Those who know me and have some idea of what makes me tick realize pretty quickly I am a numbers guy, and there is just something about round numbers that I like. So every time I turn the odometer of 1,000 posts it’s a big deal to me, and hitting the 4,000 mark is no different than hitting 1,000, 2,000, 2,500, or 3,000. (For the record, the last 1,000 posts took 853 days to compile.)
“P4k”, November 5, 2014.
You can tell I’ve done this awhile: why dig up all the links when they’re readily available? But by my public school math, that previous pace would have gotten me to this 5,000 post mark on March 7, 2017. So what happened to push things back to March 24, 2019?
Well, back in 2016 I reconsidered a number of life decisions. One was to leave the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee after a ten-year run, but shortly before that I simply decided I couldn’t do justice to this site and my other obligations by posting every day, almost like clockwork. It was getting to be a real chore to make all my self-imposed deadlines so I decided to get rid of some of them – hence, the posting schedule is now about 1 to 3 a week. I also began on my book, which I’m working to finally finish next month after toiling on it for 2 1/2 years off and on, mostly on.
So this website, which used to be of primary importance to me, has fallen through the cracks a little bit. To be quite frank, there have been times where I just didn’t feel like posting here because I had something more important to work on. Book number two has been a joy to write, and it’s given me an idea of a topic for book number three – however, if book two is as successful as I think it may be, book number 2 1/2 will be a rework of book one, revising and extending those remarks.
At one time I had a decent-sized audience of readers, but since I stepped away from what was basically a sizable part-time job that made me very little income, that number – which was already down because the previous year was not an election year – was cut in half the first year and 1/3 of that the next. It’s somewhat depressing, but I often remind myself that the number of readers I have now was something I got genuinely excited about during the first year I had this site. That gentle reminder puts things in perspective.
Not only that, I have always suspected I attract a certain quality of readers. Once upon a time, I was put down as being “wordy and verbose,” and I’ll be the first to admit: guilty as charged. So instead of a thousand would-be political hacks taking in whatever I cooked up in the middle of the night I now have maybe a few dozen diehard readers, ones who care more about me as a person than me as a political pundit.
Because I do like working in numbers, the other day as I realized I was closing in on this milestone I got to thinking about just how many words I have put down for this website. If you figure the average as a thousand words a post, that’s five million words. (Just hope I don’t have a finite lifetime supply, right?) Considering my upcoming book should run right about 100,000 words and 300 pages, on this website I have written 50 books and 15,000 pages in 13 years and change. That’s kind of scary.
And it’s kind of sad, too. As our church is working through the Book of Ecclesiastes, it brought to my mind a passage from its second chapter:
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.
Ecclesiastes 2:11-12, KJV.
After 5,000 posts I’ve come to realize that maybe this website isn’t going to move the political needle – but then again that’s really not for me to determine. However, it still has a purpose: it’s the journal of my thoughts, experiences, and opinions, and if it moves one reader in the right direction that’s an accomplishment I probably couldn’t perform otherwise.
The other day as I was writing to my small group, which has a potter by trade, it occurred to me that, just as clay creates his vessel, words create mine. No one ever said that I was always going to be successful making my points, but these are the talents the Good Lord gave me and who would I be to hide my light under a bushel?
So whether the “odometer” has another thousand posts in it or not (let’s hope it does) I can still say I enjoy writing here and wish to continue as long as the Good Lord allows it.
If you are ever out San Diego way, you might just run into Kevin Thomas. Just look for the upbeat guy enjoying life with the positive vibes.
There are ten tracks on his album, which has already hit the streets. (You can get a reasonably good taste of the style and vibe from the first single, The Big Picture. That is, if you don’t mind Spotify too much.)
In reading his bio, I came across a line that put his album into better focus for me.
On that fateful evening, influenced by the energy that it was also his birthday, he was previously at another club watching a heavy, angst-ridden band play. There he found that it was almost as if his soul was rejecting the music being played. He soon left the club and found himself in another club soaking up an artist performing with just an acoustic guitar, his songs, and his voice. “I noticed then that different vibrations of music can have either harmful or life-enhancing effects on the body and mind, that certain sounds can actually help you evolve spiritually.” he says. The path to A New Heart had begun.
from Kevin Thomas’s website bio.
I don’t think there’s a drop of angst in this one. And as Kevin is a longtime songwriter I can’t complain at all about the musical writing skills or the arrangements, which range from the more pop-styled Money Tree, Let Your Arrow Fly, and Mirror Mirror to the more jazz-funk Time and an upbeat track like Comfort Zone.
But there are some more hidden gems and quirks awaiting listeners as well: the intriguing opening and a cappella bridges of Reinvent Yourself, a more midtempo On My Way Out, and closer The Best Luck Around prove Kevin has more than one gear.
The only real complaint I have – and perhaps this is a matter of vocal taste – is that I don’t think Kevin has the voice to always carry out his intentions. The unevenness is what keeps a good song like the initial single The Big Picture from being a great song, yet songs that frame his voice well like the sort of Sublime-like High On Chocolate become the best ones on the album. Yet I could still imagine an Ocean City bar loving The Big Picture with its Caribbean flavor, so your mileage may vary.
As you may know, I tell people to listen for themselves. The piece of information I was given was that the album would be available March 29, but it appears he already has the music and availability on his band website. So I would go check that out if you like something in a more pop-rock edging slightly toward classic rock vein.
The last time I went to an Andy Harris town hall meeting, it was a time when “Indivisible” passions ran high and the “traveling roadshow” was out in force. One successful re-election for Harris later, the group on Monday was more subdued.
My spot of activity this week didn’t allow me to get to this right away, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I was sort of curious to see if any of his other stops would be controversial and it doesn’t appear they made a splash in the news cycle. And speaking of news cycle, this was a familiar sight.
As a matter of fact, had I chose to I could have been on TV myself (on local rival WMDT) but I just didn’t feel like I could answer their questions. My thoughts and recollections are better suited for this space.
After doing it for almost a decade, perhaps Andy has figured this town hall thing out. First of all, you couldn’t help but admire his work in getting a local veteran named George Hornsby the medals and commendations he’d been owed for over fifty years.
