Happy Thanksgiving 2017

November 23, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comment 

As is tradition, I’m going to count my blessings on this day of giving thanks.

The last year has had its share of tumult and chaos for our God-blessed nation, but there are still things for which we all should be thankful; first and foremost that we still have the freedom to do so. Those of us who are seeing our families can count that as a blessing too, although we shouldn’t forget to say a Thanksgiving prayer for those who chose to be in harm’s way for us as we celebrate the holiday. There are a number of young men that I know who are going to join that group in the coming months as they complete school so this time next year they will be included in that prayer.

In reading last year’s message, I noted my gratefulness to have a full-time job, but the good Lord has blessed me still further by bringing me back to my old company. This development lent new meaning to the phrase “circle of life.” It’s almost like everything old is new again in a way. In that same vein I will likely be with most of the same company today to celebrate the holiday, with one certain subtraction being the late husband of my sister-in-law.

But I’m still blessed with family and those friends who have stuck with me in the post-political phase of my life. Things were still a little bit raw at this time last year, but I think time is healing whatever wounds we might have unless we wish to keep on inflicting them upon ourselves.

If I were to have a blessing I were to be thankful for – besides the obvious ones of my wife and family – it would be the gift I was given to put words together in ways that people enjoy reading, and that make a positive difference in the world. Rush Limbaugh often speaks of his “talent on loan from God” and I have no other explanation for what I have, either: my father’s been a common laborer his whole life and my mom worked for a bit as a secretary before my late older brother was born, or so I’m told. Back then being a high school graduate was enough to make your way in the world and that’s what they did. So I also should be grateful to be blessed with the opportunity to be able to carve out the time to work on things like my website and my upcoming book, which as I write this is closing in on the halfway point in the first draft.

But I’m going to close by quoting myself from last year, because I liked what I wrote then and still do today.

Some of our prayers are simple expressions of thanks for His works, and it’s with that in mind that I hope you share today that which you are thankful for with our Creator. I understand for some that list may be far too short, and for others they haven’t quite learned that their long list of blessings is there in no small part thanks to His intercession. (I think He is certainly approving of the endeavors and efforts one undertakes in pursuit of those blessings, though.)

So I pray that all of you have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. Enjoy your dinner, friends, and family, and count your blessings.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

 

DLGWGTW: November 21, 2017

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments. I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this. 

One response to a take on elections in Virginia and Maryland:

I would say that unaffiliated voters are either staying home or splitting their tickets instead of being strongly GOP as they were 2009-15. Democrats will vote for Democrats for the most part, and Republicans for Republicans – but when it’s 2-to-1 or more that’s a tough row to hoe.

And another from the local news on Democrats. Someone got to talking about redistricting:

Political districts should be drawn by a independent body using strictly a “compact and contiguous” rule. One of the biggest problems we have is that parties draw the lines to suit their interests – in Maryland’s case, Democrats packing the largest number of Republicans by far into one Congressional district so they can more easily win the other seven or making their state legislative districts with a slightly smaller than average population while Republican area districts are larger than average to squeeze an extra three or four seats into their majority.

If Democrats win more state legislatures don’t hold your breath waiting on them to play fair with redistricting.

You saw my take on the Harris town hall meeting, but maybe not the social media response. And here’s my response to the response.

Actually, I knew they were two separate groups because both Talbot Rising and Mike Pullen hail from the Mid-Shore. However, there is an irony in that the groups here who were most vocal in blasting Sheriff Lewis for his remarks are in common cause with Pullen and TR – among them I’m sure I would find few friends of Andy Harris, so I felt pretty safe making the generalization.

If I were to ask: what questions did your friend submit? (You saw the three I submitted.) If they were about Roy Moore, they are not relevant to the First District and he already made a statement. Certainly Andy may rescind his endorsement in due course as things develop.

Now the one I asked that did not get answered was if there was any bill or policy he would sacrifice his seat for (as Democrats did in the wake of Obamacare). I would have liked to hear that one.

You may be surprised to find that in terms of population the Eastern Shore is the majority of Andy’s district. Unfortunately, the way redistricting was done made it a longer and less manageable district but I’m sure he’s aware of this and your turn is coming. Actually I’m glad someone drove 3 hours because I was expecting a line to get in. Turnout was disappointing.

But you have to admit as well that this situation is the inverse of standard state politics – normally the Eastern Shore is ignored and across the bridge gets all the attention. For example, I’d love to see one of our Senators do a town hall here.

And more on the tax cuts in response to Harris challenger Allison Galbraith:

I don’t recall having ever donated to Andy, but on balance the tax cut will be of assistance to me. Not perfect, but worth voting for and it’s a good first step, and we will see what the Senate comes up with. And for those who don’t like the plan, tell me: what would be your alternative?

So I saw a couple responses, one about the tax cuts eventually expiring and chipped in some more,

As we have found out over the years, very little in government is permanent. That’s part of the problem.

Besides, one man’s “giveaway” is another man’s “hey, now I can expand my business” or “maybe we can afford this larger house.” It’s all in the perspective you have.

Truly, the only part of the paycheck I can really control is the wage I receive. I think I work pretty hard for it since I have both a full-time job and clients I write for a few hours a week. So the part that’s taken out are the necessary evils: SS. Medicare, federal/state taxes. To me, the former two are a black hole and the third is spent rather inefficiently. But I can’t control what the arbitrary and capricious IRS, SSA, Medicare, and so forth will do on a given day. They won’t listen to me, they won’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to Allison.

But they will listen when you take their money away and say, “this is, at best, properly a state function. Begone!”

Simply put, I believe we can do better and the key to me is rightsizing government. So when I see a statement that says, “critical programs that the middle class rely on” I know I have some educating to do. The middle class needs most of all to be able to rely on themselves first (after God of course.) Things have a place but they need to be put in their proper order first.

And finally:

“When it comes to Medicaid, Medicare, SS, education funding, etc – I don’t trust the states to deal with it because a failure means leaving people behind. Look at Oklahoma – they’ve got schools that are only in session 4 days a week to save money.”

The beauty of having 50 states in what is supposed to be a federalist system is that people have the option to do as they wish. If people didn’t like Oklahoma’s budgetary priorities they could go someplace with ones they like better. On the other hand, if people don’t like states with high taxes they could go to ones with lower taxes (as they already do.) We have that to an extent now but in a true Constitutional system it would be that way on steroids.

“I don’t want a handout. I want the government to not be the one throwing roadblocks up in my way.”

Same here. But if you have a roadblock thrown up by a state government, it’s easier to lobby at your state capital and if it’s not dealt with to your satisfaction you can go to another state that’s closer to your desires. With Uncle Sam, you’re stuck.

We wrote a Constitution where power that wasn’t specifically delegated to the federal government nor prohibited to it by the states were reserved for the states and the people. I just think we’d be better off following it.

And there are people who will look a gift horse in the mouth insofar as job creation because it’s a company that’s not politically correct.

Not sure why the state and county needed to chip in the $1.4 million in loans if the company is putting up $12 million of their own, but regardless: if the headline said “Baltimore Sun” instead of “Sinclair Broadcast Group” the comments would be 180 degrees different and most of you know it.

If you don’t like the content Sinclair puts out, there’s a simple solution: don’t watch it. Fortunately we don’t have only state-run broadcasting in this republic of ours.

Oh, and by the way, there is no such thing as an “overly conservative” media company.

Similarly, there’s no such thing as an “overly Constitutional” government. That’s what I keep working toward.

DLGWGTW: November 19, 2017

November 19, 2017 · Posted in Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Don't Let Good Writing Go To Waste, Maryland Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on DLGWGTW: November 19, 2017 

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments. I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this. 

Again, this looks like a two-part piece for tonight and Tuesday night.

You had to know there would be Democrat spin to counter with the GOP tax plan. It wasn’t just the Harris townhall. So I had a question for Steny Hoyer:

Maybe you can answer this question. The Bush tax cuts went into effect 2001 and 2003, and Reagan’s in 1983. Just how did tax cuts cause deficits when income tax revenue rose from $288.9 billion in 1983 to $445.7 billion in 1989 and $793.7 billion in 2003 to $1,163.4 billion in 2007 (before the Pelosi-Reid recession hit)?

There was plenty of money there, Too bad there were a lot of greedy hands that wanted to spend it.

A day later, Steny modified his propaganda offensive to point out the Republican opposition (based on the removal of state and local income tax deductions.) So some wag suggested we go back to the IRS code of 1956, marginal rates and all (when the top marginal rate was 90%.) So I said:

Okay, do I get the spending from 1956 too? You may have yourself a deal.

I reminded another it’s about the tax rates:

This is why you work to lower your state and local tax rates, too. Why should the rest of the country subsidize their spendthrift ways?

In that same vein, to another comment:

I would bet what Steny is leaving out is that (Rep. Peter) King’s constituents simply don’t want to lose the state/local tax deduction or have the mortgage interest limits reduced. It’s an issue somewhat unique to that area (high taxes + high home prices.)

As for the claim the GOP plan won’t help taxpayers like me:

Nope. Did the back of the envelope calculations – we stay in the 25% bracket and the increased standard deduction is just about a wash for losing the three individual exemptions. Where we will gain is the increased child tax credit, especially since they jump the phase out past our income level. It’s not a ton but it is more in OUR pockets since we don’t itemize. (And if we did the child tax credit would still help.)

