Men Should Write: For Themselves, Mainly

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in the 20th century it no longer was manly to journal.

Really, it became sacrosanct for men to be involved in writing.  And that’s quite dangerous, factually.

Men exist, therefore they are.  And the idea that men should reduce their role in any aspect of life is counterintuitive to any growth that any person may desire, man or otherwise.

It’s not to say that men do not write, we can be certain that James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Cormac McCarthy carry on a legacy all their own.  And there are also many men in the non-fiction categories carrying a torch so bold.

But our numbers dwindle.   And dwindle.  And continue to dwindle.  I would not believe that men would stop writing altogether, but mind you as the numbers continue to lower, our appreciation for writing and even more, reading, goes away.

I can’t speak for you, but I don’t want to live in a world where men don’t have strong appreciation for reading and writing.  And I surely don’t want to perpetuate this trend long after I am gone.

What I do want is to make men stronger than where they are now.  And reading, and writing for personal reasons, are two major components to anyone being stronger.

Ernest Hemingway journaled.  William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe surely did.  And while the common trait is that these three men are writers, there are those among us that are not writers that do write.

This is why I’m a proponent to journaling.  Stereotypes tell us that journaling is the domain of women, where they write dreams, and hopes, and gossip, and probably a whole host of things so toxic no one but those women would dare lay claim to them.

Men need to journal.  They need to remember their history accurately.  They need to have their compass aimed in the right direction.  They need to know where they came from, and where they are going.

Life is not something you can figure out exclusively within.  You have to have outlets, and you have to have a way to retain the memories that fit into the bigger picture.  Men workout.  They build furniture, cars, and houses.  They fish and hunt.  They sail, run, invent new beer, and a host of many other things.  These are all outlets.  Extremely excellent outlets.  But somewhere in all that, men write about these experiences to retain accurate records, which are of course memories.

Hunters write logs of their hunts, detailing weather, terrain, pacing, angles, and so forth.  Furniture builders write basic assembly instructions which become part of manuals for repeating a particular build.  Runners write journals which cover much the same ground as hunters, except the focus is how they felt in their performance.  Sailors write logs of the sea, what they encountered, and chart their routes.

I could go on, but the fact remains that men by and large already do journal, but they skip over the most important topic: themselves.

As men, we are routinely asked to support others, mainly women, through relationships.  Kids, households, ensuring security and stability for all.  We hold down jobs that tie into that paradigm, and at those jobs we are eventually asked to be leaders of work, rather than just workers.

Still some of us are self-employed, own a business, where we have to continue that legacy of security to ensure that others are taken care of long before we are, and still we have household to think of.  Even without thinking about it, men are largely self-sacrificial, whether society recognizes it or not.

Our biggest obstacle is recognizing that the nature of life demands this of us.

As men, we have to get ourselves motivated for the path we choose, and sustain that motivation throughout a lifetime of achievement, failures, happiness, sadness, disappointment, and even the brutality visited upon us by our significant others, physical or otherwise.

Journaling is what created success for Hemingway.  It created success for Theodore Roosevelt.  It created success for Andrew Carnegie.  And it will help create success for you.

While physical outlets are very much worthy of our time, and should always be pursued, journaling helps process thoughts in your mind.  Don’t think of this as place where you talk exclusively of feelings.  Surely, if feelings come up, don’t be afraid to document them.

This is about recalling what you did that day, how that informs tomorrow, and what could have gone better.  It’s a place to recall your top ten goals.  It’s a place to figure out what that next big move is going to be.  It’s a place to explore the why behind a failure.

Men must journal, especially men that accept their role in life, so that they can get through those feelings of loss of themselves, and get on with exploring, adventuring, and taking on the challenge that lie ahead.

Men must journal so that they can become better writers overall.  Men must journal so that they become better readers, and better editors, and these things lead to better leadership.  Better leaders lead to better men.

If you are a man reading this, I want you to consider the social landscape you are currently operating in.  Regardless of your political affiliation, this world is not healthy for your survival.  And whether you, or popular opinion realize it, in order for this world to be healthy and to survive, you must exist greatly.  You must be vivid, and bright, and visionary in all that you do.

You don’t need to conquer the world, but you do need to conquer the portion you are in.  The more succinct you are at that, the more people surrounding you will back off, realizing they cannot compete.  And while this thought may seem far distant from what I just wrote, you must also realize that uncluttering your brain, your soul, and making yourself better at reading and writing are the four pillars that get you to a place where you are in charge of your domain, and no one else can threaten it.

If you fail to engage here, you will eventually die in some massive capacity, be it professional, personally, or just plain life.

Journal.  Become the man that you’re destined to be.

Opinion: Men Should Dress Themselves!

I am not sure when this became a trend, but I have noticed that men, or at least those that appear to be men, are allowing women to dress them.

It is as if men, in general mind you, no longer know how to do anything, most of all prepare thyself for the day laid ahead.

I am baffled at this display of ‘Ineffectualism’ I’ll name it, that men nowadays believe that a woman knows more about men themselves, then the man could ever.

There are three things that have caused the bulk of this, a lack of fathers and fatherhood, the persistent dampening of journey and adventure, which is the nature of men, and the rise of feminist viewpoints that specifically target the evisceration of men.

I’m sure many “feminists” will take issue with summary, but fear not, because I’m not the only one that sees you are not going through a transformation, so much as a brainwashing.  While some thoughts from your movement are useful, many others are not, and whether you understand it or not, they are designed to ruin relations between the sexes, as much, or even more, than the alleged masculine-centric views you oppose.

Be that as it may, a man is nothing if he is not the master of himself, and that does include how he dresses.

As men, whether we are aware of it or not, how you dress says something about you to those you interact with.  You can yell all day long that it’s a social construct that has little meaning now – but the only people I see getting away with not dressing properly are people who already have their fortune, and now people are forced to respect them, come as they are.

Meanwhile, you’re getting mesmerized by their apparent control of the situations they are in, but you’re focusing on the wrong elements of that control.  Many of you seem to think that dressing casual is the only way in life, and that no one cares.  But people do, even those that say they don’t.

If you can’t respect yourself enough to dress appropriately for your own business, how can you ever expect to for others to respect the business that you do?

This is a topic that men need to take serious, if for nothing else reclaiming their own sense of dignity.  How you can look yourself in the mirror while making your significant other into your “mommy” is beyond me.  And if ever there was a setup to that significant other cheating on you, there it is.

I’m not going to insult you all by saying there is one strict formula to follow.  As men, we cover all walks of life, from welders, to writers (dare I say it), to overall breadwinners.  All men should have at least a blue, a black, and a gray suit.  That’s a basic rule.

But even more than that, every man should have an idea of what patterns, what colors, and what styles of shirts, pants, and everything else, accentuate who they are, and what they have to offer the world.

And that is the paradigm every man should operate from, that we have something to offer the world.  Because if she’s no longer interested in that, and is trying to control everything in the house, to include our appearance, she can pack her things, and leave.  Or you can, that choice lies within you.

Take back your dignity, dress yourself.  Do some research on the topic, learn classic attire, and branch out from there.  Stay away from: GQ, Esquire, and jeans with glitter and patterns on them.  Also, despite what The Rolling Stones will have us all believe, holes in clothes are stupid, seriously.

Enjoy your manhood, and quit letting people without a clue tell you how to be.  It’s not their job, and it’s not your role to grant them audience.  They are indeed your enemy.

Travel: Delaware Beaches

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a travel article.  These tend to get a lot of new traffic to my page, so I try not to inundate my site with them.  Though I have quite a few stories of stories to tell yet, let’s talk about the most underappreciated beaches in the US, the Delaware Coast.

A quick lay of the land: the three main beaches are Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Bethany Beach.  There are some smaller beaches as well, and we’ll talk about that at the end of the article.

