A new local grift?

Among the many reasons I have never run for higher office is that I don’t much like begging for money. (Says the guy who has a “Donate” button on his website – but notice it’s not near the top.)

But one thing I have found in common about a number of failed politicians is their propensity to try and keep their name in the limelight by creating their own political action committee, often with a name which defines its purpose. Such is the case with the perpetual campaign of 2020 U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware Lauren Witzke, who has recently announced the formation of the Hold The Line PAC.

Shouting in ALL CAPS, “Join us as we hold the line to help elect conservatives and defeat the establishment! No compromise!” Lauren’s site currently has a few rotating news stories but its primary page asks for donations, stating:

Hold the Line PAC exists to stop Democrats from making advances in Red states and imposing their radical agenda on conservative Americans.

Focusing on key issues like immigration, the Second Amendment, abortion, and religious liberty, Hold the Line PAC is the voice for Americans who want to keep their traditional values, and not be crushed under the tyrannical boot of “progressivism.”

As the left becomes more radical in its pursuit to bring communism to America, Hold the Line PAC is here to ensure that the Bill of Rights and the Constitution remains the law of the land.

We will NOT sit idly by and let the radical communist Democrats abolish the electoral college, the Second Amendment, and cancel half of the country. Instead, we will fight to preserve the America that we know and love for future generations.

Donate page, Hold the Line PAC

This all sounds really good, but the reality of PACs tends to be far different: most of the revenue accrues to the pockets of various consultants and vendors connected to the PAC, with only a small portion going to assist candidates. We saw this for several years with the TEA Party, as “scam PACs” parted gullible people with their money – funding that, if donated directly to candidates, could have made the difference between victory and defeat. (Note: writing a book on the subject really helps with finding links for later use, and self-promotion never hurt anyone.)

In Lauren’s case, though, having a PAC tied to her is a direct and logical extension of something I was pleased that she did as an underdog candidate: nationalize her race. In fact, out of the 600-plus individual contributions to her campaign itemized in her FEC report, only about 30 percent came from Delaware. And that number was somewhat consistent as the campaign wore on; however, out of the last 100 contributions I counted only 21 coming from people listed as being from the First State. While she came nowhere near the war chest amassed by incumbent Chris Coons and all his PAC money, she still raised nearly a half-million dollars through (mostly) individual donations. Of course, a good deal of it went to various political vendors and consultants.

And that’s the weakness of the PAC approach, because they will also have their vendors and consultants that get their cut before the candidates ever do. Much like Lauren’s political philosophy – which didn’t seem to mind big government as long as the money was spent in the proper fashion – a PAC just adds an extra layer of bureaucracy to what should be a simple transaction. I didn’t need a PAC to make the two donations I made during the last cycle; I did one through the candidate’s website and the other via a check to the candidate. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve even donated to a PAC, although someone who wanted to find little ole me on the various state and federal campaign finance websites may find the truth is that I did – heck, I don’t know with all the (small-dollar) contributions I’ve made over the years.

I suspect that when we look back at this in 2023, we will find that Hold The Line PAC raised a few thousand dollars and spent most of it chasing money via the website and consultant fees. What little they give to candidates will be a drop in the bucket.

I think there are times and races where a PAC would be super useful, but it’s up to Lauren to prove my instincts wrong on this one.

*Postscript: It should be noted that only about half of Lauren’s intake was reported, which means the other half was likely smaller donations that fell under the reporting threshold and I believe those were more likely to have come from Delaware. I don’t want people to get the idea she had no financial support in this state.

Pumping for dumping

To be clear up front: I’m no expert on the stock market. Once upon a time I used to buy stock shares (directly where possible) with the investment strategy of buying shares of companies with low P/E ratios that sold high-dividend stocks. So I owned quite a few different utility stocks, since they often fit that description, and would take the dividends as additional shares. I still own a very modest portfolio in the successor company to that which I used to accomplish these trades, although it’s locked away in a money market fund that I haven’t touched in probably a decade. While I doubt I could buy dinner for my wife and I with the total, I keep the accounts grandfathered there in the hope that someday I may invest in these again.

But the whole Gamestop debacle got me to thinking about a long-ago series of posts (this being the first) that I did when capitalism fascinated me enough to do the series of posts.

In brief, the backstory behind the occasional “pumpin and dumpin” series was the junk faxes my onetime and present employer would get – somehow we got onto a list where, a few times a week, we would be regaled by news of the next big stock they claimed was about to break. So I got curious and collected a sampling just to see how they really did and, in most of the cases, the only break they made was downward. (It really got bad four years later when I last revisited the subject.) I got a lot of great comments out of the series, which occurred back about this time the website was at its peak readership as a non-lucrative side hustle of mine.

Since then, however, the office fax machine has been retired and I really don’t get that sort of e-mail anymore. People have moved on to another grift, I suppose, and in the case of Gamestop it was interesting because the tables were turned on the relatives of these companies that used to make their money speculating on those folks P.T. Barnum claimed were born every minute.

Some hedge fund (or group of hedge funds) is apparently out billions of dollars, or will be as long as they can’t stave off their margin call. Betting that Gamestop stock may further plummet to a buck or two a share, they are now desperately hurting because a group of allied renegade traders have instead pumped that baby up to $300 or more a share. That may be an awesome windfall for the investor who got it for 11 bucks a share two years ago (and watched it eventually slide to under $3) but it’s now becoming a parlor game that has nothing to do with the long-term prospects of the company, which (as the name suggests) makes its money by selling video games and consoles, mostly in brick-and-mortar locations. (In a previous life I serviced several of their stores on a regular basis, so I have something of a familiarity with their business.) I couldn’t even fathom what the P/E ratio is for them right now, but if I were a Gamestop employee I would be frightened out of my wits because they are playing with my livelihood.

Certainly the company has a tremendous market capitalization at the moment, but it’s a mirage that they will have to deal with long-term. It’s also concerning when you consider that these hedge funds were essentially betting on the company drifting into insolvency – in case you haven’t heard, the retail sector isn’t doing so hot right now.

