I suppose this is proof of his statement…

Those who have followed me for many years know that I’ve put up an election widget to link to campaign sites, and now their social media pages. Since the 2020 campaign is underway I did the same for the Presidential race – it’s just not very prominent quite yet. (I’ll move it up as the year progresses and we get closer to the debates and Iowa caucus this time next year.)

So today I was reading a USA Today story on the candidates who are in and out, noting that Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was entering the race today in an outdoor rally in the Minnesota snow. But it also noted that one of those candidates on my original widget, West Virginia’s Richard Ojeda, had already withdrawn, which I was unaware of.

Granted, out of those who were on my widget I would have rated him as the longest shot, down there with Pete Buttigieg (the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana) and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney as a second tier of candidates behind the more nationally prominent Senators and others pursuing the chance to oppose President Trump. But it could have been argued that Barack Obama and Donald Trump were longshots in their respective races – Obama because he had been in the Senate for just 25 months when he announced in February, 2007, despite the conventional wisdom that the 2008 race was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s to win, and Trump because no one took a businessman running for President seriously when the field was deep, talented, and brimming with a number of politically experienced candidates. Maybe they weren’t the longshots like a state senator who lost his only federal election (a 2018 run for Congress) would be, but he was still in the race and stating his case.

So when Richard Ojeda withdrew from the race, it wasn’t much noticed – hence his parting shot.

Today I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all the people who have supported and believed in this campaign. The indications were very positive from an overwhelming response to our videos, to thousands of volunteers, and a level of grassroots fundraising support that grew every day. However, the last thing I want to do is accept money from people who are struggling for a campaign that does not have the ability to compete.  So today I am announcing that I am suspending this campaign.

When I was a child my grade school teachers told us all that anyone in America could grow up and become President.  I now realize that this is not the case.  Unless someone has extreme wealth or holds influence and power it just isn’t true.  Especially if you dare to step out of line and challenge the powers that be. The big donors won’t take your calls, the media won’t say your name, and the establishment will do everything they can to crush you.

I want you to know though that my fight does not end!   I may not have the money to make the media pay attention but I will continue raising my voice and highlighting the issues the working class, the sick and the elderly face in this nation. I expect to have an announcement very soon about what my next steps will be. But know this, this campaign was never about me but about the issues we care about, checking big pharma, ending corruption and elevating the working class citizen. Nothing and no one can stop me from fighting for what’s right.

Sappers clear the way. Airborne all the way.

Richard Ojeda withdrawal announcement, January 25, 2019. (Emphasis mine.)

Setting aside the desire of his supporters for Ojeda to run for either Governor or U.S. Senate from West Virginia, both of which have elections in 2020 and are held by Republicans, let’s take what Ojeda had to say about running for President and break it down.

Until President Trump came along and bolstered the “extreme wealth” argument, all of the Presidents who have served us in my lifetime (I was born in 1964) were products of one (or more) of three separate offices: Vice President (Johnson, Nixon, Ford – under the special circumstance of being appointed under the 25th Amendment – and Bush 41), governor of a state (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43), or Senator (Obama, but previous to being vice president also Johnson – who succeeded a former Senator in John F. Kennedy – and Nixon.) Gerald Ford was previously a member of Congress, but only represented a Michigan district in the House before being appointed to succeed former Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew after Agnew resigned in 1973.

Yet think of the money it takes now to win a Senate seat or run for governor, particularly from a major state. Obviously it takes a type of talent and attitude to be able to “smile and dial” in order to raise the money and the charisma to charm people into voting for you, knowing that the higher up in the food chain one goes, the fewer people can grab the brass ring. (A case in point: Klobuchar is the fourth sitting U.S. Senator to seek the Democratic nomination so far but only one – or none – will succeed.)

By that same token, the nation’s capital is ruled by political conventional wisdom that states either someone with a connection to Washington or with a statewide base that’s significant (i.e. a state with large population like California, Florida, or Texas) will succeed in running for President. That was the case with most of the Presidents in my lifetime, although one can argue that perhaps Jimmy Carter and certainly Bill Clinton did not come from high-profile states. In the 1970’s Georgia was still considered a sleepy, backwater state as Arkansas is to this day. Donald Trump turned that conventional wisdom on its ear to some extent; however, it can be theorized that his “significant base” were the millions who bought his books, watched The Apprentice, and so forth, and that they were a proxy for a medium-sized state.

(This phenomenon is similar to the fact that no one from the Eastern Shore has been elected to statewide office here in Maryland since the days of J. Millard Tawes. Those who have a base in populated areas have a definite leg up in gathering financing and supporters.)

So it’s sad but true: not that I would have been an Ojeda backer, but the media and establishment basically dictated his campaign would be short-lived. Ojeda wasn’t part of the “in” crowd and he didn’t have a name that attracted eyeballs based on previous reputation, so he would have never made the debate stage – perhaps not even the so-called “kiddie table debate” purgatory before campaign suspension.

Maybe this is why the Swamp can’t seem to be drained.

monoblogue music: “Elise” by Damon Mitchell

This one is so new they haven’t even finished the cover art for it. I’m told this is the cover photo for (presumably) a debut EP by a 22-year-old artist from my old neck of the woods, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Damon Mitchell has a 6-song EP ready for release on March 2, so I’ve listened to the tracks but they’re still under wraps except for the title track, which is the lead single and video I’ll feature in a short bit below. Perhaps it’s a good thing Elise is the last in line but the first song out of the chute because it’s the best and most accessible tune on the album. (Saving the best for last?) I’m not so sure about the video, though, although we also learn that Mitchell is a southpaw when it comes to playing.

The lead single and title track to Damon Mitchell’s forthcoming EP, coming out March 2.

As Damon is a rather young musician, it helps to explain why his style is all over the place on this one. As presented in my preview, the leadoff song Heist is a Beatle-influenced ode to a pop era gone by, although he freshens up the genre and makes it a rather enjoyable song.

Damon slows things down with the ballad Just A Face, which begins to expose a few of the cracks in the facade. Some of the vocals on this one aren’t quite up to snuff, particularly when Damon tries to hit the higher notes. Shaping songs to his voice is something he’ll surely learn as time goes on.

License Plate is more of a country or bluegrass turn, with the addition of fiddle and harmonica. (In the credits there are a total of 12 musicians listed for the six-song EP, so Mitchell had plenty of help.) The problem with this song to me was the way the lyrical runs played out – again, practice and experience will help the cause here.

If you’re waiting on an adult contemporary song, you’ll find the music on the song Salo but the lyrics don’t really evoke romance. Aside from a clever reference to The Weight by The Band, I really didn’t care for the lyrics on Salo at all. They seemed stilted and forced. Maybe this is a song he revisits later on, using the riff to write something better.

Damon turns even more to the jazzy side of things with World In Her Eyes. But again the weakness in the song comes from the lyrics and singing. Completing the circle back to the vibe of Heist but going a couple notches heavier is the title track, which has as its coda some solid guitar work.

So while there are obvious flaws in this six-song EP, they are definitely fixable for the next time, and it’s likely a little bit of experience will help Mitchell work some of these issues out. I don’t mind complex or unconventional lyrics at all, but they need a special amount of talent to be done just right. Once Damon figures out his strengths and writes music in such a way to maximize them, he could do all right for himself. He’s just not quite there yet.

Since he has several shows lined up in the Indiana region (coming as close as Pittsburgh for a gig this spring) I think Damon will get some practice in. On March 2 you’ll see what I mean.

More oh-so-expert advice on how to run a blog.

