Looks like our time is up

With the days before the primary dwindling down to a precious few, it appears the 2016 Presidential road show will be going elsewhere. A check of the five remaining candidates finds that only three will be in our two states, as Republicans John Kasich and Donald Trump have Maryland events (in Rockville and Hagerstown, respectively), while Hillary Clinton will be in Wilmington, Delaware.

It’s been nice to see that the Eastern Shore and slower lower Delaware matter to the Trump campaign, despite the fact his message wasn’t appreciably different than any of the last five dozen stump stops he’s made. I listened to a part of his Harrington speech today on the radio and found that he rambles on tremendously. But someone may be righting the ship in Trump’s campaign a little bit because he is focusing on the rural areas which are the backbone of his support; meanwhile, Kasich and Clinton are in the urban strongholds you might expect them to inhabit. This doesn’t seem like fertile territory for Bernie Sanders, but I am disappointed Ted Cruz hasn’t made it over to this end of Maryland. (One caveat: he has no events on his page beyond tomorrow so perhaps we may see a last-minute visit from the Senator.)

Closer to home, it’s worth pointing out that U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Szeliga is in Salisbury for two events tomorrow at Devage’s and the Brick Room. It figures: I can walk to Devage’s but I will be in Easton at the #ProtestPP rally while she’s here. It’s keeping up my record of not meeting the Delegate, who is the only one of the four most prominent contenders I haven’t met recently. She’ll spend the last Saturday of the campaign on the Eastern Shore before moving across the bridge for the duration. No word on whether the motorcycle is coming.

Honestly, I’m glad the primary is almost over since it seems like at least on a national level this campaign really started the day after the 2014 election. It’s actually somewhat amazing that Maryland will be in the late thirties when it comes to order of primary yet is enough of a player to garner attention from all five remaining candidates. This still doesn’t mean I don’t think the primary process shouldn’t be streamlined into six weeks where eight states apiece vote, beginning after the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary kick off the proceedings in late spring, but in this case it’s worked out to be an exciting and maddening race.

So on Wednesday or thereabouts I can clean the sidebar and add in the Libertarian, Green Party, and unaffiliated candidates for various offices. Culling is actually great fun.

So get out and vote on Tuesday. After I cover the #ProtestPP tomorrow I will write up my Congressional endorsement for Sunday. That should be interesting.

Shorebird of the Week – April 21, 2016

April 21, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comment 

It seems like every year or two the Shorebirds get a fresh-faced infield prospect from the Miami area – most recently we had Adrian Marin, who now plays for Bowie, and a couple years before that there was some guy named Machado who was here long enough to mess up the first of two knees. (Fortunately, he’s also made a couple All-Star teams and won some hardware, too.) Now we have Alejandro Juvier, who’s not as highly regarded (as a 15th round pick out of Doral Academy, where he was the first player drafted from the school) but is still working his way up the Orioles’ organizational totem pole after splitting 2015 between the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen.

The 20-year-old had a nondescript rookie year, hitting just .178 for the GCL Orioles in 2014, but the second bite of the apple proved to be better as Juvier hit a combined .307/0/18/.742 OPS between the two levels, combining 29 GCL contests with 17 games at Aberdeen. So it’s been a push to this level for Alejandro, but so far so good as he’s hitting a respectable .250 in 10 games (9-for-36.) The OPS, however, is a paltry .539 and that is definitely something the slender left-handed hitter will need to improve upon at this level. When power is not your strong suit, getting on base is a must and thus far Juvier has a 12-to-2 ratio of strikeouts to walks. Yet average-wise he is one of the leaders on a Shorebirds club off to a slow start at the plate (a collective .216 average at this early juncture.)

Another asset Alejandro has is speed – in 96 career games to date he has 15 stolen bases, which over a regular Shorebird season would get him into the 20-25 range. Even developing some line-drive gap power could make Juvier a threat to fill up the stat sheet by turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

In the game where I took this photo (Sunday) Alejandro was the 9-hole hitter and that seems to be a spot very suited for him – not a lot of power, but potentially enough on-base percentage and good speed to turn the lineup over. Juvier has moved around the infield as well, playing mainly second base with a little bit of shortstop in the GCL but lately seeing more time at third base for both Aberdeen and Delmarva. To me, offensively he projects as more of a second baseman as it’s not traditionally as offensive-minded as other positions – although Jonathan Schoop turns that assumption on its ear at the big league level.

So we will see if Juvier can keep up with this level or regress back to Aberdeen at mid-season. He has a good chance to stick if he can bump his on-base percentage up to about .325 so the top of the order can do its damage. It’s something to follow as the season develops.

How to lose a Congressional race in one speech

If any post I’ve ever done deserved to be put up on 4/20, it’s this one. But suffice to say there are times when the perfect becomes the enemy of the good, and for Congressional candidate Mike Smigiel that point may have been reached.

On Monday I received a press release from the Smigiel campaign promoting his appearance as a featured speaker at the National Cannabis Festival, an event to be held Saturday in Washington, D.C. Held for the first time this year, the Cannabis Festival promotes itself as:

More than just a festival, NCF is a chance to connect with members of the cannabis community and industry from across the country while enjoying a full day of music, games, delicious food and drink.

In the release, there was a rationale provided for Smigiel’s remarks:

The Maryland 1st District Congressional Race is of national importance and serves as a barometer to gauge the mood of the country regarding removal of barriers for the cannabis industry. (Andy) Harris is seeking re-election in a tough primary that Marylanders will be voting in on April 26th, and Del. Smigiel has released polling that suggests that when voters know of Harris’ votes, including his actions with cannabis prohibition, residents will not vote for Harris at an overwhelming majority.  Industry supporters are upset because Congress renewed the prohibition on the District’s government from spending any funds to set up a legal market for marijuana distribution and taxation, a move lead by Congressman Harris. There is a deep seeded negative sentiment against Rep. Harris as he is seen as an exemplification of the worst of big government overreach when he interfered with District voters’ attempt to follow Colorado, Washington State and others in exercising political autonomy with Initiative 71. The initiative appeared on the ballot and was approved by voters, only to have Rep. Harris successfully lead the effort to block the District government’s implementation efforts. Since that time, several unintended consequences have resulted from Rep. Harris’ paternalism.

