A long-awaited return

July 8, 2017 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

Oh my gosh, have I been pining to write this.

You are probably wondering why it’s been so damn long since I wrote a post, so let me tell you: we moved. This was actually a planned thing, but I wasn’t planning on doing it quite so soon. And part of that move was having to re-establish internet service and that took until today – until now I had to use my phone’s mobile hotspot to get on the internet and I wasn’t going to chew up gobs of data just to write and research blog posts. (I did it for writing Patriot Post, though, such as yesterday’s piece that led off their “Weekend Snapshot.” That was plenty enough.)

Now I have service re-established, though, I can get back to writing stuff every once in awhile. In fact, one thing I owe you is a Shorebird of the Month for June as it was a casualty of my wait for internet. I’ll pick that up next Thursday at the appointed time.

But wait: there’s more. I got some news yesterday that I’m keeping under my hat for a few days, but in time this will be the opportunity to end my hiatus from serious writing. Let me assure you that prayers are answered.

I may have a post tomorrow for you as well because I started one before we moved, hoping to get it done (obviously not.) I’ll have to look it over and see if it’s still relevant but I think it will be. In the meantime, I’m pleased to be back online with good internet.

And boy do I have a lot to say!

About my hiatus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A resurgence of red ink?

One of my favorite commentary websites is The Resurgent, Erick Erickson’s site that just turned a year old, tried a different business model for a time, and gave me (or at least a photo I took) a brief brush with fame. (He also co-authored a whale of a book.) But it seems being #NeverTrump during the campaign came with a cost there, too:

While I don’t regret my choices, I have to admit it hurt professionally and has brought The Resurgent to the brink of going out of business. Any sponsors who did not bolt last year were, at best, forced to scale back. Many of them came under withering attacks and calls for boycott, as did my radio advertisers. It was more effective than I would like to admit, though we kept the lights on thanks to the generosity of others. That may be coming to an end now.

Someone needs to plant their flag for defending conservatism, even against the GOP, whether it be Trump’s GOP or someone else’s. That’s what I intend to do — to call it as I see it. But that only gets me so far without the help of others here and, frankly, our bank account is crossing into critical territory.

Before I started The Resurgent, I asked for help and readers generously gave us over $65,000.00. But this past year, between all the health and personal stuff going on and the professional toll of the campaign, I did not want to push the issue as much as I should have. By the time I got around to really asking, it was just after Thanksgiving. The result is that readers only contributed $19,000.00.

With our advertising revenue, that helped us get through the year, but we ate into our reserves.

The reality is that if we cannot boost ad revenue and, hopefully, count on you guys, we will have to wind things down. I know this will generate laughter from both the alt-right and the left. A conservative site shuttered because of a refusal to kiss a ring does such things.

I would imagine there is a percentage of those who read here who think Erick deserves it for going against the Republican nominee. Obviously then they think I deserve the readership loss I had, perhaps for doing the same thing. (It was quite severe, too: I haven’t had numbers like those since the early days – but then again I also slowed the pace of my writing a lot, which honestly may explain much more of the decline. I would rather write fewer, better things though than slap something together I’m not that pleased with and if it’s not daily, so be it.)

Yet I’m not going to kiss a ring, either. So far I have a “wait and see” approach to the incoming administration as some of those Donald Trump has selected to head his Cabinet departments sound like good choices and some do not. And the GOP Congress also has a role to play regarding the legislation Trump will have to sign or veto. Yet the fact that those on the left are having conniption fits over the prospect of a Trump administration at least gives me a laugh. For example, I get Senator Van Hollen’s Facebook feed and occasionally leave a comment. But those comment threads are popcorn-worthy. Teachers seem genuinely worried that Betsy DeVos (who Erickson called “a staggeringly good choice“) will become Secretary of Education, and I say: why not? It would be great to have her be the last Secretary of Education before the department is dismantled, although that would only last as long as the Democrats are out of power.

Once the newness wears smooth, though, we will see just what a minority of Republicans (and voters overall, although he obviously won enough states) have wrought on us. Unfortunately, for conservatives it’s sort of a Faustian bargain because if he succeeds people will say it’s because of Donald Trump’s populism, but if he fails Trump will suddenly become more conservative than Reagan ever was, just to put an albatross around the neck of the Right. Obviously the equation of Republican with conservative will play a role in this.

But to circle back to the original point, I’m hoping people come through with enough support to keep Erick’s site going. Certainly he’s not in a situation like some other destitute “bleggers” have been over the years, but he has a family too. We need bloggers like Erick to keep The Donald honest, even if his biggest fans don’t want to listen.