After doing this for almost 14 years, you would think people would figure out I have a way of doing things and a comfort zone I’m not apt to stray from. But they keep trying and as I described last night this comes from the lighthearted stack of stuff.

These are two recent appeals that I’m going to write verbatim. I decided not to use blockquote for this one, so trust me that I didn’t make these up. But I am going to print my ongoing responses in italics.

**********

Hope you are doing good.

I think I do a lot of good every time I write. To borrow a phrase from Walter E. Williams, I try to push back the frontiers of ignorance.

I checked your website monoblogue.us and wanted to shoot you a quick note. If you want we can make few changes to make your site convert more visitors into leads and to place it higher in the organic search for some selected terms.

Leads to what? I don’t sell anything here except maybe my first book and overall philosophy, the latter of which I give freely as a mission of sorts.

If you are not on Google’s first page, your website is a waste. If you want to know the major issues of your website, I am sending few points below.

Telling me my website is a waste? Yeah, that’s a good way to drum up sales.

  • Due to poor and unauthorized link sites.
  • Relevant keyword phrases are not visible on first page listing.
  • Your website is not search engine friendly.
  • Website content quality is not high standard.
  • Website is having on-page and on-site issues.

On point one, I link to those things I think are useful to the story. Since a lot of them are news, does that mean the media is poor and unauthorized?

Points two and three are irrelevant to me since I don’t write content for SEO, but to tell me my content quality is not high standard – well, up yours, buddy. And talk to my server about point number five, since they are the ones who generally cause the issues. For some reason, WordPress seems to want to add a point six on this, too.

Area of Improvement:

  • Get quality content and theme based back links.
  • We will give you 1st page ranking on Google, Yahoo and Bing.
  • Improve your organic traffic and sales.
  • Secure your website from Google penguin updates 4.0
  • Target your local market to increase business.

The fact that I don’t know what the heck this guy is talking about for the most part tells me his quality is not high standard – although maybe you figured it out from the grammar before this point.

Note*: We give guarantee to improve your keyword ranking from the first month itself, if we fail to achieve then we will refund your money.

Is that before or after you sell my e-mail address and skim my credit card?

Our main objective is to increase your website’s online visibility which results in improvement in traffic, link popularity, goal conversion and ROI.

Then you are a poor business. Your main objective should be to make money legitimately. My online visibility is just fine.

For more details please reply. We have your WEBSITE ANALYSIS REPORT ready with us.

Let me guess – it’s the same report as the other 600 website owners you sent this e-mail blast to would get. But I figure it must be enough that if only a couple fools take up their offer, then ROI is positive.

**********

So that was batch number one of supremely helpful advice. (Update: going through my spam folder I found another but with a different “sender.” You know it’s fake when it’s a name followed by a number on Gmail.) By the way, that went to my old e-mail address I really don’t use anymore, as did the second one a day or two later.

You know, everyone thinks they can give me good content. But there’s a reason I call it monoblogue, and this leads me to e-mail number two, which came all the way from Germany. It was like pulling teeth to read this – imagine each line double-spaced.

**********

My name is Rik, I have two clients that want to publish content on your website.

Congratulations! Is it really that hard to start a blog in Germany, though? I’d rather do the work myself, thanks.

Do you allow paid content on your website?

Actually, I do. Most (but not all) of my record reviews are paid content, but the writing is mine. I would love to have a sponsor for Shorebird of the Month, though.

If yes how much does is it cost to publish an article on your website?

You know, I’m half-tempted to write back and tell him (in my best Dr. Evil voice) “one meeeellion dollars.” He’s from Germany, think he would understand?

Our budget is not limited. The better the websites metrics are the more we are willing to pay. An upfront payment is not a problem!

So where’s my check? I figured it would come in the mail if you’re this confident.

We would prefer to write the article ourselves but you can write the content also.

If it’s some boring subject where I have to insert fourteen keywords in the first 200 words I’ll take a pass. I like my own subjects and words, thanks.

We as an agency are looking for a long term cooperation since we have many different clients.

Clients as in people who are paying you to advertise or clients like the best of ESL writers from India who can subsist on a quarter-penny per word? Or maybe you suckered them into doing it for the “exposure” like I was once upon a time when I was young and naive.

Can you tell I’m a bit jaded? Does it show?

Ps. I take my job really serious please check out below my social profiles and read more about my clients testimonials.

Actually I did. I think he had two testimonials and I’ll bet he made them up.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

This is as close as you will get.

**********

As I said, each line was double-spaced when these sentences could have been combined. If that’s the writing I get then I think it’s worth what I would probably make off the deal.

Maybe someday people will get the hint that I like my sandbox the way it is and there are few invited guests for a reason. Of course, then how would I write my occasional snarky replies?

Have I told you writing is just a struggle? I know it was a struggle to keep a straight face with these two. Tomorrow you get some of my paid content as I wrote a record review last night.

Odds and ends number 92

The more regular than it used to be look at the pile that’s my e-mail box and dredging out items worth a few sentences to a few paragraphs starts now:

A private fight for $15

My friends at the Maryland Public Policy Institute recently pointed out that there are a number of Maryland companies who are already paying starting employees $15 an hour (or soon will be.) MPPI’s Carol Park notes that, “The main goal for Maryland government should be to incentivize businesses in Maryland to grow larger and more profitable, so that they can become the new Amazon and Target and not only pay their employees $15 an hour but employ hundreds and thousands of Marylanders who are looking for a job.”

While Park is right, she also misses a point. Using that argument, larger businesses may be comfortable latching onto the so-called “Fight for $15” because it allows them to throttle back prospective competition. Small companies running on tighter margins won’t be able to pay the higher wages, so they won’t be able to compete.

Listen, if the SEIU and big business are on the same side (and, according to Leonard Robinson III of the Capital Research Center the SEIU is greasing a lot of Democrats’ palms to get this enacted at the federal level) it just can’t be good for the rest of us.

Returning to the subject of MPPI, they have also recently asked the state to “resist” raising taxes in the wake of the Kirwan Commission report advocating an additional $3.8 billion in school spending – none of which is slated to follow the child as it should. They cite prospective income tax increases on the middle class as well as possible expansion of the sales tax to include more services and business tax hikes as possible outcomes.

Knowing how the Kirwan Commission came together, is it any wonder higher taxes are on the docket? Resist we must.

Did Trump really cave? Or is it “fake news” from the dividers of Indivisible?

This probably deserves its own post, but we all know Indivisible will take credit for anything that’s a loss to America or makes President Trump look bad – naturally, that extends to the end of the recent Schumer-Pelosi shutdown. So this was their “state of play” after the furlough ended.

Pay attention to the “ask” – Republican Senators are asked for “No new wall money. Keep the government open.” It sounds to me like the Democrats have already determined they will shut it down again and try to blame Trump again. Nope, that one would be on you – particularly since Democrats have the majority in the conference committee.

In another Indivisible-related item I found interesting, they laid out a fundraising wish list in an e-mail I received in the wake of the shutdown:

  • $1,475,000 for “doubling our organizing team,” adding 14 state-level organizers, 3 digital organizers, and 3 training organizers.
  • $80,000 for Hubdialer, which, as the name implies, assists volunteers in making phone calls.
  • $114,000 for Mobile Commons, which is a text messaging system.
  • $1,315,820 for digital ads. More money for Mark Zuckerberg.
  • And $140,000 for ActionKit, a “mass e-mailing tool.”

All told, that “ask” is a little over $3 million, which I’m sure they’re going to invest in pushing more propaganda for 2020. Yep, that’s some grassroots for you.

