Believe it or not, we get another one!

Today marks a bittersweet anniversary: it was four years ago today that the best Republican choice entered the Presidential fray. Unfortunately, Bobby Jindal never got any traction in the race as it was already apparent that Donald Trump was going to get all the media attention after he announced just eight days before.

But while Jindal was the unlucky thirteenth to enter a 2016 Republican field that was still to expand by four more aspirants (Chris Christie, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Jim Gilmore were still to come), the Democratic 2020 contender who announced yesterday is the 25th in what’s become a massive field. Needless to say, he won’t be in the debates this week and that’s a shame because he may be the only one running in a centrist, foreign policy-focused lane.

Retired Admiral and former Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania is probably not going to play the game of “can you top this?” in the headlong rush to the left that the Democratic field’s Overton window is undertaking. Moreover, in a more perfect world for him, he would have been in the race already but there were some health issues in his family which came first. Maybe he figures better late than never.

As Joe notes:

What Americans most want today is someone who is accountable to them, above self, above party, above any special interest … a President who has the depth of global experience to restore America’s leadership in the world to protect our American Dream at home … and one who is trusted to restructure policies where too many see only the growth of inequity not of the economy.

Announcement by presidential candidate Joe Sestak, June 23, 2019.

I don’t think Sestak has a chance to win the nomination, but I believe his entry will impact the race. He may only get a few percentage points but those will come from voters who may have backed Joe Biden until he moved left on a number of issues. Your old-line Democrat voters in rural areas will like Sestak because of the military background and the fact he represented a working-class state. If Biden weren’t from Delaware, Sestak would do well there and may do reasonably well in Maryland should he still be in the race. He may well punch above his weight.

Thinning the field

I missed this last week, or should I say I didn’t get to post on it right away. But we learned who was in and who was out of next week’s first two Democrat presidential candidate debates. Obviously the front-runners made the criteria established by the Democratic National Committee, but there were a couple surprising omissions in light of how I seeded the race a few weeks ago. (See how useful that is for constructing a narrative within my website? Now you have to go back and check that out.)

Each night’s field was somewhat randomly set, and there was the idea of spreading “top-tier” candidates out so that neither night was overly weighted toward one group – but as it turned out they unwittingly came close to the “kiddie table” debate concept employed by the 2016 Republicans.

Without further ado, and listed in my previous seeding order, this is the lineup for debate #1:

  • #5 Beto O’Rourke
  • #6 Elizabeth Warren
  • #7 Amy Klobuchar
  • #8 Cory Booker
  • #14 Bill de Blasio
  • #16 Jay Inslee
  • #17 John Delaney
  • #18 Julian Castro
  • #19 Tim Ryan
  • #21 Tulsi Gabbard

To be quite honest, the star of this debate is probably Warren, who’s picked up some polling support lately. But there is an interesting dynamic at play among the three women included and this field could end up helping Tulsi Gabbard.

As for the men, the five lower-seeded men are fortunate to be placed in a field that has the fading star of Beto and gaffe-prone Cory Booker. If any of them have a robust debate, they could move up in the polls – especially as the front-runners take shots at each other.

Here’s debate #2:

  • #1 Joe Biden
  • #2 Bernie Sanders
  • #3 Pete Buttigieg
  • #4 Kamala Harris
  • #9 Kirsten Gillibrand
  • #10 John Hickenlooper
  • #12 Michael Bennet
  • #13 Andrew Yang
  • #15 Eric Swalwell
  • #22 Marianne Williamson

The top 4 are either going to destroy each other or bury the other six. It sort of reminds me of the old Big 10 days when all the teams played each other but you knew it would be Michigan-Ohio State for the title at the end – we just have four teams instead of two, but they are all way ahead of the rest. And I would be curious to see what sort of Ron Paul effect the non-politicians Williamson and Yang have on the field here – after all, you can’t out-outsider them in this group.

The non-contenders who didn’t get in:

  • #11 Steve Bullock
  • #20 Seth Moulton
  • #23 Mike Gravel
  • #24 Wayne Messam

They are still soldiering on, hoping to get into the next round of debates in July. Bullock claims he’s already qualified, which is possible because he got a very late start in the campaign – obviously that will knock someone else out if he makes it in. Moulton is probably the one serious candidate most likely to drop out because Messam is whining about not getting a town hall meeting and Gravel was simply in it to get on the debate stage.

This has inspired another post but I think I’ll save it for next week, just before the debates.

Odds and ends number 94

I’ve been meaning to get to this for maybe a month or so as my e-mail box kept filling up. So finally I’m writing all these quick takes of a couple sentences to a few paragraphs as I have done 93 times prior. Let’s begin with this one.

The Biden Rules

Because I was on the American Possibilities e-mail list, I’m now on the Biden 2020 e-mail list, and that gives me no shortage of amusement because the e-mail come across to me as gaffetastic as the real thing.

First came the e-mail where Biden pledged to not take money from “corporate PACs, federal lobbyists, and registered foreign agents.” Better than his old boss, I guess, but all that means is that some entity will be laundering the money through a series of contributions first. So this is essentially meaningless.

But even better was the one where Joe took it as an insult from President Trump that he “abandoned Pennsylvania.” I always like it when he talks to me:

Well Michael, I’ve never forgotten where I came from. My family did have to leave Pennsylvania when I was 10 — we moved to Delaware where my Dad found a job that could provide for our family.

