The bite of inflation

Let’s begin 2022 by talking about an issue that has bullied its way into our national consciousness in the past year, inflation. All of us are paying more for various items, but in my case it’s measured with a quirky but useful yardstick.

I have a Friday lunch routine that began a couple years ago. In my “real” job I work four nine-hour days Monday to Thursday and have a four-hour Friday, meaning my weekend generally begins at lunchtime on Friday. So to start my weekend I go to Chick-Fil-A and order the same thing each week: a spicy deluxe meal with a side salad in lieu of the fries and a diet Dr. Pepper. (In and of itself, that’s a routine because it’s about the only time I drink Dr. Pepper. The one thing I don’t like about Chick-Fil-A is that they pour Coke products and I’m a Pepsi guy from way back.)

Because I always get the same thing, I know exactly how much it will cost before they ring it up. Thus, I was surprised a few weeks back when the number increased for the second time this year – sure enough, a look at my old bank statements confirmed this. Back in April that combo set me back $8.93, and over the summer it went up to $9.29, which was the number I was expecting. Instead, they told me it was $9.89!

Doing some hasty public school math with my phone’s calculator, the first increase was 4.03% while the second was 6.46%. Combined, in the space of about six or seven months, the price for my meal went up 10.75% – that’s pretty steep, because I don’t recall my income going up 10.75%. (I did get a raise in 2021, but not that much.)

Of course, there are costs involved, and the restaurant wants to stay profitable. So the increase has to be passed along to the consumer somehow, and since CFA hasn’t been cutting corners on the food they’re forced to charge more for it.

First and foremost, the smiling lady behind the Chick-Fil-A counter almost certainly has a higher wage now than she did when the year began, as do all her behind-the-scenes helpers. More importantly, the cost of the raw materials have gone up as chicken isn’t so cheap anymore, nor is produce or bread for the bun. It costs more to power all the food service equipment required to bring my sandwich and salad to my waiting hands.

But our nation got used to inflation that ran maybe 1-2%, meaning we might see just a modest increase every year. Now that we have so much funny money floating about, however, we got saddled with two significant hikes in six months. (And yes, I realize all this started with the last president. But he only did one stimmy, in reaction to the forced shutdown of “non-essential” businesses and complete revision of the service model for restaurants like CFA. In and of itself that was a gross overreaction, but I digress…)

Obviously I’m diving into the anecdotal here, but as a busy family we eat out a lot: usually three to four times a week for dinner. So we are attuned to the steady rise in prices that’s seemingly accelerated since the CCP virus began to take its toll on the restaurant industry and its players almost two years ago. It doesn’t matter if they’re chains like Chick-Fil-A or Texas Roadhouse or local restaurants such as Laurel Pizzeria, Pizza King, or La Tolteca in Salisbury – every time we go there it seems some of the prices have gone up a quarter here and 50 cents there. We get that costs are going up and food service is a brutal business model right now, but there has to be an end somewhere.

Perhaps if we stop with this artificial stimulation of the economy where valueless dollars are printed, we can eventually get back to that nice, predictable, and steady 1-2% annual increase (and bring back the period of not so long ago where wage increases were faster than inflation.) Otherwise, my over/under on my Friday lunchtime meal by the end of this new year is $11.50. Any takers?

We can make a partial course correction in 10 months. Hopefully some inspiring candidates for said change will step forth in the interim here in Delaware.

Digging out of the archives

This could have been saved for the next odds and ends post, but instead I decided it was a nice post for a slow time of year anyway. And, believe it or not, the information is actually useful for my blogging purposes.

This was the e-mail I received a few days ago. I couldn’t quote the whole thing because WordPress is funny about blockquoting lists, so judicious editing was applied:

Hello Michael,

I trust you and your loved ones are healthy and safe at this most unusual time.

I’m writing because you cited (a website, not the one he’s pitching for) here on Monoblogue.

(snip to excise list)

You can learn more (at a site, which I will get to.)

Do you think Monoblogue readers would find our guide helpful? If so, would you please insert a link for your readers? 

Either way, thank you for your consideration, Michael.

Best wishes,

Joel

Yes, another e-mail beseeching me to do something I may or probably don’t feel like doing. This guy was lucky.

Joel almost blew it when he laid it on oh-so-thick:

PS. (our site) was recently featured on Huffington Post & CNBC, and it’d make my day to see it on Monoblogue, too 😉

Yes, that’s his postscript.

Besides the fact that I’m being mentioned in the same breath as Huffington Post and CNBC, the reason I had to laugh was the post he cited. It’s a piece I wrote a decade ago during the 2012 presidential campaign as one of my endorsement selection posts. While this isn’t a #TBT, just for the fun of it here is what I wrote at the time about the eventual GOP nominee:

Mitt Romney shrewdly addresses energy independence in his “job creation” category. But terms like “government must be a partner,” “facilitate,” and “address market failures” don’t convince he wants a conservative, small-government solution. We see what kind of “partner” government has become, and it’s not government’s job to interfere with the market. And believing climate change is caused by mankind is a nonstarter. I’m deducting three points.

“For President 2012: Energy independence,” July 10, 2011.

At the time I was torn between endorsing Michele Bachmann and the late, great Herman Cain. Anyway, if Joel Foster is reading this, and despite the fact I appreciate his patronage of my site, I have to think he needs a hobby.

Yet in all this dross there was a little bit of gold. Joel wrote me on behalf of commodity.com, which is a little bit like another site I feature here called ammo.com – they sell a product or service, but also feature lots of reading material in their blog. And the story he pitched has an angle that concerns Delaware, thus succeeding in piquing my interest.

In it, I learned that certain states use more renewable energy than others. In fact, ultra-liberal Vermont should be proud of themselves because they receive 99.9% of their electricity from renewables. Now, before you imagine the charming fall landscape of Vermont littered with solar panels and wind turbines, it’s worth mentioning that hydroelectric generation is also counted as renewable and that’s where they receive most of that 99.9%. In fact, that’s the source for the top six states on the list, with seventh-place Iowa checking in with 59.4%, predominantly from wind. (I actually posted on situations that helped create this wind energy figure several winters ago.)

On the other hand, guess which state is at the very bottom of the list? Yep, that would be the First State, with a measly 2.5% of electricity created by renewables and the fifth-slowest growth rate in the last five years. Expressed in megawatt hours, Delaware produces the least by a factor of four behind the second-lowest generator (Rhode Island) and less than one-tenth that of the 48th ranked state in terms of production, Connecticut. Like a lot of states at the bottom, our leading contributor is biomass. (And the geniuses in Dover think they can get to some figure like 40 percent by 2035 or whenever? Dream on.)

A look at each leading source is interesting. Six states, including Delaware, have biomass as their leading renewable source, while 18 states are listed as hydroelectric, seven as solar thermal and photovoltaic, and the remaining 19 as wind. If you looked at it on a map, the Midwest is pronounced wind country, and hydroelectric rules the northwest, northeast, and Tennessee River valley. Meanwhile, solar rules the southwest and Florida but surprisingly picks off a few other states along the Atlantic coast, including New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Before I summarize the information at hand, I have a comment about the commodity.com blogsite. Unfortunately, while the blogging content on ammo.com comes primarily from a single, talented writer who works with a pro-liberty mindset like mine, a lot of what goes on commodity.com is writeups based on lists like the one I cite – a list of states and ranks in a particular area of interest, expanded to a paragraph or so on the top ten or fifteen states, including the list at the end. It’s the sort of work for which a content mill gives the article author a few dollars if he or she is lucky. (Or, even worse, they do it for “exposure.” That and five bucks will get you five bucks.) In looking at their author list, they seem to be a collection of small-time writers who may have other day jobs, or perhaps wish they did. It’s like paint-by-numbers for the written word.