And speaking of Astroturf…

If you wondered why Obamacare has hung tough despite its unpopularity, maybe this is why. From CRC’s Hayden Ludwig:

At least thirteen pro-Obamacare organizations aren’t independent organizations at all, but websites hosted by a handful of mega-funder nonprofits: the Sixteen Thirty FundNew Venture Fund, and Hopewell Fund.

Those three funds are in turn managed by Arabella Advisors, a mysterious consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. Arabella Advisors advises wealthy clients on what it calls “strategic philanthropy.” In practice though, Arabella’s strategic giving involves philanthropic investments to left-leaning causes and organizations.

“Who is Behind the Groups Pushing Obamacare?”, Hayden Ludwig, Capital Research Center, January 10, 2019.

Nor should we forget this tangled web the Left weaved.

And people thought the TEA Party was Astroturf because Americans for Prosperity printed up a batch of signs? Okay then, feel free to be wrong.

More wasteful spending

Another winner from the CRC comes in this investigation by Robert Stilson – employment programs that make work for connected non-profits. It’s yet another case of low-hanging fruit to be plucked and another score for the Capital Research Center, which is beginning to become a (sorely needed) bulldog of the Right. Don’t miss their look at the Census controversy either.

The state of American energy…is strong

At least according to the lengthy (over 120 pages) and colorful annual report from the American Petroleum Institute. It should be required reading for environmentalist wackos, including one Larry Hogan. Maybe he’d learn something and get back to what he promised.

If you want something a little more “official” the far less colorful Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Outlook 2019 is out as well. Both documents are chock full of good news for the energy industry as long as government stays out of the way.

So is the state of American manufacturing

Fresh off “another strong month of job growth,” the folks at the Alliance for American Manufacturing believe, “This strength in factory and overall hiring gives the administration considerable leverage headed into the final leg of trade talks with China,” according to AAM President Scott Paul.

But they’re never quite happy, always wanting something more. On the heels of a Trump “buy American” executive order, the group wants it expanded already. Here’s what it covers, in a nutshell:

Within 90 days of the date of this order, the head of each executive department and agency… administering a covered program shall, as appropriate and to the extent consistent with law, encourage recipients of new Federal financial assistance awards pursuant to a covered program to use, to the greatest extent practicable, iron and aluminum as well as steel, cement, and other manufactured products produced in the United States in every contract, subcontract, purchase order, or sub‑award that is chargeable against such Federal financial assistance award.

“Executive Order on Strengthening Buy-American Preferences for Infrastructure Projects,” issued by President Trump January 31, 2019.

While the additional jobs are good news, I’ve always been a little leery of “Buy American” orders such as these just because it’s gaming the market and making American products just that much less competitive on a global scale. Why invest in new technology and better facilities when you have a captive customer?

Having said that, I do believe President Trump is trying to level the playing field a bit as other nations subsidize their industries to varying degrees, too. For several years I received missives from AAM and others decrying the “dumping” of steel on the American market by Asian competitors, and that’s a case where a “Buy American” law can be of assistance. But I would rather see fair trade as a part of free trade, and there can be instances where “Buy American” may not be the best option.

Fighting the last war

In terms of total votes, the most popular politician in Maryland isn’t Larry Hogan. Instead, the top vote-getter in 2018 was Comptroller Peter Franchot, who drew 1,620,264 votes in winning a fourth term in office. Peter carried all but three counties (Cecil, Garrett, and Washington) in defeating the vastly underfunded Republican challenger Anjali Phukan. (Her campaign, beginning in May, 2017 and ending last December, raised a grand total of $2,051.25. The remaining $460 was donated to charity.)

But Phukan remains convinced that Franchot’s victory was achieved through underhanded means. Recently she attempted to convince the Maryland Board of Elections that an investigation into Franchot’s campaign finance was necessary, but to no avail. So she took the next step:

With no administrative options left, at the suggestion of some fellow Republicans, I filed a “Writ of Mandamus” with the Circuit Court in Anne Arundel County, to make the Board of Elections investigate my concerns, and act accordingly, as required by Maryland law. In this writ I also requested an injunction and declaratory judgement. I had presented my concerns before the election board as I discovered things in the process of reviewing his campaign’s financial records, and yet the account was still deemed compliant enough for Franchot to be certified!

Anjali Phukan, newsletter to supporters, January 27, 2019.

She’s also began plugging an obscure electoral watchdog website that’s had barely 700 visits in the last 2-plus years (as there is still 2016 information on it.) A GoFundMe campaign for it has raised a grand total of $5. But while it seems Phukan is tilting at windmills, she brings up some very troubling concerns about the Maryland campaign finance system.

Having written and read a few campaign finance reports in my time, I’m sure I’ve pointed out the weaknesses in the system. But a glaring one is how one very minor change in information submitted could conceivably allow an entity to donate far more than the prescribed limit, and seldom does the Board of Elections act on these irregularities. Since I haven’t heard of them overturning any elections due to unlawful campaign finance, I presume the punishment is generally making the campaign return the donation and perhaps a modest fine to the candidate and/or treasurer.

I glanced through Phukan’s summary of Franchot’s issues and, while it wasn’t a vast percentage of his campaign funding, you would think a person who is charged with being an accurate collector of revenue wouldn’t have such large accounting errors. It seems to me that the Board of Elections is just putting these self-reported records out to present a fig leaf of accountability but not really checking into them. (And let’s face it: most campaigns in this state don’t involve enough money to pay the mortgage for a year.)

And, by extension, the lack of interest in checking Franchot’s campaign finance seems to be echoed in their lack of interest in (or utter contempt regarding) cleaning out voter rolls. The erstwhile watchdog group Election Integrity Maryland found thousands of duplicate registrations in a May, 2014 survey. (Third release here, from an archived web page.) It’s now February, 2019, and something tells me that number is twice as high. Just wait until they get the automatic voter registration!

In passing

I couldn’t let this post go by without mentioning the recent passing of my former colleague on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee, Dave Goslee, Sr. Sadly, the 78-year-old Goslee had just in November won a seat on an institution he’d been fighting to reform for the first ten years of his twelve-plus year tenure on the Central Committee, the Wicomico County Board of Education.

Dave showed the value of getting out the vote as he won that Board of Education seat by one vote after a December recount showed that vote was incorrectly credited to his opponent. But the fourth-term WCRCC member couldn’t beat leukemia, and it’s likely his opponent will get the seat back anyway as a 14-member panel mainly comprised from the local schools will select Goslee’s successor – that committee selected William Turner, who Goslee defeated for the seat, in 2017.

Dave and I were not the closest of friends on the committee when we first started, but over the years we developed a respectful relationship as we each came to understand what the other brought to the table. He was also a devoted season ticket holder for the Shorebirds, so I saw him often even after I left the WCRCC. He will be missed, both at the games and certainly in local politics.

Coming up…

I almost put this into the odds and ends, but decided I would devote a stand-alone post to those who would tell me how to do my job. I may use that as the light-hearted stack of stuff to start the weekend.

I also have the third in a quick batch of record reviews to do for Saturday, but that may be the last for a short while. Or it may not.

Longer term, a suggestion I’ve had placed in my hopper once again was to bring back something I tried for a couple seasons in 2014 and 2015: predicting the 25-man Delmarva Shorebird opening day roster. (My 2014 guesses had 10 correct for Opening Day and 5 coming along later in the season. In 2015 I had 11 on Opening Day and 6 later on. That year I did it a week before the season, but it didn’t help.)