The District is still unable to tax and or otherwise control the manufacturing and distribution of marijuana thus is losing out on tens of millions of dollars of new tax revenue.

Harris’ vote against the District not only exemplifies the overreach of big government it is also indicative of an arrogance where elected servants of our government presume to have a better understanding of our needs than we, the electorate do. The ramifications are far reaching throughout Maryland’s 1st District as well, affecting opportunities for the development of agricultural crops, business, and also resulted in a boycott of Ocean City, Maryland.

I get all that argument (aside from the state’s rights argument, since the District of Columbia is not a state), but perhaps the weekend before the election is not the best time to be hanging out with a crowd that few in the First District would identify with. Even worse is the idea of promoting recreational drug use (and let’s get real, most of the support for the “cannabis industry” isn’t so we can produce more industrial hemp) at a time when the local headlines often shout about yet another death by drug overdose. Simply put, the optics are really bad on this one. What may grab you another handful of votes among those who are passionate about the issue will turn off a lot of people who are already concerned about the impact of drugs on crime and on society at large.

And in what may be the sharpest 180 degree turn ever in politics, the chances are pretty good (since he appeared at last August’s rendition) that Smigiel will spent at least some of his morning protesting Planned Parenthood in Easton since that event is also Saturday. (Harris may also make an appearance for that same reason.) I don’t think the devout pro-life crowd would much approve of the National Cannabis Festival, and in the case of abortion Harris can claim pro-life groups’ support despite the objections Smigiel puts up.

There is definitely a libertarian streak in me that likes how Smigiel looks at certain issues, and he’s made his campaign into one that is a near-constant diatribe about what he feels is the hypocrisy between Andy Harris the campaigner and speaker and Andy Harris the Washington insider Congressman. A lot of that is legitimate, but the question is just how much of that comes with the territory. Unfortunately, purists seldom make it far in politics, especially on the conservative side.

Yet in making his point about how Harris is not a Tenth Amendment kind of guy, Smigiel is taking the time that I feel would be better served in the district trying to win votes in what’s already an uphill battle. I know Mike’s been working hard for nearly a year to make his case to the people of the First District, but unless there’s a fundraising element involved in his Washington trip (and I highly doubt this) in my opinion it’s an unforced error to spend valuable time just before the primary to tell the cannabis industry how bad Andy Harris is.

Despite what Jim Ireton might believe, the election for the First District seat occurs April 26. If Mike Smgiel loses a close election, I suppose he will have the cold comfort of losing on a particular principle.

Earth Day’s anti-fossil fuel focus could plunge millions into green energy poverty

Commentary by Marita Noon

Friday, April 22, will mark the 47th Earth Day. You may think it is all about planting trees and cleaning up neighborhoods. But this year’s anniversary will be closer to its radical roots than, perhaps, any other since its founding in 1970. Considered the birth of the environmental movement, the first Earth Day took place during the height of America’s counterculture era. According to EarthDay.org, it gave voice to an “emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.”

We did need to clean up our act. At that time “littering” wasn’t part of our vocabulary, The air in the Southern California valley where I grew up was often so thick with smog we couldn’t see the surrounding mountains.

Thankfully, that has changed.

Look around your community. You’ll likely see green trees, blue skies, and bodies of water sparkling in the sunshine. With the success of the environmental movement, its supporters, and the nonprofit groups it spawned, had to become ever more radical to stay relevant.

Environmentalism has changed.

The morphing of the movement may be most evident in Earth Day 2016 – which some are calling “the most important Earth Day in history.”

This year, on April 22, in a high-level celebration at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the Paris Climate Agreement will officially be signed. Thirty days after its signing by at least 55 countries that represent 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the agreement will take effect – committing countries to establishing individual targets for emission reductions with the expectation that they will be reviewed and updated every five years.

While news reports of Earth Day 2016 will likely depict dancing in the streets, those who can look past the headlines will see a dire picture – one in which more than 10 percent of a household’s income is spent on energy costs; one of “green energy poverty.”

To meet the non-binding commitments President Obama made last December in Paris, he is counting on, among many domestic regulations, the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Last week, on the Senate floor, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered remarks in advance of Earth Day on the unattainability of the U.S. climate commitments. He said: “The Clean Power Plan is the centerpiece of the president’s promise to the international community that the U.S. will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent.” It would “cause double digit electricity price increases in 40 states” and “would prevent struggling communities from accessing reliable and affordable fuel sources, which could eventually lead to poor families choosing between putting healthy food on the table or turning their heater on in the winter.”

The Heritage Foundation has just released a report on the devastating economic costs of the Paris Climate Agreement, which it calls “a push for un-development for the industrialized world and a major obstacle for growth for the developing world.” Because global warming regulations “stifle the use of the most efficient and inexpensive forms of electricity, businesses as well as households will incur higher electricity costs.” The report concludes: “restricting energy production to meet targets like those of the Paris agreement will significantly harm the U.S. economy. Bureaucratically administered mandates, taxes, and special interest subsidies will drive family incomes down by thousands of dollars per year, drive up energy costs, and eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs. All of these costs would be incurred to achieve only trivial and theoretical impacts on global warming.”

Real world experience bears out the both Inhofe’s observations and the Heritage Foundation’s conclusions.

Germany is one of the best examples of green energy poverty as the country has some of the most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction programs that offer generous subsidies for any company producing green energy. Based on an extensive study done by green energy believers in 2014, I addressed the program’s overall result: raised costs and raised emissions. I stated: “After reading the entire 80-page white paper, I was struck with three distinct observations. The German experiment has raised energy costs to households and business, the subsidies are unsustainable, and, as a result, without intervention, the energy supply is unstable.” At that time, I concluded: “The high prices disproportionately hurt the poor, giving birth to the new phrase: ‘energy poverty.’”

