Under a new name, the same old ruse

June 20, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff, Radical Green · Comments Off on Under a new name, the same old ruse 

Back in 2013 I wrote about a company called Ethical Electric, noting that the electricity supplier was charging a premium to help out progressive causes. Well, the other day I received a solicitation from a group called Clean Energy Option and after a little digging I found out it was Ethical Electric that was doing business as (d/b/a) Clean Energy Option. Seems to be less than ethical to change their name, but it’s likely a marketing thing.

Yet thanks to that 2013 piece I wrote for Watchdog Wire, I found out that Ethical Electric was charging 10.14 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) at the time, which was a fair-sized premium over the 8.89 cents per kWh Delmarva Power (my utility) was charging back then. That 14% difference meant the average bill would be about $12.60 higher per month for an average home that used 900 kWh monthly. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure I would cry foul if my electric bill was going up $150 a year, since that’s what it translates to.

It just so happened that the Clean Energy solicitation followed my latest Delmarva Power bill by a couple days so my bill was handy. Over the last two-plus years, my Delmarva Power rates haven’t changed a whole lot as the “rate to compare” was 9.01 cents per kWh. In 2 1/2 years I’ve endured an annual rate increase far less than 1% as the total hike was 1.35%. (I also found out in researching this piece that I can get even lower rates by switching my supplier to another of several companies that are in that business. Some are “green” companies like Clean Energy Option, most are not.)

On the other hand, the teaser rate for Ethical Electric’s Clean Energy Option has swelled to 11.6 cents per kWh, which is a rate hike of 14.4% overall and about 6% per year. Most likely this rate will jump again after the three-month special rate ends – after all, what business would promote a higher initial cost? The premium that was once 14% has now doubled to 28%, despite the fact people are bending over backwards to install new solar farms and wind turbines around the region. As Clean Energy Option euphemistically puts the answer to the question “What will happen to my electricity bills?”:

In short, supporting new renewable energy development costs a little more than delivering polluting energy. That’s because the energy you are choosing is better for you and the planet.

(“Better for you” may not be true for a person within sensing range of the low-frequency sound emitted by wind turbines, but I digress.)

There’s obviously something at work here to drive the cost of “regular” electricity down while wind and solar continue to increase. I suspect that something is the low cost of natural gas, which is used more frequently as an energy source to create electricity and is relatively cheap. Ironically, this economic fact is doing almost as much damage to the coal industry as Obama’s EPA regulations.

So don’t be fooled to the tune of $23 a month or nearly $280 a year. Keep the money in your pocket and stick with what is most reliable. Or, if you really want to put that money to work, use it to support elected officials who will stand up to the environmentalist lobby and remove these silly mandates and carveouts for the otherwise unsustainable green energy racket.

Addressing the challenge

Many years ago, when I was a mere political babe in the woods, I volunteered to help out a candidate by the name of Maggie Thurber. At the time, she was running for a full term as Clerk of Courts in my former home of Lucas County, Ohio, having won the office in a huge upset two years earlier. She went on to win that election and one more, plus serve a term as a County Commissioner before leaving politics.

She parlayed that political success into a stint as a radio host and also has blogged for several years at a site called Thurber’s Thoughts, although now that seems to be used as additional material for her work on Ohio Watchdog (a subsite of Watchdog Wire.) And that’s where I pick up the story.

I happened to come across a piece she wrote regarding the “Live the Wage” challenge, something set up by this website. This movement is backed by the same people who connived Maryland into raising its minimum wage earlier this year.

The premise of this challenge was to buy groceries and gas on $77 a week, which was the amount deemed to be left over once taxes and housing expenses are paid. Thurber writes that:

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland gave up. He started on a Sunday, but ran out of money by Thursday, he explained in a column for Politico. He said he skipped meals to save money and ate smaller, less healthy meals.

