2016: a monoblogue year in review

December 29, 2016 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off 

I don’t have as much to review this year, for reasons which I will remind readers of along the line.

So perhaps my first post of the year in January was prescient, as I talked about transcending the political. On the other hand, Cathy Keim was of the opinion this would be a pivotal year in politics. She didn’t like the push polling, either, and later in the month I speculated on who did it and why. She and I also discussed a controversial school board nominee in Baltimore County – controversial because she’s conservative.

But within the political for me was the expected turnover in the Presidential race. We also got an endorsement from a former VP candidate who chose populism over substance, while the battle lines were being drawn for the conservative movement. I still had reservations about the frontrunner and his effect on the GOP.

On the state level there were bad ideas about changing the terms of Central Committee members and automatic voter registration. There was a better idea from a wildly popular governor to attract manufacturing to our local region, but it went nowhere fast. However, we had our school board bill reintroduced, with an electoral twist.

I also had to point out one of the narratives which has bedeviled the state and nation for far too long, as assumptions need to change. Another of them was the red vs. blue mindset, to which I introduced white. And would the Baby Boomers ever leave the stage?

Cathy did me a favor and covered a state conference in several different parts, a conference that we found out later won’t have a 2017 edition. I also noted the belief our fair city hadn’t arrived yet because we’re missing a Cracker Barrel - even as a former mayor announced ambitious political plans – and formally remembered a late friend through music.

As is always the case in our first month, the state began its legislative session and those subjects lasted into February. While the elected school board bill advanced steadily, there was also talk in the state campaigns about manufacturing, a subject I often opine on. And I found our legislators weren’t always what they were cracked up to be.

We lost an esteemed figure in the conservative movement during the month. Looking back, death was a big news item in 2016, wasn’t it?

Yet our second month brought me the news I won a competition to review a wonderful (and very relevant) book. It’s definitely not part of the “PC groupthink” Cathy talked about, and perhaps it’s not a case study in using humor, either. But its author figured prominently when I reached a milestone. She also covered a Second Amendment event for me, as I was off being a newlywed. It was the first of her promotions from cub reporter through apprentice reporter (to cover a local appearance by Senate candidate Dave Wallace) to just plain reporter.

Still, while Cathy had her own thoughts on including women in the draft, found the weakest link in the abortion chain, and was perhaps prescient enough to discuss a hidden perk in the Electoral College (I rebuffed the national popular vote argument that came from it in the comments), it was the month I became more and more #NeverTrump - although Cathy could see why he was so popular - and the Iowa caucuses began to winnow the field for both Republicans and Democrats. Among that smaller group was Ben Carson, who got an interesting endorsement in time for the “SEC primary” that began March.

In its aftermath, I pled in vain for a unity ticket to stop Donald Trump since Carson saw the writing on the wall, too. And since Cathy was doing such a good job speaking about small victories, chicken farms – the subject of a later hearing I covered – and other agitators I decided to add another voice for energy commentary. (She even put me on her radio show.) Yet I didn’t need her to have my say on a federal energy policy.

So what was this Cathy wrote on “Cinderella men?” Maybe it had something to do with the totalitarian ideology that is Islam. I also found the need to editorialize on my loss of taste for talk radio and class envy in sports. In the sports realm I also announced a retirement tour for 2016.

Our third month also brought yet another twist on our electoral system, this time gerrymandering. I also thought ahead to 2018 given Governor Hogan’s approval ratings while hearing from a former governor at a book signing. (Never did get my copy, though. I was talking.) On the local front we heard from one Senate candidate while another received a passionate endorsement.

It was the same old same old as the “90 days of terror” wound down, as the Democrats rammed through their tribute to greed and power. (Now a bid for its repeal is making headlines.)

That affair came to a screeching halt in April. Cathy continued to make her points as well, speaking on building mosques, the culture of death, I was just concerned about a blogger I admire and a topic I visit often, manufacturing. I joined Cathy at a pro-life protest but also made some time to cover a local event hoping to continue a rebound.

As Donald Trump became more and more inevitable, I had to poke some fun at him. (But it was nice to see Maryland get a little candidate love while it lasted for a change.) I had my impressions (as well as a second helping and endorsement) on the Senate race, with my final bit of candidate coverage for both Senate and Congress (including a critical error, in my opinion, by one candidate that cost him my endorsement) two weeks before the primary. After our primary, though, there was another interesting race to attend to which would play out in May.

But I began that month with a serious thought piece on the audacity of faith. Rereading it, I can see why I’m proud of that analysis. Cathy also addressed faith with her coverage of the local edition of the National Day of Prayer Breakfast and perhaps peripherally with her case for homeschooling.

Yet politics beckoned and the first question was what to do with the “Trump Republicans.” I contended the increased turnout was more of being a contested primary. It became moot a couple days later, though. In spite of that, I noted the “lesser of two evils” endorsement and pondered the third-party effect that turned out to put Gary Johnson on the ballot.

