One place gets it right

If you’ve been keeping up with my infrequent musings of late (admittedly, it’s not hard to do) you’ll probably know that I’ve been keeping an eye on the struggle to bring common-sense, job-creating right-to-work legislation to Delaware – as has the national internet site The Daily Signal.

On that front I bring you some good news and some bad news: first, the bad news.

As a prospective resident of Sussex County, I was dismayed to find out that the County Council there is four shades of gutless. That represents the four County Council members who let the vague threat of lawfare scare them into rejecting a bid to make the county the first in the state and region to become a right-to-work county. Only Rob Arlett, who represents District 5 – a district that takes in much of the southern third of the county, including Delmar, Millsboro, and Fenwick, but not Laurel – voted for the measure he sponsored.

Granted, the ink wouldn’t have been dry on the ordinance before Big Labor found a friendly judge to slap a TRO on it (and that would have been done out of Wilmington or Philadelphia, since there’s not a ton of union presence in Sussex County) but it also would have allowed a second circuit to rule on the law, just as the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that covers Kentucky ruled favorably on a county-level law there. (Later, the entire state adopted right-to-work legislation.) Since Delaware is in the Third Circuit and it’s fairly dominated by Democrat appointees, it’s likely they would have ignored the Tenth Amendment and found some excuse to thwart the county’s will. (Bear in mind that the County Council didn’t seem to object on the aims of the law but only the fact it would create a legal hassle.) Yet once two circuits come to a split decision, the next step is the SCOTUS and maybe this is a good time for them to decide on it.

So it was left to the town of Seaford to accomplish what their larger governmental unit could not, approving a right-to-work ordinance in December that was announced today. Good for them, and that was definitely good news.

And it may well be good for them. The timing was probably coincidental, but it was also announced today that a former industrial plant in the city would be getting new life as an intermodal rail and truck facility. So if you figure there’s going to be needed renovations that create construction jobs as well as a handful of jobs for distributing the freight from railcar to tractor-trailer and vice versa, that could be the difference between sitting at home making a wage of zero and working for someone making a reasonably decent wage. It could even be a union shop, with the key difference being that not everyone would be forced to join or pay dues.

Here’s the thing. What unions seem to be most afraid of isn’t the fact that they would have to compete and sell new workers on the benefits of joining, but the prospective loss of political power they would suffer if the number of dues-paying members drops off. Wisconsin is a good example of this: the unions’ dues-paying rolls are off 40 percent since right-to-work legislation passed in 2011.

(As an aside, isn’t it interesting that union members have time to go picket and speak at public meetings? So who is doing their jobs?)

Assuming the Seaford measure isn’t taken to court, which it probably will be for the reasons stated above, perhaps more businesses can help boost Seaford’s bottom line. Unlike a lot of other similar-sized towns, they have the slight advantage of having infrastructure for growth already in place thanks to a number of shuttered or underutilized industrial sites left over from the days it was the “nylon capital of the world.” I’m sure they don’t care if they get back to making nylon, or even if they’re the capital of anything – they just want to thrive.

While Big Labor may beg to differ, even the average union guy on the street knows the true minimum wage is zero. And in an area that cries out for good-paying jobs, why not make yourself as attractive as possible to secure them?

Making Maryland’s employers sick

As would be expected from a body that’s never passed up on a chance to saddle Maryland’s business community with more dictation and regulation, the Maryland General Assembly overrode Governor Hogan’s proper veto of last year’s hilariously misnamed Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. All Republicans voted to uphold the veto, along with the top five early contenders for the monoblogue Accountability Project’s final Top (Blue) Dog Award, given to the Democrat who most crosses the aisle in the right direction. But those five Democrats could be spared because the majority party had more than enough to pass the override – a situation that must be addressed in November.

Rather than write a summary of all 22 pages of the bill, which among other things requires the state to “develop a model sick and safe leave policy that an employer may use as a sick and safe leave policy in an employee handbook or other written guidance to employees concerning employee benefits or leave provided by the employer,” the chief takeaway is that an employer has to provide approximately 9 days of sick leave a year to full-time employees. Yes, it’s one hour for every 30 hours of time worked, with employers that have 15 or more employees also required to pay for the privilege. (Those with 14 or fewer still have to provide the time; it just need not be paid time.) In short, once again the state butts its head into something that should be between employee and employer, doing so based on their vast amount of time running businesses. (I would be curious how many in the majority have actually signed the front of paychecks for their employees.)

I’m not going to say that every business is like my employer, but I think most are understanding of various situations. Mine is a good example: seeing that it’s our daughter’s senior year and last basketball season, he and I have worked out a way for me to get to all of her games, home and away. I just shift my schedule accordingly and do the work needed beforehand. Luckily I have a job that allows this, and I know not everyone is that fortunate. But there are ways to work these situations without the state’s heavy hand and threat of liability from employees who may have an axe to grind months after their dismissal. (Three years of record keeping on this is even more paperwork for employers.)

In keeping with this I see employers doing something I’m familiar with as a policy: simply roll vacation and sick days into an overall category of “paid time off.” Those who use more sick days than the three previously allowed are fine, but they have fewer vacation days as a result. Next year we will see a law that prohibits employers from rolling the two together: that’s my guarantee. They can’t leave well enough alone.