“Because fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to find at a price within a minimum wage budget, I turned to bread, peanut butter, bananas and bologna more than anything else,” he wrote. “That was what I could find when I took this budget to the grocery story (sic) last Sunday. And that’s why I ate lunch from the McDonald’s dollar menu.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, spent his money foolishly, paying $7 for sardines and crackers, $5 for a Burger King Whopper, $2 for a cup of coffee and his “last couple of dollars to buy trail mix,” he explained on his Facebook page.

It’s obvious to me Strickland and Ryan didn’t take this seriously; otherwise they would have done as well as Thurber and her husband did. She bought a week’s worth of gasoline for $44 (using points from her local Kroger grocery store) and spent $82.83 on a basic menu of groceries for the week, with a couple splurge items. As for the leftover money?

We approached the challenge as if we had both lost our jobs and taken minimum wage jobs to get by. Under this scenario, we’d have some items on hand, like paper towels, detergent, aspirin, condiments and corn to make popcorn for snacks.

But with $27.17 remaining in our budget, or going without our two splurge items, we’d be able to purchase those supplies as we needed.

Of course, the banshees came out of the woodwork in the comments section and shrieked that she should live like this for a year or so before talking. Well, these (very well-paid) politicians didn’t even try hard to make it through a week – what does that say about their compassion, let alone their eating and cooking habits?

As I noted above, Thurber expanded on this Ohio Watchdog piece on her own site, which gave politicians a new challenge:

Don’t you think it’s funny that no one ever tries to live like a small business owner for week? To feel what it’s like to try to make a payroll, deal with government forms and mandates, handle local government rules and regulations, deal with happy and angry customers, supervise a work staff, promote your business, do the accounting and somehow find time for family and friends and an actual life outside of work?

One day in the life of small business owner is much more difficult and stressful than trying to live on $77 a week.

That’s the reality of this ridiculousness – and that’s why the whole “live the wage” publicity sham is such a travesty.

I talk about business climate a lot on this site because, as a state, Maryland is far too dependent on one industry – the federal government. In that, it mirrors the city of my birth which is overly reliant on the auto industry. But in catering to the auto industry you at least do things which benefit other businesses around the state, and overall Ohio is a diverse state with several distinct metro areas as well as a significant rural component.

In contrast, Maryland seems to work only toward enriching government and those businesses connected to government by hook or crook. So raising the minimum wage was no big deal to most of Maryland – it’s a world of almost automatic annual raises and the job security one receives when you work for a government which rarely, if ever, cuts itself. People can shoulder that burden more easily along the I-95 corridor.

But when you come out to the forgotten parts of Maryland, a minimum wage raise means jobs lost – there’s no other way around it. There were efforts to waive or slow down the increase for counties here on the Eastern Shore, but they were rebuffed in the General Assembly.

And if you think buying groceries on minimum wage is difficult, just try it being unemployed. That’s going to be the result of these shortsighted policies once the political stunts and game playing are forgotten.

The choice needs to be ours

Last year I wrote about School Choice Week at the tail end of one of my final “odds and ends” segments. Rather than make you read the whole thing (although I think it was pretty good, even a year later) here’s what I had to say:

But to get jobs, we need a better educational system and that means giving parents a choice in where to send their child for their education. National School Choice Week begins next Sunday, but no local organization on Delmarva has yet stepped up to participate in an event. (There are 22 in Maryland, but all of them are on the Western Shore. No events are planned in Delaware or on the eastern shore of Virginia.)

As it turns out, my fiance made the choice to send her child to a private, faith-based school. It’s good for her, but it would be even better if money from the state was made available to cover her tuition and fees. Years ago I volunteered for a political candidate whose key platform plank was “money follows the child” and I think it makes just as much sense today. (Note: second link added in 2014 reprint.)

Alas, the same is essentially true for Maryland thus far, but Delaware has stepped up its game with events in the Wilmington area and in Milford.

Since I don’t have a local event to report on at this time, a suggestion made by the folks at Watchdog Wire was to share this video of a family who took advantage of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship.