More recently, others have come to the same conclusion (read here and here). On April 13, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) opined: “Germany’s 16-year-old Energiewende, or energy transformation, already has wrecked the country’s energy market in its quest to wean the economy off fossil fuels and nuclear power. Traditional power plants, including those that burn cleaner gas, have been closing left and right while soaring electricity prices push industries overseas and bankrupt households. Job losses run to the tens of thousands.” Meanwhile, emissions over the past seven years have increased. Last month, Mike Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress and Time magazine “Hero of the Environment,” tweeted: “people really want to believe good things about Germany’s energy shift, but … its emissions rose.” WSJ concludes: “The market distortions caused by overreliance on expensive but undependable power already have pushed German utilities to rely more on cheap and dirty coal-fired power plants to make up the shortfall when renewable sources can’t meet demand.”

Germany is not alone.

The U.K., according to Reuters, is facing “fuel poverty.” The report states: “The government is also under pressure to curb rising energy bills with 2.3 million of Britain’s 27 million households deemed fuel poor, meaning the cost of heating their homes leaves them with income below the poverty line.” Another account covers the U.K.’s cuts to solar subsidies, saying: “The government says the changes were necessary to protect bill payers, as the solar incentives are levied on household energy bills.”

The Netherlands, which is already behind in meeting its green energy targets, has, according to the Washington Post, had to build three new coal-fueled power plants – in part, at least, to power the high percentage of electric cars. Additionally, the country has hundreds of wind turbines that are operating at a loss and are in danger of being demolished. A report states: “Subsidies for generating wind energy are in many cases no longer cost-effective. Smaller, older windmills in particular are running at a loss, but even newer mills are struggling to be profitable with insufficient subsidies.”

Bringing it closer to home, there is über-green California – where billionaire activist Tom Steyer aggressively pushes green energy policies. Headlines tout California has the most expensive market for retail gasoline nationwide. But, according to the Institute for Energy Research, it also has some of the highest electricity prices in the country – “about 40 percent higher than the national average.” A 2012 report from the Manhattan Institute, states that about one million California households were living in “energy poverty”- with Latinos and African Americans being the hardest hit. With the Golden State’s headlong rush toward lower carbon-dioxide emissions and greater use of renewables, the energy poverty figure is surely much higher today.

This week, as you hear commentators celebrate “the most important Earth Day in history” and the global significance of the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, remember the result of policies similar to CPP: green energy poverty. Use these stories (there are many more) to talk to your friends. Make this “Green Energy Poverty Week” and share it: #GEPW.

We, however, do not need to be doomed to green energy poverty. There is some good news.

First, the Paris Climate Agreement is non-binding. Even Todd Stern, U.S. climate envoy, acknowledged in the Huffington Post: “What Paris does is put in place a structure that will encourage countries to increase their targets every five years.” While the requisite number of countries will likely sign it before the election of the next president, the only enforcement mechanism is political shaming. Even if it was legally binding, as was the Koyto Protocol, Reason Magazine points out what happened to countries, like Canada and Japan, which “violated their solemn treaty obligations” – NOTHING. The Heritage report adds: “History, however, gives little confidence that such compliance will even occur. For instance, China is building 350 coal-fired power plants, and has plans for another 800.”

Then there is the legal delay to the implementation of the CPP – which, thanks to a Supreme Court decision earlier this year, will be tied up in courts for at least the next two years. Inhofe stated: “Without the central component of (Obama’s) international climate agenda, achieving the promises made in Paris are mere pipe dreams.”

“President Obama’s climate pledge is unobtainable and it stands no chance of succeeding in the United States,” Inhofe said. “For the sake of the economic well-being of America, that’s a good thing.”

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

The manufacturing dilemma

Over the last few years I have seen the American worker become more and more an endangered species. Sure, there are jobs out there but fewer and fewer of them involve making stuff. Last month the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) glumly noted that manufacturing jobs were off an astounding 29,000 in March. As AAM’s Scott Paul noted:

With 29,000 manufacturing jobs lost last month, it is clear this issue isn’t going away anytime soon. China’s massive industrial overcapacity, currency manipulation, and our growing China trade deficit continue to tip the scales, and it’s laid-off U.S. factory workers who pay the price. That’s not right. American manufacturers can outcompete anyone in the world, but they need a level playing field.

As I have pointed out before, AAM is an outgrowth of the steel industry, particularly the steelworkers’ union. So their perspective leans toward protectionism to a point where they regularly accuse China of cheating us on trade through both currency manipulation and their “dumping” tons of steel on the market. One Illinois steel worker they quoted put the latter charge thusly:

For the past 38 years, I’ve been a steelworker at U.S. Steel Granite City Works in Granite City, Illinois.

I’m proud of the work my 2,000 colleagues and I do at the mill. We produce a high-quality product that’s used in automobiles, construction and energy exploration. In one case, we even made a grade of steel for a major automaker that no other mill had been able to produce!

But right now we need your help.

Because of unfair trade, 1,500 of my coworkers are currently laid off. They don’t know when they’ll be called back – or even if they’ll be called back.

Granite City isn’t the only place coping with layoffs. More than 1,000 people who work at the U.S. Steel Fairfield Tubular Operations in Alabama are laid off. Nearly 350 folks at U.S. Steel Keetac in Minnesota also are out of work, as are hundreds of people at facilities in places like Colorado and Oregon.

All told, more than 13,500 steelworkers are facing layoffs - and the list is growing.

(snip)

We’re facing an unprecedented onslaught of dumped steel from countries like China, which is producing way more steel than it can use. That steel is heavily subsidized by China’s government, which also doesn’t require its companies to abide by strict labor or environmental laws. China needs to get rid of its steel, so it dumps it into our market at a rock-bottom price.

