So how did I do with my Shorebird guesses?

Well, I promised you several posts. Still working on odds and ends but for this one I’m going to go over just how well I guessed my Shorebird players.

You may recall I selected 25 players in the midst of spring training – 13 pitchers and 12 position players. So I’ll go through them in order and tell you where they are now.

Starting pitchers:

  • Gray Fenter is here and has made 2 starts among his three appearances.
  • The same goes for Hector Guance.
  • Matt Hammonds has appeared in long relief several times. He was also promoted to Frederick for one game.
  • Blaine Knight has made three starts for the Shorebirds.
  • Grayson Rodriguez has also made three starts for Delmarva.
  • Drew Rom has only made one start but appears to be the piggyback pitcher based on the length of his appearances.

So all six of them made the team, and except for Hammonds have made at least one start. The two starters I did not predict were a holdover from 2018 and a demotion who was here back in 2016: respectively, Nick Vespi and Ofelky Peralta.

Relief pitchers:

  • Ryan Conroy is listed on Aberdeen’s roster and has not appeared for a full-season team.
  • Nick Gruener has made four relief appearances for Delmarva, although he was stashed on the Aberdeen roster for a few days, too.
  • Tyler Joyner wasn’t on the team Opening Day but is here now, as he was assigned on April 10.
  • Kevin Magee is listed on Aberdeen’s roster and has not appeared for a full-season team.
  • Zach Matson was recently reassigned from Aberdeen as of April 18. So he’s a latecomer, too.
  • Victor Romero is on Aberdeen’s roster, too. He may be slow-played because he spent most of 2018 on the injured list.
  • Ryan Wilson is on Delmarva’s injured list and has yet to make an appearance.

I only had one of the seven relief pitchers correct for Opening Day but two others have arrived late to give me a total of 7 of 13 correct for Opening Day and 9 of 13 correct for the season.

The other Shorebird pitchers I did not predict are Matt de la Rosa (who jumped from the GCL and has also pitched for Frederick this season), Jalen Miller (who came in as a signee from independent league baseball and has already been released), and 2018 holdovers Tim Naughton and Jhon Peluffo. Peluffo has already been sent down in a paper demotion to Aberdeen.

Catchers:

  • Alfredo Gonzalez remains on Aberdeen’s roster and has not played any full-season ball this year.
  • Cody Roberts made the Opening Day squad and promptly got hurt. He’s on the injured list.

I got one out of two catchers correct, so the score is now 8 of 15 for Opening Day and 10 of 15 overall. Handling the catching duties now are 2018 holdovers Ben Breazeale and Daniel Fajardo. Breazeale was the one brought back to replace Roberts.

Infielders:

  • Seamus Curran is here and has been the primary first baseman.
  • J.C. Escarra skipped Delmarva and is Frederick’s primary first baseman.
  • Adam Hall is playing for the Shorebirds, tag-teaming with Cadyn Grenier (who was not promoted as I thought he would be) between second base and shortstop.
  • I’m not finding Zach McLeod on a roster so he’s either in extended spring or has been released.
  • Alexis Torres was definitely fast-tracked, jumping from Aberdeen at the end of last season to Bowie to begin his 2019 this week. This after just 2 games at Frederick last season being his sum of advanced-A experience.
  • Willy Yahn also jumped over Delmarva, splitting time between third base and second base for Frederick.

Aside from the aforementioned Grenier, other 2018 infield holdovers are Branden Becker and J.C. Encarnacion. Andrew Fregia was also not predicted, but he made the jump up from the GCL. Out of 21 players predicted so far, 10 of them were on the Opening Day roster and 12 have played here at some point.

Outfielders:

  • Jaylen Ferguson has not yet returned to Delmarva from Aberdeen.
  • Nick Horvath is here as the everyday center fielder.
  • Robert Neustrom flanks him as a corner outfielder, more often in right field.
  • Robbie Thorburn is listed as an active player for Delmarva but is not on the roster.

I was not expecting Will Robertson to come back here nor Doran Turchin to move up from Aberdeen.

Final stats: I got 12 players right for Opening Day and 14 so far this season. I think I have an outside chance at 20 which isn’t too bad. As for the Opening Day lineup, this was the actual one used:

  1. Adam Hall, 2b (right spot in order but wrong position)
  2. Cadyn Grenier, ss (I had Willy Yahn at 3b in #2 hole)
  3. Robert Neustrom, rf (had him batting fifth in my lineup, Escarra here)
  4. JC Encarnacion, 3b (he didn’t move up like I thought – he and Yahn flipped)
  5. Cody Roberts, c (I had Gonzalez in my lineup but Cody was on roster)
  6. Nick Horvath, cf (I had him batting fourth in my lineup)
  7. Seamus Curran, 1b (was sixth in my lineup as DH)
  8. Doran Turchin, lf (I had Thorburn in my lineup for LF)
  9. Branden Becker, dh (this was the catcher’s spot.)

Blaine Knight started in lieu of Matt Hammonds, but aside from that it wasn’t too horrible a prediction.

Next week opens up the Shorebird of the Month calendar. It’s going to be tough to choose a pitcher and position player from an abundance of riches on a 15-2 (!) team.

Update 5/18: Thorburn started on the first of May, Alexis Torres came back from Bowie a week or so ago and we picked up Ryan Conroy this week. So now 18 of 25 have played here for at least one game, with Ryan Wilson activated and pitching today.

Remaining players are Kevin Magee, Victor Romero, Alfredo Gonzalez, J.C. Escarra, Zach McLeod, Willy Yahn, and Jaylen Ferguson. Of those Magee, Romero, Gonzalez, and Ferguson are listed as active for Aberdeen, Escarra and Yahn are still with Frederick, and McLeod is presumably at extended.

Presale begins April 15!

This will be the e-book cover.

