Weekend of local rock volume 68

June 18, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · Comment 

I’m about two weeks late on this, but it’s better late than never when it comes to the Concert for a Random Soldier held back on Memorial Day weekend.

There were over a dozen bands on the bill, but we arrived about halfway through the event so we missed some of the acts that I remember as more of the oldies groups. (One thing about CRS: many of the same bands participate year after year.) So we walked in on Scrapple – it’s not just for breakfast anymore, but they were a first-time participant who enjoyed the affair.

They were probably one of the first to play the heavier stuff, doing some Godsmack and a great mashup of Rush’s Working Man and War Pigs by Black Sabbath. I would have liked the solo at the end of Working Man to make it a circular medley, but no matter.

As the stage was reset between bands, there were acoustic acts set up off to the side. Captain Mike was one of those who did a couple stints.

In this case, he yielded to the Joey Fulkerson Trio, which is the three-piece variant of Nothin’ But Trouble.

They reached back into a blues-based set that featured some B.B. King and wrapped up with the Jimi Hendrix classics Hey Joe and Voodoo Child. That was an enjoyable set as the fellas were jamming.

After the return of Captain Mike, the stage was set up for Welcoming War.

They were definitely a power trio, with the additional distinction of not having a lead singer. So all of the songs were instrumental.

In that respect it was much like listening to jazz – which is also often instrumental – but with rock instruments. It was a unique sort of a heavy metal/jazz fusion that I think I can get into because I don’t much care for jazz but heavy metal sometimes needs a different take.

The mood shifted for the final acoustic act of the day-turned-evening, Mike and Savannah Shockley.

Savannah did a credible job on a Stevie Nicks classic, but she really did well with the couple originals they did. It’s interesting that some of their music is programmed while the remainder is live, as you can see. Obviously this can be done in a professional manner as I’ve reviewed a lot of albums put together by one person, a handful of instruments, and a computer, so we will see how they develop.

From what I understand this was their second gig, so Savannah will learn over time and performance just what songs work for her and which ones she should avoid.

There was no avoiding the heavy from the last act of the day, Modern Day Addiction.

Blasting their way through a bevy of covers like TNT, Fuel, Dio’s Holy Diver, and a great version of Tainted Love, a song made famous a quarter-century ago by Soft Cell, they also threw in some great original stuff. The mosh pit was in full effect while they were playing, even if it was only a couple people.

There have been a couple years where the company was ready to go by the time MDA played, so I was glad to stick around this time.

Of all the acts and all the love they had for the cause, though, there was one thing sadly missing. My friends Jim and Michele Hogsett used to play this event annually, whether as part of Semiblind or as solo performers (and sometimes both.) Regular readers of mine know Michele lost her battle with cancer late last year (WLR volume 67 covered her memorial concert) and it’s hit Jim hard, so keep him in your thoughts and prayers. I definitely missed him at CRS, and I’m sure the Cliftons did too.

But they promise “a few exciting changes” for next year, so I hope to see you out there. Great music for a great cause is always good.

As a programming note: you won’t have to wait as long for WLR volume 69. It will truly be a weekend full this time.

More hidden costs of climate compliance

June 17, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Radical Green · Comment 

In the interest of not letting good writing go to waste, allow me to direct you to the Patriot Post today. I truly enjoyed writing on my assigned topic this week, but wanted to share a couple other thoughts with you. It’s a good time for some reminders.

Over the years I have done this website, I have made the energy industry somewhat of a focus. It began with a friendship with Jane Van Ryan, who used to work for API before she left there a few years back. She encouraged me to do a little bit of research on the topic and quickly I was reminded that oil was the economic lifeblood of our country and the better and cheaper energy would be, the better off our economy would be. Being the logical sort of person I am, it was easy to figure out that coal, oil, and natural gas were definitely more reliable than wind that may not blow or sun that only shines between 9 and 15 hours a day – assuming, of course, a cloudless sky. So I believed in the idea that our future could be more secure if we use our natural resources we were blessed with.

On the other hand, there are those who want to tilt the playing field toward what they consider “renewable” resources. Green energy has been the beneficiary of not just direct subsidies, but carveouts in the market designed to make sure there is a place for these (otherwise useless) solar panel fields and wind turbines to send their energy. The market has been bent every which way for decades, although I’m sure many would argue that the oil industry got the initial benefits when we built thousands of miles of highways. For the most part, though, the pathways were already there – we just improved them to allow goods and people access from coast to coast in a matter of three to four days. It was as easy as stopping at the gas station every few hundred miles.

My columnist Marita Noon gets it too, which is why I run her column weekly. She was talking about wind turbines this week, which led one of my more liberal readers to note that there are a lot of places which welcome wind turbines. He mentioned Germany, but the love for wind turbines there is far from universal and the subsidies still won’t make offshore wind palatable.

I just look at things through a logical lens. A century ago, windmills powered individual farms but they were scrapped once rural electrification took hold in the 1930s - that was a more reliable source. So why are we going back to that less reliable technology when we have the reliability of coal, oil, and natural gas? Seems to me that “free” electricity in the form of solar or wind power costs a lot more than we think.