The first thing to understand is that Delaware beaches are underappreciated – not undiscovered.  When you go, you’ll find a lot of the standard fare you would find in most any beach oriented economies.  Chain hotels, high-end seafood restaurants, both franchised or independent offerings, bars galore, and trinket shops.

Yes, the boardwalks here are like most anywhere, except maybe not as cluttered with commerce, and not as jam-packed with beach goers, but I assure you it’s busy.

Delaware beaches are unique in some aspects however.  In all my travels, I’ve never seen beachfront in the US that was commercialized, but at the same time relatively left untouched.  Of the roughly 25 miles of beachfront that Delaware has, there is only one boardwalk structure that I’ve seen that stretches through the beach, and that one does not go out into the water.  It seems like most everywhere else a walking pier is an inevitability, but not in Delaware.

Some of you may not like that, others will rejoice in the minimalist approach.  I think Delaware has made me appreciate the latter.

Rehoboth is probably the most populated of the beaches, but it’s hard to tell – most beaches in Delaware have official populations under 500, but at any one time there’s tens of thousands of people present in the off-season (winter months), and six or seven times that in-season.

If you’re looking for dinner during the week, or brunch on the weekend (a Delaware tradition) and you’re in Rehoboth, look no further than the Blue Moon Café – they have live performances for brunch, and their menu is ‘what’s what’ of mid-Atlantic sea fare.  And the drinks are spot on too, if you’re into that sort of thing!

During the day, popcorn fans will have new haunt.  Fisher’s Popcorn started as a family popcorn stand in Ocean City, Maryland – a short drive from the Delaware beaches.  But since they opened in 1937, they’ve expanded, and now are all over the mid-Atlantic beach scene, and very prominent in Delaware.

The Blue Hen, Henlopen City Oyster House, and Grotto Pizza are also excellent restaurants in Rehoboth to frequent.  Be sure to hit up Dogfish Head Brewings as well, located at 320 Rehoboth Avenue.  Their beer has been a standard along much of the east coast and beyond for quite a while now, and there’s good reason for that.  And no time along the boardwalk would be complete without a stop at Thrasher’s Fries.  They have Old Bay flavored fries, for those that like that sort of thing.  But they have  many more, and I’ll stick with any of those.

Just south is Dewey Beach, which has several B&B and vacation rentals that capture the Victorian-era architecture and furniture that was popular at the time of the beaches were settled formally.

Aside from that, Fifer’s Farm Market Café offers the tradition of farm to table menu that is so rarely seen on beaches.

If you’re looking to stay with a younger crowd, I suggest The Surf Club Oceanfront Hotel, and if you’re looking to relax more, the Bay Resort offers inlet waterfront with similar amenities.

The Starboard, located at DE 1 and Salisbury St is well known for their Bloody Mary’s….it seems catering to hangovers here is a theme.

While Rehoboth is not at all different from the rest of the landscape, you start to notice as you travel south through Dewey that the character and culture changes up from the typical tourist “fast paced” business sector, to calmer people, brighter skies, and hotter sand.  While it’s difficult to capture what these beaches must been like when they first became a community – sometime in late 1800’s – it does feel like a sliver of that old culture can be found somewhere around Rodney Avenue.  But I do reserve that for the beach front exclusively – businesses here have taken to more updated trends and desires of consumers.

(Writer’s Secret Spot: Nalu Hawaiian Surf Bar, 1808 Coastal Highway – because you can never go wrong with Guava-glazed ribs and Summer Watermelon salad!)

I know I haven’t described the beaches very much up to this point, and for good reason.  I wanted to use this point in time to back fill.  Call it a cheap trick.

The beaches in Delaware are special for me, not for any usual reason.  I’ve traveled a lot of the country by vehicle.  There’s only a handful of States I haven’t spent time in at this point, so while I have blind spots, I feel I have a lot of experience I can draw upon to relate one area of the country to another.

One of the things that really draws me into these beaches is the massive amount of sunlight, sky activity, and ocean activity they deliver to the human eye.  When you go, pause, take in the scenery these beaches have to offer.  While the summer certainly has its crowds, they are not overpowering to the point that you couldn’t isolate your mind and observe.

There’s a grand sense of peace on this section of our country.  The view is like a snow globe, all encompassing, round, but past any sense of limitations your eyes may provide.  The view here is remarkable, much like the “Big Sky Country” of Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota.

The sand generally stays warm to hot, so I recommend footwear of some sort, though you’ll be barefoot before you know it.

As you continue south on the Coastal Highway, you’ll immediately exit Dewey Beach and drive over Seashore State Park – which is an eco-habitat and beach of tremendous value.  Kudos to the State officials that found a way to protect its most sensitive portion of beach, while still providing direct travel for residents and tourists.  Coin Beach sits that far southeast of this State park, garnering the name for all the people with metal detectors that have found coins and other valuable metals at the spot for many years.

The Indian River Marina sits on the southwest corner, where numerous fishing charters work from.  Just north of the marina is the Burton Island Trailhead, which also has a kayak launch point.  From this portion of the park you can discover the countless inlet waters of Rehoboth and Indian River Bays.

Between idyllic beaches, and calm inlets, the Delaware coast has a lot to offer people up for their own adventures.

Continuing south you’ll wind up in Bethany Beach.  The first few miles are all privately owned homes.

After that you reach the city core, and like its sister cities, Bethany has local restaurants that deliver.  Mango’s serves Caribbean style fare, but don’t expect jerk chicken that’s authentic to Jamaica.  It’s still well done.

Sunshine Crepes offers the French breakfast you’re always searching for.  Bethany Blues BBQ might be the most interactive of all.  Aside from their standard menu, they have event nights, like Bourbon & Barbecue, and Barbecue Class.  Who could go wrong pairing grilled meats with bourbon?  And the class says it all, you walk in for dinner that you’re going to learn how to prepare.  That’s probably not your typical beach weekend event, right?  Bethany has a bustling downtown core, but leaves most of the rest for private residents, though the beaches are open to all.  That’s just fine by me, people invested in the community are what make any place worth visiting in the first place.

Bethany Beach offers several public parking lots along the boardwalk, but beware they are all relatively small and fill up quick.  Don’t be surprised if by 8:00 A.M. they are already full, and you’re stuck walking from your hotel.

Speaking of which, if you are looking for accommodations in Bethany Beach, I suggest The Addy Sea.  It’s a B&B, preserved from 1902, and kept in excellent condition.  And did I mention it’s located right on the beach?  See, I’m solving your parking woes already!

Marriott has a Residence Inn on the beach too, so if you’re more of the hotel type, there are options.

Continuing south even further puts you into South Bethany and York Beaches – these are not beaches advertised to the public, and generally are difficult to access in any succinct manner if you are not a home owner, but they are very lovely if you can get to them.  There is a strip mall in this section of beach, back on the Coastal Highway.  In it is one of the finest sushi restaurants you can find on the Eastern Seaboard, Misaki.  It is quaint, traditional, and very delicious!

The next stop is Fenwick Island, but as you travel south yet again on the Coastal Highway, you’ll notice a concrete tower on the left side of the road with blue and yellow sign in front of it.  This is an observation tower that was built during World War II, and there’s a community organization that wants to make it part of the tourist fodder in the area.  You can find them at Restore The Tower. They in fact are restoring multiple towers in the area, to include building a new one to mark a previous tower that was either taken down or destroyed.

As you continue down the highway, you’ll think you’ve seen all you can of the Delaware Beaches, and out of nowhere you’ll come across Fenwick Island.

The first thing you’ll see is Fenwick Island State Park, and its large parking lots on the left side of the highway.  Then the community will begin to unfold in front of you.