So what do you think the chances of having a college graduate, another attending school, and a third who’s intending to go to college would be if all three were saddled with attendance in the District’s failing public schools? My guess is that the older two of the three would be single moms like their mother, because the public schools aren’t necessarily environments conducive to learning. In the eyes of many “parents” pubic schools are instead glorified babysitters and day care.

Now I know neither charter schools nor parochial schools are perfect, and homeschooling isn’t for everyone, either. I know a few people who tried homeschooling but didn’t think they were doing the job and sent their children back to a traditional school. But let’s look at a theoretical here.

Between the new Bennett High School and proposed Bennett Middle School, the cost to Wicomico County and state taxpayers for building the facilities will be roughly $125 million. Naturally that’s not the life-cycle cost; since the current rendition of Bennett Middle is about a half-century old we can probably expect the newer versions to have the same lifespan. (One can argue over whether the cost was excessive due to state-imposed design choices and price of labor; regardless, the taxpayers will end up paying these bonds off for years to come.)

Enrollment varies, of course, but right now the two schools handle about 2,200 students – so each student’s “share” of the cost is $55,000. Needless to say, there are going to be students there for a half-century so that cost is spread out but may well be $1,000 per student per year – not counting interest on the bonds, necessary maintenance – if they don’t let the schools fall apart as they did the existing ones to guilt trip taxpayers into replacing otherwise structurally sound buildings – and of course the normal operations costs of heating, cooling, keeping the lights on, and technology. It wouldn’t surprise me that these additional costs double or triple the $1,000 per student per year number, and I haven’t spent a moment actually teaching.

[Pardon me for taking a dim view about the perceived uselessness of old facilities, but for my education (1969-82) I spent most of it in buildings dating from the 1950s or before – my (now demolished) middle school was first built in 1909 and added onto in the 1930s and 1950s as a former high school. I turned out okay without air conditioning in the school or fancy equipment, so spare me. And how many charter and private schools operate out of similar “obsolete” structures?]

If school choice can be the magic bullet to reduce costs by peeling away the myriad onion layers of bureaucracy, red tape, and questionable curriculum which seem to get in the way of children actually learning, shouldn’t we be making a mad dash toward that concept instead of propping up the failure of modern public education?

Maryland is not a state which is perceived as friendly to school choice. Between the scare tactics to homeschooling parents, the oversized influence of the teachers unions, and the willingness to subject children to the watered-down Common Core curriculum, there aren’t a lot of pathways to success. For a state which is supposedly tops in education, we don’t seem to be putting out a lot of educated students.

That’s why competition needs to be introduced and alternative paths to success, such as a renewed focus on skills-based vocational education, need to be provided. Let’s give parents the choice and put the money in their hands.

Move on to a new energy supplier

December 18, 2013 · Posted in Watchdog Wire · Comments Off on Move on to a new energy supplier 

Under a slightly different title (the above was my original submission), this is my latest for Watchdog Wire.

Electrical customers throughout Maryland may be receiving – or perhaps have already seen – a solicitation for switching their electrical service from their current utility to a relatively new player in the industry called Ethical Electric. I received a solicitation last week, with the message:

As a Delmarva Power customer, you now have the option to ensure that every kilowatt of electricity used in the Swartz home comes from clean, renewable sources.

As I read on, I learned that a large portion of my electricity comes from dirty, supposedly finite sources.

(continued at Watchdog Wire…)

Maryland treads water in two key reports

October 15, 2013 · Posted in Watchdog Wire · 1 Comment 

Crossposted from Watchdog Wire – Maryland.

In a nation where each state can (somewhat) determine its own destiny through the laws and regulations they adopt as well as the promises made to its citizens, two reports that came out this week determined the Free State needs a lot of improvement in both present and future policy.

The 2014 edition of the Tax Foundation’s State Business Climate Tax Index showed Maryland in a familiar position: lagging in the bottom ten of the country alongside a roster of states which mainly share the similarity of Democratic-controlled governments. For the second straight year, Maryland ranked 41st overall, with its lone bright spot an 8th-place rank in the sales tax category. While Maryland has a 6 percent sales tax rate, higher than several surrounding states, the complex calculations performed by the Tax Foundation give our state a better score. Ironically, applying the sales tax to gasoline, which the state began collecting on July 1st, may have proven politically unpopular but bolstered the state’s ranking in the eyes of the Tax Foundation.