My favorite, though, was the guy who blamed Steny for losing the Democrat majority.

“Why did you give (the House majority) to the Tea Party?”

Maybe because they earned it? “The people who stayed home and didn’t vote” didn’t exist anymore so than they did in the 2006 midterm since turnout was slightly higher as a percentage of voters (41.8 to 41.3, per the United States Election Project.)

It was the people motivated to come out that did the Democrats in.

A few days later, Steny came out with some pollaganda that needed to be addressed:

Well, if you ask the question that way you can expect that answer. How about asking them what they think of their own tax cut?

So when someone sniveled that they liked their taxes just fine but didn’t want tax cuts for millionaires because “the lost dollars will start a downward spiral of the economy,” well, you know I had to do some edumacashun.

I personally don’t care if millionaires get more tax cuts or not. Why should you? See, this is a teachable moment because your last statement tells me you have completely bought the notion that the government has first claim to our money, which is false – they do not perform the labor or create the value implicit in it, we do. There is no such thing as a “lost dollar” to them but there is to you and me.

He didn’t even like the fact the economy added a lot of jobs because wages went down a penny.

You say the same thing EVERY TIME. It’s like a broken record. And even the New York Times is admitting the wage loss is an anomaly. So what do you really have here besides a batch of hot air?

Once again, someone asserted that I’ll “have to learn the hard way.” Ma’am, I think I’ll do the educating here.

Okay, let’s go through this one point at a time.

“a giant giveaway to Corporations” – per the WSJ, about 2/3 of this package goes to corporations. Yes, $1 trillion may seem like a lot but it’s spread over 10 years – and in a $20 trillion economy $100 billion a year is a drop in the bucket. Of course, that’s a static analysis which doesn’t account for gains in GDP thanks to new investment, higher dividends, and so forth.

By the way, companies that “raise executive pay and buy back shares of stock to raise prices” find they lose market share over time to those that invest more wisely. And to be quite frank, the companies earned it in the first place – the government did nothing but put its hand out and maybe was even in cahoots with the company.

The naysayers also seem to assume that this package will “cost” the government the full $1.5 trillion over the decade, when it’s been properly referred to as “up to.” It could be 1.3, 1.0 or maybe even a wash. Do yourself a favor and look up income tax revenues in the periods after large tax cuts – you may be shocked to learn something new.

If a higher debt actually led to higher interest rates, we should have had Carteresque interest rates throughout both Bush 43 and (especially) Obama. But we did not.

This package will significantly limit deductions, but the question is: how many middle-class people itemize? If you don’t itemize deductions, which are often pegged to only apply if they add up to a significant percentage of income, then the changes which affect you most will be the expanded brackets at the lower end, the larger standard deduction, and the increased child tax credit.

“It likely cuts public services. It raises the specter of cutting Medicare and Medicaid.” Speculation at best. Besides, many of the functions the federal government has usurped for itself should properly be done by the states.

“The very rich will pay less taxes…” Well, wait a second – I thought we were eliminating all these deductions. The high-end rate is still the same, but they lose out with the mortgage interest and second home changes, among other things. Not that it truly matters anyway, since the so-called “1%” pay a share of the tax bill that is almost double their share of income. As I have often told Steny and now tell you, the class envy card is not accepted at my establishment. On principle alone the government should not be entitled to anyone’s estate just because they achieved their heavenly reward.

If the rich own 40% of the stock market, that means the rest of us own the other 60%. I don’t begrudge wise investors their success.

Now I will concede the point that the rich “don’t spend nearly as large a percentage of their income, as the middle class, and poor” to the extent that they don’t spend the same percentage on necessities: i.e. they eat, drive, heat their home, etc. But I argue they do spend a significant portion of their income as the drivers who bring prices on certain items down for the rest of us, which is a less tangible benefit. They also donate the large sums of money to charity that we can’t. (My wife’s employer is a beneficiary – a local philanthropist donated $1 million toward their renovation and expansion. I know I couldn’t do that.)

“It’s a dumb and backwards plan, written by people who either, don’t know what they are doing, or know it, but are prepared to lie about it.”

Or you could be swallowing the lies. I just know what I have seen, and the most prosperity I recall under a president is when Reagan was in office. Second was Bill Clinton when Newt Gingrich ran the House.

The one constant is that we were always told Republicans do tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s funny because I’m nowhere near wealthy but my taxes went down, too, and I put the money to good use.

Let this be a lesson to those who read here.

I quit picking on Steny for a bit, but I had an observation on someone else’s writing:

It’s been almost a year since Donald Trump was elected as President by enough voters in enough states to win the Electoral College. (This said to satisfy those on the Left who whine about Hillary winning the popular vote overall.)

But something I noticed right away upon his election was a change in economic outlook among the average Joes of the country, and it’s something I am sensitive to. I was laid off from a great job in December of 2008 basically because of pessimism over how Barack Obama would handle the economy, seeing that we were in the depths of the Great Recession (or as I call it, the Pelosi-Reid recession.)

Eight years and a few months later, the good Lord blessed me with a return to that same great job because of optimism over how Donald Trump would fix a stagnant economy.

So I submit this as evidence of my suspicions.

I have also found out that even Andy Harris isn’t immune to people who don’t know about the benefits of tax cuts or limited government. They comment on his site, too. For example, the people who think killing the estate tax is a bad idea got this:

Why? It’s a tiny percentage of federal revenues but can be devastating to family businesses and farms.

Yet people try to give me left-wing claptrap that it’s a “myth” the estate tax threatens family businesses and farms, So I find an example of one that would be only to be told it’s a biased source. Fun little game they play.

So I found a really unimpeachable source:

If you can’t refute the evidence, question the source?

But you’re missing the point: the government has NO right to the money just because the person died. If my neighbor had an estate of $5.48 million and got to pass all of his along yet mine was $5.5 million and my heirs had to fork over 40% to the government, how is that right in your eyes? I consider that arbitrary and capricious.

Nor do I stand for communist principles, to wit:

“Democracy would be wholly valueless to the proletariat if it were not immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed against private property and ensuring the livelihood of the proletariat. The main measures, emerging as the necessary result of existing relations, are the following:

(i) Limitation of private property through progressive taxation, heavy inheritance taxes, abolition of inheritance through collateral lines (brothers, nephews, etc.) forced loans, etc.”

That comes straight from the Marxists themselves. Deny that.

Then someone tried to say that trickle-down economics didn’t work and the tax cuts in Kansas were proof. I pointed out there were extenuating circumstances:

First of all, the issue in Kansas wasn’t the tax cuts – it was the state’s lack of willingness to curtail its spending to match, along with some issues with low prices in the commodity markets they depend on that eroded tax revenue even further. This is a good explanation.

Similarly, what increased the federal deficit during the aughts was a lack of willingness to cut spending to match tax income (as it has been for every year this century, including some real doozies of deficits under the last President, But back then deficits didn’t matter.)

But given the fact that this district voted handily for our Congressman and for President Trump, by extension it would be logical for Andy to vote for a tax plan the President supports.

And if you don’t agree that tax cuts create an economic boom, let me ask you: are you working for yourself or are you working for an allowance from the government? I don’t see Uncle Sam doing the work for which I show up at 7 and work until 5 most days. I earned the money and I want to keep more of it.

(A good question for Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. – is the reason we don’t adopt the FairTax a worry about lack of revenue or worry about lack of control of our behavior through the tax code?)

And again, I got the charge of biased source because Koch brothers or something like that. I can play that game too.

The contributor is actually a member of the Tax Policy Center, which is more left-leaning. And note that it was a court order demanding increased education spending that caused their budgetary problems for the year.

I think the truth is probably somewhere closer to the KPI version of events (since they are actually on the ground in Kansas) as opposed to a Beltway-based Forbes contributor. Actually, that’s a pretty good metaphor for the role of government, too.

This will be enough for tonight. Stay tuned on Tuesday for more.

monoblogue music: “Light Years Away” by Paul Maged

November 18, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Light Years Away” by Paul Maged 

I have been doing music reviews for about 3 1/2 years now and I thought originally this would mark a first: the first time I’ve reviewed the follow-up to one of my #1 albums from a particular year and it had a shot to be back-to-back #1’s. You probably remember that Paul’s last full-length “Diamonds & Demons” impressed me enough to be my top album reviewed in 2014, and I was led to believe that a Maged single I reviewed last March called The Wild was a prelude to this new work.

So I was a bit disappointed in two respects with “Light Years Away” but heartened in another. First was the fact that I opened the website where I listen to music for my review and found only seven songs there, which as a whole went off on some tangents I wasn’t quite expecting from the earlier work. (It’s one of those things that’s a bit jarring at first listen but oftentimes grows on you as you adjust.) But then I learned the reason there were only six full-length songs (the seventh is a reprise of a portion of the song Moment of Strength) is that this release is part of a planned trilogy that will comprise the three legs of his follow-up to “Diamonds & Demons.” That means I get another 10 to 12 songs, give or take, to judge this album by before I see whether it will be a number one release next year. (By the way, that approach is not unprecedented: the album Maged barely edged out for top honors in 2014 was put together the exact same way.)

So what is there to like about “Light Years Away”? I think Paul makes a great first impression with the humorous but radio-friendly PC Police. All he needs is a lyric video because I suspect some people may find the song laugh-out-loud funny. (Considering Paul’s background in stand-up and sketch comedy, it’s no stretch to figure out he can write humorous lyrics – and the riff of the song is pretty good, too.)