The long road is about over. I am in the Amazon queue to begin presale, with the official kickoff for the e-book set for this coming Monday, April 15 – the tenth anniversary of the Tax Day TEA Parties which occurred around the country.

I’m shooting to have the print version ready for presale as well.

The key item in making this book a success is for those who initially buy it to give it good reviews (you really should, anyway, because I thought it was a good book – and so did my beta readers.)

But if you’re wondering where I have disappeared to lately, that’s the answer to your question – getting these last-minute details ironed out. Hopefully over the next couple weeks I will begin catching up on some of those things I’ve been meaning to write on, perhaps as a couple odds and ends posts. I also have a Shorebird post to write as well, plus a record review in my writing queue.

It will be strange not writing about the TEA Party, that’s for sure.

monoblogue music: “Words For Yesterday” by Benny Bassett

This may be one of the best, simplest, yet most descriptive album covers I’ve reviewed yet. (And yes, the music is pretty good, too.)

On April 12, you can get your hands on the forthcoming EP from the guy in the photo, who gets assistance from some solid backing musicians and harmony singing to put together what could be described as a musical smorgasbord. While Bassett would probably fit best in the singer-songwriter mold, the six songs on the EP have a variety of sounds to them.

The reason I said “descriptive” for the album cover is that the first two songs on the EP – songs which would be at home on an album by any number of classic artists like The Eagles, John Cougar Mellencamp, or Tom Petty, to name a few – evoke just the imagery that the cover does. Just the names alone – Window To Forever and Live Where You Love The Sky – create that vibe. Bassett’s roaming ways provide the backdrop to the video he did for the latter song, images that represent 40 stops along his way over the last year.

But just when you thought you had Benny pegged, he gets much heavier with my pick for the best song of the six, Down Below. Yet that’s not the last twist as he gets a little more bluesy with Find A Way. That’s another winner, as is the final ballad From You. The only song I have a bit of objection to is the slightly cheesy penultimate song, Building A Future. It is a romantic song of sorts, though, so it does have that going for it. Somewhere someone would love that song for a wedding.

Benny now calls Albuquerque home, but his real base of operation seems to be his SUV. Describing himself as “a solo troubadour,” Bassett has done hundreds of shows over the few years since Vintage Blue, a former band he was in, parted ways. With that breakup, Benny left the legal game (he’s a recovering attorney – my words, not his) and his former Chicago home behind. Interestingly enough, the Wikipedia page for Vintage Blue claims they played shows “from Los Angeles all the way to Ocean City, Maryland and everywhere in between.” (Stick with me on this one.)

That touring expertise and willingness to go play shows means that Bassett already has a post-album tour lined up; however, that just seems to be the extension of his pre-album tour he’s on now. April sees him playing in twelve states (so far), with everything from house parties to hotel appearances on the docket.

And I suppose one line from Benny’s review of 2018 immediately established a connection with me: he “grew (his) relationship with Aloft Hotels all over North America.” In fact, there are three he’s playing on his April tour: Bentonville, Minneapolis, and Detroit. That connection? It just so happens that there’s an Aloft soon to open in Ocean City – I know because my “real” employer designed it and I came in on the tail end of the drafting work. So perhaps Benny will be coming our way later this summer. (Wonder if he gets to stay free?)

Normally I would tell you at this point not to take my word for it, but to listen for yourself. Unfortunately, aside from the song video I put up I can’t steer you to a place to hear it. My advice: keep his social media page in mind for April 12 and that may provide some guidance.

Who might be the Shorebirds? 2019 edition

A few years ago I set out to predict the opening 25-man roster of the Shorebirds. It was an outgrowth of a comment I received from one of my biggest SotW fans, and for a couple years I tried to pick the most likely players, with mixed success. I stopped for a time as the number of games I could attend dwindled, but better circumstances led me to make a decent number of contests last season so I thought I’d bring this back on a more limited basis. (More limited in the sense it will just be a roster and not capsules of each player.)

The big difference this time around is the new regime running the Orioles, which seems to favor a somewhat different sort of player than the previous one did. There also seems to be a larger influx of new players than normal, which is going to affect the Shorebirds in a couple instances – for example, I think one trade will eventually affect them this season and two others might be players we’ll see in 2020.

But to start opening day? Here are my wild guesses:

Starting Pitchers (6)

It won’t be a six-man rotation but I think they are going to piggyback one of the other five with last year’s first rounder Grayson Rodriguez so each gets 3 to 4 innings in a game. It might be Drew Rom with that task.

Gray Fenter (R), Hector Guance (R), Matt Hammonds (L), Blaine Knight (R), Grayson Rodriguez (R), Drew Rom (L)

Relief Pitchers (7)

Ryan Conroy (R), Nick Gruener (R), Tyler Joyner (R), Kevin Magee (L), Zach Matson (L), Victor Romero (R), Ryan Wilson (L)

Catchers (2)

Alfredo Gonzalez (R), Cody Roberts (R)

Infielders (6)

Seamus Curran (1b – L), J.C. Escarra (1b – L), Adam Hall (ss – R), Zach McLeod (util – R), Alexis Torres (2b – R), Willy Yahn (3b – R)

Outfielders (4)

Jaylen Ferguson (R), Nick Horvath (R), Robert Neustrom (L), Robbie Thorburn (L)

A projected Opening Night lineup
  • Adam Hall, ss
  • Willy Yahn, 3b
  • J. C. Escarra, 1b
  • Nick Horvath, cf
  • Robert Neustrom, rf
  • Seamus Curran, dh
  • Robbie Thorburn, lf
  • Alexis Torres, 2b
  • Alfredo Gonzalez, c
  • Matt Hammonds, sp

So we will see how well I guess this. I think the Shorebirds will do okay this season, but I’m very anxious to see what kind of draft they have this June and how well Aberdeen does. Here’s hoping the Orioles system begins to have the type of success new Orioles GM Mike Elias helped the Astros chain to achieve in 2018:

  • All six of their domestic teams were first or second in their division. Five of the six (their top 5, from short-season A ball on up) made the playoffs.
  • Of those five, class A Quad Cities lost a quarterfinal play-in game, AA Corpus Christi lost in the semifinals, and AAA Fresno lost in the league finals.
  • However, Advanced-A Buies Creek was second overall in its division but won the Carolina League pennant and short-season A Tri-City was the New York-Penn League champion.