So I turned to the Maryland GOP Spring Convention, noting the vast number of people vying, many as part of slates, for at-large Delegate and Alternate Delegate slots, the deepening National Committeeman race, and my usual coverage of the convention itself. I wrapped it up by checking how the slates fared. (Just as an aside, I think the aspect of my leaving the Central Committee people miss most is my convention coverage.)

As I prepared my monoblogue Accountability Project, I bounced off a column by Marita Noon with a Maryland-centric twist on it. Two of the female members of the Maryland General Assembly gave their spin on the session to the Wicomico County Republican Club. Unfortunately, too many of those bad bills became law because Larry Hogan’s veto pen must have run out of ink.

Turning to other subjects, I noted the passing of an online media enterprise and renewed my traditional Memorial Day weekend activities despite some rain. It took a couple weeks for me to finish that coverage.

But June began with me making a stand as #NeverTrump, which, along with the reaction and a desire for a do-over, dictated a lot of the rest of the year. (I’m sure it was just coincidence that Cathy had a piece on modern-day tyranny a couple days later.) Later in the month I found out I had company in high places. Still, I compared Trump’s ideas on trade with some other friends of mine, and found out our Trump headquarters made a national publication (before it did again in October.)

I returned to the state realm with the release of the 2016 monoblogue Accountability Project, which had two members garner perfect scores for the first time. On the local level, I compared a Wicomico County proposal with a program in place out in Garrett County, warning that it may be a budget-buster. Also a budget-buster: the idea of “clean energy.”

In the wake of the Pulse nightclub attack, I learned there was a fear…of Christians meeting to read the Bible. But there was no fear of drinking beer or listening to the bands. I also pined for a new political arrangement that would benefit all of us on this peninsula. But to start July our part of the peninsula was talking hockey.

Since the GOP convention was on the horizon – and the presumptive nominee was not stridently pro-life – there was a group looking to remind GOP convention attendees they were supposed to be the pro-life party. Then again, this was a question of whether we were a nation worthy of blessing, anyway. Not only that, it was rapidly becoming the season of my political discontent, so I laid out the case against Donald Trump in two parts. It led to a bit of a chilly reception at a later meeting.

That discontent with both the political situation and my body of work led to the admission that I had to throw in the towel on being a daily blogger. So it was a few days before I got back into things with a report on a traditional political event that actually was preceded by a few days by a great fundraiser and other local events.

I wrapped up the month with a compare and contrast piece on manufacturing, but began August with a micdrop bombshell: submitting my resignation from the Central Committee. It led to a new road that I’m now pursuing as well as my first post-GOP teaching moment. A few days later came another one dealing with Medicare. Conversely, I disagreed with my “partner in crime” on defunding Donald Trump. And, I asked, what is a flip-flop anyway?

It had been awhile since Cathy had contributed, but her and I got back together to discuss the various party platforms when it came to life issues. On her own, though, she returned to familiar topics of hers: immigration and Islam. She also took a hard look at the fear of being called racist.

Lastly, before Labor Day came and the campaigns really began, there was speculation that Andy Harris wanted a more prominent position. But I began September with the answer to the most trivial of questions: pitcher Mike Burke was my 242nd and final Shorebird of the Week. As always, it led to my season wrapups: Shorebird of the Year and picks and pans. I also debuted a fun five-part feature at the end of the month, looking at the art of the trade from an Orioles’ perspective.

Labor Day became more prominent in Maryland as Governor Hogan decreed it to be henceforth the final day of summer vacation for Maryland school kids – a good idea, but done with the heavy-handedness of the state behind it. But it was that day I talked about a different union between the GOP and conservative activists, and later in the month I took a frank look at the Senate campaign.

But as usual for the date I reminded people about 9/11, which came a couple days before the primary election up in Delaware. As a family that derives most of its income from the state, I felt I had to say something about it. At the end of that week, I celebrated our Constitution along with dozens of others here in Salisbury.

Opining on the gift of children, Cathy continued to find interesting subjects to comment on. I particularly liked her call to stand up and legislate! (And by legislate, she meant with the power of the purse, not more law.) Things didn’t always compute with her, just as the Ted Cruz endorsement of Donald Trump didn’t compute with me, either.

I don’t do a lot of book reviews in a year, so I moved from the reality of today in the first one to a well-done re-enactment of history for the second.

In October, I did a lot of posts but many of them were series posts. There was the look at that pesky electoral map, though, which as it turned out was Hillary’s Achilles’ heel, as well as yet another Trump bimbo eruption.

Most importantly, though, I embarked on the quest to find and endorse my choice for President. While Cathy was coy about her choice, she made the trip to Annapolis to check out one of the final stops on Franklin Graham’s Decision America tour. At month’s end and into November I wrapped up Congressional races in both Maryland and Delaware, the Maryland U.S. Senate race, and Delaware’s two highest statewide offices. I also took the time to study up on some local ballot issues.

So on the eve of the election I made my wild guesses and was shocked at what might pan out. After final thoughts on the election it was time for a series of postmortems looking at various aspects, including Donald Trump’s potential for success with those involved with manufacturing. On a related note, I renewed a call for shoppers to buy American for the holidays.