As for Delaware, I guess it’s our lot to be at the bottom of the renewable list. We have too much cloudiness and haze during the year to be consistent solar producers and not enough steady wind onshore for wind energy. (Offshore wind has to be mindful of shipping lanes into Delaware Bay.) Unless we can make wattage out of chicken poop, we are basically stuck where we are – and that’s okay, because all those sources cited as renewable come in an arbitrary and capricious manner. (Hydroelectric is probably closest to reliable unless we have a severe drought.) I wouldn’t mind them doing the seismic exploration off the Delaware shore to site a couple test wells for oil or natural gas, but that’s not going to happen with our shortsighted state government insisting we depend more and more on unreliable sources of electricity. We can also see if there’s anything to having natural gas in the Delmarva Basin below us, but the anti-fracking zealots won’t allow that either.

Finally, one other interesting tidbit: at the end of the e-mail I found out this is a Delaware-based company – at least legally, since the address cited is that of Registered Agents Legal Services, LLC. It’s in an otherwise non-descript office building in the suburban area of Wilmington. Chances are their energy isn’t coming from a renewable source.

China as the Pandora’s box

This was the piece I alluded to in my odds and ends post that was promoted. As you’ll see, it’s more than a few paragraphs’ worth of thought.

A few weeks ago I was reminded of something by a familiar group, the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Their missive that day was that China was about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its ascension into the World Trade Organization, and needless to say AAM didn’t see it as an occasion worth celebrating. Quoting their longtime President Scott Paul:

It’s pat nowadays to point out how badly America’s political elites got China’s entry into the WTO wrong. But it’s astounding to reflect on just how wrong they were.

We were told that China would open its market to U.S. companies to sell their products. Instead, China has largely left its market closed, and those who are able to do business there must hand over their intellectual property in return.

We were told that China would play by the rules of global trade. Instead, time and time again, China has broken those rules, largely without consequence, costing millions of American jobs.

We were told that China would liberalize, moving from a planned economy and authoritarian state to a free market and a democracy. Instead, China has used central economic planning to dominate global industries and is now exporting its totalitarian model around the world. People are arguably less free in China now than they were 20 years ago, something that is certainly true in places like Hong Kong and Xinjiang, where China’s government is overseeing a genocide. 

Yes, it was a mistake for the U.S. to vote to allow China to join the WTO. But, while we can’t go back to 2001, we can begin to right the wrongs of 20 years ago.

Scott Paul, President, Alliance for American Manufacturing

If you thought it was bad twenty years ago, imagine the fateful decision made fifty years ago to allow President Nixon to visit China. At the time, though, Nixon’s visit (the first by an American President to the People’s Republic of China) was more about keeping peace, since the Vietnam War was ongoing and Korean War wasn’t all that far in the rearview mirror.

Getting to know each other better will reduce the possibility of miscalculation and that we have established, because we do have an understanding. And I know them, and they know me. And, I hope that would be true of whoever happens to be sitting in this office in the future. That means that there will be talking and rather than having that, that, uh, inevitable road, uh, of suspicion and miscalculation, which could lead to war. A miscalculation which, incidentally, led to their intervention in Korea, which might have been avoided had there been this kind of contact at that time.

Richard Nixon, February 29, 1972

Somewhere in the next decade or so, though, China began to realize that one way of improving their standard of living (and keeping hundreds of millions of peasants out of starvation) was to adopt a limited amount of capitalism by becoming the world’s manufacturer. Their three key assets were very cheap labor, a willingness to build factories to suit overseas interests without the need to worry about those pesky domestic environmental laws, and reasonably-priced shipping to the American market. A few years later, the hollowing out of American manufacturing was well underway as a stream of manufacturing jobs flowed across the Pacific from Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Erie, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee, and other Rust Belt communities. In essence, Paul’s indictment of China is correct.

Yet while some amount of manufacturing has indeed left China for greener pastures around the globe, they remain the predominant widget maker for the world. You pretty much can’t shop for anything anywhere without running across a product bearing those three infamous words, “Made in China.” Not only that, they’re tightening the noose on the rest of us because they’ve cornered the market on a number of valuable rare earth commodities, including those we left behind in Afghanistan – they quickly filled that vacuum, as they have in a number of other places where they’ve taken advantage of Third World debtor nations. Just like when a Mafia don does a favor for you, someday that deed will have to be repaid with a lot of interest.

And since I have an aversion to dealing with nations that point missiles at us, I’ve made it a priority on this site to promote “made in America.” Why else would I keep tabs on a group backed by the steelworkers’ union?

(There’s a bit of good news on the “Made in America” front, though – we may have one of the world’s largest deposits of lithium within our shores, if the environmentalists don’t find a way to derail its mining. Battery manufacturers would like that.)

I used to be a free trader, and perhaps at some distant time I may become so again. But that day will only come when everyone plays by the same rules and can be trusted, and China fails both those tests. In short – and it’s definitely against my nature to think and say this, but it has to be said – they’re lying Communist sacks of shit who would like nothing better than to stab us in the back and should be treated accordingly.

Perhaps if we hadn’t opened that Pandora’s box a half-century ago, China would still be struggling to feed their hungry, we might not be dealing with the Wuhan flu, and there may still be thousands of American factories in operation. But short-sightedness and greed seems to have won the day, much to our detriment.

Odds and ends number 108

It’s an end-of-year special on my e-mail box as I go out with the old and in with the new. You know the drill: I give you a paragraph or three on subjects that pique my interest enough to write on but not enough for a full post.

The two-tier Delaware system

I’m going to start out this one with part of an e-mail blast I received several weeks back from District 36 representative Bryan Shupe, the opening paragraphs of which read:

The debate over whether indicted State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness should resign or take a leave of absence from her post highlights a larger systematic failure on the issue of government accountability and transparency in Delaware.

Over the last 18 months, we have seen five Delaware elected officials accused of misconduct. While every citizen should find this disturbing, almost as troubling is that each case has been treated differently. As it stands, legislators pick and choose which colleagues will be held accountable and which ones will be subject to a lesser standard.

I do not believe justice is something that should be decided on an arbitrary sliding scale, based on the personal whims of legislators or the political affiliation of the accused. There should be clear protocols for handling all cases of official misconduct involving elected officials in an equitable fashion.

“Reform is needed to rebuild public trust,” State Rep. Bryan Shupe, October 28, 2021.

Indeed, the double- and even triple-standard is troubling, but all of the circumstances are different, too. In the case of McGuiness, the accusations are damning but she hasn’t had her day in court yet, either. (And to be honest, these charges aren’t really on a Cuomo level. Ask yourself just how many Democrats somehow finagle taxpayer-paid sinecures for their family and friends.) And the rumor has been floating around out there that this batch of dirt was dug up on her because her auditing is getting too close for comfort for those who have taken full advantage of the Delaware Way, if ya know what I mean – wink wink, nudge nudge.

You may also recall Shupe was the sponsor of a voting bill that got left on the cutting room floor after Republicans came to their senses and bounced the Democrats’ mail-in balloting bill last spring. Shupe’s common sense bill was intended to eliminate a practice where, in some municipalities (including Laurel) the voter registration for town elections is separate from those of state and federal elections – so people who think they are registered get shut out of the process. I had never heard of such a thing so this proposal made sense and deserved support, not a three-year-old’s tantrum.

