Ten Question Tuesday: February 12, 2013

Today’s guest is a rising star in the new media, in part because she’s an entrepreneur who’s not afraid to get involved. And while I have not met her in person, I wanted to get her insight on the new media and her part in it.

I first heard of The Brenner Brief around the time my friend Jackie Wellfonder became one of her contributors, a point just after Sara Marie greatly expanded and relaunched her website as a new entry into the media wars. Given her goal is “working to render the mainstream media useless,” I believe she’s well on her way to doing just that.


monoblogue: I wanted to introduce my readers to you as an example of how to grow a conservative media outlet, as I learned of you through a good friend of mine who happens to be a Brenner Brief contributor, Jackie Wellfonder. So let me ask you first: what inspired you to create The Brenner Brief? Was it based on any particular model, or did you come up with a new idea all your own?

Brenner: I come from an entrepreneurial background, so I’m always creating new things – especially when they deal with my passion for politics. TheBrennerBrief.com (TBB) is a right-of-center, conservative news and opinion platform. However, we do it in a way that it can be attractive for moderates to read, as well. In my opinion, unless we expand the conservative base – not by thumping people over the head, but by slowly convincing them that the conservative principles are best for this nation – we will not win future elections. TBB is meant to be a place where conservatives and right-leaning moderates can get their news, read opinion and hopefully come to believe what we do.

monoblogue: Another thing I’ve noticed is that you are both creating your own intertwined entities (PolitiGal Network, The Brenner Brief, etc.) and running them across multiple platforms (the website, radio show, membership drives, in-person events, and so forth.) Obviously you want all of them to succeed, but which venue do you think has the highest ceiling?

Brenner: TBB is accessible to everyone, so that one will always have more followers and readers, I believe. We had 800,000 web site hits in January and thousands of people listen to the radio show each week. However, PolitiGal Network (PGN) has nearly 20,000 members, and there we are geared toward working with women on messaging, education, support, campaign assistance, and networking. They are two very different entities.

monoblogue: On the idea of contributors: I have written for a number of sites as one over my time on the internet – some have succeeded and grown (PJ Media, for one) while many others have withered and died due to lack of interest from either (or both) organizers and/or contributors. How will you motivate contributors to keep on going?

Brenner: We do our best to work as a team, and really make sure that all of the contributors are a part of something exciting. We share site stats with contributors, we highlight different contributors on the radio show, and we are always coming up with new ideas as a group and discussing those options together. For example, several of us will be attending CPAC this year with media passes to cover the events and speakers. For some of the contributors, this is their first time having such an opportunity, and they’ll be doing it with TBB. It’s really just about implementing basic team motivation concepts.

monoblogue: And because most contributors have other interests, will the day come when you branch out into professional writers doing the bulk of the work with a few others added in?

Brenner: We launched TBB with its current format on Nov. 26, 2012. After another month or two, we will begin branching out to gain revenue sources. However, right now, we’re just focusing on content, the contributors, and getting our system perfected.

monoblogue: I’d also like to know your thoughts on where “white knight” financial supporters can play a role for the conservative alternative media. I ask this because a number of those on our side has always held the suspicion that far-left power brokers, particularly George Soros, are financially backing left-wing bloggers.

Brenner: Venture capitalists have the ability to support whomever they wish – left or right. Soros has built an enormous web of businesses and outlets to serve his interests, more so than any conservative. We don’t think of taking over the world, because we believe in freedom and liberty – not tyranny. So, the concept is foreign to our intrinsic core beliefs. However, I do believe that there has to be a separation in the media between the source of the money and the reporting; otherwise, the reporting will be swayed from what the “white knight” wants to have covered.

monoblogue: Let’s look at another topic. You are an elected official (a city council member) and, as such, you could be considered as being in the “belly of the beast.” Where do you see that perspective as being most useful for the conservative political cause? And do you have any higher political ambitions? I think of Sarah Palin’s example when I ask this, and obviously creating a network like you’re seeking to can be of great assistance down the road if you take that route.

