At throats redux: Charlottesville edition

To be perfectly honest, I knew very little about the events in Charlottesville until well after they happened. I was in a vacuum of sorts because I was tuned out from the world, enjoying family and festivities surrounding my wife’s attaining her bachelor’s degree in this stage of her life as a University of Phoenix graduate. So while the family watched her and hundreds of her fellows walk onstage to accept their degrees at the newly-rechristened Capital One Center in Washington, D.C., a few dozen miles to the southwest a chaotic scene was unfolding. As I have since learned, Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old white woman who was a paralegal from the city, was killed when she was struck by a car reportedly driven by a 20-year-old white Ohio man, James Alex Fields, Jr. While Fields lives in my old stomping grounds (Maumee, Ohio is a suburb of Toledo) he grew up in Kentucky and is supposedly an “alt-right” Trump supporter.

You’ll notice I linked to the CNN story, but through the evening Saturday and into Sunday afternoon there were all sorts of different reports and rumors on what happened: different identities on the car driver and registration, people describing how the original protesters (dubbed “Unite the Right”) had their permit pulled, then restored, then pulled again while the counter-protesters never got a permit, a tale alleging the Unite the Right group was set up by the city for a beatdown by the “Antifa” and “Black Lives Matter” groups by ordering them to leave the park a certain way through their counter-protest, and so on and so forth. Obviously the Left blames the Right and the Right counters that the Left is really at fault.

But my question goes all the way back to the root of the problem. In the last several years, the city of Charlottesville – which is home of the University of Virginia – has become what is described as “progressive.” At one time it had parks named after Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, but no more. This latest controversy was about removing the statue of Robert E. Lee that graces what used to be called Lee Park; a statue put up decades after Lee’s death in 1870. (Unlike most other conflicts, in our War Between the States neither the leader of the opposition army nor government was executed for treason – Lee lived until a stroke and subsequent illness felled him five years later, while Confederate president Jefferson Davis was imprisoned for a few years but out of prison well before his death in 1889.) In his postwar days, Lee was best remembered for restoring what became known as Washington and Lee University while his former estate became Arlington National Cemetery. (In no small bit of irony, our family spent a good part of Saturday afternoon there after the graduation ceremony and our lunch.)

It’s also true that Lee turned down the opportunity to lead part of the Union forces as a colonel (his rank at the time the conflict began) because he felt more loyal to his home state of Virginia, which chose to join the Confederacy – this despite Lee’s personal opposition to secession.

So then we come to the reason people were in Charlottesville to protest. The “Unite the Right” had one very valid point in that there’s no good reason to remove this piece of history from its longtime place. If anything, more context should be added: why was Lee deemed important enough at the time to be so honored and what have we learned about him since? (To that end, three states still celebrate his January 19 birthday as a legal holiday; oddly enough, every few years it falls on the date we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. As another example, there is also federal law that equates Confederate veterans with Union veterans when it comes to grave markers.) In short, taking an honest look at Lee’s life and legacy would be more complex than simply boiling it down to the four years he spent leading a Confederate army, but most people don’t want to do that because it doesn’t suit their political purposes.

We then loop back to the events in Charlottesville. What we know is that there is a young man who’s being portrayed as one whose head is full of racist, neo-Nazi tripe and he stands accused of maiming innocent bystanders to the extent that one has died and several others were left in critical condition. We also know that this rally necessitated additional police coverage, and a police helicopter carrying two Virginia State Police officers crashed on Saturday, killing both men on board. All four of these lives were changed irrevocably and senselessly for no good reason, over an inanimate object.

And that same controversy roils locally on a smaller scale over another Civil War figure. Brigadier General John Henry Winder was a Union officer in the Mexican War but later served as the administrator of all the Confederate military prisons until his death just weeks before the Confederate States of America ceased to exist. Since he was born in what would become Wicomico County after his death, and the state needed something to commemorate the war with here after 100 years, we got a plaque that originally sat by where the Evolution brewery is now but moved to its present location around 1983. For 33 years this was no problem but then Donald Trump was elected and suddenly it became so. Oops, did I say that?

Why, yes I did. And despite the fact I didn’t vote for the guy and he’s generally the epitome of politically tone-deaf, in this case he’s getting a really raw deal. Trump puts out a statement on Saturday that may have seemed bland on the surface but was immediately panned for noting the “hatred, bigotry, and violence” came from “many sides.” So a couple days later he reiterated his disapproval and was regaled with a press reaction sort of like this: (courtesy of the Patriot Post)

So when the President went back to the more original tone today you had to know the media would crucify him once again, and again they miss the point. It took two sides to tango down in Charlottesville, and note that several previous events (such as the tiki torch rally the night before) had gone off without the violence. It was only when the BLM and Antifa side showed up that the clashes occurred. As for using a car as a deadly weapon, James Fields will have his day in court – if he survives that long. I’m sure the more conspiratorial among us are already trying to figure out just how their bogeyman du jour (George Soros, the Clintons, the Rothschilds, et. al.) will make his death look like a suicide. We know Fields will be in jail until then because he was denied bail.

For those of you who partake in such things, maybe the best answer to all this is to look to the Almighty in prayer. Pray for the families of Heather Heyer, and VSP troopers Berke Bates and Jay Cullen, who surely need comfort and strength through this difficult time of loss. Pray that this becomes a time of reflection and repentance for James Fields, to drive out the wickedness and hatred in his heart and turn his life in the right direction, and that others see this result and step back from the brink before it’s too late.

And pray for a nation that’s being torn asunder more each day by forces wishing to divide it. Pray that we once again remember that we are a nation that God blessed, and in return we should be grateful for our abundance. We are all part of His creation, so perhaps it’s time to remember Luke 6:31.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: July 2017

August 3, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comment 

July was a month where the Shorebirds marched through Georgia like William Tecumseh Sherman, compiling their first perfect two-stop road trip in at least 12 years and coming home in first place. Unfortunately that lead has melted away like a gallon of ice cream left out in the sun, but the Shorebirds are enjoying unexpected success due in large part to the players honored here this month.

While Jake Ring took home honors in April, it was his two usual counterparts in the outfield, Cole Billingsley and Ryan McKenna, who were vying for the honor in July – seemingly trying to outdo each other at every turn. Billingsley was hitting an even .250 when the calendar turned to July, but his hot month improved his overall average to a more solid-looking .270 mark. However, while his average has gone up Billingsley has become more of a slap hitter, with just three extra-base hits in July leading to an OPS of  just .718. Thus, what tipped the scale to his teammate Ryan McKenna was the latter’s .319 batting average, 5 steals, and .824 OPS – by far his best of the season and way above his numbers for May and June. While Billingsley picked up his average 20 points in July, McKenna did even better by going from .231 to .254 in the month, recovering a large part of what he lost in a two-month slump. On that aforementioned road trip to Georgia, Ryan was a hot hand as he went 11-for-27 in the seven games, including four doubles. (Ryan had 11 doubles for the month.)

Ryan is an Oregon native who was drafted out of high school in New Hampshire two years ago as a fourth-rounder, so a lot is expected of him. With this being his first opportunity to play full-season ball, McKenna has set career marks in most of his categories already, but he has shown some improvement in his all-around game so he’s tracking to make the jump to Frederick next year as a 21-year-old (he will turn 21 just before camp opens next spring.)

Besides Billingsley, another batter who had a month worth noting (albeit in limited spot duty) was infielder Tanner Kirk, who brought his average up above the Mendoza Line with a little room to spare.

On the other hand, there was no contest on the pitching side of the equation and it netted me my first-ever repeat Shorebird Pitcher of the Month in Alex Wells.

Here are the brief lines from Alex’s five July starts:

  • vs. Lakewood, 7 innings, 3 hits, 5 strikeouts.
  • at Hickory, 6 innings, 2 hits, 4 strikeouts.
  • vs. Rome, 6 innings, 4 hits, 5 strikeouts.
  • at Rome, 6 innings, 1 hit, 5 strikeouts.
  • vs. Greensboro, 6 innings, 3 hits, 7 strikeouts.

I did not mention runs or walks because there were none. Wells has not allowed a run since June 30 and last walked a batter June 25. Brett Barbier, then of Lakewood, was the last batter to walk off Wells, and it turns out Wells’ streak has outlasted the remainder of Barbier’s pro career as he’s since been released.

In the category of “duh”, the Orioles also selected Wells as their Minor League Pitcher of the Month. So the question now becomes what will happen with him?

He’s on pace for six more starts this season, and it seems to me that as long as the Shorebirds have a chance at the postseason he should stay here. Barring rainouts, Wells is actually lined up just right to start the first game of a postseason series on normal rest. And it’s not like he doesn’t have things to work on, despite the recent success – one is a penchant for giving up the longball. (Wells has allowed 13 this season, and consider the team has given up 66 collectively.) At 114 innings, the Orioles may also want to slow his workload down as well, so he may be cut back to 5 inning starts or skip a turn along the way.

