Reliable bogeymen

You know the other side has nothing in their bag of ideas when you see this recycled old chestnut of an appeal for cash:

This from the side with a President who regularly finds millionaires willing to fork over big bucks to get their slice of the government pie.

But I presume these guys are counting the Americans for Prosperity as part of the “hundreds of millions of dollars,” which is funny because while reports attempt to spin the news that the Koch brothers are raising up to $290 million to spend, it’s not like Democratic backers like Tom Steyer and the venerable George Soros are standing still.

Yet what do all these participants stand for? In the case of Soros, he’s donated millions over the years to reliably left-wing causes and opined after the 2010 election wipeout that Barack Obama didn’t fight hard enough for cherished progressive causes. Instead:

While Soros’s comment gave some attendees the impression that he’d cheer a primary challenge to the president, the point, sources say, was different. Rather, it is time to shuffle funds into a progressive infrastructure that will take on the tasks that the president can’t or won’t take on.

“People are determined to help build a progressive infrastructure and make sure it is there not just in the months ahead but one that will last in the long term,” said Anna Burger, the retired treasury secretary of SEIU. “Instead of being pushed over by this election it has empowered people to stand up in a bigger way.”

“There was frustration,” said one Democratic operative who attended the meetings. The main concern was about messaging. I think they are frustrated that the president isn’t being more direct. But I did not get the sense that anyone’s commitment to the progressive movement was wavering… The general consensus is that support has to move beyond being about one person and more about a movement. I don’t know if we’ve moved beyond there.”

One of those “movement” ventures is an outside-government arm to match conservatives in the 2012 elections. For several weeks, discussions have been led by Media Matters for America founder David Brock about the need to create a group that will run advertisements, conduct opposition research and perform rapid response functions. (Emphasis mine.)

As an example of this concept, just look at the movement to increase the minimum wage. I don’t think the SEIU is doing this by themselves.

In Steyer’s case, he’s out pushing for the extinction of fossil fuels, despite being a major benefactor from them over the years. (This would be a fun debate to watch.) Imagine the increase in costs and decrease in living standards a wholesale overnight embrace of renewables would cause. Until we can make the sun shine and the wind blow steadily 24 hours a day, we have a problem. (In terms of naturally occurring energy gathering, it would seem hydroelectric would be the best choice, but that’s also climate-dependent: a drought would dry up supply.)

So consider what the Koch brothers have helped to create: the Cato Institute, a libertarian, small-government think tank and Americans for Prosperity (who would be against prosperity?) They also built up the family business and became billionaires in the process – isn’t that the American Dream writ large? (They also support other causes, as this tongue-in-cheek post notes.)

If the Democrats have to use the Koch brothers – who built a successful life for themselves with a minimum of government assistance and would like others to follow in their footsteps – as an example of evil because they support Republicans, we know they have nothing.

District 38A House: Purnell vs. Otto

It’s such a low-key race that one participant filed affidavits of limited contributions and expenditures for much of the cycle, while the other didn’t spend a dime on his campaign until three weeks before the primary. The total sum spent and collected would barely qualify as pocket change in some other races – welcome to political life in rural Worcester and Somerset counties.

Download (PDF, 5KB)

Yet there are some interesting quirks in these campaign reports. For example, as one might expect the lone PAC contribution is from the Maryland Farm Bureau PAC to Charles Otto, the incumbent Republican.  Otherwise, Otto has a nice mix of business and personal contributions with some also coming from LLCs. That $900 from the Maryland Farm Bureau, though, has been enough to cover Otto’s entire spending from the reporting periods, since he seems to be reusing campaign signs and, quite frankly, doesn’t have a large number of media outlets in the geographically largest sub-district of District 38. 38A is a district which tickles Berlin with its panhandle but primarily takes in the southern half of Worcester County and all of Somerset – from end to end it’s about an hour’s 50-mile drive.

Former Crisfield mayor P.J. Purnell has spent more money on many of the same things, basically signage and printing to build his name recognition in other parts of the district. In that respect, both have some work to do as Otto’s district lost the southern part of Wicomico County and now extends eastward to cover people formerly represented in District 38B, particularly by Senate candidate Mike McDermott.

But Purnell also loaned his campaign $4,000 to start, accounting for about 40% of his total. He also picked up a $2,500 contribution from Victor Sulin, which stuck out as an unusually high amount to give in a race like this. Sulin’s employer is listed as the Maryland Democratic Party and is apparently a former Delegate himself. Another contribution of $1,500 comes from Sue Heath, whose family owns a crab pot business. It’s large but appropriate, since I see their wares every time I go down to the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake. The loan and those two contributions make up nearly 80% of what Purnell has collected so far in his campaign. (While it’s from his initial 2010 campaign, it’s fair to point out Otto loaned his effort $17,500 that year.)

Looking forward, it’s worth noting that, despite the 2-to-1 advantage in cash on hand Otto enjoys, in real terms it’s less than $5,000 and it’s certain the Democrats are eyeing this seat as a potential Eastern Shore pickup given Otto’s comparatively weak fiscal position. It may not be a campaign like 2010, which tends to be somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison because Otto had to survive a four-way primary and needed to spend more in the Salisbury market because the district lapped up to the southern outskirts of the city, but one has to consider that Otto spent over $63,500 to win the seat last time.

To spend as much in the race this time, both campaigns will have had to begin making money the moment the last reports dropped. We’ll find out soon enough if they succeeded.

The Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters is christened

After a week’s delay caused by the untimely passing of Sylvia “Cookie” Harris, wife of our esteemed Congressman, we finally opened our local Republican headquarters to a crowd of about 75 people.

The old Mister Paul’s Legacy had been spruced up after several months of inactivity for a new purpose: to assist in getting local Republican candidates into office.

Of course, a number of candidates and elected officials were there, along with supporters. Inside there were signs and information for all the local hopefuls who had dropped anything off, as well as a table for the top of the ticket.

And while the star of the show was rightfully going to be gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan, local folks were indeed showing a lot of passion for their favored downticket candidates.

There was even love for our volunteers spread around inside with little messages like this.

Our presentation began, though, with an emotional update from Mark McIver on how Andy Harris was doing after the sudden passing of his wife. The “terminal optimist” was holding up all right and was getting ready to once again make himself available to help local Republicans emerge victorious. It led up to a moment of silence for both Cookie Harris and Dr. John Mautz, the father of District 37B Delegate candidate Johnny Mautz. The elder Mautz, an Easton dentist, died suddenly yesterday morning.

Wicomico County Republican Club president Jackie Wellfonder had the honor of introducing the guests of honor.

We actually went in reverse of the common political ceremony, because Larry Hogan spoke first.

Eschewing the safety of the podium, Hogan complemented the local workers for putting together the “nicest and most luxurious” headquarters in the state. Not bad praise from a guy who rides around in this:

(By the way, it does have a Maryland license plate. I checked.)

Hogan went on to stress that “this is a team effort” and that “this victory center is here to try and elect great Republicans.”

And while he called the reaction and response to his campaign “tremendous” Larry also pointed out the feedback from the minority community, noting that in Baltimore City he often heard the refrain “no one cares about us” and that politicians don’t come to the area for their input.