Bad information

About the same time I got Shupe’s assessment of a two-tiered justice system, I got wind of a two-tiered media system.

A piece by Michael Watson of the Capital Research Center discussed the Good Information project, an attempt by far-left entities to open new media markets with websites that claim to be “non-partisan” but will provide a steady diet of pro-Democrat news. (Just like every other “mainstream” media outlet.) Here’s the money paragraph:

As part of the creation of Good Information, the group is acquiring McGowan’s former liberal agitprop network, Courier Newsroom. Courier Newsroom was a front for ACRONYM, operating what the left-leaning OpenSecrets called “a network of websites emulating progressive local news outlets. Courier has faced scrutiny for exploiting the collapse of local journalism to spread ‘hyperlocal partisan propaganda.’”

Michael Watson, “Onetime Disinformation Donors Back Left-Wing Propaganda Targeting Disinformation,” Capital Research Center, October 28, 2021.

I took a look at Courier Newsroom and it’s actually a professional-looking site that links to eight subsites – all in swing states: Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Their tagline is that they’re “Building a more informed, engaged, and representative America” but in order to do that they need to pull themselves off the left gutter and move over about 20 boards. (A little bowling lingo there. Sometimes straighter IS greater.)

Meanwhile, shouldn’t this be something someone on the right side of the spectrum would be doing? People actually believe these propaganda sites.

Another great piece by Watson appeared in The Daily Signal in November and should be required reading for my friends at Patriots for Delaware because it talks about how the unions elect school board members.

Hitting me where I live

This one comes ohsoclose to being promoted to its own post, but I think I can condense like Readers Digest. Here’s the key pull quote from a story I saw back in October.

On Sept. 16, 2021, Delaware lawmakers unveiled a plan to address a much-needed infrastructure improvement project – implementing high-speed broadband across the entire state. This $110 million investment was made possible with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and if completed will make Delaware the first in the nation to make wired broadband available to every home and business in the state.

(snip)

With the proper guidelines in place, getting to 100 percent connectivity is a reasonable goal. The strategic plan estimates that the number of Delawareans without access to high-speed broadband could be brought down by approximately 87 percent if providers were to extend their existing networks just half a mile from their current cutoff points. This approach is called “edge-out.” This approach lends itself to utilizing multiple means of connecting through cable, fiber, fixed wireless, mobile, wireline DSL, and satellite broadband. The plan also suggests using the funding to replace old and failing equipment to ensure that the investment is something that will benefit all Delaware residents for years to come.

Kathleen Rutherford, “The Last Mile: Can Delaware Deliver?”, A Better Delaware, October 29, 2021.

We are a family who is in a broadband desert. Currently I oscillate between a cellular tower-based service provider and phone hotspot depending on time of day and conditions – in the evening the hotspot tends to be faster. We live too far from a Bloosurf tower for it to be viable and, to be honest, our friends who live near their tower say their service is about worthless anyway.

Prior to this move, we had wired service through a cable provider, paying for it as part of a bundle. But there is a wrinkle out here in that we have Delaware Electric Co-Op as our electricity provider and I found out that Choptank Electric Co-Op, which has a similar customer makeup two miles from me across the border in Maryland, offers “broadband over fiber optic connections directly to the home.” So I asked my state representative, Tim Dukes, about this and so far I have no answer.

As far as I’m concerned, for a home internet setup “fixed wireless, mobile, wireline DSL, and satellite broadband” is trash. If you want to spend the $110 million wisely, let DEC (which primarily serves a rural area) wire our homes like Choptank is doing.

The merger

Longtime readers of mine probably know more about iVoterGuide than the average person. The group, which rates federal and state candidates for office from a Biblical perspective, recently announced it was merging itself with American Family Association Action. Debbie Wuthnow, President of iVoterGuide, explained that, “The need for voters to know accurate information about candidates on their ballots has never been greater, and the merger will allow iVoterGuide to immediately expand our coverage to include federal, statewide, and state legislative races in 35 states for the 2022 Primary Elections.  And we’ll continue to grow our coverage of judicial and school board races in key districts.”

As I found out a few years ago in helping them out – a “neat experience” – iVoterGuide is very thorough in their assessment of candidates and they do a reasonably good job of pegging where they stand on the political spectrum. So I wish them the best of luck with their merger, and if they need someone to help assess their Delaware candidates I’m happy to be of assistance.

More advice

I’m sure I have told you about ammo.com since their content pops up on this site from time to time, usually as an odd or an end. So I guess I have an imitator, at least according to this e-mail I’ve now received twice.

Monoblogue,

I came across your blog while doing a little research on a couple of Maryland’s gun laws, and your blog popped in my newsfeed. I appreciate many of your political views. As a Trump supporter, I thought (redacted) would be a good resource for (my site). The recoil score it provides is pretty cool. Haven’t seen it before. Do you shoot? I appreciated your content. 

More fun e-mail.

Jordan, yes, I received your e-mail. Twice.

I’m glad you appreciate many of my political views, but I don’t think the resource is really something I can use. Now if we’re talking paid advertising or sponsorship from the overarching site, well, that’s a different conversation. (Since I’m probably not in line for that Soros money discussed by Michael Watson above.) And to answer your question, I do shoot off my mouth (rhetorically) all the time.

So since I have closed up the e-mail box now (it’s much more streamlined) I can tell you there is one other item in it, but that one is getting a coveted promotion to a full post because I think I can do it further justice. That may be one of my last items of the year before I figure out my annual Christmas message and compile the year in review – can you believe it’s that time?

With that, I bring this odd year of odds and ends to an end.

An idea for Black Friday

I’ve talked about this many times in the past, so much so that it’s become a holiday tradition of its own. But Black Friday is always a good time to bust out this sampling of Made in America gifts from each state, courtesy of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

For the eighth year in a row, AAM has put out this list of American-made products.

Obviously you’re not going to get the big-screen TV or cool electronic gadget from these small companies, but there is an array of stocking stuffers and specialty items that can be useful year-round, most of it hand-crafted by individual entrepreneurs. In fact, this year’s Delaware offerings fall into the jewelry category, featuring what’s called “wire-wrapped jewelry around stones, sea glass and other beach treasures” as well as a bonus company that sells “a large catalog of eye-catching rings.”

It’s a statement I’m going to play with in a moment, but AAM President Scott Paul reminds us that, “This (supply chain) crisis is a reminder about why it’s so important for our national and economic security that the United States is able to make stuff right here at home. Buying your holiday gifts from this guide is a good way to support companies doing the right thing – and show others they can make money manufacturing here at home, too.” They’re even doing a Cyber Monday webinar featuring a few of these artisans, although it’s not really conducive to working stiffs, being that it’s a mid-day webinar.

The parent term Black Friday has become so ubiquitous to retail that it’s spawned several new variations – we have Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday now. Except for the latter, which is devoted to charity, each of these terms most likely describes the companies defined in the Holiday Gift Guide – small businesses that do most (if not all) their business online and depend on people’s gift giving for their livelihood. (Let’s face it – aside from the satisfaction quotient, do you really need jewelry? I own one piece, and that’s my plain wedding ring.)

