The spread of success

A few days ago I, along with other Central Committee members and “interested parties,” received a memo from the Congressional campaign of Andy Harris. While the information I received probably isn’t public knowledge in its format, it is possible to find all of the facts provided through diligent searching and I believe revealing a little bit of it will help me to make a larger point.

In this memo, Harris outlines the “work (the campaign) did this cycle for candidates in Maryland and around the nation.” Just before the election we found out about A Great Maryland PAC and some of the assistance it gave in promoting candidates or pointing out flaws in the record of incumbent Democrats, but Harris did more – a lot more. As the memo explains:

On the Eastern Shore, maximum contributions through the Andy Harris campaign and Chesapeake PAC were made to delegate candidates Carl Anderton and Kevin Hornberger, both of whom defeated long-time Democrat stalwarts. Carl defeated 28 year incumbent Norm Conway, who also is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, in a Wicomico County based district. Kevin defeated 16 year incumbent David Rudolph, who is the Vice Chair of the Economic Matters Committee, in a Cecil County district. Every seat on the Shore other than the democratically drawn majority-minority district is now held by Republicans. The lone Democrat State Senator on the Shore, Jim Mathias, regrettably, barely held on to his seat despite investments of time and financial resources in the race. All three delegate seats in his State Senate district went Republican, but Mathias held on by the skin of his teeth.

Another big highlight on the Shore was the defeat of Democrat Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt by Republican Bob Culver. Congressman Harris donated significantly to Bob’s campaign, and Culver was able to pull it out. In addition to these Democrat-held seats, four candidates running in open seats and supported by Harris were able to put their races away with ease. Mary Beth Carozza (Worcester) won 74% in her single member district. Chris Adams (Wicomico) and Johnny Mautz (Talbot) each doubled the amount of votes received by their Democratic challengers. Jay Jacobs (Kent), Steve Arentz (Queen Anne’s) and Jeff Ghrist (Caroline) all ran strong victorious delegate campaigns. With the election of Jeff Ghrist, Caroline County has for the first time in decades a resident delegate.

Every Republican Delegate or Senate candidate who represents a part of the First District received some level of financial support from Congressman Harris.

A good illustration of the impact outside help can make is found with Anderton’s race. Throughout the campaign. incumbent Norm Conway’s bankroll fluctuated in a range of $75,000 to $100,000 on hand. With most candidates, it’s difficult to overcome that much of a financial disadvantage; indeed, it turned out Carl was outspent in the race by more than 4 to 1. While Anderton put in a tremendous amount of sweat equity, having the money to wage a little bit of a media campaign and not completely cede the airwaves made a big difference.

But another local race illustrates the problem a statewide minority party has. That “skin of the teeth” victory by Jim Mathias also was won at great cost – like Anderton, Republican challenger Mike McDermott was outspent by better than 4 to 1. For Mathias, though, the victory was won on the airwaves as he spent $268,850 over the last month at a company called Screen Strategies, which is a really big gun in that it’s worked for several statewide Democratic campaigns and leftist interest groups, including anti-traditional marriage and pro-abortion entities. On just that firm alone, Mathias spent 2.3 times what Mike McDermott spent on his entire campaign. And since it’s a more far-flung Senate district – as opposed to the relatively compact confines of House District 38B in the immediate Salisbury metro area – the impact of media is much greater because no candidate can be everywhere in three counties every day.

What the Maryland Republican Party needs is more people to pull in money like Harris does and spread it around. While Democrats have a registration majority of roughly 2 to 1 over Republicans and 56% of the overall electorate, they hold a margin larger than their proportion in the Maryland Senate and prior to this year’s election did the same in the House – and that’s not to mention their 9 to 1 advantage in Maryland’s Congressional delegation. When Jim Mathias and Norm Conway needed financial help, their party and interests were able to provide it. Unfortunately, it’s only because of Andy Harris that the First District is the one portion of the state where the GOP can counter this – the rest of the state exists more or less on its own. The loss of Dan Bongino in the Sixth Congressional District was troubling because that end of the state could have received the same assistance down the road.

One big, big problem with the Republican Party in Maryland is that they can’t fill out their ballot throughout the state, and even in certain county races. While Republicans have outdone their registration disadvantage in Wicomico County for the past several years, we still could not find candidates willing to go after two open seats, one for Delegate and one for County Council, in majority-minority districts. Granted, one only became open when the current Delegate withdrew at the last possible minute AFTER the filing deadline, but the GOP still could add a name to the ballot for a few days afterward. We tried, but no one would make that commitment. Now that people are becoming aware they could get at least a little financial help, though, that problem could be solved in 2018.

Though they have an uphill battle at best, those sacrificial lambs serve a noble purpose by making the Democrats spend money on their campaigns, money that they can’t send off to a vulnerable fellow candidate someplace else in the state – as many “safe” Democrats did to help Mathias. With few exceptions, Democrats found people willing to carry their banner in Republican-held areas so we had to pay some attention to them.

And there’s always the possibility of catching lightning in a bottle because once in awhile miracles happen – everyone and their brother thought District 38B was gerrymandered into a safe seat for Norm Conway, but the voters proved otherwise.

Those District 38B voters were better informed because they have a Congressman who’s willing to not just vote conservatively in Congress, but help in building a viable conservative movement in Maryland. In the meantime, state Republicans could stand some lessons from Carl on how to win an uphill battle.