In either case, when you have an ERA of 0 and a WHIP that comes in at 0.42 for the month, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be my pitcher of the month, again.

One more month and then we’ll line ‘em up and pick a Shorebird of the Year.

The first to step forward

We have barely made it six months into President Donald Trump’s term. And while Democrats were ready to oppose him from day one – Trump’s Presidential honeymoon lasted less than a nanosecond after he was sworn in – no one really expected the 2020 race to begin shaping up until we made it through the 2018 midterm elections.

But as further proof we now have a continuous campaign, the first somewhat serious candidate to enter the race on the Democrat side made his intention known Friday by foregoing another term in the House. Rep. John Delaney put an op-ed in the Washington Post on Friday that claimed he would be the candidate to “have an original approach to governing and an economic policy that can put us on a different course.”

Yet while the incumbent President is a businessman, Delaney thinks he’s not cut out to be a leader. “I think Trump, to some extent, is a punctuation of everything that has broken down with our politics,” said the Congressman in a separate WaPo interview.

So he’s going to do things a little differently.

As a progressive businessman, I’ve made it a priority to be solutions-oriented and have been consistently recognized as one of the most innovative and bipartisan members of Congress. I’ve done this by simultaneously celebrating the power of our free-market economy while insisting that there is a role for government to set goals and rules of the road and take care of those who are left behind.

And let me grab one more excerpt to illustrate his approach:

We need to be smarter, fueled by more investment in science, education and research. We need new ideas on the future of jobs and work, one where we build a stronger and more vibrant middle class. We need to encourage a more just and inclusive form of capitalism and reduce barriers to small-business formation, start-ups, job creation, investment and growth. We need to strengthen our safety-net programs and create a new social contract. We need to reform the systems of education, health care and immigration, and encourage more volunteerism, impact investing and public service. And we need to take affirmative steps to reduce our security, fiscal and climate risks. This is what my campaign will be about.

Let me begin at the top. Would it not be fair to say that, in order to have a truly free-market economy, there should be a minimum of government-set rules and goals and a maximum of market-set ones? I’m sure John didn’t wake up every day when he was building his businesses and say to himself, “Gee, how can I meet the specifications and expectations laid out for me by the federal government today?” I know I don’t say that when I consider what to write in my little space.

And the problem with the government taking care of those being left behind is that they become overly comfortable in that lifestyle and create generations that don’t aspire to anything more than living off the state.

As a Democrat, Delaney has to include the old canards about “investment” (read: more unnecessary spending) in science, education, and research. But what really reveals the game is the idea of a “more just and inclusive form of capitalism.” Capital is as just and as inclusive as the market participants, which I will agree goes in with reducing barriers. But those barriers should be reduced in such as way that no one gets an advantage for themselves – the problem is, as we all know, Democrats will rig the game for certain constituencies in order to buy their votes.

All in all, I’ve figured out just what Delaney’s campaign will be about: he will be the arbiter of everything. I mean, he already has a website for his campaign where he has the catchy “D” logo with a highway disappearing into the horizon, and in the video he has there he goes over just how wonderful and peachy everything will be if he’s in charge and in control of everything, because that’s what “progressive” policies entail – government calls the shots and you get what they grudgingly give you. One of the women on the video talks about what a great progressive businessman Delaney is to his employees, and that’s outstanding. But let that be his choice, not forced on every business whether they can afford it or not.

Yet there’s another point to be made here as well. Think back to this time on the calendar in 2009, when Barack Obama was perceived as popular – even if many of his policy ideas were not. On the other hand, there’s been little discussion about Trump’s policy ideas (aside from the GOP’s failed attempt to rid us of Obamacare, which Trump was more or less ambivalent about, in all honesty – after all, he was the one who introduced Republicans to the “repeal and replace” concept.) But if you transport yourself to the end of July 2009, the GOP presidential contest was thought to be Sarah Palin’s to lose – but she was months away from announcing her intentions, as were other 2008 and possible 2012 contenders. So Delaney’s entry into the race, well over 2 1/2 years before we deal with the snowy Iowa caucuses, either means Democrats are just chomping at the bit because they think they have 2020 in the bag or they are just trying to extend the perception of Donald Trump’s unpopularity. And who knows? The 2020 field for the Democrats may make the 2016 GOP field look small in comparison because EVERYONE who thinks they can be President will give it a shot. Maxine Waters, anyone?

There’s only been one President who was elected from being a sitting House member, and that’s James Garfield. (Technically, Delaney won’t be a sitting House member when elected since he’s dropping out of Congress after three terms.) Even so, I think that 140 year streak will be safe. But in any battle someone has to charge forward and take the arrows, and it looks like John Delaney is that guy. The only question is whether he will be first in, first out.

And somewhere Larry Hogan is breathing a sigh of relief. I’ve thought all along Hogan was most vulnerable to a Delaney challenge given their similar backgrounds, but it appears John has more ambition than to just be governor.

The betrayal

You know, since the events that led to the formation and rise of the TEA Party the Republican Party has promised to be our savior if only given the chance. After they successfully won the messaging battle over Obamacare in 2009-10 – aided by the ham-fisted, cynical fashion it was rammed through Congress and onto Barack Obama’s desk – the GOP won a smashing electoral victory that flipped the House just two years after the second of two successive wave elections convinced many political pundits we were on the verge of another decades-long run of Democratic dominance in Washington. While that success took a pause in 2012, perhaps because the Republicans nominated the originator of state-supported health insurance in Mitt Romney to face Barack Obama, the actual implementation of Obamacare beginning in 2014 resulted in yet another midterm electoral shellacking for the Democrats that November, costing them control of the Senate.

All along, Republicans told us these various steps along the way, once they won the House in 2010. First they whined that they only had one-half of one-third of the government, which sufficed as a campaign plank until 2014, when they won the Senate. Once they won the Senate, they actually passed a bill repealing Obamacare – of course, it was vetoed by Barack Obama and the votes weren’t there for an override. So now they needed the White House and then, once and for all, we could be rid of Obamacare.

July 26, 2017. The Senate has its chance to pass a nearly “clean” Obamacare repeal bill, with a majority of Republicans in the body. There’s no question such a bill would sail through the House and we have a nominally Republican president in Donald Trump who would be for repealing Obamacare – although he wanted to replace it, too. It just has to get through the Senate, and yet – it did not. Seven Republicans joined all 48 Democrats (as one would expect) in turning their back on the people who elected them.

So who’s in this Hall of Shame? Well, it’s mainly the usual suspects: Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nevada), John McCain (Arizona), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Rob Portman (Ohio). With the exception of Maine – where Trump won one of the state’s two Congressional districts (for one electoral vote) but lost overall – all these states went GOP in the last election, yet their Senators sided with the Democrats. And as President Trump noted, “Any senator who votes against repeal and replace is telling America that they are fine with the ObamaCare nightmare, and I predict they’ll have a lot of problems.” Yet only Heller faces the voters in 2018 – McCain, Murkowski, and Portman were just re-elected and the other three aren’t up until 2020.

The question now is how GOP loyalists are going to spin and explain this one away. To be quite honest, I think people have known for many moons that the Republicans were selling the voters a bill of goods but if you can’t keep your caucus together on something that’s been a fundamental promise for seven years then it’s clear even the fig leaf is gone. Despite their high-minded rhetoric, the GOP is now just as much the party of big government as the Democrats are. Now it’s just a question of which side gets the spoils.

And now where do those who believe in limited government go? They are now political orphans because the Republican Party just showed they aren’t willing to stand by those principles when push comes to shove.

41st annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

For some reason the vibe seemed a little different to me this time around – maybe it’s because this is the first one I’ve attended as an erstwhile political participant. But at 10:00 I rolled into town and got my ticket (this was a first, too – more on that in a bit) so I started looking around while I was there. Immediately I found there was still one constant.

Bruce Bereano probably brings half the people down there, and I’m not kidding. If you consider that the political people are a significant draw to this festival, and his massive tent is annually chock-full of Annapolis movers and shakers, one has to wonder just what would be left if he ever pulled up stakes. Would they have a crowd like this?

But the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce (as event sponsor) has its own ideas on VIP treatment.

For an additional $15 fee on top of the ticket price, you could get access to this tent with its amenities. It was an answer to some of the corporate tents that were doing this anyway. Many of those were still doing their thing.

Most of the people were already in line at 11:30 waiting on lunch. While the ticket says 12, if you wait until then you’re waiting for food.

But let’s face it: the media doesn’t really come here to see food lines, although that’s where I found this crew from Channel 47, WMDT-TV.