And did you know there are people trying to help me? I think I do okay on my own, but it was much-needed snark for me after the election. Unfortunately, the good feeling was short-lived: after bringing her on just a few months earlier, I lost the services of Marita Tedder (who wrote under her previous married name Marita Noon) when she declared her work finished. It led me to discuss the state of the writing business.

To begin the holidays, I gave thanks and it led to a week of introspection as December rolled in and my site celebrated eleven years.

One thing I missed, though, was the Maryland GOP Fall Convention – no coverage, and just a “meh” set of options for party leadership to pick from. I still gave that person some advice, though. I also missed Cathy Keim, but after a long break she explored the “deplorables” and pure of heart in a great two-part series. And I finally did the last 2016 election postmortem after the write-in votes were finally tallied.

I explored the idea of Carrier economics as Donald Trump got the official votes needed for President and promoted a key event, but my month was spent more on the less weighty side of things, such as my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame induction post and extending Christmas greetings. Tomorrow I will look ahead to 2017 in just one post and Saturday, on New Year’s Eve, I will wrap a bow on 2016 by selecting my top 5 records out of those I reviewed this year.

By my count, that’s 188 links that define my website’s year. But the other measuring stick I have is readership, and unless my last few days come in with some huge numbers it looks like I will be a shade under 30,000 readers for 2016. It’s the lowest I’ve had since I started using this particular statistical program in 2007.

I suspect some will consider that punishment for not toeing the party line, holding my nose and supporting Donald Trump, but I’d rather have a clear conscience and stay true to principle. If I never get back to the readership numbers I had from 2012-14 I can at least say I’ve made an effort and said my piece. It’s not like no one reads here, either, as 30,000 readers would still be about 600 a week – and those who were here from the beginning know I was ecstatic the first time I made 500 way back when.

So that’s the year of monoblogue. It was a year where, arguably, more transition was made than any other. Hopefully 2017 will be a year I settle into a nice little groove.

2015: a monoblogue year in review

December 28, 2015 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off 

I think this is the third time I’m going to try this, and I found out the last two times it’s fun to take a look back. Read on and see if you agree.

Even though Republicans were set to take over Congress, political infighting at both the state and national levels kicked January off, with the expected results of a power struggle. Andy Harris, just into his third term, had to explain an unpopular vote. Yet while there was agreement in the state that the city of Baltimore needed to be revitalized for Maryland to succeed, it seemed like the Maryland General Assembly had different priorities in its pre-filed bills. We would eventually get a bill to give Wicomico County an elected school board as well – even though it wasn’t what I wanted - but I made my plea for accountability before its filing by our five freshman representatives working as the Wicomico County delegation.

Local agricultural interests cheered when newly-inaugurated Governor Hogan pulled strict regulations with hours to spare, giving Radical Green plenty to whine about. With that in mind, on the energy front I questioned the role wind power could play, even during a chilly winter.

But in the end we found out what the Koch brothers don’t have, and that kept me laughing into February. We began the month with the first of many “it” candidates for 2016 forming the dreaded exploratory committee. Closer to home, though, our new governor laid out an ambitious agenda while the opposition whined about its negativity. Speaking of Democratic pet projects, I also made it a series of sorts on wind power in noting they weren’t getting their subsidy anymore but were trying hard to convince Congress to renew it.

February was the month I decided I didn’t need to be “mono” anymore, bringing contributor Cathy Keim on board with this post on Common Core. Adding her was perhaps the best blogging decision I ever made. On a completely different level I also noted former candidate Dan Bongino was branching out with his message.

Advancing the story on our elected school board, the month brought the scheduling of the hearing for it. The General Assembly also took up a “death with dignity” bill that Cathy opposed and increased the speed limit on certain highways. Yet with the prospect of the O’Malley PMT regulations clearing the General Assembly, Governor Hogan reached a compromise that would adversely affect local farmers anyway – despite what state groups may have claimed.

Another carryover from the previous month was the saga of replacing General Assembly members, which brought legislation seeking special elections. The fate of many legislative items took up my March; although the appointment question was settled in court I had a better suggestion and one ill effect of Obamacare was addressed. We were still stuck with the rain tax mandate, though. I challenged elected school board opponents after the hearing but the noisy, tiny minority won nonetheless.

There was no surprise, though, that Radical Green hated the phosphorus regulations. I knew that was coming, and they tried to convince legislators to pass the O’Malley version. Cathy also knew another disaster was coming with funding the federal Department of Homeland Security as the GOP folded like a cheap tent. On the other hand, Democrats were scared of Scott Walker nationally and made big claims locally.

In other 2016 news, we were shocked by a political lifer’s retirement announcement but began to formally fill out the GOP presidential field.

The local pro-life community had a gala fundraiser, but religious freedom was a subject both Cathy and I tackled at months’ end.

Once in awhile I get it wrong, but in this case I was happy to report my error about an event that would eventually occur in April. And that’s not the only reason it’s one of my favorite months, as the crack of hardwood against horsehide heralds a new baseball season where I guessed the Shorebirds’ roster.

