A doozy of a dozen: monoblogue turns twelve

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

Well, my friends and readers, it’s that time once again to celebrate the anniversary of my website. Truth be told, there’s not as much to celebrate as this has become a part-time operation at best: over the last year I started in earnest on my second book, stopped on that task to take advantage of a job opportunity I couldn’t pass up (in essence, I spent about five months moonlighting with both a full-time and part-time job), then got back to work on the book. So this website has become more of a secondary or even tertiary outlet for me at times, since I’m often engaging with people on social media.

My general disillusionment with politics has subsided a little bit, but I’m still not really into the whole 2018 election thing yet. Yet the filing deadline isn’t all that far off, and to be realistic those who are campaigning for high-profile seats should already have made their intentions known. To try and start a campaign in January for a June primary against an entrenched incumbent, or as a newcomer, or both, is a nearly impossible task. (So ends the free political advice portion of the blog post.)

I did a quick check of my statistics and it confirmed what I had already figured. My readership was about half of what it was last year, which is probably appropriate because I did half the posts (or probably less.) So I guess I’m down to the diehards now. It’s almost like I’m back to where I was at in the beginning, and that’s sort of fitting as well since I’m working in the same place I was when I started, too. Of course, much has changed in the blogging world since that time. Here’s a good example.

Of late I have been working on my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame page for its return next Thursday. As I’m in the midst of adding the Class of 2017 and updating the older profiles, I keep going to my menu of pages to work on the SotWHoF page (it’s a page and not a post) and on that same menu is a link to a private page I’ve kept called the 2009 Guide to the Maryland Blogosphere. It was something I started at the suggestion of a fellow blogger but didn’t keep up, what with all that political and TEA Party jazz going down at the time. (I probably had it public for about a year, since the last edit was in October of 2009.)

Anyway, I scrolled down through the list of over 50 blogs and found out I still link to just two – doesn’t mean some others aren’t active, but I can vouch for about 10 or 15 that I know are deceased. A couple I clicked on to check hadn’t been updated since Obama’s first term, so they’re basically dead, too. (On the other hand, one was just updated Monday so that’s still alive and kicking.)

It takes a lot to keep a website going. There was a period this summer where I had to sweat out fixing the very WordPress program this site runs on because it was failing to do automatic updates and my server provider was upgrading the PHP to a version incompatible with my old WordPress version. So I had to spend an afternoon figuring out how to manually upgrade the site; fortunately (and obviously) I succeeded. But I may have another upcoming headache with photos because Photobucket is phasing out the service level I use and I take up too much space there for the free version. (This is not to mention the years’ worth of photos lost when my old system went away and didn’t repoint – hence the blank spaces on posts from around 2009 to 2012 or so.) And so on and so forth…for some who have jobs, kids, lives – they throw in the towel on this type of outlet.

I will admit that I derive more enjoyment these days from writing my book, but there are times I need a break or I have something off the topic that I need to say – so I go to social media. But that’s not really the best venue for long-form writing like this.

To that end, I think I will stick around for another year. I’m not going to promise anything groundbreaking, new, or exciting will occur here, but you never know when I may get one of those manic periods where I may write more than a couple times a week. ūüėČ

DLGWGTW: September 24, 2017

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments that I’m going to make a regular Sunday evening feature. (Maybe not every week but more often than not.)`I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this.

Health care was in the news a lot lately, and social media was no exception. Here’s what I responded to a typical liberal scare tactic from Senator Ben Cardin:

That would be more like the way it should be…states could tailor their programs to the desires of their citizens. I love how loaded and extreme the headline writer made this sound.

Remember, health care is NOT a right, but life is.

Then when some liberal tried to go all Article 1, Section 8 on me (hey, at least he’s read the Constitution) I had to make sure he understood something:

Nope, “general welfare” does not equal health care. Try again.

So when his pal Steny Hoyer jumped in I had to revise and expand my remarks:

Yes, because letting an incompetent federal bureaucracy run health care is working SO well. It’s funny – your post came up right after¬†Senator Ben Cardin‘s caterwauling about the same subject on my page. I smell a Facebook conspiracy.

And again I had a few people tell me their mistaken belief that health care is a right. That’s all right, I have plenty of time to set them straight:

Again, the idea is to bring this down to a state level, although ideally we would work our way back to fee-for-service and insurance to cover catastrophic events. Who said a state could not step in for preventive care if they wished? Better them than Uncle Sam.

Now you can call me a troll but if you are familiar with the website Shareblue, it purports to the the “Breitbart of the Left.” Problem is, their hacks aren’t even readable sometimes and they distort stories five times worse than Breitbart ever dreamed of. Here’s a case in point and my response.

David Brock created a fake news site designed to confuse millions of voters so that the party could win elections in multiple states. Oh wait, that’s you guys.

Basically I have to ask: you’re surprised Republicans have a news outlet to control their narrative? I’m sure if these reporters wanted to dig a little more they’d find the Democrats have the same. Otherwise I wouldn’t get all these e-mails from the DNC telling me the sky is falling.