It led into his bread and butter message: that after 40 tax hikes and zero economic growth – a statistic Larry called “simply unacceptable” – things were so bad that the majority of Marylanders were fed up with the direction things were going. He cited a recent poll which stated 71% of Marylanders think taxes are too high and 62% would like the state to go in a different direction. His hottest giveaway item was “Democrats for Hogan” stickers, said Larry.

Our voters were angry, Larry explained, while theirs are complacent. “We’re driving some big turnouts,” he continued. And while he thought of his campaign as the air force, he realized that what we were doing was trying to provide the infantry for the fight. We can “send a loud and clear message” if we all work together, Hogan concluded.

We had heard a lot of what state party Chair Diana Waterman had to say when she appeared at our recent Republican Club meeting.

But Diana wanted us to get as much turnout as we could, even if it meant going against the principle of opposing early voting. “Embrace it and make it ours,” she said. Our candidates were “strong” and “ready to serve,” but “as Larry said it’s all about turning out our vote.” We needed to get past the old saying about not discussing politics with our neighbors and instead pester them to vote, and vote for our side.

Had David Warren alerted me to what he would do with the Coke can, I would have grabbed a shot of him with the visual aid.

But Warren made the case that he said no one else had adequately made. That can of Coke, he pointed out as he popped the top, was something not available on Howard County property because Howard County Executive (and Brown running mate) Ken Ulman had placed a ban on sugary drinks. “Imagine Ken Ulman and Anthony Brown doing your health care,” the Howard County native warned.

David focused on local races as well, bringing up a recent visit by three people from the Frederick area who had driven three hours here to help our folks out. As he pointed to the signs festooned on the wall behind him, he stated that “your guys represent you. The other guys represent Annapolis.” He also warned that “we don’t do this in 2014, we’re done.” It was also important to re-elect Larry in 2018 so we controlled redistricting, David added.

Today was a day to “eat, drink, and do selfies” but we had to step away from our comfort zone and work hard for the last 58 days of the campaign, Warren concluded.

Speaking of selfies, a number of candidates got to pose with Larry before he left. But first we had the official ribbon cutting.

The one shot of the several that I took that I decided to use here was the District 38 team. I encourage you to send these folks to Annapolis! From left to right it’s District 38C candidate Mary Beth Carozza, Delegate and District 38 Senate candidate Mike McDermott, Larry Hogan, District 38B candidate Carl Anderton, Jr., and Delegate Charles Otto of District 38A.

But the last one was special. Forty years ago, said Hogan, Blan Harcum helped Hogan’s father on his campaign, so he makes it a point to renew acquaintances when here in Wicomico County.

So the headquarters is off to a good start. But after the food, drink, and selfies we need volunteers to help run the shop but more importantly assist with the campaigns. The headquarters is open 10-8 on weekdays and 10-7 on Saturday, according to Warren.

To borrow a phrase from a local candidate, let’s get back to work.

WCRC Crab Feast 2014 in pictures and text

Every year I go to the WCRC Crab Feast I take this shot because I like it.

The same seems to be true about the Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feast, as people come back year after year because they enjoy the event. Whether it’s the crabs…

…the company…

…or the chance to talk one on one with many of their elected officials, they line up to get their crabs when the event opens.

For those who didn’t care for crabs, Muir Boda was cooking up some mean burgers and hotdogs.

And it’s not like people don’t know where it is located. This was after David Warren put out a batch of Andy Harris signs.

As always, we had a silent auction table. It didn’t seem like we had quite as much as we have in previous years.

But they still lined up to put in last-minute bids. There was one rule, though: no hovering.

A trend the event has had the last couple years is the move away from candidate remarks, which used to be a staple of the event. Once upon a time, candidates would get a couple minutes but now we just figure they will mix and mingle. This was true last year and pretty much remained the same, with two exceptions.

One was a reminder from our county chair Dave Parker about the Patriot’s Dinner with Allen West on September 27.

We also heard from retiring Orphan’s Court Judge William Smith, who thanked us for 12 years of support and urged us to vote for the one Republican on the ballot, Grover Cantwell, as well as the two incumbents who opted to run again. They’re both Democrats, but one – Melissa Pollitt Bright – was at our event. Considering the good judge turns 91 soon, he’s earned a retirement.

Naturally, there were a lot of local candidates there for at least part of the event, so here are some shots I took. In the first example, here are two folks with a pretty good chance to be representing us in Annapolis, Johnny Mautz and Mary Beth Carozza.

Mary Beth was all over, speaking to a lot of voters and other candidates. Here she’s with County Council District 2 hopeful Marc Kilmer (center) and Central Committee-elect member Greg Belcher.

It must have been the shoes Mary Beth had on.

Under a tree, District 3 County Council candidate Larry Dodd was speaking to WCRC President Jackie Wellfonder.

Jackie also took the time to pose with District 38B Delegate candidate Carl Anderton, Jr. (left) and Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis.

Far and away, the most popular person there was our Sheriff, fresh from national headlines about his pro-Second Amendment stance. As Jackie would put it, Lewis was a “rockstar” and photos with him were in demand.

A candidate looking for a return to County Council after four years away, John Cannon (pictured with his lady friend) was talking to Lewis about recent shooting incidents.

So while it was hot, fortunately the rain didn’t hit until last night and the event went off without a hitch. Many of these participants will reconvene later today at the opening of the Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters here in Salisbury. The crabs? Well, we had just a couple bushels left to sell at the end and killed the beer kegs, so people must have been satisfied with the event.

Next year the event should take place in the midst of our municipal campaign and the early stages of a race for a 2016 U.S. Senate seat, so it will likely have a much different feel. But as long as the crabs are steamed just right, people will still be here to enjoy it.

monoblogue music: “Birdcage Walk/Until Then” (single) by Latimer House

September 6, 2014 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comment 

I knew that if I reviewed music long enough I would eventually run into new material from a group I’d previously discussed, so here you go. While the single is part of the album I originally let you in on, it’s been reworked to the extent one can call it a new release.

So just to bring you up to speed, back in April I took a listen to a Europop group called Latimer House, who earlier this year put out the full-length release “All The Rage.” Among the songs of the ten-track set was Birdcage Walk, which I described as having an ”echoing chorus and cheerful keyboards.” Those elements remain on the newly-released single, but in condensed form as the original 4:36 running time was reduced to 3:12 by excising the last stanza and chorus, instead drawing the song to a close with a rather quick fade.

Now I’ve heard this technique with certain longer songs on various radio stations, and it always drives me nuts because I think of a song as a composition of a whole. On the other hand, when I discover a song that I like and have heard numerous times on the radio has a longer version that was butchered up for mass consumption by the decision of some nameless record executive, it’s like finding lost treasure. Back in the old days, the longer versions often ended up on the cutting room floor, but digital recording and ease of storage make it easier for many alternate versions of the same composition to exist: as one example, years ago I got a promo CD copy of a relatively obscure David Coverdale single called Slave, one which had both the radio version and the album version on it. The album version was only about 30 seconds longer but sounded a lot better to me, so why mess with a good thing?

