How to make money from the 17-year cicada invasion, and a few other things nobody asked about | COMMENTARY

Spring 2004: Sandy McAllister scoops up some of the thousands of cicada husks in her yard in Columbia, Md.

Nobody asked me, but, if I were looking to make a few bucks, I’d get a cicada cleaning service organized in time for the coming invasion. A leaf blower, an industrial vacuum cleaner — the biggest sucker you can find — and you’ll be in business. There will be demand to remove thousands of husks left all over suburbia by 17-year cicadas once they molt. I observed cicada cleaning businesses in 1987 and again during the last emergence. They appeared to be profitable, but as they say in the market: Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Nobody asked me, but, despite his ancestral ties to Hungary, Rep. Andy Harris’ support of the country’s right-wing leader continues to be weird and troubling on the way to appalling. Maryland’s only Republican in Congress, Harris recently received a medal of appreciation from the government of Viktor Orban, Hungary’s strongman prime minister widely viewed as a democratic backslider. A few days ago, Orban pulled out of a center-right coalition of European political parties that appeared ready to expel him because of his increasing authoritarianism. Under the rule of Orban and his Fidesz party, Hungary has eliminated judicial independence and quashed press and academic freedoms while embracing nationalist policies. The parliament of the European Union declared Orban’s government a “systemic threat to the rule of law.” So why would an American congressman want to support this guy, as Harris has done repeatedly? He’s been such a supporter that the Hungarian ambassador gave Harris a medal known as the Officer’s Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit. I guess if you’re a supporter of Donald Trump like Harris, it’s no leap to admire Viktor Orban. Imagine: Once upon a time, Republicans wanted to promote democracy around the world, not make cozy with backsliders.


Nobody asked me, but it would have been an inspiration to see the state of Maryland have “the equitable distribution of vaccines” as a priority from the start and not after a load of complaints about how the shots were allocated. It’s why diversity in “the room where it happens” is essential in all things.

Speaking of COVID-19 vaccines: In Maryland’s dopey decentralized registration system, requiring navigation through multiple websites to get an appointment for a shot, sharpies at MedStar Health came up with a simple system: “Sign up and we’ll let you know when the vaccine is available.” Once your name is on the waiting list, they don’t forget about you; I received two reminders and then an invitation to book a shot. That was my experience, anyway. Maryland should have had a central registration site with the same model: Get on a waiting list, get updates by email; when doses are available within a few miles of your home — at a pharmacy, hospital, senior center, mass-vax site — you get an invitation. Such a system would have worked, if you ask me, but nobody did.


Nobody asked me, but allow me to make the following observation: You know spring is in the offing, and that Passover is coming, when the five-pound boxes of matzos show up at Giant.

Nobody asked me, and I know it’s not kosher, but a little grated Romano never hurt a matzo ball.

Quick story: Years ago, at a Catholic-Jewish Seder in the undercroft of St. Vincent de Paul Church, a fellow Catholic named McCloud had matzos for the first time. I asked how he liked it. He liked it just fine. “But,” he said, “makes me wish I had a little Cheez Whiz.”

Nobody asked me, but progressives pushing mass transit in Maryland might want to check out the American Society of Civil Engineers’ annual grades for infrastructure. They just came out. Maryland got a C overall, but a D-plus in mass transit. That could help those lobbying the General Assembly to come up with the $2 billion the Mass Transit Administration needs over the next six years for its maintenance backlog.

Overall, the ASCE gave Maryland a grade of C on roads, bridges, aviation, stormwater, waste water, trash, rail, energy, drinking water and ports. The state scored a C-minus on dams, and though the ASCE said Maryland does an above average job at maintenance, the report identified 92 “high hazard” dams across the state. If breached, they would pose a serious threat to people and property.

Hey, I know: Civil engineers are always looking for work so, naturally, they would advocate more spending on infrastructure. But, even if half right, the report affirms the need to go big over the next decade. A comprehensive infrastructure plan will not only make the country safer and more efficient, it would put to work thousands of people who will have a tough time finding jobs in the post-pandemic economy.

Rest in peace, Joe Altobelli, and thanks for the memories of Baltimore’s last World Series championship team, the one you managed in 1983. That was way too long ago. There are thousands of Orioles fans who since then have grown up and raised families, and who would weep a keg if their kids or grandkids could have the same experience some season soon.

Nobody asked me, but if you want to get in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day, seek out “Boffyflow and Spike” by the Chieftains (on their 1989 album, “A Chieftains Celebration”) and play it loud with the windows open. It’s cosmic.