Something else that was different (and better) was how the questions were selected. Rather than soliciting index cards for written questions for a moderator (and leaving himself open for the charge of not answering difficult questions) each person had a number given to them and when their number was drawn, they were given the opportunity to stand up and ask their question. In a little over an hour, we got to about 15 people that I wrote down.
And I thought the questions were nicely varied, which made them a little bit difficult to categorize. As a summary and not a blow-by-blow, I think I can take a bit of editorial license and group questions into more broad categories.
The first is a sort of “role of government” track. People had concerns about the direction of the House, and were asking what he could do to assist President Trump. There was a person concerned about robocalls, another who asked about sanctuary cities, and someone else who asked about the Kavanaugh confirmation.
Regarding the direction of the House, Harris just reminded us, “everybody has a vote” each two years. It’s the worst system – except for all the rest, he continued, conceding that the voters wanted divided government. “I try to represent the district,” he added, noting his belief he’s conveying the wishes of the majority of the First District.
Unfortunately, being in the House minority means there’s “not a whole lot” he can do to help Donald Trump, a President he agrees with “90 percent of the time.” One of those cases will be his vote to sustain President Trump’s veto of the rescission of his state of emergency. “My vote will sustain his veto,” said Harris.
One reason he cited was funding for border security. “As a nation you have to control your borders,” he said. Andy also alerted us to the 90% of our heroin that comes across the southern border, not to mention the amount of fentanyl – enough to kill 9 times the population of Maryland from one particular recent seizure – that we stop.
Eventually the conversation on the border led to a question on sanctuary cities, and whether we could cut their funding. Andy told the questioner there was no statutory authority to do so, but having sanctuary cities also “creates a lack of rule of law,” which was something we needed to get back to. I also learned how Andy would handle the DREAMer situation: a “legal pathway” with permanent residency status but no citizenship unless they returned to their home country to start the process there.
All that made the concern about robocalls, which was a concern he agreed with – and even spoke to the committee chair regarding it – rather mundane. It also has an international aspect to it since most originate in foreign countries but spoof domestic numbers.
Harris also agreed the Kavanaugh confirmation was “a spectacle,” although as a member of the House he was but an observer like the rest of us. “In the end, I think the American system worked,” he added.
In a sort of peripheral way, those couple people who were concerned about environmental issues were looking at the government for help, too. One was concerned about garbage, which is a problem in, of all places, the middle of the Pacific. In that case, one of the issues was that China no longer takes our garbage. The reason? We are dirty recyclers: oftentimes the leftover products originally encased within the plastic containers are still present in enough quantity to make recycling less cost-effective. Perhaps a solution is in “waste-to-energy” or chemical recycling.
Their other concern was Bay funding, which President Trump’s budget cut from $73 million to $7 million. The Maryland delegation is working to at worst level-fund it, although if there is a continuing resolution the spending would continue as before, too.
Here Andy brought up one area where he and I part ways: stating that offshore drilling needs the permission of the state, Harris stated his opposition to not only offshore drilling, but offshore testing as well. That is a short-sighted approach, but I think opponents like him are afraid that there’s a vast supply of black gold or natural gas out there. I’m not sure why that’s something to fear, but why not do the testing anyway to verify one way or the other?
A lot of people had guns on their minds. There are “too many guns in this country,” said one questioner. But we have the Second Amendment, which makes us unique among nations.
And guns aren’t necessarily the problem, said Andy. We’re not dealing adequately with the issue in several respects:
The celebration of violence in video games, which was even something President Obama spoke about.
The lack of control of gangs and drugs. Are laws as enforced as they should be?
A decrease in religious observance, which you could also consider a lack of morals if you prefer. (My words, not his.)
And while Baltimore “went after their police force,” they are “allowing young lives to be destroyed” there. And as an homage to Captain Obvious, Harris said “we will never disarm non-law-abiding citizens.”
He had some unkind words about Maryland, too, noting that while the state has universal background checks, they are one of the worst states at reporting mental health issues to the federal government for those checks. Don’t do more gun laws if you’re not enforcing the ones you have, he said: for example, out of the thousands who knowingly stated falsely they didn’t commit a crime – thereby committing perjury on a federal form – only ten of those cases were prosecuted because former AG Eric Holder didn’t make it a priority.
Andy’s opposition certainly had its say, although to their credit they were reasonably non-disruptive. The only exception was a case where two people objected to Andy’s reticence to commit to an hour-long face-to-face meeting with that constituent who disagreed with Andy’s stance against Obamacare. The tension got thick when Andy was accused of anti-Semitism for meeting with a “Holocaust denier” as well as chastised for a visit to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Victor Orban, leader of a “center-right” government. (Harris, a first-generation American whose parents fled Hungary amidst a Communist takeover, leads the Hungarian-American Caucus in Congress.) It’s “pretty repulsive to me” to be called anti-Semitic, Harris countered. But the disruptive pair were not escorted out as cooler heads prevailed.
While Harris objects to Obamacare, it should be pointed out that he’s for several reforms to Medicare Part B – specifically, the area of prescription drugs administered in a physician’s office or hospital where Andy remarked “Medicare has no leverage” to deal with increasing costs. As it stands now, these providers are allowed a 6% surcharge on top of list price reimbursement, as I understand it. (I’ll plead ignorance since I am not on Medicare.) Apparently HHS Secretary Alex Azar has a plan to revise this scheme to account for the reduced price other nations pay to allow these drugs into their market – a gatekeeping system Medicare doesn’t have. Using a weighted average of the prices charged to 12 other leading industrialized nations plus a 30 percent premium is “a pretty good compromise” according to Harris.
I suppose if the drug cost us $10, the weighted average of the 12 was $5, and the 30% premium added $1.50, yeah, there could be some savings. Of course, I have no idea about the actual numbers.
(It should also be mentioned that opioid addiction was brought up in the meeting. His opinion: “It will take a long time to fix,” because the problem isn’t just drug companies or overly aggressive doctors. But no one ever did any studies on how addictive these painkillers could be until much more recently.)