It seems to me that General Assembly Democrats, not content with the plethora of people who are already drawing some sort of welfare from the state and cognizant of Margaret Thatcher’s asserting that socialism works until you run out of other people’s money, are trying to make employers into the new providers of welfare in the state. How else would it be that employers are forced by the state to pay people who aren’t being productive rather than work it out in-house? Shouldn’t there be an incentive for employees to develop their skills to make themselves more attractive to employers with better benefits rather than those employees running to the state? The market will eventually favor the employer who is most fair because they’ll get the best employees; that is, if the state doesn’t figure out a way to screw that balance up.

To use a similar example, Obamacare tried to supplant a system that almost everyone was either happy with or at least grudgingly accepted as a benefit that maybe wasn’t perfect but was better than nothing. It turned out to be a solution that didn’t perform as intended in whittling the number of uninsured down to near zero yet made the previous beneficiaries suffer with higher premiums and co-pays. Having seem this example first-hand, I can tell you this paid sick leave bill won’t work as intended either.

But Democrats win (and working Marylanders lose) in several ways: now they have created yet another entitlement that those unmotivated to work will bitterly cling onto with Democrats having the expectation of gaining their votes for another couple hundred years. Plus, as a special added bonus, they can either bludgeon Hogan with the resulting hiring slowdown or point to employment gains as evidence that this is no big deal – in fact, they would probably use it as evidence it should be expanded, never mind unrealized potential left on the table thanks to their meddling. Remember, being a Democrat in government is never taking responsibility for adverse real-world actions.

So I suppose those on the “progressive” (read: regressive) side will be cheering the override of this bill, a measure that’s wrong for the Eastern Shore and wrong for Maryland. They may like Jim Mathias’s support of it, but when he comes around later this year trying to convince us that he’s “fighting for us” just remember how he sold out the job creators for something that didn’t need to be a state concern. If I, with my public-school education, can wade my way through the bull to find the common sense, so can the average voter.

Sorry, liberals, sick leave is not a right and a sane General Assembly would rescind this in the future. In November we can work on restoring that sanity.

A countdown to terror

January 9, 2018 · Posted in Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

At noon tomorrow, in about 13 hours from when I started this post, we will begin the fourth and final annual segment of the 90 Days of Terror for Larry Hogan’s first term, better known as the Maryland General Assembly session for 2018.

The session will most likely begin with a showdown over the paid sick leave bill that Maryland Democrats passed last term, only to see Governor Hogan properly veto it after the conclusion. Instead, he has offered another compromise bill (as he did in the 2017 session, a bill that never even received a committee vote.) Governor Hogan has also made news recently by vowing to address the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (a.k.a. the Trump tax cuts) and their effects on Maryland. Most likely this relief would come in adjustments to state tax that Hogan is touting as an “emergency” bill. This will make it even more difficult to pass as emergency bills need a 3/5 majority and Republicans have just 14 of 33 seats in the Senate and 50 of 141 in the House.

Baltimore City will also figure prominently in this session for two reasons. One is the recent revelation that some Baltimore City schools have a lack of heat, which became a problem with the latest cold snap and actually pushed another school scandal in Prince George’s County aside. The governor mentioned that Baltimore City Schools have the highest administrative cost in the country and noted that it’s money that’s not getting to the students (or the buildings.)

The other Baltimore City issue is the fate of indicted State Senator Nathaniel Oaks, who is being accused of accepting bribes by the federal government. Even if Oaks resigns, the Democrats will maintain the seat, but that would set off a storm of activity as glory-seekers try to grab a rare opportunity for a bit of incumbency and a leg up for the 2018 campaign if the situation is resolved soon enough. One feature of this session is that the filing deadline for the November election hits midstream, so by the time important votes are taken, such as the budget, those who are running as incumbents or trying to move up from House to Senate will know who their opponents are and can vote in such a way to neutralize them.

This is the year votes will be taken with political posturing in mind. One trend to look for will be to see how many members of the MGA flip-flop votes between third readings, or on legislation cross-filed between House and Senate. This happened quite a bit last year, with some legislators being expert at it. I would look for more of the same this year.

Finally, on a personal note, this will most likely be the final year for the Maryland edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project. I think after 12 years it’s time for someone else to take the reins of seeing how conservatively our legislators vote. With the change of administrations in Washington we can also look for more batshit-crazy legislation put up in the event Donald Trump ends this program or that this session. And while the odds are definitely not in favor of the GOP taking over either house of the MGA anytime soon, the question is whether they will gain seats in the era of Trump. In order to make Larry Hogan more effective in the 2019 session, though, it’s something which needs to be done.

monoblogue music: following up in 2018

January 6, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comment 

Like I did last year I resolved to follow up on the acts which have made my top 5 review lists from 2014, 20152016, and now 2017. I was curious to see if they were still making music and whether it was still good stuff. So over the last couple weeks or so I have been checking things out with these 20 acts and this is what I found.

From 2014, it should be noted that Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders (#5) had “Greenbah” finally come out toward the back end of 2017. It’s a very mature evolution of their rockabilly sound, and would have been a contender for the top 5 had I formally reviewed it. So they are still making music, and still difficult to pin down on social media. The only drawback: you still have the acquired taste of his nasal voice to deal with and it doesn’t work on every song.

Rpresenting a different foreign shore, The Lost Poets (#3) have put out a new, cool single called Vulture (The Duel) (with an almost disturbingly morbid video) as well as one back in January called Riviera Keys and are still seeking venues for the short film “Insubordia pt. 3”. They are honing that sludge rock sound, to be sure.