I suppose what bothers me most about this whole situation is the rooting for failure aspect – moreso for the hedge funds that were betting on Gamestop’s demise. (After all, isn’t this shorting approach similar to how George Soros became a billionaire?) And while the Reddit group orchestrating the surge in Gamestop stock has the noble idea of punishing the hedge fund, they’re not going to stop the game from going on – in fact, they may eventually find they’ve infringed more on the free market thanks to Uncle Sam covering the big boys’ bets by being restrictive on the ability of like-minded groups to manipulate share prices. (It’s okay when their chosen ones do it, though. For them, the stock market is an investment where they will capitalize on their profits and socialize their losses, while for the rest of us it’s more of a gamble like buying a Mega Millions ticket.)

Finally, it brings me to troubling questions: is the Dow really worth 30,000? How much of that is real value and how much is rampant speculation?

I recall back a half-dozen years ago, when I was barely getting back on my feet after a long interregnum of non-career jobs, that the relative success of the stock market was hailed as the sign the overall economy was strong. (Never mind millions of people were still out of work and had given up looking.) The ones who were prospering, though, were the shysters who arranged for some people to get “disability” because they couldn’t find a job at their advanced age. In other words, the perceived value of the Dow Jones and NASDAQ was a mirage that was covered by increasing debt and someone was going to be left holding the bag.

In that respect, I can see the point of view of the hedge funds because they also see the same thing I do. But I hate rooting against the success of businesses built upon the sweat and toil of someone who worked long hours to make their dream a reality. It was their quest to succeed and draw investors which led them to sell shares in their companies. Granted, for every Tesla or Apple there are thousands of companies who were the (witting or unwitting) subjects of being pumped and dumped like the beneficiaries of those long-ago junk faxes. Alas, dreams, sweat, and toil don’t always lead to success if the product doesn’t sell. (As an author, I know how that goes all too well.)

It’s highly likely for the best that I never became a day trader like a former co-worker of mine was. (I suspect that’s why he was a relatively brief co-worker, since the firm wasn’t paying him to watch a stock ticker.) The whole Gamestop affair has convinced me even more that the system has become perverted and rigged in favor of those who have friends in the right places. Yet, without a good alternative method of saving for retirement besides the old 401.k (since few have pensions anymore and we all know Social Security is a Ponzi scheme) I guess we are forced to grin and bear it.

I’m so ready for real financial reform, but I suppose that has to get in line behind rightsizing government and we all know where that lies on the list of priorities. Maybe these Gamestop traders can work on that next?

Update: Thomas Gallatin, my cohort at The Patriot Post, weighs in with a similar take to mine. Great minds?

The folly of pursuing ‘equity’

This is another of those posts that began as an odd or end, but thanks to subsequent events was promoted to become a full post.

A few weeks back I received my annual pitch from the American Institute of Architects to rejoin their august body. Bear in mind I was an AIA member for about a decade beginning when I received my architecture license in the mid-1990s until about a year or so after I moved down here. Unfortunately, the usefulness of the AIA Chesapeake Bay chapter was much less than that of AIA Toledo, so I allowed my membership to lapse.

Moreover, as the needs of the architecture business have remained relatively steady over the 35 years (!) since I embarked on my life’s journey in the profession, the AIA has departed significantly from those needs into the weeds of political correctness. One line in their pitch multifold postcard, under the heading of “Champion architects & the profession” summed this up well:

Government advocacy, a campaign to fight climate change and inequities in the built environment, and public awareness efforts influence meaningful change and create a better business landscape for architects.

AIA mailing.

The only government advocacy we need is to give us a decent statute of repose. (Delaware has one of the better ones at 6 years, while Maryland lags behind with 10.) I’d also be happy if they eliminated the unnecessary demands for continuing education, which was something the AIA advocated for when I was active in the group. Brick, stone, steel, and wood don’t change much, and any architect worth his salt should know the building codes pretty well despite the fact they update every three years. (I see CE as a money-making racket, just like the intern development program that’s now in place. That was the reason I took my exam when I did.)

So forget about climate change, since we can’t do a damn thing about it. What we can do is advocate for energy-efficient buildings but let’s allow the market to decide what is best. And my (admittedly limited) research into the term “inequities in the built environment” seems to indicate a preference for the concepts of so-called “smart growth” where everyone is to be packed like sardines into the urban core. Maybe some of us prefer and enjoy living in rural areas.

Finally, if you want to make things easier and more profitable for the architectural profession, can you advocate for fewer regulations and hoops to jump through? There are certain jurisdictions we deal with that seem to have cornered the market on red tape for picayune reasons. It’s almost like they demand their tribute before you get their seal of approval, and clients aren’t always willing to pay for our time and trouble.

Speaking of so-called climate change and hoops to jump through, I would love to have someone explain to me why Delaware is trying to extend these stupid wealth transfers from utilities to state coffers better known as renewable energy portfolio standards? In this session SB33 is already through the Senate, where it passed on a 13-8 vote that was almost partisan in nature (Senator Ennis crossed over to vote with the GOP, giving him an early lead on the Top Blue Dog Award next year when I do the monoblogue Accountability Project for Delaware.)

If natural gas is cutting our emissions in such a way that we are exceeding the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement – even though we were properly out of it for a brief period until that fool Joe Biden painted “sucker” back on our collective forehead – then why are we even bothering with wind and solar power that is, on its face, unavailable at all hours of the day and times of the year? (For example, it’s a sunny day as I write this, but the sun angle isn’t optimal. And I haven’t even discussed the environmental issues when these components reach the end of their lifespan.) If anything, it may be a good time to do a little bit of exploration in Delaware to see if we have gas or oil deposits under our sandbar. It’s not likely the Marcellus Shale comes this far east, but somewhere along the line I thought I saw there was a minor shale field under the Eastern Shore and southern Delaware.

I like to live in a rural area and I like my electricity to be relatively inexpensive. So we really don’t need to have these so-called improvements that basically accrue to the state’s coffers and not ours come into our collective lives.

And now that I’ve done this post I can place my AIA solicitation where it properly belongs – in the circular file.

Becoming the loyal opposition

As the days of the Trump administration dwindle down to a precious few and the world is attempting to hoist him up on the petard of (so-called) insurrection, it’s clear that there are over 70 million Americans who are angry with the situation.