A more significant part of the time was spent by Andy explaining his opposition to H.R. 1, the (so-called) For The People Act. “What part did you object to?” he was asked, answering “why not (send up the provisions) one at a time?” rather than a 400-page bill that’s been amended several times. “We have to stop doing bills like this,” he continued, holding up a copy of the bill that takes up half or more of a ream of paper.
“Really, it’s an incumbent protection plan,” Harris added, and while in that respect he theoretically should favor it, his primary complaint on it was that “it tells states how to conduct their elections.” He wasn’t in favor of public financing of elections and had a problem with its oversight provisions, such as voting in other states (as a former opponent of his was caught doing.)
Yet a GOP amendment making “ballot harvesting” illegal was defeated – its main flaw is allowing anyone to bring in ballots, rather than specifically a family member or guardian. I personally see it as a chain of custody issue, and ironically the same technique that turned the tide in several California House races was the reason North Carolina voters in their Ninth District have an upcoming “do-over” in their race, won on election night in 2018 by a Republican. Ballot harvesting is illegal in North Carolina, precisely because of those chain of custody issues.
One last thing I’ll bring up is the charge Andy often receives about not having empathy or sympathy. “I take care of patients!” he replied. His job is to pay attention and read the bills, and when it comes to health care it’s to maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions and keep insurance affordable. Personally, I just think there are too many people who equate big government with empathy or sympathy but would object to a faith-based solution because it’s “pushing their religion on people.” To those whose god is government, perhaps I’m tired of you pushing your religion on the rest of us. I’d just like to render unto Caesar only what is supposed to be his and not all of my freedom, too.
But a nice lady had her number called shortly after this and told the audience she had dealt with Congressman Harris’s office regarding her mesh implants and thanking him for helping her with the issue. It’s one where the public and physician databases need to be better integrated so that doctors can be better informed with real-time reporting and analysis. “Sunlight solves a lot of problems,” said Andy.
We also talked about suicide, which was a byproduct of the same culture that’s led to so much gun violence. In a nation founded on religious principles, it’s no surprise to me that being religious cuts the risk of suicide in half – at least that’s what Harris claimed. “If we abandon religion, we abandon some of those (founding) principles,” Harris remarked.
I’m certain there were those agnostics in the room who scoffed at that assertion. “There’s a separation of church and state!” they thunder, and if there could be a border wall built between the two that’s a wall they would support 200 percent and have that sucker built a mile high and twice as deep, halfway to God or Gaia or who/whatever they believe in.
In a letter from John Adams to officers in the Massachusetts militia (October 11, 1798) our second President remarked as a close to a longer point, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If you presume that “any other” is the irreligious lot we have now, Adams was probably right and, as a group, they tend to be the ones who want to revamp our founding document.
But I get the idea that our Constitution was Divinely inspired, and as such I like to see us hew to it as best we can. While it does need some modern-day tweaking, including a pruning of the amendments ratified in 1913, the Constitution can continue to serve us well if lawmakers just remember their oath to defend it. I think Andy Harris does a reasonable job of that and I’m glad he stopped by.
With the field now set for the big college basketball dance, it’s time for the annual riffs on that theme – and what better style of madness than to determine seedings for the Democratic presidential field?
I’m going to go from #16 to #1, but feel free to handicap the bracket yourself.
#16: Marianne Williamson, 66. She’s a non-traditional candidate who’s best known as an author and motivational speaker; however, she has one recent (unsuccessful) run for Congress under her belt.
#15: Andrew Yang, 44. The other non-traditional major candidate in the field, he’s an entrepreneur who founded a non-profit called Venture for America. His key issue: a universal basic income for Americans.
#14: Tulsi Gabbard, 37. A member of Congress from Hawaii since 2013, Gabbard also served two tours of duty with the Army National Guard in Iraq, a deployment that cut short her initial political office in Hawaii’s House of Representatives, where she was elected at age 21.
#13: Pete Buttigieg, 37. He was elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana in 2011, and prior to winning a second term in 2015 served for seven months as a Naval reservist in Afghanistan. Shortly after returning from that deployment, Buttigieg announced he was gay. He is the only candidate in the field who still has an exploratory committee.
#12: Julian Castro, 44. Castro was Ben Carson’s predecessor as HUD Secretary, serving from 2014-17 after five years as mayor of San Antonio as well as a city councilman.
#11: Jay Inslee, 68. The governor of Washington state since 2013, he previously served seven non-consecutive terms in Congress – one as a representative of a more rural area and the last six in a Seattle-area district after he moved there. His main issue: climate change.
#10: John Delaney, 55. The founder of a business lending institution, Delaney served three terms in Congress before declining re-election in 2018 to focus on his Presidential run. He was the first candidate in the race, announcing a year and a half before the Iowa caucuses.
#9: John Hickenlooper, 67. He served most of two terms as mayor of Denver before leaving that post as the elected governor of Colorado in 2011. He recently concluded his second and final term in that post.
#8: Kirsten Gillibrand, 52. The most recent candidate to make it official, as she took the exploratory committee training wheels off over the weekend, Kirsten was Hillary Clinton’s replacement in the Senate, moving up from the House barely two years after her arrival there in 2007. She won election in 2010 to finish Clinton’s term and re-election twice since, 2012 and this previous November.
#7: Cory Booker, 49. He’s been New Jersey’s junior Senator since being elected in a 2013 special election, moving up after serving for over seven years as the mayor of Newark. He won that job in his second try, four years after concluding his one term on their city council with a defeat in his initial mayoral bid.
#6: Amy Klobuchar, 58. She has served as a Senator from Minnesota since being elected in 2006; previously she was the county attorney for Hennepin County, which is essentially Minneapolis and its suburbs, for eight years before moving up to the Senate. She announced her bid outside in a Minnesota snowstorm.
#5: Beto O’Rourke, 46. He’s perhaps most famous for a race he lost, falling short of replacing Ted Cruz in the Senate last year. By running for Senate, he abandoned a three-term House incumbency that followed six years on El Paso’s city council as well as a colorful past that included computer hacking and touring the country as bassist in a punk rock band.