Brenner: My husband is a State Representative in Ohio and we met in politics. I have been working on campaigns, running campaigns, and especially focusing on new media and communications in politics since college. I have learned more about government and the inner workings of government since 2009 (when I was elected) than during any other similar length of time in my life. I’ve also learned how to go up against the government giant, and win. For example, in 2010, our city placed on the ballot a measure that would have doubled our city income tax. The way it was structured, those who lived and worked in the city would have seen their taxes double, hurting the city’s businesses owned by residents. All others would not pay any more in taxes, including the other six members on city council (only I would have paid more in income taxes of the seven of us). Despite the city’s “educational” materials and the committee formed by those supporting the increase, we formed our own committee and defeated the measure with approximately 71% voting against. The polling originally showed that only 49% were against, so we moved 22% of the voters over the course of only a few months with simple, targeted messaging. While I do not know what my personal elected future may bring, my interest-area is helping conservatives with new media, political communication, running for office and strategically defeating the left. We are doing this both through TBB and PGN, just in different ways.

monoblogue: Finally, if you would, alert my readers on how to get involved with your organizations and listening to your show. Do you have any other words of encouragement for those who would like to get off the sidelines?

Brenner: The TBB site is TheBrennerBrief.com, and simply click on “Radio Show” in the menu for all of the show information. If you miss it live, we have iTunes podcasts and the show is on Stitcher Stream, as well as an online archive link. Our twitter handle is @TheBrennerBrief and we are on Facebook at facebook.com/TheBrennerBrief.

PGN is PolitiGalNetwork.com, and if you contact us through the site to let us know how we can assist you, someone will connect with you. We especially are looking for people who are interested in being a leader in their state or city, and you can contact us through the web site. Our twitter handle is @PolitiGalUSA and we are on Facebook at facebook.com/PolitiGalUSA.

My personal twitter handle is @saramarietweets, and I’m on Facebook at facebook.com/saramariebrenner and Tea Party Community at teapartycommunity.com/saramariebrenner.

If someone is wondering how to get involved, usually the most frequent comment I hear is that the individual contacted their local Republican party and never heard back. The party can sometimes be skeptical of new people coming into the fold, rather than encouraging their involvement and welcoming them with open arms. While that’s unfortunate, you don’t have to rely on your party to get involved. Anyone who would like to email me directly may do so at TheBrennerBrief.com/contact, and I will be happy to help you get involved in either one of our organizations, or guide you to the right place. You can also search meetup.com for events and groups in your area.

The first step to getting off the sidelines is to simply get off the sidelines! Sometimes, people just need a little bit of direction and encouragement, and we are happy to provide that. Our nation depends on it.


I appreciate Sara Marie taking the time out of her schedule to do this interview, and look forward to seeing how her ventures develop over the coming months.

In the meantime, my guest for next week will be Tom Fitton, author of The Corruption Chronicles: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government, and President of Judicial Watch. We discussed a lot things about Maryland, the nation, and what you can do to help bring accountability.

The importance of data

Fellow blogger Judy Warner, who now contributes to the Potomac Tea Party Report, tipped me off to an article on the Atlantic website; an article which provided a glimpse at perhaps the most important part of Barack Obama’s electoral victory. Obviously it’s packed with effusive praise for Obama’s campaign in general, for the Atlantic is at heart a highbrow liberal magazine.

But there’s an important point to be considered: say all you want about Obama’s wretched foreign and domestic policies, but he knew how to get re-elected despite being arguably the worst president since Jimmy Carter when it came to bungling both sides of the equation. Oh sure, we on the conservative side know that the mainstream media ran interference for him like the Chicago Bears of another era blocked for Walter Payton but in the end it was Payton who made the defense miss tackles and not easily bring him down.

The part about the Atlantic‘s piece by Alexis Madrigal which stuck out to me the most, though, was the Obama campaign’s willingness to go outside the political arena and find people who simply knew how to make the best use of the technology out there. (If only he would do the same for economics and Constitutional scholarship.) Of course, there was a symbiotic relationship between the two since I’m certain the vast majority of those who signed on were in Obama’s philosophical corner, but this is the technology edge that the Republicans swore up and down they would negate this time around. Instead, we had the well-documented and discussed crash of the ORCA system on Election Day which cemented the demise of Mitt Romney’s Presidential bid.

The orphan of Romney’s technology failure could be traced back to the fact that those who were by trade political consultants – and hence “knew how the system worked” – really didn’t know squat about the technological side of things. Ten years ago e-mail lists were golden because that was going to be the new way to reach voters. In fact, as I recall, the first rendition of Obama For Against America had a massive list of somewhere around 13 million e-mail addresses to start from (including mine.) But their technology team built up from there and integrated all sorts of data collection and outputs tailored from it.