But let’s dispense with a few things first: the claims that Trump will return for another term after he declares martial law then drains the Swamp with thousands of arrests – ain’t gonna happen. Even if he uses the military, the size and scope of the necessary operation is such that SOMEONE would have leaked it out by now.

And it’s not just that: Trump doesn’t figure in the line of succession, even if you arrested Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi. It’s the same logic that said Hillary would be president if Trump was impeached and convicted. There’s just no Constitutional precedent for this – even in the midst of a civil war we held a Presidential election in 1864. We’ll never know, but would Abraham Lincoln have ceded power in March of 1865 had he lost?

There were originally going to be three main points to this post, but two of them have been taken care of in a different fashion. I liked Erick Erickson’s take on all the fake news that I alluded to above, so I encourage you to read it via The Patriot Post. My other writing home is also where the second part of this discourse ended up, regarding the fate of the Republican Party going forward. One key point:

Donald Trump was the candidate whose boldness on hot-button issues such as immigration and tax reform brought back those who became disillusioned when the Tea Party devolved to just another group of inside-the-Beltway grifters, and the Republican establishment cooled the fiery spirits of those the Tea Party helped to place in Congress.

“The Road Ahead for the GOP,” The Patriot Post, January 15, 2021

This was one of the longest pieces I’ve ever written for them because it’s a subject I am passionate about.

But in the wake of the purloined Presidential election and the catastrophe at the Capitol, people are probably shrugging their shoulders and resigning themselves to the end of our Republic, keeping their anger and passion inside to eat at them. Now I don’t have the overall surefire way to make you feel better, but perhaps it’s time to revisit what happened the last time we were in this situation.

Granted, the political landscape in 2021 is not really the same chessboard we were looking at in the dark winter of 2009. Back then we didn’t have the pervasiveness of social media to squelch the voices of conservatives nor did we have the upstream economic swimming made necessary by the ongoing CCP virus. (Of course, that will improve soon as Democrat governors finally decide that maybe, just maybe, they need to open up their state economies.) And that’s okay because perhaps this time we need to shift the focus to a smaller stage rather than try and play in a arena we’re not as familiar with. Complaining about federal spending and what would become Obamacare only delayed the inevitable twelve years ago because Tip O’Neill was right: all politics is local.

To that end, there is a trinity of issues which can be positively influenced at the local level in the near term, and in my opinion these are places the passion for Donald Trump can be well applied (or at least I think he would approve.) In at least one respect – the one I’m going to begin with – it’s not even necessarily political.

Support local small businesses.

This can be a lot easier said than done, particularly if you live in a rural area like I do. I have to admit we get a LOT of Amazon and Walmart boxes delivered to us, and the UPS truck is a regular sight around this area. On the flip side, though, we have a lot of small businesses that we can support in our town, particularly the restaurants. (I have my local favorite, and you should too. Patronize them often and leave good tips.)

The thing that is holding back businesses the most are the pandemic-inspired restrictions. I’m sure my local pizzeria would love to be able to open up all their seating despite their solid carry-out business. Initial mandates that favored big-box retailers as “essential” when their smaller counterparts – which often sold the same merchandise – were shut down led to the loss of millions of jobs and the perceived need to send out stimulus checks that are simply the gateway drug to the cherished regressive dream of a universal basic income. (Or, as Dire Straits once sang, Money for Nothing. I suppose it’s good the government hasn’t tried the chicks for free yet, because I could only imagine that disaster.)

I think if you asked the business owner who had to shut down whether they’d prefer the check or the business, 99% would be back in business. Seeing that the ice is beginning to break with some of these Democrats, perhaps it’s time to apply more pressure to Governor Carnage to end this so-called emergency and let businesses try to pick up the pieces.

Action items:

  • Patronize local, small businesses wherever possible.
  • Pressure local legislators and officials to advocate for the opening up of your state’s businesses as applicable. (Obviously people reading this from certain states can skip this part.)
  • If a business decides to go against a state’s forced closing mandate – don’t be a Karen, be a customer.
  • And it’s not just businesses: having open schools and resuming their activities would be a great help to employment as well. It brings me to my next part.

Reforming our schools.

One thing I loved about the Trump administration was the fresh perspective he brought to the Department of Education with Betsy DeVos. Unfortunately, her tenure was cut a bit short because she bought the media narrative about the January 6 protest, but her time at the DoE was the next best thing to it not being there.

Sadly, under Harris/Biden there will likely be some other NEA-approved hack running that show and undoing all the good DeVos did, so we need to do what we can to re-establish local control of our public schools as much as possible and push the envelope where required. If that can’t be done, then it’s time to support the alternatives such as homeschooling or non-public schools.

Of course, the best way to guide public schools is to become a member of their school board, but not everyone has that sort of time commitment nor do they want to go through the anal exam known as an election. (Furthermore, in the case of my local school district, reform would be slow: they elect one member of the five-member body every year, meaning it would take at least three years to install a like-thinking majority.) But it is a good idea to know about your local school board and see who the friendlies to the cause are. (If they have a BLM banner, it’s not too likely they’re conservative.) The ideal here is to revamp curriculum to bring it back to classical education as opposed to indoctrination, encouraging a variety of viewpoints and critical thinking. Public school students don’t have to be mindless robots; after all, I’m a case in point since I went to public school and a public university. I think I turned out okay.

On a state level, there are two priorities and this means you have to make some enemies in the teachers’ union: school choice and (corollary to that) money following the child. It’s your child and the state should be doing its level best to assist you in training up the child in the way he should go.

Action items:

  • Demand schools open up fully. The lack of in-person learning and activities has cost students a year of development.
  • Research your local school board and its candidates, even if you don’t have kids there. They are taking a lot of your tax money so you should be aware how it’s spent.
  • Advocate with your state legislators for school choice and money following the child.

And now for the biggie, the one which should be job one among all right-thinking Americans:

Restoring free and fair elections.

I’m going to begin with a quote. You may be surprised at the source.