This year’s roster may be even more tricky because of the new management for the Orioles – players who may have been favorites under the Duquette regime may not catch the eye of Mike Elias, who will presumably prefer a player more like those in the Astros organization from which he came. (And who am I to argue with their success? Not only was the major league team a division winner in 2018, so were four of their top five farm clubs – the other was a close second. On the other hand, the Shorebirds were barely a .500 team but that was still best among Baltimore’s full-season affiliates last season.)

But since my situation is a little better than it was back in mid-decade I think I’ll give it a shot. Still not going back to Shorebird of the Week but at least I’ll enhance my coverage this way.

So the mailbox is emptier and you’re up to date.

The abortion question

Now that I have my baseball fix out of the way, let’s get back to the weightier issues at hand, shall we?

Recently the news has been full of abortion-related items, beginning with the annual (but barely noticed) March for Life that drew hundreds of thousands of people to our nation’s capital, including a high school group that traveled all the way from Covington, Kentucky to attend. They made the news by simply waiting on a bus. (Cue the classic ZZ Top song Waitin’ For The Bus. Not many had mercy on them during their wait or when that story first came out.) That MAGA saga all but buried the reason the kids were there in the first place.

(I will say that this story made some into hypocrites about the idea of yanking your kids out of school to protest, though, because they agreed with the topic as opposed to a teacher protest like I saw last week. One thing I haven’t noticed in the Covington Catholic coverage was whether the March for Life fell on a planned day off for the school or if it was a voluntary or school-required trip.)

Days later, that incident moved off the forefront of the abortion debate when the state of New York passed a law that essentially allows abortion until birth. In an end-zone dance, Governor Andrew Cuomo decreed that several public buildings be bathed in pink light to celebrate the milestone, while others fumed that the lights should be blood red.

Abortion opponents often couch their argument in religious terms, which leads to perhaps the best counter-argument out there: why would you bring a baby into the world that was either defective (such as being blind, deaf, having Downs Syndrome, and so forth) just to suffer, when it would be better for the child to just not be born? Why would your God allow such a travesty to happen?

It’s a very good emotional appeal, so to me the best counter to that is a logical one that has Divine inspiration.

In the Declaration of Independence, which I consider as part of the guiding philosophy of our nation – with the Constitution bringing it into actual law – the Founding Fathers wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Read that again: first and foremost among our self-evident and inalienable rights is the right to life.

I have no doubt that these words were considered carefully and were placed in that specific order for a reason. Too many in the world at that time (and, sadly, even today) have life without the liberty that is needed to pursue true happiness. You can’t have true happiness without liberty, but you most certainly can’t have liberty without life.

So that leaves us a choice: where does life begin? Well, there are only two logical points to use to answer the question – either life begins at birth (as the pro-abortion side seems to contest) or it begins at conception. But ask yourself: if life began at birth, why do we worry about prenatal care? Why do we make a big deal out of gender reveal parties and baby showers when it’s just a clump of cells?

Today I saw a thought-provoking meme that asked a very valid question: if it’s a woman’s body and choice, why isn’t she the one dying?

On the other hand, let’s assume (correctly) that life begins at conception. Once conceived, the unborn have that same right to life the mother enjoys and because life is a higher priority on the philosophical founding document of the nation (again, because liberty isn’t possible without the life to enjoy it) the life of the unborn trumps the mother’s liberty. Here are the choices the mother has: carry the child to term and keep it or carry the child to term and adopt it out to a family who will love and cherish the young baby. (The even earlier choice is to refrain from sexual activity until both partners can accept the responsibility of creating a child.)

But what about rape or incest? they cry. Well, would not aborting a child who is conceived under those circumstances be destroying evidence of the crime? If there’s an abortion under those circumstances, I better be seeing the father of the child hauled into court to stand trial.

I’m certain that in the world today mine is considered an extremist view – particularly since I’m not the one who has to carry the child around in the womb for nine months and give birth to it – but I consider abortion on demand as an extremist problem because it’s legalized murder in my eyes. In this case, extremism in the defense of liberty is a vice, not a virtue, because it’s at the expense of life.

I’ve also noticed a different epithet from the pro-abortion crowd: our side is pro-birth, not pro-life. It goes something like this:

Legislators who are against women terminating their pregnancies are also the ones who want to cut funds to programs helping families. They aim to slash the budgets for SNAP, food assistance, child care credits, education, and health care. Parents who couldn’t afford to have a child to begin with, but couldn’t abort the pregnancy, are now faced with the challenge of raising a child without the means to do so, and with little to no assistance. Not only is this difficult for the parents, but for the child. Yes, the child is alive, and that’s wonderful. But what is the quality of his or her life like? Is it really best for a child to be born when their quality of life is subpar?

I mention this argument and tie it to my religious upbringing because many of the legislators making it difficult for women to have abortions and nearly impossible for them to receive government assistance once they deliver claim to be Christian men and women of high moral standing — they’re just trying to stop people from killing babies, they say.

Alex Palombo, “Pro-Life vs. Pro-Birth,” Huffington Post, July 11, 2013.

Their argument always ties to how much nanny state support the child won’t get because many of us in the pro-life community also stand for limited, Constitutional government. Yet they presume that only government can provide the necessary support, perhaps falsely believing it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a caring family, but the family doesn’t have to be the one comprised only of blood relatives (i.e. a church family.)

Fortunately, teenage pregnancy rates have gone down over the last two decades, although there are still hundreds of thousands of unplanned pregnancies. (Many unplanned pregnancies occur with teenagers, although thousands of older, single women find out they have an unexpected surprise as well.) I think the key here is compassion, but also a realization that there’s a responsibility on both sides to be a good parent, which is going to require sacrifices and changes to the lifestyle of both mom and dad.

I think where people get mad and upset about the pro-birth aspect is when they see reaction to those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, either using abortion as a form of birth control or having multiple children by multiple fathers and not wanting to change the behavior that led to the situation in the first place. Admittedly, it’s harder to feel compassion and “love the sinner, hate the sin” when one feels the sinner is doing so to game the system.

So how about if we work on that aspect while you guys work on the taking responsibility for your actions end? If you want to create a life – preferably as a married couple in a Christian home – be my guest. If you just want to have fun because it’s the cool thing to do, puts another notch on your bedpost, or the conquest strokes your ego and you aren’t ready for the potential consequences, please refrain.

monoblogue music: “Spark” by Todd Warner Moore

This was one of the hardest reviews I had to write, and it wasn’t really because I lost the original draft of it on my phone. Rather, this was one that I couldn’t categorize because there wasn’t a pigeonhole I could place Moore’s music in to make my life easier. It could be the various influences of place: Moore is a Kansas native who’s traveled the globe and now makes his home in the unlikely musical hotbed of Hong Kong.

He’s also a prolific musician as this was his second full-length solo album of 2018, after June’s “Lapis Lazuli.” But Moore cut his teeth on the college circuit as part of an acoustic group two decades ago, later creating an “expat” band called Tea Thieves when he lived in Hungary. I’ll come back to them in a bit, but first I’ll talk about the issues I had with “Spark.”

Moore’s album is one with some serious storytelling, as I found when I listened to the album on the Bandcamp website, which features the lyrics for most of the songs. As far as that goes, it’s fine, but the problem I ran into was that his actual music is like the frame to a painting; put another way, he has an album which reminds the listener of the background music that plays while the movie’s dialogue continues. If you set aside the brief spoken Prologue and Epilogue you still have 12 songs that are densely filled with lyrics that range from the thought-provoking to the obtuse – oftentimes within the space of two lines. As most of the songs are done without instrumental bridges – thus clocking at no more than four minutes, and often under three – it’s so much so that the music is not even noticed.