Let’s be clear Michael: this isn’t just about me. This is proof that Donald Trump doesn’t understand the struggles working folks go through.

He doesn’t understand what it’s like to worry you will lose the roof over your head. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to wonder if you’ll be able to put food on the table.

Biden e-mail, May 21, 2019.

Bear in mind that Biden could have moved back to Pennsylvania at any time once he reached adulthood. But Joe made his life in Delaware, or at least got his start there since he’s truly a creature of Washington, D.C.

But my real point is that there were a lot of people who faced that issue when Barack Obama was in office. I’ll grant that Obama’s was a situation inherited from the Bush administration but the “jobless recovery” we struggled through meant a lot of kids had to hear that same sort of news. And speaking of Obama…

Who does the gerrymandering?

Another legacy e-mail list that’s led to some howlers is my ending up on the list of an entity called “All On The Line” – that’s a result of being on the Organizing For Against America list. Every so often AOTL sends me what they consider egregious examples of blatant gerrymandering: one was Wisconsin’s First District (until recently represented by Rep. Paul Ryan), for which they claimed:

You won’t look at Wisconsin’s districts and see weird shapes. State legislators have used a more sophisticated, subtle form of gerrymandering — but the intentional manipulation is undeniably there. That’s why even though Democrats won 54 percent of the state’s congressional votes in November 2018, they won only 38 percent of the Congressional seats.

“All On The Line” e-mail, May 22, 2019.

By that same logic, Maryland Republicans should be more fairly represented as they won 32% of the Congressional votes but only got 13% of the seats – a larger disparity than Wisconsin’s.

Another of their complaints came about from North Carolina’s 11th District, which was once competitive (but won by Democrats) but now – not so much. And it has crazy boundaries in the city of Asheville to boot. In this case, they blamed the idea of exactly equal population. It’s now represented by Mark Meadows, who chairs the Freedom Caucus – that’s why they are upset.

Before that, I got a missive about Jim Jordan’s Ohio’s 4th District, where they whined about Oberlin College being included therein. Yes, he’s another member of the Freedom Caucus, and yes, that map was drawn by Republicans. In other words, you will never see them complain about Maryland, which is arguably the worst example of gerrymandering.

I have some ideas on how to address this, but it will be a future post.

Saying the right things

This was an interesting article from the Capital Research Center, as it talked about how language is used to shape public perception of an issue. It’s the first part of what I consider a must-read series from the group, which is really worth following if you’re into being a policy wonk.

I also have the CRC to thank for revealing that, while the Left howled in protest about President Trump’s short list of judicial nominees, they’re quite reticent about who they would select. Wonder why?

Old ideas become new, or just stay timeless?

I know that education needs to be reformed, but perhaps our old friend Bobby Jindal can do a little better than just dusting off an old proposal. Perhaps setting the groundwork for a 2024 or 2028 run, Jindal’s America Next group dusted off the e-mail list to send me this, which I noticed was from 2015 – just before he got into the 2016 race. Good stuff, but a bit dated. And of course, it was enclosed with a fundraising appeal.

The force for good

Last week my update from API has an item that hit a nail on the head. From their blog:

John Watson, then the chairman and CEO of Chevron, once was asked how the natural gas and oil industry is perceived since so much of the climate discussion is aimed solely at producing fossil fuels.

Unflinchingly, Watson countered that his industry is a noble one – delivering light, heat, transportation, food, clothing and other benefits to people every day – and that natural gas and oil are foundational for almost everything that we use and do. Simply put, Watson asserted that natural gas and oil are forces for good in human development and far from a deterrent (and instead an enabler) of climate progress.

It was an argument for the societal value of natural gas and oil and the opportunities they create, thanks to U.S. energy abundance. Connecting communities with energy and opportunity remains a pillar of our industry today – especially when you consider America’s growing capacity to share energy with the rest of the world, where many areas haven’t benefited from abundant or reliable energy.

“A Force For Good”, Megan Bloomgren, Energy Tomorrow blog, June 13, 2019.

Of course, she works for API, but working for them doesn’t discount her point of view. When our CO2 emissions are on the decline while those of many other nations are increasing, you have to say we’re on to something.

It boils down to this: at this stage, the top renewables are not the top reliables. While we are at the time of year we receive the most sunlight per day, it doesn’t mean you won’t have a cloudy day… and unfortunately, those warm, still days of summer are the days you don’t receive a whole lot of wind to push those turbines around.

The career stepping stone?

You know, I’ve never thought of my humble little site as a job provider. Shoot, as little as I’ve blogged here over the last three years it’s a wonder the lights are still on.

So I was somewhat surprised to get an e-mail from “Jessica Stewart,” who’s leaving her “role” as a finance and business writer to building a freelance portfolio. But this is what she told me:

I have some ideas, I think your monoblogue.us audience will enjoy.

Are you open to accepting free guest post content for publication on monoblogue.us?

Her ideas were (and I’m quoting verbatim):

  • Why Direct Lending is Surging in 2019
  • Why the Small Business Administration can’t help in a small Business loan?
  • Why rising interest rates are creating refinancing headaches for small Businesses?

Problem was – I did a Google search of the titles and found them on other sources. So I wonder what overseas writer making a pennies a day is really writing as Jessica Stewart?

After all, if I had a paying writing gig why would I leave it? Why do you think I’ve stayed with Patriot Post for all these years?