Voting by mail is now common enough and problematic enough that election experts say there have been multiple elections in which no one can say with confidence which candidate was the deserved winner. The list includes the 2000 presidential election, in which problems with absentee ballots in Florida were a little-noticed footnote to other issues.

In the last presidential election, 35.5 million voters requested absentee ballots, but only 27.9 million absentee votes were counted, according to a study by Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He calculated that 3.9 million ballots requested by voters never reached them; that another 2.9 million ballots received by voters did not make it back to election officials; and that election officials rejected 800,000 ballots. That suggests an overall failure rate of as much as 21 percent.

“Error and Fraud at Issue as Absentee Balloting Rises,” Adam Liptak, New York Times, October 6, 2012.

It’s funny because that story concludes, “You could steal some absentee ballots or stuff a ballot box or bribe an election administrator or fiddle with an electronic voting machine,” (Yale law professor Heather Gerken) said. That explains, she said, “why all the evidence of stolen elections involves absentee ballots and the like.”

It didn’t get any better in 2020, as hastily-passed (or decreed) election law led to the chaotic scenes we saw played out in several big-city vote counting venues. Combine that with the molasses-like pace of mail sent through the USPS – I received a Christmas card sent by a friend in Kansas December 18 on January 4 – and we got an election result that millions are skeptical about.

I know there are some who swear these practices are on the up and up, but this is the question we should be asking these officials: If you support election practices we can’t trust, how can you be a public servant we can trust?

At a minimum, we should be demanding that changes made for the 2020 election should be scrapped entirely. This was no way to run an election, and it will always be fishy how Donald Trump (and a host of other Republicans) led in their election in certain states until the wee hours of Wednesday morning before suddenly being overtaken in a barrage of votes for Democrats. I will give kudos to the election officials here in Delaware who demanded all mail-in ballots be delivered by 8 p.m. on election night because the counting was pretty much done by the late local news.

I don’t care if you call it the TEA Party again – with the acronym now standing for Trump’s Election Avengers – but here are the action items, as the beginning of a list of demands for real election reform:

  1. The voter rolls should be purged of inactive voters (no voting in the last four years) and those who use fake addresses such as P.O. boxes. Big-city election boards should be made to use some of their ill-gotten largess to investigate these places.
  2. Absentee balloting should no longer be shall-issue. There has to be a legitimate excuse, although advanced age should remain a legitimate excuse. Deadline for absentee ballot return is Election Day, no postmark exceptions.
  3. Ballot-harvesting should be outlawed or curtailed to leave only family members allowed to return a limited number of ballots.
  4. Early voting should be eliminated, or at the very least cut back to the weekend just prior to the election.
  5. There should be more election observers, and not just Democrat and Republican. We should add two independent or minor party voters who are also allowed to observe and object.

This isn’t to say that we should ignore the excesses of the Harris/Biden administration and speak out when necessary. But in making these more easily attainable changes at the local level, we make it more difficult to enact change on a national scale.

If we want to make the necessary changes, we have to borrow the “think globally, act locally” mantra from the environmentalist wackos for a bit and ride out the next four years as the real shadow government. It’s only through us that a government for and by the people not perish from the earth.

Odds and ends number 101

And the next hundred begins…

As always, it’s a compilation of items requiring somewhere between a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Think of it as bite-sized dollops of blogging goodness that serve to clean out my e-mail box.

On evidence and faith

While he can be maddening politically, I enjoy reading Erick Erickson’s treatises on religion. He made a brilliant argument regarding evidence and faith that I wanted to share.

It also bolsters a point about the origins of our nation, and the philosophy of those who founded it. We are several generations removed from the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, et. al. but we have enough empirical evidence and writings of theirs to believe that a) they existed, and b) they had a particular political philosophy in mind when they created our nation. It’s something that should be easy to interpret by any jurist willing to read and understand their words, as opposed to making things up as they go along.

Yet, as Erick points out in a subsequent post, it’s worth remembering that God’s got this.

The success of China

It’s not often that I discuss year-old information in a new light, but here’s a case where new info has made the story evergreen thanks to the discovery of a relationship between Rep. Eric Swalwell and a Chinese national, Fang “Christine” Fang. I certainly can’t argue with the premise of the author.

A recurring minor theme within this enterprise is the desire to bring more manufacturing and production back to America because, simply put, we couldn’t trust a nation-state which points missiles at us. Unfortunately, big business and big media love the potential of 1.4 billion up-and-coming customers more than the markets that made them successful. Now we may be saddled with a president who is essentially in Beijing’s pocket, which may be the death knell for American world dominance – and when it’s us against the world, we can only put up a fight for so long before we are worn down, sort of like the Axis powers in World War II or the Confederates against the Union in our War Between the States. Whether Donald Trump was the summer of 1942 for the former or the march to Gettysburg for the latter remains to be seen.

What I can tell you is that it seems China is indeed getting their money’s worth from our elites.

Thoughts on redistricting, and so forth

One rear-guard action available to Republicans at the state level is redistricting. While I personally want districts that are compact and contiguous, this can be achieved while reducing the Democrats’ oversized influence in certain states and regions. In 2020, the GOP gained control of a plurality when it came to drawing House districts.

On a corollary subject, J. Christian Adams makes a case that the election fraud wasn’t in the counting but the fists on the scale produced by scads of dark money “assisting” certain big-city boards of election in encouraging the vote to get out. His theory also “explains how the GOP was so successful everywhere… except at the top of the ticket.  A flood of blue votes gushing out of deep blue urban areas has a statewide effect only for statewide candidates. It doesn’t affect legislative races outside of the cities.”

He also opines, “In case you still don’t follow: Hundreds of millions of private charitable dollars flowed into key urban county election offices in battleground states. The same private philanthropic largess did not reach red counties. Urban counties were able to revolutionize government election offices into Joe Biden turnout machines.” Even if Trump received 20 percent of the black vote instead of 10 percent, the fact that 100,000 more blacks voted may have made him a loser. (Emphasis mine.)

But by not backing Trump, Sam Faddis believes the Republicans are heading the way of the Whigs. To the extent that Trump’s base represents a mixture of the TEA Party and populist elements in the country, this is true. But having to lean on Trumpism to achieve the conservative goal of limiting government is a precarious perch indeed.