Since the AAM began soliciting ideas for their Holiday Gift Guide back in October, though, there are some places for whom the concept wouldn’t work as personalized gifts require longer lead times. As one example, Brent Zockoll is a good friend of mine – locals to the Salisbury area are most likely familiar with his company, Zockoll Pottery. And while he has a collection of available items, a lot of his work is contract work, made in batches, so he’s not the best fit for the Guide. But he is a small businessman, making stuff in the rural environs of Parsonsburg, Maryland – which, last time I checked, was part of America – whose livelihood has become slinging clay, not keeping a bricks-and-mortar shop open. (Once in awhile though, and especially around the holidays, his studio becomes a retail outlet – check his social media for details.)

I look at it this way: the more things we produce and buy in America, the less we have to depend on nations who maybe can’t stand our freedom because their religion prohibits it or countries who have nuclear missiles pointed our way. Yes, we live in a world dependent on trade, but I’d rather be the one in the most powerful position so we can maintain our freedom. That’s the biggest gift of all.

Odds and ends number 107

This will be a little shorter than some, but I thought it was a good time to clear out the mailbox and give you some good reading.

All solar and wind is all wrong

Recently I got an e-mail from the Caesar Rodney Institute that told me:

Proposed legislation nationally and in some states would establish a requirement 100% of electricity be generated from “renewable” sources such as wind and solar power. This policy will lead to unacceptable electric price increases and blackouts. 

100% Wind and Solar. 100% WRONG.” Caesar Rodney Institute, October 8, 2021.

This goes in the category of “duh” for me, but apparently some states are thinking they can pull this off – and in principle, perhaps they can. But there is a big problem with the reality, to wit:

When we look at states from Virginia to Maine, with some of the most aggressive requirements for wind and solar power along with taxes on emissions from power plants, we see two disturbing trends. One is more reliance on imported power. The Virginia plan drops reliable power generation from 95% now to 45% in 2035, and imports from other states grow from 25% to 40%. The RGGI states have increased imports from 5% in 2008 to 17% in 2019. Electricity exporting states are also under pressure to reduce conventional power generation. Pennsylvania’s Governor Wolf would like to cut generation by 30% by 2030, which would end exports. Massachusetts is importing 57% of its power, Delaware 50%. It is likely there will be very little export power available, requiring each state to generate 100% in state.

Ibid.

The second part is the government-created market for so-called “renewable energy credits” (read: mechanism for wealth transfer.) I like looking at farm fields, not 600-foot tall wind turbines (that would make all of us sick from the low-frequency noise) or acres of solar panels that might power a few hundred homes at peak efficiency, not twenty years down the line.

If I store a tankful of natural gas or a lump of coal for a time, it works pretty much as well as it would have when I put it there, at a cheaper price point. Let’s ditch these phony market mandates, shall we?

A Made in America call

My friends at the Alliance for American Manufacturing alerted me to this irony: those who created the CCP virus and allowed it to come to our shores are benefitting from dumping cheap N95 masks on our shores while American companies suffer.

At least that’s how James Wyner, the CEO of the Shawmut Corporation tells it. “We worked hard to create an American-made product that wasn’t dependent on foreign governments like China. We labored around-the-clock to get things up-and-running in 120 days, and created hundreds of new jobs in the process. Our masks received rave reviews for comfort and protection. Now Made in China imports are back.”

Interestingly, the tariff suspension was put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020 to deal with the spot shortage of PPE, but no one from the Biden regime has reinstated it. Wonder why?

One can say Wyner is living up to his name because there was always this risk, but we can substitute a lot of things for N95 masks that we should be making – including the aforementioned solar panels that are often made in China.

And since I’m talking about AAM, it’s worth reminding readers one of their annual programs is the Made in U.S.A. Holiday Gift Guide and it’s time for suggestions. Now that Halloween is just about in the rear view mirror, it’s time to start the stampede to Christmas. (Thanksgiving? What’s that?)

WTF is he thinking?

So did you know that AT&T is “by far the largest single funder of One America News”? Me neither. Just looking at it as an observer, maybe it has something to do with DirecTV, which AT&T owned until recently. And when I checked into the story, I found out it was true.

Okay, this is a problem why? (And full disclosure here: we are DirecTV subscribers and my package includes OANN. Can’t recall the last time I watched it, though – maybe immediately post-election?)

Well, the reason I bring this up is because Rick Weiland – miserably failed political candidate and my semi-correspondent loony leftist from the otherwise sane bastion known as South Dakota – sent me an e-mail demanding AT&T cut ties with OANN. Get a load of this rubbish:

Listen, the bottom line is clear: AT&T has not only been helping to spread disinformation about everything from the 2020 election to public safety during the pandemic, it’s also been instrumental in the success of Donald Trump’s favorite cable news channel while it continues to whitewash what happened on Jan. 6th.

AT&T needs to take bold action and join the fight against deadly disinformation — by cutting all ties with OAN. And (sic) your name to demand action now!

Unless AT&T hears from us — it will continue to fund the network that has fueled an insurrection, dozens of voter suppression bills, and the proliferation of disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“WTF is AT&T thinking?”, Rick Weiland, October 11, 2021.

Now I’m not crazy about DirecTV – it’s one of the few options I have for TV watching out here in God’s country – but when you consider the Reuters “investigation” comes down to a entrepreneur creating a product to address a market need, I shrug my shoulders on this one. I think Merrick Garland is doing far more to whitewash what happened on January 6th and Weiland isn’t asking us to kick him out of office.

And next week I expect an e-mail from Weiland condemning a recent attack on a federal building. Should I hold my breath for the call on people to drop their funding? Thought not.

If I want to watch the partisan media, my satellite brings me CNN, MSNBC, and so forth. Maybe we should do more to encourage a variety of viewpoints instead of shutting down those we don’t agree with. However, AT&T did hear from me recently: I sent in another month’s bill.

This one worries me a bit

I think this is more because I’m on a mailing list than being anything resembling a power blogger anymore, but I guess at least someone was thinking of me and it’s worth a few lines.

To avoid going all tl:dr on you, I’m just going to link to the Executive Summary of the 2022 Index of U.S. Military Strength from the Heritage Foundation. While I obviously have an interest in our nation remaining free and independent, I also have an interest in having several young men our stepdaughter knows from being classmates (in the same class as well as a few years ahead or behind) stay on this side of the grass as enlisted men. So judge this one for yourself.

Sunday evening reading

This is more for a particular author than for individual articles. And it all began with selling a book.

You may recall last year during the pandemic that I introduced people to a site called ammo.com. While they sell ammunition, I look at them now as a provider of a different kind of weaponry: potent arguments for limiting government and history you don’t find anywhere else. Where else can you find a retailer that sees deplatforming, righteousness, and the decline of civil society as topics worth discussing? (Being a former league bowler from a Rust Belt bowling town, the latter hit me where I live.)

It’s an alternate view of history and society complements of a writer named Sam Jacobs. If I were to bring back Ten Questions or do a podcast, he would be a subject because I’m curious how he got to a political point not all that far off of mine. They never told me how they liked Rise and Fall, but I do like hearing from their website each Friday.

Speaking of Friday, a programming note: I pushed it back a week because of website issues I was having, but the return of Weekend of Local Rock is now scheduled for the coming weekend. I may get a post in midweek if the mood strikes me (particularly with the offyear elections on Tuesday.) We will see.

But this should do for now, right? Mailbox is clean as a whistle.

Unify Delaware 2021 in pictures and text

Well, the stars aligned just so as the family obligation I thought was yesterday turned out to be next Saturday and my balky knees didn’t balk so walking around wasn’t too unpleasant. So Kim and I took the 45-minute drive across slower lower to Hudson Fields over Milton way to check out the first (hopefully first annual) Unify Delaware Festival.