Shorebird of the Week – June 16, 2016

June 16, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comment 

The final Shorebird of the Week for the first half is also the last of Delmarva’s four All-Stars to be so honored. Based on his dominating performances, though, Ryan Meisinger may be the most deserving.

I like to look at stats when I do this, and I imagine the tone for Ryan’s career thus far was set in his very first pro appearance, the one and only time he pitched in the Gulf Coast League and struck out the side in the one inning he threw. Yes, they were a little overmatched so off to Aberdeen Ryan went and he put up great numbers there as well – in 22 1/3 innings spaced among 17 appearances Meisinger only allowed 15 hits and five walks for a 0.88 WHIP to go with an outstanding 1.99 ERA. He also struck out 33 in that span, which means just under half his outs came by way of strikeout.

The 11th round pick last year out of Radford University (a native of Prince Frederick, Maryland) had a hiccup in his first appearance here back on Opening Day, walking three of the four batters he faced. But since then he’s turned it completely around and boasts a stellar 0.78 ERA with a 3-2 record (his first professional decisions.) Just like in Aberdeen, he’s kept an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 48 to 9, which is doubly impressive when you consider he’s pitched just 34 2/3 innings on the season. He’s also kept the sub-1 WHIP.

One thing the Orioles brass is doing differently this year with Ryan is stretching him out. Most of his Aberdeen appearances were an inning, as he began his career there as a closer. (Ryan did get three two-inning saves with the IronBirds, however.) Of late with Delmarva, Ryan has commonly pitched three full innings per stint. However, Meisinger has been rather pitch-efficient as he’s not exceeded 45 pitches in any one appearance and that trait can be useful down the road.

Oftentimes players who make the SAL All-Star team are ticketed for a promotion to Frederick soon afterward, so it’s likely the 22-year-old will soon be moving on. We’ll see if his numbers can stay on track as he advances.

Willful ignorance?

According to multiple news reports on both the state and national level – apparently this was, to paraphrase Joe Biden, a “big f’ing deal” – Larry Hogan is now an official member of #NeverTrump. Welcome aboard.

Hogan said he doesn’t plan to vote for Trump, but was coy on his choice otherwise. “I guess when I get behind the curtain I’ll have to figure it out,” Hogan said. “Maybe write someone in, I’m not sure.” That sounds vaguely familiar, although even as moderate as Hogan can be I would imagine he’s not a Hillary supporter.

Certainly the governor would prefer to keep his questioning confined to affairs of state, but after being bugged about his choice for months once his endorsed candidate Chris Christie exited the race he obviously threw up his hands and gave the most honest answer he could. Of course, it wasn’t good enough for the Democrats who want Hogan to condemn Trump for his statements so they can beat up the downticket candidates this year, but the goal shouldn’t be to satisfy a party that’s nominating a candidate who, if she were not Bill Clinton’s wife, would likely be in prison for her actions as Secretary of State.

What’s interesting to me about this whole thing is that Hogan’s appeal cuts across many of the same lines as Donald Trump’s does. Both had crossover attraction in their election, as thousands of Democrats voted Hogan in 2014. Many of them switched parties two years later to cast a ballot for Donald Trump. At the end of last year the Maryland GOP had 971,806 voters but gained over 29,000 by the end of April to eclipse 1 million for the first time at 1,000,915. (As of the end of May they had 1,004,083.) Unfortunately, the Democrats are growing even faster as they gained 68,000 in the same December-May period. So there may be a little bit of a political calculation going there.

(Contrary to popular opinion, however, the Libertarian Party has not gained in Maryland despite Republican threats to leave if Trump was nominated. In the month after the primary they actually lost 87 voters.)

It’s worth noting that Donald Trump got 54.1% of the GOP primary vote, which translated to 248,343 votes. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton received 62.5% of the Democrat vote, which turned out to be 573,242 votes. Even Bernie Sanders outpolled Trump with 309,990 votes. GOP turnout was right about 45%, so Trump would have to get a whole lot of unaffiliated voters to have a shot. Having Hogan come out publicly against The Donald probably doesn’t assist that cause.

But the more important number to Hogan is 70 percent, which is roughly his approval rating right now. I don’t think Trump can touch that number in Maryland, and while there may be the most radical 10 percent of Trump supporters who won’t vote for Hogan in 2018 because Hogan is withholding his support, that’s only about 25,000 voters at risk – not even 1/4 of his victory margin in 2014. If 70 percent of the population likes you, it’s a pretty good bet you’ll be re-elected. (This is why the Democrats have tried to pin Trump to Hogan every chance they get.)

While I suspect that his reasoning may be a lot different than mine, I’m pleased to have Governor Hogan on my side on this one. The GOP still has an opportunity to correct course at the Cleveland convention, and I think they better take it.

Who wants wind turbines?