Back in the political world, Cathy and I teamed up to discuss the redefinition of birth. I also was puzzled by a logo and, as the “90 days of terror” that is the General Assembly session wore down, I opined about Governor Hogan’s first veto but also took a look at what we avoided thanks to a local Delegate. After the session, our governor made a stop at Salisbury’s 3rd Friday event while I stopped over in Ocean City to see some old friends at the state GOP convention. Later that month, we got a full report from our GOP delegation at the Wicomico County Republican Club meeting while I suggested some ideas for 2016.

The month ended with our state suffering a black eye. Many of the policies at the root of the problem came out in May when the Democratic presidential race moved farther left. But I don’t think his entry was radical enough for this activist and her wild claims about the energy industry. On the GOP side, the list of contenders expanded rapidly. With so many contenders I thought it would be a good idea to organize debates in a fair manner.

Summer driving season became a little more bearable as Governor Hogan announced toll reductions, but I gave him a list of bills to veto while he was at it.

I kicked off summer with a Memorial Day weekend to remember, including the music. But June brought the usual idiocy from our former governor and his party allies; a lack of intelligence was also exhibited by the current occupant who failed to use his veto pen in a more appropriate manner as well as a Supreme Court majority that blew it twice in a week. The courts had another opportunity to set something right, though.

Distrust of government was everywhere: trade agreements (times two), rail boondogglesteaching history. Even the speaker for the Maryland GOP’s annual dinner was an outsider candidate. Cathy added a book review about Common Core to the mix, too.

On the other hand, we took the process the state gave to us and picked two new Wicomico County Board of Education members – much to the chagrin of local liberals.

I also opined on the next possible development hotspot, even if it’s a decade later than planned. Something else that was later than planned was my monoblogue Accountability Project that came out a month behind schedule.

July kicked off the process by which I determined who I would back in the 2016 presidential election. I looked at education, Second Amendment, and energy to begin the selection. Meanwhile, statewide politicians descended on Crisfield for an annual event.

I also cast a skeptical eye at Maryland business climate improvement based on a nationwide survey of small businesses, but this came before a regulatory reform effort. However, Cathy pointed out one legacy Larry Hogan kept. Nationally, we got the first rumblings about dissatisfaction with Speaker of the House John Boehner. Maybe it’s that squeezing of the middle class thanks to Obamacare.

And while I kept the site dark on Independence Day, I wanted to make sure I expressed my pride in America.

August began with a report that hit me where I live – building permits have ceased as part of the War on Rural Maryland. Speaking of rural Maryland, I also spent a day at our rebadged county fair. Here in Salisbury, we found out who filed for the 2015 election. Two candidates started their efforts with a community barbecue.

I also continued my series on the 2016 Presidential election with posts on social issuestrade and job creation, and taxation, while I handicapped the first GOP debate. After that, the talk was about Donald Trump and how much interest he was receiving. Later in the month, Cathy wrote about what was said by John Boehner regarding a different candidate.

Planned Parenthood was big news, and a rally in Easton brought over 100 who wanted them to lose their federal funding. (That may have been my headline of the year, too.) While my coverage may have had some bias, Cathy thought the local TV station really showed its true colors. But Planned Parenthood even affected the national political races.

As September began, we found out Larry Hogan has work to do to gain the confidence of small businesses, but with the occasion of Labor Day it was time to see how worker freedom was progressing.

I had my thoughts on the Kim Davis situation, while Cathy weighed in on the Iranian deal and the very soul of the GOP. It was time to get serious as summer was coming to a close, which also meant it was time to pick a Shorebird of the Year and relate things from a fan’s perspective.

Also that month, my presidential series came to an end with an endorsement after a look at immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and the role of government.  On a local political note, we all survived the monsoon that was the WCRC Crab Feast and began a series of hearings prescribed to determine the shape of our local board of education, to which I added history and context. Those hearings were dull, however, compared to the one involving Radical Green.

And of course, those seeking election were there at 3rd Friday, as was I. The campaign moved into October with one pet project shot down in flames and aspirants revealing their financial positions as the day of voting drew near.

Nationally, we learned that John Boehner finally resigned, which prompted Cathy to thinking about the truth and the spin. She also covered the second Easton Planned Parenthood protest since I was away. I did make it to a local pro-life fundraiser, but I was more concerned about the state of making things in the country. We also got some tough love and a tax plan from my endorsed presidential candidate.

The fall is also festival time around these parts, so I wrote and photographed the Good Beer and Autumn Wine festivals.

The Salisbury city election came in November, and although only one of my two endorsed candidates won, I was encouraged by the new composition. After four tries, my friend Muir Boda finally won an election so his swearing-in was emotional. However, it also created a headache for our local Republican club.

The county GOP, though, had a successful Lincoln Day Dinner and hosted the kickoff for a U.S. Senate candidate that Cathy covered. But an event in another state made me ask: what about non-partisan elections and redistricting? I also had to say goodbye to electing my endorsed presidential candidate, but renewed my acquaintance with the state GOP convention after a yearlong hiatus.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, Cathy related a class she attended that could make a difference and made a modest immigration proposal. I also related how our state tax policies were scraping the bottom.