As an example, remember the post where I related the fact they knew I hadn’t donated to the Obama campaign? The fact that they could tie together the database which had my e-mail address and the one where they had the records of who donated was seemingly beyond the capability of the Romney camp. Instead, the Romney side would send me the EXACT SAME e-mail several times – once from their campaign and then through three or four different “sponsored content” sites to whom I’m sure the Romney people paid handsomely for their list. Unfortunately, I happened to be at the very center of that Venn diagram and I’m betting that most of you reading this were too. But does a generic e-mail motivate someone to go to the polls or donate?

Once again, the key difference came down to data. Maybe I wasn’t high up on the sophistication level of the Obama people because they knew I was sort of a lurker on their e-mail list. I’d bet a dollar to a donut they knew I was a XXX Republican voter and therefore gave me the minimum of e-mail efforts; meanwhile, the uncommitted or newly registered voter (or one who bothered to fill out more information at the Obama site, unlike me) had a variety of messages tailored for him or her. You don’t honestly think the “Julia” advertising campaign or the Lena Dunham “First Time” commercial weren’t calculated to arouse a group they knew they had a maximum of potential voters within? It’s also why they promoted the false “war on women” narrative, with plenty of media help to play up unfortunate statements by U.S. Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.

Since the Romney campaign all but ignored Maryland, let’s look at one statewide Republican campaign we contested, that of Dan Bongino. Just as a recap, Bongino began running for the U.S. Senate as a first-time candidate in the spring of 2011. He had no political experience and his main initial backing was from someone who had ran and lost badly in his first run for political office at the statewide level a year earlier in Brian Murphy. It wasn’t exactly a broad platform to begin from, and the key question in the race early on was whether 2010 GOP U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz would try again. He didn’t.

But Bongino worked hard to overcome many of his disadvantages, and had the attribute of a compelling, man-bites-dog sort of story: a former Secret Service agent quits to make a seemingly quixotic U.S. Senate run in a liberal bastion of a state. Moreover, he’s young, well-spoken, and telegenic, with a rags-to-riches life story that unfortunately too few got to hear outside of the conservative echo chamber. Dan did well at nationalizing his campaign thanks to that story, and managed to win the Republican primary in April over the game but underfunded Richard Douglas and several other less qualified candidates.

Perhaps the Bongino campaign hit its peak just before Labor Day, because just as people decided to start paying attention a newcomer jumped into the race with a populist promise and millions of dollars at his disposal. Obviously this threw the Bongino campaign out of balance and too much time was spent trying to fight off the challenger on the ladder below while the guy above him had little to do but watch the other two battle it out. It was almost as if Dan had to run a second primary campaign in the midst of a general election, this time against an opponent who was much better-funded and inundated the airwaves with slick 30-second commercials beseeching people to “declare your independence.” Like it or not, the “independence” pitch was a message that worked with those who were sick of party infighting but didn’t want to bother enough to go into the details of Rob Sobhani’s pledges.

But imagine what could have been had Dan had the same sort of database and expertise used by the Obama campaign? He could have targeted his message in such a manner to counter the incumbent’s record to certain voters, rebuke the so-called “independent” to wavering supporters, and kept the money stream flowing from the die-hard element. There was no question in my mind that Dan’s message had broad appeal, and perhaps had the roles been reversed between Bongino and Sobhani to where Rob was the GOP nominee and Bongino the unaffiliated candidate, the results would have been about the same. The only difference would be that the Maryland GOP would have been embarrassed about losing to an independent candidate as well as a Democrat.

That’s not to say that there aren’t potential databases at our disposal. We have an idea of those who are most worried about illegal immigration (Question 4), and are pro-family (Question 6). Those who came out against Question 5 and Question 7 can also be construed as sympathetic to at least part of our message. Then add in all the AFP people, TEA Party participants, and fiscal conservatives we know and one can build up a little bit of a knowledge base. Of course, the key is keeping it up to date and determining relevant messaging for the situations which crop up.

A new era is dawning in politics. The old scattershot standby of sign waving doesn’t seem to be very effective anymore, even as well as Dan did it in one memorable afternoon. There were a lot of cars going by on Rockville Pike that day to be sure, but there was no way of knowing whether these were even registered voters. Maybe it’s because I don’t get a lot of Democratic campaign e-mail, or maybe there’s just not enough of a base around here to make it worthwhile, but I never hear about a Democratic sign waving unless it’s in the form of a larger protest. What few Democratic tactical e-mails I received (from the Obama campaign, naturally) had to do with person-to-person events – making phone calls from the local headquarters or having “watch parties” for various campaign events at people’s homes. The former was probably more effective for reaching out to undecided voters while the latter kept the zealots motivated to keep giving of their time and talents. And it came down to having the database to know where I lived and what events were being planned by supporters via solid communications between volunteer and campaign. Those functions were handled on a local level on the Romney side, not always well.