Programming notes, a book update, and bleg

December 26, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

To allocate a word from the hapless “Married With Children” character Al Bundy regarding the mouse in his house, this week is the deadest. It’s a week news outlets fill with year in review items and for me it will be no different as I sandwich my single-part look at things to watch in 2017 between my monoblogue year in review Thursday and the top 5 list of the albums I reviewed on Saturday. Now I won’t go as far as the blog expert who suggested that bloggers need not come back until mid-January, but unless the creek rises there’s no real need to write a deep thought piece here this week.

So I’m saving the deep thought for my book, which is now past the 10,000 word barrier in its initial draft. Overall, I would like to cover the subject in about 80 to 100 thousand words, which is at least half again as long as So We May Breathe Free was (and remember, this is all original.) I also have a couple more books on my list to acquire and read.

One thing I have done is put together a rudimentary, somewhat under construction social media page for the book. As I get farther along I will be adding more features to it, and perhaps create another outlet. After doing a book all by myself, this time I have some idea of what to avoid for round two.

And finally, I learned this morning The Patriot Post has someone willing to match donations as their year-end campaign reaches its final week. I added to my total for the year to keep them going, so if you enjoy reading it as much as I like writing there, perhaps you should consider a donation too. It’s a valuable outlet for news and informative perspective from a pro-liberty, pro-faith traditional point of view.

I told you Saturday I’d be back Monday, and so I have been. I just didn’t promise the longest of pieces.

monoblogue turns eleven

To borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, I have to give this post that extra push. Whether that push is over the cliff or not remains to be seen, but this website is going to 11.

Once again I’m writing this “state of the blog” address on its anniversary. Since this is year 11, I don’t have to be as fancy as I was last year with “10 from 10″ – just one post will do. That’s a good thing because, to be quite frank, this past year was a brutal one for this site that I would rank as the worst, for a host of reasons. Maybe it’s the realization that it may never quite be all I wanted it to become since I just don’t have the resources or talents to make it so. And almost everything I’ve tried to do recently has failed to make an impact.

So I came to the decision back in July that this could not be an everyday endeavor going forward. The reward just hadn’t been there for the effort I had been putting in, either in readership or political change.

I have had the same program count my readership for nearly a decade, so I have a pretty good idea of what the numbers will look like in any given year: even-numbered years generally outperform odd-numbered ones because this is, after all, a political-based site so interest will peak coming into an election and wane for awhile afterward. (Since only 32,000 people live in Salisbury and only a tiny percentage of them bother to vote, municipal elections really don’t help the readership cause out much. Moreover, I don’t even get that modest benefit next year because the city adopted a system similar to the state of Maryland: all of last year’s winners are set until 2019, so there’s no city election in 2017.) With Maryland’s four-year election cycle, this makes 2012 the most comparable year to 2016 – and unless I hit a readership number in the next month I haven’t had in many moons I won’t even reach half that 2012 level. Simply put, since the 2014 election my numbers have been terrible in comparison to my peak years of 2012-14. For 2016 they may not even make it back to my previous all-time low year of 2009, which was be the similar point in the cycle as 2017 will be. I never really got the October peak my site usually gets in an election year, but what’s done is done I suppose.

Another conclusion that I reached last year was that I couldn’t do justice to my Shorebird of the Week series, so it’s gone by the wayside. And given the paucity of other long-running features such as Weekend of local rock (just four volumes in the last year) and odds and ends (only six this year, and one since March), this site is undergoing a transition to a completely different look and feel that reflects my own changing priorities. (That’s not all my doing, though: I will miss having Marita’s columns each week, too. Hopefully Cathy Keim hasn’t forgotten me, either.)

One of those priorities used to be that of being a reporter, but because of the aspect of political change I haven’t recently done a number of on-the-spot posts I had previously done – and they’re not coming back. Because I decided I couldn’t support a particular candidate, there was no longer a monthly Republican Club post, reports related to events I would attend on their behalf such as the Good Beer Festival, Autumn Wine Festival, or Lincoln Day Dinner, or the other “insider” stuff I used to receive. (As an example, the Maryland Republican Party will elect a new leadership slate on Saturday – and I haven’t seen or heard a thing about it, as opposed to the contested elections we had in the spring when I was still on the Central Committee.)

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t get the October bump, but then again if you were reading this site just for that sort of reporting you were somewhat missing the point. And if you’re on a jihad against me because I wasn’t a good Republican who fell in line to support Trump (as many of my cohorts did, for the sake of party unity) you probably don’t understand the philosophy I live by. If the choice is between my conscience and increased readership, I will choose the former and live without the latter, every time. We all have choices to make in life and I made mine.

So now that I’ve gone through all the doom and gloom as well as the murmurings and disputings, allow me to look forward. And yes, despite the lower readership numbers, there will be a forward. The site is paid up for the next year so I may as well use it every so often.

Where I see this enterprise going is that it becomes more of a teaching tool, and part of that is because of another project I am doing simultaneously with this website.