Veterans of this site know how this works now: the photos get their own caption and help tell the story, although I may write a little more to move the narrative along. Fair warning: it’s a long post alert because I picked out 29 pictures.

Hudson Fields is probably better known as an outdoor concert venue, but the place provided plenty of room for the UDF. Photo by Kim Corkran.
Entering the Unify Delaware Festival it didn’t look like much, but it turned out well nonetheless.
For a first-time effort, the event had an impressive and broad list of sponsors.
Given the Patriots for Delaware slogan “Freedom in Unity” it’s no surprise that was the chosen theme.

Let me talk a moment about the sponsor. I saw some scuttlebutt planted by certain political operatives on social media questioning the motives and principles of Patriots for Delaware, with the scare quotes about them being an “anti-vax” and “anti-mask” group. Does “my body, my choice” only apply in situations when government coercion isn’t present? There were a few there in masks, and that was fine because it was their choice. Let’s work from that happy medium, shall we?

I’m going to move on with the post. In any event like this where one is present, the first place I go is to the car show. They had one – but when we got there, someone else was dropping in to check things out.

After the National Anthem was sung at noon, we had a skydiver drop in. They ended up auctioning off the flags later. Photo by Kim Corkran.
Want. I bet it’s a cool way to flatten stuff (besides pavement.)

Oh, they had more than cars there. Lots of construction implements, this above being one sample. Now we’ll do the cars, beginning with the overview below and then focusing on some beauties.

There were probably 40-50 cars in the show, which was pretty good turnout to me.
Of the group, this was probably my favorite – a first-generation Chevy Monte Carlo.
There were several Camaros there, but I always thought the Pontiac Firebird was a little cooler – even with the flames.
It’s almost Halloween, so why not have a designated driver? Better than the hearse on display down the line.
If there’s a little red truck, my wife will find it. It’s the same model year I am, but in a LOT better shape. Photo by Kim Corkran.
What is this thing?

It’s a Thing.

Yeah, I know it’s a thing, but what’s the car called?

I told you, it’s a Thing!

The Laurel and Hardy-type references can go on and on with this one. Thanks, Volkswagen. Someone also had a nice Karmann Ghia there.
If that wasn’t bad enough, we had cars in character. You can’t see the Darth Vader on the hood. Pity. Photo by Kim Corkran.
This guy wasn’t part of the car show, but the window was worthy of inclusion.
You’ll have to trust me because I try to avoid photographing kids, but we had the trifecta there: planes, trains (the little tram running around), and automobiles. I think they were taking very brave people up in this plane.

Thanks for indulging me on that one. There was a lot of other stuff going on, and I have a nose for finding certain people and groups.

This group is seeking a Convention of States to address term limits, a balanced budget, and government overreach. Problem is getting 34 states in our (supposedly) federalist republic to agree that’s a bug and not a feature.
They clustered the political groups together so people could stay away. (Just kidding – sort of.)

A little scoop about the Julianne Murray tent – according to the volunteer in her tent, Murray was not present because she was fundraising upstate. Part of the reason: she will have a primary opponent (read: stalking horse.)

There were quite a few vendors there. It wasn’t an overly expensive event to set up for (having done Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival in the past, by comparison this one was really affordable) so it was a strong showing for a first-time event.
A prime example of unity: tie-dye shirts. Or maybe my wife just liked them. Photo by Kim Corkran.
Sure, these were vendors, but the flags were placed in a sweet spot for photos.
This HAD to be a big seller. Photo by Kim Corkran.
Blessing or a curse? An event that drew hundreds of people only had two food vendors. I will say the Blue Ribbon Burger that came from SmashMouth (on the right) was a smash with me! Probably in my top 20 I’ve ever had, it was that good. The taco place (Tacos Mexigo) on the left looked like it had good stuff too, but they ran out of burritos and I like them better than tacos.
The kids had their own place to play as well. Bet there were a lot of tired little ones.
As predicted, I did not participate in the loosely organized cornhole tournament.
And if I can’t accurately toss a bean bag…well, are you kidding?
The organizers had their own space with information and various other ways to attract those dollars from your wallet. My finger was not part of it.
If you liked this sign, it was yours for the low price of $10.
It was a modest silent auction, but decent for a first-time event.
Later on, there was a live auction for several larger items. This design was one of the boards they used in the cornhole tournament.

You notice the stage there? Well, I have some good news: I get two posts out of this! After a extremely way too long hiatus, the Unify Delaware Festival provided me the occasion to bring back Weekend of Local Rock next week! So look for more pictures and text, and maybe some suggestions for their prospective repeat performance next fall – right in the middle of campaign season. Should be fun like this one was.

And to all the naysayers: you really, truly missed an opportunity to unify with a bunch of good people.

Thoughts on traveling to and through the land of DeSantis

In my last post I closed by saying I was going to take it easy for a few days. Well, it was definitely a white lie I uttered there because at the time it posted I was sitting (not so comfortably) on the AutoTrain heading south toward the outskirts of Orlando. So I was taking it easy but only as far as leaving some of the driving to others. (I did most of the driving in Florida, and dealing with Disney-area traffic is FAR from easy.)

I haven’t been to Florida since 2009, as the last time I saw my parents they visited me in Salisbury for my 50th birthday celebration. Seeing that being a blogger isn’t much for making a man wealthy, it took a long time for the stars to realign and allow for a long-anticipated return…fortunately, both my mom and dad are hanging in there as they’ve both passed the 80 barrier since I last saw them. Since we also took a day to visit Kassie’s half-brother and his significant other, it made for a week-long trip that spanned the state from the little bump along the Georgia border north of Jacksonville where the half-bro lives through the town of Sanford (where the Amtrak station for the AutoTrain is) to the orange groves along U.S. 27 downstate where my folks retired to 15 or so years ago.

In most instances, it seems like life is pretty much back to the pre-pandemic normal in Florida. People are out and about dining and going through life without the face diapers, the only exception being the motel in Sanford we stayed in the night before we boarded the AutoTrain back. (Seeing Orlando-area traffic, that was the best decision I made. I would have sweated out a 3 1/2 hour drive to catch a train had I left from the parents’ place, but instead we stayed 5 minutes away and had time for a leisurely breakfast, albeit at an IHOP next door.) But this hotel had a manager who was more cautious, as evidenced by the tray of disinfectant we were asked to leave the room key cards in. (And no, I didn’t take a picture. You’ll have to trust me on this one.)

Otherwise, I’m struggling to recall if any of the wait staff in the restaurants we ate at had masks on. I could be wrong, but I don’t think they did. (Honestly, though, I think I would notice them having masks first.)

On the other hand, they go WAY overboard with this at Amtrak. Basically from the minute you set foot on their property to get on a train to the second you get in your car to leave, they want that face diaper on you. Some people can deal with that for 20 hours or more and get some sleep, but I belong in the other category where it destroys any comfort I might have. And just an observation: traveling in a trio is no fun when you’re the odd one out and sit with a stranger – a nice enough lady, but still someone I don’t know – and something of a bonus when the train is emptier and you have the pair of seats to yourself. I may have snatched 2-3 hours of sleep instead of being awake almost all night for the 16-hour trip each way.

Being that it was October, though, I think we hit a sweet spot of sorts in that there aren’t as many people at Disney and the other theme parks because school is in session, nor are there the snowbirds who come down in late October and early November. My parents share a duplex (two houses placed side-by-side with a common wall) with one such snowbird, who is expected back in a couple weeks. Thus, aside from Orlando and going through the torrential downpour I hit going into Jacksonville the first time, I enjoyed driving in Florida – nice roads, good signage and pavement markings to help me along, and real speed limits up to 70 on the interstates and 65 on the other highways. It meant the traffic flow was about 75-80 mph, which is good for getting through half a state. (Imagine U.S. 13 as a 60 or 65 mph highway and you have U.S. 27 in that part of Florida.)