After I closed the month before by supplementing my posts with a celebratory “10 from 10″ series, December opened with my tenth anniversary. Just as a reminder:

I still think I can utilize these writing talents that God gave me for the common good of enhancing peoples’ awareness of the benefits and advantages that freedom and liberty, firmly based on a moral, Judeo-Christian foundation, can bring. It’s not a fight I’ll win in ten years or perhaps even whatever time I have left in this world, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try and do so anyway.

Politics slowed down a bit for the holiday, but I did have to ask Radical Green what they would do for business around here if the chicken farms went away? (No answer yet.) Cathy began what should be an ambitious series on immigration, which I look forward to reading more from. And not everyone likes Donald Trump – or the GOP, for that matter. I also wrapped up the city elections by seeing who gave to what (or to themselves.)

I also let you know that high wages may not be the problem with American manufacturing, and that the government shouldn’t always be our answer. Sadly, we just keep doing the same old thing - it’s always about more revenue.

For those non-political things, I returned to baseball for a day with my newest Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame class, gave you the top 5 records I reviewed this year, and said goodbye to a friend with my Christmas message.

That’s where I’m going to leave it because this is always a long post to compile. I counted 157 links, so you have a lot of reading to do – it may take you until 2016 to do so. In the next few days I will pull out my crystal ball and see if I can look forward to events locally, statewide, and nationally.

2014: a monoblogue year in review

December 28, 2014 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

I did this last year for the first time and decided it was so fun that I’d do it again. Just like last year, the plan is to then look ahead at the possible developments for 2015 (and, as an added bonus, evaluate what kind of prognosticator I was.)

So here are some of the highlights for monoblogue in 2014.

**********

In January, my year began on the Salisbury Plaza as the city tried something new and found success with it.

But as the holiday lull returned to normal, it was made known that Andy Harris angered some in the district as they panned his vote on the omnibus budget bill. Even I got a little criticism from those who thought I was defending Andy.

On the Maryland campaign front, we all waited with bated breath for the official Larry Hogan announcement – even as he had to postpone it for a snowstorm. Otherwise, the gubernatorial campaigns revealed their 2013 fundraising prowess and as is usually the case Democrats had the upper hand.

Meanwhile, the other statewide GOP hopeful was our guest at the Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. It was also a month where I explained the real unemployment number with a little help, and learned a little about the extra time politicians put in.

Most of the February action was on the campaign front, where Larry Hogan continued making news by opting for public financing and avoiding questions, while fellow hopeful Charles Lollar found an intriguing running mate (as did Ron George), and surprisingly won a straw poll. Hogan led in the first real poll, but the margin was a little smaller in poll number two.

I also finished my first look at campaign finance for local contenders in two districts, but a lot changed at the filing deadline as familiar names switched races or withdrew.

On the first of March I talked about a long form letter I received from the Hogan campaign, while later I noted he also had some interesting backing for his public financing matching funds. Like the campaigns, I also talked about that three-letter word, J-O-B-S, a subject which came back later in the month.

News was made when a local group began demanding more local control by leaving the state association while another venerable local organization heard from county candidates.

I also looked forward to another November election (which actually happened earlier this month) and took a stab at who would be on the Shorebirds roster for the 2014 season. But my big step away from politics occurred when I announced and debuted a new, fun feature.

Spring arrived in April, while the end of the “90 days of terror” allowed campaign season to blossom. All four GOP gubernatorial hopefuls were represented at our Lincoln Day Dinner. I also updated their financial picture and checked out where some stood on restoring our manufacturing and on taxation.

Meanwhile, I attended my last state Republican convention for the 2010-14 term in Bethesda, writing about it in two parts with some leftovers.

In not-so-political news, I followed up on the local story about our teachers’ union which I again updated with some not-so-shocking developments as May began. The state version of the teachers’ union also staked its support of two local candidates.

The manufacturing thread I had began in previous months took my site in a new direction with an exciting new opportunity for me – and the grand opening party was fun, too.

I looked at a day in the life of a couple campaigns and speculated on some polling data I was given, while making my first endorsement of the primary season. But my real emphasis was on voting records.

It’s also fun to look back at someone who tripped over a molehill. That post may have my sentences of the year:

I’d like to come out of the ground a couple years early and see that shovel shoved right back into Mike Miller’s face. Let’s show the arrogant bastards that we can win this state, and leave that little molehill as the pile of dirt we displaced in our resurrection.

In other news, I talked about a Memorial Day tradition of mine and some non-political pork. When it comes to ribs, I am generally there whether in Salisbury or Snow Hill, which helped to lead off my June coverage.

That month actually began early on the 1st as I wrapped up my post on our Republican gubernatorial debate at Salisbury University. Days later we learned two gubernatorial candidates would not receive public financing, which all but doomed their campaigns. Lost in that was a good commercial and even better platform summary, even if it wasn’t from the candidate I eventually endorsed.

The primary also marked the end of my own campaign, and although it wasn’t successful I had no regrets. And once Larry Hogan won, I trained my fire on the prospect of a free-spending Anthony Brown.

I also did my part to support the troops, and did a final update on Troopathon in July. That sort of went with my Independence Day message.

