The state of the TEA Party: winter 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new direction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019: a monoblogue year in review

2019 was an interesting year, to say the least.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radio days volume 27

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

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

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

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

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

monoblogue music: 2019’s top 5

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

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

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

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

Original review: February 23.

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

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

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

4. “Wasted Time” by Future Thrills

Original review: January 19.

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

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

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

3. “Fight To The Death” by Paul Maged

Original review: July 13.

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

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

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

2. “Words For Yesterday” by Benny Bassett

Original review: March 30.

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

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

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

Original review: May 25.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas to all of my readers!

monoblogue music: “Play Nice” by Cass Clayton Band

This was the album I was reticent to review, and the reason is simple: the first song is perhaps the weakest on the album. It left a bad initial impression on me, but once I left Dawes County and its bad take on a whole slew of “my little home town sucks and I’m leaving it in the rearview mirror” country songs I started to feel a little better about this July release from the Denver-based Cass Clayton Band.

It’s not the easiest collection to pigeonhole, and perhaps that was the intent. I detected more of a cool jazz influence on the next two tracks (Little Things and the title song, Play Nice) but that slowly yielded to where I thought the album shined the most: a trio of songs (B Side, No Use In Crying, and Tattered and Torn) which nicely straddle a tightrope between that little bit of jazzy-influenced singing and instrumentation more reminiscent of gospel-tinged southern rock and blues. This comes back for an encore in the finale, Strange Conversation.

Unfortunately, the songs toward the end suffer a bit from various factors: the odd cadence of You’ll See and the depressingly trite The Most Beautiful bring things down a bit; however, Doesn’t Make Sense almost takes things back. But I just couldn’t get into Flowers At My Feet and really didn’t see the purpose of adding the brief Slow Kiss before the finale.

Overall I can’t say “Play Nice” is a bad album at all. One thing it accomplished was putting the image of the live band on stage in my mind and getting me to think that they would indeed put on a pretty good show. (Another possible drawback to the album was Clayton’s usage of studio players in lieu of her touring band.) She does play a lot of shows in her home region, so there is a modest fanbase in place. Honestly, I’m of the opinion that, if this album was re-created as a live record it possibly could have flirted with a top 3 spot – the studio made it sound too cold and sterile.

But “Play Nice” will serve as the swan song for my album reviews, as I’m stepping away from that scene after almost six years and about 100 or so reviews. I just think it’s time to move on from here.

So, as I’ve almost always said, don’t take my word for it: I encourage you to listen for yourself. And thank you again for all the listening you have done. One last monoblogue music top 5 for 2019 will come on December 28.

Telling me what to do again

It’s been far too long since I’ve done one of these posts, but at a relatively slow time for serious news it’s a good time to break stuff like this out. Somehow it seems appropriate for Friday the 13th.

In my e-mail box I keep a stack of messages from various entities which often write me with an assumed name and tell me how to run my website. One of my favorite pitches is the one which tells me how lacking my SEO is – I love the effort to sound hip with the jargon on this one:

Dear monoblogue,

My experts were analyzing your website and found that your website is not handling recent updates from search engines.

Also your traffic flow is poor from last couple of months due to some of the reasons. You might know about recent Google UPDATES like Phantom 3.0, Panda 4.2, and Penguin 4.0.

Google has completely dropped all authorship functionality from the search results and web master tools. So be careful on it and take the help of a SEO company to fix it.

Obnoxious e-mail from “Alex Morgan”, whose e-mail address had a completely different name

Or maybe I just need “immediate improvement.”

(And yes, this is verbatim too.)

Hi Monoblogue.Us,

I have a complete analysis report ready with me which shows your website needs immediate improvement. Your business need to have a concrete SEO strategy in place if you want to succeed in online marketing.

We can deliver you the exact solution you are looking for your website.

We will be targeting search engine and Social networks to get you maximum visibility. Our experts will maintain good impression through our online reputation management services. Also you will get Regular updates on website to make it look fresh and error free.

Give consent, my technical team will prepare a comprehensive call to action plan to reach your target audience.

We will be looking forward to your response.

One of my annoying e-mails, from “Steve Morgan”

Here’s my response: I really love ESL pitches. The only immediate improvement I need is to have a little more time for blogging, but aside from that I would stack my body of work up against anyone’s.

