A not-so-elite eight

We’re a few weeks away from basketball’s March Madness, but I’m returning one final time to the occasional series I began in the midst of that phenomenon last year on the then-swelling Democrat presidential field to reflect on how it all shook out – and what may well be yet to happen. If you go back to last March, here’s where I ranked the eight who remain in the field now, with updates as they occurred:

  • Joe Biden was #1, holding that spot in May and September.
  • Bernie Sanders was #2, holding that spot in May but slipping to #3 in September.
  • Elizabeth Warren was #4. She fell to #6 in May but jumped to #2 in September.
  • Amy Klobuchar was #6. She fell to #7 in May and stayed there in September.
  • Pete Buttigieg was #13. He jumped to #3 in May, but fell to #5 in September.
  • Tulsi Gabbard was #14. She fell to #21 in May but surged to #9 in September.
  • Tom Steyer was first ranked #8 in September.
  • Mike Bloomberg got into the race after my rankings.

So it’s interesting that most of my top choices have remained in the fray, with the only early surprises being Buttigieg and, to a much lesser extent, Gabbard.

(Numbers 3 and 5 early on were Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke, respectively. Harris was my highest-rated casualty, while Beto faded pretty quickly. Buttigieg initially pushed Amy Klobuchar out of the top 6, then Cory Booker kept her out as he reached the top 6 in September before he, too, exited the race.)

There’s also something to be said about Tulsi Gabbard hanging in there, as she has outlasted the initial turmoil in her campaign. She’s sort of like the Ron Paul of the 2020 Democrat race, but considering I had her initially in the bottom tier with a lot of folks who have long since departed the scene, it’s admirable that she’s found a support niche and said some things which needed to be said. She sure took care of Kamala Harris.

It’s also worth reviewing just how these candidates did in the first two races of the year: the Iowa caucus (assuming they are done counting) and the New Hampshire primary.

For the Iowa caucus I am using the initial alignment votes, as it’s their closest equivalent to a primary.

  • Bernie Sanders: 1st with 43,699 votes (24.7%)
  • Pete Buttigieg: 2nd with 37,596 votes (21.3%)
  • Elizabeth Warren: 3rd with 32,611 votes (18.5%)
  • Joe Biden: 4th with 26,322 votes (14.9%)
  • Amy Klobuchar: 5th with 22,474 votes (12.7%)
  • Tom Steyer: 7th with 3,054 votes (1.7%)
  • Tulsi Gabbard: 9th with 342 votes (0.2%)
  • Mike Bloomberg: 10th with 215 votes (0.1%)

Between the first and second rounds Buttigieg gained the most votes (although not enough to pass Sanders, who gained the fewest) while Warren was a distant second in that category. In terms of absolute numbers among these contenders, Biden dropped the most votes in districts where he fell short of 15% viability but Steyer lost a far greater proportion of his vote and nearly as many in raw numbers. In terms of delegates from Iowa, Buttigieg gets 13, Sanders gets 12, Warren 8, Biden 6, and Klobuchar 1, with one uncommitted.

Moving on to New Hampshire:

  • Bernie Sanders: 1st with 76,355 votes (25.6%)
  • Pete Buttigieg: 2nd with 72,445 votes (24.3%)
  • Amy Klobuchar: 3rd with 58,774 votes (19.7%)
  • Elizabeth Warren: 4th with 27,428 votes (9.2%)
  • Joe Biden: 5th with 24,911 votes (8.3%)
  • Tom Steyer: 6th with 10,694 votes (3.6%)
  • Tulsi Gabbard: 7th with 9,745 votes (3.3%)
  • Mike Bloomberg: 9th with 4,777 votes (1.6%)

For his part, Bloomberg was a write-in candidate in New Hampshire so it’s actually sort of astounding he did that well. Sanders and Buttigieg picked up 9 delegates apiece, while Klobuchar got the other 6 to move into fourth place ahead of Biden overall: Buttigieg has 22, Sanders 21, Warren 8, Klobuchar 7, Biden 6, and uncommitted 1.

The next state up is Nevada, which isn’t a treasure trove of delegates (just 36) but establishes the narrative for the week leading up to the South Carolina primary at month’s end and Super Tuesday on March 3 – which will probably eliminate half or more of this field. Because all of the initial focus was on Iowa and New Hampshire, there’s little polling to go on for Nevada but what polls there are suggest this may be a real fight for spots 2 through 6 and that four or five candidates could share in that delegate pool. This is particularly true as the race is a hybrid caucus with early voting, unlike Iowa.

Bernie Sanders is considered more or less a lock to make the 15% threshold; however the key question is whether Joe Biden – who led in Nevada through the polling done in early January – will crater enough to miss out on getting delegates. All others except Bloomberg – who is not participating – and Gabbard are flirting with that 15% viability number, as all except Warren have trended upward polling-wise in the last few weeks. That 2 through 6 order of finish is going to be the thing to watch as there could be five candidates in the 8-18% range.

As for South Carolina, that is considered to be the last stand for both Joe Biden and Tom Steyer. Biden once had a lead approaching 30 points in the state, but that has dwindled down to single-digits. If he continues to sink and gets passed by Bernie Sanders and even Steyer (who are currently 2 and 3) in late, post-Nevada polling I can’t see Joe surviving to Super Tuesday.

At some point, the field has to consolidate. It’s just my wild guess that among the eight contenders the one to go after Nevada will be Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden will finally figure out his time is past once he fades to third or fourth in South Carolina, perhaps not even getting delegates there. Gabbard won’t spend much money, but I think she will stay in the race on principle for a little while – at least long enough to outlast a couple others who are in. (But she’s not sniffing double digits in any caucus or primary this year unless she’s the last protest vote candidate left.) By the same token, many thought Tom Steyer would cash in his chips after New Hampshire but I don’t think he gets enough of a bounce after Nevada or South Carolina to be present in the race beyond Super Tuesday.