Meanwhile, my New York-based top 5 artists Tomas Doncker Band (#4) and Paul Maged (#1) are keeping very, very busy. Considering the Doncker “band” is just part of the Doncker “brand” we find he’s doing a lot – performing on more tribute albums such as a project commemorating Curtis Mayfield, working with longtime collaborators, writing music for upcoming off-Broadway plays, and running his record label. A really busy guy, and that’s just his recent social media feed. And since I recently reviewed the first of a planned trilogy of EPs that will make up Maged’s next full-length, it’s obvious Paul’s making more music. The next phase, called “The Glass River”, comes out in February.

The only downer is that my top 5 slot seemed to be the kiss of death for Monks of Mellonwah (#2), whose trail has gotten colder since they last put out music in 2015.

My 2015 crop has gone off in a number of different directions. There are the more traditional, like Idiot Grins (#5) who put out a new album called “State of Health.” To me it was a throwback to the 60’s thanks to their guests, including the backing harmonies of the Byrd Sisters. They had a couple whipsaw changes in direction with this one back and forth from a Motown style to retro country, but they seem to have found their groove this time. Down the California coast, the Liquorsmiths (#4) didn’t follow up their 2016 release “All My Friends Are Fighters” with any other new stuff, but they keep playing a regular schedule of gigs around the San Diego area.

Even farther down south the Pacific, almost to the end of the world, is the subject of a single Tumbler (#3) put out in August called Ushuaia. Richard Grace of the band explained that it was a retrospective of the lost native Yamana tribe from the region, which had a rich but only verbal language and was wiped out from smallpox and other diseases when Westerners found the area and settled on Tierra del Fuego.

The Yamana’s story is of two cultures meeting. We wanted to reflect that in the way we recorded the song. Mostly though, we wanted the song to tell the story of these people’s disappearance – of how terrible and tragic it is and, worst of all, of how little we actually truly care.

Even farther out are the Space Apaches (#2) who seem to have disappeared into the ether, but the guy who went in the most interesting direction was Jas Patrick (#1). While he may not be doing music anymore, he has succeeded in his new field of voiceover work. In 2017 he received one of the Voice Arts Awards for his work on a radio commercial, which led to new representation. I suppose in the grand scheme of things winning a national award and being #1 in your craft is more important and lucrative than being #1 on my chart. But I still like the songs.

If anything, my 2016 crop is still doing things the conventional way – with one exception. It’s also a matter of scale: Michael Van and the Movers (#5) played every so often near their California base, Midwest Soul Xchange (#4) and Steve Hussey and Jake Eddy (#2) each did a string of shows over the summer with MSX touring around the upper Midwest and Hussey and Eddy holding court in venues in West Virginia and Ohio, and Jim Peterik (#3) doing shows with his band the Ides of March, including a current gig on a Moody Blues cruise. Tough life if you can find it for the purple-haired one.

But the sad news to me was the demise of The Magic Lightnin’ Boys (#1) who announced in September they were calling it quits. They promised to finish some recording commitments for digital release and played as part of a Chris Cornell tribute show in October. It sounds like they will go their separate ways, though.

Since I just did the 2017 top 5, there’s not much to add with them – an upcoming show apiece from Revolushn (#5) and Justin Allen and the Well Shots (#3) are the extent of their future plans at the moment, although Revolushn just did the “Good Acid Tour” to San Francisco, the New York area, and Los Angeles in November. Meanwhile, there’s a focus on upcoming studio time for Rich Lerner and the Groove (#4), but Free Willy (#2) is promising a new album early this year called “Too Cool For The Room.”

Finally, Freddie Nelson (#1) is pleased about getting airplay for his album on satellite radio. I guess I will have to check that out.

In so many words, that’s an update on some of the best bands featured on monoblogue music. Hopefully I’ll have more to review this year.

So THAT’s what I have been doing wrong all these years…

January 1, 2018 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comment 

I guess I will hit the ground running in 2018, as I take a quick break from writing the book.

Have you ever had unsolicited advice on your job? If you’re a nurse, the guy off the street tells you how to do patient care, or everyone’s suddenly a real estate agent, lawyer, architect, or any of a thousand other tasks where there’s some specialized skill or training involved?

Try being a blogger.

A few days back I received a list of everything I do wrong. This is copied verbatim except I fixed the bullet points to format.

Hope you are doing well.

A quick analysis reveals your website Monoblogue.Us having different technical glitches, where natural traffic is very low. Well, this is not the only reason for your website performance, because this list prolongs.

What we see from initial analysis of your website, it has been impacted much with recent updates from Google.

Here are some points where your website needs immediate attention:

  • For many competitive keywords or, phrases your website stands beyond 10th page of Google.
  • Your websites compatibility with many browsers and devices seems inconsistent.
  • Found lot more scripts and css files that are increasing page loading time.
  • Multiple links from same directory and author sites, downgrading link authority score to 30%.
  • As far as social shares and posts are concerned you need to work and improvise a lot.

It could well be I’m guilty of all of them. Still, if I were to write back to “Sonia Rose, Marketing Consultant” I would have to ask whether they realize that we speak English here and tell them that proofreading is your friend. In this case, though, I’d rather shame them publicly.

You see, I really don’t give a rat’s rear end what Google page I’m on for “competitive keywords” because that’s not why I do this. “Link authority score”? I link to what I need to in order to get my point across. Scripts and CSS files probably come from WordPress, not from something I add. I’ve run the same theme since 2010 or so, thus the widgets are probably legacy ones but no matter.