Same boss – but a couple new underlings

As many who read this space might be aware I took a pass on this year’s quadrennial Maryland GOP organizing convention, so I have Jackie Wellfonder to thank for this picture of our returning Chair.

It’s suitable for framing and sending to Mike Miller. Two years ahead of schedule, bro.

So while there weren’t as many on the ballot as there were for the very contentious 2010 organizing convention, this year still featured some interesting races with the results being perhaps slightly unexpected. But they could be considered a blow to the libertarian wing of the Maryland Republican Party, as the two candidates most directly tied to their effort both lost – Joe Fleckenstein falling far short against incumbent Secretary John Wafer and incumbent 1st Vice-Chair Collins Bailey losing decisively to Mary Burke-Russell by a weighted 298-249 vote, according to observer Dave Wissing. Bailey was the only incumbent to run and lose, while Burke-Russell wins a position she unsuccessfully sought last year in the wake of Diana Waterman’s ascension to Chair.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Vice-Chair race turned out as I expected, with Larry Helminiak easily winning another term over Greg Holmes.

Perhaps the most interesting dynamic was the 3rd Vice-Chair race, which went to a second ballot when none of the three contenders could garner a majority. On the opening ballot Rob Willoughby held on to a narrow lead over Eugene Craig III with Tommy Rodriguez bringing up the rear. Before the second round Rodriguez dropped out and endorsed Craig, enabling him to come from behind.

Since it may have been that endorsement that made the difference, I asked Tommy Rodriguez why he backed Eugene Craig:

I had great respect for Eugene coming into this race, and I am personally familiar with his charisma and willingness to help our party grow. His Young Guns initiative is exactly the kind of innovative thinking that will help grow the Republican bench and make our party more appealing to young voters.

It was a good enough reason to propel Craig to the victory.

As the party hierarchy preached unity to the convention, though, there was one element which couldn’t resist its sack dance:

Stay classy, guys. I don’t think Collins Bailey will be going away anytime soon, and the libertarian wing of the party may be more feisty than ever during the General Assembly session.

Now that we’ve made it through the convention in a more or less united fashion, the party can begin planning strategy for the aforementioned session. But perhaps the best news of all that came out of the convention was that the party can apparently finally retire its long-term debt. It was something which always concerned me during my tenure on the Central Committee and now that we’ve finally broken into the black we can more easily continue painting Maryland red in 2016 and 2018.

So, to borrow a term from my incoming Delegate, let’s get back to work!

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Tomorrow, unless some last-second nomination is made from the floor and somehow gathers enough support to prevail, Diana Waterman will be elected to a full two-year term as Maryland Republican Party Chair. It would be the first re-election of a Chair in my eight years of involvement, and proves that hard work and success is its own reward. Her tenure has been successful enough to scare off any opposition, so she joins party Treasurer Chris Rosenthal as Executive Board members who presumably have an unopposed re-election.

It’s worth noting that Third Vice-Chair Eric Grannon is the only incumbent taking a pass on another term, and his seat has the most competition with three contenders: Eugene Craig III, Tommy Rodriguez, and Rob Willoughby are all trying for that position.

Each of the three comes at the position with different perspectives. Craig and Rodriguez were most active in the 2014 campaign, as Craig ran for Baltimore County Clerk of the Court and Rodriguez was the campaign manager for the Ron George for Governor bid. Willoughby, on the other hand, comes from a more traditional route as he is the Chair of the Caroline County Republican Central Committee and as such has the longest list of endorsements.

All three are active in social media, with Rodriguez stating his priorities as:

We have an unprecedented opportunity as Maryland Republicans to restore prosperity, accountability and personal liberty to the Free State. As your Vice Chair, I will commit my time and talent towards recruiting the next generation of conservative leaders and building a statewide network of donors and grassroots volunteers who will help them towards victory. Together, we can build a Republican Party committed to growing the middle class, reining in big government and providing the best array of education opportunities in the nation.

Craig has the biggest endorsement in Dan Bongino, a blog post by Jason Boisvert explaining Eugene’s thoughts on priorities, and may have the largest brush with fame of the three candidates. Craig was the first one in the race but both he and Rodriguez may have a difficult time against Willoughby as he is familiar to many more potential voters.

Another intriguing race is the one for Secretary, where incumbent John Wafer has a challenge from Joe Fleckenstein.

While it’s not quite as simple as a description as I’ll give it, basically the job of a secretary is to take notes. (It’s why I do a similar function in two organizations because I also have that mindset as an outgrowth of this gig.) But it also has a vote on the Executive Committee because we changed the bylaws in 2013 to allow this. (I recall it was my former Chair Dave Parker who introduced this as an amendment to a bylaws proposal to also grant the YRs and College Republicans an Executive Committee vote.) Fleckenstein is a steering committee member in the Harford County Campaign for Liberty, reflecting a push by the pro-liberty forces in Maryland to have more of a say in the state party.

In the race for Second Vice-Chair, incumbent Larry Helminiak faces a challenge from Greg Holmes, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress from the Fourth Congressional District this year, losing in the primary. Of the three Vice-Chair races this seems to the the most low-key one.