Commentary by Marita Noon

why would they do this

 

Last month’s wind-turbine fire near Palm Springs, CA, that dropped burning debris on the barren ground below, serves as a reminder of just one of the many reasons why people don’t want to live near the towering steel structures. In this case, no one was hurt as the motor fire was in a remote, unincorporated area of Palm Springs. But imagine if it was located just hundreds of feet from your back door – as they are in many locations – and the burning debris was raining down into your yard where your children were playing or onto your roof while you are sleeping.

Other reasons no one wants them nearby include the health impacts. Last month, Dave Langrud, of Alden, MN, sent a six-page, detailed complaint to the Minnesota Public Regulatory Commission. In it, he states: “Wisconsin Power and Light constructed the Bent Tree Wind Farm surrounding my home. There are 19 turbines within one mile and 5 within ½ mile. Both my wife and I have had difficulty sleeping in our home since the turbines started operating. If we leave the area, we don’t have this problem. The turbines have also caused severe headaches for my wife. She didn’t have this problem before the turbines, and this isn’t a problem for her when we spend time away from our home and away from the turbines. When we are home, the problems return.”

In response to another recent ongoing complaints at multiple Minnesota wind projects about the proximity of the turbines to residences, commissioners from the Minnesota Department of Health, Department of Commerce, and Pollution Control Agency acknowledged that regarding permitting and setbacks, “the noise standard was not promulgated with wind turbine-like noise in mind. It addresses audible noise, not infrasound. As such, it is not a perfect measure to use in determining noise-related set-backs between wind turbines and residences.” Yet, it is the “measure” that is used. The Commissioners also acknowledged: “At present there is no available funding to conduct such studies.”

Langrud’s letter addresses property values. He asks: “How do we get a fair price if we sell in order to save our health?” But recent studies prove that it isn’t just those forced to live in the shadows of the turbines whose property values are diminished. Waterfront properties that have offshore wind turbines in their viewshed would have a “big impact on coastal tourism,” according to a study from North Carolina State University. The April 2016 report in Science Daily states: “if turbines are built close to shore, most people said they would choose a different vacation location where they wouldn’t have to see turbines.” The economic impact to the coastal communities is estimated to be “$31 million dollars over 20 years.”

A similar study done in Henderson, NY, found a proposed wind project could have “a total loss in property value of up to about $40 million because of the view of turbines.” An interesting feature of the NY study, not addressed in the NC one is how the loss in property taxes, due to reduced values, will be made up. The Watertown Daily Times points out that most of the homes whose values “would fall sharply due to the view of turbines” are “assessed above $1 million.” It states: “homes in the $200,000 range without a view of turbines would probably see an increase in property taxes to make up for the overall drop in property values.” Robert E. Ashodian, a local resident is quoted as saying: “If property values go down and the town isn’t going to spend less money, the tax rate is going to go significantly up for all of the homeowners who aren’t impacted.” Henderson Supervisor John J. Calkin expressed concern over the “devastating impact” the wind project would have on the town and school district.

Offshore wind turbines were supposed to offer a visual benefit, but they, obviously, bring their own set of problems.

The Financial Times reports: “Building wind farms out at sea, rather than on land where critics say they are an eyesore, has made these power stations a less contentious form of clean energy … But it also makes them dearer than most other power stations and many EU governments face pressure to cut green subsidies that opponents say raise electricity prices and make some industries uncompetitive.” The higher cost argument is what has caused Denmark – known as the international poster child for green energy and the first to venture into offshore wind power – to abandon the policies that subsidized the turbines. Cancelling the coastal wind turbines is said to “save the country around 7 billion Krones ($1 billion).” According to Bloomberg: “The center-right government of [Prime Minister] Lars Loekke Rasmussen wants to scrap an electricity tax that has helped subsidize wind turbines since 1998.” The Danish People’s Party, the largest group in the ruling bloc, is part of the “policy about-face.” Party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl says: “You have to remember this is a billion-figure cost that we’re passing on to the Danes.” She added: “We also have a responsibility to discuss the costs we impose on Danes over the next 10 years.”

Germany is facing similar problems with its green energy policies. Energy Digital magazine points out that Germany’s rapid expansion of green energy has “driven up electricity costs and placed a strain on the grid.” As a result, Germany has capped wind power expansion. In fact, subsidies – which drove the growth in renewable energy – are being cut throughout Europe. Bloomberg states: “Europe is falling out of love with renewables.”

Then, there are the U.S. utility companies who are forced to buy the more expensive wind-generated electricity due to an abused – but little known in the public – 1978 law that was intended to help the U.S. renewable energy industry get on its feet. The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) was designed to give smaller power players an entry into the market. If wind-turbine projects meet the guidelines, utilities must buy the electricity generated at “often above-market” costs. Instead, in many cases, big projects, owned by one company, get divided up into different parcels with unique project names, but are still owned by the major developer. Energy Biz magazine reports: “PacifiCorp, for one, estimates that such abuses will cost its customers up to $1.1 billion in the coming decade by locking the company into unneeded electricity contracts at rates up to 43-percent higher than market price.” It quotes John Rainbolt, federal affairs chief for Wisconsin-based Alliant Energy: “Our customers essentially pay for PURPA power at 20-percent higher-than-market-based wind prices.” Led by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) a move is underway in Congress to review the nearly 40-year old legislation.