If you’re worried that I’m suddenly going to sell out, not a chance. I’m still going to feature the same insight and occasional snark as I have since 2005 here in 2018, although probably less than most readers would like since I want to get a book out, too.

I just think it’s hilarious that people want me to hand them over good money to tell me how to be a blogger. I think in almost 13 years at it I know a little bit – but the two most important lessons are to write from the heart and never write something you’ll lose sleep over. As long as I don’t stray from those two tenets I have a success regardless of Google placement.

To you and yours, have a happy and blessed 2018!

2017: a monoblogue year in review

December 31, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comment 

Perhaps more than any other, this was a year that tested me.

I guess that’s why it started with a treatise on “stuff.” 2017 had far less clutter here than in most years, that’s for sure. I also began an annual feature that follows the top musical groups I review.

But I continued January by reporting on a job-promoting event that actually occurred in December – it wasn’t the only time Annapolis would be in the news here as a new “90 Days of Terror” began. One enterprising Delegate, though, sought to lop 30 days off that reign of terror, while I also announced I would be tracking legislators across the border.

What really got my goat, though, was an attempt at deception that came about because a Presidential spoiler entered the race so late – yet it also gave me an idea who could better promote the Constitution Party I voted for. Being #NeverTrump came with a price to pay for one well-known blogger, though. That #NeverTrump attitude convinced me this would be “a Republican administration like no other,” but it was more than the “thanks for nothing” I gave his predecessor.

My cohort Cathy Keim also chimed in with her thoughts on God’s role in the Trump inauguration, the Golden Rule, and covered the March for Life for me. As for me and women’s issues. you know I had to chime in on the women’s march the day after President Trump was sworn in. And for all his faults, the new President started off well with the affordable energy crowd.

At month’s end, we lost someone who was sure Trump would prevail. Fortunately the Prince of Darkness hung around long enough to see Borat leave office.

In truth, Cathy started February by discussing one of her favorite topics, immigration. That led to me discussing two of my favorite topics: repealing Obamacare and renewable energy.

I came up with a new hashtag. I also came up with a new, much more politically purple state.

On the flip side, the Left decided to try and emulate the TEA Party and I got to cover it. But their emulation includes phony events and a general bad attitude, one which Cathy began March by discussing. She also related how families can make America great again in her view – even if interrupted on live TV.

As for me, I decided Trumpcare wasn’t really my cup of tea, and let the junior Senator of my state know in no uncertain terms that his budgetary objections are misplaced. Meanwhile, we steam away from our economic safe harbor into perilous waters.

I guess what really pissed me off though was being betrayed by our governor, who ignored job creation for dubious claims of safety. To show the typical thanks from the Left for a Republican reaching across the aisle, my one April news post discussed the Andy Harris townhall at Chesapeake College. The liberals in the district didn’t like him in May either.

Nor did they like Donald Trump when he announced an intention to allow for oil drilling off the Delmarva shore. (I liked it though.) I also weighed in on a controversy roiling a Maryland Christian school.

But the biggest thing I had to do was explain my hiatus from the site and what it means going forward. For one thing it meant all I talked about in June was the upcoming summer of discontent. In turn, I started July by explaining another long absence.

With the new abode, I could get back to doing a little bit of discussion on attitude and betrayal on a national scale. I also talked about the first halfway-serious 2020 Presidential candidate from Maryland not named Martin O’Malley and provided my usual coverage of a state political event. Many of those politicians were the subject of this year’s rendition of the monoblogue Accountability Project, which I released in August. Another annual event I chronicled was a day at the local county fair.

The events in Charlottesville prompted me to revisit an earlier assertion, while yet another obstacle to this website’s continued presence was surmounted.

I began September with a perspective on Hurricane Harvey, but it also set the scene for an increased tempo of work. And work was the subject of my Labor Day message, too, the first of three “holiday” posts that also commemorated 9/11 and Constitution Day.

But the month is also a sad time of the year for me, as it closes out the Shorebird season. At that time I always select my Shorebird of the Year in a seasonal review and discuss my picks and pans as a fan.

I also began a new, but eventually short-lived series of posts called DLGWGTW, which stands for Don’t Let Good Writing Go To Waste. It chronicled some of my social media comments. There were some of those in October, but outside of that I attended an event which continued a local controversy over the Civil War and another with a group of Civil War re-enactors, including a stand-in for President Lincoln.

Fortunately the latter event came after my week without a phone, although it cost me two prospective posts about the Good Beer Festival. Beforehand, I had waxed eloquent about the way things ought to be and found out about a surprising but exciting prospective development on the labor front in Sussex County, Delaware.

While I began a short-lived series in October, in November I renewed two long-standing ones with a Weekend of Local Rock reprise and a fresh batch of odds and ends. Neither odd nor an end described the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that began being discussed during the month, but there was a school of thought believing the 2017 off-year election had an odd but rectifiable result.

A group already beating the drums for 2018 came out to harass our Congressman at a local town hall meeting, but the “traveling roadshow” forgets how much ground needs to be made up to make this a competitive district.

Turning away from politics, I revisited one of my favorite series of posts from last year with an update and extended Thanksgiving greetings once again.

December always starts with a review for my website’s anniversary, which often leads almost directly into the induction of new players into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. After that, though, I parted with a Sunday thought and more odds and ends before wrapping the year up with my Christmas greeting, a short treatise on taxes, and a review of my top 5 albums of the year.