A lack of juice

It’s a little bit maddening, this headlong rush by car makers to embrace electric car technology when the infrastructure to support it is slow in coming: unless you want to invest in a personal charging station, how useful is an electric car for a cross-country jaunt?

So I thought it was a bit funny when Elon Musk (you know, the guy who owns Tesla) said there wasn’t enough electrical capacity right now for a world full of electric cars. But when Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda chimed in, that caught people’s attention.

As I have said for many moons, there are two problems with the bulk of our “renewable” energy: the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. And guess what they have to use for backup plants? Yep, natural gas, often extracted by that eeeeeeeevil practice of fracking. (Well, except in Maryland and other states stupid enough to throw away economic potential.)

We have plenty of oil and a robust infrastructure to get it where it needs to go – in my case it’s usually the RoFo I pass on the way to/from work, but in a pinch there’s another station a couple miles away in Sharptown. A few minutes to fill up and I’m good to go for another 300 miles or more.

On the other hand, I have to charge my cell phone a few hours overnight to keep it viable for the next day, day after day. And I want a car like that? No thanks.

A unique New Year’s resolution

Self-serving as it may be, my friends at Ammo.com had a good idea for a New Year’s resolution: start a gun club. As they say:

There’s never a bad time to start a gun club, but there are maybe better times than others. With an emerging global medical police state, the spectre of the most anti-Second Amendment administration in history hanging over the United States, and recurring left-wing riots, now is perhaps the ideal time to start thinking less in terms of gun rights exercised individually and more in terms of collective preparation.

“How to Build a Gun Club: A Guide to Organizing and Starting Your Own Local Gun Club”, Sam Jacobs, Ammo.com.

I will say, though: around here I think they make you jump through a lot of hoops. I recently worked on drawings for a gun club as part of my “real” job and it seemed like there were a lot of unnecessary roadblocks put in place for a building that was existing in a rural, out-of-the-way location. My thinking was that was simply because it was a gun club.

If you can’t build one, though, you can still join one. I had some fun the last time I stopped by a local gun range back in August, and it wasn’t just the hot and cold running politicians during Delaware’s primary season.

Maybe my resolution should be to better work on my Second Amendment rights.

The other resolution will be to keep collecting stuff for the 102nd rendition of odds and ends, coming sometime in the future if the Good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.

The frightening possibility: meet Kamala Harris, President of the United States Senate

Editor’s note: It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done one of these but since I trust this man implicitly on the subject I thought it was worth publication. Think of it as GO (guest opinion) Friday, the special Monday edition.

Guest opinion by Richard Douglas

Meet Kamala Harris: President of the United States Senate.

Republican members of Congress considering options in the face of an apparently-fraudulent Biden/Harris election victory ought to keep in mind another inevitable consequence of a Biden/Harris Administration: Kamala Harris as President of the United States Senate.

If former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris are inaugurated on January 20th, don’t be surprised to see Vice President Harris standing at the Senate door on January 21st demanding the presiding officer’s gavel. She would have a perfect right to it under Art I, Section 3, clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate ….”

The Senate’s Standing Rules are in accord, and were written on the apparent assumption that the Vice President would actually preside in the Senate more often than not: “In the absence of the Vice President, the Senate shall choose a President pro tempore …. (Rule I (1.) Appointment of a Senator to the Chair). In fact, to this day a Vice President’s Office is set aside just off the Senate floor.

During the first George W. Bush term (2001-2005), for two years the U.S. Senate was split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. Vice President Dick Cheney was seen often in the Senate to break ties, the only circumstance where the Vice President may actually cast a Senate vote. But the limit on voting is no obstacle to taking the Senate presiding officer’s chair and gavel at will. Why haven’t Vice Presidents asserted the right to do this?

Several possible reasons occurred to me, based upon five years’ experience as a senior Senate lawyer, living and breathing Senate procedure.

First, it would not surprise me to learn that during the Gore and Biden vice presidencies, the Senate Democratic Caucus may not have wanted their former colleagues in the presiding officer’s chair. Neither Gore nor Biden ever served in the Senate Democratic leadership in spite of nearly a half century of Senate experience between them. Food for thought.

What else might account for the absence of our Vice Presidents from the Senate President’s chair? As I learned as treaty lawyer for the late Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina (who knew Senate procedure very well), many Senators — perhaps most — don’t understand the Senate’s Standing Rules or their own constitutional prerogatives. Exhibits A and B for the latter proposition are the Paris and Iran deals, which thoroughly trampled Senate treaty practice.

Perhaps Senators also fail to grasp the potential impact and authority of a Presiding Officer armed with a good grasp of Senate Rules and parliamentary procedure. No surprise there.

Finally, a basic lack of imagination could account for the fact that no Vice President in my memory (starting with Lyndon Johnson) has ever taken hold of the Senate presiding officer’s gavel and seriously used it. But there are good lawyers in Biden circles who know the rules, and they won’t miss a trick. It seems to me that Kamala Harris would not fail to perceive the opportunity to dominate daily work in the Senate almost at will from the presiding officer’s chair.

What would it mean to have Kamala Harris as President of the Senate? Choreographed points of order from the Democratic Senate caucus? Strategic Senate recesses to allow Biden recess appointments? Erection of insuperable parliamentary roadblocks to Republican initiatives to confound the Biden-Harris White House? The list of possibilities is long. If I were Kamala Harris, I would be looking for a retired Senate parliamentarian now to teach me the finer points of Senate procedure.

Would Kamala Harris gain anything by taking the Senate gavel frequently when the Senate is in session? If she is inaugurated, it will be her right and privilege to do so. And why wouldn’t she? For someone with presidential ambitions, it is hard to imagine a more bully pulpit, outside the Oval Office, than the Senate President’s chair, whence every word and deed is beamed out to the world by C-SPAN and other media.

In general, contested points of order, parliamentary procedure, and the Senate Rules can be waived by unanimous consent or put to a vote. Consequently, a Kamala Harris Senate presidency might not matter so much if the GOP had a strong majority in the Senate and could prevent unanimous consent or GOP defections on every point of order or parliamentary dispute. Except that the GOP doesn’t have a strong Senate majority, and can’t keep its own members from defecting. What’s more, the fluid U.S. Senate run-off in Georgia makes the Senate vote count even harder to nail down at this point.