We have three elements at work here: first, we have the results of socialism and government overreach that arguably were rejected with the latest election returns. (At least they were rejected in enough states to put Donald Trump in the Oval Office.) Secondly, we have the premise that President-elect Trump will govern from the center to center-left rather than the Right, at least on balance. Most of his “alt-right” supporters are surely disheartened with his transition as he’s backed away from several campaign planks and placed those who didn’t necessarily support him in positions of authority, but I never expected Donald Trump to be a doctrinaire conservative in the first place. This premise leaves the distinct possibility that some faction of the GOP will not back Trump on his proposals like paid maternity leave or increasing the minimum wage, among others. For those issues Democrats will cross the aisle to support him, probably in return for additional liberal folly.

Thirdly, and most importantly, there is an argument to be considered: was Trump a product of a conservative wave that gave Republicans resounding victories in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, or was Trump’s election a populist revolt rather than a conservative one, meaning conservatism as governing philosophy is back to the place where it was before Ronald Reagan? Corollary to that, one has to ask whether the TEA Party movement was extinguished by Donald Trump or is he their logical extension?

Truth be told, I was thrilled by the TEA Party because I thought the populace was finally coming around to where I was in terms of political philosophy, and I embraced it. So the question above is fascinating enough to me that I am underway with a book that will answer these arguments and questions for me and (prayerfully) many thousands of other readers. It’s something I am truly enjoying researching and writing, so I will ask your pardon if this website isn’t updated on a daily basis. Answering these queries is going to take some of my time, although I now enjoy the advantage of having a little more of it being away from the active political world.

So the book will address the third part of my above troika, but the philosophy of this site will ponder the first two elements, as well as those issues I care about within the states of Maryland and – to a more limited extent – Delaware. I’ll still be doing the monoblogue Accountability Project, for example. It may not be the type of content you’ve come to expect over the first eleven years, but I’m still striving to make that content I write of the highest possible quality.

For your consideration, that is the push I’m going to give you when I take this site to, and beyond, 11.

The writing game

November 19, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, Marita Noon, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

I wonder if people thought Marita Noon’s final column was actually about me since I hadn’t posted in several days. (However, I did a little work on the site and updated the SotW Tracker page.) But you may recall I made some comments at the end of her post regarding what she had chosen to do in her career beyond writing in and about the energy field.

Something you may have missed earlier this week ties into the plight of the energy worker, and it’s a shame Marita won’t be commenting on it here on my site. On Tuesday the United States Geological Survey (USGS) came out with the news that a west Texas oil field could be “the largest estimated continuous oil accumulation that USGS has assessed in the United States to date.” They estimated 20 billion barrels of oil could be recovered, which would supply our needs for three years just by itself. (Ironically, this field probably lies deep under Marita’s house.) It’s great news, but with a catch: the price of oil needs to rebound to $60 to $65 a barrel to make this bonanza worth recovering economically. According to an oil industry expert quoted by CNN:

Morris Burns, a former president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, told KWES the low price of oil - currently around $46 a barrel - means the oil will sit underground for the foreseeable future.

“We are picking up a few rigs every now and then but we won’t see it really take off until we (get) that price in the $60 to $65 range,” Burns told the station.

Many years ago I remember the price of gas getting under a dollar a gallon; this was probably back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. At the time oil had plunged to about $10 to $15 a barrel. For consumers it was great news but for oil companies and workers it was a desperate time. A few weeks before her “retirement” from energy writing and commentary, Marita had wrote what seemed like a counter-intuitive piece concerning the slowly increasing price of oil. But if you look at it from the perspective of an energy worker, the best of all worlds is a price where demand stays constant but profitable. Oil scraping $30 a barrel may have dropped our pump prices close to $1.50 a gallon but it was killing the domestic energy industry (which several OPEC members wanted it to do, as the U.S. is now their major competition.)

By the same token, Marita began her career in the energy field at a time when oil prices were sky-high and we truly needed to work out ways to make ourselves energy independent at a lower cost. (One such idea I played up in the summer of 2008 because it was done with such humor was the “NozzleRage” campaign. Unfortunately, their answer was a government mandate for flexfuel cars and additional requirements for ethanol.) But these prices also came with the benefit of sustaining the industry in such a manner that the fracking revolution created a boom in the energy industry and made previously dormant regions like the Dakotas and west Texas economically attractive again. (North Dakota, in particular, was depopulating prior to the Bakken oil boom because there was little there to attract young jobseekers who were abandoning the state in droves – by 2005 it had the largest percentage of residents age 85 and older.)

And Marita was sharing in that boom – as she noted, her “field of dreams fundraising model” was getting her enough $500 annual donations to provide a reasonable living. But as the industry suffered, her own revenue sources withered and it eventually led her to dismiss her PR person and in the end chased her away. (Had Hillary Clinton won, the result of her withdrawal from the punditry game would likely have the same but surely Marita would have considered herself a failure.)