Conversely, not a single Orioles affiliate made their league playoffs.

But in one week we will find out, and Delmarva gets to watch whatever ceremony the defending league champion does because we open at Lexington, who was the SAL pennant winner last season. (Until last season the Legends had a similar playoff drought to the one Delmarva is experiencing.) It doesn’t get much easier: we play the two Northern Division playoff squads from last season to finish the opening roadtrip (at Kannapolis) and start the home schedule (Lakewood.) Our first 14 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season so it will be a good test.

Let’s play some ball!

P5k

I wrote this back on November 5, 2014:

Those who know me and have some idea of what makes me tick realize pretty quickly I am a numbers guy, and there is just something about round numbers that I like. So every time I turn the odometer of 1,000 posts it’s a big deal to me, and hitting the 4,000 mark is no different than hitting 1,0002,0002,500, or 3,000. (For the record, the last 1,000 posts took 853 days to compile.)

“P4k”, November 5, 2014.

You can tell I’ve done this awhile: why dig up all the links when they’re readily available? But by my public school math, that previous pace would have gotten me to this 5,000 post mark on March 7, 2017. So what happened to push things back to March 24, 2019?

Well, back in 2016 I reconsidered a number of life decisions. One was to leave the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee after a ten-year run, but shortly before that I simply decided I couldn’t do justice to this site and my other obligations by posting every day, almost like clockwork. It was getting to be a real chore to make all my self-imposed deadlines so I decided to get rid of some of them – hence, the posting schedule is now about 1 to 3 a week. I also began on my book, which I’m working to finally finish next month after toiling on it for 2 1/2 years off and on, mostly on.

So this website, which used to be of primary importance to me, has fallen through the cracks a little bit. To be quite frank, there have been times where I just didn’t feel like posting here because I had something more important to work on. Book number two has been a joy to write, and it’s given me an idea of a topic for book number three – however, if book two is as successful as I think it may be, book number 2 1/2 will be a rework of book one, revising and extending those remarks.

At one time I had a decent-sized audience of readers, but since I stepped away from what was basically a sizable part-time job that made me very little income, that number – which was already down because the previous year was not an election year – was cut in half the first year and 1/3 of that the next. It’s somewhat depressing, but I often remind myself that the number of readers I have now was something I got genuinely excited about during the first year I had this site. That gentle reminder puts things in perspective.

Not only that, I have always suspected I attract a certain quality of readers. Once upon a time, I was put down as being “wordy and verbose,” and I’ll be the first to admit: guilty as charged. So instead of a thousand would-be political hacks taking in whatever I cooked up in the middle of the night I now have maybe a few dozen diehard readers, ones who care more about me as a person than me as a political pundit.

Because I do like working in numbers, the other day as I realized I was closing in on this milestone I got to thinking about just how many words I have put down for this website. If you figure the average as a thousand words a post, that’s five million words. (Just hope I don’t have a finite lifetime supply, right?) Considering my upcoming book should run right about 100,000 words and 300 pages, on this website I have written 50 books and 15,000 pages in 13 years and change. That’s kind of scary.

And it’s kind of sad, too. As our church is working through the Book of Ecclesiastes, it brought to my mind a passage from its second chapter:

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

Ecclesiastes 2:11-12, KJV.

After 5,000 posts I’ve come to realize that maybe this website isn’t going to move the political needle – but then again that’s really not for me to determine. However, it still has a purpose: it’s the journal of my thoughts, experiences, and opinions, and if it moves one reader in the right direction that’s an accomplishment I probably couldn’t perform otherwise.

The other day as I was writing to my small group, which has a potter by trade, it occurred to me that, just as clay creates his vessel, words create mine. No one ever said that I was always going to be successful making my points, but these are the talents the Good Lord gave me and who would I be to hide my light under a bushel?

So whether the “odometer” has another thousand posts in it or not (let’s hope it does) I can still say I enjoy writing here and wish to continue as long as the Good Lord allows it.

monoblogue music: “A New Heart” by the Kevin Thomas Band

If you are ever out San Diego way, you might just run into Kevin Thomas. Just look for the upbeat guy enjoying life with the positive vibes.

There are ten tracks on his album, which has already hit the streets. (You can get a reasonably good taste of the style and vibe from the first single, The Big Picture. That is, if you don’t mind Spotify too much.)

In reading his bio, I came across a line that put his album into better focus for me.

On that fateful evening, influenced by the energy that it was also his birthday, he was previously at another club watching a heavy, angst-ridden band play. There he found that it was almost as if his soul was rejecting the music being played. He soon left the club and found himself in another club soaking up an artist performing with just an acoustic guitar, his songs, and his voice. “I noticed then that different vibrations of music can have either harmful or life-enhancing effects on the body and mind, that certain sounds can actually help you evolve spiritually.” he says. The path to A New Heart had begun.

from Kevin Thomas’s website bio.

I don’t think there’s a drop of angst in this one. And as Kevin is a longtime songwriter I can’t complain at all about the musical writing skills or the arrangements, which range from the more pop-styled Money Tree, Let Your Arrow Fly, and Mirror Mirror to the more jazz-funk Time and an upbeat track like Comfort Zone.

But there are some more hidden gems and quirks awaiting listeners as well: the intriguing opening and a cappella bridges of Reinvent Yourself, a more midtempo On My Way Out, and closer The Best Luck Around prove Kevin has more than one gear.