That’s enough for these odds and ends, until next time.

Weekend of local rock volume 75

While I have seen live acts here and there over the last several months, I didn’t feel like I had enough of a flavor to write a quality WLR post. I like to catch a good selection of songs that have my attention, so seeing a band in passing, such as at a couple recent Third Fridays, doesn’t really make the cut.

My intention last Friday was to arrive early enough to catch the back half of The Permilla Project as they opened up for the Paul Reed Smith Band. Unfortunately we finally made it there just as TPP was concluding their set, so we heard it – and they sounded really good – but we didn’t see it.

What that meant was we had to endure a (thankfully short) changeover which featured the tunes (and I use the word loosely) dished out by a DJ team that had two strikes against it: one, they were playing a horrible mix of music and, two, they had the most obnoxious ID loop that they played all too frequently. Look, I know you want people to know who you are but I really don’t need to hear it about every 60-90 seconds. And don’t try to come off all ghetto when we can see you’re a couple white guys.

If it’s cultural appropriation you want, done well, then you should have come to see the band. Then again, is it appropriation when the party is evenly split between races and the female lead singer is balanced out by the older white guy namesake of the band?

I used this photo as the tease the other night, but this is most of the Paul Reed Smith Band at our downtown amphitheater.

There’s no doubt PRS crafts a fine guitar, or so I am told, but he can certainly play the instrument, too. And the best part was that he looked and sounded like he was having a lot of fun. This wasn’t just a gig he was doing as stop 23 on a 40-city tour.

I’m what you would consider a recovering ’80’s hair metal fan, and although my musical horizons have been expanded quite a bit by doing four-plus years of record reviews, I still love my blues-based music. PRS had a heaping helping thanks to the good rhythm section provided by the Grainger brothers. (Besides PRS and the Graingers, the rest of the band is Michael Ault and Bill Nelson on guitars, and Mia Samone as the lead singer you just can’t miss – and not because of her electric-blue hair.)

Unlike a lot of other bands which play local events, the PRS band stayed away from doing cover songs – one exception was a long, drawn-out version of B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone – and instead played a variety of original songs. Presumably these came from the two albums PRS has put together over the years, 2011’s self-titled release and 2017’s Time To Testify.

(Interesting note in looking up the band’s history: they are a very big hit in China, of all places. I never thought of China as a nation that liked American blues, but it goes to show that music is a global language.)

Yet the beauty of the band came in how restrained the leader was. Obviously everyone knows there’s a virtuoso-grade guitar player on stage, and certainly he played an outstanding lead guitar where needed. But to his credit PRS didn’t make the music about him, which is probably why the band seemed to work together very well. As they are not a constantly touring band, I think that keeps them more fresh when they do play out.

A closer view of the Paul Reed Smith Band playing at last weekend’s Downtown Salisbury Festival. Worth checking out if you’re in the area.

I’m certain that the PRS band sent the folks hope happy – and not just because they were giving away copies of their CD’s to some lucky fans. I suspect they may be back for another event in the coming months because they probably gained quite a few fans in Salisbury.

Thoughts on the Downtown Salisbury Festival 2019

It used to be one of three events I looked forward to; the trio of spring harbingers which came and went each April: opening night for the Shorebirds, Pork in the Park, and the Salisbury Festival to wrap up the month. Regarding the latter two, I made it to most of those over the last decade of their runs, missing a few because of prior engagements but generally having a good time. Pork in the Park came to an inglorious end a couple years ago when the county decided to focus its efforts on other events.

By that same token, after its 2015 rendition the Salisbury Festival went on hiatus, or in the description of the new incarnation, the concept was “retired.” In its place last year, moved back on the calendar to a new early June timeframe, was the newly-rechristened Downtown Salisbury Festival. Unfortunately, the 2018 event was marred by the same rainy weather which seemed to dog us every weekend last year.

While I attended last year’s event on Saturday, with the vendors strung along a couple blocks of East Main Street, this year our one opportunity to show up was Friday night. And thanks to construction along East Main Street as well as the completion last summer of the riverside amphitheater, the venue was set up a lot differently.

Instead of their traditional placement in Lot 10 or closer to the library, this time the rides were placed across the river from the amphitheater. To me that made things more festive.

The food court pretty much stayed where it has always been, and the selection wasn’t too bad. (We decided on dinner at a different venue, though. *Read to the end for a mini restaurant review.)

Some of the selections in the food court. It used to be just booths and tents – for many years the Wicomico County Republican Club was a staple there selling hamburgers and hotdogs right off the grill – but now it’s a fair number of food trucks, too.
More of the food court. It was a cloudy but not overly hot Friday night, so I thought the crowd was a little on the modest side.

I would have thought there would be a few more people down there, although the threat of rain may have dampened things a tad bit.

But because I was there on Friday night, all of the action was centered around the riverwalk. It made for a nice overall photo from the pedestrian bridge.

Looking eastward from the pedestrian bridge toward the amphitheater. This was the crowd as The Permilla Project was wrapping up.

In years past, I remember going to the old Salisbury Festival a couple of times on a Friday night and this was where the musical stage was set for that particular party. Now that’s become the main stage as opposed to using the steps of the Government Office Building or the makeshift space in the Plaza. So I gotta hand it to the city: the amphitheater is truly a nice venue to watch this size of show. There were probably 200-300 people there – maybe more – but it didn’t seem overly crowded at all. It probably could have (and should have given the talent level of the performers) held twice or thrice that many just fine.