It’s also a shame because the band released this single both in an electronic form and as a red translucent 7″ vinyl version. Understandably, the confines of old-fashioned record production dictate a time limit to songs, but the B-side of this single runs 4:34 so Birdcage Walk could have remained at its full length.

That B-side is a new song called Until Then, which impressed me as a song which successfully integrates a few of the elements of rap, funk, soul, and jazz, with funky riffs being punctuated by slow, horn-punctuated interludes which emit a smoky jazz feel. It may read like a mess, but these guys made it work as an enjoyable song – one that perhaps should have been the A-side. (Of course, there’s no law that says you always have to play the A-side first.)

I’m also told that Latimer House went into the studio for a few days at the end of July to begin work on a new full-length album for early 2015. So if it gets in my hands quickly enough you may hear about a third helping of Latimer House first, before a lot of others give a second helping. These songs are beginning to percolate on stateside radio, so 2015 has the potential to be a breakout year for Latimer House.

Just leave those songs full-length, guys.

A question of semantics

I’ve written and researched a lot this week (and already laid some groundwork for next week) so this will be short, sweet, and to the point.

Yesterday I got an e-mail announcing a local event:

Michael –

Please join us Sunday (9/7/14) at 4:00pm for the Grand Opening of our Lower Shore HQ!

HOGAN FOR GOVERNOR HQ
4:00PM
1801 North Salisbury Blvd
Salisbury, MD 21801

Stop by and see Larry and pick up your Hogan supplies!

As a member of the Central Committee, I’ve been referring to this building as the Lower Shore Victory Center, or just “headquarters” or “Mister Paul’s” (the former occupant.) The Wicomico County Republican Club calls it the “Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters.” Did I miss something?

Do Republicans want Larry Hogan to win? Well, all but three percent of them did in a recent poll. But the last time we had a Republican governor, there was something missing: party development. All of the effort and money went toward getting Bob Ehrlich re-elected and not so much in candidate grooming and local campaigns which could have used the help. So we ended up with a debt-ridden party without a bench, and I’m not interested in a repeat of that mistake.

So I have a problem with being invited to the “Hogan for Governor” headquarters, even though that will be one of its primary functions. To a lot of local people, it’s more important to elect Addie Eckardt and Mike McDermott to the State Senate, Carl Anderton, Jr., Christopher Adams, and Johnny Mautz to become our newest Delegates, and Bob Culver as our County Executive. Many of my friends are pounding the pavement for those races, figuring Hogan can take care of himself – so why is he looking for all the credit? (It also just dawned on me that it would be a complete turnover in those particular positions, something sorely needed.)

Maybe it’s just bad optics to me. But it’s worth remembering that Hogan didn’t win this county, David Craig did.

So I’m hoping that when Larry comes down, he will refer to it properly as an Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters and not “his” headquarters. When you need 65-70% of the local vote to have a chance, a little respect goes a long way.

And while I’m thinking about Hogan, a few words about his fundraiser with Chris Christie. Do I agree with Chris Christie on a lot of issues? In a Presidential sense, not really. Does it bother me that Larry Hogan is bringing him to Maryland to fundraise? Absolutely not. Christie isn’t my cup of tea, but if it raises a lot of money that’s good for everyone.

On the other hand, Allen West is more my cup of tea and he’ll be here later this month. So save the date of September 27 and your pennies because these events will be helping three different entities: West’s Guardian PAC (which is supporting, among others, Dan Bongino), the state GOP, and the local party units.

Shorebird of the Year – a 2014 season wrapup

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

One has to shake their head and ponder what might have been.

In the season’s first half the Shorebirds had their best half since 2008, finishing with a 38-31 record and contending until the final days of the half before Greensboro and Hagerstown proved to be too strong of adversaries. Those two teams will tangle for the right to be this year’s Northern Division champion by virtue of winning one of the two season halves, but Delmarva went in the opposite direction after the break, staggering home with a 28-42 second half record. Still, the 66-73 overall mark broke a string of four straight seasons where we couldn’t even manage to win 60 games and was the team’s best finish since their 66-70 record in 2009.

Unlike the last few years as well, the team actually had some semblance of offense. Instead of being mired among the bottom-feeders, the 2014 Shorebirds had some decent overall numbers, to wit:

  • A .267 team batting average was 4th in the league. This is the highest the Shorebirds have ever ranked in team batting and set the record for best overall average in franchise history.
  • Yet 592 runs was just good for 8th in the league. One scratches their head about this when it’s noted their 1,267 hits was also fourth in the loop (and another franchise record.)
  • The 230 doubles ranked ninth overall, while 39 triples were good for fourth once again.
  • Perhaps the reason for the slow run production was the fact their 53 home runs were dead last, with West Virginia next up with 62.
  • We finished seventh with 538 runs batted in.
  • We also finished eighth in total bases with 1,734.
  • We only drew 369 walks, which ranked 12th in the SAL. On the other hand, 1,129 strikeouts was third-most.
  • We finished 10th in stolen bases with 118 and were caught 51 times, which tied for ninth.
  • Our .327 on-base percentage was ninth in the league, with a slugging percentage of .365 ranking tenth. This meant our OPS of .691 (thanks to rounding) was 10th.

As opposed to 2013 where just one player even batted .300 in limited action, a full half-dozen regular players reached that mark. (As it turned out, all six were Shorebirds of the Week so details to follow.) Indeed, as a whole the offense belied my preseason prediction:

It doesn’t appear the Shorebirds will be an offensive juggernaut, but their pitching should be very good. We may see a lot of 3-2, 2-1 style games at the ballyard.

So about that pitching. If there was a culprit in their second-half decline, it was from the mound. For most of the first half the team ERA was in the top three or four, but the pitching numbers went south by season’s end thanks to injuries and callups. We ended up eighth in the league for ERA with a 3.80 mark.

Some other pitching numbers:

  • Our 10 shutouts were good for fifth in the loop.
  • We had the fifth-highest number of saves with 37.
  • With 1,210 1/3 innings pitched, we were sixth in the SAL.
  • 1,173 hits allowed was fourth-lowest. Yet the 606 runs we gave up was only good for seventh and the 511 earned runs tied for sixth. (We had the fifth-fewest errors with 146, leading to 95 unearned runs, which was sixth fewest.)
  • Maybe it’s because Perdue Stadium is a tough home run park, but we gave up the fourth fewest with 70.
  • Nor were we afraid to pitch inside, hitting the second-most batters with 83 (West Virginia had 95.) It had to be that, because the 394 walks we allowed were fourth-lowest.
  • 1,105 times opposing batters walked away muttering to themselves because they struck out, making us fifth in the league. One of my Shorebirds of the Week was the league leader in that category.
  • Finally, our WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched) was third in the league at 1.29.

So the pitching wasn’t exactly the strength and the hitting wasn’t as bad as I thought it may be. As a sum of its parts, the season had its moments but a team that saw several of its record seven league All-Stars leave as the second half began and progressed found its depth left something to be desired.