It has been said to me on many occasions that conservatives win on issues and that we are a center-right nation. Obviously I believe that and if anything I think we need a stronger dose of limited government.

But data is king. It’s not enough to have the registration lists and do the door-to-door and phone calls, both of which seemed to be sadly lacking in Maryland thanks to a self-defeating prophecy which states Republicans can’t win statewide elections so why bother trying? That’s a good start, but we also need to invest in the electronic end of things and, more importantly, look outside the incestuous web of political consultants who talk a good game about political IT and find those who do these things for a living. Not all of the Web and social media gurus are liberal Democrats – admittedly, most are but we have to build up a farm team there as well.

I believe we can overcome all those “demography is destiny” and “you can’t convince the minorities to vote GOP” naysayers by using the right data to send them the conservative message. We can win, but it will take hard work, a lot of prudent investment outside of the good-old-boy, inside-the-Beltway system which continues to insure us defeat after defeat, and less of a reliance on things we always thought worked before but have outlived their usefulness.

All of us movement conservatives have some sort of talent, and there are a growing number who believe mine is in analyzing information and providing it to readers in a coherent fashion. As I said in my book. I believe there’s a place for someone of my talents in a conservative, limited-government movement. Years ago I read a self-help book which said I should manage around my weaknesses so I took that to heart and play to my strengths, and mine is in gathering my thoughts and turning them into pixels on a computer screen or words on a page.

But there’s a far bigger place for those who know how to corral data and put it to use so people like me can communicate to the largest number of relevant people possible, while others who have that gift of gab and outgoing personality needed for the task are sent to knock on the right doors and dial the right phone numbers with the right message for the listener. It’s never going to be foolproof, but we have a long way to go just to be adequate.

Finally, we have to treat this like a war. Of course I don’t mean that in the sense of carnage and mayhem, but the idea of taking time off or letting someone else do the job is no more. A soldier has to be ready for anything at any time, and we have to be ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice, keeping an eye out for future elections. On that front, I’m very disappointed I’ve seen no action in my hometown and no credible candidate file to either run against our mayor or the two City Council members whose seats are up in this cycle. Nor do we have a good idea yet of who will be running locally in 2014. (In that case, though, we happen to have a number of incumbents but there are seats we’d love to contest and fill as well.)

Not all campaigns will be successful, but I think we can take a step toward eventual success in learning from our tormentors, and the Atlantic profile provides a quick case study.

Wright to leave Wicomico BOE

And the system grinds down another would-be participant.

Last year, we were surprised to find Governor O’Malley selected the two Republican picks for the Wicomico County Board of Education, incumbent member Robin Wright and former Delegate Carolyn Elmore. But just a year later we will need to find a replacement to finish out Wright’s five-year term.

While the published report came out Wednesday, I was actually aware of this about a week earlier. But I chose to keep it under my hat because I didn’t have permission to divulge the reason she decided to leave; now that I have seen it in the public realm I have my take on it. The Daily Times changed the actual text of the letter, though – this is from the copy of the letter I received as a member of the Republican Central Committee:

The financial disclosure requires very personal information about my family members, our family business, and business partners to be made available to the public. Many of our media outlets are uncaring with such information and would not be responsible for how information is released and distributed. I hope you understand my first responsibility is to protect my family and our business. (Emphasis mine.)

The part in bold was missing from the news item with a different sentence in its place, and that omission from the Daily Times story is quite important. Obviously we aren’t looking for people to enrich themselves on the public dime – although far too many seem to – and there are some good reasons to see the financial dealings of those who we entrust with the taxpayers’ money. But too often this information can become part of a partisan witch hunt or used to divide a candidate from his or her constituency. Wright’s family has a successful business and it’s obvious she would like to keep it that way.

A further effect, though, is one of discouraging good candidates from stepping up. Just like Wright, a person who is successful in business may see the ethics requirements and how available they are to people and simply say “forget it.” Seeing how the local newspaper of record may have played fast and loose with the intent of what was said in order to protect their interests, there’s no telling what devious outcomes are possible with someone’s ethics information.