Once the smoke clears after March 3, I think the field is down to 4. Seeded from worst to first, we will have:

  • Pete Buttigieg. When you look at the field, he’s trying to straddle the moderate lane. But Pete’s support is lacking among black voters, and while he’s a fresh face, he’s struggled to handle the scrutiny as the field has dwindled. America tried the inexperienced guy with the funny name and distinction of first ____ president route once already this century, so I’m not sure they’re quite ready for another, especially with his particular first.
  • Amy Klobuchar. She has hung around in this race quite nicely, lurking just outside the top tier and watching as various flavors of the month (Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, etc.) have had their fifteen minutes of fame before fading away once Americans got to know them. By default she’s moving into the top tier but the question is whether she can consolidate any sort of base, female or otherwise, in time to establish her presence before the primaries are too far gone to get enough delegates; thus, she might now be running for vice-president. Would a Sanders-Klobuchar ticket be the unity ticket the Democrats need as their best hope to oust Donald Trump? More importantly, would you like to be a fly on the wall for those interactions?
  • Bernie Sanders. He has plenty of money and a passionate support base. But some guy just as smart as me pointed out that the ceiling for a Socialist vote seems to be 45%, and that’s before you know who the candidates are. Yet the two initial factors, combined with a desire to keep Milwaukee from feeling the burn – literally – could well be good enough to push Bernie over the top. If so, and if the aforementioned Sanders-Klobuchar package doesn’t sound good enough, look for an effort by the #NeverTrumpers and mainline Democrats to find a stalking horse candidate who can snatch away just enough support from Trump to steal the election, or even win outright. Maybe it will be…
  • Mike Bloomberg. This man is doing more to advance the narrative that politics is a commodity than anyone in our nation’s history. Donald Trump parlayed years of television fame into $5 billion in free media to win the White House, but Mike Bloomberg is eschewing even that step (unless you count his news service.) By nationalizing his campaign with an unprecedented advertising blitz in the opening months and just skipping ahead to campaigning for Super Tuesday, he made spending a whole summer, fall, and holidays trying to gain name recognition in some backwater Iowa county or New Hampshire hamlet absolutely unnecessary. (The same goes for a ground game – why beg and cajole when you can just buy oodles of staffers?) Of course, only billionaires or extremely adept fundraisers could afford to run that way.

By this time three weeks hence, we should pretty well have an idea whether the Democrats will have a nominee in hand before their convention or will have to endure multiple ballots for the first time in decades. If the latter comes into play, I don’t think there will be a white knight entering the race (so have a seat, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry) but they may try and figure out who can best fool us into believing they’ll have a pro-American agenda.

All of their top-tier candidates have flaws, and there’s no guarantee that the disparate elements of the Democrat party are going to come together for a particular candidate, let alone nominate one who appeals to independents or can bring older, more traditional Democrat voters back home – you know, the ones who voted for Trump because they couldn’t stand Hillary. This is especially true when your top two contenders are northeastern liberals (like Hillary), your third-place one is female (like Hillary), and the fourth-place contender is openly gay, with his own “first husband.” (Sort of like what was often rumored about Hillary.) There’s a generation of voters who won’t flinch at that last aspect, but I believe there’s a larger generation who is better at turning out on Election Day and isn’t down with having a gay man in the Oval Office, okay Boomer? Maybe next time he runs in 2024 Pete has a better shot.

Assuming the Trump train has enough momentum to make it to a second term in the 2020 election, look out. If you thought this cycle was bad, wait until the Democrats begin their 2024 campaign this November 4.

Fantasy baseball, the 2020 sequel: part 2, the season

Now that you are reminded of who plays on my fantasy baseball team of Shorebird of the Week Hall of Famers, you’d be welcome to ask: how would they do?

It took a few weeks of off and on work, but I updated the estimates for each remaining player from my 2019 team with their seasonal statistics, with the usual wild guesses of how injury-prone they would be and who would make for the best starting lineup, as I detailed last week.

So I had the set of individual statistics, but I needed a glue to put them together. Then I remembered how I did it last year:

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

My post from last season.

So I did that again, but it’s also worth recalling how the two squads compare in WAR.

2020 WAR2020 SotWPos.2019 SotW2019 WAR
0.6C. SiscoCA. Wynns1.5
2.0C. Walker1BT. Mancini2.0
1.4J. Schoop2BJ. Schoop2.3
1.4P. FlorimonSSP. Florimon1.5
5.8M. Machado3BM. Machado7.5
1.5YastrzemskiLFDelmonico0.4
1.2S. WilkersonCFC. Mullins1.5
3.7T. ManciniRFL.J. Hoes-0.3
-0.4DelmonicoDHC. Walker0.9
4.0E. RodriguezSPE. Rodriguez2.9
2.8Z. DaviesSPZ. Davies2.7
3.4D. BundySPD. Bundy3.1
2.2S. BraultSPS. Brault0.9
2.5J. MeansSPP. Bridwell1.0
1.2Z. BrittonCLZ. Britton0.8
2.2J. HaderRPJ. Hader1.1
1.3M. GivensRPM. Givens 1.3
0.9HernandezRPHernandez0.8
1.2O. DrakeRPE. Gamboa-0.8
41.9Total WARPos.Total WAR31.1

As you can see, the overall WAR is far better; in theory, this team is 10 wins better than last season’s. However, it’s worth noting that the aggregate WAR of the players lost from the 2019 squad is (-1.2) and they were replaced by three players who combined for 1.6 WAR. So that’s about 1/4 of the gain, plus the extra playing time may have increased some of the better players’ WAR numbers. This is important because when I did the aggregates of average, OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS, I came out with a negative run differential. Thus, this team wouldn’t flirt with .500 by picking up 10 games from its 72-90 record last season, but they would improve modestly to a 74-88 record.

And don’t forget: having done all these numbers meant that, just for the fun of it, I projected some 2020 statistics for the position players and pitchers. Of course, there are some players who will get nowhere near this much playing time – the now-retired Ty Kelly immediately comes to mind, but there are a handful of guys listed who, as far as I know, hadn’t signed a free agent deal as we begin spring training: pitchers Pedro Beato, Scott Copeland, and Eddie Gamboa as well as utility players Pedro Florimon and Brandon Snyder and catcher Mike Ohlman.

Losing a few pitchers from the 2021 team won’t really hurt me, but the lack of position players may put me in a bind in continuing this concept – which, you may notice, was slimmed down to two parts this year. I still have fun doing it, but I have to keep it somewhat real, too.

But until April 9, when the plan is for me to be back in my Perdue Stadium seat (hopefully not freezing to death) this will have to suffice. (Although…once again the UMES Hawks are playing their home contests at Perdue, with the first scheduled a week from tomorrow – weather permitting, of course.)

So here you go – my version of fantasy baseball is complete for another season. Can’t wait for the real thing!

A rush to condemn, part 2

A recent post on Twitter by a Delaware state senator made local news, and it’s just another example of what I meant in my last post.

State Senator Bryan Townsend is, of course, a Democrat who owns a measly 11 lifetime rating (out of a possible 100) on the Delaware edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project. But his retweet of a cartoon obviously depicting Limbaugh of a member of the KKK is yet another example of what I described yesterday.

Of course many who replied to the Tweet let him have it. But in looking down his overall Twitter feed (which intersperses between mainly political-related items with a few family observations tossed in) it’s apparent that he’s not going to care one iota regardless of the remarks, or the facts: like his longtime call screener Bo Snerdley (a black man) we’re still waiting for all the racist remarks Rush has made. But to Townsend (a politician) perception is reality.