A departure from past years, though, is that I’m not going to look ahead to 2018 in a formal post. Truth be told, I’ve stepped back from the political and I just think my gut feelings aren’t as attuned to the scene anymore. So I’m just going to comment as things occur while I back away.

In another departure from past years, readership has tumbled to about 13,000 year-to-date. Obviously this is about where I was in year 1, so all that I gained in subsequent years is gone – but so is a lot of the hassle that went with building an audience (that was apparently pretty fickle) by posting daily – even if it was unimportant, barely readable dreck. One good bit of news is that I had my 500,000th visitor (according to StatCounter) on/about April 25. When you think about it, that’s a lot of people and visits over 12 years, probably more than 99% of blog sites have ever seen. So while I don’t have the huge numbers anymore and will probably be less than a drop in the bucket in World Wide Web history, I can always say that I don’t lose sleep over anything I write.

So that’s the year of monoblogue. Hopefully 2018 brings you everything you wished for.

monoblogue music: 2017’s top 5

December 30, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · 1 Comment 

Again I was a little disappointed that I had fewer than 20 records to review. This was a year where the top 10 of those all had a shot at being top 5, with the top group standing out somewhat from the rest for a number of reasons.

After going back through all my 2017 reviews and reminding myself why I liked these albums, here are your top 5 for this year.

5. “Further!!” by Revolushn

Original review: October 14.

If you were really into the psychedelic rock era, this one is a worthy latter-day successor. Certainly the band reflects a Bay Area (that would be San Francisco, not Chesapeake) mindset and politics, but good, fun music is still that.

These guys have been around for a little while and they’re perhaps on the cusp of breaking out into a little more commercial success, assuming they truly long to be sellouts. They may just like their status as an “American protest band” better.

4. “Push On Thru” by Rich Lerner and the Groove

Original review: August 5.

A band that almost defies classification, the appeal of this album was the variety it possessed. These guys seemed right at home transitioning from a Grateful Dead-style jam to more straight country to a serious blues number. You may not like every single song on this one, but Rich Lerner and the Groove hit more home runs on this one than they struck out.

Not necessarily the touring type anymore, they have an impressive cover list when they do play and host a benefit concert each year.

3. “White Oak & Kerosene” by Justin Allen and the Well Shots

Original review: February 25.

There’s a lot of honesty in Justin’s music; the sort of thing that only comes about when you get your degree from the School of Hard Knocks. While this is only a five-song EP, I’m sure Justin and his supporters hope and pray it’s the bridge to something much bigger.

But Justin may have a choice to make, since it’s tough to straddle the line between country and rock. He walks that tightrope pretty well on this EP, but I’m hoping he doesn’t just slide into the idea of just being another country artist without kicking and screaming about leaving the world of boozy, bluesy rock behind.

2. “Remember The Alamo” by Free Willy

Original review: September 16.

What carries this album to its lofty position is the unique and talented musicianship shown by the artists on this record. Free Willy didn’t play every bluegrass festival, country bar, or local honky-tonk watering hole, but they sure sound like they did. In terms of technique and song structuring this is probably one of the best albums I’ve ever reviewed, even if it’s not a genre I listen to an awful lot.

After I did my review and as I was trying to find more on each band, I found more of the backstory on Bill Jones (“Willy”) on the Bluegrass Today website. Definitely worth the read.

1. “Shake The Cage” by Freddie Nelson

Original review: July 29.

I think I outdid myself with the opening lines of this review, which really sum up this compilation:

When I went to check out this just-released album from Pittsburgh-based rocker Freddie Nelson, for three minutes and 55 seconds I was transported back to 1987. Back then you could have taken a tape of the lead song on this CD, called Turn You On, to any A&R guy in the country worth his salt and he would have given you cash money to take you to the band’s next show.

If you just want to straight-up rock, this one is the album for you. I’m definitely partial to bands that draw heavily from classic rock, and this is certainly and enthusiastically one of them. These songs, they stick with you.

I began 2017 with a look at where some of the bands I’ve reviewed over the years have gone, and in the next week or two I’m going to revisit that post with updates. Like I said last year, that should be a fun post to put together as we all combat the post-holiday blues.

In the meantime, I hope to get the finishing touches next year on a couple albums that could make the 2018 top 5 list when finished, both from alumni artists: Matt Townsend did the first half a proposed two-part project this past year and 2014 winner Paul Maged began the release of what he envisions as a trilogy of EPs that will create his next full-length.

While I have pretty well backed out of the day-to-day political game with this site, I still like to do the music reviews. Here’s hoping I have a better pace in 2018.

The idea on taxes

December 26, 2017 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The idea on taxes 

A quick thought:

It’s been a week and a holiday since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed, and by and large the reaction from the political opposition has been predictable: more misinformation on top of the lies they had already been spreading.

Their favorite piece of half-truth is telling gullible voters that the middle class will pay more in taxes. Their dubious claim is that 80-odd million middle class taxpayers will see their taxes go up – problem is that this combines their increased income in a handful of years with the expiration date of the bill. Granted, the individual cuts have an expiration date but the chances are these rates would be here to stay unless a future Democrat administration raises them. Thanks to a Republican House and need to make a budget deal, even Barack Obama kept most of the Bush tax cut around when it came up for renewal.

Yet the Trump tax cuts (and I guess we can call them that) passed without a single vote from Democrats. Obviously they are banking on the misinformation fed to the willing press and lapped up by TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) sufferers to motivate them to come out next year and flip the House and Senate so they can paralyze the Trump administration with constant investigations and resume the slow-paced economy of the Obama years.