So the question I have for anyone who read this and remembers last year: were there the same number and quality of vendors on Saturday? I missed it this year because of a previous engagement, but I thought it was misleading that the maps showed vendors but didn’t point out they were only there on Saturday (and maybe Sunday, although that was pretty much a washout.) In that respect, though, they really haven’t departed from the Salisbury Festival tradition – all they have done is moved the venue out of the Plaza and over to the riverfront. I suppose this works well for making it different from Third Friday.

Still I think the June date is a bit problematic. I’m not sure what the target market is for this event, but at least this year they picked a weekend that wasn’t crowded by high school graduations. On the other hand, we are also into beach time as well as vacations for the family. While the weather wasn’t as cooperative, I think as a regional event this always worked better in late April. If the idea is a little bit lower-key event, then June is okay.

The DSF wasn’t hurting for sponsors, at least. But there are a number of charitable and government entities here as opposed to local businesses. That’s why I wish I knew what vendor turnout was like.

I’m not done with the posts on this, though. Most of the reason I stuck around was to bring back a series dormant for too long. Here’s a hint.

Headlining Friday night was the Paul Reed Smith band. This weekend will feature a brand new edition of Weekend of Local Rock. Yeah, it’s been awhile!

Once they get through with remaking downtown perhaps this festival will get back to its peak, just like the Salisbury Festival did in the mid-aughts. (They had some great local bands there, to be sure.) I know a lot of the air gets sucked out of the lower-tier events because the city of Salisbury is concentrating on the National Folk Festival and its post-2020 successor but this is one worth fighting for if they can make a few tweaks.

*Oh, and by the way: I almost hate to say this because we literally pretty much had the run of the place by the time we left, but if you want to try something good, the new Salisbury Pit n’ Pub was excellent. It’s right by the old Monkey Barrel (site of several renditions of WLR) across from SU. We actually ate at the 28th Street OC location on a church couples’ retreat over last winter so we were glad to see one opened here. It definitely made me miss Pork in the Park.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: May 2019

If there were ever a month I could have done co-players (and pitchers) of the month, this month would have been the case. The proprietary formula I use to figure it out came out razor-close in both instances. But after a little bit of overtime figuring, two players came out on top and they are being honored this month.

After struggling through a horrific April, you had to figure that Nick Horvath would begin slowly seeking his level in May. But being about 70 points below his overall average, you would further believe he would right the ship by the midseason break – instead, Horvath basically did it in one month. It turned out he was a hit shy of being 100 points above his April average in May, and while a .264/3/13/.841 OPS slash line isn’t the best ever, it was good enough to be among the top Shorebirds in a league where pitching has dominated thus far. (As of last night, Delmarva’s .251 team average was just off the overall lead, and only 4 of 14 teams have an aggregate OPS over .700, a mark which is considered about average. So pitchers are ruling the roost.)

To be sure, Nick did most of his damage in the first half of the month, starting it out 17-for-42 (a .405 clip). Toward the end he was struggling like several other on the Delmarva nine, which has been carried most of the way this season by its pitching. But add in a solid job in center field, and last season’s 25th round pick out of the University of Florida is working on improving his standing in the Orioles organization. Considering he was not a highly regarded prospect out of Palm Beach Gardens High School in the Sunshine State and only attended UF after a season at a local community college, Nick impresses me as an overcomer. As he’ll turn 23 next month, Horvath is a tick about league-average age but has played well enough to keep his job so far. (If it doesn’t work out, Nick can always attempt to resurrect his career as a pitcher: he made 45 relief appearances for the Gators over a three-season span.)

Nick barely edged out Cadyn Grenier for the honor, as Cadyn put together a good month at the plate as well. It could have went either way.

We’ll stay in SEC country for my pitcher of the month. But while Drew Rom is a Kentucky native – attending Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio – he had 650,000 reasons to be pried loose from a commitment to the Big Ten’s University of Michigan to play for the Orioles. Unlike Horvath, who was probably brought on to fill a roster in the hopes that he may blossom into a prospect, Rom was already highly sought after as a fourth-round pick.

Now Rom had a pretty decent April; well, decent in comparison to an average team and not the studs Delmarva has this season – as a staff they allowed just a .204 average in May – but he rose to the challenge in May. Rom didn’t allow an earned run in his four starts until the fourth inning of his fifth and final start for the month, at a point where the Shorebirds were safely up 8-0. That 0.35 ERA was complemented by a 0.78 WHIP, a 32-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 2/3 innings, and three wins – he was one out short of getting a fourth W in a game Delmarva was leading 2-0 and could have gotten a fifth win had Delmarva scored before the tenth inning – Drew left a 0-0 pitcher’s duel in Kannapolis after five shutout frames.

Drew made a significant jump over the winter – he and fellow high-school draftee (and last month’s SOM pitcher) Grayson Rodriguez were two of the few bright spots on a dreadful GCL Oriole team. Like Rodriguez, Rom is having his innings watched fairly carefully and he has often piggybacked with fellow starter Gray Fenter to cover most of the nine innings needed.