Just Hooked is a locally sourced seafood restaurant you’ll see first, followed by Jimmy’s Kitchen the next block down, which is as eclectic as anything else in Fenwick Island.  The difference between this place the other three locations is that there’s a lot of unique personality in Fenwick.

Sea Shell City is a gift shop specializing in sea shell items, but on their second floor is the Shipwreck Museum, which boasts many items that have drifted onto the shores from ships that were lost at sea.

If you’re tired of restaurants at this point, and want to get your own meals cooking, check out Bahama’s Crabshack & Seafood Market – you’ll be cracking crab legs in no time!

Of course, what trip the beach would be complete without a trip the ice cream shop?  Kohr Brothers frozen custard is just a block away from the State line with Maryland.  Across the street from Kohr’s to the west, and behind Viking Mini-Golf & Go-Carts is The Island Creamery.

And after all that travel, you’ve probably earned a triple scoop.

Lewes is a city directly north of where we started in Rehoboth, and it does get included in the tourist literature if you research the Delaware Beaches.  I didn’t include it because I didn’t go there, and it’s not really on the beach.  It has a coast line on the Delaware Bay, and specifically right next to Cape Henlopen State Park.  And that park marks the true Delaware coastline along the Atlantic.

If you’re looking to do something a little different, check out the Delaware Beaches.  They have quite a bit going on without taking up too much of your attention.  You’re there for the beach after all.



Travel Information:

Closest International Airport: BWI – Baltimore (Reagan National is probably easier to travel from and to however, as it sets you up for direct access onto Highway 50.)  Philadelphia is also a viable option.

How to get there:  If you use BWI or DCA (Reagan) follow the highway signs to get onto Highway 50, and drive straight through Salisbury to the coast.  This will place you north of Ocean City, Maryland.  From there turn north on Coastal Highway, which will quickly place you in Fenwick Island.

If you’re coming out of Philadelphia, head south on Interstate 95 and take Highway 322 across the Delaware River.  Take the Highway 55 interchange south, and continue south as it turns into Highway 47 through Erma, New Jersey.  When you reach Cold Spring, turn right and head into the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Dock.  This ferry ride will take you across Delaware Bay, into Lewes, and from there you can make your to Rehoboth Beach first, and head south.

Have a great time!



How ‘Real’ is Story: What Treme Taught Writers

Writers are the greatest of story tellers, if only for the fact that the tools they have at their disposal give them the ability to tell the greatest version of any story.

Especially when writing for a book, writers get use interplay between plot and story, the two main elements that advance a novel, and make it relevant to an audience.

David Simon, the man behind the books Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner, along with television series’ The Wire, Generation Kill, and adaptation of The Corner, Simon has taken a long time to develop a craft revolving around the story, and is a master of explaining how elements of story affect, and influence the future plot.

It’s now several years later after his last television series, Treme.  And while the series did not hold the attention of a viewing audience very well, there is a lot of hope, and a lot of lessons learned from the series for writers.  This is why I write about it today; it offers a glimmer of hope to writers who want to be at their best.

Treme is a different kind of television series.  Writers of all kinds who have seen it generally come away with a strong appreciation for the show.  The reason for this can be summed up as follows:  it’s not about characters going from one premise to an ultimate truth.  It’s about characters existing in their world, after it’s been flipped upside down.  It’s about the human condition, almost exclusively.

The show takes place in New Orleans, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  It follows over a dozen characters who come from varying walks of life, and represent different parts of the cultural backbone of New Orleans; music, cuisine, venues, and dance.  From traditional jazz musicians, to New Orleans Indians, to gourmet chefs, and everyone in between, the focus is on the people from the large art scene in New Orleans, as they rebuild their lives in a city set for major changes that ultimately interrupt their usual routines.

In a typical series, one would expect to see growing animosity between the protagonists and antagonists.  One would expect to find a clear bad guy, and a clear good guy.

But what this series showed was that in real life, we have profound effects on one another, without being an antagonist at all.  It should be noted that Simon did go out of his way to make banks, real estate investors, and law enforcement appear as incapable saboteurs, who’s only existence is designed to ruin the world.  Removing this portion from the show, and we would have witnessed the purest form of real-life story ever told in any medium.

With that said, the characters go through challenges, as could be expected.  They all have arcs in fact.  But, whereas most shows would have a grand ending for the varying characters, Treme leaves the characters more or less where they were before, perhaps with more refined direction, some even with what would be considered large life changes, but all in all, they are not “forever changed” as is common practice in works of fiction.  This is where Simon’s version of storytelling really went for something bold.  Taking art and placing it ever so close to life, and then making us watch those lives unfold.

My educated guess is that ten or twenty years from now, we’ll discover that Treme was far enough ahead of it’s time that there will be a renaissance in its honor, leading to a half a dozen shows trying to capture this uber-real feel.

For writers, it’s a vision of hope to tell stories about “real” people going through “real” dilemmas, which may be out of reach for their audience (making them interesting!), but because traditional media leaves us expanding into fantasy, even in “real” settings, we as writers get pushed further and further from being able to tell story in reality.  That is the unfortunate condition we live in, a constant pursuit of fantasy, at every turn.

While general viewing audiences may not be ready to experience this type of storytelling, what likely turned them off completely is an unfortunate sub-narrative that Simon likes to place within his work, and if you’ve heard him speak, you know where it comes from: his latent socialism.

This is why Simon is not a pure storyteller.  He instead will try hard to push a political agenda into his stories, even at risk of killing his project.  This is why The Wire died after five seasons, and why The Corner only got picked up for a brief six episode miniseries, rather than a larger multi-season telling.  Try as Simon might, people generally don’t enjoy his political views as told through character’s story and experiences.  Maybe he should option his work in Russia.

This is also why people involved in storytelling should avoid taking political views to one extreme or another.  You ultimately alienate one half of your potential audience, and then don’t challenge the other half of the audience, leaving both tuning out your screams for whatever.

Simon would have you believe that New Orleans was a political story in post-Katrina life, but as we place distance between that event and the present, we find more and more that politics had less to do with the fall out of New Orleans, and more so to do with individuals and their views of New Orleans being a ‘post-apocalyptic world.’

For writers, the idea of telling a story that focuses on typical people trying to keep their lives together is romantic, if for nothing else, it allows writers to stop trying to re-invent the ‘kill or be killed’ concept of most storytelling.

It’s also a lesson about establishing and maintaining an audience – stay out of politics.  Especially as writers of fiction, it’s not our place to tell people what to think about a given issue.  If they are consuming fiction, they most likely are not looking for that.  And even if they are, they probably need some story elements of fantasy involved, because a story about real people with real problems, over a backdrop of political ideology will undoubtedly wear out the audience.

Treme made that all too clear, despite its major triumphs.

Work Update

The front page on my site tells you about several novels I have in progress.  The good news, they are on the way.  The bad news, while one may be published in 2020, the others might be further down the road.

Such is the writing game.  It’s hyper-competitive.  I recommend that if you want to be a writer, make the decision at the age of six, then commit to it in full and get your first draft out at age nine.  If it’s a novel with a nine-point arc, and characters who are consistent throughout, whoever you sent your query package to will be completely glad to publish whatever drivel you came up with between Chapter One and the The End.

Other than that, if you do it any older, you need to accept that no matter how good you are at your craft, no matter how much editors, critics, and your fellow writers love your work, someone way up above has a different agenda at hand, and while your story fits a certain premise, it likely doesn’t follow the day’s trendiest stereotypes and biases.  You know, those things the media is supposedly tearing down on our behalf, but are surely doubling down on them when it comes to a project making money……yay!

To that end, I have start writing a series of short stories, prose, and even opinion pieces for a yet to named title of my own, which is intended to provide much needed to support to C.O.P.S.  For those that don’t know, C.O.P.S. stands for Concerns Of Police Survivors, it’s an organization that supports those that have lost loved ones to line of duty deaths, by assisting them with paperwork for funerals, benefits, estate law, as well as trauma counseling.  They also do a fair bit of lobbying for the same topics, and then some.  And still, that’s not all that they do.