The only real complaint I have – and perhaps this is a matter of vocal taste – is that I don’t think Kevin has the voice to always carry out his intentions. The unevenness is what keeps a good song like the initial single The Big Picture from being a great song, yet songs that frame his voice well like the sort of Sublime-like High On Chocolate become the best ones on the album. Yet I could still imagine an Ocean City bar loving The Big Picture with its Caribbean flavor, so your mileage may vary.

As you may know, I tell people to listen for themselves. The piece of information I was given was that the album would be available March 29, but it appears he already has the music and availability on his band website. So I would go check that out if you like something in a more pop-rock edging slightly toward classic rock vein.

A welcome respite

The sign said Andy Harris was welcome. But how would the crowd feel?

The last time I went to an Andy Harris town hall meeting, it was a time when “Indivisible” passions ran high and the “traveling roadshow” was out in force. One successful re-election for Harris later, the group on Monday was more subdued.

My spot of activity this week didn’t allow me to get to this right away, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I was sort of curious to see if any of his other stops would be controversial and it doesn’t appear they made a splash in the news cycle. And speaking of news cycle, this was a familiar sight.

WBOC wasn’t the only TV station at the event, but they were set up in the lobby when I walked in.

As a matter of fact, had I chose to I could have been on TV myself (on local rival WMDT) but I just didn’t feel like I could answer their questions. My thoughts and recollections are better suited for this space.

After doing it for almost a decade, perhaps Andy has figured this town hall thing out. First of all, you couldn’t help but admire his work in getting a local veteran named George Hornsby the medals and commendations he’d been owed for over fifty years.

Something else that was different (and better) was how the questions were selected. Rather than soliciting index cards for written questions for a moderator (and leaving himself open for the charge of not answering difficult questions) each person had a number given to them and when their number was drawn, they were given the opportunity to stand up and ask their question. In a little over an hour, we got to about 15 people that I wrote down.

And I thought the questions were nicely varied, which made them a little bit difficult to categorize. As a summary and not a blow-by-blow, I think I can take a bit of editorial license and group questions into more broad categories.

The first is a sort of “role of government” track. People had concerns about the direction of the House, and were asking what he could do to assist President Trump. There was a person concerned about robocalls, another who asked about sanctuary cities, and someone else who asked about the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Regarding the direction of the House, Harris just reminded us, “everybody has a vote” each two years. It’s the worst system – except for all the rest, he continued, conceding that the voters wanted divided government. “I try to represent the district,” he added, noting his belief he’s conveying the wishes of the majority of the First District.

Unfortunately, being in the House minority means there’s “not a whole lot” he can do to help Donald Trump, a President he agrees with “90 percent of the time.” One of those cases will be his vote to sustain President Trump’s veto of the rescission of his state of emergency. “My vote will sustain his veto,” said Harris.

One reason he cited was funding for border security. “As a nation you have to control your borders,” he said. Andy also alerted us to the 90% of our heroin that comes across the southern border, not to mention the amount of fentanyl – enough to kill 9 times the population of Maryland from one particular recent seizure – that we stop.

Eventually the conversation on the border led to a question on sanctuary cities, and whether we could cut their funding. Andy told the questioner there was no statutory authority to do so, but having sanctuary cities also “creates a lack of rule of law,” which was something we needed to get back to. I also learned how Andy would handle the DREAMer situation: a “legal pathway” with permanent residency status but no citizenship unless they returned to their home country to start the process there.

All that made the concern about robocalls, which was a concern he agreed with – and even spoke to the committee chair regarding it – rather mundane. It also has an international aspect to it since most originate in foreign countries but spoof domestic numbers.

Harris also agreed the Kavanaugh confirmation was “a spectacle,” although as a member of the House he was but an observer like the rest of us. “In the end, I think the American system worked,” he added.

In a sort of peripheral way, those couple people who were concerned about environmental issues were looking at the government for help, too. One was concerned about garbage, which is a problem in, of all places, the middle of the Pacific. In that case, one of the issues was that China no longer takes our garbage. The reason? We are dirty recyclers: oftentimes the leftover products originally encased within the plastic containers are still present in enough quantity to make recycling less cost-effective. Perhaps a solution is in “waste-to-energy” or chemical recycling.

Their other concern was Bay funding, which President Trump’s budget cut from $73 million to $7 million. The Maryland delegation is working to at worst level-fund it, although if there is a continuing resolution the spending would continue as before, too.

Here Andy brought up one area where he and I part ways: stating that offshore drilling needs the permission of the state, Harris stated his opposition to not only offshore drilling, but offshore testing as well. That is a short-sighted approach, but I think opponents like him are afraid that there’s a vast supply of black gold or natural gas out there. I’m not sure why that’s something to fear, but why not do the testing anyway to verify one way or the other?

A lot of people had guns on their minds. There are “too many guns in this country,” said one questioner. But we have the Second Amendment, which makes us unique among nations.

And guns aren’t necessarily the problem, said Andy. We’re not dealing adequately with the issue in several respects:

  • The celebration of violence in video games, which was even something President Obama spoke about.
  • The lack of control of gangs and drugs. Are laws as enforced as they should be?
  • A decrease in religious observance, which you could also consider a lack of morals if you prefer. (My words, not his.)

And while Baltimore “went after their police force,” they are “allowing young lives to be destroyed” there. And as an homage to Captain Obvious, Harris said “we will never disarm non-law-abiding citizens.”

He had some unkind words about Maryland, too, noting that while the state has universal background checks, they are one of the worst states at reporting mental health issues to the federal government for those checks. Don’t do more gun laws if you’re not enforcing the ones you have, he said: for example, out of the thousands who knowingly stated falsely they didn’t commit a crime – thereby committing perjury on a federal form – only ten of those cases were prosecuted because former AG Eric Holder didn’t make it a priority.