Just like Horvath, Drew had spirited competition for the award, and in his case it was reliever Zach Matson who had really good numbers to show for his month as well. Both are being rewarded with a trip to the SAL All-Star Game in West Virginia later this month. Also picked besides Rom and Matson were pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and Ofelky Peralta, catcher Daniel Fajardo, shortstop Adam Hall, outfielder Doran Turchin, and designated hitter Seamus Curran. The Shorebirds have a league-leading eight representatives, their best number since at least 2009.

Hogan takes a pass…on 2020

It’s no surprise that Larry Hogan, the now term-limited governor of our fair state of Maryland, decided to disappoint the #NeverTrump whisperers in the moderate wing of the Republican Party and skip his chance at being cannon fodder for Donald Trump on The Donald’s way to the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. As CNN put it:

“I truly appreciate all of the encouragement I received from people around the nation urging me to consider making a run for President in 2020,” Hogan tweeted Saturday. “However, I will not be a candidate.”

Hogan said that he would instead focus on his second term as governor and his upcoming role chairing the National Governors Association.

“That work is important, and I believe both of those roles will give me the opportunity to make an impact on the direction of my party and our nation,” he added.

“Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says he won’t challenge Trump in 2020,” Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN, June 1, 2019.

I’m sure Larry won’t be voting for Trump next year given our governor’s track record, and truth be told he’ll have the advantage of a fairly dull campaign year in 2020. Barring a heretofore unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate, there are no statewide races on the 2020 docket, and aside from the possibility of a spirited race in a redrawn Sixth Congressional District, the House races will likely be decided in their respective primaries. So Larry won’t have to demean himself by campaigning for any of those icky conservatives – not that he has much in the way of practice.

However, Larry has established an eerie parallel to his abortive 2010 campaign for governor; a campaign that barely got out of the starting block before he pulled the plug, deferring to his old boss Bob Ehrlich. Out of that came Hogan’s Change Maryland organization, which served as a foil to the governorship of Martin O’Malley and paved the way to Hogan’s 2014 victory – a victory he gloats about.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is not a career politician. He spent nearly his entire career as a small businessman. Fed up with high taxes, politics as usual, and decades of a one-party monopoly, he started Change Maryland, the largest non-partisan grassroots citizen organization in state history. In 2014, out-numbered in party registration by more than 2-1, and outspent by more than 5-1, Governor Hogan pulled off the biggest upset in America to become only the second Republican Governor elected in Maryland in 50 years.

Governor Hogan quickly got to work and set an example for the nation, accomplishing what many believed was no longer possible: reaching across the aisle, and working together to achieve real bipartisan, common sense solutions.

As Hogan was taking the hard pass on a 2020 run, he traveled a familiar road in setting up an organization primarily dedicated to keeping his name in the limelight. Dubbed An America United, Hogan is obviously setting this group up to prepare for a centrist run for the GOP nod in 2024 – basically the same lane John Kasich had in 2016 and held prior to that by guys like John McCain and Jon Huntsman. When most of the news glowingly featured on the site comes from the Washington Post, New York Times, or CNN – the farthest right source of his front-page news is the now-defunct home of #NeverTrump establishment Republicans The Weekly Standard – it’s a pretty safe bet that the group is not going to venture too far right of center.

Naturally the group has its goals, expressed in the standard bromides about “bipartisan, common-sense solutions to create more and better jobs, cut taxes, protect the environment, build our infrastructure, and improve education.” Unfortunately, based on his record in Maryland, what he considers “common sense” is just slowing the long-standing drift away from the ideals that made the nation great. After all, he turned his back on creating jobs in the energy industry (private-sector jobs), squandered opportunities to cut taxes further by asking for ever-larger budgets, and contracted the Democrat disease of believing that to “improve education” is to spend much more money on it rather than allowing the billions that’s already there to follow the child.

In 2024 the nation will be in a quandary: either facing an uncertain political future after eight years of Donald Trump or dealing with the backsliding which will be occurring should one of those in the Democrat “clown limousine” be running for re-election. I honestly suspect that’s what Larry is hoping for, knowing that only once in the last 90 years has a Republican president been elected to succeed a fellow Republican (Bush 41 after Reagan.) John McCain in 2008, Gerald Ford – who served as President but was never elected in his own right – in 1976, and Richard Nixon in 1960 were the last three to try, but you have to go back to Herbert Hoover winning in 1928 after Calvin Coolidge chose not to run to find the previous example before the late George H.W. Bush.

(However, the string is even longer for Democrats: the last time a Democrat succeeded a Democrat, aside from death in office, was 1856 as James Buchanan served one term after fellow one-termer Franklin Pierce. To tell you how long ago that was, Pierce in 1852 succeeded the last Whig to be President, Millard Fillmore. Your Presidential tidbit.)

So don’t think Larry is uninterested in the 2020 race. He’s just choosing to bide his time, perhaps believing that America electing a far-left President will allow him to escape the crocodile that will call any Republican “extremist.” But I have news for Larry: even if he became a “blue dog” Democrat to run, he would still be on the menu regardless.

monoblogue music: “Story Of My Life” by Kevin West

This album will come out June 15.

To read the actual story of Kevin West’s life – or at least the biography he provides with his upcoming release, slated to drop June 15 – you would see that he’s never really settled into a location, or for that matter a musical genre. (Speaking of changing locations, it’s a shame he stopped updating his travel blog because it was interesting reading.)