On the other hand, I am being bombarded by e-mails in support of re-electing Collins Bailey to the First Vice-Chair position, So far here is a list of e-mailers from whom I’ve received Bailey endorsements:

  • Christina Trotta, Harford County (and a Campaign for Liberty member)
  • Larry Helminiak (current Second Vice-Chair)
  • Gordon Bull, Baltimore County (ran for Delegate in District 12)
  • Tyler Harwood, Wicomico County (a Republican activist)
  • Mark Crawford, Charles County
  • Grant Helvey, Worcester County Chair
  • Gary Clark, Howard County
  • Carol Frazier, Worcester County Vice-Chair
  • Richard Rothschild, Carroll County Commissioner
  • Kellee Kennett, Worcester County Tea Party
  • Republican Liberty Caucus of Maryland

The list of endorsements for Mary Burke-Russell isn’t as long, but it does include former gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar. She also has the backhanded support of Red Maryland‘s Brian Griffiths, who wrote a scathing piece on Collins Bailey yesterday. Griffiths’ piece comes off as remaining sour grapes from the ill-fated Chair campaign of Greg Kline, but Burke-Russell already appears to be one of the “establishment” choices against the pro-liberty insurgency which you can put Bailey, Fleckenstein, and arguably Eugene Craig into. If all three win the MDGOP may be a more activist vehicle during the General Assembly sessions – perhaps they should be.

Without speaking to any of the candidates personally – and not having a vote in the matter since I chose not to take a proxy offered to me – I’m not going to make any official endorsements in the race. I’m on record as supporting Diana now although at the time I preferred Collins Bailey be the Chair. Larry Helminiak has also done a fine job.

I will say, though, that I believe those who have been in office by and large deserve re-election but the voters would still be served well by the challengers. And given certain winners the Maryland GOP would be far more diverse in all respects than its Democratic counterpart, which seems to try and balance based on external characteristics and not diversity of thought.

The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2014

December 4, 2014 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comment 

Once again we interrupt our off-season slumber by the hot stove to bring you what will be the smallest class of inductees to the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame since 2010, when Brandon Snyder was my only addition as the third member added. Appropriately enough, Christian Walker wears his SotWHoF rank on his back, as he is number 18 for both the Orioles and the membership roll.

Walker was almost an accidental addition to the SotWHoF. I figured his outstanding minor league season would give him an opportunity at some point, but he didn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster this year, the Orioles were in a pennant race, and first base is a relative position of strength for the club. And while he was added to the postseason “taxi squad” working out in Sarasota just in case, I suspected it was more of a nod of appreciation for a great season, one which showed he was almost ready and perhaps ticketed for a 2015 debut. Chris Davis’s suspension for violating league policy, though, opened up the door for Walker’s advancement and as you will see since the SotWHoF page has been updated, he took a little bit of advantage.

The class could have been two if events had turned out just a little differently. Tim Berry was recalled by the Orioles on June 6 as “just in case’ bullpen help but did not see any action before being sent back down to Bowie the next day. He didn’t get a September callup, though, because he went on the disabled list in August.

But Berry is a good candidate to finally make it to the Show in 2015. Normally I take a stab at predicting who would be in the next class based on the players who make it to the 40-man roster and/or are assigned to the Arizona Fall League. SotW players in the former category include Oliver Drake, Eduardo Rodriguez (traded for Andrew Miller in July and now on Boston’s 40-man roster), and Ty Kelly (a 2010 SotW and veteran minor leaguer who was elevated to the Cardinals’ 40-man roster after a trade from Seattle) while AFL participants were Garabez Rosa, Michael Ohlman (also on 40-man), Zach Davies, Mychal Givens, and Parker Bridwell. However, Givens and Bridwell were left unprotected on the 40-man roster and could be snatched up in the Rule 5 draft next week. Another SotW who was high on the Dodgers’ prospect list last season, pitcher Jarret Martin, was recently outrighted off the 40-man by Los Angeles.

Out of all those players I suspect that those with the best chance of success would be Berry, Rodriguez, and maybe Drake. I can see a class returned to three or four players with some of the prospects moving up to the AA and AAA levels making a debut in 2015.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are now players who were added to the SotWHoF who have apparently called it a career or had other setbacks. Joe Mahoney made it official at mid-season after not being able to find a willing team during the off-season, while Ryan Adams, Matt Angle, Zach Clark, and Kyle Hudson were released from their organizations during the season. The same may be true of Brad Bergesen, although my understanding was that his 2013 season was cut short by injury. The injury bug also got Brandon Snyder and cost David Hernandez all of 2014, with his rehab extending into 2015. Many of those players are now looking for jobs as minor league free agents, particularly those in the large SotWHoF Class of 2011.

Because of that, Bergesen and Mahoney have had their photos removed just so I can denote active and inactive players. It’s one change I’m making to the Hall of Fame, which is getting to be quite the long page with nearly 20 inductees.

Finally, I’m going to try again what I did last season and attempt to predict 25 players who will play for the Shorebirds sometime in 2015. Out of 25 players I projected, 15 spent some time with the Shorebirds in 2014, although three came on board later in the season. Of the other ten, three did not play (they were released during spring training and did not sign), one played at the rookie-ball level for another organization, one went to the independent leagues, two played for Aberdeen all season, and three advanced past Delmarva to Frederick. So we’ll see if I can be a better prognosticator in 2015.

With that, the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame page is restored and updated to reflect the 2014 season. Here’s hoping 2015 brings a lot of new inductions and some Hall of Fame-worthy players to Delmarva to begin the cycle anew.