On the other hand, the GOP is also taking a risk. There are a lot of people who have bought the “tax cuts for the rich” narrative so if the economy stumbles despite the tax cuts for both individuals and businesses the Democrats may well have the House handed to them.

But imagine we hit 4% or even 5% economic growth in the second half of 2018 because people find out they have more money to spend and other nations find themselves unable to compete? Then the question has to be asked of Democrats: why did you object in such a kicking and screaming manner? Well, we know the answer: to them government is the true owner of all property, including yours. Why else would they object to citizens keeping their money?

I know I’m going to be pleased to have some of mine back.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2017

December 24, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2017 

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:1-14, KJV)

You may recall that I began my Christmas Eve post last year with the exact same reference to Scripture. But things are a little different this year.

It’s interesting to ponder how, every so often, the week before Christmas embroils us in a political fight. The two examples I’m thinking of are the 2009 fight about Obamacare, which had its Senate vote on Christmas Eve before Congress could beat it out of town, and this year with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will likely be known as the Trump tax cuts. Before I get to all of my “best of” and retrospective pieces to close out a tumultuous 2017, I will write up something on that piece of legislation.

Yet there’s something different about this Christmas once again. Maybe it’s because, for the first time I remember, I have a real tree in my house? Doubtful. Instead, it’s almost like people think they are allowed to enjoy the season for the first time in awhile. Notice we’ve heard nothing about the “War on Christmas” and people seem to be in a better mood this year. Now obviously that’s one man’s perception, but I also suspect having Christmas Eve fall on a Sunday will be good for churches across the nation. (I’m timing this so I can share the fact my church, Faith Baptist Church in Salisbury, will be having its usual morning service today at 10:45 after a potluck breakfast.)

Thanks to the job I secured over the last year, I was able to spend a little more on gifts this year. I will probably drop a little extra in the collection plate this morning too. (Bear in mind that, while salvation costs nothing, the actual church building and ministry does come at a price.)

Tomorrow will be the day I spend Christmas with Kim’s family, which is a far sight easier than spending it with my parents in Florida (although their weather is way better.) As the children of the family get older, with one now in junior high and the other a high school senior, we’ve found the number of presents gets smaller but the price tag of each goes up more than enough to make the difference. I must say, though, that ours is being thoughtful enough to buy gifts for her best friends and mom. It’s a welcome sign of maturity.

Now if only our political discourse will take the hint, right? Anyway, on this eve of Christmas Eve as I sit here in my chair in Salisbury, Maryland with laptop in lap and write this lengthy treatise on the holiday for publication on Christmas Eve I think I have finally arrived at the point where I can honestly say it’s Christmas time. From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas and I will see you all on Tuesday.

Odds and ends number 85

December 15, 2017 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Odds and ends number 85 

Here’s another in my long-running series of things from my e-mail box and elsewhere that deserve a mention but not a full post. Generally I shoot for three sentences to two paragraphs for each, but that’s simply inclusive and not a strict guide.

In the fall of 2015, there was one candidate out of the rugby scrum of GOP presidential hopefuls who stood above the rest when it came to experience in governing combined with serious thought about the issues. Unfortunately for us, Bobby Jindal folded up his campaign tents rather quickly, but at least he can still dispense truth like this statement:

The Democratic Party has come out of the closet this year in full-throated support of single payer in health care. Those of us who are health care policy wonks have known this was their intent all along, but they were previously smart enough not to admit it.

It’s been a few weeks now, but I knew I would get to write about this in due course and Jindal’s statement is still worth the read. So I kept it around.

Actually, since the Republican Party doesn’t seem to want to favor limited government anymore, choosing instead the goal to be the ones running the circus and supposedly doing it more efficiently, maybe Bobby – who actually cut government spending during his two terms as governor of Louisiana – should join a group devoted to rightsizing government.

Yet there was a controversial decision made by one such group, the Constitution Party (and as disclosure, it’s their candidate I voted for last time – so I follow them more than most people do.) Gary Welch, the Communications Director of the national Constitution Party, explained their decision to back Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. This also included a fundraising drive.

To be honest, I’m not sure what the upside of backing Moore would have been had he won. I doubt he would have changed parties again – Moore was a Democrat up until the Clinton era, so you could conceivably add the decades-old accusations against him to the blue side of the ledger – and the amount raised by the CP would have been less than a drop in the bucket in the race. I’m figuring they were assuming Moore would still prevail based on the voting patterns in the state, and admired his stances reflecting the fact we are endowed with rights from our Creator, not from government.

But on the other hand, money raised in support of Moore could have been better used on ballot access and working against a system that somewhat unfairly burdens smaller political groups by making their ballot access more difficult. They may have had common cause but to me that wasn’t a smart use of limited funds.

One last thing about the Moore race that bothers me, though: no one pointed out that, on the same day that the Washington Post broke the Moore story, they also put up a more glowing portrait of Doug Jones prosecuting the last remaining 16th Street Baptist Church bombers from 1963. (The story was since updated to reflect election results but the link still shows November 9, the day the Moore accusations went online.) What a coincidence, eh?

Then again, they’re not the only group who hitched their wagon to Moore hoping for some sort of gain.

(Photo via Women for Trump.)