Unfortunately, the help we received this year from an Aberdeen team which made the playoffs in 2013 won’t be as likely next year. The IronBirds flopped in their defense of a division title, going a league worst 27-48 after starting the season 1-16. At the Gulf Coast League level, those Orioles went 29-31 but the Dominican League teams did well, with the two Orioles teams going a combined 77-63 and one making the playoffs. It usually takes a couple seasons for those players who even make the jump to the States to get to Delmarva.

On the levels above, only AA Bowie finished above .500 with a 72-70 record. Frederick ended up barely missing the playoffs despite a 65-72 record, while Norfolk was well out of the running at 65-79.

The question before us now is how this year’s crop of Shorebirds of the Week fared, so let’s review.

April 3Drew Dosch

When I selected Drew, he was the ultimate pig in a poke – as a 2013 draft choice and having missed all of the 2013 rookie league season with an injury, I had no idea how he would perform with Delmarva. For all I knew, he could have been consigned to extended spring or Aberdeen after a tough start. Instead, all Dosch did was make the SAL All-Star Game and set a new Shorebird record for hits with 157. Overall in 128 games Drew hit .314/5/50/.783 OPS in exactly 500 at-bats. It’s unfortunate he missed the last handful of games because he was a prime candidate to get a cup of coffee with Frederick. Drew also led the team with 76 runs scored, walks with 47, and total bases with 202, and was in the hunt for the batting title until the last couple weeks. He was also one of the seven All-Stars to come from the Shorebirds, and is likely to be manning third base for Frederick next season.

April 10David Richardson

Unfortunately, David’s second tour of duty with the Shorebirds was cut short by an injury at the midway point. Up until then, Richardson was putting together some good numbers: a 1.95 ERA in 32 1/3 innings, with just 24 hits allowed, a 24/11 K/BB ratio, and 1.08 WHIP. He was a candidate for promotion to Frederick if not for the injury, but if he can begin the season on time should have a legitimate shot at moving up.

April 17 - Hunter Harvey

We knew he was a top prospect coming in, and he didn’t fail us in that regard. Until a strained flexor mass in his elbow shut him down in late July, Hunter was one of the league’s ace pitchers, representing Delmarva at the league’s All-Star Game as well as in the Futures Game just before his shutdown. So while his 7-5 record wasn’t ace material, the 19-year-old fanned 106 in just 87 1/3 innings while walking just 33 and allowing only 66 hits (for a WHIP of 1.13.) While only six of his 17 starts were considered “quality” starts, it was oftentimes because he didn’t complete the requisite six innings to qualify – ask Lakewood about the quality of his May 12 start where Harvey mowed them down for seven innings with just one hit, striking out 10. Fortunately, the only issue which should arise from that injury he suffered in July down the road is that Frederick’s coaching staff may have to watch Harvey’s innings in 2015.

April 24 - Jeff Kemp

Jeff put in a workmanlike season for Delmarva, mainly splitting his time between shortstop (61 games) and second base (40 games.) While a .254/4/42/.653 OPS slash line wasn’t the greatest, the average improved over his 2013 season with Aberdeen as did his fielding overall. Yet he also regressed in both slugging percentage and on-base percentage, so his OPS dropped about 30 points between seasons despite the higher average (.254 this year vs. .240 at Aberdeen in 2013.) But Kemp will probably go into spring training as one of those players fighting for a position within the organization given his somewhat pedestrian numbers, low draft status as a 33rd rounder, and age as he will turn 25 next March. If Kemp doesn’t make the Frederick roster, it’s not likely he’ll return here.

May 1 - Conor Bierfeldt

Conor led the team in home runs with 12 and RBI with 67. Unfortunately, at the plate that’s about all the good news for Bierfeldt as he struggled all year to stay above the Mendoza line and finished hitting just .196 for the season. After pushing for a respectable average through the middle of the season, Conor staggered home in an 11-for-81 slump after August 1st and hitting .136 for an extended period like that isn’t good for professional longevity, especially after a strong rookie campaign in Aberdeen where he hit .264/12/36/.862 OPS. Amazingly, the right-handed hitter hit .093 this season against left-handers, without a home run. When the OPS drops like a stone from .862 to .635 in a second season of pro ball, it’s not likely there will be a third. Like Kemp, Conor is an older player (turns 24 next April) who was a relatively low draft pick so he may not get another chance – if he does, it would probably be repeating here.

May 8 - Dylan Rheault

Dylan was often the guy in the right place at the right time in the season’s first half and led the team in victories for a large portion of the season (he was finally overtaken by Steven Brault.) Sort of an overlooked member of the staff thanks to a generally solid starting corps, he got his due as a late addition to the SAL All-Star Game roster. Overall for the Shorebirds, Rheault went 8-4 with a 2.82 ERA in 67 innings, stemming from a team-leading 34 appearances. Dylan allowed 60 hits, struck out 50 and walked 25 for the Shorebirds, resulting in a solid 1.27 WHIP. In terms of record, the reverse seemed to be true upon his mid-August promotion to Frederick, as he went 0-3 but had a respectable 3.38 ERA in 5 1/3 innings pitched among four appearances. One issue there was walking 5 while striking out just 2, but I suspect he will have the opportunity to iron out those problems with Frederick next season.

May 15 - Mike Yastrzemski

Mike was a man on the move this season. After playing the first half of the season in Delmarva and making the SAL All-Star team thanks to a .306/10/44/.919 OPS slash line here, he moved up to Frederick and eventually Bowie. His impact on the Shorebirds and the SAL was quite dramatic – even in just a half-season here Mike’s 10 triples still tied for the league lead for the entire season. (Note above the team only had 39 total.) After just 23 games at Frederick, where Yastrzemski put together an impressive .312/1/19/.827 OPS mark, the Orioles sent him to Bowie to finish out the year. There he looked more average, wrapping up with a .250/3/12/.723 OPS line in 43 games. I would imagine he should begin next year with the Baysox, which is an appropriate level given his age and baseball pedigree.

May 22Jimmy Yacabonis

Another player who made an outsized impact in just one half, the SAL All-Star closer finished the season third in the league in saves with 14 while playing  just half the year here. Had he stayed it’s likely Jimmy would have been the runaway leader. But Yacabonis wasn’t staying after a dominant half where he struck out 31 in 25 1/3 innings. His 15 walks would have been more of a concern had he allowed more than 9 hits over that span – for the Shorebirds Jimmy’s WHIP was 0.95 because hitters only batted .113 against him. In the second half, though, he found out walks can come back to haunt him as Carolina League hitters were far more patient. In 28 1/3 innings at Frederick, Jimmy went 0-4 with an 8.58 ERA, walking 28 while striking out 23. Batters hit .301 against Jimmy at the higher level. Yacabonis may be one of those guys who stays in extended spring to work on his control if it doesn’t come around right away, but likely would be ticketed for a repeat at Frederick.

May 29Trey Mancini

Another late addition to the SAL All-Star Game, Mancini repeated his success at Aberdeen in 2013 for the half-season he was here, hitting .317/3/42/.779 OPS for the Shorebirds. But while the .251 average may not have been where he would have liked it, Mancini had a successful second half for Frederick as he hit seven home runs and knocked in 41, with a .691 OPS. He also maintained a good glove at first base. I’m not sure Mancini did enough to merit another promotion quite yet, but he’s got a good chance of following 2013 Shorebird Christian Walker up the organizational ladder as a would-be successor to Chris Davis in Baltimore.