Baltimore keeps their bags (at least for now)

Back in November I informed you about the bag tax in Baltimore that turned into an outright ban. Well, the same folks who alerted me to the ban let me know that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake vetoed the measure, a veto which is expected to survive a Council vote.

I do have to comment about my PR friends’ assessment of the situation, though:

It was outrageous for the Baltimore City Council to think it could play games behind the scenes and pass a bill without any public input. Thankfully, this abuse of power did not go unchecked.

I suspect if they were a cloth bag maker, though, this ban would have been just hunky-dory. Regardless, the needs of Baltimore grocers and retailers will continue to be served in part by Novolex, the plastic bag supplier who hired the PR firm. It’s likely many of those bags come from one of Novolex’s 12 plants, with the closest being in the central Pennsylvania hamlet of Milesburg. With the exception of one Novolex plant in Canada, you’ve got to like that American manufacturing.

Yet the question has to be asked: why does a plastic bag company need a PR firm aside from having to deal with these ill-advised bans and taxes?

At the risk of dating myself, I came of age before the question of “paper or plastic” ever came up, and long before the paper bag became a rare commodity. In my youth, those paper bags were filled by the pockmarked teenage bag boys who took the items from the checkout lady who keyed in the prices (stamped with ink onto the can or box) in rapid-fire fashion on her cash register. That bag boy also took the paper bags out to your car.

So I remember how skeptical people were about the plastic bags because they were so small and it took four or five to hold what it took a couple paper bags to handle – not to mention the fact the bag boy was rendered obsolete. But you rarely had to worry about a plastic bag tearing apart, and while there were lost opportunities in creating book covers and having a handy supply of bags for the burn barrel (yes, we lived in the country) we eventually found plastic bags were much more useful. Moreover, for every plastic bag which ends up polluting a stream or blowing down the street, there are probably twenty to fifty which were recycled or disposed of properly.

But my original question still remains: with the crime, poor schools, and lack of opportunity in Baltimore, why is a plastic bag ban even taking up the time of their City Council? Rest assured they will try it again in a year or two, as will the Maryland General Assembly even with a pro-business governor. Liberals never seem to take ‘no’ for an answer.

So I suspect that Edelman will keep my name on their mailing list and let me know of any other local threats to their plastic bag-making client. Cloth bags just aren’t my style anyway.

A lack of standards

In 2007, Congress passed (and President Bush regrettably signed) a bill which was, at the time, a sweeping reform of energy policy. As part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the EPA was supposed to regulate the Renewable Fuel Standard on an annual basis, with the eventual goal of supplying 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022 – the 2014 standard was set at 18.15 billion gallons (page 31 here.) By the way, this is the same bill that did away with incandescent light bulbs.

Unfortunately, for the second straight year the EPA is late with its update and last month they decided to take a pass altogether on 2014. Mark Green at the Energy Tomorrow blog writes on this from the petroleum industry perspective, while the ethanol industry took the decision as news that the EPA was staving off a possible reduction in the RFS.

We all know hindsight is 20/20 but it should be noted that, at the time the EISA was written, the conventional wisdom was in the “peak oil” camp, reckoning that American production was in a terminal decline. Yet we’ve seen a renaissance in the domestic energy industry over the last half-decade despite government’s best attempts at keeping the genie in the bottle. So the question really should be asked: is the Renewable Fuel Standard worth keeping in this new energy era, or should the market be allowed to function more freely?

It goes to show just how well the government predicts activity sometimes. They assumed that the technology behind creating biofuels from agricultural waste would supplant the need for corn-based ethanol in time to maintain the amount required and also figured on gasoline usage continuing to increase. Wrong on both counts; instead, we are perhaps in a better position to invest in natural gas technology for commercial trucks as some fleet owners already have – although long-haul truckers remain skeptical based on better diesel engine fuel economy, which ironically came from government fiat - than to continue down an ethanol-based path.

But the larger benefit from removing ethanol-based standards would accrue to consumers, as corn prices would decline to a more realistic value. Obviously the initial plummet in the corn futures market would lead to farmers planting more acreage for other crops such as soybeans or wheat as well as maintaining virgin prairie or placing marginal farmland, such as thousands of acres previously reserved for conservation easements, back out of service.

Poultry growers in this region would love to see a drop in the price of corn as well, as it would improve their bottom line and slowly work its way into the overall food market by decreasing the price consumers pay for chicken.

I believe it’s time for Congress to address this issue by repealing the RFS. Unfortunately, it would take a lot to prevail on many of the majority Republicans in the Senate because they come from the major corn-growing states in the Midwest and agricultural subsidies of any sort are portrayed as vital to maintain the health of rural America. Yet the corn market would only be destabilized for a short time; once the roughly 30% share of the crop used to create ethanol (over 4.6 billion bushels) is absorbed by the simple method of planting a different crop or leaving marginal land fallow, the prices will rise again.

Until the common sense of not processing a vital edible product into fuel for transport prevails, though, we will likely be stuck with this ridiculous standard. Corn is far better on the cob than in the tank, and it’s high time the EPA is stripped of this market-bending authority.

A Wicomico changing of the guard

It was an exciting day and a contentious night for the new County Executive and County Council here in Wicomico County. It’s not often the incoming governor pays attention to an event in our fair county.

But the auditorium at Wor-Wic Community College was packed to its 200-plus person capacity to watch our second County Executive (and first such Republican) Bob Culver take the oath of office from Clerk of the Court Mark Bowen.