Anyway, this is something I may have expected from a musician just starting out, but this upcoming six-song EP will be West’s fifth album spanning eighteen years. So this variety is a little bit perplexing, but I give him credit that he’s all but abandoned hip-hop, a career direction he attempted in the mid-aughts.

His soon-to-be-released compilation begins with a song called Best of Mine, which I thought was kind of a mashup between rock and country. It’s something like Neil Young may have tried, but didn’t come across quite as well to me. (There’s a video out for the song, but it didn’t want to embed into my post. Perhaps that’s a setting on his end; regardless I could only link.) This leads into what I thought was the best song of the six, the bluesy and boozy One Too Many.

After that, it’s a mishmash of styles – sometimes within one song. Those who like traditional country overtones might be into My Only Sunshine but it’s the sudden morphing of the saccharine Sweet Innocence into a jarring hip-hop style toward the end that really bothered me – not that it was playing out as anything overly special but just the placement and juxtaposition was too much.

Kevin then makes another changeover on the final two songs, grabbing a horn section and going to a jazzy feel on the title track Story Of My Life and instrumental Not For Nothin’. One distinction about this EP is that it has well-versed players on it – while Kevin didn’t always have the same personnel on each cut, he employed solid musicians (and Whitney Hanna, who was a good female backup singer) to create the EP, which he co-produced. Aside from the wrong move on Sweet Innocence, I can’t complain about the production aspect within songs. But the variance makes me wonder if Kevin will ever come up with a distinct sound of his own or keep trying on different things to keep up with some unknown set of musical Joneses he believes will be his meal ticket.

Or perhaps Kevin will ever be the traveling musical troubadour, sometimes living out of his van as he tours the country, jamming and playing for awhile in bands along the way. It may be the story of his life, but let’s hope this EP isn’t the final chapter because I think Kevin can find a better direction with his talent. And since I can’t share anything aside from the video, maybe the best place to judge for yourself would be his website or social media. Perhaps that changes two weeks hence.

A return to Troopathon

A Memorial Day weekend tradition of mine that’s sadly missed is the Concert for a Random Soldier, which for many years featured a late, lamented friend of mine and her husband as part of the band Semiblind and oftentimes double duty as they also played as an acoustic duo called Dog and Butterfly.

With that event’s demise due to issues with the venue, I thought this could fill the bill as somewhat appropriate for Memorial Day weekend.

It was back in 2008 that I became aware of an event designed to help the morale of our armed forces fighting overseas. And since the event was patterned after the longtime successful Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethons for muscular dystrophy, it was called Troopathon.

Despite a struggling economy, a presidential election where our foreign policy was a key source of debate, and a general weariness of overseas fighting against the irregular forces of radical Islam, the first Troopathon was a huge success, bringing in well over a million dollars that purchased care packages for these overseas trips. It was such a success that they did it again the next year despite the change in administration and shift to a more inward-looking foreign policy. Once again they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for these care packages.

Over the next few years, they took advantage of coverage from websites like mine to use them as conduits for contributions. For awhile I had a badge on my site telling readers I was a part (small, but nonetheless a part) of a silver-medal winning blog team led by the Hot Air website. I brought it back for a cameo, as you can see below.

Back in the day.

But as the years went by the Troopathon concept became a more modest one. Goals which were once lofty such as $500,000 dissolved to $300,000 and the withdrawal of most of our Iraqi troops allowed people to place this event out of sight and out of mind. Even I pretty much stopped covering this after the 2014 session, as bloggers raised a paltry $600 combined. The last time I mentioned Troopathon was three years ago, when I sheepishly realized I missed the event.

So I was happy to see that Move America Forward (MAF) was still plugging away with trying to support the troops through the one-night telethon, which is scheduled this year for June 28. Instead of having it at a presidential library, as has often been the case over the years, Troopathon 12 will be broadcast from the studios of Newsmax TV, which has partnered with MAF to broadcast their event to cable, making it available in over 60 million households. This year it should eclipse the $6 million mark in total donations.

It’s also interesting to me to ponder if there’s a local angle to this. In the Salisbury area we have an organization called Operation We Care, which also packs troop care packages – about 2,000 a year, according to their website. I suspect these are two separate organizations, but perhaps they could figure out a way to join forces, even if the Operation We Care volunteers do the packaging of the care packages for which Troopathon raised the money.

It turns out that several young men my family knows are in the military now, with at least one or two deployed overseas (although not necessarily in a “hot” theater of operations.) While they (and all other military recruits) are promised long-term benefits for sacrificing their time and efforts in the short-term, it’s good to see people still care enough to back these groups.

While I’d love to see the need for a Troopathon eliminated because our nation has peace through strength, we’re nowhere close to a pax Americana at the moment. Thus, our troops are worth supporting whether it’s through Troopathon or by Operation We Care.

monoblogue music: “Final Notice!” by Lord Sonny The Unifier

Before cable and non-traditional outlets did away with “appointment TV” Memorial Day weekend was traditionally the beginning of summer rerun season. As an homage of sorts to that practice, I’m doing a rerun from an artist I reviewed a couple months ago.

The Starman was the single I reviewed from Lord Sonny The Unifier, the unusually named group that I noted at the time had an upcoming album, one where I noted “you might correctly imagine this album would almost have been more at home dropping in 1979 than 2019.” I was correct in noting a mid-April release date for Final Notice! in that it came out April 12, 2019.