#4: Elizabeth Warren, 69. She was elected to the Senate in 2012 after serving as the initial administrator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but being passed over for formal nomination to be the CFPB’s director in favor of Richard Cordray. A longtime law professor, her other claim to fame is being known as “Fauxcahontas” for claiming American Indian ancestry, perhaps even getting professional benefit from that claim. Ironically, she makes no secret about once being a Republican but switching parties in the 1990’s.
#3: Kamala Harris, 54. Stop me if you heard this one before: young black lawyer runs for President based on a few years in state office and barely two years in the Senate. Indeed, this is the case with Harris, who spent seven years as the District Attorney in San Francisco before going statewide in 2010. Six years later, she won her Senate seat and now she’s running for President.
#2: Bernie Sanders, 77. The only current aspirant to have run for President before, if you count several unsuccessful campaigns before he finally won a race (for mayor of Burlington, where he served for eight years) you would find his political career is older than five of his fellow candidates – he first tried for office in a special January, 1972 Senate election to a seat he would eventually win 34 years later, in 2006. That followed a 16-year stint as Vermont’s lone House member. While Sanders has always officially been an “independent,” he’s caucused with the Democrats since joining Congress.
#1: Joe Biden, 76. Yes, I know, he’s not formally in the race. But I’m going to give him the top seed because all these folks to his left, not to mention his association with a still-popular President, make him the most popular candidate – even more so than the ones in the race. The RCP average has Biden up seven points on the rest of the field.
So that’s the way the seeding goes. I see exactly zero chance of a 16 over 1 upset, but that 15 vs. 2 matchup may be more interesting than people think. 3 vs. 14 is pretty much a walkover, as the Gabbard campaign is having several issues, but I wouldn’t sleep on 4 vs. 13 – I think that may be your first upset special.
Oftentimes 12 vs. 5 is a trap game for the higher seed, but I think the more popular Texan takes it. 11 vs. 6 is probably not much of a contest, but 10 vs. 7 may be a close call, too. I think 9 wins over 8 in the mild upset.
Of course, all that does is put the 9 seed out in the second round as the 1 seed advances to the Final Four. The 2 seed will crush the weakened 7 seed in a contest that isn’t as good as the intriguing 2-15 matchup was.
In a thrilling 6 vs. 3 contest, I think the lower seed takes it in a big upset. And it sets up another crazy matchup of 13 vs. 5 that nearly becomes a second huge shock to the system.
Because the 5 seed had so much taken out of him in the prior game, he’s no match for the #1 seed. But the 6 seed moves on, ousting the #2 seed as his game runs out.
So in my final I would have Klobuchar vs. Biden. If Biden ran into foul trouble (i.e. an ill-timed inappropriate remark, which he’s quite prone to do) this could be Klobuchar’s to win. But she has a little baggage of her own, and people are pretty much immune to the things Joe says, so I think he would hang on in a very close contest.
Obviously a lot can change in the coming months, but I think that’s the state of play for the moment.
Because people have actually paid me for doing this stuff for over a decade now, I consider freelance writing to be my side hustle. But with a steadier full-time job, I really hadn’t taken the craft seriously enough until I got closer and closer to finishing The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party – in part because I didn’t wish to repeat the mistakes I made with my first book seven years ago. (As part of taking it seriously, Lord knows the tempo of posting here has slowed to an agonizing crawl, right?)
So this year I had a door opened as I found out the Eastern Shore Writers Association was hosting a self-publishing track as part of their annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. I hadn’t previously been a member but now I am among their ranks, and it’s an interesting group – as I found out last Saturday.
One feature of their conference is a bookstore of their authors’ products, and I learned that, for the most part, my peers in the group work in fiction and poetry. It’s not something that I have an issue with at all; in fact, I salute their creativity and imagination in pursuing their craft. However, it should be said that I am probably the outlier when it comes to both genre and viewpoint – I tell people I’m “barely left of militia” but my observation was that most of these folks are likely left of center – and a few barely this side of Stalin.
But I think all of us share a goal of getting out our story, whether it be a fictional figment of wild imagination or a historical and political documentation like Rise and Fall. I know it may not have the audience of a Tom Clancy thriller nor the reach of someone who’s a known figure and can negotiate a $65 million advance. (Heck, I would have done cartwheels for a $6,500 advance – or maybe even $65.) Still, I was a bit disappointed that no one really wanted to take a chance on being an agent for the book, but I shouldn’t have been surprised given the hundreds of thousands of titles produced annually, many by already-established authors.
Fortunately, I have an available outlet in self-publishing and over the six hour-long seminars I attended I learned a lot about the ins and outs of selling that way. One author made her series of romance novels a hit by studying the trends of well-selling similar books and adding those elements into her stories, which are set on the Eastern Shore. Another shared her insights on producing a good finished product, still a third talked about the art of face-to-face hand-selling of hard copies, and so on. I have pages of notes and several handouts to guide me. Now I have a strategy in mind for marketing, incorporating some of the elements I already have in place such as my book website.
So now I’m doing the final edits to Rise and Fall, among other things taking care of one maddening aspect that I found to be an easy enough fix. But I suppose I can let it slip that Rise and Fall won’t be the last book I do, and hopefully in about 18 months there will be a companion to it on fine bookshelves and e-readers everywhere. At this point that’s all I will reveal.
All in all, the Bay to Ocean event was good for me, and hopefully you’ll soon agree that it made me a better writer and marketer. I have definitely found more appreciation of craft after the event.
I’ll tell you why! Those of you who have been here awhile know that I do an annual “picks and pans” as a Shorebird fan after each season. Today’s post is a long time coming since I spent part of my 2015, 2016, and 2017 picks and pans talking about the subject of today’s photo essay.
The 360 degree concourse was originally slated to be built between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, but the final funding wasn’t put into place until last spring. And yesterday it was formally opened up. I missed the ribbon cutting and didn’t win any of the giveaway prizes.
But I got a batch of pictures to share. How’s that?
Since this current phase of renovations of our now 23-year-old ballpark began after the 2015 season, they have rebuilt the entire field and sub-surface drainage, renovated the clubhouses, put in new seating throughout the stadium (with the possible exception of the outfield picnic areas, which I didn’t check out during my rounds), installed a new scoreboard and video board, and now have completed the concourse. About the only thing they need to do now is modernize the food service and perhaps renovate the restrooms, front office space, gift shop, and Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame. (Not to be confused with the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, which is constantly renovated each off-season.)