After the presentation of colors, the Rev. George Patterson delivered an invocation where he prayed that Culver would be “seasoned with wisdom, grace, and humility” as he took this office.

That quickly, since it had to be finished by noon, Culver took the oath flanked by members of his family.

In his remarks which followed, Bob expressed how he was “humbled and honored” by his election, about which he commented that he “wasn’t the only one who wanted to see change.”

His approach was going to be relatively simple, as he believed “good, workable ideas can come from either side,” but at the same time “‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ will no longer be the rule.” On the other hand, change wouldn’t be made for its own sake.

Culver’s brief address, which lasted less than four minutes, concluded with a simple request: “we need your ideas.” He then introduced the Governor-elect.

Along with Culver, Larry Hogan announced “we’re going to roll up our sleeves and get to work.” Hogan was optimistic about Wicomico County and the rest of the Eastern Shore, promising we “will no longer be taken for granted…you’ll have a seat at the table.”

His first order of business affecting us locally was fighting the Phosphorus Management Tool, new regulations he accused Governor O”Malley of “push(ing) at the midnight hour, on his way out the door.” Hogan wasn’t necessarily opposed to regulations on farmers, but believed they needed to be based on science and not “promised to a special interest group.”

Turning to the new County Executive, Hogan said “Bob is truly a salt of the earth kind of guy” and that he “can’t think of anyone more qualified” to grow the local economy based on his business experience than Culver.

The ceremony wasn’t all that long, but it was lunchtime and many of those who came to the swearing-in went to the next building to celebrate with a reception hosted by Culver.

I must say the catering was outstanding, and people generally left in a good, optimistic mood.

But while Culver was “humbled and honored” by his election, the first County Council meeting under his tenure was definitely on the humbling side.

It began, though, with remarks from the outgoing County Council. In particular, retiring Council member Gail Bartkovich called her tenure “an honor, privilege…and tremendous education.” Interestingly enough, all three of the women who served in the 2010-14 term left County Council, leaving a body of seven men.

Stevie Prettyman acknowledged the large crowd “for a change” and thanked the citizens for their trust in her.

And while he wasn’t going anywhere, John Hall lamented the “loss of wisdom and integrity” provided by the outgoing members. Matt Holloway, who was also staying on, noted this edition of Council had accomplished a lot: building a new Bennett Middle School, supplying water to the Morris Mill neighborhood plagued by well contamination, and continually improving its bond ratings.

Similarly, Sheree Sample-Hughes, who was elected to the House of Delegates, thanked the people for “putting their trust in me as a leader.”

But she foreshadowed the discussion to come by expressing her disappointment that West Salisbury Elementary School would not be in the revised bonding program Culver was asking County Council to approve.

After a quick recess to rearrange seats, the new County Council was sworn in.

Returning members Joe Holloway (third from left), Matt Holloway (center), and John Hall (far right) were now joined by Larry Dodd (far left), Marc Kilmer (second from left), John Cannon (third from right), and Ernest Davis (second from right.) Dodd and Cannon have previously served one term apiece on County Council, though, leaving Kilmer and Davis as the two rookies.

Their first order of business was electing a president and vice-president. Since John Cannon and Matt Holloway were the lone nominees for those respective positions, Cannon took over the meeting with Matt Holloway seated next to him.

The other item on the agenda was the controversial reduction in new county debt from the $16.5 million requested by Rick Pollitt to a new $10.9 million total Culver desired, To accomplish this reduction Bob reduced the bonding amount for ongoing construction of Bennett Middle School, and postponed three other projects: work on the final phase of the Westside Collector Road, work on the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, and replacement of West Salisbury Elementary.

Projects which would remain, on the other hand, were Bennett Middle School, the purchase of land for dredge material placement for the Wicomico River, the purchase of the newly renovated State’s Attorney office, and renovations to Perdue Stadium.

Culver explained that the Bennett bond could be safely reduced without endangering progress. He also made the case that improvements to the river channel would allow for continued commerce and safer oil transport (as there is a refinery along the river), the purchase of the State’s Attorney office would save $300,000 annually in rent, and that the Perdue Stadium renovations were at the request of the Orioles and would ensure the team remains in Salisbury.

Joe Holloway commented that taking off the school was “probably a good idea” based on his conversation earlier that day with Larry Hogan, with Kilmer agreeing it was likely a “prudent course.” On the other hand, Larry Dodd was “disappointed” that the West Salisbury bond was removed, and Ernest Davis, who represents that district, criticized the deletion as pushing them to the back burner again.

That sentiment was echoed frequently in the public comments Cannon allowed. Over a dozen citizens stood up to blast the decision to drop the bond funding, many complaining about the deplorable shape the 50-year-old building is in and decrying its lack of air conditioning. (It’s worth pointing out the state denied Wicomico County’s request to address the air conditioning for FY2015 because the amount was too small – see page 173 here. Three other Wicomico County schools were granted funds.)

In the end, though, the vote was 5-1 to approve the revised bonding, with Davis opposed. Larry Dodd had to leave early for a family function.

After that vote, Kilmer expressed the sentiment that he wished he saw as much passion about what happens in the schools as he did about the school building. But in his president’s remarks, Cannon was more optimistic, saying “I see good things for Wicomico County.” He also expressed his appreciation for all that Rick Pollitt did in his eight years at the helm.