One other thing I noticed (or didn’t notice) is that there weren’t “help wanted” signs everywhere. I think the people have pretty much gone back to work, although there are probably fewer places to work now since the CCP virus and our government’s overreaction caused so much turmoil in the business world.

But, except for dealing with Amtrak and somewhat higher gas prices, I really (and surprisingly) felt like it was how travel used to be in 2019. Hopefully the next time I go that way, things will be even better.

Oh, and one last thing: I think we got to see Florida Man. We were driving down I-295 in Jacksonville on the St. Johns River bridge and there he was on an untagged dirt bike, zooming down the center lane doing a wheelie, then shifting to where he was standing on it. Then he motioned us to go by him, probably so he could get a better shot on his GoPro camera he had on his helmet. Definitely Florida Man, and definitely nuts.

Odds and ends number 106

I think you know the drill by now…more items (generally) from my e-mail that pique my interest enough to devote anywhere from a few sentences to a few paragraphs to them. Ready? Let’s go!

Why grifters matter

While I used to love the idea and concept of the TEA Party Express, somewhere along the line they went from being a help to the cause to a hindrance that leeches up valuable resources better suited for local and state races where people can make an impact.

That was the case with a recent e-mail that asked, “Ready to work your tail off to elect a bunch of bland, Democrat-lite Republicans in 2022? Me neither.”

The “me” in question is Sal Russo, a familiar operative with the TPX. And they are targeting three seats next year: Mark Kelly in Arizona, Raphael Warnock in Georgia, and Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire. Of the three, Hassan is the only one who has served a full term as the other two won special elections last year.

They were looking for $50,ooo, and I can picture how they will spend it: negative ads against the incumbents. Obviously it’s too soon to know which candidates will run in these primary races and perhaps they will get involved to try and tip the scales to, say, a Herschel Walker in Georgia. But as we found out over the last several cycles, the conservative flavor of the day today is the “bland, Democrat-lite Republican” a term or two down the road. Yet that $50,000 could help elect 15 or 20 local conservatives to local races where they can truly be the grassroots. Why fatten the pockets of political consultants?

Start the bus!

As you probably remember, the Tea Party Express made its name by running month-long bus tours across the country. Well, back in August the United Steelworkers did the same thing trying to get the Biden infrastructure bill passed.

This short little tour only lasted a few days and had stops in Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania – essentially places with steel manufacturing. But the fact I only heard about it because I’m still on the Alliance for American Manufacturing mailing list means that the union workers have been abandoned by Big Media and the Biden administration (but I repeat myself) as the wrong kind of Democrats.

Flooding the zone

And further speaking of political consultant groups, there are two that are sowing the seeds of destruction in Virginia.

According to this recent piece by the Capital Research Center, two far-left groups have somehow put together the scratch to send out 2 million vote-by-mail applications to selected Virginia voters. About 20 percent of them are destined for one county, Fairfax County. (That place is crazy-left and full of pencil-pushers, as I’ve found out in dealing with them over the last 18 months or so.)

The Voter Participation Center and Center for Voter Information are to blame for this. In the words of CRC’s Hayden Ludwig, “These groups use IRS rules permitting 501(c) nonprofits to engage in nonpartisan voter registration as a cloak for their blatantly partisan operations. VPC’s website proudly states that it wants to turn out more ‘young people, people of color and unmarried women’—a voting bloc that gave more than 60 percent of its votes for Biden in 2020 and contains 73 percent of all unregistered voters nationwide.” (Emphasis in original.) So it’s not just ANY voter to whom their message is intended or participation solicited.

Unfortunately, these are the electoral blocs most likely to vote against their own self-interest, in this case backing political hack and former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe in his bid to return for a second bite of the apple to destroy that state once and for all. As Ludwig concludes, “Using nonprofits to conduct huge voter registration drives is only one component in the Left’s plan to effectively federalize future elections using vote by mail. This is the new norm in American politics, and sadly for democracy, it’s here to stay.” It is indeed here to stay, but if those on the side of common sense properly educate these voters as to better alternatives it doesn’t have to be that way.

Virginia is a bellwether state in the fact that it has its state elections in odd-numbered years. We knew the potential of a TEA Party wave in 2010 because both Virginia and New Jersey elected GOP governors in 2009, so the messaging is clear for 2022 based on November’s results. If the Democrats stuff the ballot box it makes it look like their agenda has broad support and discourages conservatives, or leads them to foolish investments as in the grifter case above.

Blowing away the windmills

In their haste to provide so-called “renewable” (read: expensive and unreliable) energy for the masses, the federal government is cutting corners and not telling the whole story. That’s the conclusion of David Stevenson, the Director of the Center for Energy & Environmental Policy, which is part of the Caesar Rodney Institute.

His piece, which conveniently also appeared at the Real Clear Energy website, details a litany of problems with offshore wind that are both environmental and practical. While environmentalists deny that viewshed is an issue during the day, the required lighting for navigation will certainly be seen from the shore at night. And the disruption to the ocean bottom is certainly on a scale with drilling for oil and natural gas, with far less payoff in terms of reliable energy. As Stevenson notes, “The lack of answers to so many critical questions is a direct result of BOEM releasing a ‘Final Environmental Impact Statement’ just nine days after accepting the developer’s permit request. BOEM has provided a target-rich arena for litigation.” That seems like a real rush job – imagine the howling if such a timetable was used for the Keystone XL pipeline.

I honestly believe both wind turbines and oil rigs can co-exist in the ocean, but if I can have only one give me the reliable solution.

She’s back in the running

Because I had this baked in the cake for awhile I figured it could be an “odds and ends” piece. Still, last week we learned that the Delaware GOP is closer to filling out its statewide ballot. It’s now official that 2020 gubernatorial candidate Julianne Murray is running to be the next Attorney General for the state of Delaware. (She even kept the same URL and just changed the content.)

One interesting tidbit in the Delaware Live story was that, “win or lose,” she will not run for governor in 2024, even though it would be an open seat as John Carney is term-limited. Unlike Lee Murphy, who never has seemed to find a political race he couldn’t run, Julianne must figure the only way she runs again is as an incumbent, and that makes sense from a professional and personal standpoint.

Since I don’t see a primary challenge for Julianne in the works, it’s likely she would take on current AG Kathy Jennings, a Democrat first elected in 2018 with 61% of the vote. The last Republican AG was current GOP party chair Jane Brady, first elected Attorney General in 1994 and serving two-plus terms before being succeeded by a Democrat appointee in 2005 when she became a judge. Since then there’s been a succession of Democrats in the office, most notably the late Joseph R. Biden III, best known as “Beau” Biden.

15 minute syndrome

There was a piece from Erick Erickson last week where he related:

The (Gabby Petito) story broke a week ago.  It sailed past me until my sixteen-year-old daughter asked what I thought about it.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  My wife, the next day, came home from the gym to ask about it.  A twenty-something young woman at her gym was talking about it.  None of the women over thirty had heard about it.

Erick Erickson, “Regarding Gabby Petito,” September 23, 2021.

If it weren’t for social media, I wouldn’t have known about it either. Sadly, there are probably dozens of similar stories playing out every year but because Gabby Petito had more of a self-created social media following this caught peoples’ attention. Add in the fact that the prime suspect boyfriend is missing as well and now the story has legs.