As the report points out, however, a state can assist itself practically overnight. Despite its 44th place ranking, upcoming changes in North Carolina promise to vault the state into the top twenty in coming years:

While not reflected in this year’s edition, a great testament to the Index’s value is its use as a success metric for comprehensive reforms passed this year in North Carolina. While the state remains ranked 44th for this edition, it will move to as high as 17th as these reforms take effect in coming years.

One can speculate, then, that if a governor came to office willing to decrease the state’s corporate income tax – as many candidates promised to do at a recent manufacturing summit – and could make other key changes to the system, Maryland could place itself into a position at least competitive to its neighbors. While Delaware remains a top contender at #13, other surrounding states are in more pedestrian positions: West Virginia ranks 23rd, Pennsylvania 24th, and Virginia – somewhat surprisingly, given Martin O’Malley’s grudge against all things Bob McDonnell – is 26th.

Maryland may need to look into changing its anti-business policies soon, since another study from State Budget Solutions regarding unfunded public employee pension liabilities found that Maryland is staring at over $110 billion in promises made. This report, entitled “Promises Made, Promises Broken – The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers”, found that just 34 percent of the various pension programs (in Maryland’s case, these are the State Pool and Municipal Pool of the State Retirement and Pension System along with the Transit Authority Pension Plan) are currently funded. In actual dollars, the unfunded portion is just over $73 billion.

However, when compared to the rest of the country, Maryland fares a little more toward the average. While their 34 percent funding ratio ranks in a tie for 30th among the states, the percentage of GDP represented is 19th overall. Despite itself, Maryland has the potential to grow out of the problem if corrective measures can be taken. Indeed, $73 billion is certainly a lot of money – by comparison, the entire FY2014 state budget weighs in at just over $37 billion – but consider that Ohio, with roughly twice Maryland’s population, has a hole of $287 billion to fill. (Ohio’s funding ratio, however, is just about equal to Maryland’s 34 percent figure.)

Across the country, the amount promised to pensioners by states is staggering: over $6.7 trillion is pledged to retirees, with only $2.6 trillion in the bank to cover them. But it’s a small ticking time bomb of debt when added to the arsenal of unfunded federal liabilities that may be over $100 trillion.

It will take a lot of tax reform and GDP growth to make good on those demands.

George vs. Perry

Subtitled, Don’t Mess With Move To Texas.

Speaking in a radio commercial aimed at Maryland businesses, Texas Governor Rick Perry blasted the state’s business climate and invited commercial entities to consider his state, an effort interpreted as a slap at Martin O’Malley and his 2016 hopes.

In response, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron George exhorted Free Staters to fight, not switch:

Delegate Ron George, Republican candidate for Governor, has a simple message for Maryland voters. “Don’t Move, Vote.”

Delegate George is asking Marylanders to reject Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s advertisement seeking to lure Maryland businesses to the Lone Star State.

“This is a response to the failed business policies of the O’Malley/Brown administration that have led to Maryland losing over 93,000 private sector jobs from 2007 to 2011,” George remarked. “While private sector jobs continue to disappear under O’Malley, we can still turn our state around.”

Delegate George will be releasing the results of an internal campaign investigation Thursday morning to illustrate the statewide impact of the O’Malley/Brown administration’s disastrous tax and budget policies. This investigation will highlight the huge disparities in job growth and education both within Maryland and compared to the rest of the nation.

Today is Friday; in reality I’m writing this late Thursday evening. Unless Ron is talking about next week, I haven’t seen this internal investigation nor has he mentioned it on his social media.

But aside from that unforced error, let’s examine both what George is alluding to and what Perry’s real aim is.