I would also like to clear up a misconception on the part of the Daily Times staff. In the case of a vacancy in a Republican seat on the Board of Education, it is the Republican Central Committee who makes the selection – not both central committees, as the Daily Times implies. The Democrats tried to play this game last year, too – we Republicans can select a pool of qualified candidates on our own, thank you, so your help is neither needed nor desired. I don’t recall you ever asking us for input when Democratic vacancies occur. I could think of some good Democrats to add to various boards, except the problem is they keep switching over to the GOP because their former political party abandoned them on their pell-mell leftward slide.

If Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated and minor party voters want input on our Board of Education, all we have to do is adopt an elected school board. We can blame the Democrats (particularly local Delegates Norm Conway and Rudy Cane) for thwarting our chance of bringing that to fruition in the next two years.

In the here and now, though, we have a school board member to replace. Because Wright’s resignation isn’t effective until June 30, it’s fairly likely we will begin the discussion of selecting her replacement at our next Central Committee meeting June 4. Hopefully the prospect of filling out ethics forms won’t scare off good candidates.

My role as a ‘journalist’

From time to time, there is a discussion about the role people like me play and a post from last Friday by Melissa Clouthier talks about a recent court case in Oregon where a blogger was sued for libel and lost in part because she was denied the media shield protection a “regular” journalist receives. As Clouthier writes:

This case disturbs me as a blogger. I’ve had sources feed me stories – nearly every blogger has sources. There should be shield law protection. Period.

She also notes:

Right now, bloggers are exposed. If a big corporation, a rich/important individual, the government or someone in power wants to harass a blogger, he simply has to sue them into compliance. Even if the powerful has no case, the lawsuit itself can put an independent journalist out of business.

Melissa also links to an old acquaintance of mine from my days in Toledo, Maggie Thurber. Maggie adds a little bit of context to the discussion regarding this public service that bloggers do:

We have several local examples of people doing their part, including (one woman) who attends Toledo City Council Meetings, takes notes and then shares them with us here on this blog.

It doesn’t take much, since many are already attending meetings across the county – and anyone who share their meeting notes here is welcome to do so.

As we’ve found out, much to our chagrin at times, the mainstream media can’t be everywhere and even when they are present they don’t always cover the event well. For example, I have been at probably fifty Wicomico County Republican Club meetings over the last several years, where public officials utter statements which can be newsworthy. I believe there has been one instance where print media was present, but to be honest I forget who it was for. And while Salisbury City Council and Wicomico County Council have received regular coverage, the press tends to ignore smaller communities, political forums, and the like where news can be made, too.

Unfortunately, I’ve also found that the role of self-appointed journalist doesn’t always suit some people, and perhaps that’s the reason we haven’t earned that First Amendment protection. (There are a few plaintiffs locally who may agree with that initial statement, considering their dealings with another local blogger.)

While we don’t have the rights that “mainstream” journalists have, to be good at what we do and to legitimize what’s still a maturing news resource we still have the responsibility to be accurate and honest in both our reporting and the disclosure of our point of view. There’s no question I come with a conservative slant to what I write, and I don’t deny it. But that doesn’t relieve me of the responsibility to be as accurate as possible when I put on my reporter’s hat.

Certainly, though, there is one part of the statement which Melissa brings up and I allude to a couple paragraphs above. If someone with money or power is “wronged” by a blogger, they certainly have the means to destroy that blogger even if he or she is in the right. It’s sort of the inverse to the scenario where a company settles out of court with a plaintiff to avoid the prospect of losing a much bigger settlement at trial.

The Crystal Cox case is illustrative of what can happen to a blogger. Based on one post out of several regarding the plaintiff, a federal judge ruled against her defense that she was entitled to her state’s media shield law. U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez wrote:

(T)he record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law.

In the interest of disclosure, Hernandez was slated to be a Bush appointee, but he was held out by the end of Bush’s term and renominated by President Obama last year.

Now I have written before about the difficulties some bloggers have with financial support, but this is another potential landmine we all face. Not only could we use some financial assistance from those who could find us useful to advance a political agenda, but the possibility of more rulings like Judge Hernandez spewed forth means we need to find a way to legitimize ourselves in the eyes of the public.