Andy’s opposition certainly had its say, although to their credit they were reasonably non-disruptive. The only exception was a case where two people objected to Andy’s reticence to commit to an hour-long face-to-face meeting with that constituent who disagreed with Andy’s stance against Obamacare. The tension got thick when Andy was accused of anti-Semitism for meeting with a “Holocaust denier” as well as chastised for a visit to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Victor Orban, leader of a “center-right” government. (Harris, a first-generation American whose parents fled Hungary amidst a Communist takeover, leads the Hungarian-American Caucus in Congress.) It’s “pretty repulsive to me” to be called anti-Semitic, Harris countered. But the disruptive pair were not escorted out as cooler heads prevailed.

While Harris objects to Obamacare, it should be pointed out that he’s for several reforms to Medicare Part B – specifically, the area of prescription drugs administered in a physician’s office or hospital where Andy remarked “Medicare has no leverage” to deal with increasing costs. As it stands now, these providers are allowed a 6% surcharge on top of list price reimbursement, as I understand it. (I’ll plead ignorance since I am not on Medicare.) Apparently HHS Secretary Alex Azar has a plan to revise this scheme to account for the reduced price other nations pay to allow these drugs into their market – a gatekeeping system Medicare doesn’t have. Using a weighted average of the prices charged to 12 other leading industrialized nations plus a 30 percent premium is “a pretty good compromise” according to Harris.

I suppose if the drug cost us $10, the weighted average of the 12 was $5, and the 30% premium added $1.50, yeah, there could be some savings. Of course, I have no idea about the actual numbers.

(It should also be mentioned that opioid addiction was brought up in the meeting. His opinion: “It will take a long time to fix,” because the problem isn’t just drug companies or overly aggressive doctors. But no one ever did any studies on how addictive these painkillers could be until much more recently.)

A more significant part of the time was spent by Andy explaining his opposition to H.R. 1, the (so-called) For The People Act. “What part did you object to?” he was asked, answering “why not (send up the provisions) one at a time?” rather than a 400-page bill that’s been amended several times. “We have to stop doing bills like this,” he continued, holding up a copy of the bill that takes up half or more of a ream of paper.

“Really, it’s an incumbent protection plan,” Harris added, and while in that respect he theoretically should favor it, his primary complaint on it was that “it tells states how to conduct their elections.” He wasn’t in favor of public financing of elections and had a problem with its oversight provisions, such as voting in other states (as a former opponent of his was caught doing.)

Yet a GOP amendment making “ballot harvesting” illegal was defeated – its main flaw is allowing anyone to bring in ballots, rather than specifically a family member or guardian. I personally see it as a chain of custody issue, and ironically the same technique that turned the tide in several California House races was the reason North Carolina voters in their Ninth District have an upcoming “do-over” in their race, won on election night in 2018 by a Republican. Ballot harvesting is illegal in North Carolina, precisely because of those chain of custody issues.

One last thing I’ll bring up is the charge Andy often receives about not having empathy or sympathy. “I take care of patients!” he replied. His job is to pay attention and read the bills, and when it comes to health care it’s to maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions and keep insurance affordable. Personally, I just think there are too many people who equate big government with empathy or sympathy but would object to a faith-based solution because it’s “pushing their religion on people.” To those whose god is government, perhaps I’m tired of you pushing your religion on the rest of us. I’d just like to render unto Caesar only what is supposed to be his and not all of my freedom, too.

But a nice lady had her number called shortly after this and told the audience she had dealt with Congressman Harris’s office regarding her mesh implants and thanking him for helping her with the issue. It’s one where the public and physician databases need to be better integrated so that doctors can be better informed with real-time reporting and analysis. “Sunlight solves a lot of problems,” said Andy.

We also talked about suicide, which was a byproduct of the same culture that’s led to so much gun violence. In a nation founded on religious principles, it’s no surprise to me that being religious cuts the risk of suicide in half – at least that’s what Harris claimed. “If we abandon religion, we abandon some of those (founding) principles,” Harris remarked.

I’m certain there were those agnostics in the room who scoffed at that assertion. “There’s a separation of church and state!” they thunder, and if there could be a border wall built between the two that’s a wall they would support 200 percent and have that sucker built a mile high and twice as deep, halfway to God or Gaia or who/whatever they believe in.

In a letter from John Adams to officers in the Massachusetts militia (October 11, 1798) our second President remarked as a close to a longer point, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If you presume that “any other” is the irreligious lot we have now, Adams was probably right and, as a group, they tend to be the ones who want to revamp our founding document.

But I get the idea that our Constitution was Divinely inspired, and as such I like to see us hew to it as best we can. While it does need some modern-day tweaking, including a pruning of the amendments ratified in 1913, the Constitution can continue to serve us well if lawmakers just remember their oath to defend it. I think Andy Harris does a reasonable job of that and I’m glad he stopped by.

A real March madness

With the field now set for the big college basketball dance, it’s time for the annual riffs on that theme – and what better style of madness than to determine seedings for the Democratic presidential field?

I’m going to go from #16 to #1, but feel free to handicap the bracket yourself.

#16: Marianne Williamson, 66. She’s a non-traditional candidate who’s best known as an author and motivational speaker; however, she has one recent (unsuccessful) run for Congress under her belt.

#15: Andrew Yang, 44. The other non-traditional major candidate in the field, he’s an entrepreneur who founded a non-profit called Venture for America. His key issue: a universal basic income for Americans.

#14: Tulsi Gabbard, 37. A member of Congress from Hawaii since 2013, Gabbard also served two tours of duty with the Army National Guard in Iraq, a deployment that cut short her initial political office in Hawaii’s House of Representatives, where she was elected at age 21.