No, the real draw for this edition was the potential 2018 candidates. Until the last couple cycles, odd-numbered years were somewhat sleepy because the campaigns weren’t really underway yet, while the even-numbered years saw Tawes fall on a date less than two months before the primary. That’s now flipped on its head because the primary was moved up to June, so this is the last Tawes before the 2018 primary. So several contenders were out scouring for votes – none, I would say, moreso than this guy.

State Senator Jim Mathias (standing, in the gray shirt) has a huge target on his back that’s far larger than the logo on the front. He is the one Democrat Senator on the Eastern Shore, and the GOP sees his seat as a prime candidate for taking over next year as they need to flip five Senate seats to assure themselves the numbers to sustain Larry Hogan’s vetoes.

To that end, Mathias was the one candidate who had his own supporter tent. To me, that was interesting because most of the local Democrats that I know spent their time milling around the Mathias tent (wearing their own gray shirts) and didn’t hang out at the “regular” Democrat party tent.

Just a couple spots over from Mathias was the Somerset GOP tent.

Now you’ll notice I said Somerset. For whatever reason, Wicomico’s Republicans chose not to participate this year and there were few of my former cohorts to be found. Since that’s how I used to get my tickets, I had to make alternate arrangements this time. That’s not to say there weren’t Wicomico County Republicans there such as County Executive Bob Culver, Judge Matt Maciarello, Salisbury City Councilman Muir Boda, and many others – just not the Central Committee.

Closer to their usual back corner spot were the Democrats.

Their focus seemed to be more on the larger races, as even their state chair Kathleen Matthews was there. Here she’s speaking with Crisfield mayor Kim Lawson.

(Lawson has a smart-aleck sense of humor I can appreciate. When a photographer introduced herself as being from the Sun, he thanked her for making it a little cooler here than back home. I got it right away, she looked befuddled.)

The small posse you may have noticed in the original photo of the Democrats’ tent belonged to gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross, who eventually caught up to them at the tent.

I asked Ross what he would do differently than the current governor, and he said he would focus more on education. One thing I agreed with him on was something he called a Democratic “failure” – focusing too much on preparing kids for college when some aren’t college material and would be better suited for vocational training. But he limits himself in the palette of school improvement and choice to public and charter schools, whereas I believe money should follow the child regardless. Ross also has this pie-in-the-sky scheme about government credit to working moms for child care which I may not quite be grasping, but one assumes that all moms want to work. I think some may feel they have to work but would rather be stay-at-home moms.

The thing that stuck out at me was his saying that when two people disagree, at least one of them is thinking. You be the judge of who ponders more.

But the Democrats’ field for the top spot is getting so crowded that I got about five steps from talking to Ross and saw State Senator Richard Madaleno, another candidate.

Having done the monoblogue Accountability Project for a decade now, I pretty much know where Madaleno stands on issues – but I was handed a palm card anyway. Indeed, he’s running as a “progressive.”

And then there’s this guy. I didn’t realize he was talking to the state chair Matthews at the time, but I wonder if she was begging him to get in the governor’s race or stay out of it. I suspect state Comptroller Peter Franchot is probably happy where he is.

Franchot is probably happy because he works so well with this guy, the undisputed star of the show.

This turned out to be a pretty cool photo because I was standing in just the right spot to see his car swoop around the corner, come to a halt, and watch the trooper open the door for Governor Hogan to emerge.

If you follow me on social media you already saw this one.

Say what you will, and Lord knows I don’t agree with him on everything: but Governor Larry Hogan was treated like a rock star at this gathering, to a point where he could barely make it 50 yards in a half-hour.

This would have been of no use.

I said my quick hello to Larry moments before WBOC grabbed him for an interview, and that’s fine with me.

Here are two ladies who were probably glad he was there, too.

In her usual pink was State Senator Addie Eckardt, while Delegate Mary Beth Carozza was in her campaign blue. And since Carozza told me she treasures my observations, here are a couple.

First of all, it’s obvious that Jim Mathias is running scared because why else would he spend the big money on a tent and dozens of shirts for the volunteers that showed up (plus others who may have asked)? Not that he doesn’t have a lot of money – the special interests across the bridge make sure of that – but Mathias has to realize there is some disconnect between his rhetoric and his voting record. And he’s not prepping for a major challenge from Ed Tinus.

A second observation is that most of the Mathias signs I saw driving down there were flanked by signs for Sheree Sample-Hughes, and you don’t do that for a Delegate seat you were unopposed for the first time you ran. Something tells me Sheree has a higher goal in mind, but it may not one worth pursuing unless the circumstances were right.

One thing I found out from the Democrat chair Matthews is that at least two people are in the running against Andy Harris and were there. I didn’t get to speak with Michael Pullen, but I did get to chat for a bit with Allison Galbraith.

So when I asked her what she would do differently than Andy Harris, the basic response was what wouldn’t she do differently? We talked a little bit about defense, entitlements, and health care. Now she is against government waste (as am I) but I think my idea of waste is somewhat different. She also claimed to have saved some sum of money based on her previous work, but I reminded her she would be one of 435 and there seems to be a “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” mentality in Congress. (I should have asked her who she would pattern herself after as a Congresswoman.)

But in the end, I was hot, sweaty, sunburned, and dog tired. I will say, though, that despite the rancor that seems to be pervasive in our world these days when it comes to politics most of the people in Crisfield got along just fine. I think I was very bipartisan in speaking since I talked to many GOP friends and met some of these Democrat candidates I didn’t know so I had an idea who they were. And who knows? I haven’t checked yet, but I may be on the Sun‘s website – that same photographer Lawson joked with took my photo later while I was asking Ross questions and got my info.

By the time we do this next year, we will know who’s running for office and the campaigning will be more serious. So will the eating for the 50% that don’t care about politics and never wander by Bereano’s massive setup. As long as the Tawes event can cater to both they should be okay.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: June 2017

July 13, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off 

I promised when I did last month’s awards that this month I would do a first half in review, so here goes.

Over the last several years, our trend has been to have the better first half and fade in the second so the fact that we had a lackluster 29-39 first half that placed us 10 games in arrears to eventual leader Kannapolis doesn’t bode really well. And unlike a lot of other seasons I can recall, the team did not do a large-scale turnover at the All-Star break as no players were promoted to Frederick – those who were bound for Aberdeen had already long since left the scene. So there’s been little player movement since the second half began.

Statistically, the Shorebirds were a bottom-echelon team in most offensive categories, generally ranking outside the top 10 in the league. As far as pitching went, they were more toward the average but still tended toward the lower half. And the fact that there were no obvious standout players who just had to be promoted to Frederick says a lot about this team, which seems to be comprised of a large proportion of late-round draft picks for some reason. As of this writing, it’s worth noting that the top five hitters in average were respectively drafted in rounds 31, 19, 7, 21. and 15, while the best ERAs belong to pitchers drafted in rounds 33, 23, and 34 (three others were international free agents.)

So the fact that they are where they are in the standings may be reflective of their relative talent level compared to other squads loaded with blue-chip prospects. The success we may have will definitely be unexpected on paper, but it is why they play the games.

June provided a wide-open free-for-all competition for Player of the Month – there was no real standout. I could make legitimate arguments for four different players based on the factors of statistics, comparison to season performance as a whole, and comparison to expectations. Cole Billingsley, Rafael Palmiero, Alejandro Juvier, and Frank Crinella were all contenders for the prize, which Palmiero would have won in back-to-back months.

And while Alejandro Juvier started out July with a personal milestone, it was the great month preceding it that tipped the scales toward the Player of the Month honors for the versatile infielder. Juvier, who’s now played 53 games at second base, 17 at third base, and 5 at shortstop, hit a solid .288 in June (23-for-80) to lead the team in hitting, chipping in four doubles, a triple, and a home run with 8 RBI.  Stumbling along with a .221 average as the month began, Alejandro increased the mark to .244 by month’s end, setting monthly highs in most offensive categories and putting up a remarkable .760 OPS for the month (compared to a lifetime .595 mark.) Maybe the guy needs to shop for diamond rings more often.

It’s a significant improvement over the time he spent here last season, where he fell one AB short of the Mendoza line in 30 games, going 22-for-111 (a .198 average.) But aside from the 2015 season, where he somehow put together a slash line of .307/0/18/.742 OPS between the GCL Orioles (29 games) and Aberdeen (17 games), offense has been a challenge for the 21-year-old Cuban native whose family found its way to Miami and got Juvier into the Doral Academy Preparatory School, from which Juvier was drafted three years ago in the 15th round. (Juvier was the first player drafted from there; two others followed this year.) Alejandro carries only a .236 lifetime mark, and tossing out the aberrant 2015 season lowers it to a .220 number. So hitting over .280 for a stretch is big news, and worth celebrating. I’ve often noted that it sometimes takes a player a second time here to “get it,” but with perhaps the chance at another 200 or so plate appearances, Juvier could make a run at a nice mark around .260 with the same sort of effort.