That’s not fair to American steelmakers and workers, who compete in an open market.

And steelworkers aren’t the only ones who deal with the burden of unfair trade.

I can’t stop anywhere in town without being asked about the layoffs. When so many workers are forced to tighten their belt, it impacts everyone - from restaurants to grocery stores to retail.

Fair trade groups such as the Manufacturers for Trade Enforcement now oppose China’s possible ascension to a “market economy” for trading purposes by our Commerce Department, while AAM also questions China’s effect on our national security as steelworkers lose their jobs:

Plant closures, mass layoffs, and the loss of key technology and manufacturing know-how are sure to follow unless we act.

Moreover, with the loss of U.S. steelmaking capabilities comes a dangerous dependence on these same potentially hostile foreign governments to supply the steel products necessary to equip our military, respond to disasters, and modernize our increasingly fragile infrastructure.

This has actually been a concern for several years. In some respects the concerns about steel parallel our oil crisis, when we lost the ability to supply our own needs and became vulnerable to OPEC’s embargoes in the 1970s. Having lived through that as a child and seeing how it affected our economy, I have issues with the greatest country in the world becoming such a disposable society that we forget how to be self-sufficient. We should have never put ourselves in a position where, for so many of those devices and conveniences that make our lives easier and promote commerce, we depend on a nation that points missiles at us.

That’s not to say everything is bad news, though. As Bryan Riley shows in the Daily Signal, foreign investment in America far outstrips what we invest overseas. And while it’s true Carrier is moving 2,100 jobs from Indiana to Mexico, Riley argues that the net effect will be less as foreign automakers Toyota, Honda, and Subaru are adding a total of 1,600 jobs around the state. Riley adds:

While Carrier has been called “greedy” for moving to Mexico, no one in Indiana is calling Toyota, Honda, or Subaru greedy for choosing to invest in the United States.

(snip)

In total, over 2 million American manufacturing workers are employed by foreign-owned companies. And while American companies have invested over $700 billion in foreign production facilities since 2000, foreign-owned companies have invested over $1.3 trillion in the U. S. manufacturing operations during the same time frame.

The result: a $614 billion manufacturing investment “surplus” for the United States from 2000 to 2015.

Granted, the year 2000 may have been an artificial and arbitrary deadline considering the exodus of manufacturing jobs from our shores began decades earlier, but there are thousands of Americans who work for foreign-owned companies in all sectors – heck, most people who drink a non-craft beer are supporting American workers toiling for a foreign-owned conglomerate.

Still, we should be doing all we can to promote the old-fashioned art of making things here. There were millions of families around the country (including mine) where there was only one breadwinner (Mom stayed at home) who could still achieve middle-class status because they made good money while creating the products America needed. (In my dad’s case it was concrete block and other cement products. That plant has long been out of business, sadly.) Now that’s all but impossible, as the norm has become two-earner families who can barely keep up with expenses, living paycheck to paycheck. By the time I was in high school, our family was one of those, too.

Perhaps the boom times of the last half of the twentieth century were bound to come to an end sometime, but we should be doing our best to bring them back by allowing workers and companies to create and enhance the value of raw products as much as possible. To use a simplistic example of building a car: we create value for iron ore by extracting it somewhere in the upper Midwest, add value by shipping it by ship down the lake to a steel mill in Indiana, further enhance it by processing it into steel there before shipping it again via truck or rail to a Toledo auto plant, then create even more value by its becoming the fender to a new Jeep, which again is placed on truck or a railcar to deliver to your local dealer. Each step in the process creates a little bit more value from that chunk of rocks once buried underground to the new Wrangler sitting at the dealership, meanwhile helping to create a better standard of living for hundreds of employees in the process.

But somewhere a few decades back we decided it was cheaper to have someone else do it – iron ore from one of a host of countries may or may not be processed there, but it goes to Japan or Korea and they build the cars. Granted, their success led them to put assembly plants here in America but I’d like to keep the process more in-house where we can.

Just because there’s a global economy doesn’t mean we in America have to settle for second best. But it does mean America needs new, fresh leadership that believes in American exceptionalism and wants to create the conditions where we can once again prosper.

For U.S. Senate 2016

Back in July of last year I attended the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield, and among those I met that day was one of the first to announce he was seeking the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, Chrys Kefalas. Fast-forward nine months later and we have thirteen others on the ballot joining Kefalas in seeking the Republican nomination, and his diligence on the trail seems to be paying off – Chrys is within the margin of error from leading the race, according to a recent Washington Post/University of Maryland poll. (However, a subsequent WRC-TV/Marist poll has Delegate Kathy Szeliga leading Richard Douglas 20-13, with 9 percent backing Kefalas. No other candidates were mentioned by name.)

While both polls suggested it was a wide-open race, as nearly half had not decided on a candidate, you can easily take the fourteen who started and boil them down to perhaps a half-dozen with a real chance. Many of the aspirants are running campaigns on a shoestring, with a website and no resources otherwise to campaign around the state. Only five have achieved enough standing to participate in one of the televised debates: Douglas, Joe Hooe, Kefalas, Szeliga, and Dave Wallace; except for Hooe each of these have also visited the local area to participate in a statewide campaign. (If Hooe has come to Salisbury, I am not aware of it.) With the other four I have seen all but Szeliga personally, but Cathy Keim covered the Szeliga kickoff visit so that counts, too.

Over the last few weeks, my initial impressions of the candidates (and that extension of remarks) have not changed significantly in most cases. But there is at least one disqualifier that I have to report.

This is from Joe Hooe‘s campaign Facebook page.

Question: So, where do you stand as far as Trump is concerned?

Hooe: I support him, I’ve made phone calls for him and I liked the Christmas card that he sent to me and my family. I like his plan to secure the border, I like that he is a business person like me and I think that our plans can work together. I also believe that no matter what we need a Republican in the Whitehouse.