In that same musical vein – maybe a touch more on the heavy side – but with less controversial lyrics is the title track of the EP, which is the third song. Placed in between is the aforementioned Moment of Strength, which flows through several shades of a rock/funk fusion which I later read Paul described as “Billy Joel meets The Killers meets Michael Jackson.” I can buy that – in fact, the bridge with the female background vocals seems a little too derivative of the King of Pop – but they sometimes seem to meet in the most unusual ways and tempo changes. This tune is one which may grow on you, though.

Song number four represents one of those significant tangents I warned you about. When I first heard the harmonica in the opening bars of Ashley Jane, I was expecting more of a blues number. Instead I got a song I honestly wasn’t quite sure how to peg until I reread the review for The Wild and saw at the time he was working on a song he called “quite Beatlesque.” “I’ll bet this was the one,” I thought to myself.

The upbeat mood of the EP, which began to slide back on Ashley Jane, really goes away with the somber Half Moon. But once you get over the change in attitude, it’s a very good song that actually could be at home on some radio playlists where serious songs are played. That’s another one which is growing on me pretty quickly.

Paying tribute to the late Chris Cornell, Paul takes the Audioslave song Like A Stone and makes it uniquely his own. Everyone has a particular vocal and musical style and tone, and Paul did a masterful job shaping the arrangement of the song (and playing the instruments) to his. I’m not sure why Paul chose to follow that with the short reprise of the chorus to Moment of Strength (or if that snippet will make the final LP version) but Like A Stone may be better suited to just be the final song.

Just going by what’s here I couldn’t say with certainty that Paul would defend his “title” but there are 10 to 12 songs to go and it is a promising start. This little album has a couple of the best songs I’ve heard all year. But don’t take my word for it – just listen for yourself and see.

A look at the trade, revisited 2017

November 16, 2017 · Posted in Sports · Comments Off on A look at the trade, revisited 2017 

Last year I did a five-part series that studied the legacy of Orioles general manager Dan Duquette. You have likely figured out I’m a baseball fan, and although my big league team of choice is my home region’s Detroit Tigers I follow the Orioles as well because that’s where a lot of my Delmarva Shorebirds end up – if Duquette doesn’t trade them away. At the end of last season fans were bitterly frustrated that the Orioles couldn’t get past the wild card game, and this season they really fumed as players they dealt away for guys who never panned out or simply dismissed in cash deals succeeded for other teams.

So I decided to go ahead after this season’s debacle and follow up on this series, which uses the statistic of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as a way to compare player worth. (Of course, cash has no player worth.) But I have also added a new wrinkle in that I went through the Baseball America archives to find all the minor league deals Duquette completed as well, creating a spreadsheet of all the deals and who’s still involved – players involved in trades can make deals live on if they are traded again by the new team, and this has happened a few times.

But thanks to catcher Gabriel Lino signing a minor league pact with the Cardinals last offseason, I could close the book on the entire 2012 Duquette season. Lino was the last remaining piece the Phillies received when they sent us Jim Thome for the playoff push, and in four subsequent seasons Lino bounced around the Phillies’ system without making the big club.

2012 was, as you may expect, a winning year for Dan, but not overwhelmingly so: his nine deals netted a total of 5.1 WAR while the players he gave up realized a cumulative (-1.3) WAR for their teams. Oddly enough, in strictly WAR terms Duquette’s worst trade was his very first as he acquired backup catcher Taylor Teagarden for two minor leaguers, Randy Henry and Greg Miclat. Neither Henry nor Miclat ever made the Show, but Teagarden had a (-0.6) WAR in two sparsely-used Oriole seasons before leaving as a free agent after the 2013 season.

The best deal he made paid dividends for awhile: acquiring pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom from the Rockies for “ace” Jeremy Guthrie. Hammel provided 3 Wins Above Replacement in two seasons before leaving, while Lindstrom (0.7 WAR) was the bait to later bring in Arizona pitcher Joe Saunders (0.8 WAR as a 2012 rental.) That total of 4.5 WAR was most of Dan’s seasonal success; meanwhile, not only did the Rockies strike out with Guthrie’s (-0.7) WAR as a member of the Rockies, they flipped him to the Royals for Jonathan Sanchez and another (-0.5) WAR. That accounted for most of the overall failure among all teams. (Guthrie was far more successful with Kansas City, so the Rockies were really burned.)

I can’t close the book quite yet on 2013, although a significant part of the Duquette nightmare may soon stop haunting him. If, as most experts expect, Jake Arrieta decides to move on from the Cubs as a prized free agent, that meter of 21.3 WAR he’s accrued with them will stop running. While that’s by far the worst offense of the 29.3 WAR that Duquette gave up (compared to receiving just 2.4 WAR in a staggering 21 deals, mostly on a minor league level) there are still a number of players who are working both for and against him as a result.

The Arrieta deal also included relief pitcher Pedro Strop, who has put up 5.4 WAR of his own and remains Cubs property. Also working against Duquette is a player he could not have known about, but one who will be sporting a World Series ring. As part of the trade with Houston that brought pitcher Bud Norris, the Orioles sent the Astros their “Competitive Balance” draft pick, and the Astros used it in the 2014 Draft to select outfielder Derek Fisher and his 0.4 WAR as a raw rookie this season. Also adding 0.7 WAR to that total against Duquette is Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, who was originally the property of the Milwaukee Brewers but came to Houston with another since-released player in a trade where the Brewers received (among others) then-minor league pitcher Josh Hader, who was also part of the Norris deal.

So if you assume all these players except Arrieta stay put, this will leave the Cubs’ Strop and the Astros’ Fiers and Fisher as active remnants of 2013 trades against Duquette. But Dan has three on his side as well.

In the Arrieta trade, Dan picked up the Pride of Pigtown, Steve Clevenger. While Steve only had a 0.3 WAR with Baltimore, his best asset was being part of the trade with Seattle to bring Mark Trumbo. Barring a trade, they will have two more seasons of Mark to add value to the 1.1 WAR he’s already brought on. (The best way to do so: play him strictly as a DH because his defensive WAR is horribly negative.)

A much lesser known trade is the other wildcard. In early 2013 the Orioles unloaded veteran pitcher Luis Ayala to Atlanta and got a minor league pitcher back in Chris Jones. There was a little talk about Jones as a prospect, but three fruitless seasons later he was shipped to the Angels for two minor leaguers, outfielder Natanael Delgado and infielder Erick Salcedo. Delgado was a fringe prospect who last played with Delmarva and missed all of 2017 with an injury, but Salcedo has moved up the system to Bowie.

When your most successful trade in terms of net WAR comes because the player you got never left Norfolk (Trayvon Robinson) but the guy you gave up was brutal – Robert Andino and a (-0.3) WAR in a few months with Seattle – that’s a year worth forgetting.

Analyzing the 2014 season is much simpler: just 11 trades, which Duquette has won by so far a count of 8.4 WAR to 2.6 WAR.

Perhaps the best trade of the Duquette era was the one that brought Brad Brach (6.4 WAR and counting) from San Diego for a minor league pitcher who returned here a season later to retire, Devin Jones. Devin never got past AA, but Brach piles on the WAR.

The only player remaining against Duquette from his deals that season is from the second-most reviled deal behind Arrieta – the trade with Boston where rental pitcher Andrew Miller came in exchange for Eduardo Rodriguez (4.7 WAR). Unless Rodriguez has a long Boston career, though, 2014 looks like it may be Duquette’s best showing as these trades were his best and worst, respectively.

2015 was another step backward for Duquette. It seems sometimes that the more trades he makes, the bigger hole he digs, and this was the case here. In the case of the 2015 season, 11 of the 16 deals were cash transactions one way or the other, including a new and unique transaction where pitcher Chris Lee was acquired from Houston for two international bonus slots, assigned piles of money granted by Major League Baseball for teams to use to sign international talent (or deal away, as the Orioles did.) Lee is still in the Orioles organization so this is a trade which could pan out (there’s really no way of knowing who Houston acquired with their money), but by and large most of these trades were made to bolster the minor leagues. Six of the eleven cash deals closed out with no WAR acquired as the player never made the big leagues.

As the time period is more recent, several of these deals are still open and the Orioles have a combined 0.3 WAR on their side against 10.0 WAR for their opponents. The bad news is that the prospects for improvement on Baltimore’s side are relatively slim, and could decline further as three players in question – catchers Chris O’Brien and Audry Perez (neither of whom have played for the Orioles) and pitcher Richard Rodriguez [lit up for a (-0.3) WAR this season] are all minor league free agents. Besides the aforementioned Lee, the only player who could add value to Baltimore is pitcher Daniel Rodriguez, who has been loaned to the Mexican League for the last three seasons.

On the other hand, the list of players Duquette parted with (and were acquired in subsequent trades by the new teams) may give fans even more heartburn in coming seasons. In order of their departure, they include Stephen Tarpley, a pitcher who the Pirates later flipped to the Yankees for pitcher Ivan Nova (3.5 WAR) and pitcher Steven Brault and his (-0.3) WAR for Pittsburgh. Tarpley and Brault were the price for the Travis Snider (1 WAR) outfield experiment that lasted less than a season.