Similarly to the position players, there were three pitchers I could have awarded this distinction to. It really came down to a trio who had good months in Lucas Humpal, Steven Klimek, and Matt Trowbridge – of the three, Humpal is the lone starter.

In the end, though, I opted to go with the best body of work overall and that belonged to Steven Klimek. Like Juvier, Steven spent a brief amount of time with the Shorebirds in 2016 and struggled, going 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in 10 1/3 innings. In June Steven made seven appearances, allowing 2 runs on 10 hits in 11 2/3 innings for a 1.54 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. (The WHIP was low because Klimek walked no one while striking out 14. This goes with a 45-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the season, in 44 innings.)

Klimek had either a tie or lead in all seven appearances, and there was only one instance where he failed to keep it – Kannapolis scored a run on him June 12 to tie the game, but the Shorebirds would win it in extra innings. Thus, he had a win and two saves in the month as Klimek has become the guy for high-leverage situations. Not bad for a 33rd round draft pick out of St. Bonaventure two years ago. Klimek is actually my oldest SotM honoree for this nascent award as he’s already turned 23.

Over the years I have seen this type of pitcher a lot – a guy with pinpoint control at this level who has issues when promoted because batters become more selective. Obviously that will be a test for Klimek when he moves up, since I see no reason why he shouldn’t get a chance in the coming months. But bear in mind he struggled his first time here, so he was one of those that “got it” the second time too.

Now that I have my internet back, I should be able to resume my regular schedule and do July’s Shorebird of the Month on August 3.

“It’s all about the f***in’ attitude…”

July 9, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

It’s probably been a decade or so, but once upon a time I picked up a used CD at a store that sold such things called “Full Bluntal Nugity.” As you may be able to guess, I’m a fan of Ted Nugent’s music and this album was a recording of a “Whiplash Bash” New Year’s Eve live performance he did many years ago in Detroit. The phrase in my title was a joking reference Nugent made to how he did his songwriting as part of the expletive-filled banter between songs. (I like Ted, but let me tell you the dude could make a sailor blush. Maybe he’s mellowed out a little bit as he approaches the age of 70?)

But what triggered me to think of the phrase (and I realize in this day and age that’s a loaded word) was the Scalise shooting that’s almost a month gone by now. (I actually didn’t intend the puns at first, but stuck with them.) With the schedule I keep these days I have less time for writing but I still have time to read social media, and on that medium I often check out what the Left has to say more than what my peeps on the Right have to say. And as is predictable in these cases, their sentiments often broke down into two categories, and generally without the fig leaf of well wishes for the victims that the politicians had to put up.

On the one hand, you had the crowd who thought the Republicans deserved this as karma for trying to take away people’s health care by repealing Obamacare. Setting aside the obvious fallacy of that mindset of deserving anything bad to happen to them for any action that’s legal – and, I would argue, more in accordance with the intention of those who founded our nation – the reality of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is that it’s a work in progress and there’s still going to be way more government involvement in our healthcare than there should be. Remember, many of the provisions that characterized Obamacare were untouched by the AHCA. Moreover, there are several states rushing to fill the gaps they perceive in the AHCA so their laws will likely supplement the federal regulations.

The other side of the coin was the usual banshee-like cry for more gun control, and this is the part I want to spend most of this post addressing. Like many people around this area, we are gun owners. Members of our family went out of their way to be legal gun owners, as a matter of fact, because they strive to be law-abiding citizens.

Those weapons that we have, however, even if they were laying around loaded, would not hurt anyone because (and I realize this is a stunning revelation to some) guns are inanimate objects. I could pull a handgun out of its safe place in our house, lay it in front of me, and stare at it for hours – it’s going to just sit there. No one will be injured. The only risk of someone being injured from that gun would be the exceptionally unlikely events of one of our cats knocking it off our table and it falling just the right way to discharge; meanwhile the random line of fire would have to actually strike someone.

So as the events unfolded in Alexandria and we learned more about the mindset of shooter James Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old retired home inspector from Illinois who identified himself as a leftist and supporter of Bernie Sanders for president last year, we once again saw the Right blamed for actions a member of the Left was participating in. But let’s look at two basic facts regarding the shooter here: he was born in 1951 and came of age in the Illinois town in which he last permanently lived.

Thus, Hodgkinson grew up in an era when he could have been sent to Vietnam, could have gone to Woodstock (although it appears he did neither), lived through Watergate and the energy crisis as a young adult, and was approaching middle age during the Reagan Revolution. Whatever the case, his story ended as he was living out of a van several hundred miles from home and hanging around a local YMCA, according to this somewhat sympathetic Washington Post feature. While he was married, Hodgkinson had a violent past and perhaps became moreso as he aged, regardless, the question has to be asked: what made him believe he was justified in picking up a rifle to attempt to kill people who presented no physical threat to him?

Moreover, one also has to ponder what Hodgkinson would have accomplished had he mowed down the entire field of Congressmen: would that have scared the remainder into inaction or simply redoubled their resolve? Maybe it would have been a moment not unlike the days after 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing, when Americans turned introspective regarding their place in the world. The AHCA may have been shelved for a time, but likely would have returned after the wave of special elections made necessary by the slaughter of Congressional membership, with most of the seats likely remaining in GOP hands and Democrats perhaps paralyzed by having to run campaigns against a wave of sympathy.

I don’t believe for a second that access to guns is the problem in this nation. Instead, I think what we need to access a better sense of morality, beginning with a newfound respect for life. Hodgkinson lived most of his adult life under the rules of Roe v. Wade, and ironically enough spent many years as a foster parent – so he dealt with a number of children who were deemed expendable by their parents. Just days before I began writing this piece in the wake of the Alexandria shooting last month, our city of Salisbury was rocked by two shootings in one night that left two men dead in separate incidents less than an hour apart – then last night two other men were gunned down at a local Denny’s restaurant.

You keep hearing about these gatherings where we are told violence is not the answer, but that message is being drowned out in a cacophony of cultural and political references:

(Respectively, Barack Obama reputedly paraphrasing the 1987 movie “The Untouchables”, Obama adviser Jim Messina, and Donald Trump.)

So which side is winning here? Is it the side with the attitude that life is something that should be treasured and preserved, and that differences in philosophy aren’t so great or insurmountable that they can generally be worked out with patient discourse and a little bit of compromise if it achieves something that’s good for everyone?

Or is it the side that takes the first sign of disrespect as the cue for escalating violence because it’s what they were taught and encouraged to do?

Whichever is the case, there is only one person over whom you have full control, and that is yourself. You determine your own attitude, so perhaps this is a good time to discuss turning the other cheek. I give you not just the verse (which comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount) but some context as well.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48, KJV)

How you approach life and how you approach others is the one thing you have control over. A good attitude can go a long way in making things better, but that is also something which needs to be encouraged in the culture by turning away from those who would tell you otherwise. Heck, even Nugent himself pledged to tone things down in the wake of the Alexandria incident and if he can follow through so can the rest of us. It truly is about the attitude.

The mid-Atlantic may be getting back into the game

This is one of those posts it took me a few days to write as life intervened, but it turns out to be a happy accident in this case.

While I’m certainly not been the biggest fan of Donald Trump as President overall, he has had his moments. Today he’s given Radical Green a conniption fit just by announcing he will make a formal declaration on whether we will remain in the Paris Climate Agreement tomorrow afternoon. It’s expected he will decide to withdraw, but there’s also a school of thought that believes it’s just a negotiating ploy to give America a better bargain than Barack Obama negotiated.

In the meantime, it looks like another of those moments may be the rebirth of something that was strangled in the crib during the last administration when they overreacted to the comparatively rare Deepwater Horizon disaster by eliminating the prospect of oil exploration off the mid-Atlantic coast.

In order to get to that point, though, a necessary step is to do seismic surveying. Remember when the environmentalists had a cow awhile back because they were talking about doing this for oil exploration, and it got everyone’s knickers in a wad all up and down the coast? Well, it turns out doing this can serve a lot of other interests as well, at least according to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke:

“Seismic surveying helps a variety of federal and state partners better understand our nation’s offshore areas, including locating offshore hazards, siting of wind turbines, as well as offshore energy development,” said Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Allowing this scientific pursuit enables us to safely identify and evaluate resources that belong to the American people. This will play an important role in the President’s strategy to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign energy resources.”

The last G&G seismic data for the Mid- and South-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OSC) were gathered more than 30 years ago when technology was not as advanced as today. Aside from providing data on potential offshore oil and gas resources, seismic surveys are also used to site offshore wind structures, locate potential seafloor hazards, locate potential sand and gravel resources for beach replenishment activities, and locate potential archaeological resources. Data from seismic surveys also assists the Department in determining Fair Market Value of offshore resources.