So, residents who live near wind turbines don’t want wind turbines. Nor do residents and renters who have them in the viewshed, governments looking to cut costs, utility companies, or ratepayers. And we haven’t even mentioned those who want to protect birds and bats. Scientific American just addressed the concern that “Bat killings by wind energy turbines continue.” It claims: “wind turbines are, by far, the largest cause of bat mortality around the world” and this includes three species of bats listed – or being considered for listing – under the Endangered Species Act. Bats are important because they eat insects and, therefore, save farmers billions of dollars in pest control each year. Scientific American reports that in addition to dead hawks and eagles found under the wind turbines are thousands of bats.

Who does want wind turbines?

Wind turbine manufacturers, the American Wind Energy Association, and the crony capitalists who benefit from the tax breaks and subsidies – which Robert Bryce, author of Power Hungry and Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper, reports total more than $176 billion “given to the biggest players in U.S. wind industry.” He states that the growth in wind energy capacity has “not been fueled by consumer demand, but by billions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer money.” To address those who defend rent-seeking wind turbines and squawk about the favorable tax treatment the oil and gas sector gets, Bryce points out: “on an energy equivalent basis, wind energy’s subsidy is nearly three times the current market prices of natural gas.” Even billionaire Warren Buffett acknowledged that the only reason his companies are in the wind business is: “We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms.”

If no one but the rent-seeking crony capitalists want wind turbines, why must people like Minnesota’s Langrud have to endure them? Because the wind energy lobby is powerful and “green energy” sounded good decades ago when the pro green-energy policies like PURPA were enacted. However, as the Bloomberg story on Demark points out: wind power is “a mature industry that no longer needs state aid.” Unfortunately, in December 2015, Congress extended the wind energy tax credits through 2021. But tweaks, such as reforming PURPA, can take place and a new president could totally change the energy emphasis – which would be good, because, it seems, no one really wants wind turbines.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energywhich expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Freedom from sanity

In the wake of a senseless tragedy perpetrated by a radical Islamist in Orlando, the natural reaction to a group of radical Christians in Iowa is disappointing but not surprising. The crime of the Iowans? In the case of Governor Terry Branstad, it’s signing a proclamation for the Iowa 99 County Bible Reading Marathon, slated for June 30 to July 3 in front of every Iowa county courthouse. In response, he may be sued by the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. From the Daily Signal:

Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor told The Daily Signal that her organization, an atheist and agnostic nonprofit based in Madison, Wisconsin, is asking Branstad to rescind the proclamation.

“It’s totally beyond the purview of a governor or any public official to request that people read the Bible, much less that they engage in a Bible marathon or that they read any ‘holy book,’” Gaylor told The Daily Signal. She added: “Government is supposed to be neutral towards religion. It’s not supposed to play favorites.”

Gaylor says the proclamation is “unconstitutional” and “egregious” and that her organization is “hoping to sue.”

“We have a godless, secular Constitution,” Gaylor said. “There’s no Bible in it.”

I would argue that we have what’s pretty much become a Godless, secular nation thanks to people like Gaylor, but that’s not really the point.

Insofar as I know, no one is going to be rounded up and herded off to these county courthouses to be forced to listen to Bible verses and prayer. Obviously this is a volunteer, freewill effort that will be conducted on the public square and Governor Branstad is expressing his support, presumably as a fellow Christian. I wouldn’t mind seeing the same occur in Maryland and Delaware.

Granted, there’s a supposed separation of church and state, but to me it doesn’t mean the state can’t sponsor religious activities. A proper interpretation of that doctrine is to know there is no Church of America, such as there’s a Church of England. I attend a Baptist church, but that makes me no more or less an American than someone who goes to the Catholic cathedral, Jewish synagogue, Hindu temple, Islamic mosque, or any of the other sects who believe in a Creator. (Or those who don’t believe in one.)

I don’t know about you, but I can’t equate the perceived inconvenience of having to avoid a corner of the courthouse lawn to not hear a prayer service with someone of any denomination expressing his religious beliefs via a mass shooting, simply for the offense of being gay. (That assumes there were no straight people in the club, which there surely were.) Is it really that terrible that people want to pray?

Recently I had a medical scare that turned out to be minor, but one thing that surely kept it minor was being lifted up in prayer by members of my church, friends, and people who hardly knew me but were concerned. I was not concerned about the denomination of those who prayed for me, but appreciated the thoughts and prayers. There was no “right” prayer, just a good volume. Maybe in this time of strife we need a larger volume of prayer for our nation, you think?

I think the Iowa Prayer Caucus state director, Ginny Caligiuri, summed this up just right:

We are reading the Word of God on the grounds of our courthouses because we as a nation have turned from our biblical foundations and our nation is in big trouble.

Amen. No harm, no foul, so read away!

