Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What an Adventure...

Dear Readers,

I am about to experience one of those major changes in my life, the last one of which occurred four years ago. I'm going to a new school. Not just that, I'm going to college; not just college, either. Tomorrow I leave Washington to go to Kings Point, New York, to attend the US Merchant Marine Academy. I will report on Thursday, July 7, as a "Candidate", two weeks after arrival I will be elevated to the status of "Plebe Candidate". The Academy promises that I will have very little free time, especially as a Plebe. To cut to the chase, I'll be blogging less often; much less often, if at all, for this first trimester at the Academy.

My readers, it has been my joy to have blogged for you over these past four years. I started blogging while I was attending my final year at the Saint Thomas Choir School. Back then, I didn't have much time to blog: free computer use time was limited to half an hour Saturday evening, and an hour and half Sunday evening. Yes; some of us entrepreneuring students figured that we could also use the Computer Lab on Friday evenings when the other students, the nurses, and teachers on duty were all downstairs watching a movie with the lights off. Not recommending current Choirboys take that liberty, but I sure enjoyed the time making and editing digital newsreels with my brother, JT and MP; and building up what I considered my "online empire"- my blog, a general website, and a Youtube account. I've heard that the Choir School has since modified its student computer use policy to reflect the modern digital age, but my memories remain in the past.

My first week at St. Anselm's was filled enough with anxieties of fitting in, or standing out in a good way. I never had to stand in the front of the room as the new kid to introduce myself, but word about this particular afterschool pursuit of mine made it around the block. When it came to what made me stand out among freshmen at St. Anselm's, it was my blog. Over the summer before Freshman year, I had gone on a paid-for three week venture with the Choir School, and over the course of five or so blog posts I delineated our daily travels, highlights, and mishaps, including that night half-spent at the Waitrose supermarket waiting for a replacement bus. Side note: The next day, my brother sent home a postcard with Windsor Castle ablaze- how fitting to the occasion. So in Freshman year, Sophomore year, I blogged just about daily. It was like a challenge to be a daily journalist. I got to blog on a variety of subjects circling my life: cameos on classmates, and "hit reports" on how tests went. It took two years to shed that "new kid" title; I was informed by a class leader that you're a new kid until a newer kid arrives, but the epithet was just tongue-in-cheek: I had already left my mark on the Class and the School.

Then came Junior year, and somehow, I found myself busier than ever. It's probably because I found myself as a two-sport man these two past years at school. You can see on the sidebar on my blog how the quantity of my output decreased. But I must say, though, that the quality, in my opinion, rose precipitously. I got into a grander reach of topics, including politics, and my running gaffe on April Fool's Day. The constraints on my time pushed me to hunker down and get into "the zone" when I did blog. I found that I'd spend more time per post than I had given before. So while I let my regular production of my Youtube video series JangooVision fall to the wayside, I kept up on the blogging.

Jangoo- where did the name come from, you may ask. I had a classmate, and we were not really on amicable terms. In English class, each of us were asked to design a concept and put it to words. This classmate had created his universe of hand puppets, a la silent coyote, and named this universe "Zoltan", which I found out to be a Hungarian composer's name. Now my automated fast food restaurant concept needed a name. Not wanting to have to ask to use the name, I found one to use. Jangoo: I found the name one Sunday while reading through a St. Thomas Church Bulletin. Jangoo is an Australian organist's first name. As I told a classmate who is a fan of my JangooVision videos, I own that name like a trademark. On that note, I've followed the Library of Congress' guidelines to ensure that my work falls under copyright protection laws, even though my official registration is pending.

During my high school years, my blog had filled a niche market: same day community feedback on school happenings. Since my Sophomore year, teachers and administrators have come to me, gently reminding me that my blog was one of the first search results for topics ranging from CUMUNC and WAMUNC, Model UN Conferences, to tributes for an alumnus. My blog got me a position on the Priory Press, which allowed me to access readily a plethora of back-issues, which have served as inspiration for a number of this year's blog posts. Blogging and Youtubing, as one particular fratriarch of four brothers would attest, really makes me someone to remember.

Thank you to all my readers, and I hope to blog again.
Atticus Sawatzki

In Conclusion...

Just before I go off to the Academy, I've got a little bit of local politics for my readers to ponder.