But it goes without saying that Culver’s honeymoon wasn’t very long. Several people expressed the belief that our place in line for funding would be lost and we could go another several years before the needs of West Salisbury were addressed. But Culver and County Council wanted to see some of the buildings for themselves to assess the needs. Aside from the question one observer brought up about the maintenance issues related by those testifying on West Salisbury’s behalf, it was a night filled with passion for a school of just 309 students.

Look for more battles as the FY2016 budget begins to take shape next year.

Nine is just fine (the monoblogue anniversary post)

December 1, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comment 

Well, here we are. Another year, another dollar.

Since the blogging phenomenon is perhaps 15 to 20 years old, depending on how you interpret its history, I would have to guess mine is a middle-aged site. Lots of sites have come and gone in the span of time since I began this enterprise but still I press on. And middle age is a time when the naivete of youth is replaced by both a maturity and a growing awareness of one’s legacy.

Normally when I do this annual introspective I consider a sort of “state of the site” address I have a number of accomplishments from the previous year, but this year was a little different. Unlike 2013, where I made it to regional and national events like the Turning the Tides conference, the David Craig announcement tour where I snagged a great interview, or – the granddaddy of them all – CPAC 2013, the last year was somewhat devoid of real exciting milestones. Those I had were more in the non-political realm, such as my too-brief tenure for American Certified, which allowed me to focus on a topic I enjoyed researching and writing about, or broadening my scope with occasional music and book reviews.

Instead, the main focus was a Maryland electoral campaign which had plenty of blogging fodder and was won by a candidate who was short on specifics but long on money to lend his campaign, at least to start. No, I was not a Larry Hogan supporter early on (although over the preceding two years I’d written about Change Maryland quite a bit) but he won the Republican primary and found a message which won the day in Maryland, reflecting a Republican tide nationally.

Yet just as the national GOP is already beginning to disappoint supporters who want a stiffer fight on amnesty, Obamacare, and the budget, the potential is there for Larry Hogan to fail the conservative movement in Maryland. It will be something that bears watching, and hopefully other outlets which were extremely critical of Martin O’Malley and his liberal, free-spending ways will be equally as quick to keep the incoming governor in line should he falter from a conservative stance. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day and it will take some time to dismantle, but we need to continually move the ball forward against a stiff defense. (One advantage we may have, though, is that Democrats in Maryland aren’t used to playing that way.)

To be bluntly honest, though, the last couple months have been difficult. Toward the end of the campaign I was so burned out on everything that the thought of packing this enterprise in once the election was over crossed my mind a couple times. After all, my direct political involvement was coming to a somewhat disappointing end because I was defeated for one last term on our Central Committee and I thought it would be a little more difficult given my comparative lack of resources to provide the coverage my readers were used to. I still don’t think I’m back at 100 percent satisfied with my work and output as the election recedes farther into the rear view mirror but it is coming along and perhaps being upfront with those who support me will add a few percentage points to that total.

I sometimes feel this site is having a midlife crisis of sorts as it approaches a crossroads. It was great to have my political advertisers – who, by the way, went 3-1 in their elections – but so far none have stepped forward to replace them. While there was a point earlier this year where Salisbury fell to second or third place among the cities which visited this site most, it’s regained its lead as about 1/8 of my audience, and 3/5 of the total comes from Maryland. (Washington, D.C. is my second-biggest city, though, at a little over 10% of audience.) There have been some new, more passive revenue sources over the year, with another potential one waiting in the wings, but as far as direct sales I have long struggled to reach a goal of 6-10 constant advertisers.

Nine is an awkward age for anything. It seems that it takes having a decade under your belt to bring a little gravitas, but you’re no longer the new kid on the block either. I’ve tried a few new features over the last several months but not all of them have taken root and grew, which is a shame.

Still, I am hoping to go into the one-decade mark next year on the upswing in both revenue and readership; the real test, though, will be what kind of time I can devote to the enterprise. I think that shifting gears a little bit and focusing more on overall policy – with emphasis on key issues like energy, manufacturing, Radical Green, and the quest for limited government – will make for a better site than trying to keep up with the doings of umpteen local and state candidates involved in races I’m interested in because deadlines aren’t quite as pressing. We won the election, so now it’s time to win the argument and start setting sound policy.

In the end, if I were to assess the last year of monoblogue I would have to say I struggled to meet expectations, for a number of reasons. As I noted above, though, the passion is beginning to come back and that’s a good thing. I’m beginning to feel more excited about writing something on a daily basis rather than looking at it as a chore just to keep fresh content up.

I know I have a lot of fans out there, so if I have let you down a little in the past few weeks you will hopefully understand why. But I must say that the one consistent site metering system I’ve used over the years is pointing to 2014 being a record-breaking year – perhaps the new high will be reached as this very post is promoted because the numbers between 2014 and 2012 (my previous record) were extremely close. Through the end of November my readership for the year was up 4.8% over all of 2013. Add in December and it may be a 10% hike.

I’m hoping to have a little more clarity in other aspects of my life soon, too, so if that pans out I think things will work out for this site as well. Still, your support, thoughts, and prayers would be appreciated as I begin year ten.

Book review: America’s Suicide by Michael H. Davison

November 30, 2014 · Posted in Book Reviews · Comment 

Americas SuicideFor decades there have been people convinced America’s greatness is behind her. Based on some of the evidence, though, a compelling case can indeed be made that this republic is in its final days and author Michael H. Davison believes that he both understands the problem and prescribes the cure in his new book, America’s Suicide.