A familiar sight

I may never grace the pages of The Resurgent for my writing ability, but I at least can say I contributed in some small way to the success of Erick Erickson’s venture. In an article written by Steve Berman on Friday, I had to do a double-take. “That looks like the Salisbury Trump headquarters,” I said to myself, then realized the photo looks REALLY familiar. The person who did the photo for the article (perhaps Berman) cropped the car out of the left side of the photo.

I suspect I also used this photo for Facebook as well, so it’s pretty much public domain. But I had to have a little fun with it.

Berman was a good sport, though.

Yet there was a serious element to his search.

Of course all this played out prior to the Orlando terrorist attack last night, which may make the fundraising question less relevant for Trump*, but the case that’s been made by Berman and others who question the wisdom of nominating Trump is his heretofore weak effort at raising the sort of money needed. $2 billion in free media is great for the primary, but now the actual race between Trump and the candidate the media actually supports has begun. This doesn’t count Trump’s belief that he can put California, New York, New Jersey, and “maybe” Maryland in play.

Now I was told at our state convention that the RNC would immediately chip in $25 million upon his nomination, as Trump’s message about self-funding his campaign was only for the primary. Nor does Trump have the advantages of donors made fat by government largesse or coerced dues to bankroll his campaign. While it’s possible to overcome these disadvantages on a state scale as Larry Hogan did, the fact Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six national Presidential elections tells me the Democratic formula is hard to beat. It’s going to take all these newfound passionate Trump people contributing to the ground game to win over Hillary, and do so without taking resources needed to maintain the Senate and House.

Color me, along with Berman and Wolf, a little skeptical at this point.

__________________

* The BIG caveat: it seems to me that the more anti-Trump protests and terror attacks there are, the closer Trump inches to his goal. It will be interesting to see the polls toward the end of this coming week as more is learned about the Orlando attacker.

monoblogue music: “Time Slow Down” by Tod Hughes

June 11, 2016 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comment 

Tod Hughes - Time Slow DownIt’s been a bit of a drought for my review series, so it was nice to come back and do something that was original in the sense that it employed harmonies successfully, for the most part.

Tod Hughes is a musician from Calgary, Alberta, who claims to write “Real Music from the Heart!” I certainly can’t argue with the point, although there were a few points in the collection where the execution could have been improved. But the harmonies are the story on this album, beginning with the title track that sets the tone for the remainder. A similar track to Time Slow Down comes later in the album, as Real You And Me runs in the same vein. Worth Waiting For has that same nice female harmony with a more country-western sound – and by that I mean the classic stuff, not the homogenized rock with country instruments that plays on most country stations these days. Roots rock has some of the same influences, and it’s funny that Hughes mentions Johnny Cash in the song since Cash was considered to be rock-and-roll back in the day.

The ballad Darkness that Cries and finale Is It Really Fair also have that nice blend of voices, with the latter song being the most active and political of the nine songs on the set. Hughes points out that he does a number of shows “for the direct benefit of charity, where all proceeds go to support those in need. These charities have included education in developing countries, micro-finance and the recent refugee crisis in Syria.” Obviously that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but musicians tend to be generous with their talent.

Other songs on the CD have their moments as well. One of a Kind has a unique rhythm to it, building to a crescendo that Hughes doesn’t quite have the voice for. Hughes shows his humorous side on the country-tinged Nothing Too Obscure as well as this track he made a video for, Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place.

The video actually makes the track seem better, which is good. But the song I enjoyed the most was the middle song of the nine-song collection, the ode to the road Coming Home To You. It has a great bridge in the middle, but it did the best at evoking the optimistic mood of coming home - even if he did try and perhaps unnecessarily sing in a higher key toward the end.

Overall, this is not a bad vehicle to drive Tod’s career, establishing him further as a good regional artist. Apparently this album is getting a little bit of international play, though, so if you like that mix that occurs at the intersection between classic country and old-style rock that stresses all the instruments, not just bass and drums, you may get enjoyment from this too. As I often say: don’t just take my word for it, listen for yourself. “Time Slow Down” came out May 8 and even can be had in the old-school vinyl.

The seduction of good intentions

In yesterday’s Salisbury Independent, County Councilman Marc Kilmer discussed his concerns about a tuition assistance program proposed by community leaders and supported by County Executive Bob Culver. The aim of this Wor-Wic College proposal would be to assist Wicomico County high school students by supplementing their available financial aid, with an estimated cost once the program is underway of $665,000 annually.

One of the examples cited by the backers of the Wor-Wic Economic Impact Scholarship is that of Garrett County at the far western end of Maryland, which has a similar program. I’m sure those on County Council have seen this document, but the Garrett County Commissioners have produced a (somewhat dated) report on the Garrett County Scholarship Program, which they began way back in 2006 – so the 2014 report had several years’ worth of data to evaluate its success.