I’m probably not doing enough to describe how great a cause this organization is, so check them out here: Concerns Of Police Survivors

You may hate law enforcement, you may think that there are officers not held accountable for poor behavior and performance.  Regardless of them, the officers that have died deserve our recognition, for they were performing the job on our behalf, and they paid a dear price for doing so.  However, what is rarely discussed is that families of these officers lost pay a dear price as well.  And it is through COPS, that many resources are directed at helping these families through their most difficult time.

I will keep you updated as this project comes together, it’s very beginning stages, and while I wait out the clock on my novels, I figure it’s time to keep my pen hand moving.

Twenty Books for 2019

Now that January is out of the way, we can forget everyone’s New Year’s resolutions, and talk straight up about 20 books you should read in 2019.

Why 20, and in 11 months?  Because I wrote it, that’s why!  And these are not books all published in 2018 or 2019.  They are books I’ve either read recently, or in the past few years.  They are in no particular order, and cover a litany of topics.  Enjoy!

  1. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Why read it?  Rubin writes about personality in this title, and centers around behavioral psychology in a way that is not normally discussed: the patterns that people place themselves in, when they are not focused on what they’re doing.

It’s important to understand this, because you learn more about people in their actions and behaviors in five minutes, then you could reviewing what they said over 30 years.  Behavioral psychology is too important of a topic to skip over, especially for men ages 20 – 40.

2. The Only Thing Worth Dying For by Eric Blehm

Eric Blehm writes about people who serve our nation.  And he does so with a poet’s wit, and novelist’s dedication.  This title put him on the map, but is so gut-wrenching, you’ll walk away truly learning something about what it’s like to be in armed services, and the true meaning of sacrifice.

3. Personality Plus by Florence Littauer

Another book that focuses on personality, and applies it to interaction with others, Littauer writes to help make sense of our most personal relationships, and how they succeed and fail through our own misgivings, be it through the actions of others, or how we interpret and react to them.

4. Dopesick by Beth Macy

Macy wrote Factory Man, one of the most detailed accounts of big industry in America, and how it is getting swallowed by large foreign interests.  Now Macy takes on the opioid epidemic in America, which is becoming a popular topic for many to create content about. But instead of starting in the middle, Macy goes back to the beginning of the problem, as it manifested through the prescription pads of uber-capitalist doctors in Florida, invading the already delicate landscapes of Appalachia and the Upper Great Plains, until it visited every corner of the US.

5. Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Dr. Frankl’s classic on mankind, and how to truly derive happiness is still as relevant today as it was in 1959.  Rather than search for happiness, Frankl draws the conclusion that for anyone to be happy, they must pursue that which they find to be meaningful.

6. Equal is Unfair by Don Watkins & Yaron Brook

While it’s all the rage to discuss communist economics to the point of causing nausea in the room, Watkins and Brook provide an argument that cuts through the supposed “analysis” done by left-wing media, as it pertains to income inequality, while also pointing out the reality to income statistics.  Even if you’re pro-income equality, you’ll want to read this, because like it or not, these two libertarians have torn down the foundation and framework that made up your viewpoint.

7. Why Nations Go To War by John Stoessinger

Stoessinger’s classic on foreign policy, international diplomacy, and the pressures of managing people and complex resources is still a valid read today, and likely will be into the next century.

8. Buffettology by Mary Buffett

Buffett’s first book on her Ex-Father-in-Law, Warren Buffett, is considered one of the bible’s in the matters of investment.  Not only does it form a playbook for budding investor’s to work from, it also serves as an insider’s guide to how Warren plays the game.

9. Our Lost Constitution by Senator Mike Lee

Senator Lee is a prolific writer on the topic of the nation’s founding, and in particular on the document that formed it.  In this book, Lee ensures that readers understand six of The Constitution’s provisions, the history behind them, why certain words were used, and then explains example after example of people we’ve had in various offices of government over the years who have gone out of their way to circumvent these provisions, without our permission.

10. Prairie Silence by Melanie Hoffert

Hoffert’s memoir on the topic of her return to rural North Dakota (which is the vast majority of North Dakota), is an interesting take on what it means to be in a rural communities.  Consider the definition of the word isolation prior to reading.

11. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven & David Borgenicht

A MUST read for any man, Worst-Case is a book of knowledge describing how to survive the world’s worst circumstances.  From fighting an alligator, to identifying a bomb, to surviving when your parachute doesn’t open, this book is a bible of survival knowledge.

12. Men Without Work by Nicholas Eberstadt

Eberstadt has ripped open the gate on information that is not being made public; that working men are becoming extinct.  In a world with lower than low unemployment rates, and a plethora of technical jobs standing wide open for the taking, it’s hard to believe that men are the growing trend in unemployment – and are not re-entering the workforce at any point in time.  Eberstadt explains that between corporate policies, federal regulation, and even tax incentives, we are harming ourselves at great decibel, because we are pretending there isn’t a problem concerning unemployed men.

13. The Keys by DJ Khaled

Sometimes you just need a book that makes no sense to your repertoire.  To keep things fresh, moving, to jolt something out of your mind and into reality – this is that book.

14. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This is the book that landed her the Netflix series.  I recommend nearly everything Kondo says – except for the limits on books.

15. It Happened in Seattle by Steve Pomper

A quick and dirty history book about Seattle.  It’s less than 100 pages.  Some of the history doesn’t jump off the pages, but it’s a great read nonetheless.

16. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

Graham is considered the ‘Oracle of Wall Street’ and this book proves why.  This is the source on value investing.

17. Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Living by a code, positive habits, and morals is the only way for men to operate in this life.  Why not study the ways of the Samurai to assist in building that code?

18. Mind Gym by Gary Mack & David Casstevens

Even if you’re not an athlete, there is nothing wrong with learning aspects of their routines, and placing them in your life.  Mind Gym gives you a foundation of meditation, focused on your own personal accomplishment.

19. The Millionaire Next Door by Dr. William Danko & Dr. Thomas Stanley

If you have not read this yet, you definitely need to in 2019.  The doctors explain in 200-plus pages that millionaires are all around us, and they do not present in the way you think they should.

20. Boomtown USA by Jack Schultz

Schultz wrote this book in the early 2000’s as a trade primer for small cities that were left behind in the tech boom, when young people left in droves, and so did work.

With large cities now over-saturated, and largely out of touch with the reality they have created, revisiting Schultz’ analysis, and perhaps influencing a new generation of entrepreneurs, who thanks to modern internet technology, can relocate anywhere, might be the book you need to take on your next adventure.

Happy Reading!

Friday Night Opinion Returns: Vince McMahon and the XFL, also Returns!

Yesterday we were entertained by a 25 minute, 39 second long remote-conference where Vince McMahon, owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE Studios, and host of other multimedia endeavors, announced that he’s bringing back the XFL, a league that lasted one season in 2001, and was forced out of operation by a media-led backlash by then 50-50 partner, NBC.

Originally, McMahon pitched the XFL to NBC, with a grittier, rougher style of play, more aligned with what fans of the 70’s and 80’s eras were familiar with, along with cheerleaders that were even less clothed than their NFL counterparts, and McMahon provided WWE (WWF at the time) personalities a chance to inter-mingle in roles as commentators, play-by-play, and other personality-oriented roles.

To hear it from NBC, the reason they pulled out of the deal, which was originally structured for two years, was that the league was too closely related to wrestling, which supplies an audience to football, but is not the core audience of football.  They are correct about that analysis, and there was certainly negative discussion around the gimmicky nature of promos, sideline segments, color commentary, and the overall ‘show’ elements of the league.