As we all know, suicide is the act of taking one’s own life. It’s brought about generally out of despair, pain, or a feeling there’s no way out. In America’s case, though, this suicide is a slow-motion decline caused by the seductive message of the Left, one which tells the voter they can have it all if they allow the government to act as provider and guardian. Frequently citing the untold bloodshed of the twentieth century from tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and the Kim family in North Korea, Davison builds the case that continuing on our path will invariably lead to an American dictator. He closes his opening chapter by noting:

As you applaud the government white knight in his crusades to slay the evil dragon of prejudice, condemn the poisoners of air and water, champion the causes of the poor and bypassed, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, inspire the young to correct political thinking, protect us from the greedy, punish the exploiter, regulate the manufacturer into a straitjacket, transfer your burdens to the rich, school the ignorant, heal the sick, comfort the despairing and soothe the passage of the aged, all while he basks in your adulation of his compassion and generosity (which you pretend not to notice was at your and your grandchildren’s expense)…have you been meanwhile noticing that each year you have a little less to say about what you do with your life and property?

Few conservatives would find fault with that laundry list of laments, nor his suggestion that the Left in this nation has perverted capitalism into an unrecognizable form, and in this paragraph Davison sums up much of the issue he takes with the Left. It’s an easy target, one which Davison spends much of the first half of his book painstakingly detailing.

Yet Davison also finds fault with the Right, in part the wobbly opposition of the Republican Party. As he writes:

The more that the Republican Party abandons its ostensible principles and concedes moral superiority to its opposition by adopting diluted versions of the latter’s principles, the more will Republicans lose the allegiance of men of principle.

But on the other hand, Davison continues:

Yet the more that Republicans adhere to their advertised free market and limited government doctrines, the more votes they will lose from all too numerous people threatened by principles that hold them responsible for their own well being and who consistently vote to expand parental government.

He also contends that:

Capitalism can never become a viable economic system until it becomes moral, and it cannot become moral until it stops subordinating the good of mankind to profit.

In other words, the Right isn’t completely in the right insofar as economics goes, nor does it have a corner on the moral superiority aspect. It is in this aspect that I respectfully disagree with the author, who had done an outstanding job outlining both the problem and the possible solutions up to that point.

Davison contends that morality, and particularly science, has transcended the need for religion. In that respect Davison reminds me of the objectivism of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy is summed up by noting, “(t)o embrace existence is to reject all notions of the supernatural and the mystical, including God.” As Davison sneers:

Ironically leftists and religious conservatives have at least one desire in common. Both want us all on our knees.

Yet two key objections Davison writes about are creationism vs. evolution and the belief that religious people object to stem cell research – in essence, areas where religion and science interesct and perhaps cannot co-exist. I would concede those positions are held by the extremists in Christian thought, but by and large the mainstream of Christians understand evolution as a theory and have no problem with adult stem cell research. Only embryonic stem cell research, which has been shown to be of little scientific use anyway. runs afoul of most Christian doctrine.

Undaunted, Davison continues:

Contemporary man’s most desperate need is for a rational human based, instead of God based, ethical system for living on this Earth to fill the philosophical void in which we live…

Religion and morality must therefore be divorced. Our survival depends on it.

Yet while Davison has the answers for many of the other questions, he cannot lay a finger on just who or what should take the place of God, or our Creator, or any other higher power mankind feels the need to answer to. The Left has tried to replace the higher power of religion with a state-sponsored church or the state itself, but to no avail. While Davison seems to agree with Marx, who contended religion was “the opiate of the masses,” it’s worth noting that no Marxist state could completely stamp out religion as traditionally expressed, in large part due to the work of religious missionaries.

Therein lies the inherent weakness of Davison’s argument, for if a country acknowledges in its founding documents that “we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights,” it would take a radical transformation and perhaps an entirely new constitution to determine from whom these rights naturally emanate. Still, Davison wishes:

Suppose we cull from the Democratic Party that faction who holds capitalism guilty for all economic injustice in the United States, regards profit and property as theft, believes that corporations rule the nation even as they have been going bankrupt in greater numbers and fantasizes that a yet more expanded nanny state and widespread nationalizations will assure justice and prosperity.

From the Republican Party cull those who insist that their religion must trump the discoveries of science, believe in angels and devils but reject Darwin, and despite a universe full of evidence to the contrary, manage to convince themselves that the Earth came into being less than ten thousand years ago.

His result would be what he calls the Rational and Responsible American Party, with fourteen points of policy corrections he outlines near the end of the book.

America’s Suicide is a challenging book, not just in the sense of opposition to conventional wisdom but also in turgid and at times stilted prose. There are a lot of areas you may need to read a second time just to make sure you understand the point, and of all the books I have reviewed in this space it took me the longest to read and understand – thus you have a far longer review than most.

Yet the one thing it accomplishes is adding that dose of objectivism to the national conversation. It’s a book that pulls no punches and slaughters sacred cows left and right, but sometimes that’s the necessary tonic to provoke thought.

Movement down-ticket

On Sunday I marveled at how calm the race for Maryland GOP Chair was, but there is some movement in the races below the one which, to my knowledge, has heretofore left Diana Waterman unopposed for another term.