I realize that the one key issue Hooe is bringing to the table is his scheme to tax illegal immigrants $1,000 a year for permission to work here but on its face one has to question just how workable such a proposal is if people are already here illegally. Enforcement is already not our strong suit, and I can just see some bleeding-heart liberal saying, “oh, that’s a lot of money for these poor immigrants to come up with – how about we give them a tax credit so it’s not such a hardship for them?”

But to me being a Trump supporter shows a lack of judgment when it comes to conservatism. So Hooe is out.

Next, you have Kathy Szeliga. She has been on TV for several days with her motorcycle ad, and it has pushed her numbers upward from 15% to 20%. But it’s still difficult to pin her down on a lot of issues because she’s mastered the art of political-speak. She’s gotten a little better over the last couple weeks, but Szeliga and Chrys Kefalas keep trying to out-Larry Hogan each other. Maybe it’s a good electoral strategy, but one of my concerns is having a good conservatism strategy and I don’t necessarily get that vibe from Kathy like I should given her General Assembly voting record. She would definitely be only what I call an 80 percenter in Congress, one who I agree with maybe 80 percent but who may not push as hard against the status quo as I wish she would.

Regarding Chrys Kefalas, here’s a good guy who seems to have a following among the Millennial “let’s not discuss social values” crowd – in fact, he may get extra points with them for some of his choices. (Let’s just say he definitely worked against me in 2012 on Question 6 and leave it at that.) Yet to me that’s a leg of the three-legged conservative stool that you can’t just saw off and I don’t understand how one can be “principled” without addressing this. (Since Hogan didn’t address this either in his 2014 campaign, in that respect Chrys really is a “Larry Hogan Republican.”) I will grant that these are not the most important of issues, but despite his advocacy for manufacturing I don’t completely agree with Chrys that this is just a “jobs and economy” election. He came down on the wrong side of the Apple controversy, so I also wonder if Kefalas would respect and work for either our civil or religious liberties if elected.

Bear in mind that if either of these two emerge victorious, though. I can easily support them despite their flaws. I just won’t be able to expect that I have a Senator working for me in Washington.

After I began to study the field and issues, it became clear for me that the choice is between Richard Douglas and Dave Wallace. I have had the opportunity to speak with both and heard both Douglas and Wallace at some length; not only that, they were willing to answer many of my questions. So I have a pretty good idea where both of them stand, and I think either would be outstanding Senators for the state of Maryland for different reasons.

But there are two things which tip the scale for my endorsee.

First is the experience and leadership he has shown – even when it wasn’t an issue that was intended to make headlines, defending the very presence of the Bladensburg Peace Cross in the wake of a secular humanist attempt to have it removed as a so-called establishment of religion as opposed to a simple and longstanding memorial to the war casualties from Prince George’s County shows conscience and respect for tradition, as well as a willingness to fight for our values.

Second is a combination of backbone and knowledge of the system. As we have seen with the Donald Trump campaign, there is more to gaining the Republican nomination than getting a plurality of the votes. The knowledge and understanding of the process that Ted Cruz is exhibiting is enabling him to outperform expectations. Similarly, understanding the rules of the Senate is a key to taking advantage and getting things done, and I don’t want a shrinking violet up there.

Of all the years to have a tagline of “make Maryland great again,” this is not the year given its immediate connotation. To make Maryland great is to balance ably representing the economic interests of those of us who do not work for the federal government with the national security, foreign policy, and oversight tasks entrusted to the Senate. In a time of crisis experience matters to me almost as much as principle, so I am endorsing and casting my vote for Richard Douglas for the U.S. Senate.

In each of the polls I have seen Richard Douglas is within striking distance of the lead, so it’s up to us to put him over the top and select a man who can make mincemeat of the Democratic nominee in a debate. Maryland definitely needs “new blood” in the Senate, so let’s make it happen.

monoblogue music: “Stealin’ Thunder” by The Magic Lightnin’ Boys

April 16, 2016 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comment 

Magic Lightnin Boys - Stealing ThunderThe Magic Lightnin’ Boys hail from Cincinnati, Ohio, which immediately tells me a lot about the band since I spent four of my most formative years in that area. For people of the Midwest like me, Cincinnati is the gateway to the South where these regions converge like the pasta, cheese, and onions added to the chili base of Cincinnati chili.

This band has more than a heaping helping of Southern influence, creating its own dish combining Southern rock and blues with a smidgen of funk, served piping hot. Formed in 2014, next month TMLB will be putting out its first full-length studio release in “Stealin’ Thunder” after doing both a studio EP and live album last year.

So the question is whether this new 13-track compilation will be enough to catapult them to a national platform, and indeed I think it’s possible on one condition: listening audiences redevelop an appreciation for the blues as opposed to the rap and hip-hop influence pervasive in modern popular music.

“Stealin’ Thunder” begins with a short bit of spoken word and harmonica called Nan’s Poem. The first thing it made me think of is a song buried on John Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow” album called Grandma’s Theme, which is the prelude to a much more familiar tune called Small Town. I don’t know if Nan’s Poem will lead into a megahit called Bones, but TMLB’s second track is a classic blues number that features some tasty slide guitar and harmonica. They employ a somewhat similar technique on the next couple of songs, with the almost mellow – well, as mellow as you can get with a fuzzed-out guitar sound - instrumental called Before the Storm building into a crescendo before yielding to April Rain.

April Rain sounded like it could have been lifted as an outtake from an Allman Brothers album circa 1971, and there’s not a thing wrong with that. Things are “always better with a cheap-ass bottle of wine,” and that’s the attitude they carry on this track and the next one, the bass-driven Fear & Freedom. “On the other side of fear lies freedom,” indeed, as TMLB isn’t afraid to show they can do bluesy southern rock with the best of them. For me, those were two of the highlight songs on the album. The rocking coda of April Rain and the fact there’s just enough guitar on Fear & Freedom to give the song real life is a testament to the album’s writing and production. Normally I’m not big on self-produced work but the band kept things nicely in line for this one.