And since I don’t lose any sleep over what I write, I don’t see a need for “online reputation management.” So there you go.

Speaking of ESL, try this one:

Dear monoblogue Owner,

Hope you are doing well!

We came to know that you are concerned with bringing new customers from your target market and beat your competitors to boost your business. If you are interested, we can help you to identify the gray areas and best possible solutions.

I’m confident enough to get your website on #1 Page of Google with all round improvement in your brand value and sales.

Please revert back to know more about our services.

I look forward to hearing from you.

An e-mail from “David Wilson.” Yeah, right.

Perhaps it’s from a very British-influenced nation, but carrying on…

I also get a lot of people who are interested in advertising on my site, but not in the way I would prefer. It’s often a pitch of,”Can you please write to us if you can publish an article with a link to our website or any other form to link our website and how much it will cost.”

Or, if I was so inclined, I could have someone else write it. “One of our clients has shown interest in being featured on (your site) in a guest post. We have a great team of writers and we can provide the article, or if you prefer, you can also write it and feature our client.”

How about if I just write what I like instead of selling my blog’s soul? I’m sorry to disappoint the struggling writer in some craphole country who’s not getting the quarter for the thousand-word post which would otherwise be placed in this space, but this is my modest, humble little home and I like knowing I built it.

Finally, here’s the key question:

I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how long have you been blogging for?

Sophie Naylor, Team Leader and Biscuit Consumer, bloggersconnected.com

Yes, she asked. Does my site not say it’s been around since 2005? At least her site looks somewhat legit, although I’m not one who would like to be paid in euros.

Once upon a time I thought I could make a living at this, but I’ve found there are many more people who would like to relieve me of my meager subsistence through get-rich-quick schemes for the gullible than people who would legitimately enjoy what I write and rattle my tip jar. (It still happens once in a great while, though.) But there’s still hope writing may supplement my retirement, and it did occur to me the other day that the paying job I’ve held longest in my life is that of writing for The Patriot Post.

So I suppose I’m doing something right, despite the naysayers. At least their e-mails give me a smile and inspiration.

The Democrats’ state of play

If you follow the horse race that is the Democrat race to the 2020 presidential nomination, you may notice that in the last week several participants have cashed in their chips and called it a campaign: onetime Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak dropped out Sunday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock withdrew Monday, and Tuesday it was arguably the biggest name yet: California’s Senator Kamala Harris. (To tell you how crowded the field was, I didn’t know perpetual also-ran Wayne Messam had left the race before Thanksgiving until just now as I was writing this.)

With these four departures, the field which had swelled up to 25 participants at one time is now down to 15; however, only five of them have qualified for the next debate this month. (Harris was actually a qualifier, but her campaign ran out of cash.)

I’m going to look at the race now in a little different way. First we need to break the field down into the various constituent groups which make up the Democrat Party, and then we can tier them off into their relative chances for success. These are in alphabetical order of first candidate in the group.

First of all come the old white guys: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders.

Corollary to that group but unique in its own way are the gazillionaires: Michael Bloomberg, John Delaney, and Tom Steyer.

We then have the black contingent, which now consists of Cory Booker and Deval Patrick.

Next up is the gay community, which – insofar as we know – only consists of Pete Buttigieg.

The remaining Hispanic contender is Julian Castro.

Then we have the women: Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Marianne Williamson.

That leaves the Asian guy, Andrew Yang, last. Seems appropriate since a lot of Democrats don’t count Asians as an oppressed minority.

Anyway, there are also tiers of contenders shaping up. The first group are the ones I don’t see even making it to Iowa or New Hampshire. From most likely to be out to maybe they’ll defy this pundit and make it to the caucuses we have John Delaney (a gazillionaire), Michael Bennet (an old white guy), and Marianne Williamson (a woman.)

Next up are the ones I see throwing in the towel after Iowa/New Hampshire: the black guy Deval Patrick, the Hispanic Julian Castro, the Asian guy Andrew Yang, and two ladies: Tulsi Gabbard and Amy Klobuchar.

That leaves us with seven moving forward. Of that seven, I think the three who will be in the weakest position will be the black guy Cory Booker and the remaining two gazillionaires Steyer and Bloomberg. However, I seem to recall Bloomberg’s strategy was to basically ignore the first four states and concentrate on Super Tuesday, so both of them may stay in the game for awhile.