The party message for Maryland Republicans was unity, despite depressing poll numbers. And even though there was a diversion into race-based politics, the campaigns marshaled their supporters to a surprisingly pleasant summer tradition in Crisfield.

While the diversion into race-based politics was real, immigration in a fictional sense was the subject of one of my book reviews for the year.

With the primary over I finally got a chance to delve more deeply into subjects like energy security, ethanol, and so-called “dark money.” The latter two featured an otherwise obscure politician I’ve taken in as a poster child for the loony left.

August reminded me of the spineless Republican establishment and a press with a lack of curiosity, one which keeps falling for diversions. Despite all that, the polls were beginning to look better and one Democrat crossed the aisle to endorse Larry Hogan.

Our Congressman had a townhall meeting here that I covered, and a local Delegate who could eventually desire that seat has at least a few fans.

Personally I would like to see an August event made year-round, at least here on the Eastern Shore. I also made the case about needing to bolster our lagging employment, and recounted an annual Wicomico County event.

The campaigns became more serious after Labor Day and September began, but first I had to select my Shorebird of the Year and rate my fan experience. It really kicked off the following weekend as we held an annual Republican Club tradition and opened a headquarters. Three weeks later we increased the intensity with a special Patriot’s Dinner featuring a nationally-known speaker. So while there was one deposed Delegate who felt the MDGOP wasn’t helping a candidate enough, I figured that as long as we didn’t have a sudden exodus things would be fine.

In fact, some were even looking ahead to 2016, with one potential candidate trying to rally people in the pulpit.

On a more personal level, I looked at 9/11 with a different perspective, one perhaps foreshadowed by my reaching the half-century mark.

October always brings two of my favorite events, as the Autumn Wine Festival and Good Beer Festival both take over Pemberton Park on consecutive weekends. While we didn’t attract a statewide candidate, the reaction at our booth mirrored the polls that improved during the month.

One local race I focused on was the District 38 race, as I (and others) questioned the rhetoric and record of Senator Jim Mathias, who hasn’t always been an ally in the “War on Rural Maryland.” Meanwhile, another race brought statewide firepower, but a number of candidates were featured in a forum sponsored by our newest newspaper. All this for my impassioned plea to local voters.

But the most uplifting event may have been one I attended for the first time, a dinner and fundraiser for a good cause – that of life.

Without a doubt, the highlight of November was the election, where we found out a lot of hard work paid off. Beforehand, though, I wrote my political will and in the aftermath, I opined that early voting isn’t worth the expense.

The glow of victory, though, gave me the opportunity to wax eloquent on an ambitious manufacturing goal and putting the right people in charge of both the levers of the state government and state Republican Party. I also highlighted just how loony my left-wing poster child can get.

Even in the days after the election – before any winners were even sworn in – we had candidates lining up for the next one.

After the election I also hit a milestone, which came less than a month before the December anniversary of this site. The early part of the month also yielded one of my favorite annual posts as I added another member to the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame.

But as a county we made a transition for the first time, an event which featured a special guest. No such transition was made by the state GOP, though, which re-elected a Chairman for the first time in a long time. One reason the election went so well was money from a Congressional benefactor, one who ran into much criticism in the last few days.

Policy was back on the front burner, from phosphorus regulations in our state to a renewed push for populism from my favorite quotable leftist. Their month was made by a Presidential entrant, although a former candidate was vindicated thanks to market events.

And besides the upcoming look at 2015, my last link comes from the music I liked from 2014.

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I had a very hard time culling all 400+ posts I did in 2014 to a highlight reel of about 120 – at one point I was on a pace to place over 200 links before I did some editing of some things I liked but didn’t make the cut. As I noted in my anniversary post, this year was my best ever in readership so I must have done something right.

As I noted a long way above, I will now provide a look forward to 2015 at the county, state, and national levels. It should be fun.

monoblogue music: 2014′s top 5

December 27, 2014 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off 

From March to November I had a regular feature where I reviewed new and recently-released music by request. (Right now this feature is on a hiatus, but I’m thinking it comes back in 2015.) Most lists at this time of year are a top 10, but since I only reviewed about 20 releases the cream of the crop would seem to me to be the top five.

So without further ado, what did I like best in 2014?

5. “The Last of the Originals” by Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders

Original review: August 30.

While the album veers into country territory because it’s Roberts’ ambition to make it big in that genre, there’s enough other influence shown to please fans of country-tinged rockers like the Eagles or Neil Young. That willingness not to sound just like everyone else on the country Top 40 chart sets Billy apart from the rest, even moreso than his lack of a Southern twang. This is despite the fact he’s far more southern than most as Billy is an Australian native.

It will be interesting to see what Billy does to follow this release up. Unlike a lot of other musicians, he seems to be social media-shy so I’m not sure just what is on tap for him in 2015. Perhaps he’s one of those who will remain true to his craft and do the music he likes.

4. “Moanin’ at Midnight: The Howlin’ Wolf Project” by Tomas Doncker Band

Original review: May 24.