#13: Pete Buttigieg, 37. He was elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana in 2011, and prior to winning a second term in 2015 served for seven months as a Naval reservist in Afghanistan. Shortly after returning from that deployment, Buttigieg announced he was gay. He is the only candidate in the field who still has an exploratory committee.

#12: Julian Castro, 44. Castro was Ben Carson’s predecessor as HUD Secretary, serving from 2014-17 after five years as mayor of San Antonio as well as a city councilman.

#11: Jay Inslee, 68. The governor of Washington state since 2013, he previously served seven non-consecutive terms in Congress – one as a representative of a more rural area and the last six in a Seattle-area district after he moved there. His main issue: climate change.

#10: John Delaney, 55. The founder of a business lending institution, Delaney served three terms in Congress before declining re-election in 2018 to focus on his Presidential run. He was the first candidate in the race, announcing a year and a half before the Iowa caucuses.

#9: John Hickenlooper, 67. He served most of two terms as mayor of Denver before leaving that post as the elected governor of Colorado in 2011. He recently concluded his second and final term in that post.

#8: Kirsten Gillibrand, 52. The most recent candidate to make it official, as she took the exploratory committee training wheels off over the weekend, Kirsten was Hillary Clinton’s replacement in the Senate, moving up from the House barely two years after her arrival there in 2007. She won election in 2010 to finish Clinton’s term and re-election twice since, 2012 and this previous November.

#7: Cory Booker, 49. He’s been New Jersey’s junior Senator since being elected in a 2013 special election, moving up after serving for over seven years as the mayor of Newark. He won that job in his second try, four years after concluding his one term on their city council with a defeat in his initial mayoral bid.

#6: Amy Klobuchar, 58. She has served as a Senator from Minnesota since being elected in 2006; previously she was the county attorney for Hennepin County, which is essentially Minneapolis and its suburbs, for eight years before moving up to the Senate. She announced her bid outside in a Minnesota snowstorm.

#5: Beto O’Rourke, 46. He’s perhaps most famous for a race he lost, falling short of replacing Ted Cruz in the Senate last year. By running for Senate, he abandoned a three-term House incumbency that followed six years on El Paso’s city council as well as a colorful past that included computer hacking and touring the country as bassist in a punk rock band.

#4: Elizabeth Warren, 69. She was elected to the Senate in 2012 after serving as the initial administrator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but being passed over for formal nomination to be the CFPB’s director in favor of Richard Cordray. A longtime law professor, her other claim to fame is being known as “Fauxcahontas” for claiming American Indian ancestry, perhaps even getting professional benefit from that claim. Ironically, she makes no secret about once being a Republican but switching parties in the 1990’s.

#3: Kamala Harris, 54. Stop me if you heard this one before: young black lawyer runs for President based on a few years in state office and barely two years in the Senate. Indeed, this is the case with Harris, who spent seven years as the District Attorney in San Francisco before going statewide in 2010. Six years later, she won her Senate seat and now she’s running for President.

#2: Bernie Sanders, 77. The only current aspirant to have run for President before, if you count several unsuccessful campaigns before he finally won a race (for mayor of Burlington, where he served for eight years) you would find his political career is older than five of his fellow candidates – he first tried for office in a special January, 1972 Senate election to a seat he would eventually win 34 years later, in 2006. That followed a 16-year stint as Vermont’s lone House member. While Sanders has always officially been an “independent,” he’s caucused with the Democrats since joining Congress.

#1: Joe Biden, 76. Yes, I know, he’s not formally in the race. But I’m going to give him the top seed because all these folks to his left, not to mention his association with a still-popular President, make him the most popular candidate – even more so than the ones in the race. The RCP average has Biden up seven points on the rest of the field.

So that’s the way the seeding goes. I see exactly zero chance of a 16 over 1 upset, but that 15 vs. 2 matchup may be more interesting than people think. 3 vs. 14 is pretty much a walkover, as the Gabbard campaign is having several issues, but I wouldn’t sleep on 4 vs. 13 – I think that may be your first upset special.

Oftentimes 12 vs. 5 is a trap game for the higher seed, but I think the more popular Texan takes it. 11 vs. 6 is probably not much of a contest, but 10 vs. 7 may be a close call, too. I think 9 wins over 8 in the mild upset.

Of course, all that does is put the 9 seed out in the second round as the 1 seed advances to the Final Four. The 2 seed will crush the weakened 7 seed in a contest that isn’t as good as the intriguing 2-15 matchup was.

In a thrilling 6 vs. 3 contest, I think the lower seed takes it in a big upset. And it sets up another crazy matchup of 13 vs. 5 that nearly becomes a second huge shock to the system.

Because the 5 seed had so much taken out of him in the prior game, he’s no match for the #1 seed. But the 6 seed moves on, ousting the #2 seed as his game runs out.

So in my final I would have Klobuchar vs. Biden. If Biden ran into foul trouble (i.e. an ill-timed inappropriate remark, which he’s quite prone to do) this could be Klobuchar’s to win. But she has a little baggage of her own, and people are pretty much immune to the things Joe says, so I think he would hang on in a very close contest.

Obviously a lot can change in the coming months, but I think that’s the state of play for the moment.

Observations on an avocation

Because people have actually paid me for doing this stuff for over a decade now, I consider freelance writing to be my side hustle. But with a steadier full-time job, I really hadn’t taken the craft seriously enough until I got closer and closer to finishing The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party – in part because I didn’t wish to repeat the mistakes I made with my first book seven years ago. (As part of taking it seriously, Lord knows the tempo of posting here has slowed to an agonizing crawl, right?)

So this year I had a door opened as I found out the Eastern Shore Writers Association was hosting a self-publishing track as part of their annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. I hadn’t previously been a member but now I am among their ranks, and it’s an interesting group – as I found out last Saturday.