It also goes without saying that there’s a double standard at work here, since two different local GOP party officials were recently drummed out of their party roles thanks to insensitive remarks on their part. But I doubt Townsend is going anywhere and he has the luxury of his seat not being up until 2022, as he was re-elected in 2018 with the largest margin of victory among the eight Senators who faced opposition, with just under 76%. He represents the leafy suburbia of New Castle County – his district runs along I-95 just west of the Christiana Mall – so Bryan obviously has his constituents fooled into believing he’s worthy of support. I just feel sorry for his small children, being raised by parents with such beliefs.

I’m also glad he’s not my state senator. Ironically, I found out my state senator is a newspaper owner so you can imagine how much scrutiny his editions receive. Maybe that’s the most prudent approach?

A rush to condemn

Like millions of other Americans, I was stunned by the news that Rush Limbaugh has been stricken with advanced-stage lung cancer, as he revealed on his show last week. I was just as stunned to learn that Limbaugh was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom as part of the State of the Union address by President Trump. (In part this is because I never watch the SotU show – I would rather just save myself the 90 minutes and read the transcript. Same goes for State of the State, county, city, etc.)

First, though, I should tell you how I was introduced to the Maharushie, and how he helped make me the political person I am today.

Back in 1993, when I changed jobs and joined a small (but rapidly growing, which is important to this part of the story) architectural firm, I met my friend Bob Densic. As it turned out, the company I worked for was growing so quickly it had to sublet a small office from another business in the building we inhabited, where four of the firm’s employees worked – no phone, and we had to be fairly quiet to not interfere with the very occasional consultations of the social workers from whom the space was subletted.

Bob was the leader of this group, and as such I quickly learned that the four of us in what he called the “Rebeldome” – in part because it was on the south side of the building, and in part from the inhabitants – were in the building’s “Rush Room.” (At this time, Limbaugh’s show was also increasing in popularity such that restaurants, coffee shops, and similar outlets had what they called “Rush Rooms” where patrons could listen in. This was before the era of widespread cell phones and way before podcasts.)

So from 12 to 3 each day, I got a dose of a “relentless pursuit of the truth” and it didn’t take me long to get hooked! I didn’t stay too long at this firm, particularly since Bob left a few months after I was hired. At my next stop I was deprived of my Rush fix (this was a company that piped in Muzak, believe it or not) so, like the nicotine addicts who stepped outside at lunchtime and the scheduled breaks, I would often be in my car with the radio on to catch the first half-hour. By the time my career had moved into my Hobbs+Black phase (the last firm I worked for in Toledo, when they had an office there) I had a good system down – headphones to listen to CDs in the morning and late afternoon, but Rush was on my old clock radio – with the volume respectfully turned down somewhat low – from 12 to 3. Years later, when I reached the career detour the good Lord gave me to take, all that windshield time between Lewes and Exmore was perfect for listening to the EIB Network.

And I think that having that exposure to political ideas through Rush inspired me to join the Young Republicans in the mid-1990s. From there I became a precinct chair and eventually a member of Wicomico County’s Republican Central Committee. More importantly for this venue, Rush was the inspiration for the name, as I wrote in 2005 on the original “about” page – the first page I ever wrote for this website, even before it went live. (I reached back into the internet archives for this one, in case you’ve never seen the earliest rendition of my site.)

Although I haven’t been nearly as faithful a listener to El Rushbo as I once was – I was repelled by what seemed to me his slobbering embrace of Donald Trump as the 2016 campaign unfolded, particularly when the field was chock-full of solid conservatives like Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, et. al. – every so often when the opportunity arises I still check in to see what he has to say. I have to admit he was on to something with Donald Trump.

I know a little bit about cancer from being married to an oncology nurse, enough to know that stage 4 lung cancer can be deadly serious. We all have our time to go, but for Rush making it to the November election, let alone his 70th birthday next January, is now quite the dicey proposition. (I noticed in the photos and videos from the ceremony that he now looks a lot older than 69, at least to me. It seems to me like he’s aged two decades in the last five years, even with the beard.) Granted, he’s been blessed to be in a financial position to be able to procure the most advanced treatments from the world’s best doctors, but his days as a radio icon are of a much smaller number than we believed he had before last week. (After all, longtime radio commentator Paul Harvey broadcast regularly until he was nearly 90.)

Yet the fact that Rush is in his final days was the source of glee to many on the Left. Needless to say, their TDS, combined with the surprise presentation of the Medal of Freedom at the State of the Union – Limbaugh states he was aware he would receive the award, but thought it would be in a more subdued ceremony later this month – brought out some of their most toxic venom on social media. It was shameful, but at the same time pitiful.

Look, you will not find me as the member of any major Democrat politician’s fan club. Following them on Facebook is about as close as I get. But, like politics used to stop at the water’s edge, the same goes for personal vendettas. Would I be pleased if Nancy Pelosi resigned tomorrow? Of course. But I would not be the one celebrating if she were diagnosed with cancer and given months or weeks to live, or collapsed suddenly from a coronary and died. That’s just not cool. It’s like the vultures on our side who pine for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to pass away so another Supreme Court seat becomes available; that really bothers me. I’d rather she enjoy a few years of retirement.

At some point, everyone of every political persuasion goes to meet our Maker. I’ll miss Rush when he’s permanently departed from being behind the golden EIB microphone, even if I didn’t always agree with him. So why can’t we remember we’re all human and we’ve supposed to love thy neighbor as thyself? It’s a struggle to keep our schadenfreude to a minimum when someone on the Left passes away, but we really should try to lead by example.

Fantasy baseball, the 2020 sequel: part 1, the team

It was about this time last year when I sated my jonesin’ for baseball with a fun exercise: putting together a fantasy baseball team based on the 40 players who had attained the status of being in the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. By the time I got to the last of three parts I had gotten far enough to create a projected set of statistics for each player.

One thing I mentioned in passing the first time around is that a number of players who were included on my 2019 team had actually stopped playing, meaning I had to recreate their career as if they hadn’t left the game. Most of those players were bench players and “September callups,” but this year I changed my rules a bit and only players who were active in 2019 would be included on this team.

Thus, the team lost a few players, but it also gained three as the SotWHoF Class of 2019 could be included. So this year’s squad includes pitchers Brendan Kline and Hunter Harvey as well as outfielder Mike Yastrzemski. With the additions and subtractions, the roster is quite a bit smaller:

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

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

Infielders (5): Pedro Florimon (S), Manny Machado (R), Jonathan Schoop (R), Brandon Snyder (R), Christian Walker (R)

Outfielders (6): Nicky Delmonico (L), Ty Kelly (S), Trey Mancini (R), Cedric Mullins (S), Stevie Wilkerson (S), Mike Yastrzemski (L)

This team got a little skimpy on position players because I lost a lot of them due to “retirement.”