Unfortunately, it was one post out of hundreds Cox wrote which did her in, and there’s the possibility that anyone who says something which gravely offends someone in a position of power can be in the same boat. That possibility is one which chills the national discourse, and shield laws should expand to allow those who blog the same rights as any other freelance journalist who toils for the print media. Of course we shouldn’t be able to get away with libel, but those bloggers who can prove themselves to be responsible at their craft despite their independence shouldn’t be penalized, either.

The Maryland Model (part two)

In part one I related the Maryland Model in its current state to the 2012 campaign, particularly when considering the battle to repeal the in-state tuition for illegal aliens passed last year by the General Assembly. The bill was petitioned to referendum as opponents turned the trick for the first time in over twenty years in Maryland.

As you should recall, I distilled the idea behind the Colorado Model liberal Democrats used to take over that state into four simpler M words: money, message, media, and mobilization. In this part I assess the overall shape conservatives here in Maryland exist in regarding these four issues – and we definitely need to do some work!

Continue reading “The Maryland Model (part two)”

Radio days volume 16

Once again, it’s been awhile since I was featured on a radio program – my last edition of “Radio Days” was in 2009. (I was a guest a few times on Melody’s show in 2010 as well.)

But, out of the blue on Wednesday I was invited to go national for the first time as a guest on the Thom Hartmann program. Ironically enough, one would gather he’s the liberal answer to Rush because he occupies the same time slot during the day. But they wanted to discuss my Pajamas Media piece on regulation, and I received a message from Danielle Howe (who works for Black Rock – they handle PJM promotional appearances) asking me if I’d do the show and warning me that I could be ambushed since Thom is a ‘progressive.’ Didn’t faze me any.

So now you have the background – how did it really go?

Well, first of all, the people I worked with at Hartmann’s show were as nice as they could be, and, to be honest, so was Thom. We had a relatively civil conversation and I worked to get my points across. It wasn’t exactly how I’d have scripted it but I thought I was decently effective fighting behind enemy lines, as it were.

Something much different about this experience was working the Skype video in. I have used Skype audio before for a writing client of mine, but in this case I had to drag out an old webcam of mine and hook it up to my laptop. Well, I got that figured out but then they didn’t like the fact I had a window in the background so I had to turn the camera (and place my chair) at a more awkward angle – I was squished up against my bookshelf. At least my closet door provided a darker background.

Then, I had assumed that I would need a remote microphone but instead the call was on my cel. So Skype provided the video feed but my phone the audio. Hopefully that was in sync for the viewing audience.

So once the logistics worked out, they called me twice – once to test the Skype and the other to go on the air. That was about 1:00, so I was treated to Thom’s top-of-the-hour reading and remarks on the news of the day. Yes, it was a Republican-bashing festival, and if I have one thing to say about how Thom reacts – well, he’s exceptionally hyperbolic. Everything is a disaster to him. It’s why I started right out, right after he introduced the piece with his lengthy contention about the bad old days when there was no regulation whatsoever, saying he’s occupying an “extreme” position that’s not reflective of a normal view of costs vs. benefits.

One case in point was when we were speaking about the offshore wind turbines. (I thought it funny how he misunderstood me to say “windows” – is my diction that bad?) Thom was all up in arms about oil, coal, nuclear, and natural gas and the health maladies they allegedly caused. I understand the principle behind fracking, and obviously there is a slight amount of risk behind the technology. But that risk can be easily mitigated, while the benefits of clean-burning natural gas to create electricity (at a far cheaper cost than wind power) are much greater. Had I thought quickly enough I could have ticked off a number of drawbacks to wind turbines – they’re noisy, bad for aviary life, and not nearly as reliable as other forms of power generation because the wind has to blow AND it has to blow within a certain speed range.

And what was that about the 5% more moisture in the atmosphere causing storms and brought on by global warming? (Maybe that was on the news.) Since we all know there have been other warm periods in Earth’s history (well before the invention of the SUV) can we establish if those periods were overly moist as well? Or is Thom and his listeners just looking for any port in a storm (pun intended)?

But the final point was the one where I wished we had a few more minutes, because I was making the argument that Thom and I were essentially on the same side but had a completely different idea about the solution. Thom would get rid of the lobbyists (I think he said “arrest” or “imprison” them?) through a particular means but I would take care of the problem in another fashion by draining the money swamp. If there’s less money and power to be given out, then there’s less need for lobbyists and they can return to making a more honest living. My contention wasn’t completely addressed, and perhaps that’s my fault for not steering in that direction more quickly. (Hey, ten to twelve minutes on the radio flies by in a heartbeat.)