Another player who has a chance to hurt the Orioles someday is a minor league pitcher for the Dodgers named Josh Sborz – yet another “Competitive Balance” draft pick Duquette dealt away for 2015 (in this case for Chris O’Brien and another departed player.)

When once again the best trade you make is offloading a player [in this case, infielder Steve Lombardozzi and (-0.3) WAR to the Pirates for cash] you know it’s a bad year. The worst trade from 2015 could get a whole lot more bad before it’s finished as the long-departed rental outfielder from Milwaukee Gerardo Parra [(-1.1) WAR] cost the Orioles promising pitcher Zach Davies (6 WAR and counting – he’s under team control until 2022.) It could be another Arrieta in the making.

A more subdued Duquette limited the damage in 2016, making only 13 trades and just 4 for cash. He also picked up pitcher Edgar Olmos from the Cubs for nothing – originally this was for a player to be named later, but no one was ever named. Olmos filled a minor league slot for a season before leaving.

Surprisingly few players are still active from the 2016 deals. I told you earlier about Mark Trumbo, who is adding to the 2016 composite WAR of 0.3, as well as Natanael Delgado and Erick Salcedo. The other player who could add to the Orioles meager total is minor league pitcher Brandon Barker, who the Orioles received as part of a salary (pitcher Brian Matusz) and 2016 “Competitive Balance” draft choice (minor league catcher Brett Cumberland, who is still active) dump deal with the Braves. Cumberland could add to the 2.0 WAR so far compiled by opponents, but it’s more likely short-term that pitcher Ariel Miranda [1.8 WAR, sent to Seattle for pitcher Wade Miley and his (-0.6) WAR] will stockpile Wins Above Replacement. Others who could haunt the Orioles are farmhand pitcher Jean Cosme [sent to San Diego for pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne (-0.2) WAR before being waived at the tail end of 2016] and a rental of utility man and repeat Oriole Steve Pearce (0.1 WAR) that netted Tampa Bay minor league catcher Jonah Heim.

So going forward it’s Trumbo, Delgado, Salcedo, and Barker against Cumberland, Miranda, Cosme, and Heim. Only two of them are currently in the bigs, so the totals may not move much in future seasons.

Adding up the first five seasons of Duquette’s legacy, he’s accrued a total WAR of 16.5, or about 3.3 per season. However, opponents have collectively gained a total of 42.6 WAR – roughly 8.5 per season.

This brings us to 2017, which was an extremely busy season for Duquette because he had a new weapon at his disposal.

Where teams could previously only trade international bonus slots, changes to the rules eliminated the slots and created a free pool of money teams could parcel out as they wished – and Duquette really wished! Eight different minor league players were acquired with the international bonus pool cash, and eight others were standard cash deals. I’ll pick up where I left off last season.

  • Trade 42 (November 30, 2016) – Orioles purchase the contract of P Logan Verrett from New York Mets.

The Orioles tried to get Verrett before as a Rule 5 pick in 2014 but ended up waiving him, losing him to the Texas Rangers before they returned him to the Mets a month into the season. When the Mets signed Yoenis Cespedes as a free agent, it made Verrett available and Baltimore jumped at the chance. But Verrett only made four appearances for the Orioles, compiling no WAR before being outrighted in September and allowed to become a free agent at season’s end.

  • Trade 43 (January 6, 2017) – Orioles trade P Yovani Gallardo and cash to Seattle Mariners for OF Seth Smith.

In an effort to shore up their outfield, the Orioles traded from what they thought was their strength as Gallardo was a sixth member of what was figured to be a five-man rotation of Tillman, Gausman, Bundy, Miley, and Jimenez. Instead, Smith (0.3 WAR) became a fourth outfielder with the ascension of Trey Mancini and figures to leave as a free agent. Gallardo, though, was even worse for Seattle as he put up a (-0.1) WAR and he’s a free agent, too.

  • Trade 44 (February 9, 2017) – Orioles trade minor league P Ryan Moseley to Los Angeles Dodgers for P Vidal Nuno.

Moseley spent the season in the low reaches of the Dodgers’ system, while Nuno made 12 relatively brutal appearances for the Orioles for a (-0.5) WAR. Outrighted in August, Nuno elected free agency at season’s end and was one of the first to sign elsewhere, inking a deal with the Rays.

  • Trade 45 (February 10, 2017) – Orioles purchase the contract of P Gabriel Ynoa from New York Mets.

A solid acquisition so far as Ynoa gave the Orioles a WAR of 0.5 in nine appearances and is under team control for several seasons to come. He’s being discussed as a rotation candidate for 2018.

  • Trade 46 (February 21, 2017) – Orioles trade cash or a player to be named later to New York Yankees for P Richard Bleier.

This turned out to be one of the best trades Duquette made in terms of net WAR as Bleier put up a 1.3 WAR for the season for cash. Again, Duquette snagged a controllable piece of his bullpen for very little cost after the Yankees designated him for assignment a few days earlier.

  • Trade 47 (March 28, 2017) – Orioles trade cash or a player to be named later to Philadelphia Phillies for P Alec Asher.

Asher fits the profile of the other pitchers acquired in this time period – controllable with a lot of potential and coming at little risk. He wasn’t as successful as the others since he put up a 0.0 WAR in 24 appearances for the Orioles.

  • Trade 48 (April 6, 2017) – Orioles purchase the contract of P Andrew Faulkner from Texas Rangers.

Faulkner, who spent parts of the previous two seasons with Texas, didn’t make it to the Orioles and was outrighted to the minors at season’s end, becoming a free agent shortly afterward.

  • Trade 49 (April 7, 2017) – Orioles acquire P Miguel Castro from Colorado Rockies for player to be named later. Minor league P Jon Keller was sent to Rockies to complete the trade on September 7.

Another refugee of being designated for assignment by his former team, Castro was a prized member of the Orioles bullpen during the season, making 39 appearances and compiling a 0.9 WAR. He has five seasons of team control left. Keller was once a prospect mentioned frequently by Orioles’ brass but he’s had back-to-back poor seasons and may have needed a change of scenery.

  • Trade 50 (April 10, 2017) – Orioles trade minor league P Joe Gunkel to Los Angeles Dodgers for cash.

This trade is noteworthy because it closed the book on a trade from 2015 (Trade 29) that sent Alejandro De Aza to Boston. Gunkel, who had been designated for assignment three days earlier, once was thought to have a chance to make the Orioles’ staff, but he never grabbed the brass ring. So that trade went down as a loss. As for the Dodgers, they tried to sneak Gunkel through waivers 2 1/2 weeks later but lost him to Miami, where he finished the season with a demotion to AA Jacksonville.

  • Trade 51 (April 13, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Milwaukee Brewers for P Damian Magnifico.

The first of several trades involving the Orioles’ bonus pool, Magnifico (another DFA) didn’t stay long in the Orioles’ minor league system as you’ll see.

  • Trade 52 (April 14, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Seattle Mariners for minor league P Paul Fry.

Fry managed to spend two days in April on the Orioles’ active roster but still awaits his major league debut. If you haven’t noticed a pattern, Fry was also a DFA by the Mariners. Dan Duquette was becoming adept at scouring the waiver wire.

  • Trade 53 (April 14, 2017) – Orioles trade P Oliver Drake to Milwaukee Brewers for cash.

Having designated Drake for assignment the day before, the Orioles got what they could for the longtime farmhand who worked his way up the system. Drake turned out to be a nice pickup for Milwaukee as he chipped in 0.2 WAR for them as a setup man.

  • Trade 54 (April 17, 2017) – Orioles trade P Parker Bridwell to Los Angeles Angels for cash.

Another player Dan Duquette had to DFA, shipping Bridwell off turned out to be the worst trade Duquette made as Bridwell came up with a WAR of 2.0 in part of a season.

  • Trade 55 (May 4, 2017) – Orioles purchase the contract of minor league C Armando Araiza from Atlanta Braves.

After making 13 trades in a row involving pitching, Dan worked on the other side of the battery in this minor league deal. Araiza spent most of his season with Frederick but also stopped with Bowie and Norfolk.

  • Trade 56 (May 6, 2017) – Orioles trade P Damian Magnifico to Los Angeles Angels for minor league P Jordan Kipper.

It turned out that Magnifico made one appearance for the Angels and put no WAR up, while Kipper started out with Norfolk and was demoted to Bowie.

  • Trade 57 (May 20, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Chicago White Sox for minor league P Alex Katz.

Katz spent the remaining season in Frederick, which was a promotion from where the White Sox had him – but the results were pedestrian at best.

  • Trade 58 (June 4, 2017) – Orioles purchase the contract of IF Ruben Tejada from the New York Yankees.

Looking for a backup infielder with experience, the acquisition came in handy for a time when J.J. Hardy broke his wrist a couple weeks later. But Tejada wasn’t the answer, putting up a WAR of 0.0 and eventually being outrighted in August. He was granted free agency in October.

  • Trade 59 (July 2, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to New York Yankees for minor league P Matt Wotherspoon.

Matt simply switched International League franchises in the deal and put up reasonably good numbers for Norfolk. With another couple seasons to go before he hits minor league free agency, he has an outside chance of making it to the Orioles’ bullpen in the next season or two as a late bloomer.

  • Trade 60 (July 2, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Los Angeles Dodgers for P Jason Wheeler.