June 5 - Chance Sisco

It’s apparent Chance was upset at not being picked to the league’s All-Star team, because all he did in the second half was hit .361 to become the first Shorebird to win the SAL batting crown with a team-record .340 mark. (Actually, the snub may have been from missing a handful of games to an injury.) In any case, the league made up for it by selecting Sisco as a post-season All-Star. Moreover, Chance hit five home runs and knocked in 63, collecting a .854 OPS in the process. There are some things Sisco needs to work on behind the plate – for example, he allowed 95 stolen bases in 74 games and only threw out 20% of would-be base stealers, while allowing 16 passed balls (compared to just 8 for Austin Wynns, who caught 62 games) – but the offense appears to be there. Chance may actually follow a similar career path to current Oriole catcher Caleb Joseph, who spent several years at Bowie while his defense caught up to his offensive talents, but also remember Sisco doesn’t turn 20 until the opening days of spring training next season.

June 12 - Sebastian Vader

Somehow I managed to pick all seven SAL All-Stars before the break, with Vader being the final piece. Sebastian briefly stayed for the second half but there was no denying that an 8-4 record with a 3.04 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 13 starts was enough to move Vader up. He was the most durable Shorebird pitcher as the only one to average over 6 innings per outing, and most of them were very good. The numbers weren’t quite there with Frederick, as Sebastian went 3-4, 4.60 in 9 starts covering 47 innings. Most tellingly, the 55/15 K/BB ratio Sebastian had here was narrowed to 34/26 with Frederick, and the WHIP increased to 1.55. Vader has repeated levels in the past, as he spent two seasons in the Gulf Coast League and two seasons with Aberdeen before making his full-season debut this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t repeat Frederick as well.

June 19 - Anthony Caronia

While Caronia was up and down between Frederick and Delmarva last season, and played here the final week of the 2012 season, too, this was the first time he was picked as a SotW. It’s too bad he only played in 53 games – missing several weeks after being beaned early on – because he did serious hitting all season while he was in the lineup, hitting .364/1/18/.848 OPS. Yes, he was repeating a level for the third time, and he’s predominantly a singles hitter with just 10 extra base hits among his 64 total. But the guy can steal a base (he had 12) and played a decent if not outstanding second base this season. You have to root for this type of player to get an honest shot at Frederick, even if he’s one of those lower-round draft picks who turns 24 next season – if he hits .179 as he did last time after 150-200 at-bats (as opposed to the 28 he got the first time there) then at least he got a fair shake.

June 26 - Steven Brault

Steven quietly ended up leading the team in wins with 9 and tied for fifth in the loop with 115 strikeouts in 130 innings pitched. Two other numbers jump out at you, though – he walked only 28 and allowed just 107 hits, so among all qualifiers (a minimum of about 112 innings required) Brault led the league in WHIP with a 1.04 mark. His 3.05 ERA was fifth as well. So Steven got the August call to complete the season in Frederick and pitched even better, going 2-0 in three starts (16 1/3 innings) and matching his ERA and WHIP as both were a sparkling 0.55. Perhaps the one knock was that he only struck out nine in that limited audition, but I would expect him to stay and anchor Frederick’s rotation for a time in 2015.

July 3 - Jon Keller

An outstanding reliever for Delmarva this season (3-0, 1.59 ERA and 0.94 WHIP thanks to a 66/14 K/BB ratio and 39 hits allowed in 56 2/3 innings), Keller’s promotion to Frederick was cut short by injury in late July after just two appearances where he walked seven and struck out five in 4 1/3 innings, allowing 4 earned runs and 8 hits. So the 8.31 ERA may not be representative of ability, but the severity of his injury may determine where he ends up next season. Jon certainly has nothing to prove at Delmarva but it may be a step on his comeback trail.

July 10 - Austin Wynns

As the flip side to the catching rotation of Sisco and Wynns, Austin held his own offensively most of the way before fading in August with a .181 mark to finish his Delmarva portion of the season with a slash line of .252/1/33/.619 OPS. Not great compared to his catching counterpart, but we’ve done far worse behind the dish offensively in recent years. Wynns even got to Frederick for a brief 5-game tryout, going 3-for-14 there with a double and 4 RBI. I noted above that Austin was the better defender of the duo, and he nabbed 37% of would-be base thieves with Delmarva. It very well could be the same combination in Frederick next season.

July 17 - Austin Urban

Urban was the first pitcher I saw this year for Delmarva because I recall he started the SU exhibition game April 1. He stayed in the rotation for the first few weeks, but eventually moved to the bullpen and was more effective – as a starter, Urban was 1-3 with a 5.26 ERA and 1.68 WHIP and 13/13 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings, but in relief he was 2-1, 3.09 with a 1.54 WHIP and 25/19 K/BB ratio in 35 innings. It all added up to 3-4, 4.01 until he went on the disabled list in early August. Given the fact he’s playing with house money as a free agent signee after being released by the Chicago Cubs organization, I would have to say his chances of getting back here are remote but not impossible, depending on how long it takes for the injury situation to be resolved.

July 24 - Josh Hart

Another guy who missed a chunk of the season to injury, Josh put in a decent campaign for Delmarva. Out for about a month and sent to the Gulf Coast League to rehab (where he hit just .167 in 24 at-bats) his 85 games with the Shorebirds resulted in a .255/1/28/.586 OPS stat sheet. But Hart showed a little speed with 11 stolen bases and a little power as he hit his first pro home run at Hickory August 15. When you consider the fact he doesn’t turn 20 until next month and only hit .218 in 36 games in his first taste of pro ball last season, it’s not out of the question for Hart to begin here next year and the Orioles to be just fine with that slow development.

July 31 - Creede Simpson

My lone repeater from 2013, Creede traded places with Trey Mancini at mid-season after batting just .214/7/22/.693 OPS at Frederick. Here he did far better in 64 games, putting up a .302/4/29/.779 OPS mark, which was a vast improvement on the .248 he hit here last season. But instead of versatility, Creede exclusively played first base on his Delmarva return and wasn’t quite up to Mancini’s standard in the field. His biggest enemy, though, is time. Creede turns 25 next week and that’s old for this level, so his may be another case where he has to latch on with Frederick next season or draw his release – problem is first base is getting to be a crowded position in the organization, with several solid prospects.

August 7 - Luis Gonzalez

Right about the time I selected Luis, the Orioles named him their organizational pitcher of the month for July. I’m not sure if that was a jinx, but after that designation Gonzalez fell apart and allowed 26 earned runs over his last 15 innings – it was a brutal August that saw him go 0-4 with a 15.60 ERA, allowing no fewer than six runs in any start. So the 6-0, 2.20 mark on July 31 morphed into a 6-4, 4.83 final mark in 17 games (16 starts) covering 76 1/3 innings. Still, a 72/29 K/BB ratio is impressive and all that August damage only pushed his WHIP up to 1.34, so he’s still in contention for a job someplace in 2015. It may be Frederick or it may be here, which wouldn’t be the end of the world considering Gonzalez will be 23 and hadn’t pitched above rookie ball until this season.