It’s no secret that certain parts of the state have basically full employment while others often flirt with double-digit figures. The closer you get to Washington, D.C. the more likely it is you have a job, because right now – even with the dreaded sequestration – the federal government is fat and happy. The nation’s capital is almost a perfect black hole of tax dollars, but just enough escapes the vortex to prop up the regional economy around the Washington/Annapolis area. So they have no incentive to change and don’t mind paying a little more to insure their overall well-being, coerced from taxpayers around the country.

On the other hand, once you get outside commuting distance to the Beltway corridor you’ll find the rest of us grasping at economic straws. I’m thinking that Ron’s campaign team has found a way to harvest the data which shows that we are far from being one Maryland, and I’ll be interested to see if I’m correct.

As for the Perry radio spot: in finding that video (which was also posted in the Mark Newgent Watchdog Wire post I linked above) I found that the originator of the video’s YouTube Channel (apparently a woman named Jennifer Beale, listed on LinkedIn as the communications manager for the state’s economic development and tourism office) has also done videos tailored to other states, specifically Missouri and New York, along with a more generic piece featuring onetime Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith. In that respect, what Perry and his state are doing isn’t a whole lot different than the commercials I see touting the state of New York’s new attitude toward business or the tourism ads they run. The state of Michigan also seems to be a heavy local advertiser in that respect (“Pure Michigan.”) Even Maryland does the same thing for their job creators, but only with certain selected environmentally-correct businesses.

Still, the idea that Ron George is pleading with the business community to give him time to get elected is an interesting one. Obviously he has some “skin in the game” as the owner of a jewelry business; moreover, getting a business to pull up stakes and relocate to Texas is no small feat, regardless of the size. On the other hand, individuals can easily move – and they have, many to Virginia, Delaware, the Carolinas, or Florida; in fact, according to the group Change Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina were the destinations of choice for many who have already left. Texas wasn’t high on the list, but it was good enough for a recently-departed state senator.

Until this state straightens out its priorities, though, don’t be surprised if other successful governors come a-callin’.

A dozen in

September 11, 2013 · Posted in National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · 2 Comments 

Twelve years ago, timed to the moment this post will come out in the morning, our nation was changed forever. And while we debate the merits of intervention in yet another far-off country, it’s worth repeating that this American won’t forgive or forget.

But as I wrote a year ago at this time:

With the exception of the very first year I had this website, I have chosen to write a tribute of sorts on 9-11. I’ve told you about my experience (twice), reflected on how it affected the presidency of George W. Bush, the “different and lacking resolve” of Barack Obama, and how we need to stay strong. I even reviewed a 9/11 book recently.

So it’s somewhat hard to lay out new ground to cover. But I still feel the somber occasion of 9/11 is important enough to devote a post to…

…Few who experienced the day would want to live through it again, but I think it’s vital to dredge up the unpleasantness because the fight is far from over.

When I wrote this, however, I had no inkling of the events which would transpire later that evening in Benghazi, Libya. That rendition of 9/11, in any other administration, would have spelled imminent doom with an election less than two months away. But somehow our President (who shall not be named today) got away with murder, at least in the metaphorical sense. So I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a bid by Watchdog Wire for the usage of the hashtag #BenghaziWatch today.

Yet one has to wonder how much more Americans will take. It’s not hard to recall the images surrounding the seminal event of our lives: four planes hijacked and turned into missiles, destroying two of our most prominent structures and badly damaging another, the grounding of our private airline fleet and subsequent birth of Department of Homeland Security, the ruin and rebuild of our financial nerve center, and so forth. Not much can halt professional sports, but 9/11 did: a week’s worth of baseball and NFL games were postponed by the events along the East Coast.

It’s not a perfect analogy by any means, but there was a period in our nation’s history, spanning perhaps thirty to forty years, where we lived in dread knowing a situation wouldn’t be solved without the high likelihood of bloodshed. Even in the days of our nation’s founding, the question of slavery was a vexing issue which was kicked down the road through a series of compromises until no more middle ground could be had and the two sides fought a war to determine whether states could choose their destiny or not.