One of two releases I reviewed from this band, which seems to spend all its time playing, recording, and helping out other regional artists, the tribute to bluesman Howlin’ Wolf scored with both the remakes of classic blues tracks and the couple originals added in the same vein. Most of the songs are familiar, but this new spin paid a good tribute.

The band continues to thrive in their native New York City area, which was the subject of their other release I reviewed later called “Big Apple Blues.” Their frenetic pace looks to continue in 2015 as the True Groove family of bands has a lot up their sleeve, according to the band’s Facebook page.

3. “Insubordia” by The Lost Poets

Original review: July 19.

This is an album I actually took time to listen to a few times after I reviewed it because I enjoyed it so much, probably because it fit closest to my favorite genres. So the only reason it fell to number 3 on my list was the fact it only had four real songs. It would have been interesting to have a few more songs to see where they could take their sound.

As it turns out, there is a little bit more from them as we enter 2015. A few days ago The Lost Poets put out a single called Mouth that stays true to their slow grunge roots. I took a listen (it’s on their Soundcloud page) and was relatively impressed – whether this is a one-off or intended to be the bridge to a larger project will be something to watch as the new year develops.

As for the top two, I could almost flip a coin. Both are good in their own right, and I’ve gone back and forth on the order. But I decided to go this way after hearing both again.

2. “Turn the People” by Monks of Mellonwah

Original review: March 15.

This was the very first release I reviewed, and marks the second appearance of an Australian artist in my top 5. Monks of Mellonwah did a nice job of seamlessly shifting musical gears on this release, which was a compilation of three previous EPs into one full-length model. It led to a brief U.S. tour over the summer.

The band has ambitious plans for 2015, though, with a new release in the works and plans for another U.S. tour which could bring them a little closer to this area. The Monks appear to be on the cusp of commercial success which could vault it into the big leagues of household names in pop music.

1. “Diamonds & Demons” by Paul Maged

Original review: November 1.

Oddly enough, it’s my first and last reviews of the year that make up the top two, like bookends. But the deciding factor in picking Paul Maged as number one was, as I said in my initial take, “this is perhaps the best example of straight-ahead rock and roll I’ve come across.” Technical wizardry can make up for a lot of faults, but talent has its way of shining through in the end and I enjoyed listening to the album again.

Considering how many fires Paul has had his irons in over the years, it’s hard telling what direction he will take in 2015. I think he’s ready to take the next step musically, but the market and his hard work will do a lot to determine that as well.

As for this tiny little division of monoblogue, I’m hoping that it continues in 2015. I suspect that things will pick up again after the holidays and ideally I’ll have enough to do a full top 10 next year. Then again, though, five is definitely the cream of the crop so maybe I’ll stick with it.

Anyway, as I always say, go listen for yourself. The links are generally in the original reviews.

Looking backward and forward

December 26, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

Let’s face it: the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the forgotten time in the news cycle. So little of import happens that the news becomes retrospectives of the prior year and predictions of what may happen in the next. I’ve found the reason this works so well is that many of the newsmakers go on their own extended holiday, so no one is really in a position to create hard news.

So over the next few days between now and the New Year I’ve lined up reprisals of some of the features I enjoyed putting together at the end of last year, with one new addition. Tomorrow I will debut my top 5 list for monoblogue music, and Sunday I’ll put up the year in review for my site.

Turning to 2015, Monday through Wednesday will be a look forward at what I think will be some of the things to watch for in 2015, as well as thoughts on how some of what I foresaw in 2014 actually came out.

Believe it or not, though, these are some of the more time-consuming posts I do over the course of a year – I spent parts of several days putting together my year in review piece, for example. You now have a glimpse of the subject matter, so what will draw you in is what I have to say about it.

Stay tuned.

A monoblogue year in review

Having a holiday schedule based on Wednesday holidays seems to play havoc with the news cycle, as there’s not much going on with Maryland politics right now. By the time the holiday hangover is done, it’s the weekend.

So over the next four days I’m going to provide for you a look back and look forward. As part of that, tonight’s post will be the look back, with some of the highlights of my political coverage – and a couple other items tossed in for fun as well. This is the first time I’ve tried this, so I’ll see how it goes.

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The year began, as it always does, in January. As will be the case even moreso this year, political fundraising was in the news as there was a surprise leader in the gubernatorial money race on the GOP side. Another highlight of the month was a spirited and enlightening discussion of state issues at the Wicomico Society of Patriots meeting – something all too infrequent this year, unfortunately.

But the highlight of the month was my two-part coverage of the Turning the Tides conference in Annapolis. which had a plethora of good speakers and discussion. It was so good I had to post separately on the morning and afternoon events.

In February my attention was turned to several topics, particularly providing coverage of the financing and the events surrounding the Salisbury municipal elections, for which the primary was February 26th. A key issue brought up was a state mandate for the city to help pay for cleanup of Chesapeake Bay, to the tune of $19 million a year.

Another state mandate took center stage in February, as the Wicomico County Council held a Tier Map forum to find out citizens weren’t exactly enamored with the idea. As part of that I read from my written testimony on a Tier Map repeal bill, which wasn’t the only testimony I wrote – I also put in my two cents on the gun grab bill.