So old Arthur W. Perdue Stadium is looking pretty good now. In a couple weeks I think it will be time to return to a short-lived tradition and take my wild guess as to who will be sporting the Shorebird black-and-orange this summer. That will be fun.
I made an executive decision as I wrote this: an edited (no blockquote) version is crossposted to my book site.
I’ve been meaning to get to this all week and the opportunity has finally arrived. Last week Erick Erickson at The Resurgentdid a piece on what he called “Jeremiah 29 conservatives.” In the post, he cites Jeremiah 29:5-7, which is a portion of a letter from Jeremiah to those who were captured and forced to relocate to exile in Babylon. Erickson uses it to springboard to his main point:
There is a growing class of conservatives in the United States who can be considered Jeremiah 29 Conservatives. They have given up on national politics. It has become too ugly, too compromising, too unaligned with their values, and too willing to make compromises with bad government and big government to advance a compromised agenda.
These conservatives are trying to seek the welfare of the cities in which they live, recognizing that it is there they will find their welfare. They want good government and understand the most important fight of the day is the one for their family’s daily well being. Washington, they know, is too far removed from their daily lives and, in their mind, Republicans and conservative institutions in Washington have made too many compromises to be effective.
At the end of the Bush Administration and beginning of the Obama era, thanks oddly enough to the Citizens United case, grassroots groups were springing up around the country to help conservatives down to the local level. There were training sessions for conservative activists on simple things like the best way to write editorials to local papers. They grassroots groups provided tools for local activists to contact their state legislature. They explained how to find when a city council met and how to show up to speak on an issue. They encouraged conservative activists to run for the school board.
As the tea party rose, conservative organizations began focusing more and more on fighting Barack Obama. They abandoned the fights in the states.
Obviously this quote hit home with me given my passion for the TEA Party and its principles. But to a great extent it’s true.
I’ve probably researched the TEA Party more than 99% of the people out there and I found that it was a very unusual phenomenon in that the TEA Party began as a nationwide effort but then decentralized itself to the local level for a time. Think of the TEA Party as three early stages, which I’ll distinguish by their dates: February 27, April 15, and September 12. (All these occurred in 2009.)
The February 27 wave occurred in fewer than 50 cities and was really put together for one purpose: to make a statement about the unwillingness of government to consider solutions other than top-down financial stimulus and increased government control in addressing the Great Recession. Some may have organized this believing it would be a one-time deal, but there was such a success created that thousands of others, helped along by mass media, decided to get in on the action at the local level.
So rather than 40-odd mainly large cities, the April 15 (and later July 4) wave of TEA Parties took place in a thousand cities around the nation, big and small. Each local event had its own flavor, with some rallying around strictly financial and national issues and others departing from that script to address local items or topics dear to social conservatives, particularly those in the pro-life movement. There was no “right” way to do a TEA Party, and part of its appeal was the grassroots organization that didn’t get marching orders from a party or inside-the-Beltway group.
But by the September 12 Taxpayer March on Washington – an event I simply call 9/12 – local groups were being encouraged to join up in a national organization, supposedly to increase the clout of the movement. While some TEA Party groups remained fiercely independent, most others gravitated toward an alliance with organizations such as the Campaign for Liberty or Americans for Prosperity. (The latter is basically what happened to our local TEA Party.) This also coincided with the rise of Tea Party Patriots as an umbrella group, although they weren’t the only one as many states had similar entities.
Once the rallies became less frequent, though, hundreds of TEA Party groups withered on the vine. And many of those individual participants who stuck it out for the first couple years were perhaps made complacent by how easily the political tables were turned in 2010 and figured the movement didn’t need them anymore – they let the most passionate ones soldier on. So by the time 2012 and 2014 rolled around, many of those who believed in the TEA Party early on saw that the movement was no longer locally grassroots but corporate-style Astroturf, and no longer fiercely independent but now the red-headed stepchild of the national Republican Party.
As Erickson might tell it, that’s what happens when outsiders try to get involved in national politics, which is way out of the league of the average person. Most people are more interested in local activism, and (to be honest) if government were as it should be that’s all they would need to deal with.
So today I decided to look again at the Tea Party Patriots’ website as they celebrate their tenth anniversary. In a celebratory op-ed by Jenny Beth Martin – the only one of the three original co-founders of Tea Party Patriots to still be with the group – she cited a number of Washington initiatives as accomplishments of the TEA Party and noted they would continue to fight in the halls of Congress – just like any other lobbying group. They pay lip service to the local groups, but their focus is on stopping socialism on a national level. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s stop pretending they’re a grassroots group, okay?
It’s very sad to think that the TEA Party may have missed its golden opportunity because they lost focus on the local groups. If local needs are addressed, it’s more likely that states will follow and eventually the nation.
I have a suggestion for all this, but I can’t reveal it here – it’s waiting until my book is ready. (That’s called a tease.) Good Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise, look for it April 15.
This is going to be a “value-added” review. I was originally asked to write on the single and video in the title, which this Brooklyn-based band put out back on February 8. However, one of the links was to the advance review copy of the album that The Starman is featured on, called “Final Notice!” So I’m going to talk about that a little bit, in part because The Starman is very representative of the collection as a whole.
Like I said, the video and single came out last month and, rather than make you deal with Spotify I’ll just embed the video for your viewing pleasure. It’s the same song.
Trust me, this video is nowhere near as weird as their first one from the album, the initial single Right In Your I.
But if you didn’t get the vibe from the latest video – which, admittedly, needs a lot of explanation to allow me to “get it” – you might correctly imagine this album would almost have been more at home dropping in 1979 than 2019. Strangely enough, the influential records listed by the band for their forthcoming full-length are smack dab representative of that album rock era.
I can hear a lot of those influences – or at least the ones that I know, since I haven’t listened to every track therein – on “Final Notice!”, which I believe is slated to come out in mid-April. And I have to say that, while all the songs are different enough to hold your interest, there’s really not a bad one in the bunch. Obviously there are some I like better than others, such as First In Space and March Forth (the latter really should be released to the world on Monday, naturally) but they all are pretty enjoyable in their own right. And the cool thing is that they can use 2019 technology now to make 1979 sound even better.