It was also over 30 years ago that a series of exploratory oil wells were drilled and capped off the New Jersey and Delmarva coastline, with the closest to us being about 80 miles ESE of Ocean City. At the time it was determined this was essentially a dry hole, but the exercise was useful as a study of the ocean floor and substrate below. So if the same is true now, I wonder why the environmentalists are so afraid of exploratory drilling and seismic surveying? Maybe because they know as well as I do that there’s a significant amount of oil out there, and it would keep the price of oil affordable enough to undercut the subsidies needed to keep renewables competitive?

And last week’s update from Energy Tomorrow was doubly interesting because not only did it have the release regarding the seismic surveying, it also had a small news item that pointed to a new, soon-to-be-released (and peer-reviewed) three-year study that concluded fracking has no effect on groundwater. (Are you listening, Larry Hogan? There’s still time to reconsider your foolish ban on fracking in this state before your election next year.)

Of course, the study authors did have a caveat to their findings:

In contrast to groundwater samples that showed no evidence of anthropogenic contamination, the chemistry and isotope ratios of surface waters (n = 8) near known spills or leaks occurring at disposal sites mimicked the composition of Marcellus flowback fluids, and show direct evidence for impact on surface water by fluids accidentally released from nearby shale-gas well pads and oil and gas wastewater disposal sites.

Now I know the Radical Green folks will be going “SEE! SEE! I BET YOU CAN LIGHT THAT WATER ON FIRE!!!” However, it seems to me one could easily have the same contaminating type of effect from a sanitary sewer overflow, underground tank leak, or EPA incident. The key words are “accidentally released,” and companies that want to stay in the business have a duty and legal obligation to be as careful as possible.

But this blows away one key argument from fracking opponents, not that they are much for using logic anyway.

With the right mindset and private-sector infrastructure investment, this region of the country could finally be energy self-sufficient on its own. The job created could be yours.

Seeing the other side

I have seen a number of people who I count among my friends fall on the other side of an issue where I’m not certain they’re seeing the proper perspective.

If you look at the situation from the world’s view, Maddi Runkles is being punished because she became pregnant and chose not to abort that pregnancy; yet despite that commendable pro-life stand she is being denied the honor of taking the stage to accept her diploma, among the other discipline handed down by the Heritage Academy, a Christian school in Hagerstown.

However, I look at it from the standpoint of a Christian, and perhaps more importantly, that of a step-parent who could theoretically very well be in the exact same situation as Kim and I have a daughter in a Christian school. So as I was reading some of the reaction from my friends (and their friends) on social media, I was led to the statement from the school, or as one particular friend put it, the group of “lost souls, despite what they are ‘preaching.’” Since this is probably creating more traffic in a week for the school than their website previously received in the last year, their front page has this statement so I’m choosing to reprint it for posterity when this all eventually dies down and the school returns to normal. (Otherwise, the link will point incorrectly.)

Dearest Heritage Family:

As I begin, please understand that my wife and I have fallen in love with the people of Heritage Academy.  Therefore, it is for Heritage’s protection that I write this.

The main reason I have been silent to this point is because in disciplinary situations, each Heritage family deserves confidentiality. The conduct of your children is not everyone’s business. This perspective would have been the best way to deal with Maddi Runkles’ disciplinary situation. However, her family has chosen to make her behavior a public matter. Before sending this letter, I contacted Scott Runkles who gave me permission to discuss this publicly. In my thinking, these were the two to protect: first Maddi, then Heritage, in that order. Unfortunately, both are now being hurt by those who do not know or understand the situation. For this sole reason, I am now willing to comment publicly.

Let me clarify some facts. Maddi is being disciplined, not because she’s pregnant, but because she was immoral. The Student Pledge which every student from 5th grade through 12th grade signs states that this application of Philippians 4:8 “extends to my actions, such as protecting my body by abstaining from sexual immorality and from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs”.  Heritage is also pleased that she has chosen to not abort her son. However, her immorality is the original choice she made that began this situation. Secondly, she will receive her diploma that she has earned.

Much has been said about grace. I believe that there are two kinds of grace: saving grace and living grace. One is concerning spiritual birth “once and for all” (Hebrews 9:12, 10:10) which demanded no effort on my part, because my Savior Jesus, finished this on His cross and from His empty tomb. The other kind of grace is spiritual growth that does demand my effort (2 Peter 3:18). It also includes discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11). A wise man told me that discipline is not the absence of love, but the application of love. We love Maddi Runkles. The best way to love her right now is to hold her accountable for her immorality that began this situation.

As I conclude, I have two concerns. First, I am concerned that my Heritage family feels that the Board and I are harsh, cruel, hard-hearted men. Nothing can be further from the truth. We have spent countless hours in prayer and discussion. The Board has listened to three appeals from the Runkles family and compromised all three times. Secondly, I am concerned about our graduation ceremony on the evening of June 2nd. That night, I want God to be glorified in a dignified manner. Please enable us to do this.

With deepest sincerity,

David R. Hobbs

Administrator

(All emphasis mine.)

Before I go on, I want to add the context of Phillippians 4:8 that their Student Pledge is apparently based upon:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

In so many words, do the things which are good and which are right based on the Biblical values being taught in the school.

But let me step away from the Biblical and moral for a moment and consider the practical. Whether a young lady is taking birth control pills or not, whether the young man is wearing his own protection or not, whenever there is sex there is always the possibility of unplanned pregnancy as has occurred in Maddi Runkles’ case. And bringing a baby into the world as an unwed couple means the child is more likely to grow up in poverty and/or with single parents, neither of which are the more desirable outcomes. That’s not me talking, that’s a statistical fact: the best way for a couple to avoid poverty is to finish their schooling and find work, get married, and then have kids – in that order.

Most of those people who are taking issue with the school are saying they are punishing her for doing the right thing insofar as having the child; but the problem remains that she violated the school code and she faces a punishment for doing so. However, the punishment cannot be given to both participants because the young man does not attend the school, and the truly unfortunate fact of life is that, for boys (even if they attended that school and got a non-student pregnant) they could get away with doing the same thing Maddi did because they’re not going to get pregnant and it’s quite likely they could deny getting the girl pregnant until there’s no need to anymore. (It would be his word against hers.) It’s not fair, but neither is life.

I can’t speak to this for a fact, but as I read this there was the distinct possibility the school could have expelled Runkles immediately without giving her a diploma. We don’t know what other previous transgressions (if any) may have occurred involving her, either, but we do know that she has been made out to be the victim in this case because she lost out on the privilege of receiving her diploma with her classmates. But what she has lost out on are just her privileges. She will still be a graduate of Heritage Academy and can do with that what she will.

To me, the reaction to this story coincides very well with the reaction to the news about the group of graduating students who made the public show of walking out on Vice-President Pence as he delivered commencement remarks at Notre Dame last week. Those who thought the students were justified seem to also believe this school should bend its rules to allow Runkles to receive her diploma because she deserves it, despite one incident of wrongdoing (that we are aware of.) On the other hand, people like me who think the Notre Dame students should have handled the situation differently (perhaps by boycotting the ceremony entirely) are more likely to believe the school should remain firm in enforcing its rules.

One final thought. I’ve seen a number of comments from people, particularly of the Millennial generation, that basically run along the line of “well, no wonder they’re having a hard time getting kids to come to Christian schools when you have such draconian, backward rules.” I agree, to a point: for example, I could understand the girls being pleased about being able to wear pants because they ditched the skirts-only rule a few years ago at our school. Small stuff like that isn’t worth sweating over.

But the larger stuff, such as alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and premarital sex? Such prohibitions are among those I find entirely appropriate for a Christian school. And yes, I think it is appropriate to expect Biblical-style morals from our children. Why should we settle for less when we see the results in the world today?

As parents, our charge is simple, and it’s reflected, among other places, in Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

That’s not to say any parent will do a perfect job, but there’s a reason it works best when a couple gets to know one another well enough to make a commitment to be wed then prayerfully and reverently embarks upon the job of rearing children (and even then it’s not foolproof.)

Apparently the plan was different for Maddi Runkles. I hope and pray when graduation is over she has a healthy baby and she and the father decide to do what’s right. I also hope and pray that the fifteen minutes of fame she receives for this episode, good and bad, will be gentle about chewing her up and spitting her out (as I’m sure it will, because that’s the fate of most “average” people thrust into the limelight so someone can make a point.)

Finally, I pray that the Heritage Academy weathers the storm sure to come from a world that’s sure it’s right but knows nothing of the sort. If I were them, the only people who need to be at their graduation a week from Friday are the graduates, their families, and invited guests. The media wouldn’t care a whit about whatever number of solid Christian graduates the Heritage Academy (and other schools like it) send into the world any other time, so why indulge them now?