Breaking the squad down further, we have five pretty solid starting pitchers. Eduardo Rodriguez would be the staff ace, and I could set up the staff behind him to alternate in a lefty-righty punch: how about Zach Davies as your #2, John Means as the #3, and Dylan Bundy as #4? Steven Brault would be the most likely #5 to provide a true LRLRL rotation. Backing them up in the “minor leagues” would be Scott Copeland and Parker Bridwell.

And this fantasy team still has the loaded bullpen (in real life) with the likes of Zach Britton, Mychal Givens, Josh Hader, Oliver Drake, and David Hernandez as the back end crew. I could go closer-by-committee or assign someone like Britton to be my closer. I also have some length back there with guys like Jimmy Yacabonis and Eddie Gamboa, who can pitch multiple innings in a pinch. Backing the bullpen up are optionable pieces Stefan Crichton, Hunter Harvey, Brendan Kline, and Ryan Meisinger as well as veterans Pedro Beato and Donnie Hart.

I have the same three catchers as last season, and I still have guys who can chip in at multiple infield positions based on their big league experience – just fewer of them. Christian Walker had a breakout 2019 both on my fantasy team and in real life, so he’s nailed down first base. I’ve also kept Jonathan Schoop as my second baseman, Pedro Florimon at short, and Manny Machado at third. Brandon Snyder will back up at the corners, although two guys listed as outfielders (Ty Kelly and Stevie Wilkerson) could play up the middle as required.

My outfield gained a starting left fielder in Mike Yastrzemski. He would be flanked by a competition between Stevie Wilkerson and Cedric Mullins for the center field spot and Trey Mancini handling right. Any of those could also be a designated hitter, along with the other backup outfielder Nicky Delmonico.

Basically, with this arrangement of position players I would probably only have to send down the third catcher thanks to the expanded 26-man roster.

On Opening Day, this is what I would send out. We’re assuming American League rules with a designated hitter, and Eduardo Rodriguez is my starting pitcher for the second season in a row.

  1. Cedric Mullins, cf
  2. Trey Mancini, rf
  3. Manny Machado, 3b
  4. Jonathan Schoop, 2b
  5. Christian Walker, 1b
  6. Mike Yastrzemski, lf
  7. Nicky Delmonico, dh
  8. Chance Sisco, c
  9. Pedro Florimon, ss

Bench: Austin Wynns (R), Brandon Snyder (R), Ty Kelly (S), Stevie Wilkerson (S)

In part two, I’ll reveal how the season plays out.

On the duopoly

One facet of the early TEA Party which fascinated me was the debate on whether to try to form a political TEA Party or work through the existing two-party system, or, as I call it, the duopoly. In Rise and Fall I devoted a significant part of the early chapters to the TEA Party’s impact on two political campaigns: the 2009 Doug Hoffman Congressional race in New York’s 23rd Congressional District and the Scott Brown Senate race for the “Kennedy seat” in Massachusetts in 2009-10.

In the Hoffman case, you may recall that the Republican nominee was selected by local party officials rather than the electorate at large, resulting in a candidate, state Assembly member Dede Scozzafava, who was deemed most electable as a moderate as opposed to necessarily espousing Republican principles. Hoffman, who had also interviewed for the seat and had originally pledged his support for Scozzafava, eventually prevailed upon New York’s Conservative Party to give him his own ballot line.

Although Hoffman was in a close second place by the time late October rolled around – thanks to the sudden interest of the TEA Party in a rather obscure, backwater Congressional district special election race – the eventual withdrawal by the Republican and her endorsement of Democrat Bill Owens, along with a disadvantageous ballot position, pulled defeat from the jaws of victory. (Owens had the advantage of two ballot lines as well, as a far-left party endorsed him rather than run a candidate on their own.)

Stung by that loss, the TEA Party tried things the other way. Fast-forward about six weeks and once Scott Brown made it official by winning the Republican nomination for the Massachusetts special election it was (practically) all hands on deck – never mind he was arguably to the left of Scozzafava overall and there was an independent libertarian candidate in the race (ironically by the name of Joseph Kennedy, but no relation to the Camelot clan) who may have been more suitable philosophically. Aside from the small percentage who argued the Kennedy case on TEA Party principles, the national focus was on Brown winning, and as we now know, he did – and was soon rather disappointing for two reasons: one, his moderate stances, and secondly, he’s the one who gave us Elizabeth Warren because he got his doors blown off in the 2012 general, when his wasn’t the only race of national concern.

In short, this brief few months sealed a key decision (and perhaps error) by those who were the leaders of the TEA Party: they chose to try and reform the Republican Party from within. Convinced that someplace within the GOP were candidates and officeholders receptive to the conservative message of the TEA Party, the effort in the first half of last decade was to take over the GOP from within, through gaining seats in local precincts and working their way up the ranks. By now you would think this policy of percolating through from the grassroots would be bearing sizable fruit – but it doesn’t seem to be working that way.

This long prelude has finally brought me to my main point and inspiration. One of those who I made acquaintance with in promoting my book over the summer was Andy Hooser, whose radio show “The Voice of Reason” was the seventh stop on my radio tour. (I remember doing his show pacing around my backyard on what I called “Triple Dip Friday” – three shows in one day!)

Since then I’ve signed up for updates and the other day Andy introduced the current two-party system as a topic of discussion, noting in part:

We have been the ones, as members of the parties, that have allowed the parties to get out of hand. Our nation was built on strong, hard individuals who were leaders, not followers. The founding fathers that did promote a two party system, did so with the idea that the informed, active member of society could listen to an argument, contribute to the cause, and help the party accomplish it’s goals. Now…the party creates fear in the hearts of ill-informed followers to create an agenda. With our lack of involvement in politics…with our lack of engagement in the system…and our lack of understanding of issues as a society, the parties are no longer run by us…but for for self preservation with us as the follower to keep the lifeline going. 

So how do we fix this? A third party? HA. Third parties are no more relevant than Vermin Supreme running for President. The only thing third parties do, is potentially swing an election to the side lest in line with your views. 

Our job is to fix the parties from within. We cannot destroy them (unless they destroy themselves…Hello socialist Democrats?), we cannot leave them. At the end of the day, the money, they power, and the influence is within the parties. Our chance to change things…is the fix the party internally. Run for office locally. Set a standard of what you will tolerate as a platform for the party and the candidates. Hold you local, statewide, and national elected officials accountable. Don’t let them say one thing, yet vote another way. Work within your party. And bring it back to the platform it says it promotes. That’s the reason you joined it in the first place. 

“To be a two party system…or not to be!” – Voice of Reason website, January 29, 2020.

A common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and it seems to me we in the TEA Party tried this approach a decade ago. Nor would it surprise me if the Moral Majority crowd didn’t try it in the early 1980s, to name another somewhat failed attempt to mold and shape politics to their will. Everything old is new again.