As I was writing this, I was also listening to their earlier studio work just to see what kind of a directional change is made on the next song, Roll. It’s a more urban sound, integrating a horn section into their standard blues-based fare. I appreciated the nod to a different sphere of influence, but it didn’t quite fit for me. After the instrumental ballad The Cleansing, the album reaches its lead single, called The Ride. It’s a very good representation of TMLB’s sound, so listen for yourself.

Now that I’ve seen the video, I have to agree lead singer Casey Gomez looks like a bluesman. The other band members are Brian Tarter on lead guitar, Richie Lee on bass, and Kurt Lipphardt on the drums. (As an aside, after reviewing a number of completely solo, in-studio efforts over the past few months, it is refreshing to see a real band playing.)

After another brief and mainly instrumental (just two guitars) tune called Spaceship Blues, TMLB runs through two songs that could be radio hits if programmers knew what they were doing, Mojo and Rubber Side Down. The former reminded me of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, while the latter is another fast blues number. These lead into the final short acoustic track called Bondo’s Ballad and the finale N2U, which as it’s written is a classic closing track. It’s a definite ”thank you, good night!” kind of song if played live. (Actually, just before I put this review to bed I noticed on their website a lot of these songs are featured live, including N2U. Call it a pro tip, and let’s just say I wasn’t far off.) Supposedly the band will be “extensively touring” in support of this album during the summer and fall, and I think this may be a fertile area for a band that plays the blues.

I know this is only mid-April and hopefully I will have a lot more music to review, but I have a sneaking hunch this will be in the running for my top 5 at the end of the year. I’m sure the band would agree it’s time to geographically expand their fanbase, so if you like old-style Southern blues-based rock this could be a revival band you’re looking for.

Thoughts at large

I guess you can call this a stream of consciousness post. I actually have three to four things I want to write on and a couple things I need to write about, but the mind is a little fuzzy this evening – a stroll at 3rd Friday and dinner with the family will do that. So I’m just going to begin typing and see where it takes me. (Actually I do a lot of writing like that anyway, but in this case I will admit to it.) The things I need to write about can wait until morning.

One reason I like 3rd Friday as an event is that chances are good I’ll see several people I know there. Most of them I know through my political life, so the topic tends to be on issues or candidates. So it was I had a nice discussion about the Senate race on the other side of the fence and a long conversation about why I’m dead-set against Donald Trump. Since I don’t want to get bogged down in minutia, suffice to say that I find Trump is neither conservative nor trustworthy.

There was also a bit of controversy locally about The Donald insofar as our Central Committee goes. As a body we are supposed to stay neutral, but a report on the opening of the local Trump headquarters seemed to lead some to believe our Central Committee was down with Trump, and I can guarantee you we’re not all on the Trump train. Supposedly it’s all been straightened out, but I would be willing to bet that out of nine members we have at least seven or eight different combinations of who we favor for President, U. S. Senate, and Congress.

Yet we all seem to get along – in the three terms since I was elected we only turned over members midstream three times: Bob Laun was a midterm appointee for another gentleman who moved away, we appointed two members when authorized to expand from seven members to nine about eight years back, and I was reappointed to fill a vacancy last October. Yes, that’s it in almost a decade – meanwhile, other county Central Committees seem to change on almost a weekly basis. I may not like who others support, and it may be good to remind folks that we are not a monolithic body in this primary for any candidate.

But there is something I noticed about early voting. Granted, one day is a small sample size but for all the excitement they tell me this presidential primary beings, turnout on day 1 wasn’t a whole lot better than it was in 2012, the last Presidential cycle. On day one four years ago (which was a Saturday) there was 13,512 voters, or 0.43%. The Thursday of early voting, which was the final day, had 16,408 (the highest total), for 0.52%. Overall just 2.4% of voters came out early over six days in 2012.

Yesterday, we had 36,657 voters, which is 1.07%. As a total, yes that is quite a bit larger, but I would have expected twice that given the excitement we were told was in the air. There were 326 Wicomico voters, or one about every two minutes the polls were open. I still haven’t figured out why we do this exercise, particularly now that they are letting new same-day registrants vote. (Three took advantage in Wicomico County – all Democrats.) We will have a room in the Civic Center, pay several people hundreds of dollars to sit around, and marvel that maybe 1,500 people came over the eight days. Seems a waste of time and money for something an absentee ballot can achieve.

Well, I think I got enough off my mind. I still have a couple toss-up races to decide on for endorsement so look for one Sunday.

Shorebird of the Week – April 14, 2016

April 14, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comment 

So far this season has seemed like deva vu all over again for Alex Murphy. But once May rolls around I’m sure the product of Baltimore’s Calvert Hall High School will be ready to flip the script.

Back in 2013, the Orioles drafted four catchers in the first 11 rounds of the draft. All four remain active in the organization, but Murphy as the third one selected (6th round) is now the low man on the totem pole. Second-rounder Chance Sisco is with Bowie while fourth pick Jonah Heim and eleventh-rounder Austin Wynns are splitting the duties at Frederick.

Murphy may have been Frederick-bound this year after he got off to a great start at the plate. While his average had dipped to ,258 after 32 games last season, Murphy was still among the league leaders in RBI with 28 when he was injured May 15. Murphy missed three months of the 2015 campaign, and by the time he was ready to come back the more experienced Yermin Mercedes had established himself as the Delmarva starting backstop. (Mercedes recently rejoined the Shorebirds as well.)

So Murphy finished the 2015 season by going 0-for-8 with a walk in two rehab games with the GCL Orioles before 15 games in Aberdeen, where he hit .291/2/8/.898 OPS. (OPS is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage – .700 is considered about average.) The hot bat has continued into this season, where the 21-year-old is 10-for-27 (.370) with a home run and nine knocked in for his first seven games. He’s the only player to appear in all seven contests so far in this, his third tour of duty with the Shorebirds.