A few thoughts on the prospects to “repeal and replace” Andy Harris (and Obamacare, too)

The other day I noticed on social media that our Congressman, Andy Harris, had put up a post explaining his vote for Trumpcare 2.0, the “repeal and replace” bill for Obamacare. (Most people refer to it as the American Health Care Act, or AHCA.) At the time I saw this there were 1,043 comments on his post and probably 80 to 90 percent of them were negative. I can guarantee you that 80 to 90 percent of his district doesn’t oppose his vote, but thanks to this so-called “Indivisible” movement we are seeing some of the most seriously squeaky wheels get the grease that comes from taking 30 seconds to write the linguistic equivalent of “you suck!” on his wall. So I took about five to ten minutes to write my response, because there was a little research involved.

1,043 comments, mostly from people who probably didn’t vote for Andy in the first place, vowing he’s going to lose in 2018. Y’all need about 139,000 more folks.

In terms of repealing the disaster known as Obamacare, this was the correct vote, We have a long way to go in the process and it’s way too early to say what will happen in the Senate (except that regardless of what it is, Maryland’s Senators will vote no.)

Oh, and by the way, I just checked out that Allison whats-her-name and if she’s praising NARAL she’s not getting too far in this district. Most of us stand for life.

Also, since you are on the subject of town halls up and down the thread, could you get those aforementioned Senators down here to have one? Interesting how I never hear anyone clamoring for that.

I have to admit I was only being semi-flippant when it came to “Allison whats-her-name” because I had closed my window and honestly didn’t feel like looking it up. Her name is actually Allison Galbraith and she makes her living from, of all things, steering companies to government contracts. I kid you not.

But to begin this piece I want to address the two people who replied directly to my comment, whose names are Gail Jankowski and Bill Schwartz. I’m going to quote their opening sentences here, ladies first.

Gail: We will get MORE than enough votes to replace him because more and more constituents are learning just how negatively this AHCA will affect them!

Bill: Maryland is a Blue State and we need to ensure that the first district is fairly represented.

I’m sure Gail and Bill are nice enough people, and in her case she gets bonus points for (at least presumably, judging by the surname) marrying into a Polish family. (By the same token, I won’t take any points from Bill just because his ancestors insisted on unnecessary consonants.) But they seem to have a slim knowledge of political reality.

What the vast majority of people “know” about the AHCA comes from the talking points being fed to them from the media, which isn’t exactly a set of unbiased observers. But the 2018 campaign won’t begin in earnest for another 15 to 16 months, and what I’ve found out over the years, Gail, is that the issue you may think will drive the electorate this far out isn’t always the one that is front and center by the time people really begin to pay attention, let alone when votes are cast. The big difference between the era of the TEA Party eight years ago in the Obama administration and the Indivisible movement now is, while both are having a discussion about health care as a topic in the off-year before the election – although Obamacare was more dominant in the fall and winter of 2009 – the economy was much, much worse back then. If the economy is in good shape come the fall of 2018, the AHCA will be a minor issue by comparison. People generally vote with their pocketbooks, and the reason the 2010 election was such a wave was the pent-up outrage at an administration that addressed health care before job creation and the economy. (The sticker shock effects of Obamacare were the reason for the 2014 wave election, since it took effect in earnest that year.)

So if the economy remains in decent shape, the AHCA will be so minor of a concern by then that Andy Harris will once again get his 60-65% of the vote and cruise to victory. You see, Bill, Maryland is indeed (and unfortunately) such a blue state that our previous governor and the Democrats got greedy – or at least as greedy as their incumbent Democrat Congressmen would allow them to be. I’ve made this point before, but if the composition of the First Congressional District were the same in 2008 as it became in 2012, Andy Harris would be on his fifth term. By erasing the northern half of Carroll County from the previous configuration of the Sixth Congressional District and adding it to the First, it assured whoever the GOP puts up in the First District will win because the plurality of the state’s Republican voters now reside in the First, and it’s by a factor of almost 50% more than any other district. So based on the electorate of the district the First is fairly represented. (The rest of the state? Well, they are just poorly represented, but I’m working on that.)

So now let me turn to another aspect of social media. My friend Sarah Meyers, who describes herself as a proud moderate Democrat (and is a member of our county’s central committee) was distraught about the passage of the American Health Care Act, claiming, “The Republican House just voted to allow insurance companies to deny me healthcare.”

Now I’ll set aside the false conflation of actually having health care provided and paying for it, since there are other methods of doing so out there, but my response essentially noted that she is in the minority of people who are net beneficiaries of the ACA in terms of paying less. Those who get their insurance through their employer are paying far more, a fact that she chalked up to the “greed” of the insurance companies. But the “greed” is tempered by the fact that group insurers have to pay out 80 to 85 percent of their premium income on medical care, leaving the remainder for “administration, marketing, and profit.” Since neither administration nor marketing are free, one can presume these insurers are not rolling in profit. This “medical loss ratio” is part of the ACA and may be one reason why insurers are dropping out of the business.

One of the next arguments I got was that the ACA “saves lives,” presumably because those who could not afford insurance or were no longer being tossed off for the various reasons of pre-existing conditions, lifetime limits, and so forth were being covered. But the evidence of this is anecdotal at best, and rather dubious in the amount of inference that has to be made. It truly depends on the source, but the best scholarly guess is a net wash. Even some of the partisans concede it’s a bogus argument. And while there’s always the emotional appeal of someone who can come out and claim they are a survivor because they had health insurance through Obamacare, it’s pretty difficult to speak with someone who didn’t because Obamacare made their deductible too expensive.

The most radical solution offered up was the old single-payer bromide, from local leftist Chuck Cook:

Single payer is the only solution, and it has been proven to work in every single industrialized first world nation on the planet… except ours. We are the outlier due to conservative ideology that honors the wealth of billionaires over the health of children.

Uh…..no. Honestly, we’re very close to having a single-payer system in place here given the lack of competition in many places and tight regulations on the health insurance industry in terms of how much they can make, what they must cover, and how they conduct their business. Basically it would be a Medicare/Medicaid for All system and you can just ask a doctor (whose Medicare reimbursement increased a whopping 0.24% this year, with Medicaid reimbursement being a fraction thereof) how they like it or check out study outcomes, as the left-leaning Kaiser Family Foundation did recently, noting…

Multiple studies, though not all, have documented improvements in beneficiaries’ self-reported health, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved quality of life following Medicaid expansions. The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, which used a research design that is considered the gold standard, compared the experience of adults who gained and adults who did not gain Medicaid coverage through a lottery that allocated a limited number of new Medicaid “slots” for low-income uninsured adults in the state. The study found that Medicaid improved self-reported mental health and reduced clinically observed rates of depression by 30% relative to the uninsured group. The findings related to impacts on physical health were mixed. Medicaid increased the detection of diabetes and use of diabetes medication, but did not have a statistically significant effect on control of diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. The researchers note that the study did not have sufficient statistical power to detect changes in these measures, and also that factors including missed diagnosis and inappropriate or ineffective treatments, among others, could mitigate the impact of coverage on clinical outcomes.

…to see if this meets your definition of “proven to work.” For me it’s lacking.

I think both sides agree, though, that the problems with the system are defined simply: access and cost. The government’s solution was twofold: one side was to force everyone into the insurance market whether they wanted to be or not (hence, the “shared responsibility payment”) so that the healthy people would balance out the sick and the other side was to try and make preventative care cost nothing out of pocket, but the problem with that is doctors aren’t going to work for free because they have families to feed, too. And thanks to all of the billing and coding concerns we have with modern government medicine, a good percentage of the staff in any doctor’s office is the overhead required to deal with billing and not there for patient care. (It’s akin to the number of administrators in a school system who don’t educate children.) In other words, “free” is the extra $2,000 on your deductible or $40 a week out of your paycheck.

One analogy often used as a comparison to health insurance is auto insurance, which is also mandatory in most states (New Hampshire is the lone holdout.) However, when you buy auto insurance it does not cover oil changes, new tires, and other mechanical issues. Similarly, the original intent of health insurance was to cover the medical bills in case you were hospitalized, as opposed to supplemental insurance like AFLAC which covers other expenses.

The idea of insurance is that of calculating and sharing risk among as many participants as possible. Let’s say you have a group of 1,000 40-year-olds whose lives are all insured for $100,000 and you know four of them will die on the average in a given year. You then know your premium pool will have to be set to $400,000 plus an amount set aside for the off-chance of a year where more than 4 die, plus administrative expenses, plus a little for shareholders. If you assume those other expenses total $300,000, then each participant would pay $700 a year to be insured for $100,000 if they die, which they may find is a prudent and affordable hedge against that risk as they have families to support. It would be impossible for a group of 2 or 10 to be able to do this, but over a thousand people it’s very attainable.