Now if you believe the backstory to this album – and after watching their videos there are a couple doubts creeping into my mind, but we’ll go ahead and roll with it – this band was a successor project for lead singer Greg Jiritano after he a) did a 6-year “extreme sonic experimentation” with a collaborator and band that produced music which couldn’t be performed live and went unreleased, and b) decided after plan A didn’t pan out to do a DIY project only to have the studio burn to the ground shortly before its release, destroying all of his work. So you are listening to plan C, which may very well be a good name for a band or album. (The rest of the Unifier band: Tyler Wood on keyboards, Derek Nievergelt on bass, and drummer Carmine Covelli. With a name like that, he had to be a drummer.)
Given the subtle but pleasing strangeness of Lord Sonny the Unifier and their album from another era, I can’t say plan C wasn’t the correct play.
I have seen reports all over social media and the “real” media that the Maryland House of Delegates has passed an increase in the minimum wage that will eventually lead it to $15 per hour by 2025. I’m not up on just who is who in the House these days but I presume a 96-44 vote is pretty much party line – there may have been a Democrat who voted against it, but I don’t know and it likely doesn’t matter in the scheme of things because it’s a vetoproof majority and the way Democrats are ramming this through it will be passed at a time when the veto can be overridden in session. (With Larry Hogan’s record, I can no longer say “inevitable veto.”)
It should be pointed out first of all that the “fight for $15” is sort of a misnomer because the raise from the current $10.10 per hour – a rate established last July – to $15 an hour would not be complete until January, 2025. This is a significant change from the original bill, which mandated the raise be in place by July, 2023. (The House bill has been amended while the cross-filed Senate bill remains as it was originally intended, so it works well for comparison.) But since the state began regularly raising its minimum wage in January, 2015, workers have already received a 26.3% bump in four years – well beyond the rate of inflation and a far cry from the normal 2-3% annual raises many workers receive if they are lucky. Whether it takes eight years or ten years, a salary increase of 87.5% for gaining absolutely no skills is far more than the market would naturally allow.
I’ll circle back to that point in a moment, but it’s also worth considering that union workers who have their wage rates tied to a point above the minimum wage will also get a raise. And when workers get a raise, guess who else does?
In today’s climate of dramatic minimum wage increases of 50% or more, unions — predominantly in the service sector — can also directly benefit from minimum wage increases because their members’ pay is less than the new minimum. Take California, for instance, which passed a $15 minimum wage last year. The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) usedCensus Bureau data to estimate that roughly 223,000 union members in the state will receive a direct pay increase by the time the law is fully implemented.
It’s bad news for taxpayers, but a solid investment for unions. A powerful California-based SEIU local spent about $1.6 million to collect the signatures needed to qualify the $15 ballot measure that forced Gov. Jerry Brown to back such a mandate. EPI estimated that California unions can expect a return on investment of roughly $9 million in additional dues per year.
“Why Do Unions Fund The Fight For $15 Minimum Wage? Because They Gain A Financial Windfall In Return,” Ed Rensi, Forbes, January 19, 2017.
You can bet your bottom dollar that Big Labor here in Maryland has similar deals with business owners held hostage to these union contracts.
Now circle back with me if you would and think about who earns minimum wage from a job. Generally they are people just entering the job market or those who don’t develop their skills beyond the point of being barely hireable. My first “real” W-2 job was working in the on-campus dining halls at college, and it was a minimum wage job – just as my roommate who snagged a cushy library job made. Since I was essentially a temporary worker, it didn’t matter to the school that I was making $3.35 an hour to run a dishwasher. And since most of my money went to the local sub shop or to buy the occasional 12-pack when I became legal, I didn’t much worry about it, either. In fact, my first job out of college at a department store was minimum wage – but this college graduate quickly parlayed his degree into a 49% raise when the architectural firm I interviewed with a few weeks earlier offered me a position less than a month after I started working at the store. More skills and a little bit of work experience = higher wages. I created more potential value from my labor.
This is the problem with minimum wage as I see it. Do you think Maryland workers are going to instantly create another 75 cents to a dollar’s worth of value to their employers each hour just because the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 or 2024 to 2025? Of course they won’t – but if a business owner had 20 minimum-wage employees who worked an average of 20 hours a week, it’s an extra $300 or $400 they need to clear.
I’ll grant there’s a bit of merit to the argument that raising the wage creates people with more money to spend, but what are the chances enough people will take their extra money and spend it at the business in question? When the percentage of workers who make minimum wage hovers in the low single-digits, there’s not enough of an impetus for that so-called “extra” money to make much of an impact on the economy at large but, at the same time, it can be devastating to a business that requires a lot of unskilled labor.
There’s also the impact on workers who make slightly to significantly more than minimum wage to consider. They won’t get an automatic raise, but their standard of living declines by the amount that businesses have to raise their prices to cover costs. It may only be an extra percent or two in scattered businesses, but eventually that adds up. Note that amendments to Maryland’s most recent minimum wage bill not only slowed down the increase by 18 months but also scrapped the automatic increase based on inflation – probably to make it an issue for the 2024 or 2026 elections.
I have often said, and will continue to say because it’s true, that the real minimum wage is zero – the amount you make when the job you may have secured when the minimum wage was $8 an hour and you weren’t a significant risk to the employer if you didn’t work out is the job that’s no longer available at $10.10 an hour.
Regardless, it’s all but certain that a minimum wage increase will pass in Maryland this year. The Left needs that victory and many others in order to try and tank the state and national economy for the 2020 election. (Notice the lack of enthusiasm over the 2.9% GDP increase despite the fact it’s our best since 2015 – losing by a fractional .0009% – and close to the first 3% annual calendar year growth rate since 2005. One could argue the Schumer-Pelosi-Trump shutdown may have cost us that 0.1 percent.) Apologists for the Obama economic record (“Analysts have called into question just how much a particular president actually impacts the economy during his tenure”) now expect a recession to hit by the next election (“While the fourth-quarter cooling isn’t quite as extreme as some economists feared, the metric does little to placate existing concerns about a global economic slowdown.”)