I’m going to use an example of both thought-provoking and obtuse here. This song is called Noodles.

A track off Todd Warner Moore’s “Spark” album.

To hear Moore tell it, he says, “Apologies can be difficult.  Sometimes we express them through our actions and not necessarily our words.  When we cook, we transform raw ingredients into something new and wonderful.  In this song, underneath a simple recipe lies an apology with the hope of transformation.” Or maybe it’s just four-dimensional chess. To me this was one of the worst offenders of being trite and obtuse.

I mentioned the band Tea Thieves earlier. Tucked away at the end of “Spark” is a bonus track he did with the band called The Lens. The fact that it’s far and away the best song on the album to me tells me that maybe the band needs to come back together. Sadly, it’s the fourteen tracks of basically bland filler that came before that left the impression. But I’ll link again to Bandcamp if you want to listen (and judge) for yourself.

My version of fantasy baseball – part 3, the season

In part 1 I introduced this concept and in part 2 I determined my Opening Day team. But to answer the question regarding how such a team would do gave me a lot of trouble, and took a different turn than I expected.

Initially I believed I could use a simple WAR calculator to see just how well my players would do and use that guide to determine the team’s fate. Yet to figure those factors out I would need to calculate a player’s OPS and slugging percentage as well as a pitcher’s ERA. So my first order of business was determining about how many plate appearances each player would get; thus, I made a matrix covering the nine starting positions and also determined how many starts and relief appearances each pitcher would make. From there I calculated the rest of the statistics based on the players’ real-life numbers and some overall averages.

Using my team’s starting lineup and their WAR, this is the comparison to the Orioles 2018 lineup.

2019 WARSotW teamPos.Baltimore2018 WAR
1.5A. WynnsCC. Joseph0.3
2.0T. Mancini1BC. Davis-2.8
2.3J. Schoop2BJ. Schoop1.3*
1.5P. FlorimonSSM. Machado2.9*
7.5M. Machado3BR. Nunez1.2*
0.4DelmonicoLFT. Mancini-0.1
1.5C. MullinsCFA. Jones0.2
-0.3L.J. HoesRFJ. Rickard0.4
0.9C. WalkerDHM. Trumbo0.3
2.9E. RodriguezSPD. Bundy0.1
2.7Z. DaviesSPA. Cashner0.6
3.1D. BundySPA. Cobb1.1
0.9S. BraultSPK. Gausman2.2*
1.0P. BridwellSPD. Hess0.7
0.8Z. BrittonCLB. Brach0*
1.1J. HaderRPM. Castro1.3
1.3M. GivensRPM. Wright-0.1
0.8HernandezRPM. Givens1
-0.8E. GamboaRPT. Scott-0.1
31.1Total WARPos.Total WAR10.5

But the one thing about WAR is that it’s a relatively inexact science. Still, using the simple WAR calculators for pitchers and batters, I came up with a team WAR of 32.3 for my mythical 40-man roster. That turns out to be 21 wins better than the 2018 Orioles (meaning 68 wins) and nearly 25 fewer wins than the Red Sox, which would compute to an above break-even season with 83 wins. To me, that was a little too much of a range.

So I tried a different way. Since I had figured out most of the main batting stats in order to define OPS and slugging percentage for the hitters, I decided to treat the pitchers the same way and figure out the batting stats against them. Once I had those numbers, I pored over about two decades’ worth of team batting stats to determine the closest parallels to runs scored based on average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS, numbers which I averaged together to determine projected totals of runs scored and runs allowed, which then allowed me to figure out a Pythagorean win-loss record that’s relatively accurate – most teams finish within a few games of their Pythagorean record.

On that basis, my team would finish with a surprisingly good record of 72-90. I say surprisingly because it would finish near the bottom of both the batting and pitching rankings; then again, these align well with the rankings of the 2018 American League teams as five teams finished with fewer than 72 wins and this team generally laid in the bottom third statistically. Presumably it would be a rather strong bullpen that carries my team if they get an early lead.

One other thing all this calculation allowed me to do was change the roster somewhat. (This was reflected in the posts as I did the statistics before the second post where I selected the team.) In one instance, Christian Walker was not a full-time DH but was ticketed for AAA – however, in figuring out his season he had a bat that was too good to send down in comparison to my outfielders – so he stayed. And since his real-life MLB experience has mostly come as a pinch-hitter he’s a natural DH. Other players got more starts than originally envisioned because they were the best player I could put out there despite not being “established.” I also took the propensity for injuries into account so several of my players missed time on the “disabled list” and others were “called up” to replace them. For example, Pedro Florimon has been an injury magnet the last few seasons so in my mythical campaign he missed some time, enabling Manny Machado to slide over to short and placing utility players at third. Players who are well short of a full season are usually considered to be injured for a portion of it.

So I have not only answered my question, but I’ve also created a projected set of statistics (set in pretty much the same fashion as Baseball Reference lays out statistics) for each player based on a weighted formula of previous seasons and levels – thus, a guy who played at AAA a lot has his numbers adjusted a few ticks lower where appropriate. Raw rookies took a bit of a pounding from this, but if I continue to update these numbers they will settle in closer to their eventual MLB norms. It also gives me the fun of seeing how numbers will compare to real life as 2019 progresses.

(One note: for players who have retired I simply used their previous 4 active seasons, disregarding the layoff factor. It was as if they were still playing.)

This was a very fun and challenging exercise – but since I still have the numbers I could do it again for next spring as new players join the SotWHoF. It will actually be easier since I gave the now-retired players a courtesy cup of coffee (maybe a latte in a couple cases) in this mythical season but won’t feel the need to in 2020, unless I get in a positional pinch. (For example: if Michael Ohlman doesn’t find a team this year I still need him as a third catcher unless a guy like onetime SotW Wynston Sawyer gets the call.)

But consider this as you watch the 2019 season unfold and see how bad my projections are: at least free agency won’t break up this team! Thanks for playing along.

monoblogue music: “Sum Of All Parts” by Mark Peters and The Dark Band

This will turn out to be a second (and longer) helping from a monoblogue music alumnus – I reviewed a single from a previous EP last year – although at this point in time only the title track is available for listening or watching as a video. (The remainder of the four-song package is slated to come out this coming Monday, January 28.)

So how about the “Sum Of All Parts” as an album? Well, the title track seemed like a cynical look at a relationship but turned out to have a happy ending. It’s a very accessible pop song that should find a lot of interest if the radio industry will allow it. That’s backed up by the acoustic open to Failure Is My Friend, which turns out to be a bouncy, almost country-feeling entry into the adult-contemporary field.

The weakest song is Bone Dry – while it has nice slow-to-fast transitions that I liked, the most annoying part is hearing (loudly) the fingering of chord changes on the acoustic guitar. It makes the song seem underproduced and not thought through for some reason. (Otherwise, Mark had the sense to use Dan Fisher of Audio Heart Records – the label this will be released on – as his producer for his second EP after doing so on “Spirits.”)

The closing track of Highs And Lows is a good closer to the collection, blending a touch of country-rock in with his continental sound. It works well with his voice and probably will be a popular tune when Mark embarks on a six-week run of live appearances around his current home in Austria, a tour that will also have a lengthy run in Germany.