One feature of their conference is a bookstore of their authors’ products, and I learned that, for the most part, my peers in the group work in fiction and poetry. It’s not something that I have an issue with at all; in fact, I salute their creativity and imagination in pursuing their craft. However, it should be said that I am probably the outlier when it comes to both genre and viewpoint – I tell people I’m “barely left of militia” but my observation was that most of these folks are likely left of center – and a few barely this side of Stalin.

But I think all of us share a goal of getting out our story, whether it be a fictional figment of wild imagination or a historical and political documentation like Rise and Fall. I know it may not have the audience of a Tom Clancy thriller nor the reach of someone who’s a known figure and can negotiate a $65 million advance. (Heck, I would have done cartwheels for a $6,500 advance – or maybe even $65.) Still, I was a bit disappointed that no one really wanted to take a chance on being an agent for the book, but I shouldn’t have been surprised given the hundreds of thousands of titles produced annually, many by already-established authors.

Fortunately, I have an available outlet in self-publishing and over the six hour-long seminars I attended I learned a lot about the ins and outs of selling that way. One author made her series of romance novels a hit by studying the trends of well-selling similar books and adding those elements into her stories, which are set on the Eastern Shore. Another shared her insights on producing a good finished product, still a third talked about the art of face-to-face hand-selling of hard copies, and so on. I have pages of notes and several handouts to guide me. Now I have a strategy in mind for marketing, incorporating some of the elements I already have in place such as my book website.

So now I’m doing the final edits to Rise and Fall, among other things taking care of one maddening aspect that I found to be an easy enough fix. But I suppose I can let it slip that Rise and Fall won’t be the last book I do, and hopefully in about 18 months there will be a companion to it on fine bookshelves and e-readers everywhere. At this point that’s all I will reveal.

All in all, the Bay to Ocean event was good for me, and hopefully you’ll soon agree that it made me a better writer and marketer. I have definitely found more appreciation of craft after the event.

What comes around, goes around

I’ll tell you why! Those of you who have been here awhile know that I do an annual “picks and pans” as a Shorebird fan after each season. Today’s post is a long time coming since I spent part of my 2015, 2016, and 2017 picks and pans talking about the subject of today’s photo essay.

The 360 degree concourse was originally slated to be built between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, but the final funding wasn’t put into place until last spring. And yesterday it was formally opened up. I missed the ribbon cutting and didn’t win any of the giveaway prizes.

But I got a batch of pictures to share. How’s that?

Our first unique and new view is from the right field corner. I suspect the kids will soon figure out this is the place to beg for t-shirts and frisbees. There’s something new about that aspect, too, as I’ll get to in due course.
From where I was on the above shot, you are right under the scoreboard.
If you went as close as you could to dead center – a spot from which you couldn’t see the field because of the batter’s eye – this is what you would see.
This is taken from the left field corner looking toward center. It’s one location where there is no drink rail and one of the few disappointments I had. I was hoping they would have a wider area here where they could set up a stage or higher platform for seating, but they left a lot of unused space there.
Part of the saving grace is adding the metal drink rail along this fence, a space I suspect is going to be very popular for families – especially those with kids who like to chase foul balls. It will also be fun for those who like to check on the bullpen.
I stopped by my summer home for a few minutes – about as much as I could brave the chill.
Before I finish the tour, I noticed the Shorebirds got a new truck for Sherman, since the old one advertised a dealer who is no longer with us. You sure would miss them. But he has new wheels from which to toss those frisbees and shirts.
This is one of the new tables in the upper section of the Hardball Cafe, which also features the nifty new chairs. These same tables and chairs are up on the luxury level on the third floor.
The low tables, though, are half-round along the rail and the chairs for them swivel and have a mesh seat. Very comfy and surprisingly not cold to the behind on an evening like last night.
The suites aren’t set up any differently, but it looks like they got new finishes. Only 2 of the 6 are corporate-owned now – a couple years back there were 4 corporate and 2 left open for nightly rent, now we have the reverse.

Since this current phase of renovations of our now 23-year-old ballpark began after the 2015 season, they have rebuilt the entire field and sub-surface drainage, renovated the clubhouses, put in new seating throughout the stadium (with the possible exception of the outfield picnic areas, which I didn’t check out during my rounds), installed a new scoreboard and video board, and now have completed the concourse. About the only thing they need to do now is modernize the food service and perhaps renovate the restrooms, front office space, gift shop, and Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame. (Not to be confused with the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, which is constantly renovated each off-season.)

So old Arthur W. Perdue Stadium is looking pretty good now. In a couple weeks I think it will be time to return to a short-lived tradition and take my wild guess as to who will be sporting the Shorebird black-and-orange this summer. That will be fun.

So, about those Jeremiah conservatives…

I made an executive decision as I wrote this: an edited (no blockquote) version is crossposted to my book site.

I’ve been meaning to get to this all week and the opportunity has finally arrived. Last week Erick Erickson at The Resurgent did a piece on what he called “Jeremiah 29 conservatives.” In the post, he cites Jeremiah 29:5-7, which is a portion of a letter from Jeremiah to those who were captured and forced to relocate to exile in Babylon. Erickson uses it to springboard to his main point:

There is a growing class of conservatives in the United States who can be considered Jeremiah 29 Conservatives. They have given up on national politics. It has become too ugly, too compromising, too unaligned with their values, and too willing to make compromises with bad government and big government to advance a compromised agenda.

These conservatives are trying to seek the welfare of the cities in which they live, recognizing that it is there they will find their welfare. They want good government and understand the most important fight of the day is the one for their family’s daily well being. Washington, they know, is too far removed from their daily lives and, in their mind, Republicans and conservative institutions in Washington have made too many compromises to be effective.