Had this album actually come out in 1979, though, there would have been compromises necessary which aren’t needed with today’s technology and music delivery process. For one thing, given Lord Sonny’s track lengths and vinyl record limitations, the 1979 album would have had a maximum of nine songs meaning two from this release would have been on the cutting room floor or saved for a single’s “B” side. (Yet another obsolete reference for anyone under 30; anyway, my candidates would have been Satellite Eye and Love Is On The Line.) This would have left the five four-minute songs for side 1 and the four longer songs for side 2.

Final Notice! is an interesting album in that there isn’t one great good song that sticks out, particularly when you get past the two opening singles Right In Your I and The Starman. Instead, there is a particular vibe which reminded me of a more upbeat Pink Floyd (such as March Forth) or less glam David Bowie, like The Starman. The songs tend to be keyboard-based, with the usual featured toned-down guitar bridge or two tastier on some tracks more than others.

I suppose the only thing that might really detract from the album is that Greg Jiritano’s vocals can get a little grating at times. But more often than not he saves it with careful usage of harmony and backing vocals, which is unusual for a self-produced album. Lord Sonny’s release may never sell as much as Pink Floyd’s The Wall does in one day (as it came out at the tail end of 1979, making me feel ancient to realize that seminal album is almost 40 years old) but if you would only be interested in a copy for yourself, by all means listen for yourself. I think it may bring back good memories or make you want more classic pre-prog, post-psychedelic rock.

Reviewing the field (part 3)

Today we decide – well, until the next time I do this exercise which will be after the initial two sets of debates. (Not that I plan on watching: I like to keep my dinner down.) At that time the field will probably be sorted back closer to a more manageable 16 as those who don’t make the debates get the hint and money shifts toward those who the media believes has a chance.

Yesterday we brought ourselves to what would normally be called the Elite Eight – but we are talking about the clown limousine here.

So let’s see how this shakes out to find a winner, shall we?

#5 Beto O’Rourke (46, former U.S. Congressman from Texas – no change) vs. #4 Kamala Harris (54, U.S. Senator from California – down from #3)

I noted yesterday that Beto had the advantage of a weak opponent in the last round. Unfortunately for him, Harris is a better player and that needed “reboot” is getting the Texan booted out of this tournament. Besides, Harris at least won her Senate election.

Winner: Harris, 56-44.

#11 Steve Bullock (53, term-limited current governor of Montana – not ranked) vs. #3 Pete Buttigieg (37, mayor of South Bend, Indiana – up from #13)

Bear in mind again that these are head-to-head matchups, and this is one of the most intriguing. As I said before, Bullock can brag about winning a state that also was won by Trump and he comes across as pragmatic. On the other hand, Buttigieg has been pulled into the weeds a lot lately on various issues, such as religion, and then there’s an 800-pound gorilla in the room: are Americans ready for a gay president? With this alternative, I think the answer is not quite.

Winner: Bullock, 52-48.

#7 Amy Klobuchar (58 – for a few more days – U.S. Senator, Minnesota – down from #6) vs. #18 Julian Castro (44, former HUD Secretary – down from #12)

This is another tough call. In theory it’s easier for Castro to win this matchup, but Klobuchar has two things going for herself that Bernie Sanders did not: a more moderate world view and a favorable gender in this day and age. In a battle of female vote vs. Latino vote, they will go with the bigger prize against Donald Trump.

Winner: Klobuchar, 55-45.

#9 Kirsten Gillibrand (52, U.S. Senator, New York – down from #8) vs.
#1 Joe Biden (76, most recent previous Vice President and two-time previous candidate – no change)

If “Creepy Joe” can stay out of Kirsten’s hair he wins this one easily because Gillibrand hasn’t ran a stellar campaign. Of the women vying for the Oval Office, she’s one of the more nondescript despite being Hillary Clinton’s successor in the Senate.

Winner: Biden, 60-40.

This sets up a really good pair of semi-final matchups.

#7 Amy Klobuchar vs. #11 Steve Bullock

Klobuchar is the higher seed because she’s been in the race for a longer time. But her appeal is also that of being a woman at a time when Democrats are looking to avenge the loss of Hillary Clinton yet one with a reputation of being pragmatic, perhaps because of her Midwest roots.

But Bullock counters most of these advantages with the elements of executive experience (as the only remaining one in the field) and the fact that he won a state Trump won. And Trump didn’t come close in Minnesota, unlike most other Midwest states. However, Montana is not a state that immediately comes to mind for complexity, making the executive part a little more moot.

This is one that Klobuchar pulls out in the end by four points.

Winner: Klobuchar, 52-48.

#4 Kamala Harris vs. #1 Joe Biden

Harris has really coasted along in this campaign, knowing that she will do well enough in her own state of California (which will be an early player in the process in 2020, unlike most of its history) to be a force for the long haul. But she also provides one of the most difficult contrasts for Biden to face despite his name recognition and experience. Is Harris articulate and clean enough for the voters?

I think when it comes down to it, Democrats want a new face. Biden may be highest in polls right now, but he may be scraping his ceiling in popularity when you begin to consider the Obama effect is wearing off and he’s against a woman of color – instant Anita Hill reminder, anyone?

I believe Democrats are bound and determined to have a woman on the top of their ticket against Donald Trump.

Winner: Harris, 51-49.