But someone believes in magic, as in that people will magically produce more value through an arbitrary wage increase. Cue the pixie dust and unicorns.
This is another review of a monoblogue music alumni, and it’s an album that was a long time in the making.
You may recall back in January, when I followed up on my previous top 5’s, that Rich had been in the studio over the early part of 2018 but “the trail (seemed) to have grown cold.” This review is the bloodhound regaining the scent.
As it turned out, this album came out at the back end of 2018 but rather quietly, considering the album release party didn’t occur until just a couple weeks ago. And Juma was there: Juma Sultan is a longtime percussionist whose initial claim to fame was sharing the Woodstock stage with Jimi Hendrix. That bloodline is immediately set forth on the album’s first track, Hey Baby (New Rising Sun), which was a song Hendrix wrote and performed.
I can’t say whether The Groove’s version is as good as the original because it’s not a Hendrix track I’m familiar with. What I can say is that, if I didn’t know it was a remake, I’d be digging it anyway as a seriously good jam.
“Jammin’ With Juma” is a good mixture of covers that I knew and some variant of the following: covers which were so obscure that a Google search couldn’t dig them up, or stuff that Rich had kept in his back pocket. In the category of covers I knew you can place the old Eric Burdon song Spill The Wine and a song originally by Freddie Scott and redone by a solo Ron Wood called Am I Grooving You? (That one came via Rich’s song listing on his band’s website.) The remake of Wine starts out a little shaky but improves as it goes, while the take on Grooving is that of a more straight-ahead rock song placed on a sea of very psychedelic relics and jams.
There are two other songs on here that are only done once. I honestly thought Ghosts of Jimi was also a cover, but the other song that has a similar title isn’t the same track. Too bad for it, because The Groove made this song into a jam band tune with very catchy lyrics. Similarly, Paranoia Blues isn’t the version Paul Simon made famous: instead, this one has a large Tom Petty influence with a really cool outro.
I say “only done once” because the final two tracks on “Jammin’ With Juma” are reworked versions of two previous songs. Be Here Now is already a strangely successful interplay of a hint of dub music (lots of echo) with some country overtones. I noted on the original play (it’s track number three on the record) that it had a good jam band potential but seemed rushed to finish – well, the producer picked it up with a reprise in track eight for an extra minute and a half to a more satisfactory close.
The other example is track two: the heavily reggae Seven Sunsets, which is nicely done except for being a touch weak on the vocals. On the last track this one is really dubbed out and (naturally) rechristened Sunset Dub (Head Mix). The song is definitely made different by the effects.
But as I generally say, you’re the best judge of what’s good to your ears so feel free to listen for yourself. I know I liked this one a lot, and although it’s waaaaaay too early to consider this year’s top 5 I can see “Jammin’ With Juma” being a contender.
On a humdrum Thursday morning, there were probably a few dozen thousand who were watching the CNBC show “Squawk Box” and a lot of them probably weren’t paying full attention when one man’s statements were the spark that lit the fuse of pent-up political frustration. It was a fire that raged out of control for several years before being contained by a political party more interested in power and winning elections than in its stated principles.
I half-jokingly wrote that night that I thought Rick Santelli would be the next guy on the unemployment line, but instead he’s become something of a cult hero for those things he said a decade ago. Yet in looking up his whereabouts it appears he’s doing pretty much the same thing as he did a decade ago. In that respect, he’s a lot like most participants in the TEA Party who did what they did out of love for the country, not fame, fortune, or political power. I’m sure his name has come up a lot today, though.
But in just eight days after Santelli made his remarks, tens of thousands of people got together in over thirty cities around the nation and began a phenomenon that people still talk about today. And because there are a number of useful lessons that came from the TEA Party, I wrote a book detailing its history: Good Lord willing, I’ll have it ready in time to commemorate the tenth anniversary of one of the most massive and widespread grassroots uprisings in recent American history, the Tax Day TEA Party of 2009 on April 15. I was at the one here in Salisbury, and five months later I was at the unforgettable 9/12 Taxpayer March on Washington. (I posted on that event in twoparts the next two days, and the posts reminded me I had even more photos on my then-relatively nascent Facebook page. Revisiting this with the new WordPress block setup allowed me to add the captions I wrote originally, too.) As they say, the rest was history.
And to think: how many people just thought February 19, 2009 was just going to be another humdrum winter’s day?
We have reached the point where the perceived inability of Congress to do something – anything – about stemming a tide of illegal immigration across our southern border with Mexico has led President Trump to declare a state of emergency, the preamble of which follows:
The current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency. The southern border is a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics. The problem of large-scale unlawful migration through the southern border is long-standing, and despite the executive branch’s exercise of existing statutory authorities, the situation has worsened in certain respects in recent years. In particular, recent years have seen sharp increases in the number of family units entering and seeking entry to the United States and an inability to provide detention space for many of these aliens while their removal proceedings are pending. If not detained, such aliens are often released into the country and are often difficult to remove from the United States because they fail to appear for hearings, do not comply with orders of removal, or are otherwise difficult to locate. In response to the directive in my April 4, 2018, memorandum and subsequent requests for support by the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense has provided support and resources to the Department of Homeland Security at the southern border. Because of the gravity of the current emergency situation, it is necessary for the Armed Forces to provide additional support to address the crisis.
“Presidential Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States,” February 15, 2019
My reading of the actual directive – which is not long at all, just 629 words – is that, under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 (which would have been passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress under President Ford) the President is authorizing the use of military personnel and funds to build a border barrier in the most vulnerable places. I’m going to presume that it’s going to be the style of wall such as this prototype.
Naysayers, of course, make the claim that such a wall could be cut through to go with the other claims that a wall can be tunneled under or flown over. Of course, these statements are true but unless the average person has superhuman strength or a MacGyver-like streak of ingenuity with objects carried on one’s person – since I don’t think most would-be border-crossers have a steel-cutting saw, extension cord, and a few spare hours to cut through several inches of steel nor did they bring a backhoe with them to dig a tunnel – I think such a barrier will keep most people out or (as they are really supposed to) funnel them to more easily-guarded ports of entry. It’s part of an “all of the above” border security solution, not the be-all and end-all for the problem.