I realize we are a long way out, but the polling is interesting among the first four states. As it stands, both Iowa and New Hampshire have a pecking order where Pete Buttigieg is first, followed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden in fourth. But while Biden seems weak in the first two states, he’s leading the pack in Nevada, South Carolina, and California, just ahead of Elizabeth Warren. So the early Buttigieg momentum is stalled once the contest heads out of the first two states (and by a significant amount, like 15 to nearly 30 points behind Biden.)

One burning question that should concern the Biden camp is the fallout from the Ukraine investigation and the saga surrounding his son Hunter. The press has seemed less than curious about this, particularly in comparison to Donald Trump’s children. (Luckily there are voters taking up the slack.) But it’s his good fortune to have his top-tier peers with their own problems: Bernie probably hits his ceiling of support at 20 percent because he’s yesterday’s news, Warren has her issues with honesty and integrity, and Pete Buttigieg won’t get the black vote because of his hometown issues and his sexual preference. (Remember, Maryland’s gay marriage issue wasn’t a slam dunk because the black community wasn’t its strongest supporter. Only this year has support for the issue passed 50% among blacks.)

Between the top tier four, though, they gather up over 70% of the votes in four of the five key states RealClearPolitics is polling. (In New Hampshire, it’s only 65%.) So the other huge question is whether one of the outside candidates can gather a large enough chunk of the 30% remaining (doubtful) or whether one candidate can coalesce that 30% behind their camp. My guess at the moment is that Elizabeth Warren is the most primed to do so.

If a Warren vs. Trump race comes to pass, I would expect the battleground states will be the four that Hillary Clinton considered her firewall: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. But the results may be the same: women were already predisposed to vote against Trump, but blacks may be more inclined to vote for Trump (which helps in Michigan). The key is if union workers again back Trump against the wishes of their leadership.

At this stage in the game, though, I think the field will be no more than 10 by the time the ball (or whatever ornament towns across America use) drops on New Year’s Eve.

Presenting: The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2019

For this, the eleventh class of inductees, we seem to be arriving at a stopping point. Two of the three being honored this year were members of the loaded 2014 Shorebird team, and it appears that well may finally be running dry – those few players still knocking around aren’t really regarded as prospects. The same is true for the 2013 crop whose representative this season rounds out the trio.

The Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 didn’t take long to get set, as Branden Kline overcame a career’s worth of adversity to make his debut April 20. And while it was a feelgood story of an (almost) hometown kid made good necessitated by an unexpected early-season twinbill, the fact that Kline did well enough in that spot appearance to earn a place on the Elias/Hyde Baltimore-to-Norfolk shuttle meant he would be in the conversation for bullpen work in 2020.

Member number 2 may have received his big break a few weeks before the season. In a classic “change of scenery” trade, the Orioles addressed a glut of outfield prospects and the desire for more pitching depth by sending Mike Yastrzemski, whose star had fallen in the Orioles’ eyes thanks to some subpar AAA seasons, to the San Francisco Giants for Tyler Herb, a pitcher whose career seemed to be similarly stuck in the San Francisco organization. And while Herb did little to distinguish himself as Oriole property, the Giants got a steal of a deal that netted them a starting left fielder for the near-term, with several years of team control – one who will likely never leave for a big free agent contract since he won’t be eligible until his age-36 season. Mike made his debut May 25 and stayed with the Giants the rest of the way.

Finally, on August 17, the last piece of the Class of 2019 was put in place when the Orioles called up another pitcher whose career had been sidetracked by frequent injuries. Hunter Harvey only pitched a handful of innings at the big league level, but he was impressive enough to be penciled into the Orioles’ 2020 bullpen, perhaps as a seventh- or eighth-inning pitcher as closer-in-training for when the Orioles return to contention in future seasons.

So it was a class of just three; as such it was my smallest since 2014. The 2013 and 2014 SotWHoF classes were very small as they reflected a talent gap between a group which had either come through Delmarva at the end of the previous decade or were “can’t miss” guys like Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy and the group that began to arrive in 2016 or so as players who played with the Shorebirds in 2014. (The 2015 class was sort of a motley crew of pitchers, several making their debut elsewhere.)

As the players who came through in 2015 and 2016 have worked their way up to the cusp of the Show, the smaller number of Shorebird of the Month honorees beginning in 2017 will make the classes more limited going forward, perhaps maintaining a range of one to four per season.