Still, I would imagine that opening that door will give me a better opportunity at round 2 at some future date. As I said in my wrapup thanking the staff, I’ll just have to keep writing good stuff and surely they’ll want me back.

Like I said to them, I had fun. I guess that’s what counts.


Well, my Pajamas Media article was noticed by some interesting people.

So today (since I assume most will read this Thursday morning) at 2 p.m. (1 p.m. – I was bumped up) I’m scheduled as a guest on the Thom Hartmann radio program. I’ve been on radio before as a guest – which will help me in this instance – but this is the first time I’ve been invited to a program of such a scale and it’s to discuss this Pajamas Media post. This should be interesting since Hartmann is considered the cream of the crop among liberal radio hosts, and you can guess where I stand politically.

Of course, since this region tends to favor conservative talk, there’s no local station which carries Thom’s program but you can listen here.

So, since this will likely by the top post seen by any who stumble onto my website thanks to this appearance (as happened previously with my Rushalanche in 2007) I invite you to read, ponder, and comment on what I have to say. The local liberals know that I am fair with my comments.

Besides, if you don’t like my politics, wait a few hours or until tomorrow – no, my political stripes aren’t going to change, but I do a regular feature on our local minor league baseball team (the Delmarva Shorebirds) Thursday evenings and Friday night I put up local music videos. If I did wall-to-wall politics I would have been fried four years ago – still, I do my share of discussion on local, state, and national issues.

But I look forward to getting this opportunity to speak out on overregulation – hopefully I can vocalize as well as I place pixels on a computer screen or words on a printed page.

In print: Will Atlas shrug in Maryland?

I wrote this on Tuesday and sent it to several state newspapers. As of yesterday I know it was in the Daily Times Thursday and on the Carroll Standard Wednesday. This is my draft version, other outlets may have edited it to some extent.


For Republicans in Maryland the 2010 election was a complete shock, especially compared to national results. Despite victories here and there for the GOP we now know our state government will lurch on to follow economic basket cases like California or New York, where free-spending Democrats believe that taxpayers comprise a never-ending gravy train.

The title of this piece refers to Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged. A book which doubles as a parable, its theme is how society reacts when the producers withdraw from an intrusive, overbearing government. In Maryland this scenario played out on a small scale via the so-called ‘millionaire’s tax’ in 2008 – instead of creating the extra revenue predicted, overall tax receipts fell well short of projections. Those who could afford to do so voted with their feet and left Maryland for other states which encouraged their presence by featuring low tax rates and a regulatory environment more conducive to business.

For those departing it was their manner of ‘going Galt,’ a phrase inspired by the character in Atlas Shrugged who led the exodus of those tired of the overtaxation, overregulation, and general disgust from those in government toward citizens successful in the private sector.

With this backdrop, Free State Republicans are in the process of choosing a leader for the next four years. Given the hand with which they have to play, the next state government term will need to be spent both fighting a rear-guard action to slow down Annapolis’s march toward oblivion and educating the public as to why it’s necessary – needless to say, voters missed the GOP message prior to the election.

Or did they? Maryland Republicans put up the candidates who, for the most part, were tacitly endorsed by party brass. Many among them were willing accomplices to the Democrats on their destructive course over the last four years – although some would argue that ship began sailing decades ago. In either case, no course correction was made with this election and Republicans need to work on making sure voters are aware of the fix surely required four years hence.

And while it may not be popular with the Democrats or the press, Republicans in Maryland indeed can’t just be the party of ‘no’ – we must be the party of ‘HELL NO!’ Sometimes there can’t be a compromise made; as Rand herself pondered, what is the compromise between food and poison? We must refuse the siren song of budget ‘fixes’ involving new and expanded taxes, and fight tooth and nail against additional regulations and misguided ideas like the ‘green jobs’ boondoggle.

Our best new Chair will be the one who realizes there can be no compromise in our principles; instead he or she will intuitively know Maryland Republicans need to present a bold palette of ideas and candidates in 2014. Our new leadership must convince our state’s producers help will eventually arrive.

Give us anything less and Atlas will fail.

Michael Swartz is a member of Wicomico County’s Republican Central Committee and a freelance writer who covered Maryland’s 2010 election for Pajamas Media. His home website is monoblogue.

In print: Kratovil’s misleading ad returns to the airwaves

Yesterday my letter happened to make it into the Daily Times. Glad they held it until Sunday.