Aside from the modern-day marketing strategy of releasing just a few songs at once as an EP rather than the old days of 10- or 12-song albums with a handful intended as singles and the rest there to fill out the record, Mark reminds me of a ’70’s throwback in sound and feel. (Younger members of Gen X and Millennials – let alone any of my Gen Z readers – will have to go find a ’70’s pop music channel and listen for a couple hours to notice the arrangements and styles are distinct from those prevalent a decade earlier or later, let alone nearly a half-century now.) Maybe it was a little different in Europe, but either way Mark seems to me a 1970’s throwback – he even has a little of that look, but fortunately not the awful style of dress – and it’s Saturday. (Regarding those ’70’s styles: trust me, none of my late elementary to junior high pictures are going on Facebook.)

But when this comes out Monday – and assuming Mark quickly adds that to the title single that’s already on Spotify, although he has a very nice website, too – those who like the sort of station “you can listen to at work” because it has the sort of music that’s honest and not just about beats and bass should give this a chance. And who knows? If there’s enough interest, maybe he’ll give this side of the pond a go.

It’s time for more choices

This week marked the ninth annual rendition of National School Choice Week, and a good time to remind readers that, when it comes to governmental education dollars, money should follow the child.

This is a subject I’ve often written about, although normally it’s been from a prompt by the fine folks who run National School Choice Week. (This year the e-mail is probably in a spam folder, which is a shame because they do good work.)

I will grant to you that I don’t come from an unbiased perspective: my wife’s daughter is a recent graduate of the school portion of our church ministry, and those who follow my Facebook feed know I frequent many of Faith Baptist School’s sporting events (go FBS Falcons!) On the other hand, though, my wife and I are both public school and university graduates with my experience in Ohio and hers here in Maryland. Add to that the fact that both of us graduated from vocational-style programs a fair number of years ago and I think we have a pretty good perspective on education.

In the terms of my adoption of the phrase “money follows the child,” I give the credit to a Toledo City Council candidate for whom I volunteered two decades ago named Linda Hendricks. She introduced me to the concept, which didn’t endear her to the unionistas who ran the city of Toledo but made great sense to me as a way to bring competition to a field where it’s even more sorely needed today.

At that time my older stepdaughter was in the midst of her school years. As a young couple starting out, my former wife and I could not afford a place in the suburbs let alone tuition for a private school, so we bought our modest home in the most affordable neighborhood feeding into what we perceived to be the best public high school in Toledo. We were about five blocks from the line that divided kids who went to Bowsher from those who went to Libbey, a more working-class, inner-city school – ironically the school from which my mom graduated four decades earlier, when it was in the midst of a middle-class area. All those folks moved out to the suburbs as the years went by, and since I left town Libbey was closed due to consolidation, with many of its former students transferred to Bowsher.

However, when it came to school for my older child it wasn’t just sending her to class, because we adopted the elementary school – joining the PTA, helping out with coaching the kids, and so forth. A big part of the reason hers was still a relatively desirable school was the fact the parents and other members of the community remained involved with it. Certainly there were issues with the Toledo Public Schools at the time, but they also had some assets: this daughter was considered gifted/talented, so they had a facility for advanced students. She also got to take advantage of evening foreign language classes the district had for junior high kids, freeing her up for taking other classes in high school since her foreign language requirement was out of the way.

Unfortunately, insofar as I know things haven’t improved on this front since the late 1990’s when the older child was in junior high and into high school. I do know that, in the interim, the state of Ohio bulldozed all three of the Toledo schools she attended (plus the one she graduated from in another town) to build new schools – a shame in the case of her elementary school, which was considered for the National Register of Historic Places as a relatively unblemished example of period school architecture from the 1920s when the neighborhood was built. Even with new buildings, though, the learning inside is more suspect – a subject I will get to in due course.

In the modern day my current wife was adamant about sending her daughter to a Christian school so she spent her entire K-12 academic career in that environment, which came with some tradeoffs: limited facilities and class choices being perhaps the biggest drawbacks, stemming from the school’s small enrollment and lack of funding for expansion. Yet she’s been well-prepared for college nonetheless.

Meanwhile, that two decade difference between kids has seen an explosion of new educational choices, particularly charter schools and homeschooling. But those victories have been hard-won and the educational unions and their allies plot constantly on how to reverse those gains. (One such salvo: sneering about how School Choice Week is “not what you think.” Never mind the author works for a public school advocacy organization.) Instead, here are some quick facts provided by NSCW about the situation in both Maryland and Delaware.

There is some good news I recently became aware of: there are a handful of states where money can follow the child through their own education savings accounts. Unfortunately, Maryland and Delaware aren’t among them and the prospects of their joining this expanding club anytime soon (as four other states are considering this) are slim and none – and slim has packed up and left town. Blame the overly strong teachers’ unions for this one.

In this country there are still some of us who prefer phonics to phoniness, cursive to hype over climate change, and fractions to Friere. In the last case, the name is probably not familiar, but Paulo Friere is considered the father of critical pedagogy, which, according to Wikiversity, is where “the student often begins as a member of the group or process he or she is critically studying (e.g., religion, national identity, cultural norms, or expected roles). After the student begins to view present society as deeply problematic, the next behavior encouraged is sharing this knowledge, paired with an attempt to change the perceived oppression of the society.”) This is an approach that, in the words of the institute named after Friere, “owes a lot to the techniques pioneered by Freire and supplemented by practice elsewhere. We also draw upon organizing principles derived from Saul Alinsky and others.”

It’s interesting to me that this philosophy is now a staple at institutions which teach teachers to teach. Since Friere’s seminal work only dates from the early 1970’s, most of the teachers Kim and I had were taught under the old oppressive philosophy, which I guess is why we have our heads screwed on straight. Forty years later, most of the teachers at Faith come from Christian colleges where education is taught in a Bible-based curriculum rather than the otherwise prevailing method, so our younger daughter is covered. This puts us at odds with the other daughter, whose public school education of the late ’90’s and early aughts and the environment within the working-class suburban school she eventually graduated from seems to have left her as more left-of-center.

Yet if you want to subject your child to that sort of cultural rot, feel free. Just allow the rest of us the choice to opt out and have our children taught as we see fit under the same conditions. That, to me, is what school choice is all about. The rising tide would indeed lift all boats.

My version of fantasy baseball – part 2, the team

As I mentioned in part 1, the roster of the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame is now a 40-man roster, much like those the actual teams hold this time of year as they tweak their squads for spring training.

By rule, any player on a team’s 40-man roster gets an automatic invitation to the major league squad’s spring training – so, in theory, a “spring training” for this squad is set insofar as invitees. They would just have a hard time with having intrasquad games due to shortages at some positions and no “minor league camp.” That fact inspired me to do a little research from my SotW Tracker as to how many guys would be at each minor league level if I had such a camp comprised of squads made up of the highest level each played after being selected. (We know 40 made the Show, but how many got to AAA, AA, and so forth?)