The final:

#7 Amy Klobuchar vs. #4 Kamala Harris

In the chill of February, Amy Klobuchar began her campaign in front of hundreds of diehard supporters braving a snowstorm. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a visual that compared with thousands in the streets to send Harris off a few days earlier.

The Democrat party is a collection of coalitions, and this is where it gets dicey. The question is which coalitions will go which way, and how strongly will they fight for their candidate? Overall I get the sense that, while the Democrats may be better served with a more centrist, qualified candidate they are going to go with the one who checks off the most boxes and goes the most against the grain. Those who are pining for a second black president who would be the first woman president will probably have enough pull within the party to prevail.

Winner: Harris, 54-46. She succeeds Biden, who I had winning in the initial March Madness post.

I’ll look at this again in July, with new seedings and perhaps a different result based solely on my gut instincts.

Reviewing the field (part 2)

When I left you last, we had eliminated the first eight Democrats in the current field of 24 running for President. Today there are a number of good matchups in this round so let’s get cracking!

#9 Kirsten Gillibrand (52, U.S. Senator, New York – down from #8) vs. #8 Cory Booker (50, U.S. Senator, New Jersey – down from #7)

This is a battle of two Senators who have had some difficulty standing out in a crowded field. I alluded to Gillibrand’s lackluster campaign in part one; fortunately, she’s up against a Senator who’s been more of a laughingstock to some and who hasn’t been the successor to Barack Obama he was perhaps shooting to be. It’s a battle of attrition here and a mild upset.

Winner: Gillibrand, 51-49.

#10 John Hickenlooper (67, most recent past governor of Colorado – down from #9) vs. #7 Amy Klobuchar (58 – for a few more days – U.S. Senator, Minnesota – down from #6)

Even though Hickenlooper is well known for opening a brewpub after being laid off as a geologist, his lack of buzz nationally wouldn’t be enough to overcome the fellow moderate, who has the advantage of the more national Senate stage.

Winner: Klobuchar, 59-41.

#11 Steve Bullock (53, term-limited current governor of Montana – not ranked) vs. #6 Elizabeth Warren (69, U.S. Senator, Massachusetts – down from #4)

Because Bullock is shiny and new, and Warren seems to have taken courses from Hillary Clinton on how to alienate broad swaths of the populace by trying to appear like a normal person, I smell an upset here. Warren’s campaign hasn’t been the juggernaut some may have hoped for when she jumped in the race so early.

Winner: Bullock, 52-48.

#12 Michael Bennet (54, U.S. Senator from Colorado – not ranked) vs. #5 Beto O’Rourke (46, former U.S. Congressman from Texas – no change)

Given the fact Beto is trying to “reboot” his campaign, the fact he drew the nondescript Bennet is a definite godsend for him. Out of the eight lower seeds that advanced, Bennet might be one of the just two or three O’Rourke could beat right now.

Winner: O’Rourke, 55-45.

#13 Andrew Yang (44, entrepreneur – up from #15) vs. #4 Kamala Harris (54, U.S. Senator from California – down from #3)

This is the opposite of the previous race, as Yang could beat some of the lower echelon players on a head-to-head basis. While Harris hasn’t run the most inspiring campaign, she would have enough name recognition over Yang – who may become the next Pete Buttigieg surging up through the field with good debate performances – to win this round. That may not be the case in a couple months.

Winner: Harris, 54-46.

#19 Tim Ryan (45, U.S. representative from Ohio – not ranked) vs. #3 Pete Buttigieg (37, mayor of South Bend, Indiana – up from #13)

Over the past two month, Pete has become the flavor of the day but he may be closing in on his expiration date as he receives more press scrutiny from opponents on both sides. In this case, though, he will have no trouble with the little-known lower seed Ryan whose Midwest roots are negated by Buttigieg’s similar background.

Winner: Buttigieg, 61-39.

#18 Julian Castro (44, former HUD Secretary – down from #12) vs. #2 Bernie Sanders (77, U. S. Senator from Vermont – no change)

While this has the same disparity of seeding as the previous contest, here’s another case where the expiration date may be on the milk carton. Remember, these are head-to-head battles and something tells me that feeling the Bern is so 2016 – meanwhile, Castro seems to be slowly building momentum. Bernie was never going to win this anyway, and I think his support isn’t as widespread as believed – witness how quickly he’s lost frontrunner status.

Winner: Castro, 51-49.

#16 Jay Inslee (68, current governor of Washington state – down from #11) vs. #1 Joe Biden (76, most recent previous Vice President and two-time previous candidate – no change)

There’s a reason Joe is the frontrunner, and Inslee isn’t the candidate who can beat him. Running on climate change is thin enough gruel, and it really serves well to alienate Joe’s Big Labor base.

Winner: Biden, 73-27.

So we are set up for part 3, which will wrap things up tomorrow. Here are the matchups, which go pretty much according to seeding except for my two huge upsets.

  • #5 Beto O’Rourke vs. #4 Kamala Harris
  • #11 Steve Bullock vs. #3 Pete Buttigieg
  • #7 Amy Klobuchar vs. #18 Julian Castro
  • #9 Kirsten Gillibrand vs. #1 Joe Biden

The semi-finals would pit the O’Rourke-Harris winner against the survivor of Gillibrand-Biden and place the Bullock-Buttigieg victor opposing the Klobuchar-Castro winner. Oddly enough, three of the four quarter-final pairings have a male against a female. Think that’s interesting? #Metoo.

See you tomorrow.