For Wheeler this was his second cash deal in less than a month as the Dodgers had similarly acquired him from the Twins, for whom he had debuted and made 2 appearances in May. The Dodgers had already outrighted Jason to AAA, so the Orioles made a modest enough offer to them to take Wheeler off their hands. For the Orioles he never left Norfolk and was granted free agency in October.

  • Trade 61 (July 5, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to New York Mets for minor league IF Milton Ramos.

Local fans are quite familiar with this deal because Ramos went from the SAL’s Columbia Fireflies (who had played here in May) to the Shorebirds. While Milton was a top-30 prospect with the Mets his stock had fallen off in the previous year, making him expendable and perhaps in need of a scenery change. If this ever accrues to the Orioles’ side of the ledger it won’t likely be before the start of the next decade.

  • Trade 62 (July 7, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Milwaukee Brewers for minor league P Aaron Myers.

Another trade to help the Shorebirds, Myers was effective here albeit in limited time due to injuries. Like Ramos, it’s at least two to three seasons before Myers would even be considered big league help so this was another trade to bolster a weak area of the organization.

  • Trade 63 (July 29, 2017) – Orioles trade OF Hyun-Soo Kim, minor league P Garrett Cleavinger, and international bonus pool cash to Philadelphia Phillies for P Jeremy Hellickson and cash.

This was a trade that attempted to send a message that the Orioles weren’t sellers. Because Trey Mancini had taken so well to the outfield and Kim was never proven against left-handed pitching, the Korean import was glued to the bench. Moving to Philadelphia wasn’t a favor to Kim in that regard as he had a (-0.9) WAR and is now a free agent, having completed his initial two-year pact coming over from Korea. Cleavinger moved laterally at the AA level but wasn’t very good; however, he has a decent track record to build from and will likely be the last piece standing from this deal. Hellickson bombed with the Orioles as he also put up a (-0.9) WAR and is also a free agent.

  • Trade 64 (July 31, 2017) – Orioles purchase the contract of minor league P Yefry Ramirez from New York Yankees.

Originally an infielder in the Diamondbacks’ system, a position conversion and different organization saw Ramirez rocket from rookie league at the end of 2015 to AA to begin 2017. There are some who believe he may be a possible September callup in 2018, if not sooner, as their successful pilfering of the Yankee treasure trove of minor league pitching continues.

  • Trade 65 (July 31, 2017) – Orioles trade minor league P Tobias Myers to Tampa Bay Rays for IF Tim Beckham.

It will be awhile before we know the impact of Myers, who was traded off the short-season Aberdeen roster, but Beckham was an immediate hit after hit for the Orioles and compiled a WAR of 2.0 in just 2 months, making it the best trade Duquette has made to date for 2017. With the departure of J.J. Hardy the shortstop position is now Beckham’s.

  • Trade 66 (August 5, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Texas Rangers for minor league IF Brallan Perez.

Another trade to boost the low minors, Perez moved laterally as he spent most of his season in the Carolina League with either the Rangers’ Down East Wood Ducks affiliate or the Frederick Keys. He had great numbers with Frederick so maybe the change did Perez good.

  • Trade 67 (August 9, 2017) – Orioles trade P Steve Johnson to Chicago White Sox for cash.

Johnson, who many fondly remember from his first go-round in the organization – he pitched for the Orioles from 2012-13 and again in 2015 – came back after spending time in the Texas and Seattle organizations but did not escape AAA this season. Once again he will be a free agent this winter – an anti-climactic trade to finish the trading season for Duquette, who so far is winning the WAR war 3.6 to 1.2 thanks to all those cash deals.

And Dan may have hit upon a winning strategy when it comes to his international bonus pool money because the Orioles’ Dominican program is terrible. Why spend thousands of dollars trying to develop two teams’ worth of players who rarely make it past the low minors and haven’t sent a player to the big leagues since 2010? Eduardo Rodriguez is the last DSL Oriole player to make the big leagues and that’s when he pitched there. This season they cut it down to one team and perhaps spent the money saved in selectively acquiring guys who already have a track record or could fill a need. Because the 2015 and 2016 draft classes seem weak in depth (meaning Delmarva and Frederick weren’t very good) Dan shored the teams up with a handful of players from other clubs. They may never make the major leagues but they stand a little better chance than a typical overseas player.

Time will tell whether these trades will pan out, but I think this will turn out to be Duquette’s best year because he doesn’t really have any scary good players out against him (except perhaps the mercurial Parker Bridwell.) Yet if a couple of these sleeper picks turn out to be good or if Beckham is a long-term solution at short, he will have some winners this time to brighten up an otherwise subpar season.

 

 

 

Harris hears the hullabaloo, Salisbury edition

Back in March Congressman Andy Harris hosted what could be described as a contentious town hall meeting at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. It was believed that yesterday’s event would be more of the same, but a disappointing fraction of that traveling roadshow of malcontents came down to Salisbury in their attempt to jeer, interrupt, goad, and otherwise heckle Andy Harris for the entire hour-long event.

There were a couple other departures from the Wye Mills townhall, one being the choice of moderator. In this case, we had Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis acting as the questioner and doing a reasonable job of keeping things in order.

Interestingly enough, the people at these “progressive” group tables outside have our Sheriff – the same one they were castigating for his “divisive rhetoric” a few weeks ago – to thank for their continued presence there.

As one would expect, the Harris campaign wasn’t cool with the presence of these tables outside and had asked them to leave, but they were overruled by Lewis. This was an event open to the public and not a school function, Lewis told me, so as long as they did not create a disturbance or block access or egress they were free to be there. The table on the left was run by volunteers for Democratic challenger Michael Pullen and the one on the right by “nonpartisan progressive grassroots volunteer organization” Talbot Rising. The latter group was there two hours early when I arrived.

The other departure was the lack of a PowerPoint presentation to open the townhall meeting, slated for an hour but lasting a few minutes extra. Harris rolled right into the questions, which were divided into tax-related questions and everything else.

Outbursts were frequent, but Lewis only had to intercede a couple of times. There was also a staged incident where a man dressed as Rich Uncle Pennybags thanked Harris for his tax cut, with two helpers holding a fake check – all three were escorted from the premises.

Speaking of tax cuts, this was to be the main emphasis of the program. It was the part that drew the sea of red sheets from the crowd.

(By the way, there was a young man there who passed red and green sheets to everyone. I was too busy writing and trying to follow to use them much, though.)

Now I will warn you: the rapid-fire way of getting questions in, coupled with the frequent jeering interruptions from the crowd (which was closer to me than the loudspeaker was) made it tough to get a lot of quotes so my post is going to be more of a summary.

I can say that Harris said the “vast majority” of the middle class would get tax cuts, and that was President Trump’s aim – to have them “targeted to middle income.” This was one of the few slides he showed.

He added that there were now competing House and Senate versions of the bill, with key differences: for example, the Senate bill has the adoption tax credit the House bill lacks, but the House has the $10,000 real estate tax deduction where the Senate bill still has the full elimination of state and local tax deductions. “We know they are areas of concern,” said Harris. Another area he worried about was losing the deduction for medical expenses, which he believed “we should retain.” He noted, too, that “my office door has been knocked down by special interests” who want to keep a particular deduction or credit intact. Later, he warned us this was the “first part of a very long process,” predicting nothing will be final until next spring at the earliest. (Remember, Trump wanted it for Christmas.)

Andy also contended that passing business tax reform would help to increase wages, which would increase productivity. That assertion was ridiculed, of course, although it would be interesting to know just how many of those objecting actually ran businesses and signed the front of paychecks.

At one point Andy was asked about the $1.5 trillion deficit figure that’s been bandied about by the Left in reaction to the GOP tax package, to which Harris asked the folks who applauded the question whether they applauded the $1.3 trillion in deficits Barack Obama ran up in his first year in office. (I thought I heard someone behind me say something along the lines of “but that did more good,” and I had to stifle a laugh.) Essentially, that $1.5 trillion figure assumes no economic benefit from tax reform, said Harris. That echoed his one concern about passage: “We need the economy growing now.”

And, yes, trickle-down does work, Andy added, and no, George W. Bush did not do trickle-down with his tax cuts because they were only for individuals, not businesses. We have had a stagnant corporate tax rate since the 1980s while the rest of the world went down. “If we don’t give relief to American corporations they will go offshore,” said Harris. (In one respect, the “progressives” are right on this one: Harris left out the salient point that corporations are over-regulated, too.)

Over the years, Andy continued later, he’s found out that Washington cannot or will not control spending, so they have to grow the economy to achieve the balanced budget he’s working toward. (Tax cuts have worked before – ask Coolidge, Kennedy, and Reagan.)

Toward the end, someone else brought up the estate tax, which Andy naturally opposes and these “progressive” folks, like the good Marxists they are, reflexively favor. Andy pointed out the examples of family farms and small businesses that work to avoid the estate tax that the opposition claims won’t affect them, but then Andy cited the example of a car dealer who spends $150,000 a year to avoid estate taxes. Someone had the audacity to shout out, “see, he’s helping the economy!” I really wish I had the microphone because I would have asked her: how much value is really created with that $150,000? If there were no estate tax the dealer could have used that to improve his business, hire a couple employees, or whatever he wanted.

Now for some of the other topics. First was a question on net neutrality. The crowd seemed to favor government regulation but Harris preferred to “leave the internet to prosper on its own.” (A lot of mumbling about Comcast was heard after that one.)