In a roundabout way, this brings me to a point I began to make the other night: writing for a living is a difficult game at which to succeed. I found this out several years ago when I was out of work and tried to make a go of it – there are too many people out there chasing too few dollars, particularly in general interest writing. When I reviewed political websites during the campaign I openly questioned whether the people some hired to write their copy even lived in the country, which I can do because I have had to compete with people who can live on a few dollars a day. A penny per word nowadays is a huge amount to make for an article, but even if you wrote 5,000 words a day that doesn’t fly in America. Yet on competitive writing job sites you’ll often find people who are willing to take half that – or less – just to write copy. (And that doesn’t count the old adage used to trap aspiring writers who get convinced to write for nothing because “it’ll give you the exposure you need.” Yeah, right. Expect to double your salary every week from that point.)

So when a polished and experienced writer like Marita, who wrote several motivational and Christian books under her maiden name Marita Littauer and the energy columns under her initial married name Marita Noon (she has since remarried, but maintained the name for professional reasons) can’t make a go of it, one has to wonder what’s in it for others in that same predicament?

Now I have never done a “field of dreams” fundraising approach, although I have been known to “bleg” every once in awhile. And it brings a smile to my face when I see someone actually clicked the donate button up top and chipped into my PayPal account. But as I have told you when I left the political party game (and slowed down on my own writing pace to some degree) part of the reason I stepped back was to write a second book – hopefully learning from the mistakes I made with the first one. That will continue nonetheless because I believe I will be making important points and contributing to dialogue going forward. The same also goes for this website – I really meant to write this column Wednesday but was sidetracked for several reasons. So you get it late Saturday night instead.

Sometimes I wonder, though, if my priorities are quite where they should be. Truly I enjoy writing, but I also have to make sure to be a good Christian, husband, stepdad, and employee. So I may never get back to (or even arrive at) the place where some said I had to be to maintain a successful blog, meaning lots of content updated frequently. After all, I often get the opportunity to sell article space on my site for dubious reasons, probably someone else’s marketing scam. I’m not going to damage my brand like that.

But the reason I went into this spiel is to make it plain I can understand why people get so frustrated with the writing game. We seem to be the last thing people need, but I happen to think we are the most indispensable people out there when it comes to making sense of the world. For that reason, Marita’s insight (as well as that of several others I have known through the years) will be missed.

Trying to help?

November 14, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging · Comments Off 

It’s amazing how many people want a piece of this website. For instance, over the last two months I have received three e-mails following up on this appeal:

Hi Michael,

I am currently working with a news outlet, I noticed your site has published a very interesting article, which is why I think a collaboration between us could work well.

We would like to feature a bespoke piece of content on your site, which we think would be of great interest to you and your audience. For the privilege of being featured on your site, we would be happy to offer you a fee of $50.

We hope to hear back from you soon.

I write a lot and think I have a pretty broad vocabulary, but I had to look up what “bespoke” meant:

made to fit a particular person; also : producing clothes that are made to fit a particular person

Yet despite the fact the writer made me look something up in the dictionary, what he conveniently forgot was to add for whom he’s currently working! Nor does he cite which of my many interesting articles he was referring to. Obviously this makes me quite suspicious because I have built up a brand (such that monoblogue is a brand) and he wants me to put it at risk for $50? Very, very shady – yet I wonder how many people take him up on it? After all I just did have a server fee to pay.

Needless to say, the answer is no. I like my bespoke pieces of content to be written by this bespeaking person or the other two who I allow to contribute.

And then on my other e-mail address was this:

I am contacting you with an advertising proposal: we are seeking to publish one permanent article with one DO-follow link on your website Monoblogue (monoblogue.us).

The link inside the article will point to a real-money online gambling website.

The article in question will be original, unique, and good quality. It will be provided by us, and it will be relevant to the topic of your website, or have the topic you choose. (It won’t necessarily be an article about online gambling).

Please, if you are open to such deals, reply with a price for such an article under the above conditions.

Besides, please let us know if you own or maintain any other websites that we could include in our deal. Maybe we can even work out a bulk deal for multiple articles.

Thank you in advance.

So this person wants me to promote online gambling? I don’t care if it has a “dofollow” link or not (SEO is not something I worry about with this site anyway – I write in my own style) nor is that sort of advertising worth any price to me. The fact I sleep soundly at night, confident in what I place on my website, is just another enhancement of the brand I have built.

And these solicitations often make me wonder who the article writer is on the other end. Chances are it’s someone from a third world nation/non-native English speaker who is getting a dime for an article he or she dashed out in 15 minutes for a content mill. And because writing is so easy to come by, they are killing the industry for good writers. (Trust me, there is a difference. I may not be a great writer, but I still have clients who pay me rather well for what I do if you figure it on an hourly basis.)