August 14 - Donnie Hart

Another mid-season addition to the staff, Donnie put up solid numbers during the time he was here, coming from extended spring. A 1-3 record was coupled with a 3.68 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 24 appearances. He struck out 31 and walked 11, allowing 25 hits in 29 1/3 innings, while lefthanders hit just .200 off him. Overall, the numbers translated well from what Hart did at Aberdeen last season, but he runs into the same problem some of the other guys who played for the Shorebirds face – advancing age and low draft status. That’s not to say he couldn’t make it with Delmarva (or Frederick) next year, but in either case Donnie needs to get in a full season as he turns 24 later this month.

August 21 - Mitch Horacek

I noted this when I picked Mitch, but with 151 strikeouts he both led the SAL and joined a fairly exclusive club of Shorebird hurlers who struck out 150 or more in a season – all but one made it to the major leagues, if only briefly. For Delmarva, Mitch went 6-10 with a 3.80 ERA, pitching 137 1/3 innings, allowing 139 hits, and walking just 35 to go with the 151 Ks. The 1.27 WHIP was good. But Mitch achieved his high strikeout total by generally piling up 6 to 9 strikeouts a start, although he fanned a season-high 10 on August 19 at Lexington. Horacek also made one last start at Frederick, pitching 6 innings and allowing five runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and three walks, taking the loss. I’d still figure him for Frederick, though.

August 28 - Garrett Courtright

The last SotW finished up on a sour note, roughed up for five runs in his last 1 2/3 innings and increasing his ERA to 3.94 as a Shorebird. For Delmarva he pitched 32 innings in 19 appearances, going 1-3 with a 1.44 WHIP. He allowed 35 hits, walked 11 and struck out 22. Garrett began the season with Aberdeen but pitched 9 2/3 innings with an 0.93 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, meriting the promotion despite a 5/5 K/BB ratio there. I noted he was the last 2013 Oriole draft pick, but he probably can latch on back here in the bullpen and try to improve on his numbers in some respects.

*********

Each year I have a difficult time picking a Shorebird of the Year, but one observation I have about this year’s crop is that there’s truly the potential for it to have six, seven, or perhaps even eight of its members get into the SotW Hall of Fame by making it to The Show. Although I hold out hope for a few players, the most I’ve ever had from a particular season to date is five, and a couple seasons have been all but barren – 2010, for example.

Just look at the All-Stars which were selected. Had Mike Yastrzemski played here in the second half, there’s no telling how much better the already-solid offense could have been and he could have put up some monster numbers. The same goes for fellow callup Trey Mancini, who had potential to be in a pitched battle with Yastrzemski for the team’s RBI lead. Meanwhile, Jimmy Yacabonis was on his way to leading the league in saves, and a few years back I picked a Shorebird of the Year for doing just that.

But I have an unwritten rule for Shorebird of the Year that a player has to be here for about 2/3 of the season, which eliminated those three All-Stars as well as Sebastian Vader, who was having a fine season as well. I believe that, given his position as a middling draft choice, Mike Yastrzemski has worked his way into being my Prospect of the Year.

The South Atlantic League did a pretty good job of establishing contenders for the SotY prize, as one can argue a case for most of those they selected.

A strong starting staff also made for some very good contenders for the honor. As I noted above, Mitch Horacek led the league in strikeouts, Steven Brault was the leader in WHIP, and Hunter Harvey had the potential to flat-out dominate. I would have liked to have seen what he would have done in August, with perhaps 5 to 6 more starts. He may have led the team in wins and finished a strong second to Horacek in strikeouts.

On the position player side, though, it clearly became a two-man race between Drew Dosch and Chance Sisco.

When I began to think about this a month or so ago, I had pretty much decided it was a three-person race based on what was going on at the time, although the month Luis Gonzalez was having was putting him in as the dark horse. Brault and Horacek were having good seasons, but not to the extent others were on the offensive side; meanwhile, I thought Harvey’s injury sort of put his chances on the back burner. It depended on how my other two contenders did in August.

Dosch and Sisco both made the case for themselves in the last month. It’s not like neither was an unknown quantity as they were both high draft choices, but both had a little adversity coming into this season as well. As I pointed out above, this was Dosch’s professional debut. Meanwhile, the question on Sisco was how well he could play against guys a couple years older yet handle the duties that come along with catching.

Here is a list of my Shorebirds of the Year, going back to the award’s inception in 2006:

  • 2006 – Ryan Finan
  • 2007 – Danny Figueroa
  • 2008 – Sean Gleason
  • 2009 – Ron Welty
  • 2010 – Brian Conley
  • 2011 – David Walters
  • 2012 – Brenden Webb
  • 2013 – Lucas Herbst

In looking back, my runner-up would have easily garnered the crown in most of those other years. But what separated Dosch and Sisco to me was the fact that, while both had consistently good seasons, one was doing it a year removed from high school and handling the most defensively challenging position on the diamond.

Only one Shorebird has ever won a South Atlantic League batting title, and that guy is your Shorebird of the Year, Chance Sisco.

So that’s a wrap on the player side for 2014. Next week will be my picks and pans feature speaking as a fan, and then in December I will certainly update my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. It was oh-so-close to having another addition this year when Tim Berry was recalled by the Orioles in June, but alas it was for one day and he didn’t play. There are a few guys on the Orioles “taxi squad” in Sarasota who could become the Class of 2014, though, so I still hold out hope.

Then sometime around the start of spring training I’m going to try and predict the 2015 roster. As it turned out, 15 of my 25 picks were in Delmarva at some point in the season so I didn’t do half-bad I guess. Next year, if the creek don’t rise, will be the tenth season of Shorebird of the Week. But you can rest assured I won’t put the Shorebirds on the shelf for seven months.

District 38C House: Davis vs. Carozza

It’s a lot like yesterday’s report on Senate District 37: the Republican has a wide fundraising lead on a Democrat. But in this case, we’re looking at an open District 38C seat with no incumbent. And while the Democrat in the race, Judy Davis, had a primary opponent in Mike Hindi, the little money she raised was enough to get her through the primary to face Mary Beth Carozza, who was unopposed for the GOP bid.

You can see just how wide of a gap there is by looking at the comparison chart below. Again, be patient with Google Docs as I’m using .pdf files for these inserts.

Download (PDF, 5KB)

What also jumped out at me in this comparison was the amount of money coming from outside the district, which for the sake of simplicity I define as the 218xx zip code area. Both Davis and Carozza received over 40% of their contributions from outside the region, with Carozza just a few dollars shy of 50 percent. Yet it’s interesting where this out-of-district money came from.