This assertion also begs the question: are the two parties really that popular? Since I was a Maryland resident at the time, this is where the party registration totals stood the day after the initial set of TEA Parties, February 28, 2009:

  • Democrat: 1,953,650 (56.9%)
  • Republican: 919,500 (26.8%)
  • unaffiliated: 482,806 (14.1%)
  • all others: 76,486 (2.2%)

It was a D+30 state. Now let’s see where we are at as of the end of 2019:

  • Democrat: 2,204,017 (54.7%)
  • Republican: 1,009,635 (25.0%)
  • unaffiliated: 757,953 (18.8%)
  • all others: 60,536 (1.5%)

Of the four major groups, the only one which is growing in rate are the unaffiliated. But it is still a D+30 state.

Turning to my adopted home state of Delaware, the online numbers only go back to 2010. In Delaware at that time (January 2010) there were 25 (!) registered parties but only four had ballot access: Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and the Independent Party of Delaware (or IPOD).

  • Democrat: 287,821 (47.1%)
  • Republican: 180,479 (29.5%)
  • unaffiliated: 137,072 (22.4%)
  • all others: 6,095 (1.0%)

That would make it a D+18 state, which was a little more promising for conservatives. So where do we stand now, a decade later? Well, we are down to 17 parties listed but the top dogs are still on top:

  • Democrat: 338,586 (47.4%)
  • Republican: 198,018 (27.7%)
  • unaffiliated: 163,150 (22.8%)
  • all others: 14,365 (2.0%)

The Delaware GOP has seen their previous support splinter in every direction: their 1.8% loss has gone slightly to the Democrats (0.4%) and unaffiliated groups (also 0.4%) but mainly to minor parties, which doubled to 2% of the electorate. Now it’s a D+20 state.

What does this all mean? Well, at least in this small area of the country, it means that if the TEA Party took over the Republican Party, it didn’t do a very good job of making it thrive. (Given the Delaware GOP’s treatment of their Senate primary winner Christine O’Donnell in 2010, it wouldn’t surprise me if a significant part of their registration loss came from that incident.) Of course, there are other areas of the nation where the GOP is probably growing but I suspect these types of declining numbers are prevalent in many areas.

So why not a third party? Well, if you look at our history as a whole our political system went through a number of party upheavals in its first century, but the last major shift came in the 1850s as the Republican Party ascended over the ruins of the old Whig Party. I tend to believe that as time went on the two dominant parties entered into a gentleman’s agreement to divvy the political spoils among themselves, making it more difficult for competing parties to grow and prosper.

Imagine the time and effort wasted by the Libertarians, Green Party, Constitution Party, Reform Party, and others in having to gain ballot access again and again in some states, such as Maryland – a state that required parties secure 1% of the vote in certain races or go through a process of collecting thousands of signatures just to qualify for another cycle. Of course, the Republicans and Democrats don’t have to do this, and they are the ones who prefer the duopoly because it cuts off competition.

On the other hand, the reason Delaware has so many parties is fairly lax rules on party formation. Their biggest hurdle is getting and maintaining 1% of registered voters for ballot access, but it’s been done by the Libertarians, Green Party, and IPOD, so there are possibly five choices all across the political spectrum. (They are very close to six, if the American Delta Party can pick up a handful of voters.) Granted, none of these parties fill a ballot all the way down to state representative, but I believe the reason is a self-fulfilling prophecy (created by the duopoly, echoed by the media) that only a D or R can win.

Over the years, there has become a “lesser of two evils” approach to voting: people voted for Donald Trump not because they were enamored with him but because they were really afraid of what Hillary Clinton would do to us. We were all told that “a vote for Gary Johnson, Evan McMullin, etc. is a vote for Hillary.” So they were scared into voting for Trump. (On the other hand, having disgruntled Bernie Sanders backers and conventional wisdom that Hillary would easily win may have freed those on the Left to vote for who they really wanted, to Hillary’s detriment.)

That was the approach by enough people in enough states (including her so-called “firewall” across the Midwest) to give Donald Trump the upset victory despite the fact more Republicans voted against him than in his favor during the primary season, although Trump had the plurality by the time it was over. (As Democrats did against Barack Obama in 2008 – Hillary Clinton won that popular vote, too.)

But what if people had something to vote for? If you’re on the far left, maybe you like the Green Party or Socialist Workers Party, while those on the conservative side may prefer my political home, the Constitution Party. There’s nothing hurt by giving the electorate more choices, but the key is getting states to loosen up balloting requirements.

And if we want a real TEA Party, it would become possible and easier to build one from the bottom up. Why take over a party which is set in its ways when you can build to suit? Let’s make that easier to do.

The state of the TEA Party: winter 2020

This update is going to be a little bit different than the first ones from last summer and fall. Most of the immediate loose ends left untied by the publication of my book have now been tied up so it’s time to shift focus.

I got to thinking the other day about where the TEA Party was during the 2012 Presidential campaign, which was the first one it faced as a political entity. At this point in the 2012 campaign the TEA Party – which, in real time, was just before Christmas of 2011 because the Iowa caucuses were held on January 3 of that year – was still weighing its choices between a slew of TEA Party-approved contenders like Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum or holding their nose to get behind the favored and more centrist and establishment Mitt Romney, who eventually won the GOP nomination – much to the chagrin of many TEA Party believers. (One of those who also flirted with the idea of running during the 2012 campaign before bowing out just weeks later: Donald Trump. It would be four years later that his campaign ignited a second firestorm among TEA Party adherents.)

Fast forward to 2020 and flip the coin over to the other side of the political spectrum and you see the dilemma of the far left Democrats: do they stick with the infighting between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, switch over to the unproven Pete Buttigieg, or hold their nose for the known commodity of Joe Biden as the best chance to defeat Donald Trump? In short, at what point do you abandon principle for practicality and work for an election in the hope that maybe you won’t lose any more political ground with a more moderate candidate? That seemed to be the fate of TEA Party people in 2012, and perhaps they learned pragmatism from their first two major elections: the Doug Hoffman New York Congressional race in 2009 and Scott Brown’s first Senate run in the winter of 2009-10.

I’m thinking that may be a question I will ask later this summer, but here’s the idea for this feature going forward.

If it’s not apparent to you after all these years of writing, the TEA Party as envisioned was a political movement right up my alley; hence, I’m pretty passionate about it. Why else would I spent over 2 1/2 years writing a book to help document its history and effects? (Hint: it ain’t the money.)

After a decade-plus of existence, we can now see what impact the TEA Party has had on the political scene, but there’s a portion of me that feels it needs continued study on how to maintain and increase its relevance and make it more effective in implementing its principles. The question arises, though: what are its principles, and how have they changed over time?

So, every three months, my hope is to distill what those who are most involved in the TEA Party as its Founding Fathers (and Mothers) and other longtime leaders have to say about the topics I’m introducing here – not just as a blog post but in more of a newsletter style. (My model in this is a familiar one to me: The Patriot Post, for whom I write weekly.) Not only would it promote academic-style study, but it would also be a legacy project for those involved – we have lost several of the early leaders already, and it’s a movement we need more than ever.