An interesting race is developing for First Vice-Chair, one which pits incumbent Collins Bailey, a favorite of the pro-liberty crowd, against Mary Burke-Russell, who until recently headed a very successful St. Mary’s County Republican Party. You may recall Bailey was a last-minute nominee for the job in the spring of 2013 after he lost a tight battle with Waterman for party Chair, and Burke-Russell was one of those he defeated for the job in a five-way race.

Besides the pro-liberty endorsements, though, Bailey has the backing of current Second Vice-Chair Larry Helminiak, who noted that:

Though I often have the exact opposite point of view as Mr. Bailey, I have learned that the final decisions arrived at by a board of directors is more acceptable to the membership after both sides of an issue are presented and discussed.

If re-elected to the position of 2nd Vice Chair, I would look forward to spending the next couple of years having open discussions with Collins Bailey.

At this point, no one has stepped forth to challenge Helminiak for his position but that’s likely to change.

Meanwhile, the Third Vice-Chair position has one announced candidate in Eugene Craig III, who last ran for Clerk of the Court in Baltimore County this year. I’m not aware if incumbent Eric Grannon is running for re-election, with the same being true for Secretary John Wafer. However, Treasurer Chris Rosenthal is seeking another term.

If the two who haven’t made their plans known decide to stay on, it would create a powerful argument to maintain the status quo which led the party to some unprecedented successes in 2014. It’s likely more challengers will surface in coming days – I’ll have a better idea when our Central Committee meets Monday night – but as it stands right now the acrimony which has rended the party after previous conventions may not surface. The pro-liberty wing will have representation in Bailey while the so-called “establishment” can point to Waterman as their choice.

It was a formula which held the party together for the 2014 campaign, and it can serve to grow the party over the next two years.

No problems at “our” Walmart

If you wonder why there’s just the average hustle and bustle at your local Maryland Walmart today, there’s a good reason – a court order given last year keeps pro-union protests off Walmart property. But the UFCW keeps trying, encouraging supporters to instead tie up the phone lines in protest.

If you live in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Ohio, or Texas, we ask that you remain off of Walmart property and tweak your action by calling the store manager on the phone to inform them that you/your group is there supporting #WalmartStrikers rather than delivering anything to the store.

I don’t have to go to Walmart today, but I did have to go to a different store close by Walmart so I took a look around. It’s near a corner where union picketers have stood before so in reality visibility is somewhat better for any who would protest Walmart anyway – although Wendy’s and McDonalds probably aren’t happy about it. Yet today the corner was busy with auto traffic and no protests in sight.

In other areas around the country, though, left-leaning news sites are gleefully reporting protests, including a major one in Washington, D.C.

But Walmart wasn’t taking this lying down, nor were they going to depend on media to share its side of the story. I noticed this commercial played during the football games last Sunday and yesterday.

In reality, Walmart is like any other large company – employees who perform better or do more to improve themselves by taking advantage of opportunities the company may offer tend to advance.

Moreover, the $15 per hour demand by the UFCW smacks of hypocrisy when, as Diane Furchtgott-Roth writes, union employees in other UFCW union stores make far less after years on the job. Perhaps the Black Friday protests should occur at UFCW headquarters.

But what happens if employers knuckle under and pay $15 per hour? Indeed, for many it would be a tremendous raise, but the increased labor costs for those employers would ensure those who survive the immediate wave of layoffs and automation which would naturally take place with the vast wage increase for millions of workers would watch inflation (and a higher tax burden) erode their gains to a point where the process would have to begin anew in a year or two as advocates would demand $20 an hour to keep pace.

You may recall earlier this year the CBO came out with a study that predicted a minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour could cost at least 500,000 jobs, and perhaps as many as a million. (At the same time, a smaller increase to $9 an hour would only cost 100,000 jobs and have a slim chance of increasing employment.) While the study didn’t document a raise to $15 per hour, it’s likely job losses would be in the millions based on the data compiled.

Until the UFCW looks at increasing wages and benefits in stores they do represent, their targeting of Walmart rings hollow.

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

November 27, 2014 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off 

As is tradition, I’m sitting here the day before Thanksgiving writing a post for tomorrow morning. I’ve looked through my site to find inspiration in previous Thanksgiving messages and found lots of cultural references, words of advice from my friends at the Patriot Post and from Sarah Palin, and a few holiday leftovers as I essentially recycled the same post for the last few years. And yes, I’ve generally referred to one holiday tradition – my Lions always play on Thanksgiving and (almost) always lose. This year they play the Bears on Thanksgiving for the first time since 1999 and 16th time overall.

This year, though, I decided it was time for originality again. I have a lot to be thankful for as far as family is concerned, and today I’ll see the other half as we go to the in-laws for dinner.

Yet I have an extended family of sorts who reads this site and supports its efforts in many small ways, and I don’t take the time to thank them nearly as much as I should. While this site has been supplanted by social media insofar as immediate news goes – and certainly I take the time to say my piece there as well - I can’t use Facebook or Twitter to write about the things I care about, topics which are important to me. And every so often I run into people who say they appreciate what I do and that they leave my site better informed and entertained. At the risk of stealing a bit of thunder from Monday’s post, which will mark my site’s ninth anniversary, let me just say the fun is just beginning.

I don’t want to keep those who read my site here too long today – this posts in the morning so you can read it in the space of a minute or two and then go on with those things which are really important: your friends and family.

So to all those who have read this space, supported me in some way, or took action based on something I wrote, I want to express my thanks and best wishes. Just don’t forget to thank the Creator who bestows His blessings upon you before you pass the green bean casserole.

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