Similarly, radical Islam seems incompatible with the ideals of a Constitutional republic such as ours. In some respects, what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq was a compromise because, frankly, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11/01 there would have been few Americans who objected to turning the Middle East into an uninhabitable sea of glass. We certainly possess the capability to do so, although it obviously would risk a far larger Armageddon. Yet the question which we will have to ponder is whether compromise is possible, or if 9/11 turns out to be the first battle in a latter-day Hundred Years’ War.

Their side has no problem waiting, so how long can we be vigilant in response?

Is it truly ‘My Maryland’?

July 31, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Senator Watch, Watchdog Wire · Comments Off on Is it truly ‘My Maryland’? 

Billing itself as “Democracy’s First Online Town Hall”, the website MyMaryland.net recently went live with backing from the Sunlight Foundation, a group which advocates for governmental transparency.

The website is a pilot project where users can sign up and learn about and contact their elected officials. So I decided to make myself a guinea pig and sign up.

From the homepage, I selected “Join” and was taken to a landing page where they asked the basics: e-mail, password (for your use), name, and postal code. They also needed date of birth, why I wasn’t sure – perhaps it matches voter registration information.

After that, I was advised to check my email for a link. Sure enough, a few seconds later I had my e-mail and clicked the link.

(continued at Watchdog Wire…)

Radio days volume 19

It was a whirlwind week for me in terms of radio appearances. First I was invited to do a segment on “Watchdog Wire Radio” which aired on Friday night regarding my recent release of the monoblogue Accountability Project. I was thrilled to give my baby a little more exposure, as I think it should be required reading for all Marylanders considering going to the polls.

So on Tuesday morning I was invited to record my segment, which we finally got to do Thursday night. (“Watchdog Wire Radio” is apparently one of at least two shows taped beforehand for later broadcast.)

Oddly enough, by that point I had already done an interview with Brian Griffiths, who conducted a number of interviews at the Tawes event. Mine was one of a number that happened to air on the Red Maryland Network’s Saturday “Election Focus” hour, joining the likes of gubernatorial candidates David Craig and Ron George, among others. I believe mine was the first one Brian did, since he was using me to check his levels and such. No biggie, someone has to do it.

So allow me to discuss the actual shows, “Watchdog Wire” first. The thing which sticks out at me about doing “Watchdog Wire Radio” is that I need to either sit closer to my computer or play around with the recording volume a little bit. Mark does his interviews via Skype, and while I’ve worked with it before I’d always done it on my desktop computer. It’s a little different on my laptop, which has a built-in camera and microphone (although I didn’t need the camera.) So maybe I need to lean into it.

As for the content, I was pretty pleased with how it went initially, although I think I bogged down a little bit talking about the accolades and admonishments. It shocked me, though, that I had the entire first half of the 50-minute show. Obviously host Mark Newgent came prepared with a lot of questions for me, but I didn’t think I had that lengthy of a segment. This is particularly true when I was one of four pieces.

There were a couple of things I could have kicked myself for. One is that I didn’t explain the point system and the reason 25 votes is easy math – each correct vote is four points. I also have deductions of 1 to 6 points for absences, not voting while present, and changing a vote to incorrect (which is possible in the House, as is the half-credit I give for switching to the correct side.)

The second is not being able to navigate through it as quickly as I should have. I knew exactly the bill I was referring to for Delegate Norman, but couldn’t locate the title. Obviously there’s much more to the mAP than just the votes and accolades, as I try to give a reason why I would or wouldn’t support a bill. We also didn’t get into the committee votes, which I suppose is just as well because you should always leave an audience wanting more.

Well, they got more on Saturday night, right off the bat. The first ten minutes or so of “Election Focus” was my interview at Tawes. This made sense because, as I noted above, I was first out of the chute. Given the roster of guests I don’t mind being an opening act.

Once I got used to Brian Griffiths’ rapid-fire delivery and got into the flow of things, I think I did all right (except for not recalling Laura Neuman’s name.) Listening to the rest of the interviews, I noticed Brian is that way with most of them. On the other hand, you can tell I’m from the Midwest because I speak more slowly.