However, what we now have with health insurance isn’t truly insurance because there is so much mandated coverage and the risks are highly unpredictable. Nor are they being shared among all the participants equally because some are paying themselves through their employer, some are being subsidized for their coverage by the government, and others are completely on the government dime. Because a large amount of the money comes from funds never seen by the buyers (deducted from their checks, or just plain subsidized) they don’t much care what treatment costs, just their premiums and deductibles.

So let me return to the car insurance analogy. You have to have car insurance, and it has to be minimum coverage, but after that the market is relatively free and there are a whole lot of competitors. If you get tired of Allstate because they raised your rates 50% for no good reason, there’s always Progressive. When Flo gets too annoying, Jake from State Farm will be happy to help. If you don’t like them, we have local independent agents. They compete on price, coverage, and service – so why can’t that be the case with true health insurance, too? And what I mean by “true health insurance” is that you select what you want to cover from the options provided by the companies, or you can skip it altogether. (Or, the option for employers to provide group coverage can be left in place as well, as I’ll get to in a moment.)

I can already hear the Sarah Meyerses of the world screaming “but pre-existing conditions!” Yes, there can be high-risk pools created for those at the state level, or even groups of states can create a compact to make the pool even larger and share the cost among more people. If states want to create incentives for employers to provide insurance, that’s fair game as well. I happen to think the Tenth Amendment is the part of the Constitution that’s supposed to be most flexible, allowing states to do a large number of things that should be off-limits to the federal government. I may or may not agree with them, but that is their right to do so. There’s very little need for federal involvement in health care at all – certainly nowhere near the amount we have now.

I’m sorry to break this to Chuck Cook, but the United States isn’t like the rest of the “industrialized first world.” We are a constitutional republic where the federal government is intended to be limited, not maximized and in control of everything. (It’s also worth mentioning that the wealth of our billionaires – and the talent of a lot of other, less well-to-do American people – is quite often freely given to assist in promoting the health of people both here in America and around the world. Here’s a great local example.) So the idea that we don’t have single-payer health care is one of those rare things that’s still a feature of ours and not a bug. That’s not to say it can’t stand some serious improvement, though.

Let’s just see if we can’t make it more in conformance with what our great American experiment in liberty is supposed to be all about, mmmmkay?

About my hiatus

I see I have a select few who have stuck around.

In the month of April I put up a whopping two posts. after just eight in March. That point in my life I had long feared would come had arrived, a point where I had a lot on my plate combined with very little desire or passion to comment on the political news. Whether that’s the result of stepping away from the arena as I did last summer or just a realization that a lot of what I have done over the last decade was so much beating my head against the wall on so many levels is something others may speculate upon. All I know is that the spirit to open up the back side of my website and post my thoughts for the world to see wasn’t there enough to convince me to make it a priority.

But I do have the space, and it pays for itself as long as certain posts are placed there, so I may as well use it once in awhile, right?

Truth be told, there are three things that are overwhelming in this world: the amount of information that is at one’s fingertips when they learn to surf the World Wide Web, the amount of influence and power exhibited by government at all levels – which, in part, we can learn about from the internet – and, finally, the number of people who style themselves as political pundits who are trying to grab an audience that’s probably shrinking in terms of readers of the long-form commentary that’s my preferred method of communication. Once upon a time bloggers were the new, hip thing, but now people are looking to Tweets, video, or violence in the street to state their case. Nowadays you can get a lot more attention standing in the street holding a sign and blocking traffic than spending a couple hours researching points, formulating arguments, and making the argument to influence the discourse in 1200 to 1500 words. Donald Trump can dash off a Tweet and reach millions of people, so when was the last time he wrote an opinion piece? (Okay, it wasn’t that long ago. But he still employs Twitter way, way more.)

But I hate Twitter, have no desire to do video or a podcast because I know I’m not an eloquent speaker, and don’t really have any reason to block traffic in the street. So here I sit, writing again.

Yet there is so much going on that I have no idea if I could keep to a particular topic. Those of you who have stuck with me in my post-political phase that began last summer know I did not like Donald Trump, did not vote for him, and did not expect a whole lot to move in my preferred political direction when he shocked the world and won the Electoral College vote. I will give him credit for creating a perception the economy is improving despite glacial growth in terms of GDP. It is interesting to note there, though, that:

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter reflected positive contributions from nonresidential fixed investment, exports, residential fixed investment, and personal consumption expenditures (PCE), that were offset by negative contributions from private inventory investment, state and local government spending, and federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. (Emphasis mine.)

And this got my interest piqued. So I did a little bit of looking and found this item from my old friends at Americans for Limited Government, which says in part:

(W)hen government spending is included as a component of GDP, and then is held steady or cut…it weighs down the GDP on a nominal basis. And when spending increases…it boosts the GDP nominally speaking. This is an inherent bias of the first order in favor of government expenditures when measuring the health of the economy. (Emphasis in original.)

So perhaps Donald Trump is on to something if government spending is down. Too bad he wants to spend more by not reforming entitlements. Meanwhile, his discretionary budget is pretty much a wash as the $54 billion he would cut from other programs is spent on defense – admittedly, a more Constitutional mandate but one that simply flat-lines the government. And it’s doubtful his budget blueprint will survive unscathed, meaning that spending is bound to increase yet again.

I did some looking on various websites and found that, interestingly enough, as the Y2K scare receded our GDP crossed over the $10 trillion barrier, coming in at $10.031 trillion for Q1 2000. As of Q4 2016 it was calculated at $18.8694 trillion for a 16-year increase of 88.11%. Meanwhile, the federal budget went from $1.863 trillion for FY2001 (the last Bill Clinton budget, which had a modest surplus thanks to the GOP Congress) to $3.854 trillion for FY2016, which was the last full year under Barack Obama and added $587 billion to the deficit. Government spending grew 106.87% during that time, while cumulative inflation was just 39.4% – at least according to the government.

I’m no economic genius by any stretch of the imagination, but I would suspect having GDP growth exceed inflation is good, but having government spending (which is a component of GDP) increase more quickly than either is a bad sign. If you take away the government spending component the question is whether GDP growth is still ahead of inflation. Maybe it’s not.

But who profits from that? I will grant there is certain government spending that adds value: if someone in the federal DOT had the gumption to have an interstate highway built between here and I-95 by Wilmington, not only would the money create local construction jobs on Delmarva but the greater ease in access to and from points north like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia would be good for local tourism and industry by making it easier to get here and transport there.

On the other hand, simple wealth transfers from rich to poor (welfare, Medicaid) and young to old (Social Security, Medicare) don’t add much in the way of value except in the sense that their care and feeding keeps a few thousand paper-pushers employed. But they are not creating value as their wages are extracted from those dollars others earn with work that adds value like mining, manufacturing, services like architecture and construction, and so forth. (Did I mention that I’m once again a registered architect in Maryland?)

So if you know this and I know this, why is the system remaining as is? I believe more and more that there is a group of well-connected people and entities who make their fortunes by gaming the system. Instead of government being a neutral arbitrator, they seem to be putting their thumb on the scale to favor those who now participate in an ever-widening vicious cycle of dependency and rent-seeking. To me, things should be fair for everyone with equal treatment in the eyes of the law but greed and lack of respect for one’s fellow man has changed the Golden Rule to “he who has the gold, rules.”

Surely, then, I’m asked why I don’t like efforts to overturn the Citizens United decision? I look at it this way: money in politics wouldn’t be a problem if there were no money in the honey pot for one’s sticky fingers to clutch on to. If the federal government did just what they were Constitutionally mandated to do, it wouldn’t matter in the least who gave campaign cash to who because the limits of government would mean lobbyists would have to make an honest living.

Consider that I’ve been riffing on this theme for over a decade and you’ll understand why I need a break sometimes. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve though, including the 2017 edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project. I think that’s going to be easier to compile because there are so many veto votes to use. Hopefully that will be done the first week of June, so we’ll see how this year’s General Assembly session stacks up.

And to be honest, it’s work I truly enjoy doing. Maybe that’s what keeps me going despite the lack of progress in changing things, so off to work I go.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: April 2017

May 4, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off 

After I decided to retire the Shorebird of the Week feature at the end of last season, I still felt something was in order to express my fandom and admiration. So I decided (after some thought) to do a Shorebird of the Month, then it occurred to me that both position players and pitchers should be so honored as most organizations that give awards such as those tend to do.