A couple things to bear in mind are that Garrett County is not one of the wealthier counties in Maryland, and in terms of its economic strength it would fit in well with the rural counties of the Eastern Shore. As the report authors note, the county is in a transition “from an economy traditionally based on agriculture, forest products, and mining to a more diversified economy based on tourism, commerce, light industry, and construction.” But it is also far smaller than Wicomico County in terms of population, with just over 30,000 people – imagine the city of Salisbury (but not the outskirts and densely populated nearby incorporated and unincorporated areas) spread out in a far larger geographic area, as Garrett is the second-largest county in the state when it comes to land area. It doesn’t have a large populated area, either, as the largest towns of Mountain Lake Park and Oakland (the county seat) hover around 2,000 residents apiece.

According to the commissioners’ report, between 1/3 and 2/5 of the eligible students in the county took advantage of the program, but in raw numbers the total was less impressive: from a fall 2008 peak of 138 recipients, the number declined over the next several years to a low of 79 in the fall of 2013 (the last year detailed by the report.) Yet the program comes with a significant cost due to some of its qualities: for FY2013 the price tag was $427,365 and for FY2017 the county has budgeted $500,000. However, the county also assists students who are dual-enrolled in one of its two high schools and Garrett College as well as a handful who are enrolled in non-degree certificate programs, as well as encouraging students to take more than the minimum 12 credit hours to maintain eligibility. They pick up that tab.

While the programs as envisioned here in Wicomico County and the Garrett County program have somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison to them, I think it’s fair to say that the local proposal is probably going to cost more than envisioned. Expanding the Garrett scholarship to non-degree certificate programs, while a sound idea, is an example of the mission creep that often occurs with the government getting involved. It’s also worth pointing out a spike in costs came when Garrett College tuition increased significantly in 2009.

Unfortunately, the one relevant piece of data we don’t have is whether these scholarship recipients remained to take (or create) jobs in the Garrett County region. According to state records, though, the workforce in Garrett has actually declined from 15,666 to 14,475 over the last decade (April 2006 – April 2016) for a drop of 7.6%. Conversely, Wicomico County declined from 49,566 to 47,504 in that same period, for a decrease of 4.2% – so by that measure the Garrett County program may not be very successful. (Yet the Garrett unemployment rate has only risen from 4.7% to 5.7% in comparison to a jump from 3.7% to 6% in Wicomico.)

One way of expressing the cost of this program is to equate it to property taxes. For each penny of property tax, Wicomico County collects about $570,000 (this is assuming I am reading the budget correctly, of course. But it sounds about right based on my experience.) So this would be a little over a penny out of the 95 cents or so the county collects out of every $100 of property valuation. The owner of a house assessed at $200,000 would pay about $20 a year toward this goal. If that seems worth it to give students a break, then support the scholarship program.

But if I may make a couple suggestions: I think the total expenditure should be capped and given out on a first come, first served basis. I understand not everyone makes snap decisions well, but in order to be fiscally responsible we can’t let this mushroom beyond its small percentage of the county budget. I would also reserve a number of slots for certificate programs Wor-Wic offers, similar to that element of Garrett’s program. Since a P-TECH school is not yet in the cards for Wicomico County, this can be the next best thing if done correctly.

It’s not likely any member of my family will take advantage of the program, but Kilmer is right to be a little skeptical of it at this stage. The county did set aside the money to begin the program once the questions are answered, though, so it’s possible an upcoming high school class will be the first to have this option.

Shorebird of the Week – June 9, 2016

June 9, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off 

Baseball is a team sport, and to have a successful team all the players have to do their part – even if it’s a little bit unexpected.

For Gerrion Grim, it hasn’t been the greatest season. He tends to be the odd man out in the outfield rotation, which means he’s only appeared in 22 games all season. In the month of May, he endured a 2-for-28 batting slump that’s continued with a 1-for-6 June. If you’re averaging one AB a day, you’re likely not too high on the totem pole. His stats are reflective of this, as Gerrion entered last night’s contest against West Virginia with a modest .217 batting average, for which he was sitting on the bench for the third game in a row Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s game at West Virginia turned out to be the second long game in succession for both teams: after battling to a 13-inning win over the Power Monday night, the Shorebirds came to the bottom of the 16th inning on Tuesday having finally secured an 8-3 advantage in the top half. But when the last available man in the bullpen began to falter by giving up a run and leaving the bases loaded, manager Ryan Minor turned to Grim to make his pro pitching debut and he earned the save by retiring the last two batters in the 8-4 win.

Grim, a 22 year old who the Orioles selected in the 14th round of the 2014 draft, is a St. Louis-area native who hails from Jefferson College in Missouri. It may seem a rather obscure school but as a Tigers fan growing up I rooted for a pitcher who attended the school, Mike Henneman. Also coming from there is longtime MLB hurler Mark Buehrle, who lived by the mantra of “work fast, throw strikes.” Grim, who had pitched a few innings at the college level. induced a popup and strikeout to close the game in just five pitches, so perhaps the college’s tradition lives on.

The Orioles aren’t strangers to moving position players to the mound – just ask Mychal Givens how that’s worked out – so if the batting doesn’t improve (and Grim only has a .227 career average in mostly GCL play) maybe he could be a success on the hill.

Leadership on trade?