In Mary Beth Carozza’s case, a lot of her money comes from connections she made in Washington during her tenure there as a legislative assistant and George W. Bush administration appointee. Her work for the Ohio Congressional delegation was rewarded by a number of contributions from the state, where she hosted a fundraiser last year. In her first report that covered the inception of her campaign to the initial days of 2014, over 70% of her funding came from out-of-state, mainly from the Washington, D.C. area and Ohio. Those Ohio connections, as well as work for Maine Sen. Susan Collins, proved valuable in the category of federal committees, as Mary Beth received money from the Buckeye Patriot PAC, Dirigo PAC, and Promoting Our Republican Team PAC, as well as the campaigns of Mike DeWine, Steve Stivers, and Pat Tiberi. DeWine is a former Senator from Ohio who is now the state’s Attorney General, while Stivers and Tiberi currently serve in Congress representing parts of the state.

But as the campaign has evolved, the percentage of money raised locally has increased. In her last report, Mary Beth raised about 80% of her money locally.

On the other hand, there was a spike in out-of-district collections for Judy Davis when her son hosted a fundraiser for her in New York City, as well as another one in the most recent reporting period from a variety of sources. In all, however, it’s obvious that Carozza has a more broad and deep base of support from private individuals, although Carozza can boast a smattering of support from business and LLCs that Davis hasn’t had. Carozza has also collected the one Maryland PAC donation, from the Maryland Farm Bureau PAC.

Both Davis and Carozza have had modest contributions from local political clubs, but it’s worth noting that three campaigns have transferred money to Mary Beth’s account: former Wicomico County Council candidate Muir Boda transferred $40, Worcester County Commissioner Judy Boggs added $100, and Delegate Kathy Szeliga pitched in a total of $350 in two separate donations.

Something I found interesting among the expenditures is that Mary Beth apparently has a campaign office to work from, as she pays rent for it monthly. She’s also a big Staples customer, as she bought equipment there to set up the office.

But the more important line item was the over $35,000 she spent getting the word out on her campaign – everything from printing up all manner of signage to newspaper ads to social media. (And yes, in the interest of full disclosure, there’s a little something for me in there as well because she’s advertised here.) Carozza’s burned a lot of gasoline, too. Judy Davis has gone along a similar path, but to a lesser extent.

Carozza seems to be using a few outside consultants: of note, she’s spent $395 a month on Morton Herbert, LLC of Towson for, among other things, website design and maintenance, and used Campaign On for the direct mailing ($4,593.27.) And while it’s not a large expense, she paid $480 to Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP. Maryland political insiders know that better as Bob Ehrlich’s law firm.

One other interesting disparity: Carozza paid Edward Blakely of Annapolis a total of $706 for two campaign videos, while Davis had one done by Chase Whiteside of Cincinnati as a $3,000 in-kind donation.

But on the whole, these aren’t the most exciting of campaign finance reports. It’s interesting that Carozza had a number of fairly well-known Republican names donate to her campaign at the start, but that’s been mainly replaced by a local grassroots effort over the last few months. Unlike some of the others profiled, in the case of both Davis and Carozza there doesn’t seem to be a vested interest in all that outside money aside from getting someone they know and have dealt with over the years elected.

Next week I’ll shift westward to look at Districts 38A and 38B.

District 37 Senate: Robinson vs. Eckardt

Today I’m going to look at the financial status of a race with one incumbent taking on a underfunded challenger.

It seems like Delegate Addie Eckardt won the more difficult election by ousting incumbent Senator Richard Colburn in the June 24 primary. Her victory left her accounts depleted but at this point she’s still in a far better financial position than her challenger Christopher Robinson, who ran for the same seat in 2010 and lost by a 59-41 margin to Colburn.

Here are the numbers. I’ve noticed some issues with my Google Docs but these files can also be downloaded for reference.

Download (PDF, 42KB)

The first thing which may grab you is the huge amount of money Eckardt has already spent – since 2013, she’s spent over $73,000 just to get through the bitterly-contested primary, practically wiping out her previous cushion coming into the campaign. In February, before she opted to switch races and challenge Colburn, I pointed out Addie had over $44,000 on hand. (At that point, neither Robinson nor Eckardt were in the running for a Senate seat. Christopher Robinson was a filing-deadline substitution for Cheryl Everman, who officially dropped out of the race February 21 but had ceased campaigning weeks before that.) So while she’s raised a fairly significant amount, Addie has gone through about twice as much.

Robinson has an anomaly of sorts regarding his financial records. Instead of being a constant process through the present day, his initial 2014 report had to go back through the wrapup of his 2010 campaign so much of his campaign funding was actually donated back in 2011. There’s also the “other” $8,000-plus, for which Robinson explains:

This is to offset the expense made to clear the outstanding obligations that were paid via in-kind contributions to the campaign reported in this report.

As I read it, this was to clear up his 2010 debt, and although Robinson kept his campaign finance entity active through 2014, he filed affidavits of limited contributions and expenses until the first pre-primary report this year, signifying he neither raised nor spent a total of $1,000 for his campaign.

Unlike the District 38 Senate race, though, there is little PAC money involved and most of the funding comes from within the district. Robinson’s high out-of-district take is skewed by a pair of large contributions out of the less than $8,000 he’s raised overall. As far as spending goes, most of Robinson’s money is going to media as one would expect in such a rural, spread-out district.

Robinson’s is a far less ambitious media buy than Eckardt’s though. Because she had a contested primary to win, she spent heavily in media: a total of $5,903.70 to several local newspapers and $10,967.78 to various local radio stations. Interestingly enough, most of the remaining media money went to Igoe Associates, a company which rubbed some Republicans the wrong way in 2012 when it assisted independent Senate candidate Rob Sobhani.

Eckardt has some other curious ledger items as well. For example, the transfer from other slates comes from the remaining money from the demise of the Shore Team Slate. which also explains a returned contribution of $266.67 to cover an unpaid bill due from that entity. The transfer out went to the House 2014 Victory Slate, which presumably is set up to assist would-be House members with their campaigns.

One other line item which is sure to cause heartburn in some quarters is the $6,600 she spent with Public Opinion Strategies for a poll. It’s a significant part of the “other” category.

On the other hand, Eckardt seems to do well with fundraising without spending a lot of money on it. Just $1,753.91 in fundraising expenses have netted her over $30,000 in individual contributions, and much of that was spent on her annual fundraiser.

It will be interesting to see how this race develops in a financial sense. Given Addie Eckardt’s name recognition in the district, most of which she’s represented for the last 20 years, she shouldn’t need as much financial support as a new candidate would but the fact she only has a few thousand more dollars to spend than her Democratic opponent is a little surprising.

Some good news for Big Labor, for a change

September 1, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry · 1 Comment 

After a tough stretch for Big Labor, this Labor Day finds some good news for them in the New York Times, of all places. It seems that union membership in the New York region is on the upswing, according to a study by two professors at the City University of New York Graduate Center. The pair credit more work in the construction sector as well as gains in the hotel industry.

Needless to say, these particular jobs are somewhat cyclical and can be lost at the drop of a hat. (Just ask thousands of Atlantic City casino workers whose employers close after this weekend.) But any good news is manna from heaven for Big Labor.

I also noted in reading the Times piece that the two professors who did the study, Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce, downplayed the impact of fast food workers and their attempts to organize. Yet in a separate op-ed in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky AFL-CIO head Bill Londrigan singled out the fast food industry as one where workers:

…have labored long and hard and not benefited in a satisfactory manner from the fruits of their labor. They have been pushed too far. The pendulum has swung too far away from workers, the poor, elderly, children and those that need the help of others for their survival.