I’m not really a reporter, but let me tell you about the site whose Facebook page you are now gracing, or more specifically its sponsor Media Matters for America.

*****

“Because MMFA is a non-profit organization, it is not required to disclose its donors, and it does not do so. However, some donors have self-disclosed, while others, such as foundations and labor unions, must make certain filings that discloses their funding of Media Matters and other similar groups.

MMfA‚Äôs funders range from labor unions to progressive foundations to liberal billionaires. From fiscal year 2009 to 2012, the National Education Association (NEA) has contributed $400,000 ($100,000 per year) to Media Matters. MMfA has received an additional $185,000 from other labor organizations since 2005, making labor unions some of the largest known contributors to Media Matters. MMfA has directly quoted these labor groups and has defended them against ‚Äúattacks‚ÄĚ from reporters and media personalities. MMfA did not disclose these donations in its reporting on labor unions.

MMfA has received nearly $30 million from foundations since it started. The Tides Foundation is the largest contributors to MMfA and MMAN, giving nearly $4.4 million. There are undoubtedly close ties between the organizations besides financial support. MMfA frequently reports on the critics of Tides, but fails to mention that the foundation is MMfA‚Äôs largest donor. The line between Tides and MMfA is so blurry that even donors appear to be confused. In 2003, prior to the official launch of MMfA, the Stephen M. Silberstein Foundation even designated a $100,000 contribution to ‘Tides Foundation ‚Äď Media Matters for America.’

Billionaire George Soros donated $1 million to Media Maters in October 2010. According to the New York Times, Soros donated the money to help MMfA respond to the ‘incendiary rhetoric’ of Fox News Channel commentators.”

(source)

And if this doesn’t describe Shareblue to a T then I don’t know what does:

“The news content analysis of Media Matters is a complete sham. Such examinations of political news traditionally focus on detecting journalistic bias, but MMfA‚Äôs approach is to try to stamp out views with which its left-wing content analysts disagree. That isn‚Äôt hard to do if you can think creatively and tolerate mind-numbing hairsplitting. Media Matters will typically isolate a small facet of a media story that can be twisted in such a way that suggests that the reporter or commentator is a liar or hypocrite. That tidbit is then used to suggest that everything the original source says must be false and deserving of censure.”

(source)

So there you have it: two named sources, verifiable if you copy and paste the link and remove the space I added.

I take news with a grain of salt until I consider the source and its motivation. My motivation? To get to what’s really true, and where you’re at isn’t it.

Via the local Republican Club I found out even Governor Larry Hogan jumped on that bandwagon. My free advice to the governor:

The electorate that voted him in was by and large also the one that wanted Obamacare repealed. But it’s up to¬†Larry Hogan¬†– if he wants to get 55-60% in the areas where he needs to come close to 70% (like the Eastern Shore) just keep moving left of center. The Democrats across the bridge will be happy to vote for the real thing this time.

The “progressive” (read: regressive) group Our Maryland also wanted to note Maryland could lose money under a GOP plan. So guess what I told them?

Think twice about taking “free” money from Uncle Sugar next time.

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”

They also want to blame Trump for Maryland having revenue short of expectations, so I gave then my side of the story:

Perhaps if Maryland becomes more than a one-industry state (that being the federal government) these people may have more confidence.

Since I got my old job back in the Trump era (one that I lost just after Obama was elected) I feel pretty good about the economy,

Obviously that didn’t sit well with them, so they asked for “details before (we) accept your Obama bashing – so I complied.

About my job? I was flat-out told by my employer that he was worried about keeping his doors open under Obama. But he managed to survive and business has picked up enough to bring me back part-time at first and now full-time. Maybe I’m an outlier but the change in administration did bring a more positive outlook for businesses.

Then I added:

And it’s funny – those people who pointed to the stock market as evidence of Obama’s success are quiet now under Trump despite the fact the indices are 20% or so higher since January.

And the poor lady who tried to tell me Baltimore is teeming with industry and my “Beltway bias” was showing. I took about two minutes to find the proof she was all wet.

The statistics beg to differ.

I know, it’s not as obvious. But Baltimore City had a total average employment of 69,141 in the government sector in the first quarter of this year compared to 21,137 that produced goods. I had to explain this to someone else.

The premise provided by (the lady who commented) was that Baltimore had “way more industry than government.” As you can see by the stats, the reverse is true if you consider non-service jobs as “industry” – which I do. (Also notice that education is lumped with healthcare as a service job when most education jobs are public-sector. I think they should count in the government category.)

Yet they were still arguing with me as late as today about my blaming my layoff on the incoming Obama administration and crediting my return to Trump.

Consumer confidence was already rising pre-election and surged in the runup to Trump taking office. Confident consumers lead to confident investors, which is where we come in (I work for an architectural firm, and that was an industry battered by the Great Recession.)

And then:

Seeing that I’ve had over two decades in the field and my industry isn’t one that’s “affected by automation and digitization” you may want to try again.