What is easier to predict, however, is that even if the Republicans hang on to a Senate majority, Congress could come to work on January 21st with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Kamala Harris as President of the Senate. This is a genuine possibility which will quickly ripen into a reality if Congress fails to reverse what appears to have been an election victory procured by fraud.

Kamala Harris as President of the Senate. Does Congress care?

Richard Douglas is a former Senate staffer for Sen. Jesse Helms and ran twice (alas, unsuccessfully) for a U.S. Senate seat from Maryland.

The stand

From all appearances, January 6 may be a momentous day in our nation’s history, and grassroots supporters of Donald Trump will either be elated or despondent at day’s end.

In the social media I’ve been reading, I’m seeing posts about busloads of our local supporters heading into Washington, D.C. to gather and rally for Trump someplace. For example:

Trump says: “Be there, will be wild!”

President Trump is in the fight of his lifetime – he is fighting for our Republic. We need to join him on January 6th in D.C.

I’m happy to report that we (9/12 Delaware Patriots) have arranged for a bus from DE to DC. It will leave from Dover very early morning on the 6th of January, 5:00 AM.

“POTUS Needs us NOW!!!! – Update” e-mail, December 30, 2020.

Given that the 6th (a Wednesday) is a regular workday for D.C. and everyone else, I wouldn’t expect a major six-figure crowd there as there was for previous pro-Trump rallies.

This crowd of supporters is perhaps believing that their presence will steel the spines of Republicans who seemingly have developed into invertebrates over the last two months as this clearly fraudulent – given the sworn affidavits of hundreds who were participants – sham of an election comes closer to making Joe Biden the Commander-in-Thief. Most in the GOP have not spoken out forcefully on the matter, some are conceding the race to Biden even in the face of significant evidence his allies cheated, and many seem to be forgetting about the rule of law.

And that’s where the part about despondency comes in. America deserves a leader that’s elected with legitimate votes, but the problem is that the 2020 election was flawed from the get-go. I know that and you know that: the question is whether those who are in control of the situation (namely: Vice-President Mike Pence and Republican members of Congress) have the stones to address the problem correctly. I don’t think they do, and they will find some excuse to once again weasel out of their oath to uphold the Constitution because they’re afraid of bad press and major rioting. They’ll say that we can address the issue in 2022 and 2024, but do you honestly think those elections will be conducted on the up-and-up after this one was botched?

By then we may also know the score in Georgia, although those who won will likely not be sworn in prior to the Electoral College proceedings. (Advice to rural Georgia: make Fulton County report first.) If Pence and company have the guts to do this correctly, though, they won’t matter quite as much because the VP breaks the 50-50 tie.

In any case, let all this be a lesson that absolute power – even the pursuit of it – corrupts absolutely. This situation could and should have been avoided months ago by holding fast to initial election laws.

Pleasing predictions

The other night I took pictures of our sunset. Wanna see?

Sunset over my backyard in rural America.

I am just done with politics for the time being, and needing something to write about that held my interest, I decided to do a bit of research. (The sunset is just eye candy.)

On Wednesday last I noted that Delmarva will likely be a member of the revamped South Atlantic League with a new roster of opponents. And seeing that we had a stacked team in 2019 – one that secured the first Delmarva playoff berth since 2005 – I was curious what some of the opposition would look like.

So what I did was determine what sort of low minor league teams each of these systems had. Granted, there will be quite a bit of turnover as something like 250-300 minor leaguers will be consolidated to their best 180, but in general I believe the teams will still reflect the status of their systems. I went through the won-loss record of each team at this level and each of the three lower levels – short-season A, rookie, and Dominican League. When a team had multiple teams at a level (as they often do, particularly in the DSL) I added three wins to the better team since the worse team still has some talent which would displace players on the better team, making them more successful.

Long story short: if you ranked the twelve teams in the SAL, this would be the order they come in based on their parent organization’s record at these levels:

  1. Down East Wood Ducks (Texas)
  2. Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore)
  3. Charleston RiverDogs (Tampa Bay)
  4. Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland)
  5. Columbia Fireflies (Kansas City)
  6. Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Chicago Cubs)
  7. Fayetteville Woodpeckers (Houston)
  8. Salem Red Sox (Boston)
  9. Carolina Mudcats (Milwaukee)
  10. Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox)
  11. Augusta Greenjackets (Atlanta)
  12. Fredericksburg Nationals (Washington)

If you set up the divisions as I had them, the order would be as follows:

South: Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Fayetteville, Kannapolis, Augusta

North: Down East, Delmarva, Lynchburg, Salem, Carolina, Fredericksburg

If there were a Central, this would be Down East, Fayetteville, Carolina, and Kannapolis. That would be a slaughter for Down East. Otherwise, the class of each division would be Charleston, Columbia, and Myrtle Beach in the South and Down East, Delmarva, and Lynchburg in the North. Those would likely be the teams battling it out for each half’s championship.

While the SAL was sort of random about the number of times each opponent played each other – we would sometimes see a team like Hagerstown or Lakewood 25 or 30 times a season and didn’t see Rome for years – assuming they play a full season of 132 games, I would suspect the schedule might work out to 8 games apiece against teams in the other division and 16 or 17 against divisional foes. Delmarva could make three eight-game trips to the south each season (say, Fayetteville/Kannapolis, Charleston/Myrtle Beach, Augusta/Columbia) while teams coming from the south could have their trip here paired up with Fredericksburg. A nice thing about six per division is that no cross-division games are necessary on any given day.

We’ll see how the season develops, but as we approach what would normally be the halfway pole between seasons, this is a good way to kindle the hot stove.

The first of many bad ideas

It’s sort of hard to believe, but we’re basically a couple holidays away from the beginning of a new legislative year – and in Delaware, the commencement of a new session of the General Assembly. (Unfortunately, it will be at the behest of the same old governor, John “Governor Carnage” Carney.)