At the end of the Bush Administration and beginning of the Obama era, thanks oddly enough to the Citizens United case, grassroots groups were springing up around the country to help conservatives down to the local level. There were training sessions for conservative activists on simple things like the best way to write editorials to local papers. They grassroots groups provided tools for local activists to contact their state legislature. They explained how to find when a city council met and how to show up to speak on an issue. They encouraged conservative activists to run for the school board.

As the tea party rose, conservative organizations began focusing more and more on fighting Barack Obama. They abandoned the fights in the states.

Obviously this quote hit home with me given my passion for the TEA Party and its principles. But to a great extent it’s true.

I’ve probably researched the TEA Party more than 99% of the people out there and I found that it was a very unusual phenomenon in that the TEA Party began as a nationwide effort but then decentralized itself to the local level for a time. Think of the TEA Party as three early stages, which I’ll distinguish by their dates: February 27, April 15, and September 12. (All these occurred in 2009.)

The February 27 wave occurred in fewer than 50 cities and was really put together for one purpose: to make a statement about the unwillingness of government to consider solutions other than top-down financial stimulus and increased government control in addressing the Great Recession. Some may have organized this believing it would be a one-time deal, but there was such a success created that thousands of others, helped along by mass media, decided to get in on the action at the local level.

So rather than 40-odd mainly large cities, the April 15 (and later July 4) wave of TEA Parties took place in a thousand cities around the nation, big and small. Each local event had its own flavor, with some rallying around strictly financial and national issues and others departing from that script to address local items or topics dear to social conservatives, particularly those in the pro-life movement. There was no “right” way to do a TEA Party, and part of its appeal was the grassroots organization that didn’t get marching orders from a party or inside-the-Beltway group.

But by the September 12 Taxpayer March on Washington – an event I simply call 9/12 – local groups were being encouraged to join up in a national organization, supposedly to increase the clout of the movement. While some TEA Party groups remained fiercely independent, most others gravitated toward an alliance with organizations such as the Campaign for Liberty or Americans for Prosperity. (The latter is basically what happened to our local TEA Party.) This also coincided with the rise of Tea Party Patriots as an umbrella group, although they weren’t the only one as many states had similar entities.

Once the rallies became less frequent, though, hundreds of TEA Party groups withered on the vine. And many of those individual participants who stuck it out for the first couple years were perhaps made complacent by how easily the political tables were turned in 2010 and figured the movement didn’t need them anymore – they let the most passionate ones soldier on. So by the time 2012 and 2014 rolled around, many of those who believed in the TEA Party early on saw that the movement was no longer locally grassroots but corporate-style Astroturf, and no longer fiercely independent but now the red-headed stepchild of the national Republican Party.

As Erickson might tell it, that’s what happens when outsiders try to get involved in national politics, which is way out of the league of the average person. Most people are more interested in local activism, and (to be honest) if government were as it should be that’s all they would need to deal with.

So today I decided to look again at the Tea Party Patriots’ website as they celebrate their tenth anniversary. In a celebratory op-ed by Jenny Beth Martin – the only one of the three original co-founders of Tea Party Patriots to still be with the group – she cited a number of Washington initiatives as accomplishments of the TEA Party and noted they would continue to fight in the halls of Congress – just like any other lobbying group. They pay lip service to the local groups, but their focus is on stopping socialism on a national level. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s stop pretending they’re a grassroots group, okay?

It’s very sad to think that the TEA Party may have missed its golden opportunity because they lost focus on the local groups. If local needs are addressed, it’s more likely that states will follow and eventually the nation.

I have a suggestion for all this, but I can’t reveal it here – it’s waiting until my book is ready. (That’s called a tease.) Good Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise, look for it April 15.

monoblogue music: “The Starman” (single/video) by Lord Sonny the Unifier

This is going to be a “value-added” review. I was originally asked to write on the single and video in the title, which this Brooklyn-based band put out back on February 8. However, one of the links was to the advance review copy of the album that The Starman is featured on, called “Final Notice!” So I’m going to talk about that a little bit, in part because The Starman is very representative of the collection as a whole.

Like I said, the video and single came out last month and, rather than make you deal with Spotify I’ll just embed the video for your viewing pleasure. It’s the same song.

The second single and video from the forthcoming release “Final Notice!” by Lord Sonny the Unifier.

Trust me, this video is nowhere near as weird as their first one from the album, the initial single Right In Your I.

But if you didn’t get the vibe from the latest video – which, admittedly, needs a lot of explanation to allow me to “get it” – you might correctly imagine this album would almost have been more at home dropping in 1979 than 2019. Strangely enough, the influential records listed by the band for their forthcoming full-length are smack dab representative of that album rock era.

I can hear a lot of those influences – or at least the ones that I know, since I haven’t listened to every track therein – on “Final Notice!”, which I believe is slated to come out in mid-April. And I have to say that, while all the songs are different enough to hold your interest, there’s really not a bad one in the bunch. Obviously there are some I like better than others, such as First In Space and March Forth (the latter really should be released to the world on Monday, naturally) but they all are pretty enjoyable in their own right. And the cool thing is that they can use 2019 technology now to make 1979 sound even better.

Now if you believe the backstory to this album – and after watching their videos there are a couple doubts creeping into my mind, but we’ll go ahead and roll with it – this band was a successor project for lead singer Greg Jiritano after he a) did a 6-year “extreme sonic experimentation” with a collaborator and band that produced music which couldn’t be performed live and went unreleased, and b) decided after plan A didn’t pan out to do a DIY project only to have the studio burn to the ground shortly before its release, destroying all of his work. So you are listening to plan C, which may very well be a good name for a band or album. (The rest of the Unifier band: Tyler Wood on keyboards, Derek Nievergelt on bass, and drummer Carmine Covelli. With a name like that, he had to be a drummer.)

Given the subtle but pleasing strangeness of Lord Sonny the Unifier and their album from another era, I can’t say plan C wasn’t the correct play.