The first series of games netted a huge margin over and above original ratings projections, but as the league wore on, supposedly the emerging fan base grew tired of the gimmicks, and stopped watching.

While certainly this was an element of the problems the XFL had, one has to wonder why NBC, a 50-50 partner after all, didn’t exercise more control over that part of the product.  After all, this is NBC, a true leader in broadcasting and entertainment.  They know this business, and certainly employ people that know how to fix a failing product.

There could be some behind-the-scenes reasons we’ll never know, but what we do know is that at the time, NBC had taken a beating in negotiations for NFL contracts.  Both the AFC, and NFC schedules of the NFL were up for renegotiation, and the NFL was really looking for new homes.  With the addition of Fox as a candidate, who had just opened up a true Sports Division a few years prior, they were now part of a bigger group of media companies looking to land NFL viewership – think very elevated ad revenue, compared any other weekend programming.

Fox landed the NFC games, ABC landed the AFC games, and in the end, anything that was left, didn’t go to NBC, who prior to this had been home to the NFL for a very long time.  They were, shall I say it, PISSED!

The NBC at that point had crammed dollar after dollar into new technology, meant to derive data that their on-air personalities could then use in-game, to explain nuanced detail, after nuanced detail, to an ever-knowledge-saturated audience, who was becoming enamored with this thing called ‘fantasy football’ (more on that later).

Now, all of that was for nothing, and NBC felt cheated.  So, they wanted to make a point to the NFL, and any other major sports league that they may cross paths with, and thus, McMahon’s league, which he had been pitching since the late 90’s, finally had a partner – and a very big one at that.

The NBC thought that by placing games on their network, in front of nationally-syndicated audiences, that the coverage would bring out every NFL outsider who had something to prove, and players who were possibly forced to retire earlier than they wanted, another crack to prove they are who we knew they were (RIP Dennis Green!).

McMahon knew nothing about football talent, and I would imagine he knows more now, but not enough to gauge players at every position, let alone sifting through players where differences are slight, and finding edges that can be expounded upon are infrequent, and fleeting.  So he accepted NBC’s attempt at luring these ‘cast-offs’ from the NFL.

To a degree, it worked.  For example, Tommy Maddox, who is likely the reason college football players generally must stay for three years in their respective program, got to rejuvenate his NFL career by pleading the Los Angeles Xtreme to the league’s only championship, winning league MVP honors as well.  Maddox, prior to this had staged a comeback in the Arena League, which looked promising, but his dominance of the XFL propelled the Pittsburgh Steelers to sign him as a back-up to Kordell Stewart.  Maddox would ultimately become the starting QB, in 2002 for the Steelers….this was ten years after his last start in the NFL, and seven years after his last time in an NFL uniform.

Suffice to say that for Maddox, the plan worked.  And there were a few never heard of players that re-introduced themselves to NFL scouts, that eventually caught on.  Rod Smart, famous for his “He Hate Me” jersey, went on to become a kick return specialist similar to Clarence Verdin, Brian Mitchell, and others who were swift through special teams formations.  Smart, who couldn’t be taken seriously in the NFL prior to the XFL, put on a complete show under McMahon, that the NFL scouting acumen couldn’t deny.

But, for the most part, the XFL was only able to recruit players that likely didn’t match up to what makes the NFL great – players that have timing, counter-intuition, and the drive to finish a play better than how it started.

And truly, that product was the demise of the XFL, not gimmicks, not cheerleaders, not over-the-top personalities.  It was that the product could not live up to the hype.  The play-by-play was forced, over-indulgent when compared to “what just happened,” and left people wondering if McMahon hadn’t just invented scripted football.

He didn’t.  He just trusted the wrong people.  Because while NBC laid out their game plan to him, their intentions were never to ensure XFL success.  Their goal was to reunite with their long-lost girlfriend, the NFL.  For NBC, the certainty of what the NFL brought to their ratings, and their ad revenue was clear – and NBC, while they could hold the XFL up for years, invest in, and take serious losses on for awhile, to wait for it to grow legs and run on it’s own, knew that it would just be easier to sign with the ‘big boys.’  NBC’s intent was to spook the NFL, and it worked.

After NBC wrote, developed, and pushed the Arena Football League as a major viewing contract from 2003 to 2006, the NFL had enough, and realized that NBC had proven they could truly market the NFL all along, and all was forgiven, forgotten, and NBC got their girlfriend back.

That left McMahon, who we all know doesn’t have the same resources as NBC, or the NFL, fuming mad.  He publicly admitted that the league was a failure, and people seemed to coalesce that the views expressed by NBC over the league, were the same views McMahon held.  And so, McMahon went back to work even harder on his bread and butter, WWF, which he changed the name to WWE the year after the XFL went under, and everyone went back to the NFL, thinking that this story was spoken for.

Well, they’re wrong.  Everything I just told you about the league, is not what many of the so-called sports writing ‘experts’ say.  They drag out the old, tired narrative about the gimmicky XFL.

And consequently, when McMahon held his professional, candid press conference, the peanut galleries of ESPN, FSN, CBS, and yes, NBC, went to work “analyzing” the return of the XFL, as if they aren’t biased.

Frankly, you can choose not to read what I write, but if you use the logic that I don’t know what I’m talking about, then you are in denial if you think that listening to the talking heads on this story is the right move also.  Each one of the above mentioned networks has a horse in the race that is the success of the NFL.  They all hold broadcasting rights to games, elements of games, not to mention numerous programs that lead up to, and review, NFL games.  If the NFL faces competition, their programming has to change with it.  And none of them are comfortable with this, because their most valuable possession is their time.  They have a 24 hour day to broadcast what they feel is the most important news, sports, and entertainment on the day, and right now all of them are doubling down on the NFL, not because of the XFL, but because the NFL ratings are dropping.  They are actively dropping, not just twindling here and there.  People are tired of the politics being expressed, the outright unfairness of referring in the game, the clear indifference the NFL exercises in it’s own concussion protocol, and the general malaise of a sports league that seems hell-bent on doing and speaking to everything that is not football, while still trying to play the game.

McMahon see’s the opportunity.  And I’ll tell you something else…..Wall Street see’s the opportunity.  Every person who flips houses see’s the opportunity.  And not a single one of the networks I mentioned wants to actually address the issue.  Because if they do, they fall out of favor with the NFL, who is grappling with a public relations disaster from one week to the next.  The league, which has been a bastion of military veteran viewership for years, so much so, the NFL routinely broadcasts the playoffs and Super Bowl directly to soldiers in combat zones, and then broadcasts those soldiers’ reactions to those games for their audiences back in North America, and beyond.

Now, personnel from every branch is being alienated.  Perhaps not by NFL players who are kneeling, but by everyone who speaks about the disrespect in the action.  And to be clear, NFL players should protest peacefully, if that’s what they feel gets their message out.  But universally, all should know that the message you send, is not necessarily the message received.  So if the message you are sending is not getting the message you want out there, maybe you should find a different way to get the message you want out there.

But I digress.  If alienation of military personnel was not enough, law enforcement personnel have been taken to task by several out-spoken, and well-respected NFL players.  And still, some NFL players are having run-ins with law enforcement, where they are in fact, the cause of problems experience by anyone in those situations, not the officers they seem intent on vilifying.

If this was a cancer-research non-profit, and the public information officer was a chain-smoker, would that person still have a job?  Would they have a job to begin with?

We know the answer. We KNOW the answer, and yet, the NFL gives a pass to these few players who give a bad name to the rest.

While not all NFL fans feel this way, it is clear that there are enough that are fed up.  Maybe not with the ideas being expressed, and maybe not with individual players themselves.  But people are tired of watching illogical behavior abound.  And the NFL is forgetting a key to all of this:  their product is meant to entertain.