I think I will return to this subject in a day or two (for reasons you may understand by then) but suffice to say the answer to both is no. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, I guard this website with jealous attention and suspect anyone coming near this precious jewel.

It may be time for some changes.

July 10, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

This is a hard post to write, but I think it’s necessary to be forthright to my readers and followers. So here goes.

I just looked up some numbers and since 2007, with the exception of a few months in 2009 when my world was turned upside down and inside out in a number of ways, I have posted on this site practically every day. In fact, there were a number of months around election time when I was manic and averaged almost two a day. Somewhere along the line I made the commitment to myself to post every day because I was told, in order for a blog to succeed, it needs fresh content on a regular basis.

The original intention in adding Cathy Keim and Marita Noon to the mix was to supplement the content and hopefully bring the average back to about 10 posts a week. Now I know why Cathy has been missing from these pages and I have no issue with this – she is definitely still valued and when the opportunity presents itself again on her end I look forward to a lot more content from her. By that same token, I enjoy being among the first to read and share Marita’s valuable opinion. It’s not going anywhere, either, and I will try and keep it on its normal Tuesday slot.

But there comes a time when you decide the effort isn’t being rewarded enough. It simply could be I’m not taking the time to promote and market my site properly, or it could have a lot to do with my overall disillusionment with all things political.

However, the solution could be as simple as realizing I’m overdoing it.

I don’t think my posts show the time of day they were put up, but quite often I have written something quickly over the last two hours of the day, between 10 p.m. and midnight. And the reason for this practice was that I didn’t want to miss days. I have had the attitude for the longest time that I owe it to my readers to have that calendar on my site filled each day, and whether the content is really that good or not started not to matter so long as the date was checked off.

But at long last I’ve come to the conclusion that this attitude isn’t fair to my readers and supporters. So with a simple relocation of a widget I don’t have a calendar on my site anymore, and I won’t be a slave to it. In fact it would have had a blank space for yesterday because I decided on the fly as I wrote this last night this was a better post for Sunday.

I guess this whole thought process started when I decided this would be the last year for Shorebird of the Week because I couldn’t do it as well as I thought it deserved to be by only going to about 15 to 20 games a season. (Looking at my folder that I put my photos in, I see that just past the halfway point I have been to only eight games so far this year.) But while SotW has become a little more of a chore than I wanted it to be, I still enjoy updating my Shorebird of the Week tracker and doing the Hall of Fame post each year. That will be enough to amuse me after I wrap up the week-to-week challenge of selecting a Shorebird of the Week when I go months without seeing certain players.

And then there’s the political reporting. I used to be at all of the events and meetings with my notebook and camera, but since the demise of the local TEA Party and several associated groups there’s not nearly as much to report. There’s also the fact that my work schedule is not as flexible as it once was, so I have to miss events - one example was the Kathy Szeliga announcement tour Cathy covered for me. (She also helped me out when a Second Amendment event coincided with my honeymoon.)

I have also realized, though, that I am much closer to the end of my active political career than I am to the beginning. With the prospect for certain changes on the homefront thanks to where Kim and I both work…well, let’s just say that I won’t be returning as the WCRC secretary after my current term is up and leave it at that for now. (They already knew this when I took the job this year, though.)

Once you take all these things in combination, I have come to the conclusion that less can be more and quality should outweigh quantity. So the idea going forward would be to do fewer items but ones that carry more weight, which hopefully will allow me the freedom to write the second book that’s been on my mind awhile and work on other issues like my health. Waking up in the middle of the night wondering if you are having a heart attack isn’t fun – luckily, it was symptoms more associated with walking pneumonia.

Will it affect readership? Maybe, but I figure I’m down to the most loyal fans anyway at this point. And they react the most and best to the pieces I take the time to write from the heart rather than just reaction to a press release or someone else’s work. So I don’t think they will go anywhere and will still stop by fairly often.

But if I come home from an event or meeting at 10:00 at night now I won’t feel obligated to write something that bores me just to fill the space by midnight. I think of it as addition by subtraction, and the change will do me good. I appreciate your support as I make the site better.

More online media bites the dust

May 7, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, Politics · Comments Off 

Those who actually watched and paid attention would have known this days or weeks before I did, but this morning I received an e-mail announcing the demise of PJTV, the video arm of the PJ Media internet site. The reason I didn’t pay attention is because if I’ve watched PJTV a half-dozen times, that would have been accidental – not to say that it was or wasn’t quality work, but I’m the type of person who would rather read the State of the Union speech than waste an hour watching it. Movies and television really don’t interest me all that much, although I’m fine with watching a ballgame on the tube. And thanks to the power of the internet, the PJTV contributors will still be getting their message out on their own.