June 8, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I have a sneaking hunch that my friend Rick Manning of Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and Donald Trump may not see eye to eye on what constitutes “limited” government should Trump be elected, but one thing ALG is encouraging Trump to pursue is a more America-centric policy on trade.

On Monday ALG released a letter they sent to Trump thanking him for “giving voice to the reality that the deals negotiated by our leaders are anything but free trade or good for America.”

Manning cited two examples of poor trade practice in his letter, with the first singling out the struggles one American shoe maker endures in competing with Nike:

The average Vietnamese worker makes $150 a month, virtual slave wages.  But the average Vietnamese textile worker who makes shoes earns even less, in fact, about 30 percent less down to $100 a month according to Vietnamonline.com. While this is good for Nike, which doesn’t actually make any of its hundred dollar plus tennis shoes here in America, it is bad for their competitor, New Balance, which employs 900 Americans in Massachusetts and Maine making footwear.

Let me step in for a minute (pun intended.) I happen to prefer New Balance shoes for a simple reason: it is far easier for me to find their shoes in the wide width I need because I wear 4E wide shoes for my duck feet. New Balance seems to have their finger on the pulse of the American market better than Nike, which outsources their production to the cheapest possible outposts. (It shows in their quality, too. I’ve been disappointed in the couple pairs of Nikes I’ve owned.) But Nike has a far bigger market share thanks to the power of marketing, if not necessarily the quality of their shoes.

Manning goes on to cite a second imbalance he’s hoping Trump may address:

Another egregious example of American policy being out of whack is the area of agricultural subsidies and trade.  A specific example is the much maligned U.S. sugar policy, which is in place to offset massive sugar subsidization by producers like Brazil, Thailand and India.  These countries’ subsidies and trade-distorting policies have wrecked the world sugar market and could drive the U.S. industry out of business.

Over the years Life Savers, Dum-Dums and other candy products have seen their production relocated to Canada or Mexico – not because of labor costs but the cost of sugar. Since the ingredient is the major proportion of the product, it only makes sense to find the cheapest alternative. Manning cites one proposal to address this:

However, there is a solution for someone with a hard-nosed desire to get the best deal for the American people and end agriculture subsidies.  U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) has introduced legislation that would end the U.S. sugar program when the U.S. gets other nations to do the same through the World Trade Organization.  Yoho’s approach, making the end of our sugar policy contingent upon our competitors eliminating their subsidies, too, gives the President a powerful tool to use as a cudgel over world-wide agricultural competitor’s heads, because Congress would have already done its work.

The ALG letter also goes on to talk about ending Chinese currency manipulation, which is a familiar complaint from manufacturing groups as well. But Manning is adamant about manufacturing’s place in the American economy. “Rebuilding a robust domestic manufacturing sector is important to restoring America’s economic leadership in the world, and in doing so, providing hope to our nation that tomorrow will once again be better than today,” concluded Manning. And he’s right.

But trade is only one part of the equation. We have to encourage more businesses to create jobs by not making it mandatory they give 35 cents of every dollar back in taxes. While Trump addressed this in his tax plan by cutting corporate rates to 15 percent, he has several provisos such as a “one-time deemed repatriation of corporate cash,” and ending deferral on corporate income earned abroad. Bear in mind as well Trump admitted that his tax plan as presented is his “optimal plan,” but subject to negotiation – so the rate may be higher, the “one-time” repatriation may become annual, and it may be tied to other non-productive policies such as a minimum wage hike. Regulations are another issue which Trump is vague about, telling CNBC he wanted to scrap “a slew” of them, but not being specific.

Trump, however, is also talking about our own currency manipulation, questioning the wisdom of a strong dollar. Having a weaker dollar would tend to be protectionist policy, making imports more expensive but allowing our products to be more competitive elsewhere. By the same token, it would encourage international visitors while making American trips abroad more expensive. But it also could enhance inflation.

If Trump wins the election, it’s truly anyone’s guess what effect he will have on the economy. He could be the boost we need to get back to 4-5% annual growth we haven’t seen since the Clinton-Gingrich tech boom era of the 1990s or he could make us long for actual growth instead of depression. It’s truly anyone’s guess, and one piece of the puzzle will be how the market reacts to Trump’s more protectionist policies.

Finally, courage to counterpunch the green bullies

June 7, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Marita Noon, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Commentary by Marita Noon

When the name Resolute was chosen in 2011, after the merger of Bowater and Abitibi-Consolidated, the Canadian company, a global leader in the forest products industry and the largest producer of newsprint in the world, likely didn’t know what a harbinger it was. Today, it stands alone, set in purpose, with firmness and determination. Displaying the rare courage to stand up to the typical environmental extremists’ campaign of misinformation and shaming designed to shut it down, Resolute Forest Products is fighting back.

Many people are probably unaware of the shakedown tactics used by groups whose touchy-feely names belie their true goals.