And because I was sort of the “home team” for this effort – and they knew I’d done several recaps of Tawes – I enjoyed giving the lowdown on the local scene around the lower Eastern Shore. Perhaps I was a little tongue-tied speaking about the second bananas on the Republican ticket, but I think I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on around here.

Overall, “Election Focus” seems to be an interesting show for Marylanders to get to hear from a number of candidates from top to bottom on the ballot. (It will be better when it’s not “300 degrees,” apparently.) With about 48 weeks or so until the primary, there’s a lot of airtime to fill. I was happy to do my little part.

The Maryland internet radio shakeup

Over the years I have compiled a (very) occasional series of posts called “Radio days.” The idea originally began as a post-mortem of my first radio guest spot way back in 2007, but I’ve stayed with the concept for subsequent appearances. They’ve become much more infrequent as the most supportive local radio station adopted a syndicated morning show – most of the series of posts arose from a stretch where I was a monthly guest on Bill Reddish’s old “AM Salisbury” show.

But where terrestrial radio has gone away from individually-hosted shows to national syndication – at least in a smaller market like Salisbury – internet radio is thriving. Granted, no one is making a living like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, or other talk radio giants are, but the success of internet radio stems both from narrowcasting to a specific but passionate market and having the convenience of being able to listen later. (The aforementioned talkers will let you do that, too, but it will cost you.) If I can’t catch a show at its appointed time I can sit and listen at my convenience later that evening or even a few days or weeks after the original airing.

The success of this turned out to be one of the subjects of my TQT interview with Andrew Langer a few months back, and oddly enough he figures in this post as well. “The Broadside,” a radio show he co-hosts with Mark Newgent, is one of just two shows not affected by a shakeup at Red Maryland Radio, which has emerged as a leading voice in Maryland politics. On Friday they announced a revamped lineup with three new radio hosts (fellow bloggers Jackie Wellfonder of Raging Against the Rhetoric, Jeff Quinton of The Quinton Report, and Examiner and former WBAL radio host J. Doug Gill), and two new shows focusing on the efforts of The Watchdog Wire (to which I contribute) and the 2014 elections.

On the other hand, three former RMN shows are leaving: “Lock and Load Radio” (previously “Seeing Red”) with hosts John and Andi Morony, “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Radio”  featuring the quartet of Jim Braswell, Ethan Grayson, Tom Smith, and Paul Drgos, and Braswell’s Friday “Red Maryland Happy Hour.”

Those three will become the backbone of a new network called Free State Radio, to join “The Non-Aggression Principle”, which was formerly “Maryland Libertarian Radio.” They claim to have more of a national focus with the new network, as these shows were centered more around specific issues and politics in general than Maryland-centric issues. The resulting shuffle has most affected Wellfonder’s yet-to-premiere show, as it has bounced around from being originally envisioned as a Thursday evening show to Sunday evenings and now Tuesdays.

From what I have gleaned from listening to some of those involved,  the parting was on the hasty side and perhaps not the most amicable. Regardless of the circumstances, though, one has to marvel at the growth of the medium in just a couple years – what once was two shows is now going to be eleven, (Another strong Maryland contender, “Purple Elephant Politics,” seems to now be on at least a temporary hiatus. Maybe they’ll be next in the Red Maryland Network fold.)

Yet one also has to ponder the effect on the blogs involved as well. While Red Maryland has trimmed its number of contributors over the last couple years to around a half-dozen or so, their posting tempo has decreased significantly over the years to a point where they’re running about one to two new posts a day, with many of those simply promoting their radio network. The others involved post with a little lower frequency, although Quinton is known to have multiple posts a day on occasion. Surely even one hour-long show a week requires far more time and effort than sitting in front of a computer and talking for an hour, particularly in remote locations, so it will be a challenge for these bloggers to continue putting out quality content. On the flip side, though, having hand-transcribed 20- to 25-minute interviews, it’s likely they will be substituting 8,000 words of spoken content for perhaps 1,500 words of written content – and probably less, since in an hour’s time there may be editing and rewrites. I’ve been working on this post off-and-on for several hours today with perhaps about 60 to 70 minutes actual writing time, so there is some efficiency therein. But every blogger is different.