So I broke this down by season of first selection, meaning the first squad of 22 from 2006 would be assigned as follows, with subsequent seasons afterward:

  • 2006 (22 players) 4 MLB, 4 AAA, 3 AA, 7 A+, 4 A
  • 2007 (19 players) 2 MLB, 3 AAA, 7 AA, 5 A+, 2 A
  • 2008 (22 players) 5 MLB, 3 AAA, 6 AA, 5 A+, 3 A
  • 2009 (18 players) 5 MLB, 3 AAA, 3 AA, 4 A+, 3 A
  • 2010 (16 players) 1 MLB, 2 AAA, 4 AA, 6 A+, 3 A
  • 2011 (18 players) 4 MLB, 5 AAA, 5 AA, 3 A+, 1 A
  • 2012 (18 players) 5 MLB, 6 AAA, 3 AA, 4 A+
  • 2013 (18 players) 3 MLB, 2 AAA, 6 AA, 5 A+, 2 A
  • 2014 (21 players) 6 MLB, 7 AAA, 5 AA, 3 A+
  • 2015 (19 players) 3 MLB, 1 AAA, 4 AA, 9 A+, 2 A
  • 2016 (20 players) 2 MLB, 3 AAA, 6 AA, 7 A+, 2 A
  • 2017 (7 players) 1 AAA, 1 AA, 4 A+, 1 A
  • 2018 (9 players) 2 A+, 7 A

So out of the entire group of 227 players there would be 40 in the major league camp and 187 in the minor league camp – ironically, 40 have made AAA as well, with 53 advancing to AA, 64 to advanced-A, and 30 not progressing past Delmarva’s level. Suffice to say there are enough guys in camp, and several have a shot at cracking the real Oriole roster in 2019.

As for my top 40, let’s break them down by general position:

Pitchers (20): Pedro Beato (R), Brad Bergesen (R), Steven Brault (L), Parker Bridwell (R), Zach Britton (L), Dylan Bundy (R), Zach Clark (R), Scott Copeland (R), Stefan Crichton (R), Zach Davies (R), Oliver Drake (R), Eddie Gamboa (R), Mychal Givens (R), Josh Hader (L), Donnie Hart (L), David Hernandez (R), John Means (L), Ryan Meisinger (R), Eduardo Rodriguez (L), Jimmy Yacabonis (R)

Catchers (3): Michael Ohlman (R), Chance Sisco (L), Austin Wynns (R)

Infielders (9): Ryan Adams (R), Blake Davis (L), Pedro Florimon (S), Manny Machado (R), Joe Mahoney (L), Jonathan Schoop (R), Brandon Snyder (R), Christian Walker (R), Steve Wilkerson (S)

Outfielders (8): Matt Angle (L), Xavier Avery (L), Nicky Delmonico (L), LJ Hoes (R), Kyle Hudson (L), Ty Kelly (S), Trey Mancini (R), Cedric Mullins (S)

Breaking the squad down further, we have several pitchers who would vie for the starting rotation and a number destined for the bullpen. Looking for a starting role would be Brad Bergesen, Parker Bridwell, Dylan Bundy, Scott Copeland, Zach Davies, and Eduardo Rodriguez – maybe not the greatest starting rotation, but on this fantasy team all they would have to do is get to a loaded bullpen (in real life) with the likes of Zach Britton, Mychal Givens, Josh Hader, and David Hernandez as the back end.

Around the infield, you have guys who can chip in at multiple positions based on their big league experience, with Manny Machado an obvious candidate as he’s played both third base and shortstop. Brandon Snyder has played both corner positions, and Steve Wilkerson split time between second and third. Meanwhile Ty Kelly and Trey Mancini provide flexibility as well – listed as outfielders, Kelly also has time at second and third while Mancini came up as a first baseman and still played enough there to qualify: my criteria was having at least 10% of appearances at a position.

Based on the track records, the 25-man roster, starting lineup, rotation, and bullpen could begin to take shape. The team I would likely “take north” would end up as follows:

Starting rotation: Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Davies, Dylan Bundy, Steven Brault (listed as a reliever, but pitched much of his career as a starter), and Parker Bridwell. Scott Copeland is optioned to AAA.

Bullpen: Closer is Zach Britton, 8th inning is Josh Hader, 7th inning belongs to Mychal Givens, and David Hernandez is the additional arm for these situations. Eddie Gamboa and Jimmy Yacabonis can provide length, and Donnie Hart is the designated LOOGY. Oliver Drake is first man up at AAA for the bullpen, with Ryan Meisinger next up. The JIC guys shipped to AAA would be Pedro Beato and Stefan Crichton (as 7th/8th inning guys), John Means (as a AAA starter and potential long man), and Brad Bergesen and Zach Clark (as flex pitchers).

Catchers: Austin Wynns would be the starter, but Chance Sisco would get his share of appearances as well. Michael Ohlman would be waiting in the AAA wings.

Infielders: The six I take north – some are no-brainers, but there is also fill needed. Trey Mancini (originally listed as an outfielder based on his predominant position) is going to be my first baseman on this team, and Brandon Snyder will be the backup corner infielder (who can also play in the outfield.) Jonathan Schoop takes second base, but that leaves me a dilemma: should I play Manny Machado at short or third? Seeing no good third base prospects at the moment, Manny gets the hot corner and Pedro Florimon takes short. It leaves me Steve Wilkerson as another utility guy who, if he were good enough at third, could move Machado to where he wants to be. It also helps that Florimon and Wilkerson are switch-hitters as there are no left-handed hitters around the infield. And while Christian Walker is nominally a first baseman, the intention of putting him on the roster is more to be a full-time designated hitter.

It’s odd to platoon at second base, but on this fantasy team Ryan Adams and Blake Davis would do so at AAA. Joe Mahoney could hold down first base at AAA, waiting for his chance.

Outfielders: With Mancini shifted to the infield, it leaves an opportunity for someone else to make the 25-man roster. I need four out of the remaining eight outfielders to fill the squad. Starting from right field around to left would be L.J. Hoes, Cedric Mullins, and Nicky Delmonico, and I would take Ty Kelly (another utility player) as another left-handed bat for backup. Xavier Avery is first up from AAA, while Matt Angle and Kyle Hudson would be the other AAA guys in waiting.

So this could be the batting order on Opening Day. We’ll assume this is an American League team with a designated hitter. They’ll send out Eduardo Rodriguez as their Opening Day starter. Behind him would be:

  1. Cedric Mullins, cf
  2. Trey Mancini, 1b
  3. Manny Machado, 3b
  4. Jonathan Schoop, 2b
  5. Nicky Delmonico, lf
  6. Christian Walker, dh
  7. L.J. Hoes, rf
  8. Austin Wynns, c
  9. Pedro Florimon, ss

The bench would be Chance Sisco (L) as my backup catcher and Brandon Snyder (R), Ty Kelly (S), and Steve Wilkerson (S) as utility players who can cover pretty much anything but shortstop – but Manny Machado could slide over in a pinch and he pretty much plays every game.

In the last installment, I “play out” the season.

The coming Constitutional crisis

Editor’s note: On Friday, as usual, I had a piece in The Patriot Post. Normally it is published pretty much as I send it in, but when I got the response from my editor Nate Friday morning he noted that my submission was a little long and he boiled it down to some extent. So I decided to do this post with the deleted parts added back in as originally written.


While he’s in the news, based on his recent podcast interview with Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post, for a different reason, it’s interesting to hear these words from a certain Senator: “I trust the wisdom of people. And I’m confident – especially after having traveled (my state) for two years – people are good, fundamentally, and if given the choice to do the right thing, they will. To do the good thing, they will.”

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke may or may not be running for President in 2020, but we can be assured that neither his previous comments on the “exhaustion” of the Constitution nor his favored “progressive” policies square with that stated philosophy of trusting people will do the right thing. Naturally, conservatives have had a field day criticizing Beto’s notion that the Constitution is an outdated document, but they’re also giving some thought to the state of our government and whether it’s even trying to keep the checks and balances that were designed into it. Exhibit one: David French at National Review:

We’ve reached this point in large part because Congress has utterly abdicated to the president its constitutional responsibility and authority to declare war. It’s simply handed over one of its most important powers, and it stubbornly refuses to take it back. And that’s not the only power it’s given to the president. Donald Trump has lately been able to make sweeping, unilateral decisions about immigration (the travel ban, for example) and tariffs (our trade war with China) precisely because of previous congressional acts delegating an enormous amount of authority to the executive branch.

