer money and government jobs. (I’ve said it before – if not for the federal government, Maryland would be *pick your chronically high unemployment state.*) It will be painful, but it is necessary.

The MPPI also pointed out that small businesses will be able to take advantage of a modest tax break made necessary by the adoption of paid sick leave. (I say modest because it’s a pool of $5 million – as originally envisioned, the pool was far larger and assisted more employers. Both those provisions were killed or watered down in committee.)

Sliding over to another campaign, Dr. Ben Carson called him “a true patriot who has served our nation and made personal sacrifices for its well being.” But before he debated his two most prominent foes for the U.S. Senate seat on Sunday (more on that in a few paragraphs) Tony Campbell had one simple request: Pray.

This campaign is David vs. Goliath.  As a dear friend of mine told me this week, our job is to be in position to take advantage of God’s providential miracle.  Your prayers are crucial for our campaign’s success.

Now before the anti-“thoughts and prayers” crowd has a cow, they need to explain to me what harm comes from prayer. If it’s in the Lord’s plan to give Maryland a far more sane representative than that which we have now, why not give encouragement that thy will be done?

From calling on the Lord to calling out larceny: that’s the segue I make for the next item.

One minor topic that takes up a couple pages in my forthcoming book on the TEA Party is a look at the “scam PACs” that started up in the wake of Citizens United, conning well-meaning small donors into supporting the lavish consulting fees of companies related to the overall PAC rather than the candidates or causes they purported to support. A three-part series from the Capital Research Center called Caveat Donator delves into that topic as well, and is worth the read.

Back to that Senate debate. I have found my way onto Neal Simon’s mailing list, and his spin doctors were ready:

Throughout the one-hour debate, Simon focused much of his criticism on Cardin’s lack of leadership in moving forward legislation that focuses on Maryland’s interests. Simon went on the offensive right out of the gate, painting a picture of a career-focused politician focused on placating the party leadership and cow-towing to establishment donors in order to keep his job. Cardin’s voting record is the most partisan of all current sitting senators as he has voted with Chuck Schumer more than 97 percent of the time.

When referring to the numerous internal threats and dangers facing America today, Simon said, “I’m not sure which is most dangerous, Trump’s Twitter feed or Ben Cardin’s rubber stamp.”

As I watched the debate, I noticed it was Simon who was the more aggressive toward Cardin, which is to be expected because he really has to swing for the fences now. There’s a month to close what’s a 40-plus point deficit between him and “our friend Ben” (who’s no friend of common-sense voters.) To that end, Simon is emphasizing Cardin’s fealty to Democrat leadership based on voting record.

But we need to pray for Tony to get another bite of the apple because his debate performance was “meh…” Whoever prepped him needs to step up his or her game because there were a couple “deer in the headlights” moments for Tony – on the other hand, while Simon seemed scripted he was very personable. Cardin was his normal low-key self, almost like “okay, I have to do this debate, let’s get it over with.” But he was more or less prepared for what he would get.

The best possible scenario for this race involves Republicans staying loyal while slyly inviting their Democrat friends to send a message to Cardin by voting Simon – after all, what Republican ever wins in Maryland? I don’t care if it’s one of those 35-33-32 deals: as long as our guy has the 35, he has 6 years to build up the next campaign.

You may remember in the last Presidential go-round that the most centrist of Democrat candidates was onetime Reagan administration official Jim Webb of Virginia. While his campaign didn’t gain much in the way of traction, Jim landed on his feet nonetheless: he now draws a paycheck from the American Petroleum Institute and advocates for offshore energy exploration, to wit:

The United States can increase these advantages (in energy exploration) through renewed emphasis on safe and technologically advanced offshore exploration, which is increasingly in use throughout the world. Ninety-four percent of federal offshore acreage is currently off limits to energy development. The Trump administration’s National Offshore Leasing Program for 2019-2024 would change that by opening key areas off the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Recent advances in safety solutions, plus improvements in business practices and tighter government standards, guarantee that offshore exploration can be safe, targeted and productive.

Maybe that’s why Ben Jealous had the commonwealth on his mind the other day. But that’s the place I’ll use to bring this post home, and I have an old friend of mine to credit. My old “Rebeldome” cohort Bob Densic spied this in the Daily Signal and knew I’d be interested – it’s a piece on the current state of the TEA Party in Virginia.

So that will (almost) be a wrap for now. I might get enough to do another one before Election Day, but we will see.

**I’m thinking of getting the band back together, as it were, for a limited engagement. To me, it may be a useful exercise to maintain the Maryland edition of the mAP, but restrict it to the three districts (36, 37, and 38) on the Eastern Shore. Anyone else can do their own research on their members of the General Assembly.