Another question I have has to do with money and sponsorship. Obviously I’m unsure as to whether the fledgling Free State Radio network has any backing; meanwhile, Red Maryland Radio is essentially self-sponsored as well as its income is derived from merchandising on Zazzle and Greg Kline’s law firm, which seems to be their one “outside’ sponsor. While Blogtalkradio makes money from the commercials they play prior to the podcasts as well as premium services for more well-heeled hosts willing to pay up to $250 a month for the privilege, they’re only sharing a portion of their revenue once you jump through hoops and build a large enough audience – similar to something like Examiner for bloggers. (From experience I know that’s a very difficult venue for success, particularly with a focus on politics.) While there’s probably money available from various campaigns as they get rolling for 2014, the question is whether they would spend the money on a somewhat limited audience rather than try their luck with cable TV or terrestrial radio.

So the question becomes one of the size of the pie. While we all try our best to expand our audience, the vast majority of people will remain devoted to pop culture, ignorant of political trends toward the erosion of our freedom, and perfectly content to allow the world to dictate their lives as long as they can be entertained. I believe the ancient Romans called this bread and circuses.

But as long as someone is trying to ring the bell, there’s the chance they may get noticed. So while a radio gig is probably not in the cards for me – at least not in an hour-long format where I have to carry the show – I’d be glad to lend my expertise as a guest or just listen to what some of these fine folks have to say. In many cases I already have.

Chances are they will have a better message than the one being put out by the party in power in both Annapolis and Washington, D.C.

Has RGGI lived up to its purpose?

July 1, 2013 · Posted in Watchdog Wire · Comments Off on Has RGGI lived up to its purpose? 

In the wake of President Obama’s unilateral decision to do something – anything, as long as it doesn’t need approval from Congress – about the perception that climate change is anthropogenic and the United States must take a lead role in changing our planet’s temperature, this may be a good time to review the effects of an earlier attempt at combating global warming known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Nine Northeastern states, including Maryland, are members of this group – the others are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Delaware. New Jersey was also an original member of the cabal but left in 2012 at the behest of their governor, Chris Christie, who called the RGGI effort “gimmicky” and “a failure.” The group, and its associated non-profit corporation, describe themselves as such:

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory market-based regulatory program in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the power sector.

RGGI, Inc. is a non-profit corporation created to provide technical and administrative services to the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

While the idea was supposedly one of making utilities pay for the messes they create by using carbon-based fuels to create the electricity we all need, the reality is that RGGI, at least in Maryland, mainly has served as yet another method of redistributing wealth.

(continued at Watchdog Wire…)

Land of opportunity for the politically correct?

June 14, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Watchdog Wire · Comments Off on Land of opportunity for the politically correct? 

This piece continues a theme I undertook a few days ago, but adds the rebuttal from the DBED, among other things…

Last week on my home site I speculated on the motives of selecting three Maryland companies for inclusion in a state-sponsored program called MaryLand of Opportunity. The program puts three businesses in the spotlight through a series of television and radio spots, paid for in part by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

The three businesses selected are B’More Organic, which manufactures and sells an Icelandic yogurt variant called skyr in smoothie form, wind-powered electrical broker Clean Currents, and Apples & Oranges, a Baltimore-based supermarket located in an area of the city determined to be a “food desert.” The theme used to sell the trio to the public was one of “Good for you, Good for Maryland, Good for the Planet.” At this point, the campaign has put together a thirty-second television commercial for B’More Organic and radio spots of thirty and ninety seconds for Clean Currents; DBED is also promoting the campaign on social media via Facebook and Twitter.

Conventional media outlets included are the Baltimore Sun, CBS Radio, and WJZ-TV, which are matching the $130,000 chipped in by Maryland taxpayers with services to bring the campaign’s total value to $350,000.

(Continued at the Watchdog Wire…)

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