Still, I have a soft spot for PJ Media (which used to be Pajamas Media) because, once upon a time, I was a contributor to their site. (I was their Maryland state correspondent for the 2010 election, since we were considered a possible swing state with a key gubernatorial election, and also contributed a handful of articles like this one in the months afterward. They paid very well for the latter.)

But the site has changed since I was last contributed there. While it was once primarily political, in recent years it’s gone to a more general-interest site where increasing emphasis is placed on non-electoral areas like parenting, faith, and lifestyle. (It still features one of my favorite writers, Victor Davis Hanson, though.) Presumably the more or less modest amount of advertising they have on the PJMedia site (which has improved itself graphically over the years, evolving to a relatively clean design that reminds me of the of the homepage I have with the Microsoft Edge internet browser I use) is enough to pay their bills.

On the other hand, the PJTV side was a little confusing because it was a mix of free and subscriber content. Obviously the subscription base wasn’t enough to justify the continued expense, as a Daily Beast story by Lloyd Grove (which references the ubiquitous unnamed “former employees and outside observers”) claims:

Several former employees and outside observers described the two enterprises as money-losing ventures whose advertising revenue and online traffic—8.3 million unique visitors in the first quarter of 2016 for PJMedia.com, according to a Google analytics tracking figure provided by a PJ Media spokesperson—were hampered because much of PJ TV’s content was behind a paywall and available only to subscribers. (The spokesperson declined to specify the number of subscribers, explaining that the information is proprietary).

8.3 million unique visitors in a quarter translates out to about 92,000 a day. Even being generous and saying 10% were PJTV subscribers, that’s only 9,200 daily viewers and you have a hard time getting advertisers with that audience.

And having written recently about Erick Erickson’s struggles to get The Resurgent off the ground (which doesn’t feature its own video channel and may have to scrap its subscriber-based model, much to my disappointment) it’s becoming clear that the political audience is becoming so fragmented and fatigued that they are just tuning out. This particular cycle has become less about issues and more about celebrity, and it’s very hard to compete with that with political commentary even if it is on the humorous side.

Naturally the creation and demise of enterprises on the internet is nothing new, and survival is tough - I have outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted probably thousands of political sites over the years, but at some future time the end will come to this one as well. There are a number of websites and ideas that I have been a part of, such as Red County, Conservative Weekly, and American Certified, which failed to last. All of them reached a point where the time and effort placed into keeping up the website as opposed to other, more productive pursuits outweighed the satisfaction (or revenue) one got from creating the content. I decided early on this would not be all political because if it had been it wouldn’t have made it two years, and even on my site I have started and stopped various features when they became too much of a burden. For example, spending three hours transcribing a phone interview every week because the software to do it wasn’t affordable to me led to the demise of Ten Questions.

When I was much younger, half a lifetime ago, MTV was blamed for shortening the attention span of youth to a point where their education was suffering. Johnny couldn’t read because he was not interested in a 50-minute English class. Perhaps the same is happening to long-form entertainment such as a TV network, such that PJTV was.

But the real issue is that we are spoiled: the internet is more or less free, although you pay a provider to place you there. What I think PJTV has become the latest to find is why should people pay for content when they can get comparable entertainment for nothing? I don’t have that answer because, if I did, this wouldn’t be an enterprise which probably pays me millage per hour to create. (Is this an appropriate moment to remind people I have a “donate” button?)

With the absolute mass of content now available thanks to the World Wide Web, there really is no such thing as “must-see TV” anymore. PJTV won’t be the last to learn that lesson.

An open letter to Erick Erickson

April 11, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

Dear Erick:

To begin, I’d like to thank you and Bill Blankschaen for writing You Will Be Made to Care. I was pleased to be selected as one of those who received an advance copy for review, and even more pleased with the final result. Again, I was “intrigued by the direction that it went and by the emotions this book took me through as I read through it.” So congratulations for its success, and know that many of us appreciate you bringing up this necessary discussion as subsequent events have placed religious freedom squarely in the headlines again.

At around the same time as YWBMTC was in its final stages of editing and initial promotion, you were embarking on a journey which interested me as a blogger: trying to succeed with a sponsorship-based advertising system. As I wrote on January 11:

I’ve been impressed with (Erickson’s) new website, one which I can read without being overrun by annoying pop-up ads and false story breaks that only serve to increase page view count (in order to extort more money from would-be advertisers.) On Thursday he had a candid assessment of how his website was doing and so far he seems to be successful. Good news for those of us who value content over clickbait.

Thus, I was pleased to see a couple weeks back that your venture was growing, with a doubling of readership and significant increases in areas that you are trying to stress, such as listenership to your radio show and engagement with elected officials. I’ll grant that over time this may level off, but I think you have a long way to go until you reach that plateau given that you are still in the startup stages.