And I did not bring up Obamacare because no one really knew what it looked like at the time. It was just a sense that the economy was going to rebound very slowly, if at all. Having seen some of what O’Malley did over the previous two years and how it affected our local economy, people were bearish on prospects.

And you may want to ask our friend who was laid off in 2009 (above) why he blames his situation on Bush? He was out of office after January.

Also at Our Maryland, I had this reaction to a reaction to a WaPo story (behind a paywall, of course) about Rep. Jamie Raskin (who was a far-left loony of a state senator based on monoblogue Accountability results) and his fear that Cassidy-Graham would pass. This is how the respondent wrote it, verbatim: “The Koch Brothers want it so badly – and they aren’t going to give anymore money to the Republicans until they repeal Obamacare and cut corporate taxes BIG TIME. That’s what it’s always about – follow the money.”

So I had to correct the record, again:

That would work for me. And even if you assumed a 50% cut in corporate tax rates would bring in half that revenue – which, as we know, isn’t true because lowering tax rates generally acts as a spur for economic activity – the federal hit would be less¬†than $250 billion (out of a $4 trillion budget.)

In this case, the Koch brothers support smart economic policy.

Naturally, that was met with the pithy, “Oh Michael Swartz, if you think you are going to benefit from the giant corporations getting tax cuts….. Sad.” (It’s funny how the Left has allocated a standard Trump response, isn’t it?) But the answer is yes.

I certainly will. Ask yourself: who pays corporate taxes, the business or the end user/consumer?

To expand on this concept, this is part of a fundamental argument about who does more good with money from corporate profits: the government which redistributes it willy-nilly to address their priorities after taking a hefty cut, or a corporation that rewards its stockholders with dividends, invests in expansion (thus needing more employees, which benefits the community), or – even if the CEO is a greedy SOB – spreading the wealth around via purchases. Even if he buys a yacht, someone has to build it.

Turning to local politics, I made a comment about candidate recruitment.

The hard part is finding candidates who want to go through the process. And don’t forget the school board, which will be “nonpartisan” but will almost certainly have a union-backed (read: Democrat) slate.

And finally, I had this reaction to fellow writer Jen Kuznicki‘s video. Like a lot of conservative writers, writing’s not her paying gig – her “real job” is being a seamstress.

You could sit in front of a computer and draw all day like I do in Salisbury, Maryland. Glad to see an American who makes things and adds value to raw material.

But if you thought yours was boring, there’s a reason I don’t do mine. To most watching paint dry would be preferable.

Look, all I do is put lines on a computer screen. It’s the end product that’s important – for the past few weeks it’s been for a proposed local hotel. The part that’s important is knowing where to put the lines.

Similarly, in good writing sometimes it’s best to know when to stop, so here you are. I already have a couple threads lined up for next time, one of which involves a candidate for Congress.

Upgrading for the long haul (hopefully)

August 19, 2017 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Upgrading for the long haul (hopefully) 

This is going to be inside baseball to many of you, but as a regular reader of this here website it’s something you should know.

Back in July I received a notice from my server provider that they would be upgrading their servers:

In an effort to become compliant with the latest security bulletins, and to support our ongoing effort to provide the most reliable hosting experience possible, we will be upgrading MySQL and PHP on your server.

PHP will be upgraded from 5.6 to the latest version of 7.0. MySQL will be upgraded from 5.6.35 to the latest version of MariaDB 10.1. Roundcube databases will be migrated from MySQL to SQLite. If your site or applications implement PHP functions that are incompatible with PHP 7.0.x, there is a helpful information about the upgrade in our knowledge base.

That last sentence is key, because I have been running a legacy version of WordPress for some time. Supposedly it was updating core functions, but after this upgrade I came to my site only to realize to my horror it wasn’t there. Obviously WordPress 3.7 was one of those incompatible programs.

Fortunately, I found out there was a grace period where I could still run the old PHP (and made the fix that restored my site) but that would only be about 30 days. In other words, whether I liked it or not, I had to update my version. Now I know just enough about HTML and computer programming to be dangerous, so to me upgrading sounded like a daunting task.

It turned out to be not so bad after all. Basically I swapped out new files for old, and at the moment most of this seems to be functional. The only two things I had to do once I put this back end up were to bring my theme over (since it didn’t migrate) and move my uploaded photos. The last step was resetting the PHP to 7.0 and that’s now done, so I should be good to go!

And as a special added bonus, come Monday I will write up the official release of the 2017 monoblogue Accountability Project. With that out of the way – finally! – I can now get back to working on my long-delayed book. But don’t worry, I’ll be popping in here from time to time now that I know this site is upgraded.

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

May 5, 2017 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 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‚Äôs GOP or someone else‚Äôs. That‚Äôs what I intend to do ‚ÄĒ 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 on Programming notes, a book update, and bleg 

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 on The writing game 

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 Рcurrently around $46 a barrel Рmeans 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 on Trying to help? 

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 on More online media bites the dust 

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‚ÄĒ8.3 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‚ÄĒwere 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.

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