This one should have been a slam dunk, but even it was mixed. Harris pledged to allow people to keep and bear arms for whatever reason they wanted, and when some in the crowd loudly objected Andy reminded them his parents grew up in a communist country where the people had no guns but the government did. That doesn’t usually end well.

And after the recent Sutherland Springs church massacre, there was a question about the federal gun purchase form (Form 4473, as I found), because the shooter had deliberately omitted information on a conviction. Harris pointed out that he had asked then-AG Eric Holder that very question about how many people he had charged with lying to the government on that form and he said 10, because he had higher priority items. Okay, then.

There was a question asked that I didn’t really catch about the student savings program being extended to the unborn, and before Andy got real far into his answer someone behind me got in a way about this being a trick to “establish personhood” for the unborn. I thought they already were. This actually relates to a question asked later about the Johnson Amendment, which is generally interpreted as a prohibition on political activity from the pulpit so churches maintain their tax-exempt status. Harris called the Johnson Amendment “ridiculous,” opining that a church should be able to tell its parishioners which candidates have similar political views without fear of the IRS – much to the chagrin of the traveling roadshow.

This one was maybe my favorite. A questioner asked about a lack of women in leadership positions under Trump, but when that questioner was asked about Betsy DeVos – a woman in a leadership position as Secretary of Education – well, that didn’t count. “This President is going to appoint people who do the job,” said Harris. (Speaking of women seeking leadership positions, among those attending was state Comptroller candidate Angie Phukan. She was the lucky monocle returner.)

There was another questioner who asked if anything was being done in a bipartisan manner, to which Harris pointed out the House cleared a number last week. “Watch the bipartisan bills being passed on Monday,” said Harris.

Since I had time to kill before the event, I wrote a total of four questions to ask and it turned out three made the cut. Here were the three and a summary of the answers.

What are the factors holding back true tax reform? Is it a fear of a lack of revenue or the temptation of government control of behavior that stops a real change to the system?

The biggest factor Andy cited was the K Street lobbyists, which I would feel answers the second part of the question better than the first, Note that he had said earlier special interests were beating down his office door. He also said he would really prefer a flat tax.

We have tried the stick of forcing people to buy health insurance through Obamacare and it didn’t do much to address the situation. What can we do on the incentive side to address issues of cost control and a lack of access to health care?

For this question, Andy gave the state-level example of the former Maryland state-run health insurance program, which acted as an insurer of last resort. And when someone yelled out, “it went bankrupt!” Andy reminded her that the program was profitable until Martin O’Malley raided it to balance a budget. Then there was some shouting fit over how bad the program was from someone who was a social worker, but then could you not have that same issue with the Medicare for All these people want (and Andy says “is not going to work”)? After all, both were/are government programs.

On that same subject, Andy said the American Health Care Act that died in the Senate “would have been good for Maryland” if it had passed.

The recent election results would tend to suggest President Trump is unpopular among a certain segment of voters. Yet the other side won simply because they ran against President Trump, not because they presented an agenda. What agenda should the GOP pursue to benefit our nation going forward?

This one had a short, simple answer I can borrow from a Democrat: it’s the economy, stupid. Get tax cuts passed so we can keep this accelerating economy going.

Lastly, I get the feeling I’m going to be semi-famous.

Given the fact that probably half the audience was rabid left-wing and/or open supporters of at least one of his Democrat opponents were there, I’m thinking the camera belongs to them. So if you stumble across any of the video, I’m the guy sporting the Faith Baptist colors up front.

Seriously, I was shocked at the lack of a media presence there. I gathered the Daily Times was there and they will spin it into more proof that Harris is unpopular. Maybe the Independent, the Sun, and the WaPo were too. But don’t let it be said that Harris was afraid to face his opposition. “This (townhall) is what America is all about,” said Andy near the end.

Personally, I get the frustration some on the Left feel about being in this district since we on the Right feel that way about the state. There was actually a question about gerrymandering asked, and while Andy properly pointed out it’s a state-level issue he also added that Governor Hogan has attempted to address this without success. They may also be frustrated because I know there were at least a couple cards in the hopper trying to bait Andy into answering on the Roy Moore situation, which Andy already addressed.

Overall, now that I’ve experienced the phenomenon for myself, it seems to me that our friends on the Left can complain all they want about their Congressman not listening. But every one of us there had the right to ask questions and common courtesy would dictate that we get to hear the answers whether you like them or not. So maybe you need to listen too.

Oh, and one other question for my local friends on the Left: are you going to clamor for Senators Cardin and Van Hollen to have a town hall here like you did for Harris? I know I would like one.

monoblogue music: “A Sequence of Waves” by Patrick Grant

November 11, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “A Sequence of Waves” by Patrick Grant 

This is one of the more unique selections I’ve come across in recent months because there are so many categories involved, not to mention the fact it’s almost entirely instrumental. But don’t let that scare you.

Let’s start with something somewhat familiar, even though it doesn’t begin the album: rock fans would find Breaking Butterflies Upon a Wheel the most accessible song, but there’s a prog rock flavor to Driving Patterns. Nor is Butterflies too far from the rock/jazz fusion of the even more uniquely titled To Find a Form That Accommodates the Mess. On the flip side of that is a number that’s called Primary Blues, which is a very classically-minded treatment of the blues – as I said a week ago, rock’s only been ripping off chords and progressions from them forever.

Or let’s say you like your songs as a trilogy. Okay, this trio isn’t one in the classic sense but the three songs do play off each other sound-wise with an old-timey feel (although the last one is more ’60s modern to me) and since they are titled Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms there is no coincidence here.

Grant works in a more classical direction on some songs as well, with the best examples being the aforementioned Primary Blues and Lucid Intervals. I could even count the guitar-based preludes (called as such despite the fact they are over 2 1/2 minutes apiece) Prelude I and Prelude II as classically-influenced, too.

But just when you thought this compilation was stuffy, you find a lot of technical wizardry as well. Sometimes it’s a bit much, like all the sampling on One Note Samba, but Grant can do it right, too. The best case in point is the vocals on Seven Years At Sea, which were recorded originally from a trio of sisters in 1930’s rural Louisiana and are in the public domain. Grant overdubbed them on the track to a superb, nearly haunting effect.

Another song which begins in a desolate mood and ends up borrowing a bit from electronic music is Lonely Ride Coney Island, a track that has drawn the most attention of the thirteen songs on the CD, which came out back in August. This is the type of music that isn’t going to have the chart appeal that others do, but it is a well-crafted piece of work. And you don’t have to take my word for it – just listen for yourself.

Post-election thoughts

So it seemed pretty brutal for the Republicans Tuesday night as they lost the two governor’s races that were available to them, including the one Chris Christie was vacating in New Jersey. There, incoming Governor-elect Philip Murphy gained a modest total of three seats in his 120-seat legislature, although it was already tilted heavily toward his party anyway. Going from 54-26 and 24-16 to 56-24 and 25-15 probably isn’t going to make a lot of difference in the scheme of things there as much as the change at the top.

On the other hand, the party at the top won’t change in Virginia as Democrat Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam will succeed his “boss” over the last four years, fellow Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe. The big sensation there was the Democrats’ pickup of 16 seats in their House of Delegates to suddenly turn an overwhelming 66-34 disadvantage to a 50-50 tie. The Virginia results have been trumpeted (pun intended) around the country as a repudiation of the President and the Republicans by a gleeful partisan media.

But if you take a look at the lay of the land, the results are less surprising than you may think. Consider, first of all, the geography of these 16 districts. Ten of these districts lie close to the Washington region, bordering the sea of blue on this map – so they read the WaPo, never liked Donald Trump to begin with, and for them it was open season on Republicans beginning November 9, 2016. Three of the other ones are in the suburbs of Richmond, two are within the Tidewater region, and one seeming outlier is along the West Virginia border. Yet that district along the border of one of Trump’s strongest states wasn’t the lone district of the sixteen that flipped which supported Trump in 2016 – that distinction went to the 85th District in Virginia Beach.

To become Republican districts in the first place, they obviously had to elect Republicans at the legislative level two years ago (when the GOP actually lost one seat to go from 67-33 to 66-34.) But a year before that 10 of the 16 supported Ed Gillespie in his run for the U.S. Senate against Mark Warner (the six that did not were all in northern Virginia.) Similarly, the districts split evenly between supporting Republican Ken Cuccinelli and McAuliffe in 2013, with the northern Virginia districts that threw out the Republicans this time around mostly favoring McAuliffe.

The election results of the last two years are beginning to prove that Virginia is becoming another, slightly larger Maryland – wide swaths of rural Republicans who get killed at the ballot box by government-addled junkies in cities which depend too much on it. Setting aside the vast number of Virginians that call the Potomac Valley home, it’s worth remembering that the Tidewater area is the largest concentration of cities but Richmond is also a significant urban area, too, and it’s the state capital.

So let’s shift our focus onto Maryland. There were two Republican mayors the state party was dearly hoping would win on Tuesday, but instead both were shellacked pretty handily. Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides couldn’t recreate his 59-vote escape act of 2013 nor could Randy McClement win a third term in Frederick – and neither could even sniff 40% of the vote. But then neither municipality is Republican-friendly territory as both their city councils are dominated by Democrats, so the success of both men was something of an outlier.

The knee-jerk reactions have been predictable. Establishment Republicans blame the unpopular Donald Trump for dragging down these candidates while the devout Trump backers say it’s the fault of a Congress that’s not enacting Trump’s agenda quickly enough. But you didn’t come here for knee-jerk reaction, do you?