But there is one aspect of your three-month assessment that troubles me:

Our advertising model is very unique among conservative websites and, frankly, may come to an end as I’m struggling to fill sponsorships going forward. But it has been so different I’m actually getting attacked for it. (Emphasis mine.)

I was cheered somewhat that you then wrote:

But I have to try to work on that area to beef up sponsorships. What I do know is that it works. Several of the advertisers tell me they saw an uptick in donations, sign ups, and volunteers through their sponsoring the Resurgent. That makes me hopeful we will be able to keep this going a while, particularly as my radio presence keeps growing.

Now I realize that, compared to your site, mine is small potatoes: my page views in a good year might equal yours for a weekday. I also know that, while by necessity and God-given talent in my chosen field I work outside of media to help put food on my table, you are using The Resurgent and your radio show to put food on yours. You have a lot more skin in the game with your website than I do, as I’m just a part-time blogger. But I’m using my venue and an open letter format because I want to share my thoughts with you as well as encourage readers to go to your site, helping it to succeed. I believe in what you are trying to accomplish.

So I’m imploring you to stay the course on this sponsorship-based model as long as you can because I think it will eventually succeed and hopefully lead others to follow. I never felt comfortable with having the clickbait links when they were on my site, but it seemed to be the only way to get a modest revenue stream going. I’m praying The Resurgent changes that and provides an example to follow for other high-readership sites.

For about a decade I have worked as a remote contributing writer for a publication that has a donation-based revenue model with no advertisements, the Patriot Post. Like you, they have struggled to make their expenses over the last few years but by the grace of God they are still going. If their website can go two decades with the support of their readership carrying them through I think it’s possible for your enterprise to prosper as well with the weekly sponsors you are cultivating – with the results you’re getting they should become repeat business.

One thing we have in common is that we have both run websites for over a decade, so you know as well as I do the ebb and flow of working in the political commentary field. You picked a good time to make a successful debut, so my hope is this successful beginning prepared you well for the trials and tribulations still to come once the political season is over and interest wanes.

Again, I want to express my hope you can stay with your sponsorship-based model and keep the clickbait and pop-ups away from The Resurgent. While we both pray for a resurgence of faith to overspread our country, our little corner of the internet can use something worth following as well.

Sincerely,

Michael Swartz
Salisbury, Maryland

Adding another voice

March 3, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Marita Noon, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Ask and you shall receive.

You might recall that I said in my latest odds and ends piece:

Finally, if there were a third person I would like to add to monoblogue (at least on a weekly basis) it’s this lady.

“This lady” is energy columnist and commentator Marita Noon, and beginning next week she will indeed be a third voice for monoblogue. Right now the plan is for me to run her weekly columns in this Thursday morning timeslot.

When I brought Cathy Keim on board last year, I did so with the hope to increase the number of posts and readers. The situation changed when I began working again full-time so I’m definitely not complaining about having Cathy in the fold - she has been a Godsend in terms of keeping this website full of daily content and even covering some events I couldn’t get to. Moreover, Cathy brings a passion and expertise in several key conservative areas such as immigration and abortion – she makes the site more well-rounded since I focus on different areas of the political world such as legislation and electoral races and prospects.

In that same way, I expect Marita to bring a very similar perspective to mine when it comes to energy issues. She understands that using the resources we were blessed with is one ticket to the prosperity we’re able to achieve in a capitalist system. Yet rather than just an armchair quarterback like me she’s a recognized expert in the field, so she will be a valuable contributor to monoblogue. I’ve dabbled in the arena for awhile, but I thought Noon could make some definite improvements in making energy more of a staple topic here.

I’m going to quote her short bio from the website called Energy Makes America Great. (I’m certainly sure it helps.)

Marita Noon is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts have made Marita “America’s voice for energy.”

Marita is also a columnist for Breitbart.com and a regular contributor to many online commentary sites including The American Spectator, RedState.com, Canada Free Press and NetRight Daily. Additionally her writing can be found in numerous newspapers and websites. (Next week this one will be included.)

Yet there’s also a sneaky reason I’m putting her on Thursday – come April, I will have a website that can grab two very diverse audiences that aren’t necessarily nuts-and-bolts political observers. Marita will come along in the morning and my Shorebird of the Week will return for the evenings. Since I write SotW on Wednesday nights for Thursday posting, I have a free day to work on other things – I’m not promising anything, but maybe there’s a book for the post-Trump world in the making. So We May Breathe Free just begs for a sequel.

So I hope you’re looking forward to the addition as much as I am.

The milestone

February 27, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

This has been the political winter of my discontent.

You likely know I’m not a fan of The Donald, but this post isn’t going to be about him per se. The sheer divisiveness of Donald Trump’s campaign, however, is not only relevant to some of the things I’m going to say but also serves as a good analogy to a lot of what I have been seeing and hearing about other, more peripheral political issues.