To that end I’ve already determined a number of topic questions that will carry us through the remainder of 2020.

April: The TEA Party got its start as a movement claiming we were “Taxed Enough Already.” We have found that the tax cuts we received from President Trump in 2017 have indeed bolstered the economy and put more money in our pockets, and that’s great – but we still run trillion-dollar deficits just as we did in the heart of the Great Recession. How can we sell a message of spending reduction to the masses like we pressed for tax cuts? And, corollary to that, how do we defend ourselves from the charge of hypocrisy given we got the tax cuts we wanted but still find ourselves deep in red ink?

July: As noted earlier, the primary elections don’t always give us the candidate we want. For many of us, Donald Trump was an example; however, the way he has governed has been a pleasant surprise. What are some of the “red line” issues that are non-negotiable to you, or, put another way, are there instances where you can’t abide by the rule made popular by Ronald Reagan, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” Or is just moving the ball enough after primary voters have spoken?

October: For good or bad, Donald Trump has been our President for the last three=plus years. On the off chance that he is defeated in November, however, where does the TEA Party begin with its resistance to the far-left agenda sure to be enacted by the Democrats’ nominee? Or, if Trump wins – and doesn’t have to worry about re-election ever again – what issues do you want him to exhaust his political capital on in his second term?

I believe these are compelling questions worth asking, and hopefully I will have a plethora of answers from those most passionate about the TEA Party movement.

As far as a timeline, ideally April would be the last State of the TEA Party blog post exclusively at this venue. I would love to have a functional site for this proposed digest (as well as a nice little mailing list) by this summer, but that is going to depend on how much assistance I receive. At this point the help is more in the area of expertise than finance, since the goal is simply to promote this information in a venue that is inherently not looking to support or oppose particular candidates but to be a clearinghouse to discuss ideas and correctly write the TEA Party’s history and overarching goals.

By its very nature, 2020 should be a year of vision. Let’s bring the state of the TEA Party into a much clearer and more broadly understood focus.

The new direction

Back in the last decade (a few days ago) I alluded to the fact I would talk about a new direction for this site, which actually extends to other aspects of my writing career. So here goes.

Last summer I did my famous (or infamous, depending on perspective) reading of The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party at Pemberton Coffeehouse. As the last part of that reading I read a tease from the next project I was working on, a book about the Indivisible movement. Its basic premise was to use the statement that it was using the rules of the road laid out by the TEA Party as their own. I figured that I was a pretty good expert on how the TEA Party operates so who better to write a book grading the upstarts on their efforts?

Unfortunately, this is where I ran into a problem. I really have no passion for Indivisible; in fact, I still get their stuff and read it, alternately wanting to laugh hysterically and shake my head in disbelief that supposedly intelligent people believe some of this crap. Their being stuck on “orange man bad” makes them rather dull to consider, and there’s nowhere near the tension and conflict when the media has its back – or, really, more or less ignores them by comparison to the TEA Party. In short, there just wasn’t the desire to write 200 pages on the subject.

And then we have the whole book marketing thing. To be honest, as I noted in my latest edition of radio days, I really need a long format radio gig to feel comfortable and those are hard to come across. And even with all that, the books haven’t exactly been flying off the shelves – not for a lack of trying. I did sixteen different radio shows but what I didn’t tell you is that I contacted somewhere close to 200 in order to make that happen. There were probably eight to ten more gigs which fell through for various reasons, and by this point the book is far enough in the rearview mirror that its relevance has diminished somewhat. (For example, it’s silent on the whole impeachment saga that’s consumed political news during the latter half of 2019.) There’s a point where you can’t market old news.

I love the act of writing, but I don’t get nearly as much thrill from the acts of selling even though that’s what creates the market for the writing. It seems to me that finding someone to market books properly yet affordably is almost as unlikely as finding the winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk. I know I have people who believe in and enjoy my work, but I can’t make them give me reviews or market my book for me. I can say that I’ve written two books but I can’t say I was significantly better at marketing the second effort – which involved a lot more work than the first one – than I was with the first one seven years ago.

However, having said that, I think there is a market for my writing – it may be a small niche, but it exists nonetheless. Moreover, I’m very partial to short-form writing (such as blog posts, but also my contributions to The Patriot Post and before that PJ Media, Examiner.com, and my days as a struggling syndicated columnist) so why not bring those strengths into play? Plus I retain this venue as a good base of operations. (Eventually the Rise and Fall site will go away. I would like to have a writer site to market my writing, although there’s nothing which says I couldn’t just do it here. Something for me to think and pray about.)

Thus, I have a few writing goals in mind for this year. Some are relatively easy to achieve while others are more ambitious. There is also a longer-term political goal which will hopefully be kicked off by actions I take this year, but I won’t get into that just yet.

I begin with the fate of the Indivisible book. To date I have put about 4,000 words to paper, most of which went into the introduction while I also covered a little bit about the personalities and finance. Making this an 80,000 word book would definitely be a stretch, particularly since I had intended to complete it for this November – and, like I said, my heart wasn’t in it.

However, I also have a saying – don’t let good writing go to waste. I think what can be done with this beginning of a draft would be to serialize it into a four- or five-part series after I round it out a little bit, maybe adding a couple thousand words to make the points. It may be a good thing to start up around the time of Super Tuesday since Indivisible will be actively trying to manipulate the Democrats’ nomination process, similarly to how the TEA Party tried to influence the 2012 GOP nomination.

In the interim, I want to continue a series I’ve done on a quarterly basis since last summer: the State of the TEA Party. My next installment will come later this month, but by the summer I really want to take the concept in a new, exciting direction.

My vision for the State of the TEA Party is to eventually create a quarterly journal from it – whether print, online, or both – one which creates an academic-style look at the movement for a limited, Constitutional government that the TEA Party supposedly espoused at its creation. Obviously this entails more input from other people, and that’s where some of the contacts I had in the writing of Rise and Fall as well as the gravitas of writing a strongly-researched book could help bring that to a reality. I’d love to bring more perspective from those who directly assisted me with Rise and Fall as well as others in the TEA Party who have guided it over the last decade-plus. This could also help me with a non-writing goal I spoke about in the final chapter of Rise and Fall. (Go buy the book and you’ll see what I mean.)

Long story short: I may be done as a book author – although the Lord may have other plans, and some have suggested I write a book on the Shorebirds – but I’m a long way from throwing in the towel as a writer. It’s just that, given some of the various side hustles I have – not to mention my “real” full-time job – writing a little at a time and not trying to rush through a book I’m not passionate about is the move I think is best for me and my overarching agenda.

2019: a monoblogue year in review

2019 was an interesting year, to say the least.