Again, let’s look at where most of these voters in question reside. The Virginia voters who tossed out Republicans are by and large suburban voters. The Maryland voters who threw out these two mayors are in Annapolis and Frederick, which are suburban settings. (I would argue Annapolis has more in common with a suburb than a city, despite the fact it’s our state capital, because of its proximity to Baltimore and Washington.)

Above all, suburban people are conformist and they are the targets of the dominant media and the educational system – neither of which has been glowing in their praise for Donald Trump or any of his policies. Given that information and candidates who can make and break promises just like Republicans have done (except theirs for “free stuff” sound better) you get what we had Tuesday night.

So let me hit you with a platform from a suburban candidate and see how you like it. I slightly edited it to remove identifying information for the moment.

Simply put, these address issues that hold our city back. They all are also interconnected to the success not only of our city, but of our citizen. Why do I say that? Because we too often measure success by the health of the city’s checkbook. I believe we best measure the health of the city by the health of our fellow citizens checkbook. (Among other factors.)

LOWER TAXES: We are tied with only a few surrounding cities for the highest income tax rate. If the additional .25% rate passes, we will have the highest income tax rate in the area. This is among the highest concerns of people looking to move to a new area. It also is a strong factor in businesses looking for a new location. Simply put in order to grow at a rate needed to provide for the future, we CANNOT continue sabotaging our development efforts by being an expensive place to live or to work.

SAFE, AFFORDABLE WATER: Everyone I talked to on my campaign expressed great concern over water rates. Water is the life blood of a community. Same as above, how can we be a draw to new families and businesses when our water rates cripple the budgets of those we wish to welcome to (our city.) I will call for Performance Audits of (the local water suppliers) on my first council meeting if elected. We also must push for multiple sources of water, with a regional approach. We can not let one community hold others hostage for water.

PRIORITIZE SPENDING: Priority based budgeting is what every family and every business implements. Most government agencies do not. Lets bring in the experts at Priority Based Budgeting. Let’s stop playing the game of putting vital services such as police, fire and roads on the ballot. Those departments should be the first funded from the General Fund. This also applies to projects. Roundabouts are a luxury unless at a new intersection. Fix our roads FIRST! This also applies to developing proper maintenance plans and funding them first. It is always cheaper to care for equipment, buildings and roads than to let them fall into disrepair.

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: We cannot do this alone. If we try to succeed as (our city) alone, we will fail. The (regional) area is rich in so many key economic development factors: location, skilled labor, research, transportation resources and good, strong families. We hold ourselves back by other factors though. High taxes. Regulations. Expensive water. We also need to broaden our reach to different industries. We need to recognize we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket. (Our city) lived and died with (a defunct local business) many years ago. It took some effort to start to recover from the losses of our largest employer. Now we have a very heavy concentration on retail. While all growth is good, we are sliding back towards putting all our eggs in one basket again – except this time it is a retail basket which is far more subject to economic recessions. Our labor force is incredibly diverse. We need good paying jobs that provide a career to match.

I believe we can all work together on these four points. We can turn from trying to tax our way to prosperity and instead focus on growing our way to not only a prosperous (city), but prosperous families!

Now, let me ask you – is that a scary platform? Maybe to those who are invested in government as the solution, but the key here is the recognition of the role of government. And it was good enough to win. It’s the platform of an old friend of mine, Bob Densic, who this time won a seat on the Rossford (Ohio) City Council (his third try.) Bob and I are political soulmates, so it’s going to be interesting to see how he likes trying to put his ideas into practice.

Perhaps a key to Bob’s success is the fact that his city has non-partisan municipal elections. In a year like this one, I would submit to you that the issue was with the Republican brand and not the philosophy. Because the Democrats and media (but I repeat myself) have so successfully tied Donald Trump with the mainstream Republican Party (despite the fact Trump claimed to have identified more as a Democrat as recently as a decade ago) and have worked their hardest to drive his popularity down with negative coverage, the results from Tuesday are what you would expect. Democrats were motivated to come out, the people who believed the media hype about Trump being so bad were motivated to come out, and Republicans were discouraged.

So it may get worse for Republicans before it gets better. But my advice to the GOP, not that I expect them to take it: forget trying to work with Democrats and put up a conservative gameplan. No pale pastels for us.

Odds and ends number 84

After resurrecting one long-dormant series over the weekend, today we make it two. It hasn’t quite been a year since I did an ‘odds and ends” and there’s not a year’s worth of stuff, but the creative juices are flowing anyway.

Let’s begin with some good news from our national pastime. If you recall, back in July the Shorebirds made headlines for playing the longest game in their 21-season history, spreading out the drama against the Lexington Legends over two days thanks to a storm that broke over the stadium after 20 innings were in the books. It took just one inning the next evening to settle Delmarva’s 7-6 defeat, but the contest was the Fans’ Choice for a MiLBY Award. It had (ironically enough) 21% of the vote among 10 contenders. (Alas, the actual MiLBY went to some other game.)

The other sad part about that story, besides the folks at the Minor League Baseball site misidentifying us as Frederick: it turned out that one inning of baseball would be all that was played that evening as another heavy storm blew through just at scheduled game time. (I remember it well because I was at work.)

The Shorebirds were also a MiLBY bridesmaid in the blooper department with their September “goose delay.

And while Astros-Dodgers didn’t have the same cachet as the Cubs finally breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat last season, the 28 million viewers of Game 7 completed a World Series where it again kicked the NFL’s ass (as it should, since football season doesn’t start until the World Series is over anyway.) And with the erosion of the NFL’s appeal thanks to the anthem protests and – frankly – rather boring games where fundamentals are ignored, the window of NFL dominance may be closing.

Speaking of things that are dominant, a few weeks back I detailed the effort to bring the sanity of right-to-work to Sussex County, Delaware. An update from the Daily Signal detailed some of Big Labor’s reaction when it came up again. And again I respond – having the choice to join the union is better than not having the job at all.

Delaware was also the subject of one of a series of pieces that ran over the summer and fall from my friends at Energy Tomorrow. They cleverly chose a theme for each of the 50 states and the First State’s July piece was on “the beach life in Delaware.” Now what I found most interesting was just how little energy they produce compared to how much they consume, given they have no coal mines and little prospect of fracking or offshore drilling. And I was surprised how little tourism contributes to their state economy given the beach traffic in the summer.

Maryland’s, which came out last month, is quite different, as it has a companion piece about prosthetics. It obviously made sense with Johns Hopkins in the state, but what struck me was the quote included from Governor Larry Hogan. He’s the guy who betrayed the energy industry by needlessly banning fracking in the state. Unfortunately, Larry seems to suffer from the perception that energy companies are solely interested in profit when the industry knows they have to be good neighbors and environmentally responsible, too.

That’s quite all right: he doesn’t need those 22,729 votes in Allegany and Garrett counties when he can have a million liberals around the state say, “oh, Hogan banned fracking” and vote for Ben Jealous or Rushern Baker anyway.

Regularly I receive updates from the good folks at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, which tends to look at state politics in a conservative manner. But I can’t say this particular case is totally conservative or for limited government:

If Maryland lawmakers want to get serious about combating climate change and reducing pollution, they can simply tax the emission of carbon and other pollutants, thereby encouraging lower emissions and greater efficiency. No one likes a new tax, but it is a much cheaper and more effective way to cut pollution and fight climate change than a byzantine policy like the renewables mandate. Besides, revenue from a carbon tax could be used to reduce other taxes and fund other environmental initiatives. Problem is, though a carbon tax would be good for the environment and human health, it wouldn’t funnel money to politicians’ friends in corporate boardrooms and on Wall Street.

Maryland’s renewables standard isn’t about the environment and human health; it’s about money.

The last two sentences are the absolute truth, but the remainder of the excerpt is a case of “be careful what you wish for.” If the state indeed enacted a carbon tax, businesses and residents would waste no time fleeing the state for greener (pun intended) pastures. You can bet your bottom dollar that a carbon tax would be enacted on top of, not in place of, all the other taxes and fees we have.

Now it’s time for a pop quiz. Can you guess who said this?

Soon, our states will be redrawing their Congressional and state legislative district lines. It’s called redistricting, and it will take place in 2021, after the next Census takes place. That may seem far off, but the time to get started on this issue is now.

This is our best chance to eliminate the partisan gerrymandering that has blocked progress on so many of the issues we all care about. Simply put, redistricting has the potential to be a major turning point for our democracy. But we need to be prepared.

Maybe if I give you the next line you’ll have the answer.

That’s where the National Democratic Redistricting Committee comes in. Led by Eric Holder, my former Attorney General, they’re the strategic hub for Democratic activity leading up to redistricting. In partnership with groups like OFA, the NDRC is building the infrastructure Democrats need to ensure a fair outcome.

Our former President is now involved in this fight for a “fair” outcome – “fair” being defined as gerrymandered like Maryland is, I suppose.

To be honest, we won’t ever have truly fair districts until the concept of “majority-minority” districts is eliminated and districts are drawn by a computer program that strictly pays attention to population and boundaries such as county, city, or township lines or even major highways. With the GIS mapping we have now it’s possible to peg population exactly by address.