It’s a case where your mileage may vary, but I grew up in a place and era with a daily big-city newspaper in our paper box that covered “important” local, national, and world news. A distilled version of that national and world content made the network news at 6:30 with Walter Cronkite (that was the station my parents watched) while a shorter version of the “important” local news and on-the-scene reporting was on the 6:00 local news. (For several years we only had two local newscasts; the then-ABC station finally started their local newscast when I was about 10.) The noon local news was more human interest stuff tailored to the stay-at-home moms along with a few headlines and weather and served as the bridge between game shows and soap operas.

We also had a couple very local newspapers that covered news in the rural county where I lived, and it was a BIG deal when I was in one of those papers for some academic achievement. My mom and dad probably still have a few of those clippings, so do I somewhere.

My point in bringing up this personal history is that our expectations of what is and isn’t news were completely changed by the 24/7 news cycle and the internet. And because people can now make and produce their own news content, like me writing on this blog, things like newspaper articles aren’t so treasured. Now if a child wins some honor the parental units plaster it all over their social media. (That may be how we first knew Gabby Petito.)

Bringing it back to Petito’s disappearance and eventual demise, it’s less likely a story like hers would have made the cut back in the era when we had 30 minutes of national news a day. Certainly it would be a sensation in her hometown, but those stories really had to have a hook to be aired on a wider scale.

Yet now we miss the forest for the trees – certainly her family deserves prayers for comfort in their loss and her boyfriend has some ‘splainin to do if he’s still alive and they ever catch up to him if he is, but is the Petito tale a story that has gravitas or impact in our lives? Or is it just a diversion brought forth by a media monster that inhales these stories as content so it doesn’t have to investigate real issues that affect a much larger audience than Petito’s family and social media circle?

I’m going to let you mull on that as I close out this edition of odds and ends.

My carbon offset

Once in awhile you gotta have a light-hearted stack of stuff, and this falls in the category.

The other day I got this as an e-mail from a lady (at least, that’s what I presume based on the name) named Suzy Nguyen from an NGO called 8 Billion Trees. You know I love it when people ask for my opinion!

Hi there,

Hope you’re doing well! 

I’m Suzy from 8 Billion Trees – a tree planting and wildlife conservation organization (NGO).

I’m reaching out to share my story and hope that you would help me spread the words to your audiences/readers so we can together make a change our planet desperately needs! 

We’re living in a critical time of global warming issue, and we HUMANS are the major cause who are responsible for this. We are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth’s temperature by burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests, and farming livestock. But more than that, do you know that everything you do and consume in daily life can add up to your personal Carbon & Ecological Footprint? And all that together is destroying Earth’s environment.  

As an NGO that specializes and deeply cares about climate change and influences people to be more aware of our impacts on the planet, we have created a Carbon Pollutant Calculator – a FREE tool for anyone to use. The calculator allows someone to find their personal Carbon & Ecological Footprint and have an understanding of crucial steps in lowering their carbon emissions, as well as taking responsibility for the footprints we’re all contributing to. Yes, it’s a nasty consequence of modern life. 

You can easily calculate your own Footprint here: https://8billiontrees.com/carbon-offsets-credits/carbon-ecological-footprint-calculators/  

And don’t forget to take some time to read our complete guideline to Carbon Offsets: https://8billiontrees.com/carbon-offsets-credits/ 

I’d love to hear what you think!

Yep, that was their e-mail.

I’m not so sure she will love to hear what I think, but I love to respond to people like this. First of all, I found out that I’m in the top 3 percent in the world when it comes to carbon emissions – their handy-dandy calculator estimated my annual carbon footprint to be 27.78 tons. (Damn, what a slacker I am.) Supposedly, the average for a “global citizen” is 5.29 tons, but since I do productive service work for a living promoting commerce and helping people achieve their dreams in front of an energy-hogging computer and enjoy a 21st century lifestyle with a plethora of labor-saving devices and technology, I think I’ll proudly wear that badge of gluttony.

(That’s why I kept the links in the letter – hopefully I have readers who can beat me on their calculator.)

Now don’t get me wrong: I have zero problem with them planting trees. After all, I grew up in the region of the country where, legend has it, Johnny Appleseed planted thousands of them as a traveling missionary. If 8BT wants to take money donated to them and plant trees with it, I’m good with that. (Even if they come across to some people as a scam.) But when they go on to explain carbon offsets, that’s where the issues begin.

(There’s one interesting section of this diatribe where they go through the various types of renewable energy. It’s interesting to see how little is actually produced despite all the press.)

However, the issue isn’t really with them but with how the concept of offsetting carbon is put into practice through the hand of government. (8 Billion Trees isn’t completely clean of this, though, as they do work with some state-level governments around the globe.) As government does it, the concept is used as a tool of wealth redistribution that keeps busy a cadre of pencil-pushers who could otherwise find more useful work.

And if reducing carbon was truly their goal, they would embrace nuclear energy because it doesn’t use any carbon. (Granted, there has to be some measure of redundancy when their plants close for maintenance, but if there were more nuclear plants we could easily rotate those periods into the loop.) I lived many years getting power from a nuclear plant and we were none the poorer for it.

Now I know I will get an argument from so-called experts who swear up and down that Big Oil got all sorts of subsidies over the years and the handouts and carveouts for renewables are only leveling the playing field. They also say that oil and natural gas are toxins that harm the environment if spilled, which can be true in the immediate timeframe although the earth does a decent job of healing itself over time.

But these same advocates tend to gloss over the detrimental effects of solar panels, which require tons of rare earth materials which are both toxic and hard to come by globally (unless your name is China) as well as covering acres and acres of otherwise productive land. And wind turbines? Forget that their disposal often requires burial in a landfill (taking up space needed for our everyday waste), their low-frequency noise has been linked to health issues, and they are hazardous to aviary health.

And in both cases, cloudy and calm days produce no energy whereas fossil fuels burn regardless of the weather. Their biggest issue seems to be transmission, as Texas found out. (Then again, it stopped the windmills, too.)

So I wish Suzy the best of luck planting trees. I think I have plenty enough in my yard to do the job, and (as an added bonus) some even bear fruit.

On growth in a post-growth small town

Like a lot of small towns, the town whose zip code I reside in is looking to expand. Recently a developer came to the town with a proposal to add several hundred dwelling units behind a group of retail shops fronting along the major highway that runs on the eastern outskirts of town.

Come to think of it, this could apply to any of the four communities in Sussex County along the U.S. 13 corridor. In each case, Bridgeville, Seaford, Laurel, and Delmar have an older downtown area which was bypassed when U.S. 13 was rerouted around those towns decades ago. Now all of them have development along the new highway to some extent, with grocery stores, restaurants, shops, and convenience stores clustered in varying degrees along that major north-south route. (Despite the traffic lights, it’s generally considered a lower-hassle alternative to taking I-95 through Baltimore and Washington, D.C.)

Now I’m not sure just when the current four-lane U.S. 13 was constructed, although I know its predecessor route is still extant from Delmar, Maryland up through a point north of Seaford, and again through Bridgeville where it met up with SR404. But with the exception of Delmar, which centered its downtown around the railroad track that runs just west of 13, all these towns once had the highway serve their central business district. There is still quite a bit of commerce in these areas, but (with the exception of Seaford) nowhere near as much as there is along the newer highway.