Over the course of doing monoblogue I have liked to take stock on my anniversaries (December 1 each year) and when I reach milestone posts, of which this is one (post 4,500.) Some may say I do too much navel-gazing but it should be pointed out that the original intent of blogging was to be a public diary of sorts – in fact, the political blog RedState is simply a collection of the diaries various contributors put up. Normally it’s those given front page access who have their voices heard, but they also have the right to promote others as they see fit. Besides, Saturday is usually my slowest day reader-wise so this is as good as time as any to share some of these thoughts, one of which led off this piece.

While the original intent of all these websites was to promote a diversity of thought, it seems that there are lines in the sand being drawn that could alter the political landscape for years to come. Perhaps this is simply a repeat of the era when each city of any size may have had its Democratic newspaper and Republican newspaper, but anymore it seems like we have “Trumpbart,” “RubioState,” and so forth. (Maybe it’s my personal bias, but I haven’t seen a really pro-Cruz national site - let alone Kasich or Carson.) The folks at National Review don’t like Trump, the Trump backers counter that both Cruz and Rubio aren’t “natural born citizens,” and everyone has staked out territory from which to fight this conservative un-civil war.

We’re even seeing this extend to the state level in politics and the blogosphere. One such battle is ongoing between Ryan Miner (who blogs at A Miner Detail and does his own radio show) and the folks at Red Maryland (who pretty much do the same.) It would probably not be a good idea to put Ryan and Brian Griffiths in a room together right now, and to me there’s no reason to stoop down to the eighth-grade level because they back different candidates in a Congressional race. That’s not to say this is anything new, because when I first began there was a lot of bad blood between local bloggers in Salisbury that I had to work around since I was lumped in with them.

Perhaps it’s my nature, or maybe – just maybe – I’ve learned a couple things along the way, but over the years I have tried to write in such a way that I don’t lose any sleep by regretting what I said. My measuring stick for political candidates is mainly issue-based, so my dislike for Donald Trump is because I find him far short of being conservative enough for my tastes. The attitude he exhibits is just rancid butter on the moldy bagel that is Donald Trump.

But let’s talk about the future. I’m going to pick on Red Maryland for a moment, but there are any number of websites out there which qualify. It’s unfortunate that A Miner Detail is down as I write this (for what reason I don’t know) but they did a parody piece recently on clickbait articles. Yet if you go to the RM site (as I just did to check this) you get a pop-up ad for Windows drivers (probably malware) in the corner with each page and an annoying pop-up ad when you click on an article. To be fair, this is true with a number of “news” sites with the Washington Times coming to mind as another prime offender.

But if the guys who do Red Maryland, the Washington Times, and 100 other national conservative sites are making money with the plethora of pop-up ads and clickbait, and can sleep at night satisfied that they are doing their part to advance their cause, well, more power to them. It’s not for me, in fact, I just decided to pull the Newsmax and content.ad pop-ups off my site because they’re now pretty much populated with clickbait. I still have the Amazon account and will keep TrackBill because they are selling goods and services for which I am compensated on a commission basis.

Lately I’ve also noticed that RM is doing “sponsored” Facebook ads, which can be a somewhat expensive means of getting out the word. But I decided to join them with a very modest (as modest as I can get) boosting of my book review post that I did recently. It will run through Monday. It’s just an experiment to see if it affects traffic in any meaningful way.

But I think an alternative is possible. For several years I have written for the Patriot Post, which does not do advertising – yet I still get a modest stipend each month. (Modest to the point where I would love to have about 15 other such clients and just write for those all week. The commute would be a lot better – bed to my chair.) About three or four times a year they have a campaign to solicit funds from their readers, with the key one being around the holidays, yet they succeed in raising over $300,000 annually to support their operations.

Yet the example I have been following over the last few weeks is Erick Erickson’s new site, The Resurgent. They will accept advertising but it is limited to one sponsor a week that pays $5,000 for the privilege. So you have a very clean site with a minimum of advertising, and this is the sort of model I would like to see promoted.

Granted, it’s taken Erick about a decade to build his name up to a point where he can command that sort of coin, but if you went and followed my link ask yourself: isn’t that a lot better than pop-up ads and clickbait? Today is the day I declare monoblogue a clickbait-free zone.

The way I see it, my job isn’t to provide controversy or sensationalize the Maryland political world. My job is to educate and enlighten citizens, hopefully to sway their political beliefs in a more conservative direction. While I have other features such as my Shorebird of the Week or music reviews, those exist because I want to broaden my audience and also not burn out on political posts. To me, content is king but it has to be well-written – or at least as well-written as my talent and interest allow.

So that is my milestone. There are times I wonder just how long I’ll be doing this, but I suppose as long as I’m satisfied with the effort I’ll keep plugging away.

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