You may not know the woman at the podium, but I do. Not that I’ve ever met Amy Kremer, of course, but when you’re writing a book on the TEA Party you see the name a lot. In this case, though, it’s a group she co-chairs called Women Vote Trump, and the photo was part of a fundraising appeal from that group on Moore’s behalf. Now I won’t pick on Kremer aside from the fact she seems to be quite the opportunist – she left the Tea Party Patriots shortly after their formation because she wanted to work with their rival Tea Party Express group, and left them for Women for Trump once the Tea Party fizzled out – but this is what aggravates people about politics: the number of hangers-on who make their living from fundraising.

But it’s not just Republicans. This is a snippet of something I received from our erstwhile Vice President:

This Republican plan isn’t anything more than the latest, worst edition of the same-old trickle-down economics that has failed time and time again.

Even more than that, let’s be clear about what’s happening here. The goal the Republicans have today is the same goal they had when trickle-down economics first came on the American scene: Their long-term goal is to starve government. To say we don’t have the money to pay for Medicare, for Medicaid, for Social Security. We heard it last week when one of the leading Republicans in the Senate actually said after passing this new tax cut that we don’t have the money to pay for children’s health care.

Simply put, the values reflected in the Republican budget are shameful. They aren’t my values. And I don’t believe they’re America’s values either.

And so it’s time for a change. Right now, you can show that these actions have very real consequences. From now until 2018 and beyond, I’ll be doing everything I can to help elect a new kind of leadership in our politics. Folks who actually understand the issues an average American faces. Folks who aren’t scared to stand up to big corporations. And more importantly, folks who are absolutely committed to standing up for working people.

Yes, Joe Biden has his own political group called American Possibilities – literally a web portal that solicits contact information and donations. Certainly he will seek out the most liberal people to donate to. But is that really what we need?

Apparently this is Joe’s version of that three-letter word, J-O-B-S. Regarding that subject, I haven’t done a struggling blogger “bleg” story for awhile, but as a guy who’s been laid off before the holidays a time or two I could sympathize with Peter Ingemi’s story of losing his. Fortunately, it may now have a happier ending.

Now I have a question: have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Over the last several years I have reported on a couple organizations that promote “made in America” presents, so if you’re looking for stocking stuffers or that perfect gift, you may find it from the Alliance for American Manufacturing 2017 Made in America Holiday Gift Guide. Those who are ambitious enough to make it a challenge can also sign up for the Made in America Christmas Challenge that’s sponsored by Patriot Voices. But they concede:

We understand that there are things that are simply not made in this country – like iPhones. It may not be possible to buy everything made in the USA, just try your best.

Maybe that’s why so few have taken the challenge – just 90 at the time I linked. Either that or no one really cares about former Senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum anymore.

I may as well finish with a programming note: as opposed to this series that’s been around for over a decade, I think I’m dropping the Don’t Let Good Writing Go To Waste feature. It’s just a pain to compile, and besides it behooves you to track your political opponents anyway. (In my case, it’s to set them straight.)

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the concept got old fast and if I’m not excited about it then I won’t do them. So I decided to go no further with it, just like this post.

A Sunday thought

December 10, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A Sunday thought 

This passage was on my heart a few days ago, but something told me I would want to refer to it today (this piece was started a few weeks back.)

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:3-11, KJV)

We are often told that we should not be judgmental and reminded that you shouldn’t throw stones unless you are without sin yourself. But they usually fail to continue the parable to its conclusion, “go, and sin no more.” That would require a course correction that would oftentimes eliminate the action for which the subject is being judged.

So in the last couple months we have seen numerous charges of all sorts of sexual impropriety; everything from simple harassment to child rape has been leveled at someone in the public eye. Yet I do not believe a single one of those charges came out of a relationship where the two people involved were married to each other.

The problem with these stories coming out in a sad drumbeat of disgust is that they make the story of a long-term monogamous relationship the “dog bites man” story. For every Harvey Weinstein whose story is played up, the idea of some other Hollywood figure who has a more or less trouble-free long-term marriage isn’t promoted. (I’m sure there are some, but you never hear of them.)

This new awakening to the issue of sexual exploitation has moved over into the realm of politics in recent weeks, and the appearances of impropriety have resulted in the resignations of long, longtime Rep. John Conyers, Jr. from Michigan (until his resignation, the longest-serving House member – he was first elected when I was but an infant in 1964) and Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, who had similarly held office for many years (first elected in 2002.) Interestingly, Conyers allegedly had a reputation that preceded him but Franks was ousted for an entirely different reason – asking female staffers in his office to be surrogate parents. (It sounds unusual, but Franks has experience in the subject as his wife cannot have children – their two twin children were born via a surrogate mother and donor egg cell.)

The political side of the allegations began, though, with two other men – one a sitting Senator and the other seeking a seat there. Senator Al Franken tried for awhile to explain away the photographic evidence of harassment toward media personality Leeann Tweeden, but as other accusers stepped forward the calls for his resignation grew louder, particularly as he was the example Republicans could use to counter the one I’ll get to momentarily. Last week Franken relented, stating he would resign “in the next several weeks.” But Franken was critical of both President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who have their own issues with harassment claims.

The one commonality among all four men, though, is that they have been married a long time. I’m going to take the risk of trusting Wikipedia, but according to that repository of knowledge, Franken has been married to the same woman since 1975, Franks since 1980, Moore since 1985, and Conyers since 1990. (The latter two were married relatively later in life.) Obviously it doesn’t mean they have necessarily been faithful to their vows, but they have at least stuck it out under sometimes difficult circumstances.