Well, it looks like Rep. Frank Kratovil is up to his old tricks again. Fresh off putting out a commercial that was termed “misleading” by factcheck.org, he puts out another one making the same claim — that Andy Harris wants a 23 percent sales tax increase.

But what Kratovil and his Washington insider friends cannily leave out is that working families would see their take-home pay dramatically increase, thanks to the return of money now confiscated by federal backup withholding. Frame the question instead as one of wanting a 20 to 30 percent raise, and people would be lined up around the block to shout “where do I sign up?”

I’m wondering if life inside the beltway has changed Kratovil to be that much less trustworthy, or whether he’s just a pawn in a desperate attempt by the party in power and their associated special interests to stay in control.

If Kratovil, Pelosi and their big-government friends are this willing to use deceit and parsing of terms in order to stay in office, it leads me to wonder what they’re so afraid of. Sending Harris to Congress would be a good, conservative reflection of our 1st District — a district which soundly rejected the policies of President Barack Obama even before he was put into office.

And since when is having more control over your own money a bad thing?


It’s worth seeing the letter online because there’s some interesting reactions to it so far. I put in my two cents last evening.

Media, part 4: O’Malley hits the TV airwaves

Billing his tenure as Governor as one of “tough choices,” Governor O’Malley will begin selling his campaign soap Monday in the Baltimore media market.

Since Salisbury only receives a handful of Baltimore stations through their cable affiliation, it’s helpful to dissect this commercial one point at a time.

(continued on my Examiner.com page…)

O’Malley slinging the oily mud

Perhaps I don’t listen to the correct radio stations since I haven’t heard the spot in question, but Martin O’Malley got the ball rolling on nasty campaigning by producing a radio commercial tying Bob Ehrlich to Big Oil. (Maybe that ball O’Malley started rolling is a tar ball.)

Obviously O’Malley is playing to both his radical environmental base and upon the fears of a Deepwater Horizon-style catastrophe fouling the waters of Chesapeake Bay.

(continued on my Examiner.com page…)

Bad news for bloggers

I thought this was an interesting poll done by Rasmussen.

A poll taken by the group late last month revealed that 78% of adults surveyed see reporting by local newspapers as being at least somewhat reliable, as opposed to 66% which say the same about blogs.

Given the controversy which arises from at least one local copy-and-paste blog which does its best to copy-and-paste as much as – if not more than – the local newspaper, the results don’t surprise me.

The advantage newspapers still have over most internet providers, particularly solo and small group operations like blogs generally are, is that they have the resources to pay people to gather information. When I go to County Council meetings and certain political events as part of my first-person reporting I’ll often find mainstream news organizations like the Daily Times or local TV stations covering the event as well. Their model of selling advertising interspersed with vital information is still working, and they use some of those proceeds to pay those who gather information.

While I’m aware that some bloggers are paid in a similar manner, it seems the majority of them make their money by selling ads directly instead of having a marketing department separate from news operations. I doubt Greg Latshaw or Steve Hammond is begging for advertisers as part of the reporting.

Certainly there are people and groups who pay people to put out their own spin on the issues as well, and that information is added to the mix. For some bloggers, simply regurgitating these talking points is a good way to provide content at little time, effort, or cost to them. Obviously I often use releases as starting points for my posts but I rarely take them at face value.

Perhaps it’s those who unquestioningly take people at their word without doing the required fact checking that puts bloggers at a disadvantage in the poll. Certainly I’d like to help drive that 66% figure up along with my readership.

At its root, though, is the fact that all journalists and editors come to their jobs with some sort of bias. Needless to say, I look at things from a conservative to libertarian point of view and it affects the way I write at times. Having been a student of history I know that certain groups of people have no compunction in making things up if it suits their needs. But I strive for accuracy in the end, and even political opponents concede I usually get it right in my reporting.

Maybe if bloggers would do more to earn the respect of their journalistic peers and the general public by sticking to the facts and leaving aside rumors, innuendo, and personal attacks, they may just bring that number up to the level of support enjoyed by the traditional media.

Once upon a time in my youth I briefly worked in a retail setting, and one thing I was taught is that giving bad service to one customer will eventually drive another dozen away through the negative word-of-mouth. In this day and age of instant communication via Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking outlets getting the wrong person mad could backfire a thousandfold.

As a collection of media mavens it’s time we grow up and take more care in what we do. Very few of us make a living at this, but in order to do so we have to clean up our act and become worthy of support.