Marc Elrich's got to go:
It sort of disturbs my sleep at night that Mr. Elrich, member of the Mont. Co. MD County Council has commented on multiple occasions that he would like to turn the local power utility, which also serves Washington, DC, into a government run enterprise under the guise of "power to the people". He is, by the way, an elected official, and given the voting record of his comrades, including 8-1 approval for a bag tax, it worries me that shareholders in PEPCO's holding company, many local residents included, will find their shares devalued, and dividends non-existent, by populist moves of the legislature. I'd like to let my readers know that our local transit system was owned and operated by a privately-held corporation, and it took no government subsidies from 1862 until 1973. The transit system is now a gov't run enterprise, and it took $239 million from local and federal government coffers in the last fiscal year. Mr. Elrich, Venezuela is a dangerous path to follow.

Then there is his abstention on a 7-1 vote over the County's Disability Pension Policy. Reports the local paper, the DC Examiner, this vote created a two-tier payment system which differentiated levels of disability: partial and full. Reads the paper, "thus a broken finger no longer qualifies a County employee the same pension benefits as a paralyzed colleague would receive". Telling local county workers "no" is a rather "progressive" move in our area, but Counties across the area are facing severe budget crunches, and need to reign in on politically painless to cut cash giveaways to scrupulous public servants.

Looking ahead:
Both Maryland and Virginia are hosting US Senate races in 2012. In Maryland, Mike Steele (R) lost to the now-incumbent, then Rep. Ben Cardin (D) with a 9-point margin in 2006, probably over his support for the military actions in Iraq. Mr. Steele has not come out of the woodwork to challenge Dan Bongino, ex-Secret Service, in a Republican primary. It'll be interesting to see how much Bongino's lack of elected office experience and his support of Medicare Vouchers will affect him in the campaign. As for Mr. Steele, it has been historically difficult for Maryland politicians to win a rematch against an incumbent; namely the 1998 and 2010 Gubernatorial races, where Republican candidates faltered by significant margins after close losses in 1994 and 2006.

Some in the National GOP is already counting Virginia as a hatched egg as they try to make it to 51 seats in the Senate. It's looking to be George Allen (R), former Governor, and Senator elected in 2000 and outed in 2006, vs. Tim Kaine (D), Governor elected in 2005 for the maximum one four-year term. Has it really been five years since Mr. Allen dropped that slur heard round the Country?

2014 is the next Governor's race in Maryland. Incumbent O'Malley has hit his term limit, leaving the seat open with no clear successor. On the Democrat's side, Attorney General Gansler, who billed himself as one who "targets polluters"; and Comptroller Franchot, who tromped around the State giving commendation to businesses which do "more with less", and branding himself as an effective "fiscal watchdog" and an opposer to new taxes. Lt. Gov Anthony Brown may enter the race, but no Lt. Gov., Republican or Democrat, has won a governorship in the 40-year history of the position. On the Republican side, Harford County Executive David Craig is positioning himself for a run at the seat, collecting contributions even though he is term-limited. Other possibilities include Mike Steele popping out of the woodwork, and, don't think about it, Bob Ehrlich making a fourth run for Governor, but probably not.

2016 will be interesting for the local community. MD Gov. O'Malley is positioning himself to run for the Democratic ticket in 2016. According to political watchdogs, he has played the party line on every single issue in the book. Such dedication to ideals can really propel a candidate to the national ticket. O'Malley is not yet 50 years of age, mows his own lawn, and stars in a band, O'Malley's March, which has cut 5 CD's, and plays pretty decent music. His election record is stellar, too: Baltimore City Council, Elected mayor in his 30's, only person to unseat a gubernatorial incumbent in 2006, pulled a 14-point lead over the former Gov. Ehrlich by pasting him as the incumbent. Take this when Ehrlich was polling above O'Malley early in the campaign. By the way, O'Malley never mentioned, or showed, in any of his TV ads that he was the governor- safe move for the time. His weak spot, though, is his adhesion to liberal policies, which he often rode to extremes in his first five years. However, he has made a change in tenor, publicly announcing that he signed an executive order to "streamline paperwork" for businesses, and it was also announced that he ordered a study on bituminous shale production within the State. That sounds a bit like his foe Mr. Ehrlich's "drill baby drill" policy that would have been put in place if he were given the Governorship in 2010. Perhaps, locals will forget about his "Chavezian" days when he appears on national TV (again) in 2015.

Depending on how the stars align, a Virginian may also be coming onto a Presidential Primary Ballot, for one or two parties, near you.

Then what about Mike Steele, onetime Lt. Gov? Could he be the VP on the 2012 Republican ticket? Would that be enough to swing Maryland to the Republican side for the first time since 1984? Or does Obama still have an unshakeable grasp on the State?