The problem they have, though, is that fast-food workers are very replaceable. And Londrigan has to throw in an obligatory whine:

The rich have gotten too rich and the poor too poor and the rest squeezed in the declining middle.

Take your class envy card someplace else. I’ll agree that it is getting harder and harder for the middle class to get by, but it’s not necessarily that the rich are getting richer in general – it’s the rich who use the power of government for rent-seeking and weeding out potential competition. The unions don’t mind so much when the UAW benefits from a General Motors or Chrysler bailout, but just let various local politicians speak out negatively about the prospect of a unionized Volkswagen plant in Tennessee and suddenly government is the bad guy.

Perhaps unions aren’t completely to blame for the long, slow decline of American manufacturing over the last 50 years, but they haven’t necessarily helped the cause, either. Collective bargaining for the workers of one company is one thing, but enacting protectionist policies to discourage competition or discouraging productivity with onerous work rules are completely different animals. Some of the local unions have wised up, but too many just exist to collect worker dues and pay off politicians.

On a day to celebrate American labor, I stand for the right to work.

Best-laid plans

As I write this, Wicomico County Republicans were slated to host a gala to formally open their headquarters. But all that was pushed aside by an event which occurred last Thursday – the sudden, tragic passing of Sylvia “Cookie” Harris, wife of our Congressman and leader in the Maryland pro-life community.

With services for Cookie Harris this weekend, one of the three local political events slated for today have been pushed back to next Sunday. The only event that remained on the schedule was a fundraiser for Delegate candidate Christopher Adams, which was tied into the Shorebirds game this evening and couldn’t be changed as their season ends tomorrow; meanwhile, a fundraiser for County Executive candidate Bob Culver which was to feature Harris is being rescheduled with a date to be announced.

I bring all this up because it’s a reminder that nothing is a given in politics (or life in general, for that matter.) In my life I’ve seen people 17 points down in a poll 10 days before Election Day come out a winner, the sea change in political attitude that occurred from the events of 9/11, and other instances where conventional wisdom was turned on its head in a matter of days or hours.

It got me to thinking about the GOP-sponsored poll from a couple weeks ago that showed Larry Hogan was making a race of it, despite the fact that most national observers already have Anthony Brown ready to measure for new drapes at Government House because Maryland is a “blue” state, don’cha know. In terms of voter registration, it is, but a lot can happen between now and November to convince people Hogan deserves a shot.

By the same token, one can look at the massive difference in funding between Democratic incumbent state Senator Jim Mathias and his Republican challenger Delegate Mike McDermott. Yet when you see the sources of that funding, it’s worth asking why these people are paying so much to keep him in office? The same can be said of Delegate Norm Conway, but the conventional wisdom holds that both will be re-elected because they’re “really nice guys” who “bring home the bacon.” Still, anything can happen between now and Election Day and these two may fall out of favor among their constituents.

In all honesty, I could have written this without the tragic circumstances surrounding the passing of Cookie Harris, and I certainly join the many who have extended their thoughts and prayers toward the Harris family during this time. It’s also a shock to the state’s pro-life community, which lost far too much ground over Mrs. Harris’s lifetime. But all involved will heal with time, and the world will return to its way for everyone – the events postponed today will be resumed at a later date. Yet it serves as a good reminder.

The message here is to take absolutely nothing for granted, not just in a political sense but in life itself. The message I often hear when someone passes is that the deceased wouldn’t have cared for all the tears and sadness by mourners because they lived their life in the best way they knew how, no regrets. It was up to us to do the same as the truest way to honor their memory.

And as it says on the sidebar of my website: never, never, never give up. Whatever life throws at us, we can overcome.

monoblogue music: “The Last of the Originals” by Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders

August 30, 2014 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off 

With all the attention being paid to country music these days, there are a lot of people trying to cash in on the imagery and adopting that “gone country” attitude. Billy Roberts is one of those guys, but as a native of Australia where country is not nearly as much in vogue, he had to embark on a journey to Nashville to take the initial step toward his dream of being a musical star.

The funny thing is: he didn’t really make a country album, or at least not one which would compete for space on the country charts with folks like Luke Bryan or Florida Georgia Line.

Granted, on “The Last of the Originals” many of the songs have country roots in them, but it’s more the classic traditional country you hear in tracks like With You, Not That Special, or the lyrically poignant I Was Young.

But you can also find a lot of other influences as well – the rollicking and rocking Mrs. Jones leads off the album and makes the listener believe this may not be a country set after all. Nor do you normally hear the sort of plucking rhythm guitar of the next song, I’m Gonna Get That Girl, on your latest generic country set. My Baby Gone Cold, conversely, has a more bluesy feel to it, and later on in the lineup No More Mr. Nice Guy is not a rehash of the Alice Cooper classic but an original shuffle featuring a dash of harmonica. As the album’s closing song, Red Head Baby is a good rocker to leave listeners with.

There are two tracks which deserve a special mention, though. The seven-minute long (and how many country songs go past five?) Davy Crockett and the Alamo is a slow ballad in its first half before kicking it up several notches for the finish. And I really, really liked the haunting guitar and harder edge of Never Know.

That song, coupled with the refreshing lack of twang in Billy’s voice and the use of production tricks like vocal distortion, set “The Last of the Originals” apart from the rest of the pack, and make it, well, original.

So what’s not to like about it? One thing Billy will learn as he moves on with his musical career is how to better frame songs to his vocal range. At times he gets a little too monotone with his vocals, and it gets me to thinking how others could have handled the song. Musically this is a fine effort, but the vocals could stand some polish.

But this album, if promoted right, can have crossover appeal. Traditional country fans would probably prefer certain songs while those of us who occasionally enjoyed The Eagles or Neil Young – who Billy lists as an influence – will like the edgier tracks.

Just released a couple weeks back, I can implore you to not just take my word for it – listen for yourself and see if modern country is ready for an Australian influence.

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  • More Campaign 2014

    Contested races only.

    First District - Congress

    Andy Harris (R)
    Bill Tilghman (D)

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    Maryland General Assembly (local)

    Senate District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R)
    Christopher Robinson (D)

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    House District 37B

    Republican

    Christopher Adams (R)
    Johnny Mautz (R)
    Rodney Benjamin (D)
    Keasha Haythe (D)

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    Senate District 38

    Mike McDermott (R)

    Jim Mathias (D)

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    House District 38A

    Charles Otto (R)
    Percy Purnell, Jr. (D)

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    House District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R)

    Norm Conway (D)

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    House District 38C

    Mary Beth Carozza. (R)

    Judy Davis (D)

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    Wicomico County

    County Executive

    Bob Culver (R)
    Rick Pollitt (D)

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    County Council at-large

    John Cannon (R)
    Matt Holloway (R)
    Laura Mitchell (D)

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    Council District 2

    Marc Kilmer (R)
    Kirby Travers (D)

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    Council District 3

    Larry Dodd (R)
    Josh Hastings (D)