Yet one key difference that may indicate a change of direction going forward is that 2 of the 5 games Murphy has spent in the field came at first base. It’s not completely unusual to make that position switch, but at this level it could be an indicator that Murphy is seen as less of a catching prospect and more of a hitting one – first base is regarded as a hitter’s position. It also may keep him fresher, although it’s not like the Orioles’ organization isn’t stacked with great-hitting first basemen.

Murphy’s potent bat may be the calling card that keeps him going in the Orioles’ system. While they invested heavily in catching for the future three years ago, baseball has a way of putting players where they best fit and Alex could be one of those guys.

Maryland’s presidential campaign intensifies

With less than two weeks to go, a gathering that was described as ”modest” but yet “pretty full the whole time I was there” opened up the local Donald Trump campaign office this evening. (I wasn’t among that number.) Those who support The Donald were likely cheered by the news that a Monmouth University Poll conducted over the last three days showed Trump opening up a 20-point lead in the state, with 47% support over John Kasich at 27% – Kasich’s most recent showing has placed him in second place in the newly refigured RCP average ahead of Ted Cruz.

Monmouth also broke down its results by Congressional district to some extent, finding that a combination of the First District and Fifth District has over 50% Trump support with 54% for Trump, 24% for Kasich, and just 11% for Cruz. And here I thought I lived in a conservative Congressional district.

So if current results hold up, Donald Trump will probably win 100% of Maryland’s 38 delegates with around 45 to 50 percent of the vote. Somehow I don’t think Trump will complain about the rules here, but I really think you won’t catch Ted Cruz whining – not just because he’s above all that drama (unlike a certain candidate who didn’t contest Colorado so he got what he put into it) but also since he may have an ace in the hole.

For Ted Cruz, the idea going forward is to perform well enough to stop Donald Trump from getting 1,237 first-ballot delegates at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. If the convention goes to a second ballot, all bets will be off because some delegates will no longer be bound to their candidates and can vote their conscience. Maryland’s delegates have to wait until a third ballot to get in on the action, but it’s worth remembering that back at our Fall Convention we had a straw poll and Ted Cruz won it. (Marco Rubio was second, Trump third, and John Kasich eighth.)

After April 26 we will know who the 24 elected Congressional district delegates and alternates will be; presumably all of them will be for Trump (although there may be a couple vacancies here and there because I don’t think Trump filled every slot statewide.) So the scene will shift to the state party convention May 14, and here’s where it can get interesting.

I have been through two Delegate/Alternate Delegate elections (2008 and 2012) but by the time we had our convention the race was long since decided so the idea was one of a “unity slate.” However, this time I could see two and perhaps three competing slates with backers of Trump, Cruz, and maybe Kasich playing the odds that the national convention will go multiple ballots. It’s almost certain that these Presidential campaigns will be wining and dining voters at the convention, something unheard of at our confabs – and who knows, perhaps one of these candidates will stop by to campaign in person. (The only primary the following Tuesday is in Oregon.)

Perhaps the #NeverTrump strain is not as deep in Maryland as it is elsewhere, but if there’s a healthy dose of it at the state convention we may see some good come out of this after all.

The “establishment” is slow to learn; Senate Republicans pushing for more #GreenPork

Commentary by Marita Noon

Click here to send a message!In this election cycle, we hear a lot about the “establishment.” Most people are not really sure who they are, but they are sure that they do not like them. The anger toward the establishment is not party specific and has propelled two unlikely candidates: Donald Trump on the Republican side and Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democrats.

The faithful following these outsiders may be more about “the grassroots trying to teach the establishment a lesson,” as Gary Bauer posited last month, than about affection for either man. In an InfoWars video, reporter Richard Reeves, at the University of Texas in Austin speaks to Wyatt, a young man who’d just voted for Sanders. Wyatt indicates that most of his fellow students likely voted for Sanders as well. The surprise is his comment about the students’ second choice: “Donald Trump.”  Why? He’s not “establishment.” Wyatt admits he didn’t consider voting for anyone else – just Sanders and Trump.

The establishment has been slow to grasp the public’s rejection of an increasingly distrusted political class.

However one might define the “establishment,” it certainly includes long-time Washington politicians like Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Thune (R-SD), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – who have just engaged in the exact tactics that have fed the voter frustration aimed at them. Avoiding a vigorous debate, they are using a must-pass bill to sneak through millions in totally unrelated taxpayer giveaways to special interests in the renewable energy industry – and they hope voters won’t notice.

The bill is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act. On April 6, using an unrelated House bill (H.R. 636) that will serve as the legislative shell for the Senate’s FAA measure (S. 2658), the Senate began consideration to reauthorize the FAA for 18 months. It is expected that the bill will be voted on this week, followed by the House – which will take it up when it is back in session.

Funding for the FAA expired in September and received a 6-month extension – which expired again on March 31. Avoiding a shutdown, Congress passed another extension that President Obama signed on March 30. This legislation authorized federal spending on aviation and related aviation taxes through mid-July 2016.

Both the House and Senate have been grappling with a multi-year aviation bill. Now, FAA reauthorization only has about two weeks to be debated and approved before it will be shoved aside to make way for budget proceedings. One major point of conflict is the renewable energy tax breaks. Because the Senate FAA bill includes a tax title, it is open to unrelated tax amendments.

Many renewable energy tax credits were extended in the omnibus spending package that was passed late last year, but Democrats claim that in the chaos of last minute negotiations, some were “unintentionally” left out. According to Morning Consult, Thune said: “This is what [Democrats] always viewed as the best opportunity to get some of these things that were left out of last year’s extender bill.” Senate Minority Leader Reid announced: “the inclusion of the provisions is a requirement for the legislation to move forward.”

While many Republicans opposed the addition of the renewable energy tax credits, provisions supporting investments in fuel cells, geothermal and biomass were included in the Senate negotiations. Addressing the Senate’s scramble to “settle on a cohesive strategy” regarding attaching the renewable energy tax breaks to the bill, Politico reports: “House Republicans have made it clear they’re not interested in renewing any of the expired tax provisions this year.” The bill’s coverage in Roter Daily states: “key Republicans have already warned fellow House members to oppose a deal on tax extenders if it comes out of the Senate, saying they have consistently failed to promote economic growth and create jobs.”