While my track record is spotty, I continue to make my wild guesses as to who will be in the next class. I believe that, barring injury, we will finally see Ryan Mountcastle arrive in the bigs as one of the Class of 2020 – he was one of just two SotWs added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster. But, from there, the crystal ball clouds up considerably – I don’t see Ryan McKenna being quite ready this coming season after a step backward for the prospect in 2019. (His is a case where the new September roster restriction to 28 players will likely keep him off.)

McKenna and 2017 SotY Alex Wells are Oriole members of a second tier of prospects which also includes 2016 SotY Yermin Mercedes, who has worked his way onto the 40-man roster of the Chicago White Sox, as has Garrett Cleavinger for the Philadelphia Phillies. Jesus Liranzo fell off Pittsburgh’s 40-man but has stayed in the organization, so he’s included in this group.

Then we have a whole host of sleeper picks – guys who inhabit AAA but are considered more as the organizational filler. That group would include graybeards like Wynston Sawyer from way back in 2012, Luis Gonzalez and Mitch Horacek from 2014, and Jomar Reyes and Ademar Rifaela from 2015. All but Reyes have tasted AAA, and all but Reyes became minor-league free agents after 2019. Reyes was once a prime prospect, but he got stuck at Frederick for a few seasons.

Lastly are a few more recent Shorebirds of the Month who could get considered, but realistically are more likely members of the classes of 2021 or 2022. They would be Preston Palmiero, Steven Klimek, Zach Jarrett, Zac Lowther, Tim Naughton, DL Hall, 2018 SotY Brenan Hanifee, Grayson Rodriguez, and 2019 SotY Adam Hall.

I have also found that, with the additional coaching positions being placed at various levels including the major leagues, there may be a need to add a coaches’ wing to the SotWHoF. For example, Kyle Hudson, a member of the Class of 2011 as a player, may well be inducted as a coach as he has reached the AAA level with the Cleveland organization. There’s precedent for non-playing personnel to be a Shorebird of the Week (for my 100th SotW I selected then-manager Ryan Minor as a way to honor his longtime contributions) so there probably should be a place for coaches and/or managers who reach the Show.

With the publication of this post, the SotWHoF will once again be a live, public page. One new wrinkle you will notice: I have added information on how the player was acquired by the Orioles and, where needed, the team with which he made his debut. It’s interesting to see how teams come together.

A stone of years: monoblogue turns 14

Izzy Stradlin of Guns n’ Roses once sang, “You don’t get back 14 years in just one day,” and that’s probably true for a blog post, too. (Good song on a pretty good record, “Use Your Illusion II” – although I liked Illusion I a little better. Can you believe that double album will be 30 years old in 2021?)

But as I contemplate what a long, strange trip it’s been, it’s also apparent that so much has changed: not just the presentation as arranged by the blog theme (which is still the Twenty Sixteen theme I adopted about a year ago) but what’s placed on the site. I just used to put up SO much political stuff like press releases and analysis of races, but now I do more lengthy and meaty diatribes about the world as it is and how it should be.

So I have come pretty much full circle: now monoblogue is actually more like how it was when I first started, before I got a little too proud and before I bought into the theory that the only way to build an audience was by posting ultra-frequently. I thought I could be somebody just based on building the popularity of this website, but that task was something I tried and failed to do since it was a singular effort put together by a guy who rarely had two nickels to rub together let alone a promotions budget. So my content creation had to suffer, and eventually I just got sick of curating that crap.

Unfortunately, as I sit here I still get the feeling that I placed myself into a couple too many boxes. However, I remain a believer in the philosophy that politics should be the part-time profession of caring Americans, so on this blog you’ll always find the political somewhere: 2019 wasn’t an election year except at a local level but it has featured the runup to the 2020 balloting. It’s something I’ve had my take on every so often as it develops.