It’s literally been an escape for the entire country for nearly 70 years (based on when the NFL become highly followed, not when it originated).  The reason so many people watched was that it was literally a whole day where the problems of society, perceived or otherwise, went away.  But the NFL is so full of itself now, that it believes that by ingesting what they think fans ‘feel’ into their programming, that it will net an even tighter relationship with said fan, which leads to advertising revenue – there’s that two word phrase again, which is ruling this issue.

That’s not how entertainment works, and if the NFL front office of the 80’s could see what the NFL front office of the ought-10’s is doing now, with huge technology, medical, and scientific advantages that no previous front office had at their disposal, it’s very likely that the ‘old school’ front office would open up all the top-floor windows and doors to patios at 345 Park Avenue, and begin throwing every staff member off the ledges.  They’d have to, to save the league.

Meanwhile, McMahon, who was vilified when it wasn’t necessary, made into a joke over doing something that no single person would ever be willing to do, and had put his money where his mouth is, has done it again.

And this time, he has a 17-year history lesson to go along with his business acumen.

The network personalities, who I know are reading from cue cards, are saying things like “the XFL won’t succeed because he’s taking out the cheerleaders,” the XFL won’t succeed because it’s being political,” and on their narrative goes.  I find it funny really.  These networks, much like the NFL, are too big to get out of their own way.  Only in such a backward-thinking organization could things like standing for the national anthem be considered “political.”

But I’ll tell you this, they all truly have it wrong.  They somehow think that by carrying on the way Americans have seen football for the years 1949 to 2015, that will come out as false for fans, and thus, it’s a bad business model.

I’m glad none of these talking heads own businesses that employ people, because they’d be the first business to fail, handing you a pink slip, and putting you in an unemployment line.

The best businesses, are the ones that are above the fray.  That stay out of the discussions that do not involve their business in any way, shape, or form.

Google had to fire James Damore for what was perceived as a ‘sexist’ memo he wrote about the troubles with gender-focus equality training.  Side note, I read the memo, and with as many scholarly and scientific resources as he cited, he was not only correct in his theory, but not sexist at all.  However, so goes the beating drum of nonsense, and Google, as a business made a decision to get out of the fray, and fire him.  Now he’s suing, and while much of the media reports on it as he was in the wrong, he’s not, as Google openly encourages such essays on their employee servers, and, he used the proper formatting and resources to develop his findings.  He’ll win his lawsuit hands down.

Google made an ill-advised employment decision, but not a bad business decision.  The NFL is making bad employment and business decisions.  But to try and normalize their decisions, they use these networks to get you to buy in that the McMahon’s of the world are ‘crazy,’ and ‘political,’ and try to drum into your head that it will be wrong to honor any football outside of the NFL, with your presence.

They’re wrong.  They don’t understand business, and they don’t understand analysis work.  Political?  And here I thought ESPN stood for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.

No, every single one of these talking heads has it thoroughly wrong, even the social media spin-off guys like Cam Rogers, who did a terrible piece on the XFL being the perfect place for Brett Favre to revive his career.  Sure, he did it in jest, but his point was that the XFL was a joke, much like his coverage.  In truth, Rogers knows about as much about business as your kindergarten-aged cousin.  One has a valid excuse for not knowing, the other is a clown with a teleprompter.

By not having cheerleaders, McMahon ensures a steady female audience, that is engaged in the game, and not worried about their surroundings, game-wise that is.  By having everyone stand for the anthem, McMahon brings back public safety and military members to a game they truly love.  And yes, there are active boycotts of the NFL by people in these groups, so laugh if you want, but discontent has grown.

By ensuring player safety, and this will be his truest test, he snags families who have kids that are enamored with the game, but their parents are worried about their futures.

Will McMahon take over ratings lead from the NFL?  No, at least not for the first few seasons.

But he will give them a significant scare.  One that is much worse than what happened before.  Because he fully controls the league.

And since 2001, there are a number of markets that have opened up, thanks to the NFL, and there are more available.  Over 20 to be exact, and I won’t write them all here, but I’m sure you know them, if you review a map.

But even more important than that, currently the NFL, when you remove all current roster players, has enough registered free agents to fill 21 teams, according to their roster requirements.  This again is outside of 30 NFL team rosters, and their respective practice squad players.

If you thought the resurgence of Tommy Maddox, and the coming of age of Rod Smart were the biggest stories McMahon was capable of in football, just you wait and see.

And all of these genius “analysts” at the networks, or at their viral video huts, are going to have egg on their face.  I’m going to laugh.  But you’ll be watching the games.

Football games, that are about a novelty: football.

MLB’s (Ice Cold) Hot Stove 2018: Why It’s Happening, and How To Fix It

This year’s off-season of free agency has been stalled to a block of ice in MLB.  And there is a number of working theories concerning what is happening.

However, a few weeks back several MLB execs took some time to explain what was occurring, very publicly, without their names being attached.

Their insight was likely very accurate, because what they pointed out supported many of the working theories dancing in the general public.

However, reading between the lines tells us there’s even more involved, from MLB’s past, and present, than we’re giving credit for.

First, the execs that were surveyed brought up money……A LOT!

They are looking at the history of the big contracts involving players who are at the end of their 20’s, or early 30’s, and that their performance has not measured up to their contract value.

Secondly, they brought up the fact that franchise price tags are expensive, and the Miami Marlins recent valuation, acquisition, and subsequent cast-off of every talented player they had spoke volumes of what ALL MLB owners now feel, in terms of balance sheets.  The old school multi-millionaires that would hedge money from their productive business holdings into their player payroll are now gone.

And third among the financial belly-aching, they cited that MLB across all it’s affiliates has a ton of debt that needs to be off-set, and it may as well be now that they start.

That’s all well and good, I think being fiscally responsible is everyone’s responsibility.

The problem is that everyone seems to be forgetting that the MLB, in their long-standing financial feuds with the MLBPA negotiated this thing called an MLB Rookie Contract.

It creates a situation where a player is indebted, on paper at least, to an MLB team for seven years.  In these contracts, players have fewer rights, and the first four seasons, they have no rights, such as arbitration, to command higher salaries.  What this means is, MLB teams are empowered to pay players who are on their rosters league minimum salaries, during the time that they are, according the logic of these MLB execs, their “most productive.”

As an example, let’s say a Right Fielder, Johnny Longball, comes out of high school, and is highly touted, and he ends up getting drafted in the early portion of the 2nd Round in the MLB Amateur Draft.  At 20, Longball has reached the Double AA level of the Avarus Sues farm system, and is dominating the game.  This means he’s had two years in the minors, likely playing mostly for performance bonuses, that are directly tied to his promotions, not his actual performance, and then his team decides he needs to come up to the big league for a stint in Mid-May, to give their outfield a break.  Longball comes up, he plays 15 games, hits .224, hits three home runs (very hard on analysis!), and drives in 12 runs, will having an overall outfield efficiency of .994.  Obviously, the most basic analysis is that he’s not hitting for average, and that would be typical of nearly any prospect’s first run in the majors.

Since MLB execs and owners want to look at history, let’s point out something very steadfast, historically at least, about the majors:  While many teams have touted having excellent five-tool prospects, their collective training staffs have managed to convert these claims a whooping four percent of the time, every ten years.

Longball’s rookie contract years gets extended because his 15 games doesn’t qualify as significant playing time in the majors, and thus, he heads back to AA for re-tooling, blasts through to AAA, where he finishes 80 games as a starter, going .297, hitting 22 home runs, knocking in 71 runs, and his outfield efficiency jumps to .996—for the casual reader, a defensive efficiency improvement of .002, comparatively speaking, is the difference between catching a routine fly ball 10 times out of 12, rather than 8 out of 12, and that can make a HUGE difference game to game.