Now Roy Moore presents a conundrum. To say his taste in women is unusual is probably an understatement, since he’s accused of dating girls roughly half his age back in the late 1970s. (Moore is currently 70 years old, so at the time he was in his early 30s.) But his defenders note that seeking younger women to marry wasn’t completely uncommon in that era and part of the country: earlier examples in other walks of life include Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. As it is, Moore’s wife is 14 years his junior and they first met when she was a teenager (although the marriage came several years later, reportedly after she had married and divorced.) There’s no doubt that Moore’s 1977 standards are not the 2017 norm.

Yet in a political sense Moore has very similar stances to mine. Back in 2011, Roy Moore formed an exploratory committee for the 2012 GOP nomination, and as such I evaluated his political views (insofar as I could discern them) and created a dossier. Turns out that to me he was the second-ranked candidate in the race as far as political views were concerned, just behind another fallen person in Herman Cain.

However, back in 2011 we weren’t treated to these claims from women who grew up and realized that maybe what Roy Moore did four decades ago ranged from super creepy to possible molestation. That seemed to be saved for the time when people at the Washington Post decided to see if the wisps of smoke were a fire. And the timing was interesting: the story came out November 9 and according to this account took six weeks to put together. That means they may have been informed of this prior to the primary, which occurred September 26. (Six weeks back from November 9 is September 28, so this timeline depends on whether editing time is considered part of the six weeks. But nowhere is it stated when the six weeks occurred; they claim the reporting began in early October.) Regardless, the timing is quite suspicious given the editorial leanings of the Post – especially since that very same day they featured a more glowing portrayal of his Democrat opponent, Doug Jones, and his prosecution of two church bombers from 1963.

That’s politics, though. We should be used to this in an era of “fake news.” I have no doubt that Moore dated these young women, although then the single charge of abuse becomes one of “he said, she said” and we will never have the opportunity to hear the answer to that accusation under oath.

To me, the question is this: does one believe that Roy Moore is defined by the girls he knew 40 years ago who are now those accusers threatening to stone him, or the one who has been married for 32 years and presumably, with the lack of evidence to the contrary, has gone and sinned no more? Only God knows the real truth, and I hope the people of Alabama engage (or engaged) in fervent prayer before they make their choice.

The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2017

December 7, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2017 

This is the ninth consecutive year I have added players to the SotWHoF, but this year’s crop was one of the more diverse in its history.

Last year I pleaded the case that:

I think 2017 may be a somewhat barren year. Sure, you could have the feelgood stories of longtime prospects like Garabez Rosa, Michael Ohlman, or Tim Berry finally breaking through, but if you look at the guys from 2012 and 2013 who are still hanging on no one jumps out at you.

It turned out that I was pleasantly surprised with another class of six for the Hall this year, which includes the aforementioned Michael Ohlman. I got my first player from the 2015 Shorebirds right away with Stefan Crichton, went back-to-back days for the first time with Josh Hader and Jimmy Yacabonis, circled back to one of those guys from 2012 hanging on in Nicky Delmonico, and wrapped up with the guy I was most expecting to see – my first Shorebird of the Year to make it, Chance Sisco. Two players came from the 2012 Shorebirds (Ohlman and Delmonico), two from 2014 (Yacabonis and Sisco), and one apiece from 2013 (Hader) and 2015 (Crichton.)

Of this group of six, it’s telling that only half debuted with Baltimore. Michael Ohlman was shipped off to the St. Louis organization in a cash deal in 2015 and spent two seasons there before signing with the Blue Jays this year. Josh Hader was part of the Bud Norris trade with Houston in 2013, as he was plucked out of the Shorebirds’ starting rotation in that deal, and moved on to the Milwaukee organization in another trading-deadline trade in 2015. Nicky Delmonico was also part of the Brewers at one time, but the prospect we gave up for “K-Rod” Francisco Rodriguez in 2013 didn’t stay long due to some personal issues and the White Sox signed him off the street in 2015.

While the guys who debuted for the Orioles were mainly up-and-down (although Sisco showed promise in his limited duty) and Ohlman really didn’t stick long enough to make an impact, both Hader and Delmonico put up solid numbers and stayed in the bigs once they were brought up. Hader is being discussed as a potential starter for the Brewers and certainly Delmonico should be considered as a piece of a rebuilding White Sox franchise that recently got another Oriole refugee in catcher Wellington Castillo – a move that ironically will clear the way for Chance Sisco if the Orioles don’t pick up a veteran receiver in the offseason.

As for next year’s crop, I’m again bearish on the prospect of five or six in the class, but you just never know. A lot depends on how the Orioles do in the first half of the season with a number of key expiring contracts at season’s end: if they start out well and keep the team intact, some of the guys thought to have a chance to move up may stay in the minors until 2019. On the other hand, a cold start that puts them in the position of being sellers at the trading deadline may be the impetus to move some guys up who were heretofore blocked like Ryan Mountcastle or give young pitchers such as Hunter Harvey, Luis Gonzalez, Ryan Meisinger, or Jesus Liranzo a shot. Any of them, along with outfield prospects like Cedric Mullins, Ademar Rifaela, or non-SotW players Austin Hays and DJ Stewart, among many others, could also be the trade bait to pick up that last piece for a playoff run, too, meaning they may debut with a rebuilding team and not the Orioles.

But in the meantime it’s time to congratulate my six newest members of the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, and with the posting of this article I will restore the SotWHoF page to public view.

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