This award will be subjective to the point where it won’t just be based on statistics, but also on whether a player exceeded the expectations one could reasonably place on him. A good case in point was my Shorebird of the Year for 2016, Yermin Mercedes. Here was a guy who had been released by one team, went to play in the independent leagues to keep his dream alive and was rewarded by latching on with the Orioles organization. I knew he could hit based on his previous campaigns, but there were reasons to expect a so-so season from him last year: his numbers slipped when repeating a level for the third time in his previous organization, his best hitting season came in a league where hitting an even .300 would put you somewhat below the league average, and he only hit .272 the season before for the Shorebirds – quite solid for a catcher, but could he do that well a second time? He definitely exceeded my expectations by winning the SAL batting title.

I would expect a guy like Manny Machado (or Ryan Mountcastle from last year) to take the South Atlantic League by storm. And having seen enough 20th round or later picks come to this level and have their weaknesses exploited by opposing pitchers or hitters, I have a pretty good idea of what a player’s ceiling is expected to be. Go back seven years to the 2010 draft (which featured Manny Machado as the #1 pick) and you will find the Orioles drafted 49 players that season. Out of those 49 players, five made it to the majors: Machado (1st round), Parker Bridwell (9th round), Chi Chi Gonzalez (11th round), Scott Copeland (21st round), and Tim Adleman (24th round.) While Machado and Bridwell debuted with the Orioles, Gonzalez was not signed and was later a 1st round pick; meanwhile, both Copeland and Adleman were released by the Orioles in 2012 and made The Show with the teams that eventually signed them, Toronto and Cincinnati, respectively. Adleman played for two seasons in independent league baseball before the Reds snapped him up.

Just five other players from that Baltimore draft are still active in lower levels: Matt Bywater (7th round) was in the Braves’ organization and independent baseball last season, but hasn’t yet latched onto a team for 2017. Wynston Sawyer (8th round) was an Orioles’ farmhand until the end of last year, but now the six-year free agent plays in the Dodgers’ chain. Both Bywater and Sawyer have only advanced to AA ball.

The other three were high school players who opted to sign later when drafted by other clubs. Between those three active players, they have played a combined one game beyond the advanced-A level.

That covers just 10 players out of 49. Out of the other 39, seven did not sign with the Orioles, 2 made it to AAA Norfolk (34th rounder Sammie Starr – for one game – and 42nd rounder Jake Pettit), 4 never advanced past AA (rounds 3, 10, 17, and 30), 7 could not get past advanced-A (rounds 4, 5, 13, 14, 15, 18, and 28), 7 were stopped at Delmarva’s level (selections 22, 23, 29, 31, 37, 40, and 48) and a whopping 12 never broke out of rookie league, covering rounds 19, 20, 25, 26, 33, 35, 36, 38. 39. 43, 44, and 47.

To make a long story short, I would be as impressed if a 35th rounder comes in and can be about league average as I would be with a first rounder hitting .380 and home runs by the bushel. There’s also track record to consider as well, since we have had many players who finally “got it” at this level and went on to be successful.

There is one other note I want to pass along: to start, there are no photos attached. Eventually I will have photos of the players in question, but some pitchers are harder to get than others. Once I have photos from both I’ll add them to the post.

With all that introduction now out of the way, allow me to introduce you to my Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month for April, 2017.

The Player of the Month is outfielder Jake Ring.

After the Shorebirds’ initial road trip, Ring was hitting just .190 (4-for-21.) But he loved home cooking so much that in the seven-game opening homestand the Shorebirds had against Hagerstown and Greensboro Jake went an amazing 12-for-17 against the Suns and 4-for-11 versus Grasshopper pitching. Folks, that’s 16-for-28, or a .571 average with a homer, 12 RBI, and an absolutely mind-boggling OPS of 1.696 – the slugging percentage was also over 1.000 thanks to a total of 10 extra-base hits.

Overall in April Ring played in 20 games, hitting .359/3/19/1.085 OPS. As of this writing (through games of May 3) Ring is still second in the SAL in average, leads in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) and the associated slugging percentage (he’s sixth in on-base percentage), third in doubles, tied for the lead in triples, tied for eighth in home runs, second in RBI, and second in total bases.

His season-opening exploits led Jake to be named 2017′s first SAL Player of the Week, covering April 4-14. It’s a far cry from the struggles he had with Delmarva at the tail end of last year, where he began his Shorebird career hitless in his first 10 at-bats before finally breaking through in the eighth inning of the season finale September 5. He would add another hit in the 10th inning of a game the Shorebirds won later that frame, finishing 2-for-12 in the three games. The 31st round selection from last year, out of Ingleside, Illinois by way of the University of Missouri, Jake spent the previous portion of the 2016 season hitting .278/0/21 in 53 games for the Orioles’ Gulf Coast League team – but that would be somewhat expected against a league where many of the players are either fresh from high school, coming from lightly-regarded or smaller college programs, or just arrived from the even more raw talent pools of the foreign summer leagues in various countries. The SAL is probably the appropriate challenge for Ring at this stage in his career.

Looking ahead, Jake could be here for a little while barring any injuries on Frederick’s roster – their outfield complement of Josh Hart, Austin Hays, Randolph Gassaway, and Ademar Rifaela is holding its own so far. Hart, Gassaway, and Rifaela should be familiar to Delmarva fans but Hays is a 3rd rounder from last season who bypassed Delmarva in his advancement. And while Jake has slowed down a little bit, hitting “just” .294 over his last ten games, keeping himself at or above .300 should merit him both a league All-Star bid and a mid-season promotion. Since he’s still only 22, there’s not a great deal of urgency to rush him along.

While Ring was a clear winner in this field, shortstop Chris Clare deserves honorable mention as well for a great month of April.

My Pitcher of the Month was a somewhat closer call, but I felt that putting together four excellent starts and being in the top five in league ERA was enough to give the nod to Alex Wells. Admittedly, I am buying a pig in a poke here because I haven’t seen either of his two home starts but so far Wells has a 2-1 record with a 1.11 ERA and WHIP of 0.945 (less than one baserunner an inning) based on just four walks and 19 hits allowed in 24 1/3 innings – meanwhile, he has struck out 20 in that stint. One thing those who attended either or both of his two home starts haven’t seen is Wells allowing an earned run – Lakewood scratched out an unearned run against him but Hagerstown was shut out.

Unlike Ring, Alex was challenged in his first pro season as he debuted last year with Aberdeen, going just 4-5 but with a 2.15 ERA in 13 starts there. Wells also has a more intriguing backstory as an Australian native whose twin brother Lachlan Wells pitches in the Minnesota Twins organization. (Somehow that fits, I suppose.) With one more season under his belt, Lachlan is pitching one level higher than Alex right now but they have very similar statistical profiles: low ERA, great strikeout/walk ratio, and capable of putting together fine games. In the case of Alex, all of his game scores (a statistic created by sabermetrics guru Bill James) are over 50, and two are over 65, suggesting a high-quality start. (The formula is somewhat cumbersome to explain, but a start that would match the minimum baseball definition of a “quality start” (3 earned runs or fewer in 6 innings or more) would net about 55 to 60 points, or an increase of 5 to 10 points over the 50 given to start. An absolutely perfect nine-inning game with 27 strikeouts would be 114 points, and the record for a nine-inning game is 105. Wells has a high score of 72 for his start at home against Lakewood (6 IP, 1 unearned R on 2 H, 6 K’s, no walks.)

Signed by the Orioles at the very end of the 2015 minor league season (and about 9 1/2 months after Lachlan), Wells was named as both an organizational and NYPL Midseason All-Star last season, all before he reached the age of 20. Baseball America also selected him as the 20th best NYPL prospect and 25th best Orioles prospect. The bespectacled Wells (both brothers wear glasses) has now pitched a total of 18 games for the Orioles’ brass and has started every one, compiling an overall ERA of 1.86.

So Wells has a pretty high ceiling, although one could definitely argue he’s simply meeting expectations. If he tracks as his twin brother did at this level last season, one could expect Alex to finish with a sub-2 ERA and stellar peripheral numbers such as WHIP and strikeout/walk ratio. While he has the potential to be moved up midstream, the Orioles can afford to take the time to develop Wells given their blue-chip young guns already in the rotation (although a left-hander would be a good companion to right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.) If the rotation and weather cooperate, the next time Wells should pitch here would be May 13 against Greenville.

Two pitchers who will get an honorable mention for beating expectations in their second tour of duty with the team are Steven Klimek and Jhon Peluffo. Both – but especially Peluffo – were batted around in their first stint here but have recovered nicely to start 2017.

With that, welcome to this new chapter. It will be more in-depth than a weekly look at one player, and the next one on the schedule would be June 8. The first Thursday in June is the 1st, so I’m creating the rule that these players of the month will be featured the Thursday after the first Monday of the month – it gives me time to digest the previous monthly splits and see who is deserving of the honors.

Next Page »

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I provide this service to readers. But before you click on the picture below, just remember their message:

  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.