(To truly solve the issue of illegal immigration, though, we don’t just need border security but also to eliminate the carrots that attract illegal aliens: an end to chain migration and birthright citizenship as well as a crackdown on those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. One would think there is a way to check whether they have duplicate Social Security numbers, forged work visas, or other phony documentation.)
The first question then becomes whether this state of emergency is Constitutional. (Well, if it isn’t first on your mind it really should be.) It took nanoseconds for this to be brought into court, so how should a court decide this?
In such times as this I lean on expert advice, so I looked at what those close to the Constitution Party have to say. This piece from KrisAnne Hall, who bills herself as a “Constitutional Attorney,” says, no, there is not Constitutional justification for the state of emergency. On the other hand, there is Constitutional justification for Trump’s actions in general, argues “Publius Huldah,” a pseudonym for another attorney, Joanna Martin. Thus, the answer would seem to be that a state of emergency wasn’t needed but President Trump couldn’t just capriciously move the money so he chose to use that route instead of citing some of the Constitutional points Publius Huldah did.
From the other side of the spectrum, you get this paranoid article in The Atlantic written by attorney and Brennan Center legal analyst Elizabeth Goitein, who posits that Trump would use these emergency powers to conjure up a reason to disrupt the 2020 election. More of a mainline, comparative view comes in this assessment by William B. Fisch, then a law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law (now professor emeritus, as this was written in the early 1990s.) Fisch argues that the courts have generally deferred to government during times of crisis, snapping back to normal if the subject is questioned and reviewed after the crisis has passed.
In this case, the crisis will likely pass when the first of two differing possibilities occurs: one, the barrier is built to President Trump’s satisfaction, or, secondly, a Democrat becomes President – in that case, the state of emergency regarding the border will be immediately rescinded.
This leads to the second part of the question, which stems from the threat made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that a national emergency could be declared by a Democrat to invoke gun control. (Fellow Democrat Rep. Emanuel Cleaver took this even farther on Twitter, as he considers climate change, income inequality, and access to healthcare as national emergencies, but not border security.)
It’s certain that a Democrat president would try these actions, citing the capricious nature of President Trump’s declaration – a declaration that in this case Democrats didn’t agree was an emergency. (Would it be their intention to encourage illegal immigration, then? You either are for border security or you’re not. Having an easily-breached fence at the border as is the current situation is obviously not doing the trick.)
Yet the effects of illegal aliens in this country are relatively quantifiable to the extent we have statistics on those effects. In terms of crime, though, statistics have suggested that the illegal alien population as a whole is not more likely to be in prison than native-born Americans are: although one piece of research I found is a couple decades old, a more recent Cato Institute study suggests that illegal immigrants are actually less likely to be criminals than native-born – but far more likely to be criminals than legal immigrants.
There’s also the claim that apprehensions are down, but apprehensions are those who were caught, not the total number crossing. Still, there are also costs in education and health care to consider, despite the fact that a large number of the children of illegal aliens are “anchor babies” who have, via a long-standing but improper interpretation of the 14th Amendment, birthright citizenship.
Yet in the other instances Pelosi, et. al., seek to consider as “national emergencies,” there are one or more obstacles in the way – some are legal and others are logical.
With regard to gun control, there isn’t a true national emergency with regard to the tool as there is the attitude that makes those who use it as a weapon to kill (outside of self-defense) believe it’s okay. Having access to a gun does not justify its use to get even with a company that fired you or with someone who defeated you in a game. If there’s any national emergency in that regard, it’s the callous disregard for life our culture seems to have. The gun is not the problem, and leaving a situation where only government has guns will surely lead to abuse of that authority. (Hence the biggest obstacle: the Second Amendment.)
Nor is climate change a national emergency, mainly because there’s little we can do about it. Given the lack of actual accurate observation, we are only speculating what the climate was like until the last couple centuries, but the conventional wisdom holds that our planet has been both warmer and colder as a whole than it exists today. So what is the true optimum climate? We can’t say for sure – for all we know, this so-called climate change could be a return to normal.
Democrats tend to forget there are things bigger than they are.
And then we have “income inequality” and “access to health care.” I just checked, and nowhere in the Constitution are we guaranteed an income or health care. But let’s do a little math in terms of income.
According to the Census Bureau, U.S. median income is $61,372 per household. But over the states, the scale varies widely: Maryland happens to have the highest median income, while Mississippi is the lowest, with a difference of approximately $35,000. To achieve true income equality, a household in Maryland would have to send $35,000 to one in Mississippi. Of course, those in Mississippi would think that’s great but a Maryland family will protest the whole time – what did that family in Mississippi (that probably doesn’t vote the same way as us) do to deserve our $35,000 that we earned?
Now I know that “income inequality” is really a code word among the Left for class envy – a hatred of the so-called 1%. But what would its effects really be?
A rough estimate of CEO-to-employee pay disparity is that CEOs make up to 3,000 times the pay their employees do – that seems to be a favorite complaint on the Left. So let’s say there’s a company with 10,000 employees and one CEO: just to make my math easy we’ll say the employees make $1 and the CEO $3,000. Income equality means that employees share in a pool of $13,000, meaning they all get $1.30. Now a 30% raise sounds great to an employee, but the nearly 100% pay cut means the CEO quits. Then who runs the company?
Actually, this illustration of income inequality is a corollary argument to health care access. Using Maryland and Mississippi as examples again, those in Maryland are fortunate to have a hospital on the scale of Johns Hopkins in their state while some in Mississippi may be 20 miles from a rudimentary clinic. But would those in Maryland be willing to give up their access to help the poor people of Mississippi? Probably not. And just as in the argument about income inequality, given the finite resources the improvement, if done by force, will be minimal.
A capitalist system isn’t perfect for allocating resources, but what it does best is enlarge the available pool. People on the left often deride this as a “trickle-down” theory but in reality it’s a “rising tide” theory that lifts all the boats. Simply compare the situation in Venezuela to our system and you’ll see the result of the foolhardy vision of Democrats.
Maybe our national emergency is that we have lost our common sense?