We also found out that month that the Maryland GOP would get new leadership following the resignation of Chair Alex Mooney.

March found me continuing my coverage of the Salisbury city elections, but only backing one candidate. More important were local developments on the state level, where the Second Amendment was a hot topic for a local townhall meeting and our county’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

But the highlight for me, by far, was my day at CPAC. That turned out to be a two-part set of posts.

As the area began to wake up from a winter slumber in April, so did the political world as it turned from the General Assembly session to the 2014 campaign. The Salisbury city elections went as expected, so I turned my attention to the race for state party chair. Interim Chair Diana Waterman ran a campaign which was at times embroiled in some controversy, but prevailed on enough supporters to make it through the lengthy grind of campaign forums (including one in Cambridge on the eve of the state convention) and win the remainder of Alex Mooney’s unexpired term. But even the convention itself had its share of ups and downs, particularly a chaotic ending and a rebuff to new media.

While that was happening, the 2014 election was beginning to take shape, with familiar names both trying their luck again and trying for a promotion. Others had interesting endorsements as feathers in the cap.

But it wasn’t all political in April. The outdoor season began with two local mainstays: Pork in the Park and the Salisbury Festival. I also found out I was immortalized on video thanks to Peter Ingemi, better known as DaTechGuy.

Those things political slowed down in May, with just a little reactionary cleanup to the state convention to begin the month, along with other reaction to the recently-completed General Assembly session. In its wake we also had turnover in Maryland House of Delegates GOP leadership.

But one prospective candidate for governor announced other intentions, leaving another to confirm what we knew all along.

On the fun side, I enjoyed Salisbury’s Third Friday celebration with some friends and stopped by to see them at another barbecue festival, too.

June began with a visit from gubernatorial candidate David Craig, who stopped by Salisbury and in the process gave me an interview. And while he didn’t make a formal tour, fellow Republican Ron George made sure to fill me in on his announcement and establish tax cutting bonafides. We also picked up a Republican candidate for an important local seat and found out political correctness pays in the Maryland business world.

A local doctor gave us his perspective on Obamacare and our area celebrated the chicken in June, too. I also learned of a special honor only a handful of political websites received.

As is often the case, our wallets became a little lighter in July. In the aftermath, we found out who David Craig picked as a running mate and welcomed both of them to our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. I also talked about another who was amassing a support base but hadn’t made definite 2014 plans at the time.

On the other side of the coin, we found the Democratic field was pressing farther away from the center, a place the GOP was trying to court with the carrot of primary voting. Meanwhile, the political event of the summer occurred in Crisfield, and I was there.

There were some interesting developments in the new media world as well – a plea for help, a shakeup in local internet radio, and my annual monoblogue Accountability Project all came down in July.

The big news in August was the resignation of State Senator E.J. Pipkin, and the battle to succeed him. And while one gubernatorial candidate dropped out, another made his intentions formal and stopped by our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting as well. Even Ron George stopped by our fair county, although I missed him.

It seemed like the gubernatorial campaign got into full swing in September – Charles Lollar announced in an unusual location, the Brown/Ulman Democratic team came here looking for money, Ron George tangled with Texas governor Rick Perry and showed up to make it three Wicomico County Republican Club meetings in a row with a gubernatorial candidate, and Doug Gansler decided to drop by, too. On the other side, Michael Steele took a pass. I also talked about what Larry Hogan might do to fill out the puzzle.

Those up the Shore made news, too. Steve Hershey was the survivor who was appointed State Senator, and I attended the First District Bull Roast for the first time. I’ve been to many Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feasts, but this year’s was very successful indeed.

September also brought the close of our local baseball season. As is tradition I reviewed the season, both to select a Shorebird of the Year and hopefully improve the fan experience.

October was a month I began considering my choice in the gubernatorial race. That became more difficult as Larry Hogan took an unusual trip for a businessman and Charles Lollar’s campaign worked on self-immolation, while Doug Gansler needed his own damage control.

I also had the thought of going back to the future in Maryland, but a heavy dose of my political involvement came with the tradtional closing events to our tourist season, the Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival.

Most of November was spent anticipating the Maryland GOP Fall Convention; in fact, many were sure of an impending announcement. Honestly, both may have fallen into the category of “dud.” But all was not lost, as the month gave me the chance to expound on manufacturing and share some interesting polling data.

Finally we come to December. While the month is a long runup to the Christmas holiday, I got the chance to again expound on manufacturing and come up with another radical idea for change. We also got more proof that our state government is up for sale and those who are running for governor place too much stock in internet polling. My choice is still up in the air, even after compiling an 11-part dossier on the Republicans currently in the race.

Locally, we found a good candidate to unseat a long-time incumbent who has long ago outlived his political usefulness. And the incumbent will need to watch his back because Maryland Legislative Watch will be back again to keep an eye on him and his cohorts. I’ll be volunteering for a second year,

And while I weighed in on the latest national diversion from the dreary record of our President and his party, I maintained two December traditions, remarking on eight years of monoblogue and days later inducting two new players into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame.

You know, it was fun going down memory lane for 2013. But tomorrow it will be time to look forward, beginning with the local level.

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