Anyway, back to my point about Laurel, which is the subject of this essay. Here’s what I wrote about this development to a local message board:

Interesting that some of the other Laurel message boards seem to be filled out with the NIMBY crowd. But let me add a couple pennies here.

One thing I haven’t seen (it may be in subsequent news coverage, though) is what the buildout schedule is. People think “omigosh, we’re getting all these housing units” but not all of them are built at once. If it’s a popular development then buildout is still probably 3-4 years, and if it’s like Heron Ponds in Delmar they may take 20 years. So the new population will come in gradually.

And to speak to (a local citizen’s) concern, there was a random Friday a few months back when I drove through North Towns End and I counted 15 houses in various stages of construction. In just the couple years since we moved out here we’ve seen several houses put up on Mt. Pleasant (we looked at one of the new ones before we bought ours) so someone must like our end of town.

Maybe it’s a function of what I do for a living, but I’ve always said that if an area doesn’t grow it dies. East side of Laurel could use some construction, too.

Message on a local social media group board.

Yet a lot of the messages have a different but legitimate complaint: Laurel needs better jobs, more retail options and things to do, and less crime. The fear seems to be that the new development will bring less of what’s already lacking and more of what we don’t want, so I want to use my forum to revise and extend my previous remarks.

First off, I’m an outsider looking in. I really never dealt much with Laurel before I moved here except for driving through it, either on the main highway or occasionally the alternate through town. I actually still don’t do a lot of business there because I work in Salisbury and my wife works in Seaford, so any quick shopping is more likely to be done in those two towns or in Delmar since that’s on my way from work. But we often have occasion to eat out in Laurel and when we are home it has the closest grocery store.

By geography, we live closer to Sharptown, Maryland, but there’s nothing much there that I’m aware of except a convenience store and a Dollar General. That’s a town which is really off the beaten path, so very little commerce occurs there and the population has remained remarkably steady over the decades at around 650 people. (The same goes for Bethel, Delaware, which is also pretty close to us but even smaller.) So Laurel or Seaford it generally is, despite the extra distance.

In the case of many rural communities, their approach to job growth is as follows: set aside a plot of land with improvements and parcels of several acres and call it an industrial park. Promise some sort of tax abatement and then apply the Field of Dreams mantra: if you build it, they will come. I’m not saying that idea doesn’t work, since there are several industrial parks around and some are rather full, but a town can’t put all its eggs in just that basket.

So here is Laurel, with an investor who wants to put his money into the town but is getting grief from the NIMBY crowd. Ignore them. Presuming the developer will pay for the improvements required on the side road (up to and including the traffic signal that may be necessary at 13) this is a pretty good idea, at least in concept. I may be inclined for a smaller mix of townhouses to single-family, though, because one thing the area needs is property owners who will presumably take pride in their surroundings.

Once this development is underway, what the town needs to do in my opinion is create a way to make investment in its older areas just as worthwhile. Let’s look at one pivotal block of downtown Laurel as an example, the block on the southeast corner of old 13 and SR24. (Central Avenue and Market Street.)

From what I can gather, if you look at the block from the park across the street, there is a Chinese restaurant, a storefront church, a thrift store, and a building whose storefront I think is vacant but used to be a Mexican grocery. Thanks to the magic of Google Maps images, I found out that block was amputated sometime around the beginning of the last decade to accommodate extra parking for the Laurel Public Library. (At least now it owns the parcels.) The other two sets of parcels are owned by private individuals, one living in Laurel and another living in another town in Sussex County. But if you go back into the state archives, you’ll find that these two streets were completely built up in the early 20th century. Now the only corner left relatively the same is the one with the bank – the other three corners are either parking or the small downtown park.

Of course, I don’t know the back story of how all that came to pass, but it just seems from my perspective that, in the most recent case, the library could have worked out a deal with the bank on parking and left the buildings there, unless they had fallen that far into disrepair. (I’ve seen some references to a fire so I’m wondering if that had anything to do with this puzzle, too.)

But don’t you think it would make efforts to revitalize Laurel’s downtown better if that little bit of parking were moved across the street and someone invested in that corner with a mixed-use project of a storefront and apartments above? Build something new and fresh, but with the look of a historic structure, and maybe that encourages the neighbors to spruce up their buildings. Now perhaps that may not happen, but just like those who are down on the proposed development, if you do zero to improve things there’s a zero percent chance of improvement. I realize it’s nowhere near all that we need, but someone has to take the leap and I’m glad there’s a person out there who does.

Make yourself available and receptive to people who want to invest in good ideas and you just may find prosperity in something that benefits all parties involved.

Quick fix, simmering realizations…

Every so often I get blog feedback, and generally when I mention it I like to poke fun at it. But in this case it brought back a memory that, upon reading, could really have been written in August 2021 just as easily as it was in May of 2017.

In this case, the feedback was from an outfit that must like to check my links and suggests that I prune dead links and redirect them through their site. I appreciated their advice, but instead I found an archived link for what I needed.

But it gave me the opportunity to do a throwback Thursday on Sunday the other night when I wrote this piece. At that point in life 4 1/2 years ago I was still skeptical of a Trump administration that was just starting out while I was then working a job and a half. And it was this passage that stopped me cold:

I’m no economic genius by any stretch of the imagination, but I would suspect having GDP growth exceed inflation is good, but having government spending (which is a component of GDP) increase more quickly than either is a bad sign. If you take away the government spending component the question is whether GDP growth is still ahead of inflation. Maybe it’s not.

But who profits from that? I will grant there is certain government spending that adds value: if someone in the federal DOT had the gumption to have an interstate highway built between here and I-95 by Wilmington, not only would the money create local construction jobs on Delmarva but the greater ease in access to and from points north like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia would be good for local tourism and industry by making it easier to get here and transport there.

On the other hand, simple wealth transfers from rich to poor (welfare, Medicaid) and young to old (Social Security, Medicare) don’t add much in the way of value except in the sense that their care and feeding keeps a few thousand paper-pushers employed. But they are not creating value as their wages are extracted from those dollars others earn with work that adds value like mining, manufacturing, services like architecture and construction, and so forth. (Did I mention that I’m once again a registered architect in Maryland?)

So if you know this and I know this, why is the system remaining as is? I believe more and more that there is a group of well-connected people and entities who make their fortunes by gaming the system. Instead of government being a neutral arbitrator, they seem to be putting their thumb on the scale to favor those who now participate in an ever-widening vicious cycle of dependency and rent-seeking. To me, things should be fair for everyone with equal treatment in the eyes of the law but greed and lack of respect for one’s fellow man has changed the Golden Rule to “he who has the gold, rules.”

“About my hiatus,” May 5, 2017.

And remember, I wrote this before anyone outside of a Wuhan lab had ever heard of the virus that became the CCP virus and its fourteen variants that seem to come out whenever the news is bad for the Democrats. It was a pandemic where the rich, led by Walmart and Amazon, got richer and the middle-class got pretty much wiped out by unemployment and seeing their businesses die, or both. Remind me again who determined which businesses were deemed “essential” and which were forced to close? And this doesn’t even consider stimulus packages 1-48, which have added trillions to our deficit and debt.

(Side note: I was on a roll back then with my thoughts, because the next piece just nailed health insurance. I even called Andy Harris’s margin of victory eighteen months ahead of time. I really need to write like that more often!)

So, “Ella Miller,” if you are a real person (and I’m guessing by the search engines that you are sending these out under a pseudonym), I want to thank you for bringing the dead link to my attention so I could be reminded of just how consistent I’ve been politically and how I sometimes have the spider sense working just right.