While the recent election was relatively good for the Republicans on a national level in terms of keeping or gaining control of state legislative bodies, Delaware bucked that trend to a point where the Democrats now have a solid 2/3 majority in the Senate (14-7) to go along with the 26-15 margin they kept in the House. Despite that success, Democrats want to make some ill-advised changes to the electoral system instead of useful ones like photo voter ID and scrapping their previously-passed foray into early and often voting come 2022.

One proposal that quickly drew my ire is a bill (I believe this will be HB30) to move the primary date from September to April. To me, this is a terrible idea for several reasons – first and foremost, it’s because the duopoly party establishment wants it. (Of course, if it were up to them we wouldn’t even get a primary – they would simply emerge once the smoke turns white and tell us who the candidates will be.)

We went through this in Maryland about a decade ago, basically because the Democrats HATED protracted primary fights. So they moved the state’s primary up from September to the spring and, first chance they got, selected someone in the 2014 gubernatorial primary they absolutely hated by Election Day. They then doubled down and did it even worse in 2018.

As far as the Republicans went, the chances of an insurgent campaign went right out the window. An early primary gives the media more time to dig (or conjure) up dirt on the GOP hopeful once nominated and also advantages those who have name ID.

My second objection is how it would stretch out campaign season. Admittedly, this is nothing compared to the perpetual campaign for 2024 we will see from Donald Trump if the 2020 election is heisted away from him, but look at how this year’s Delaware campaign played out. The eventual Republican nominees didn’t begin campaigning a great deal until the spring – in fact, had Delaware had its primary in April with its Presidential primary, the GOP nominee would have likely been the same nominee who lost in 2016. None of the “new blood” candidates were viable in the early spring.

If it were up to me, the state of Delaware would be the trendsetter with the late primary. I honestly see no need to begin the Presidential campaign until April, with six weeks of regional eight-state primaries in June and July leading to national conventions running the week before and after Labor Day. (Iowa and New Hampshire can still go first, but having a succession of “Super Tuesday” primaries concentrated in one region beginning a week or two later means a candidate could forgo those contests and still be viable.) Regions can take turns being first.

I will say that there is one part of HB30 that should be stripped out of the bill and allowed to be its own proposal, and that’s the part about changing parties. Since I happen to be in a non-principal party, I could not change my registration to vote in a primary thanks to an absurdly early deadline for switching affiliation (something like four months prior to the election.) This would change it to 60 days, which is fair. Certainly there will be more party switching if this occurs, but sometimes that’s a good political strategy when your party has no primary.

But if I have to toss that baby out with the HB30 bathwater, so be it. This idea is a bad one, which means it will probably be on Governor Carnage’s desk by early March. Such is the political idiocy in Delaware, and we blew our chance at changing that last month.

Shorebirds safe at home

This won’t wait until the usual Thursday night time slot because it’s good news!

The game of minor league musical chairs has finally come to an end, and the Shorebirds are in the same chair they started in – however, the party arrangement is going to be significantly different.

Today it was officially announced that the Delmarva squad has been extended an invitation to remain as the class A affiliate of the Orioles – an invitation they would be foolish to turn down, considering their former mates in the Orioles chain up in Frederick were frozen out, demoted to a new MLB Draft League consisting of draft-eligible college players and playing a short season of about 68 games against several former NY-Penn League teams.

Instead, players promoted from the Shorebirds will indeed be returning to Aberdeen, which hopscotched Delmarva to become the Orioles’ new high-A team, perhaps in a new league that will cover the Northeast. (At this point, there are only five high-A teams in the region, which means they may instead be a division in a larger league.)

However, the South Atlantic League as we know it is no more. Several of the teams in the 2019 version of the league were promoted themselves to the high-A level:

  • promoted to High-A: Asheville (Col to Hou), Greensboro (stays Pit), Greenville (stays Bos), Hickory (stays Tex), Jersey Shore (formerly Lakewood, stays Pha), and Rome (stays Atl).
  • SAL (A ball): Augusta (SF to Atl), Charleston (NYY to TB), Columbia (NYM to KC), Kannapolis (stays ChiW), and Delmarva.
  • no affiliation: Hagerstown, Lexington, West Virginia

So we have no chance to avenge our 2019 playoff loss to Hickory. Bummer. Even more so: Lexington will be involuntarily retired as two-time defending SAL champion.

In turn, the revised SAL gains former Carolina League teams: Carolina (Mil), Down East (Tex), Fayetteville (Hou), Fredericksburg (formerly Potomac, stays Was), Lynchburg (Cle), Myrtle Beach (ChiC), and Salem (Bos).

This would mean the new SAL goes no farther north than Fredericksburg and Delmarva and no farther south than Augusta. I could see this as an arrangement:

Southern Division: Augusta, Charleston, Columbia, Fayetteville, Kannapolis, Myrtle Beach

Northern Division: Carolina, Delmarva, Down East, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Salem

They could also create a Central Division of four teams out of Carolina, Down East, Fayetteville, and Kannapolis. It would put Delmarva in the Northern Division with three Virginia teams.

There’s a lot to like about this rearrangement in that it eliminates some of the longer travel runs for the Shorebirds, although they are now the outpost of the new league as Maryland’s only team. One big difference: we will no longer see some familiar affiliates such as the Phillies, Yankees, Pirates, or Mets. On the other hand, we will again see Cleveland’s and Tampa Bay’s youngsters for the first time in a decade, and the Cubs farmhands for the first time in my memory.

So the waiting is over. Now we need to see what kind of season we will have in 2021.

The party reports

I said a few days ago that the Constitution Party really shot itself in the foot this time and botched its 2020 election effort.

So a couple days ago I received an e-mail that agreed with me, and it was from outgoing party chair Frank Fluckiger. In it he said, “We just did not run a good campaign this year and should have gotten more votes for Blankenship than we did. We did not get serious about the campaign until early (October) and that was costly.”

Well, first of all you should have nominated a better candidate, but besides that let’s look at what happened.

Not only did they not take the generally simple step to become a write-in candidate in several states (including Delaware and Maryland) but they missed Wyoming (a state where they have ballot access) because they forgot to turn in a three-person slate of electors. Really?