As we have seen with the recent demise of government-funded, green-energy projects, such tax credits and subsidies have repeatedly failed to deliver on their promises of long-term job creation and economic viability. It is for this reason that, on April 5, a coalition of more than 30 organizations sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee expressing our deep opposition to the proposal. The letter, of which I am a signatory, states: “Congress considered the matter of expiring tax provisions less than 4 months ago. … It should also be noted that Congress extended significantly favorable tax treatment to renewable energy in omnibus appropriation legislation that accompanied the aforementioned tax extender package.”

Andrew Langer, President of the Institute for Liberty, who also signed the letter, explains his position: “In December, Congress purposefully allowed a series of tax credits for so-called ‘green’ energies to expire. This was not some mere oversight as some have alleged, but a purposeful recognition that as the energy landscape has changed, the need to extend some two dozen of these credits was unwarranted. Others were allowed to continue – but roughly $1.5 billion were not.”

If you believe, as all the signatories to the letter do, that American taxpayers shouldn’t have to prop up large, well-connected special interests through tax handouts, carve outs, and loopholes using unsustainable Washington spending, please let your representatives know now. Please urge Senate offices to oppose keeping in the tax extenders, and encourage House offices to oppose adding in extenders.

With our national debt totaling more than $19 trillion, the last thing we need is more corporate welfare. But our legislators are slow to learn. Senate Republicans, like Thune, who is the lead negotiator for the Republicans, have worked with the Democrats to include the renewable energy tax credits. Thune stated: “We’re listening to them and we’re working for them.”

No wonder the electorate is angry. But Washington politicians don’t get it. While a battle rages over who will be the next president, unfazed, the establishment continues on.

Langer concludes: “the political ramifications are clear, as history has taught us. Republicans who give in to cronyism, who give in to profligate spending… they get nothing in the end. Worse, they do considerable damage to the concept that Republicans are the party of lower spending and less government. In a political cycle where the future is entirely uncertain for Republicans at all levels, those who are pushing for these tax breaks do their colleagues no great service.”

Join us in educating the “establishment” by calling them and telling them: “No more green pork!” #GreenPork

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

An open letter to Erick Erickson

April 11, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

Dear Erick:

To begin, I’d like to thank you and Bill Blankschaen for writing You Will Be Made to Care. I was pleased to be selected as one of those who received an advance copy for review, and even more pleased with the final result. Again, I was “intrigued by the direction that it went and by the emotions this book took me through as I read through it.” So congratulations for its success, and know that many of us appreciate you bringing up this necessary discussion as subsequent events have placed religious freedom squarely in the headlines again.

At around the same time as YWBMTC was in its final stages of editing and initial promotion, you were embarking on a journey which interested me as a blogger: trying to succeed with a sponsorship-based advertising system. As I wrote on January 11:

I’ve been impressed with (Erickson’s) new website, one which I can read without being overrun by annoying pop-up ads and false story breaks that only serve to increase page view count (in order to extort more money from would-be advertisers.) On Thursday he had a candid assessment of how his website was doing and so far he seems to be successful. Good news for those of us who value content over clickbait.

Thus, I was pleased to see a couple weeks back that your venture was growing, with a doubling of readership and significant increases in areas that you are trying to stress, such as listenership to your radio show and engagement with elected officials. I’ll grant that over time this may level off, but I think you have a long way to go until you reach that plateau given that you are still in the startup stages.

But there is one aspect of your three-month assessment that troubles me:

Our advertising model is very unique among conservative websites and, frankly, may come to an end as I’m struggling to fill sponsorships going forward. But it has been so different I’m actually getting attacked for it. (Emphasis mine.)

I was cheered somewhat that you then wrote:

But I have to try to work on that area to beef up sponsorships. What I do know is that it works. Several of the advertisers tell me they saw an uptick in donations, sign ups, and volunteers through their sponsoring the Resurgent. That makes me hopeful we will be able to keep this going a while, particularly as my radio presence keeps growing.

Now I realize that, compared to your site, mine is small potatoes: my page views in a good year might equal yours for a weekday. I also know that, while by necessity and God-given talent in my chosen field I work outside of media to help put food on my table, you are using The Resurgent and your radio show to put food on yours. You have a lot more skin in the game with your website than I do, as I’m just a part-time blogger. But I’m using my venue and an open letter format because I want to share my thoughts with you as well as encourage readers to go to your site, helping it to succeed. I believe in what you are trying to accomplish.

So I’m imploring you to stay the course on this sponsorship-based model as long as you can because I think it will eventually succeed and hopefully lead others to follow. I never felt comfortable with having the clickbait links when they were on my site, but it seemed to be the only way to get a modest revenue stream going. I’m praying The Resurgent changes that and provides an example to follow for other high-readership sites.

For about a decade I have worked as a remote contributing writer for a publication that has a donation-based revenue model with no advertisements, the Patriot Post. Like you, they have struggled to make their expenses over the last few years but by the grace of God they are still going. If their website can go two decades with the support of their readership carrying them through I think it’s possible for your enterprise to prosper as well with the weekly sponsors you are cultivating – with the results you’re getting they should become repeat business.

One thing we have in common is that we have both run websites for over a decade, so you know as well as I do the ebb and flow of working in the political commentary field. You picked a good time to make a successful debut, so my hope is this successful beginning prepared you well for the trials and tribulations still to come once the political season is over and interest wanes.

Again, I want to express my hope you can stay with your sponsorship-based model and keep the clickbait and pop-ups away from The Resurgent. While we both pray for a resurgence of faith to overspread our country, our little corner of the internet can use something worth following as well.

Sincerely,

Michael Swartz
Salisbury, Maryland

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