They claim these players don’t pan out all the time.  I would argue, these training, scouting, and development staffs don’t know what they’re talking about, and certainly their historical track record suggests they don’t have a complete grasp on what each individual player needs to succeed at the next level.

Oh sure, they’ve gotten things right before:  A broken clock is right at least twice a day.  Is that the kind of odds you want to put your millions of dollars in payroll on?  But I’m a little from the topic at hand: finances.

Longball finally makes it through spring training, at age 21 (now three years of his rookie contract have been extended….), and he’s on the opening day roster.  He’s not a true starter, he’s platooning (meaning he swaps starts, and subs heavily at specific position, in this case right field), with an ‘aging’ right fielder who is being publicly mentioned as the next person to get cut from the Avarus Sues roster, because his numbers have slumped (a career BA of .284, but his last two seasons average .271).  Longball rises to occasion, and over the course 124 appearances, with 319 At-Bats, he goes .267, hits 19 home runs, drives in 58, and his defensive efficiency is at .997.  His stats make the case that he’s ready to stay on the team’s 25 man roster, the Avarus Sues get to drop the other guy, and his now ‘inflated’ contract, and Longball his the talk of his hometown, Sunny Cornfield, Iowa, where the community has been decimated by every young, able-bodied person leaving for work in places like St. Louis, because farming is inconvenient.  And everyone thinks Longball is living the dream.  The problem is, Longball is now stuck in a contract that ensures he’s stuck on the Avarus Sues roster until he’s 28, and he won’t get any rights to negotiate pay raises for his performance until he’s 25……Longball goes on to dominate every pitcher in his division for the next four years, before having shoulder surgery, because he’s swung so hard, on so many hard pitches, that his body, specifically his joints, are starting to deteriorate at a rate most of us won’t be able to understand.  Meanwhile, he’s only making the league minimum of $507,500, which is certainly a nice sum.  When you take out the taxes ($120,529.75 off the top, plus 39.6 percent of everything ABOVE $415,051.00 ($36,609.80 for this salary) equals $157,139.55), then factor in that these players have to find a place to live in the city they play in, and will likely pay a hefty sum for “transitional housing” since they won’t stay there year round, rookies are getting ripped off by MLB, and the IRS, period.

This rookie rip-off, errr, contract that the MLB instilled was promoted as a fair way for MLB teams to be able to “evaluate” guys like Longball, before they commit to paying them gobs of money, and then they don’t perform, and then the team is locked into paying someone who doesn’t advance their team.  It’s a fair point being made in this context.  However, the back end of a seven year contract, for a 20 year old who’s making the cut, is just as unfair for him, as it is for the team.

Looking at this logically, and from a historical standpoint, do MLB teams REALLY need seven years to ‘evaluate someone’s talent?’  Or was this just an attempt to control the market, from a labor perspective, for as long as possible?

Here’s something about capitalism that a lot of people don’t understand, no matter what side of it you’re own:  capitalism is not about the control of labor.  It is about being able to control FIXED costs.  Labor is never fixed.  In fact, if labor is fixed, it’s because of a monopoly, which is illegal.  Adam Smith, the godfather of free capitalism, spoke of the unethical pursuit of controlling labor, and said that businesses were far better off controlling their capital (i.e. goods), rather than trying to control labor.

Players are the labor.  And players deserve appropriately set contracts.  The reason MLBPA agreed to these seven-year long, subject to change, rookie rip-offs, is because the agreement was that players who performed beyond the constraints of these contracts, were likely impact players, who deserve appropriate compensation for their performance, and that while their originating team may not value them the same as other teams, the competition of other teams knocking, allow for that player to finally be compensated properly, for all the years they have performed.

Now MLB execs want to cry foul, about money.  It’s laughable.  Maybe their spending habits do need to change.  Maybe MLB owners want to see a better bottom line on their team’s balance sheets.  These concerns are valid, and should be addressed.

But trying to corner labor to do it is immoral, unethical, and if our government would do the right thing, see that what is happening is illegal.

Players deserve to be paid for their performance, irregardless.  Rookie contracts should not last seven years, and they certainly should not have caveats on time.  MLB owners and execs are simply trying to use the current system to corner labor, and it’s completely stupid.  One that quoted these execs said they were getting smarter.  No, they’re getting unethical, and it needs to be addressed.

The solution to this is quite simple: rookie contracts reduce to three years in length. Players don’t get arbitration, but the teams don’t get to extend years either.  Teams have to commit to providing appropriate living quarters for players, without including it as compensation, and any promotional material that players participate in is not mandatory, and is covered in separate compensation from any playing contract.

If MLB teams want to cry foul over player contracts, so be it, some of these contracts for older free agents do tend to be exorbitant.  However, they are based on this concept of compensation for the ‘whole player’ and what they’ve done, that they weren’t compensated for in the past.  MLB needs to be honest about the broken contract system, not just pick at the parts that they find troublesome.

While everyone is fixated on the fact that teams aren’t signing free agents like they used to, what this contract and financial griping is doing is leading to another player strike.  My only hope is that everyone see’s what is happening, and start holding MLB teams accountable.  Sure, we can agree that 22 million a year for some players is ridiculous, and that perhaps there should be some stipulations concerning performance.

But the rookie contract system in place is a farce, and prevents players from ever receiving true compensation for their efforts, if this off-season is an indication of what’s to come.


Mass Transit in Seattle: The Greatest Example in Modern Times of Government Corruption

Many transit systems in the US are born out of the same weird “conglomerate” government approach.

Without getting into the same legal drivel they would like to hide behind, the basic idea is as follows:  municipal governments in a concentrated area reach a conclusion that mass transit is something they need to pursue together.  In order do that, they need plans, operations, and administration that is centralized.  But, local governments, when merely sharing a land border, have many different laws and governance between each other, how do they streamline efforts so they are not affected by a litany of differences?  In comes the idea of quasi-government:  Local governments sign agreements to financially support a centralized body that is not governed by them directly, and is not elected by citizens.  Instead, they appoint people to the board of this organization, and their job is to formulate the organization.

Now, the idea of centralizing such an effort makes sense.  It’s most efficient, makes the mission specific, and of course, unburdens their government  bodies from more layers of bureaucracy.

There is a couple of serious problems with this:  the main point is that this is an organization that acts like a government, by proposing and lobbying for taxes, and because they are the chosen experts in their field, it’s hard for the governments they lobby for tax funding to argue with their logic.  But even beyond this simple conundrum, there’s the issue of taxpayers not being able to scrutinize those that are controlling their tax dollars, their infrastructure, and their potentially their lifestyle.

This is wrong.  Our Constitution says it’s wrong (Taxation without Representation), all State’s have laws, or their own constitutions that outlaw the practice, and yet this idea of public mass transit becoming a sort-of/kind-of government agency, with no real oversight is being born around the country, because it fixes jurisdictional issues, centralizes services, and makes the project actually ‘work,’ when evaluating results.

Washington, DC, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the State of Maryland have done this with Metro.  The entire Dallas Metroplex has done it with DART.  San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, San Jose, and every other city in the Bay Area did it with BART.

These highly regional models work in areas where they answer highly regional problems.  Congestion, a lack of land to re-work to efficiency, and layers of planning, that complicate land use.

But where sea and air ports are controlled by State agencies, somehow no one thought that public transit on a mass scale should also be a State issue.

Some would say that the highly concentrated areas of population represent a certain set of problems the rest of the State doesn’t have, and that they shouldn’t be laying the same burden down.  Logically it makes sense.  If the ranch land doesn’t need a train, why should pay for one?

However, what is happening with Sound Transit hits on a whole new level.  They are arguing for State taxes, and city taxes, and county taxes, and on it goes.  They can’t get what they want in this jurisdiction, so they find it somewhere else.  Cost overruns, meh the tax payers will bank roll it.  If that’s not enough, they absolutely do not take no for an answer.