It began with a pizza lunch that was better than the “day of action”, but I found more comfort in catching up with some of the best artists I had reviewed for monoblogue music – a feature that finally saw its first (and alas only) local record review and other quick hits. January continued with my amazement at how quickly our safe harbor from Presidential politics had receded, meaning it was time for a widget. It was also time for some odds and ends from the holiday season, too.

In this busy month, I revised and expanded remarks I had published in The Patriot Post about our coming Constitutional crisis and reminded folks once again it was School Choice Week. But the best time I had was cranking up a new hot stove via a three part series on my fantasy baseball team comprised of Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame members.

I began February by considering the abortion question, and after the frivolity of odds and ends and so-called expert advice on running a blog, I noted the first casualty of the 2020 Democrat presidential race. We also endured our latest state of emergency and I remembered the rant that sparked the TEA Party. (Something I’m rather fond of.)

In March I reached a long-cherished milestone, my 5,000th post. In the days before that, I illustrated why $15 an hour is the wrong fight and talked about the “Jeremiah 29” conservatives. I also detailed how I got to hang out with the real pros of my avocation and with my Congressman at a local town hall meeting. But I also had fun with my version of March Madness, and checked out the newest ballpark feature before speculating who we would watch from it. Early in April I checked how I did, but it was a slow month (aside from another dose of odds and ends) because I finally released The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party and began its radio tour.

My March Madness featuring the Democrat candidates wasn’t enough, so I created a second, three part helping in May. I also detailed how one of those top seeds was losing the middle class and had his delusion of support.

Speaking of delusions, another was Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan considering a Presidential run against Donald Trump. He couldn’t pull the trigger on it, as we found out in June, but in the shadow of Memorial Day I took an opportunity to promote an event for those who may have pulled a trigger in defense of our nation.

Many months after the field came into being, I detailed the initial effort of the 25th player in the Democrats’ madness, although the DNC was now beginning to do its level best to cull it through debate qualifications. There were still more odds and ends, but I had more fun making the second stop on my radio tour and attending the Downtown Salisbury Festival – allowing me to renew a long-dormant series for the first and only time in 2019.

In July I began a new project in earnest – and had still more odds and ends to go through – but most of the month was spent discussing my book’s radio tour as I covered my experiences with TEN different stations. Combine all that with some upheaval going on in my world, and it’s no wonder I could only discuss who was in and out of the Democrats’ second debates. There were two more parts of the radio tour discussed in August, with the first instance becoming more of a philosophy discussion thanks to an old friend. Again, it was a slow month as President Trump got a new challenger and we once again dealt with a mass shooting tragedy.

A very slow September brought my annual 9/11 message, a new ranking of Democratic contenders, and a subtle but very important change to this website. My focus changed thanks to a move about seven miles to the north. I was starting over from my little corner, as I detailed in October, and one of my first moves in that direction was in the realm of accountability. So what was the first election I began to cover? Naturally it was Salisbury’s.

More on that in a moment, but the month finally brought my delayed announcement of the Shorebird of the Year and my picks and pans for Delmarva’s team – a team perhaps placed at risk by prospective changes to the minor league baseball system on a scale unseen in nearly 60 years.

During the month I also debuted a feature originally begun on my book site in July, a quarterly look at the state of the TEA Party. It had little impact on November‘s election in Salisbury, which (as I guessed) sadly featured blowouts in all its races and more or less kept a leftist status quo. But at least people showed up, unlike the election in nearby Delmar.

But the TEA Party could muster up its remaining forces and go to work sounding the alarm on a proposed regional gas tax scheme that reminds me a lot of the RGGI boondoggle. And while I did the usual Thanksgiving message, the month closed out with another reminder on how to buy American.

December opened as usual with two big guns: my anniversary commemoration and the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame induction for the three-player Class of 2019. But I also revealed that a lot of people keep telling me how to blog as well as the state of play for the Democrats at that moment. (How they connect: I don’t think either of those groups have a clue.)

While I wished readers a Merry Christmas, the final weeks brought a burst of activity: the swan song of monoblogue music with one last review and the last top 5 list and a wrapup of my 2019 Rise and Fall radio tour closed the books on 2019, and not a moment too soon.

I remarked a year ago on site readership and how it had declined over the last several years as I reverted to part-time blogger status. This year the numbers fell a little more, down to 6,268 visits with a couple days to go. (This compares to 10,435 last year.) But then again this wasn’t an election year and my readership indeed rebounds for those occasions, so I’m not too worried. It’s still better to properly inform 6,000 readers than put up crap for a few times that many.

So my vision for 2020 (see what I did there?) is, for one, to cover the Delaware elections as best I can. I don’t see this as a state in play for Trump – particularly if creepy Joe Biden is the nominee from the Democrats – but it could be interesting to see what happens downballot. The GOP’s biggest handicap, as I see it, isn’t Donald Trump but a state party that doesn’t seem to mind losing. The beatings seem to be continuing until morale improves.

The second part of this vision is too lengthy to explain here, as it’s a multi-pronged approach to advancing the ideals I espouse here on a somewhat regular basis. In the first few days of the new year I will explain further; suffice to say it’s something of a different direction for me but also one with some familiar elements to it.

That, my friends, is called a tease. But isn’t that unrealized potential of a new year lurking around the corner always like that?

Radio days volume 27

This turned out to be the conclusion of my Rise and Fall radio tour, with two stops in November. However, the less said about the first one, the better. I have to apologize to the fine folks of Burlington, Iowa and KCPS-AM 1150 because I was just not on my game for various reasons. Had I known the situation in advance I would have rescheduled. But what’s done is done, and life goes on. At least it was just a short segment.

Four weeks later, I had a whole hour thanks to my long-standing effort to get on a program called Southern Sense Radio. I first contacted host Annie Ubelis back in July, figuring I would probably not be on until after my August hiatus, and I was right. But that gave Annie time to read through the book and made it a much better conversation. I even had an interesting lead-in, she being President Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White.

So if you go to the 63-minute mark here, you’ll hear Annie and I have a wide-ranging discussion of where the TEA Party went. We really covered a lot of topics, but the bigger discussion wasn’t necessarily so much a blow-by-blow review of the book as it was a conference call about the differing philosophies required in using the TEA Party to create change in radically different states: it’s far easier in ruby-red South Carolina where she’s from than it is in our deep-blue bastions of Delaware and Maryland. Certainly the book gave me standing to discuss these issues, and she had a couple legitimate disagreements with me on various topics.

But as I listened to the replay in writing this, I noticed I really began getting cranked up about 10 minutes in. One thing I have to realize in doing radio is that it’s not quite like casual conversation – I’m very good at stepping on her lines because I start thinking I need to say something to her point. Maybe that makes for better radio, though. I have to admit, however, that even after doing all these stops on the phone I have a hard time getting to a comfort level with talking like this, regardless of host, so the longer segment I have, the better I seem to do. I would say my best three stops on this tour (in no particular order) were Annie’s, the hour I did for The Ross Report back in July, and the hour I spent doing Political Vibe later that month.