And if you figure that most people with common interests tend to gather together anyway – particularly in an economic sense – simply paying attention to geography and creating “compact and contiguous” districts should ensure fair representation. To me it’s just as wrong to have an Ohio Ninth Congressional District (where I used to live) that runs like a shoestring along the southern shore of Lake Erie and was created so as to put incumbent Democratic Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur in the same district – Kaptur won that primary – as it is to have a Maryland Third Congressional District that looks like a pterodactyl. When I was growing up, the Ninth basically covered the city of Toledo and its suburbs where we then lived but as the city lost population they had to take territory from the Fifth District that surrounded it at the time. After the 1980 census they decided to follow us and take the eastern half of Fulton County, west of Toledo – much to my chagrin, since my first election was the one Kaptur beat a one-term Republican. (She’s been there that long.) Since then, the Ninth has been pulled dramatically eastward along the lakeshore to the outskirts of Cleveland, connected at one point by a bridge.

Finally, I guess I can go to what one might call the “light-hearted stack of stuff.” Again from MPPI, when it came to the Washington Metro and how to pay for it, this was a tax proposal I could really get behind. I’m just shocked that it would make $200 million a year.

On that scary note we’ll see how long it takes before I get to the next rendition of odds and ends.

Tax cuts and jobs?

November 5, 2017 · Posted in Business and industry, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Tax cuts and jobs? 

Since I said this yesterday:

I guess I better use the space for something besides music reviews, analysis of baseball trades, and other non-political items.

As many of you who know my site probably also know, the House put forth its initial proposal for what is being called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. (President Trump would have preferred the Cuts Cuts Cuts Act himself, though.) So most of the argument and commentary seems to be on whether this does enough for individual taxpayers – naturally, Democrats revert to their age-old “tax cuts for the rich” saw while some Republicans fret about losing particular deductions.

But I want to address two things in this post. First, I want to try and step into the shoes of a small business owner because part of the bill title is “that three-letter word, J-O-B-S” (with apologies to Joe Biden) and they are the ones who create most of them – including the ones I have now.

I’m not going to get into actual dollars and cents here because this is more of a philosophical argument. Each year business owners hand a share of their revenues off to various branches of government for a host of reasons, but the one item that perhaps draws the most blood, sweat, and tears is that federal tax return they (or, more likely, their accountants) fill out each year. Thus, the idea of both lowering rates and making things simpler works positively in two ways: a little more money to invest in the business for new hires, capital improvements, or expansion (people in my line of work perk up their ears at the latter) and a little more time to enjoy life or improve the business plan. They may not need to give that accountant quite so much, but, alas, there are winners and losers in life. (However, the day we find out H&R Block is lobbying against a tax reform proposal is the day we’ll know we have the right formula.)

The common perception from the Left is that every business owner is a fat cat member of the 1% who pays his employees less than minimum wage, skimps on benefits, and hoards his profits to spend on his fancy car and yacht – Ebenezer Scrooge personified. I don’t know about you but I haven’t met one like that yet, although I will note my previous employer went out and got a BMW i8 complete with vanity plate (and installed the charger in our parking lot) thanks to a series of very successful businesses. But that came after years of long days and lots of hard work, so I wasn’t going to complain because he had aptitude, drive, and a range of talents I didn’t.

By the same token, it’s not unknown for my current employer to be at the office or meeting clients late into the evenings or on the weekends – I know because I used to work in there at those times myself (on top of my full-time job) in order to seize the opportunity I was presented to get back into his firm. Ambitious people laugh at a 40-hour work week, and the overriding question that is being answered to an extent by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is whether they should be rewarded for those efforts or forced to hand over the excess to government to redistribute to the less ambitious.

After all, hopefully there comes a point in the life of a business where the boss can’t do it all himself (or herself.) Adding people, though, brings a whole new world of complexity to the tasks so the rewards should be maximized and risks minimized in order to encourage even more hiring when business dictates. If the government takes a pinch less maybe the additional economic activity will make up for it in time.

This brings me to my second point: whose money is it anyway?

Consider the average dollar, which is representative of an intrinsic value. There’s an old joke where someone leaves a $100 bill on a hotel counter while he inspects a room and it quickly makes the rounds paying off various debts up and down the street before the customer decides the room isn’t satisfactory and takes back the Benjamin, which seconds before had paid off the last debt owed to the hotel clerk. Everyone had a value assigned to the cash although the overall transaction was a wash.

When a worker makes a dollar, it’s a tradeoff: even at minimum wage, it’s about eight minutes of his labor in return for a dollar’s wage. In a successful business, the employee performed more in the way of value to the company than the pay but the rate of pay was still acceptable to the employee. (On top of that you have benefits, but for the purpose of this argument I’ll concentrate on pay.) My full time employer bills me out at a rate that is supposed to cover the wage, benefits, and overhead so in return I have work to do. My writing employer gives me an assignment on Thursday night and expects a turnover for the following morning. As long as this is done profitably for both parties, everything is cool – the problems occur when labor costs begin to outweigh value added. (For an example, consider why you are faced with a kiosk instead of a live person in some fast food restaurants – human order takers didn’t add a lot of value if they were inaccurate, grouchy, not feeling well, or disorganized, especially at the $15 an hour for which they were pining.)

Now think about a dollar spent in taxes, where the tradeoff is completely different. There are a number of vital services these taxes pay for, especially at a local level where the business receives its public safety protection, maintenance for the roads, portions of the utility infrastructure, and various other items which vary based on the jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, the higher up the taxation food chain you go, the more likely you’ll find these tax dollars aren’t creating value. Oftentimes these entities will act as a pass-through, returning tax dollars to the state or local jurisdiction after keeping a cut for themselves and necessitating the employment of a grant writer on a local level. It’s making a pencil-pusher rich, but that’s not really adding to society like a guy out working on an oil rig, writing computer code, or burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how to please her engineering client. Even worse, that dollar may be paying the bureaucrat who’s writing the rule that will do the business in at the behest of a lobbyist bought and paid for by some special interest.

By keeping dollars in the more productive and efficient private sector, not only does lowering taxes help increase GDP but it also provides the incentive for people to work harder. I’ve often cited Atlas Shrugged as one of my favorite books, not because it’s a feelgood story but because I see it as an absolute indicator of where our nation could be headed under the government we’ve put in place. If working harder has no reward, then why do it?

We have a long way to go before we see tax reform, if it even comes about at all because Republicans in Congress aren’t completely sold on the package. (I thought the GOP was supposed to be the party that supported lower taxes – didn’t you?) But the argument shouldn’t be who wins and loses financially – it should be about whether we believe it’s our money we’re getting for our labor or if we feel we just get to use that which is benevolently granted to us by government.

Weekend of local rock volume 71

November 4, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music · 2 Comments 

To tell you how long I have been out of circulation regarding the local music scene, consider this is my first WLR post in over a year. Sometimes things in life change, and honestly I haven’t been in the same frame of mind in the last few years as I was when I built up a lot of this series.

But Kim and I had an invite we decided to take and as it developed I decided a post was in order. The band in question was a band I’ve seen 3/4 of on several different occasions, the most recent at the last (to date, anyway) Concert for a Random Soldier held in 2016. (That event wasn’t held in 2017 due to a venue issue – otherwise I would have done a WLR sooner.)

So here we were, traveling an hour to hang with a batch of Kim’s co-workers and friends at this nice place.

I’ll add more commentary about the venue at the end, but let me first introduce you to a band you probably already know if you’re from the area, Nothin’ But Trouble.

There are many, many hundreds of bands around the country who toil on a nightly basis playing other peoples’ songs. But the ones who stick out in your mind are the ones that play things you may not hear every day and play them well – or, they play a song you don’t know too much about and make it entertaining. The point where I decided to make this a post was the latter.

In the seldom-played depths of my CD collection is the second release from BulletBoys, called “Freakshow.” (That was the follow-up to the self-titled debut with Smooth Up In Ya.) On it is a song called Talk To Your Daughter which, as I rapidly figured out from the fact these guys were playing it, wasn’t written by them. (It was written in the 1950s by blues guitarist J.B. Lenoir.) There are literally thousands of songs out there like this a band could adopt as their own, and NBT took a few for themselves. Hey, if George Thorogood can do it…actually, there was someone there last night with a GT shirt on.

Then when they sang one of my favorite opening lyric lines in rock: “I pulled into Nazareth/I was feelin’ ’bout a half past dead” (a song from The Band called The Weight) I figured this would be an enjoyable evening. A late dinner turned into most of their three-hour scheduled gig with no break and songs like Crossroads (with a slow-tempo open), Folsom Prison Blues interlaced with Man Of Constant Sorrow, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Pride And Joy, and so forth. No doubt: these weren’t paint-by-numbers renditions.

So count me in as a fan. And Kim said afterward “I wondered if you would like that type of music.” Well, since rock and metal are predominantly blues-based, of course I would. They’ve been stealing the chords and progressions for a half-century or more.

I don’t know if this belongs to the venue or the band, but the sound was well-done. It was audible but you could talk at your table without screaming, and we were basically 40 feet from the stage. They had a series of ceiling-mounted acoustic dampeners which helped because the place is pretty much hard-surfaced otherwise.

The other selling point to Bethany Blues?

As I pointed out on social media, any place that has 16 Mile Blues Golden Ale on tap is a winner in my book. The food was good, too.

So who knows? Maybe I won’t go a year until my next installment – although, in the interest of full disclosure, my recent phone issues negated a planned post on bands at the Good Beer Festival last month.

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