I’ve also retained my passion about the Shorebirds, and one thing I really loved doing the research on was my fantasy baseball team. With 2020 coming up, I can have the fun of working on that with a few new players and a slimmed-down roster (you’ll see what I mean.) Come spring I may be forced to revamp a little bit about Shorebird of the Month because of the changes at Perdue Stadium making it tougher to get my photos, but I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

But this website will soon undergo one somewhat significant change. Just as writing something every day began to become a chore I almost dreaded doing, the same goes for monoblogue music. Since the end of September I’ve had one review in my queue to do but I just don’t feel like it. For awhile I was living with the excuse that I had bad internet service (moving out into the country comes with that disadvantage to be sure) but I’ve since rectified that and don’t have to live off my phone’s hotspot. Sometime in December I will finally put up that review – my first since July – and select one final top 5 before I put monoblogue music mostly to bed except maybe for some follow-up reviews on previous top 5 bands (and I make no promises on that.) The reviews had a pretty good five-plus year run but like a lot of series in the past I just got tired of the concept. (I’m not tired of Weekend of Local Rock, either, but then again I never put my photos from Casting Crowns up. I think six weeks is past its expiration date.)

To be perfectly honest, I’d also like to get rid of some of the previous notions about my website. One transition I’m planning to make in the coming weeks is changing my Rise and Fall site to an author-based site for promotion of all my works, past, present, and future. And since this website is one of those works, has spawned 5,000-plus posts, was the germ of inspiration for my first book (So We May Breathe Free, 2012), and led to several other of my writing jobs, it’s an important piece going forward that demands the best content. These music reviews weren’t making the cut.

And in order to put a better foot forward, I’m also working slowly on something I promised last year – it’s made a lot easier thanks to a trove of photo disks I found over the summer. I’ve done about ten posts so far and once I work on Shorebird of the Week posts (which generally only needed one photo) the backlog of about 200 posts where photos were lost will quickly begin to dwindle. That is a good thing and it’s brought back a lot of memories.

So I’m not getting back 14 years in just one day, but I don’t have to: the good memories are already right here. Now I’m ready to start year number 15.

Time to indulge our ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ consumerism

This is the sixth annual edition put out by the folks at the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

This is always a good post for Black Friday.

It’s been several years now since I scratched an itch to promote our American manufacturing by joining a (sadly ill-fated) venture called American Certified. One thing that short foray gave me, though, was a place on the mailing list of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a union-backed promoter of (you guessed it) American manufacturing. Its president Scott Paul is perhaps among those I’ve most quoted on this site, and arguably first among non-Maryland non-politicians.

The AAM has, over the last several years, created what they call their “Made in America Gift Guide.” It actually worked well hand-in-hand with an effort by the Patriot Voices group (the people who keep two-time Presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in the news on occasion) called the Made in the U.S.A. Christmas Challenge, but that challenge has seemed to go by the wayside, leaving AAM as the sole purveyor and promoter of American-made Christmas gifts.

This is year 6 for AAM and they picked at least one item from each state – 83 overall by my count. I thought Delaware’s selected entry this year was a little bit off the wall, but then again RAPA ships its scrapple around the country during holiday time (November to February.) It may not be the gift for everyone on your list, but I’m sure there are some who now live in other regions of the country who wouldn’t mind a taste of home.

But in a neat piece of irony (and no pun intended) the selected Maryland gift comes from an Eastern Shore company called Butter Pat Industries. Their claim to fame? Hand-crafted cast iron skillets, which have drawn the attention and raves from cooking aficionados. (That’s why I’ve never heard of them, since I burn water.)

Since I quote him so often, here’s what AAM’s Scott Paul had to say:

Everything on this year’s list is new, and many of the ideas came from readers like you.

We think there’s something for everyone on your gift list. Our team made sure to include a mix of items at a variety of price points.

If everyone in the United States spent $64 of their holiday budget on American-made products, it would support 200,000 new factory jobs! But we know it can be hard to find Made in America goods in big box stores or at the local mall.

By putting together this list, we hope to shine a spotlight on some great companies who support local jobs and their communities — and make it easier for folks like you to find great American-made gifts during the busy holiday season.

Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing press release, November 26, 2019.

Of course, they also strive to not repeat gifts from year to year so Delaware’s list has varied nicely over the years: baby accessories, unglazed cookware, handcrafted gifts and furnishings, Jell-O mix (!), and – of course – Dogfish Head ales. (Too bad they didn’t give the late lamented 16 Mile brewery the same love.) The Eastern Shore has also been represented in Maryland’s selection on a couple previous occasions, including Paul Reed Smith guitars.

So if one of your Christmas goals is to shop local, this guide is a pretty good place to begin. And the job you save may be that of someone you know.