So I suppose this may be the last Radio Days episode I do for awhile, as I have stopped seeking new radio gigs to support my book. And as a bit of foreshadowing, after the new year dawns I’m going to share a little about the direction I’m thinking of taking in the realm of political writing. Stay tuned.

monoblogue music: 2019’s top 5

For the sixth and final time, I’ve taken the albums I’ve reviewed this year and selected those I thought were the cream of the crop. It turned out to be a diverse group between newcomers and a couple repeaters from the past, and releases that run the gamut from a four-song EP to the wrapup of a three-EP trilogy that finally got its due this year. While I was definitely disappointed that the reviews basically dried up in the latter half of the year (so I only had 16 total) I actually had a pretty good complement of contenders, which will include an honorable mention.

So who made the cut in 2019? As I’m about to reveal, it’s a group that may seem familiar in a number of ways.

It’s the second time Rich Lerner made the list, following on 2017’s “Push On Thru.”

5. “Jammin’ With Juma” by Rich Lerner and the Groove (featuring Juma Sultan)

Original review: February 23.

Using the talents of longtime percussionist and Woodstock alumni Juma Sultan, who cut his teeth touring with Jimi Hendrix. Rich Lerner and the Groove put their own stamp on a number of covers (including one by Hendrix) as well as creating originals in a similar vein.

Lerner, a veteran of the music business himself, borrowed liberally from several corners of the musical world to create this album and mixed them together very well to create something worth listening to.

The first (and only) local band album I ever reviewed for this feature, it definitely leaves you wanting more.

4. “Wasted Time” by Future Thrills

Original review: January 19.

While the cover may remind you of a DIY effort, this one is actually well-produced and makes you wish they had twice the songs on the EP.

What sold me on this four-song collection was how they built off a punk-rock foundation by adding disparate elements and making them work well. You can tell they’ve developed a rather unique style that should carry them well as they write more songs and further refine their sound -just don’t overdo it and make it sound too packaged and you’ll be fine. They’re promising more stuff in 2020 and I’m going to be all ears looking forward to it.

2019’s coda to a trilogy that’s had one release in each of the last three calendar years.

3. “Fight To The Death” by Paul Maged

Original review: July 13.

The finale to a trilogy Maged released over the last three years, this ranking reflects the full trilogy. “Fight To The Death” is the angriest of the trio, but also the weakest: on its own it may not have made the top 5. On the other hand, 2018’s “The Glass River” and 2017’s “Light Years Away” would have been easy top 5 selections and they brought up the average, so to speak.

Maged has gotten a lot of mileage from having a previous #1 album here (2014’s “Diamonds and Demons”) so he may be a little disappointed in only coming in third. Still, the consistency of his good music overall (not to mention his constant marketing and other talents) is something to be commended. I doubt he and I would ever see eye-to-eye politically, but if I ever cross his path for a live show I can let all that slide.

The musical troubadour has kept himself busy touring in 2019 to support this fine EP.

2. “Words For Yesterday” by Benny Bassett

Original review: March 30.

It’s only six songs, but if you didn’t know Benny Bassett – or happened upon him at one of his regular hotel shows – this would be a great introduction. It’s music that would be right at home on a variety of outlets because it’s perfectly triangulated between straight-ahead rock, alternative, and the country-rock made popular in the 1970’s by bands like the Eagles and Poco.

If there were a smart producer or record label talent scout out there, they might grab up this onetime attorney and see what he could do with his songwriting ability and a little extra marketing push to help him along.

This one is a definite throwback. It might make you actually like ’70s music this time.
  1. “Final Notice!” by Lord Sonny the Unifier

Original review: May 25.

As you more than likely have guessed from all the reviews and other music-related stuff I’ve done over the years, I grew up listening to what would now be described as classic rock.

But there were a lot of artists who didn’t quite get the airplay that Journey, Styx, Foreigner, or Led Zeppelin did, and a good number of those played what would now be described as “prog-rock.” This disparate group somehow found their way into the conscience of those comprising LSTU, though, and they carried the torch forty years forward in a great way.

So while I was carried back to 1979, I got to enjoy it with the updates and new technology that made it sound even better. “Final Notice!” turned out to be the final winner in the sweepstakes I call monoblogue music.

I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t mention a great instrumental album that just missed the top 5: back in May I reviewed a eponymous effort from an artist calling himself Versal that deserves some honorable mention here, too.

Anyway, to wrap all of this up: if I get curious enough I may see what my twenty-odd bands featured as top 5 artists over the years are up to. But this will close out monoblogue music as a regular feature. I will still do the occasional “Weekend of local rock” posts if I catch acts worth doing them for. (I really should have done one for Casting Crowns when they played here but that show was over two months ago now.)

I guess all that’s left to say for monoblogue music is thanks to James Moore at IMP for working with me all these years and, more importantly, thanks to you for listening.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2019

On previous Christmas Eves I have quoted Scripture for this occasion, most recently Luke 2:8-20. But this year I think we need a thought at large.

I know there is a small fraction of my readership that recently celebrated Impeachmas, while most others rue the day our nation became so divided. As has often been the case, today (Christmas Eve) I did the shopping for my wife and Kassie, although this year was easy because they wanted a new smart TV. (Too bad most of what it shows is dumb, but that’s a subject for another post.)

But as I milled among the crowds at a local big-box electronic retailer I noticed most people were focused on the task at hand, which would be completing that shopping list. You may not know it if you were too glued to social media, but there are a world of people out there who interact with others, saying “Merry Christmas” and generally spreading holiday cheer.

Since evening has fallen as I write this message, many of you are in church for a Christmas Eve service. Others will see this once they arrive at their destination to spend the holiday with family, or maybe they are already there opening presents. (Once we got past the little kid and Santa stage, that was our family tradition. In our case this year, because Kim’s daughter works early Christmas morning we did our presents this afternoon.)

But I wonder how many hardy people are out re-enacting the true reason for the season, portraying the various Biblical characters in a live Nativity scene. Here in Delaware Nativity scenes have created a little bit of controversy from people who just don’t get it, and spurred the (I guess) equal but opposite reaction. But as divided as they were, everyone seems to have gotten along. Bad news for Satan, good on the rest of us.

So nearly two solid months of Christmas hype (maybe closer to four in the retail world, but two in Hallmark time) is finally coming to a climax tomorrow – unless you do the Orthodox Christmas which is twelve days. (In Michael time, Christmas starts about the time our church cantata ends a couple Sundays before Christmas.) In any case, come early January all the decorations get put away for another winter. Let’s just pray the good tidings and memories stick around well beyond then.

Merry Christmas to all of my readers!