Like most companies, Resolute originally went along. As Peter Foster explains in the Financial Post: “a cabal of radical environmental non-governmental organizations, ENGOs – including Greenpeace, ForestEthics and the David Suzuki Foundation – agreed to stop their campaigns of customer harassment in return for the members of the Forest Products Association of Canada, FPAC, agreeing to sanitize a swathe of the Canadian Boreal forest, and to ‘consult’ on development plans. Astonishingly, governments played no part.” The result was the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The ENGOs ultimately aspired to put the majority of the Boreal forest off limits – ending economic development. Regarding the Greenpeace-promoted concept of “intact forest landscape protection,” Laurent Lessard, Quebec’s Minister of Forest, Wildlife and Parks, says it threatens “absolutely devastating” economic implications.

Resolute had been a major supporter of the Agreement and has participated in other efforts between ENGOs and industry to work out differences. Despite that, using a campaign of lies and intimidation, ENGOs have constantly attacked Resolute. At one point, in 2012, the false claims were so egregious, Resolute threatened legal action against Greenpeace – which garnered an unprecedented apology and retraction from Greenpeace. However, they came back with vengeance. Greenpeace continued to publicize the same false statements and dubbed Resolute a Boreal forest “destroyer.”

Engaged in a war without violence, Greenpeace has since attacked Rite-Aid Pharmacy for “getting millions of pounds of paper from controversial logging giant Resolute Forest Products,” calling Resolute: “a company with a history of environmental destruction.” Greenpeace was successful with a similar harassment campaign against Best Buy. Resolute was the company’s primary paper supplier, but due to the shaming, Best Buy announced it would seek other sources. Greenpeace has no plans to stop the tactic. Other targeted companies include Canadian Tire (a retailer with more than 1700 outlets), Home Depot and Office Depot, Proctor & Gamble and 3M. Foster reports: “Greenpeace itself has calculated that its campaigns have cost Resolute at least $100 million.”

Somewhere between the Greenpeace retraction and May 2013, an epiphany – similar to what occurred between the president of the U.S. and the space alien in the movie Independence Day – must have taken place. In the clip, the captured alien is choking someone with its tentacle and the president is trying to negotiate with it. He tries to reason with the alien and suggests that they could “coexist.” He asks the alien what it wants them to do. The alien simply responds: “die.” Resolute must have realized that no matter how many agreements it might sign, the global network of ENGOs come back with more and more rigid requirements until the tentacles choke the company out.

On May 23, 2013, Resolute filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace claiming it damaged the company’s “business, goodwill and reputation.” The suit asserts defamation, malicious falsehood and intentional interference with economic relations and seeks damages of $5 million as well as punitive damages of $2 million, plus costs. Greenpeace says the suit “is an effort to subdue Greenpeace into silence and send a message to other groups that they should stay quiet.” It believes the suit should have been thrown out, but despite several attempts, the Judge has disagreed and allowed unflattering accusations about Greenpeace’s global law-breaking activities to remain.

While the Canadian lawsuit makes its way through the courts and the appeals process, Resolute has just taken another bold step to defend itself against the green bully’s attacks.

On May 31, Resolute took a page from the ENGO’s playbook and, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, filed a civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) suit against Greenpeace and a number of its associates who, though they claim to be independent, act cooperatively. The RICO Act intended to deal with the mob as a loose organization, or “enterprise,” with a pattern of activity and common nefarious purposes, such as extortion. (Greenpeace has asked the Justice Department to use the RICO Act to investigate oil companies and organizations that sow doubts about the risks of climate change.)

The 100-page complaint alleges that Greenpeace and its affiliates are a RICO “enterprise.” According to the Resolute news release, it describes the deliberate falsity of the malicious and defamatory accusations the enterprise has made and details how, to support its false accusations, “Greenpeace has fabricated evidence and events, including, for example, staged photos falsely purporting to show Resolute logging in prohibited areas.”  The suit also calls Greenpeace a “global fraud” out to line its pockets with money from donors and says that “maximizing donations, not saving the environment, is Greenpeace’s true objective.” Additionally, it cites admissions by Greenpeace’s leadership that it “emotionalizes” issues to manipulate audiences.

In the U.S. lawsuit, Resolute is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial, as well as treble and punitive damages.

Patrick Moore, one of the original founders of Greenpeace, is disappointed that the group that originally wanted to help, is now an extortion racket. He told me: “I am very proud to have played a small role in helping Resolute deal with these lying blackmailers and extortionists.”

Discovery in both the Canadian and U.S. lawsuits will open up records and could well peel back the moralist tone to expose a global job-destroying, anti-development agenda. For too long ENGOs have been allowed free rein over regulating natural resources in what is really economic warfare on workers.

At a recent meeting, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, according to Foster, “acknowledged that it was time to stand up and recognize ‘the significant economic implication of misinformation’” – though one has to wonder what took them so long.

Resolute is counter-punching the green bullies – and it’s about time. Just ask the coal miners in West Virginia or the farmers in Central California who are wild with enthusiasm for the Trump candidacy that promises to end the regressive regulations and return the U.S. to economic strength.

Hopefully other companies will now tune into the public’s change in attitude and, with firmness and determination, will, also, fight back to protect shareholders and workers.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

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