“Beto’s Constitutional Folly,” David French, National Review, January 16, 2019.

Is Congressional oversight really a thing of the past? The answer may be “yes” if you believe French’s cynicism. But the funny thing about the situation is that even those who inhabit the progressive Left get it. This passage comes from one of their more recent political Bibles, the Indivisible Guide:

(C)onstant reelection pressure means that MoCs (members of Congress) are enormously sensitive to their image in the district or state, and they will work very hard to avoid signs of public dissent or disapproval. What every MoC wants – regardless of party—is for his or her constituents to agree with the following narrative: “My MoC cares about me, shares my values, and is working hard for me.” (Emphasis mine.)

The Indivisible Guide

Our nation came into being because men with foresight and a sense of altruism wanted to allow the rest of us to have the freedom of controlling our own lives without answering to a tyrant not of our choosing. They carefully set up a government with three co-equal parts in the hope the triangular split would keep itself in balance, not allowing one side – especially the Executive Branch – to dominate. But that freedom came with the responsibility of maintaining diligence and a strong sense of morality, and as we became farther and father removed from the generation that founded our nation, our people backslid into trying to take shortcuts and passing the buck away from being responsible for our actions. “It’s not my job” became the national mantra.

In the case of Congress it meant figuring out ways not to have to take unpopular votes – and risking electoral defeat – by delegating its authority, as French points out. So something had to fill the vacuum, and ambitious progressive chief executives have too often been the ones who stepped up to do so, winning elections on the emotional appeal of promising a life of ease (or at least taking from those who have the means) if you didn’t mind ceding a just a little bit more of your freedom and fortune in the process.

Perhaps the earliest example of this was President Woodrow Wilson, whose election in 1912 (by a mere plurality of the vote thanks to a Republican Party rent between its own Roosevelt progressives and those who were Taft conservatives) ushered in a plethora of radical changes in the form and powers of government: in his first term the Constitution was changed to allow for taxation of income and direct election of Senators, and the Federal Reserve was formed. Wilson’s second term brought further Constitutional changes on a more social front with Prohibition and women’s suffrage. All those changes, enacted within an eight-year period, permanently altered the direction of the American republic and set the stage for a century of liberty erosion through the New Deal, Great Society, and, finally, Obamacare.

Some might call that which Wilson began “fundamental change,” but the problem with its evolution from Wilson to Barack Obama was succinctly addressed by our Mark Alexander: “If you believe government has whatever power it desires and is the answer to every problem, as Obama clearly does, you should at least competently run it. Instead, systemic bureaucratic corruption and craven political considerations rule the day.” Career bureaucrats have carved out their own fiefdoms in this modern-day age of kings.

So those who – perhaps naively – believed the days of incompetent progressive government were over when Donald J. Trump rolled into town have certainly been disappointed with his lack of progress in draining the Swamp. Surely many of those Trump believers were also the ones confident the TEA Party would restore the vision of our Founding Fathers based on a single election only to be disappointed by the excuse – passing the buck at its finest – that they only controlled half of one-third of the government by virtue of a House majority; however, that majority in the House became one in the Senate four years later and grabbed the White House in 2016, meaning work could be done on righting the Judicial Branch.

So the good people thought, finally, all the pieces are in place for a reform where the right things would be done to restore our Constitutional republic. But they failed to foresee a process that started out being made doubly difficult by the national Fourth Estate and its unrelenting negative coverage of everything Trump and became all but impossible because of a midterm election where the issues were subordinate to the personalities and emotions involved.

Given the midterm results, a better question to ask regarding the Constitution is whether the people really want it at all? In the midst of the 2017 Obamacare battle, writer W. James Antle pointed out an inconvenient truth about modern America, noting, “In practice, the American people want a much bigger federal government than the Constitution currently authorizes. Not long ago, a conservative wag quipped that if a president actually tried to enforce the Constitution’s limits on federal power, he or she would be impeached.”

On January 3, 2019, articles of impeachment against President Trump were re-introduced in Congress. While it’s claimed that the impeachable offense is obstruction of justice, the reality is that Trump was obstructing the transfer of power to the unelected bureaucrats amassing their fiefdoms and making their favored friends wealthy on the backs of the long-suffering taxpayer. It’s a process that makes a nation one of well-connected “haves” lording it over the hapless “have-nots” who see opportunities snatched away and reserved to a select few.

If power is ceded to the unelected few, or if differences in philosophy become so great as to be irreconcilable, the last resort becomes violent revolution – and our nation already tried that, twice. The harder but necessary responsibility for good people to undertake and – more importantly – demand from their leaders would be that of getting back to honoring the intentions of those who wrote the document we’re supposed to be living by. Restore our checks and balances.

monoblogue music: “Wasted Time” by Future Thrills

After nearly five years of trying, this is the first time I have had the opportunity to review local music. And considering this exercise was instituted in no small part from my long-running “Weekend of local rock” series, it’s amazing that it took over a hundred reviews before I did one where I could easily see the band in person.

So back in late December I was minding my own business and perusing my e-mail box when up popped an e-mail press release from this band. I suspect I’m on their mailing list because Future Thrills bassist Chris Slavens is a fellow writer who I’ve known awhile, but regardless I thought it would be a good time to add a local element to monoblogue music since part of the intent of Weekend of local rock all along was to promote area music and this is the extension.

So what did I think of this four-song EP, recorded just up the road in Baltimore? Let’s just say this package generally has the sound you would hope to hear in an up-and-coming rock band.

The opening song Believe provides a great introduction, not just to the album but to Future Thrills’ influences as well. What begins as a relatively standard-grade post-punk alternative track takes several interesting turns through tempo changes and a detour into some reggae style before wrapping itself up. They avoid falling into some of the traps that make the sound stale.

It’s not quite pulled off as well with Stuck on You, the second track and the one of the quartet that is perhaps the weakest link. The song has a good harmony to it, but seems to be more of a paint-by-numbers effort than the others.

Charging into Bide My Time, though, the band picks up steam with a little more heavy sound, although it still lies well within the range of mainstream rock. (Mainstream rock, that is, that doesn’t have the over-dependence on bass, drums, and rap influence plaguing the “active rock” genre.)

If you like the punk side of rock, the final song borrows the most from the frenetic pace from which that brand is known. Next Episode may leave you breathless, but it also leaves you wondering where the other eight or ten songs are. Given the fact Future Thrills has been together less than a year (although three of the four played together in an earlier band called Sidecar Falcon) it’s a good way to introduce themselves and a rather enjoyable way to begin the review year.

If the band is to be commended on its good music, Future Thrills should also be commended for finding a good producer (in this case a guy named Justin Day, who runs New Noise Recording), outsourcing something that often causes trouble for DIY bands who don’t have that unbiased ear to know when something just isn’t right. This is about as tightly-produced as a garage-style band can be without it affecting their sound in a negative way.

I always implore the readers to listen for themselves, but locals can go one better: Future Thrills has its EP release party on January 26 at Trader Lee’s in Ocean City. (It’s a good venue that has bittersweet memories for me.) So if you can make it out I encourage it. Support your local original music!

Next week I have the first of my regular reviews already in a queue, so it’s a busy start to 2019 for this tiny little department of monoblogue.