Recently, it came to light that Sound Transit willingly misled the Washington State Senate, on a tax bill that authorized $15 billion to be earmarked for Sound Transit.  What they didn’t discuss in the bill, and what was not clear, was that Sound Transit had not put an expiration date on the tax bill.  So, when time came to close down the funding, they argued there was no expiration, and ended up collecting $54 billion.

This would literally be criminal, for any other entity to deceive government in this manner, and yet, no charges have been filed.  Why is the State government being taken to task by a regional government?  This would literally not happen in any other relationship, and yet, when we look at history, public transportation organizations, like Sound Transit, use language as a weapon when going after tax funding.  They are their own maker, and thus, have a duty to protect themselves.  If they appropriately positioned in State government, we know this wouldn’t happen, because they would have a chain of command to explain themselves, or their funding could be halted immediately.

The fact is that quasi-government doesn’t work, and that’s why our forefathers outlawed it.  They faced similar groups in their day, but they were known as something else, “tax collectors.”

That’s not to say that tax collection is wrong, because it’s not.  However, the tax collectors they dealt with were people empowered to extort money out of common people, keeping a percentage for themselves, and passing the rest on to the King.

This is the problem with quasi-government.  No matter how it’s structured, no matter how it’s “monitored,” it will always find a way around, for it’s own version of survival.

Mass transit is a needed function in our society – it should be housed directly in State government.

Friday Night Opinion: Gun Control is Not as Easy as You’re Being Told

The absolute terrible events that occurred in Las Vegas have perpetuated a very touchy, and stale, argument that carries on in the halls of Congress.  They also carry on in the halls of State and local governments, particularly government regulatory agencies .

Last year, Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, of King County Public Health made an impassioned argument that local government should add their own gun controls since Congress has been less enforcement-oriented then the numbers he deals with in the Greater Seattle area suggest; he claimed that the numbers of gun deaths surpass those deaths attributed to traffic collisions in King County, and then argued that nationally and locally lots was done to curb traffic deaths, which is still the in the top five of causes of death nationally, still surpassing gun-related deaths on that scale.

From a local perspective, it would make sense that this argument would come forth; in that we look at the biggest causes of death locally, and act to limit, or hopefully eliminate those causes.

Here is the major problem to this ‘local’ argument: Dr. Duchin highlight, but failed to go into detail, that those gun deaths he was talking about, included suicide, which attributed two-thirds of that total.  If you remove suicide from this gun death total, the number of gun deaths in King County are far below those caused by traffic collisions.  Here is why that matters:  No one in King County, as of today, has killed themselves in a traffic collision as a means to commit suicide.

Yes, suicide is terrible.  We know that suicide is in someway related to crisis, acute, or even long-term mental illness suffered by the person committing it.  Mental illness remains to be a serious problem in our society, from local to national levels, that needs to be addressed.

However, enacting public health ordinances, regulation, or similar structures ‘to combat gun deaths’ is a rather sophomoric response to the all too serious state of mental illness in our country, and speaks to agenda, rather than real solution building.

Believe it or not, the NRA has requested democrats to get serious about mental health checks being tied to background checks for firearms purchases.  The problem is that democrats routinely won’t agree, because the proposed legislation would also loosen restrictions on what sane people can buy.  The NRA is not asking for citizens to have the right to buy automatic firearms, or more serious military-grade weaponry.  Instead, the NRA has been since this issue of mental illness and firearms first came up nationally in the mid-90’s, that those that pass the instant background checks provided by the FBI needs to be given greater latitude to access rights through ATF regulated firearms rights, and to remove antiquated bans from legislative efforts permanently, especially those involving media-induced fabrications about certain firearms and accessories.

Gun control measures are not as easy as you’re told they will be, because those that are proposed are rarely based on logic and thought of the problem.  Democrats would rather placate the mentally ill, and allow them to interact in life unchecked by professionals, than actually tackle neurosis that threaten neighbors, families, and innocent bystanders.  Mental illness treatment however, even in it’s smallest form, can have a much greater impact than any gun control effort ever could.  And yet, efforts to address mental illness are continually thumbed down, not just by Congress, but local leaders who continue to claim they don’t have enough resources to enact them.

Democrats, including Dr. Duchin, don’t want to give up the “tool” of gun control tactics for their efforts.  They would rather work citizens into a hot lather about how this one accessory, or this one gun is the problem, and that banning it can save the day.  One need look no further than Chicago to see that bans don’t work.

And whether we like it or not, people like Dontray Mills, who admitted to perpetrating gang violence through illegal gun purchases, who get a reduced plea agreement that leads to no jail time, make it clear that those who actually perpetrate gun violence visited upon others are not getting the justice they so rightly deserve.  Instead, we have democrats who make a mockery of mental illness, cloaked in their government and medical credentials as some sort of expert, but then use the pain of those who don’t receive resources they actually need as a reason to stop everyone else from owning a firearm.  We don’t call it political grandstanding because in our eyes, they’re an appointed “expert,” but they are simply a politician who isn’t subject to election.  A local-level cabinet members expanding an agenda through a filtering of statistics and data.  It’s not a service to the citizens, it’s a weak attempt at shaping discussion and outcomes.  You should be outraged at the level of patronizing that goes on from offices such as those occupied by Dr. Duchin.

To sum it up: it’s a disgusting, dystopian take on life and pursuit of liberty.  It’s unfortunate that this particular issue does split along party lines, because I’ve yet to run into anyone who denies the need for mental health treatment to be expanded when needs are identified, but no one with temporary power will accept that, and in turn accept that law abiding citizens can own firearms without incident.

And if we look a smaller community, like Grays Harbor County, also in Washington State, we see that causes of death attributed to gun violence in Table C1 and C2 are well below the top ten threshold.  It stands to reason how a county with a more isolated  population with less resources is able to report these numbers, and King County sees an increase.  Guns aren’t the problem.  The high-stress that comes with trying to sustain a life in Seattle and King County are to blame.  More people in King County find the need to escape their reality through drug and alcohol abuse, sex addictions, and number of other behaviors that increase mortality risk.  To be fair, these are behaviors we see everywhere in the country, it’s not exclusive to King County.  However, they are increasing in King County, and the reason is that the government in place is making it tougher and tougher for ‘regular joe’ citizens to succeed personally.  Surely, they are not intending this, but it is a consequence of overreach and draconian thinking that was originally banned from the US-lexicon.

Whether Dr. Duchin and people like him realize it, regulations aren’t going to stop people from committing suicide: help is.  Actual help for those people in those situations.  The type of help that defrays stress and pressure on individuals, so they can dream, and work, and fail, and succeed.

One last thing to consider:  Washington State has legalized assisted suicide, making it possible for terminally ill people to seek help in ending their own lives, when they feel they can no longer take the pain of living in their condition.  If this is the ideal that Washington State wants to live by, why attempt to criminalize suicide by other means?  Has no one considered that those who are suffering mental crisis are too in pain?

For such a “progressive” outlook, it certainly seems short-sighted.  If you live in King County, you need to be asking that if such a high tax rate is necessary, why are those funds not being directed towards true mental health resources that provide results.  Because if you visit King County Public Health’s website, you’ll find they are thick on studies and research, and thin on direct efforts.  Maybe if Dr. Duchin spent more time in the field, working to expand mental treatment for the wide array of people in need, and empowering County Designated Mental Health Practitioners with multiple methods of addressing mental crisis, rather than solely three day involuntary hospital stays, instead of writing position papers, we’d have a government that was achieving an end to some problems, rather than tracking increases, with little to show for the effort.

If you know of someone contemplating suicide, please give them the following: 1-800-273-8255.  And continue to check in with them, you make actually be the difference in their world.