And Fluckiger adds this nugget of wisdom: “Five states… got 30,772 votes for Blankenship or 52% of the total vote Blankenship got nationwide.  That is a serious indication of just how weak the party is in many states.  So, there is a lot of work that needs to be done.” (These states were North Carolina, Michigan, Utah, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. And just so you know, the CP didn’t cost Trump any of these states since he won three and “lost” by a margin exceeding the CP’s vote in the other two.)

Finally, we can place this in the hopper, too: “With the exception of Tennessee and North Carolina, we did rather poorly in the Southern States.  In (Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Florida) we have next to no party organization other than just being on the ballot. That should hopefully change with the new regional chairmen in place.” Maybe, and maybe not. But their focus should be on running good candidates in the offyear election, primarily in areas where one party dominates. They can either keep a wavering Republican honest or provide a clear alternative to a Democrat.

I also received some much more cheering election news from my friends at iVoterGuide, as they were thrilled about their impact on legislative races around the country. They called it their biggest victory:

Hands down, I believe it is state legislatures. Because it is a census year, the state legislators who were elected on November 3 will have control of redistricting – redrawing district lines for both their state legislature AND the U.S. House of Representatives. The Constitution gives the legislatures this duty after each census records population changes. That means they can redraw districts to favor conservative candidates for the next decade!

In these state legislative races, Christian and conservative voters had a nearly perfect night November 3. Candidates that share your values will control the redistricting of at least 188 congressional seats, or 43 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Left will only control redistricting of 73 seats at most—just 17 percent of the U.S. House.

“HUGE! You should celebrate these Christian election wins,” e-mail from iVoterGuide, December 1, 2020.

They continued by praising the newly-elected “obstacle course” that the Left will have to outmaneuver for the next two years until the conservative Christian reinforcements arrive in the 2022 midterms.

Just to give you an idea of their perspective, this is how they graded the on-ballot federal candidates for local races:

Delaware U.S. Senate: Chris Coons (very liberal), Nadine Frost (moderate), Mark Turley (conservative), Lauren Witzke (conservative)

I could see where they came up with these, as Nadine is a little more libertarian on immigration than they may prefer. I still see her as a right-leaning libertarian relatively in line with how I think. Mark Turley is more moderate to me based on his renewable energy stance, so I would be inclined to flip those two challengers. The other two are pegged pretty well.

Delaware U.S. House: Lisa Blunt Rochester (very liberal), Lee Murphy (somewhat conservative), Catherine Purcell (somewhat conservative), David Rogers (liberal)

I think I can buy these depictions based on the evidence I uncovered.

Maryland U.S. House, District 1: Andy Harris (very conservative), Mia Mason (liberal)

I think I would call Mason very liberal, like fall off the end of the earth liberal, but that’s just me.

Having worked in iVoterGuide’s process for the 2018 election (I helped evaluate Maryland candidates) I would enjoy doing it again for 2o22, even if Delaware only has a House race slated. I could still help out in Maryland, too.

Presenting: The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2020

Well, I didn’t get a minor league season this year but I did get a Class of 2020 for the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame.

This class will go down in history as perhaps the most unique in the 12 seasons I have done this. Of the three players who made it this year, they have 37 big league games between them – 35 of which belong to Ryan Mountcastle. My other two players – Yermin Mercedes and Garrett Cleavinger – have the distinct possibility of joining Zach Clark in the “one and done” club as Clark’s big league resume consisted of exactly one appearance.

Of course, you come closer to 100 big league games of experience if you count the 62 games the Cleveland Indians played with Kyle Hudson as a coach. He made it back to The Show and necessitated the new coaches wing of the SotWHoF.

With the shorter season, I was truly shocked that Mercedes’ August 2 debut was the first, and probably more shocked that he never returned to the Chicago White Sox roster where he played with fellow SotWHoF member Nicky Delmonico in the lineup – a rarity indeed as Delmonico only got into six games this season.

Needless to say, we all expected to see Ryan Mountcastle this year and he put up spectacular numbers – enough so to merit a little Rookie of the Year consideration but set him up well for the 2021 award since he will still be eligible. He looks set to be the Orioles’ left fielder after his August 21 debut.

And Garrett Cleavinger finally made it into a game in his second go-round on the Philadelphia roster, debuting September 17. Unfortunately, he was optioned back out the following day and did not get a third call.

Thus, this year it turned out I had a class of four: three players and one coach. For a shortened season it was a very good class and it included a couple players I thought might get the call last year at this time (Mountcastle was a no-brainer.)

While Wynston Sawyer came somewhat close to making his debut, briefly landing on the Yankees’ 40 man roster, I believe the window of opportunity is closing fast on what was a great group of 2014 players (not to mention those who were selected prior, like Sawyer.) And to be frank, 2015 and 2016 don’t look exceptionally promising, either, thanks to losing the entirety of the 2020 minor league season. 2015’s Ademar Rifaela isn’t anywhere near the Baltimore outfield conversation while guys from 2016 like Jay Flaa (frequently brought from minor league camp during spring training), Brian Gonzalez (who recently signed with the Rockies on a minor league deal after spending part of 2020 at the Orioles’ alternate training site), and Jesus Liranzo (pitching in the Dominican Republic this winter) didn’t really step forward.

So we look to the group from 2017-19. The only two remaining from 2017 are now both on the Orioles’ 40-man roster as pitcher Alex Wells recently joined outfielder Ryan McKenna there. While it’s not yet necessary for them to be placed on the 40-man, they are joined by 2018 hopefuls Zac Lowther (who is on the 40-man anyway), Mason McCoy, DL Hall, and Brenan Hanifee.

With a real outside chance, we have 2019’s Grayson Rodriguez (who was in the ATS this summer) and Adam Hall. Both are more likely to be in the Class of 2022. Missing an entire year of Shorebirds of the Month is going to create a significant drought around 2023-24, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding the 2021 minor league season and how long it will be scheduled for. (Assuming, of course, the Shorebirds remain part of MiLB – not exactly a given.) The HoF may only have 2 or 3 next year, although there’s big potential for surprises thanks to this lost season.

With the publication of this post, I’ll bring the newly updated SotWHoF back live and allow you to read and enjoy.