Campaign Cash, Why It’s Necessary and it Works

Everybody says they hate money in politics. Everybody says they hate fundraising on campaigns. Congressional candidates famously seem to spend most of their time fundraising. I actually believe everyone who says they hate campaign fundraising, because I do too. We’ve literally ruined campaign email lists with our fundraising asks. It sucks.

Campaigns cost money though, and until you deal with the costs of campaigns, all the talk about getting money out of politics is literally stupid. Campaign offices cost rent. Staff cost salaries. Mail pieces cost printing and postage. We discount television ad costs for candidates, but they cost money. Voter files and printed street lists cost money. Printers and cartridges cost money. Unless you’re going to make the USPS deliver for free, print shops print for free, television ads be given as charity, and campaign staff actually work for free, campaigns will cost money.

The truth of the matter is that there is very little we can do to drive down the costs of a political campaign, especially at the statewide and national level. We have a first amendment that specifically protects political speech in our country. I hope we will soon all agree that corporations aren’t people, and don’t deserve those protections, but that does nothing to stop wealthy individuals from spending their money to get their point across. We should make them far more transparent and easier to trace, but we can’t just stop it.

Still though, many Americans want money out of politics, and they will look for any way possible to get around the need for money. The theory goes that we need to run more “grassroots” styled campaigns. Instead of big donors, raise your money from small dollar donors. With the time you’re not spending shmoozing big donors, you can knock on doors, which many activists are quick to tell you is more effective than the glossy mailers and 30 second ads. If you’re running in a smaller election, like say for town council, I agree. Even in county and some state legislative races, I’d agree that you need to mix your schedule between fundraising and being out in the community, both knocking doors and at events. Once you get up to races at the level of State Senator, Congressman, or big city mayors though, this approach is just ineffective. It ends up coming down to fundraising and paid communications.

I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life working the ground game for Democratic candidates, so I’m not someone who thinks field operations don’t work. I think they’re too expensive and inefficient to win larger elections on alone though. When I started in campaigns over a decade ago, we were told it takes anywhere from five to seven “touches” on a voter to change their voting behavior- making a sporadic voter turn out, converting an undecided voter into a supporter, or whatever your goal is. When your primary voting universe for a Congressional race is 40,000 people, that’s 280,000 touches if you want to persuade them all to do what you want. To reach that many people through a door knocking campaign is expensive, and possibly physically impossible. You would need a massive field staff, which you need to pay a living wage, train, get lists to (printed or on a smart phone, it’s still got a cost), and collect the data from and get back into the data base. It’s unrealistic and incredibly costly to do things that way, and we’re only talking on a primary scale here. General elections are far larger yet.

The truth is that door knocking campaigns, especially neighbor to neighbor, are much more effective, on a limited, small scale. They’re also like trying to score runs in a baseball game by only hitting singles and advancing one base at a time. Paid communications are like hitting a home run. Yes, some people will throw out their mail, or curse at a TV ad, or ignore a digital ad, but that’s only some people. Even those people will see the candidate’s name and message while walking from the mailbox to the garbage can. Is it as personalized or convincing as a conversation with a person? Of course not. Is it more efficient, cost effective, and time effective to use mass, paid communications? Yes.

I’m not saying this is a “one or the other” thing, obviously. A highly targeted ground game that speaks to voters you want to persuade, turnout, or both, can be very effective, particularly in concert with paid communications. Good candidates, and campaigns, do both things well. That’s why they win.

What I am saying is that candidates who win higher level offices are candidates that are committed to fundraising. Candidates with money to spend can defend themselves against big outside spending groups. Candidates with money can afford to do more paid communications and field. Candidates who commit to raising money can usually win their elections.

But back to the initial point- everyone, but particularly Democrats, hate fundraising. We find it dirty, even corrupting, so our candidates spend lots of time telling you how they won’t take corporate checks, won’t take PAC checks, and won’t take lobbyist checks- how stupid! If you’re being honest, most corporate contributions are illegal, and even corporations with PAC’s generally aren’t going to donate to you if they think you’re not for their positions- so candidates with clear, progressive agendas probably can eliminate the thought of some coal company, or pharma company, or big bank sending them money. Believe it or not though, not all PACs and lobbyists are the boogeyman the purists would tell you. The Humane Society, Sierra Club chapters, organized labor, Planned Parenthood, and gun violence prevention groups have PACs to donate from. Solar companies, teachers unions, and non-profits employ lobbyists. When you run quality candidates, who make their positions known, these people try to find them and financially support them. That’s nothing to be ashamed about. To unilaterally say we’re not going to seek their donations is utterly stupid.

I think fundraising sucks and campaigns cost too much. Campaigns aren’t going to be free anytime soon though. If you’re a liberal or progressive person who wants to run for office, I say you should embrace those who will help you and run the best campaign possible.

Tom Perez and the DNC Fail Their Voters

By every measure we have, Hillary Clinton won the 2016 Democratic Nomination for President by a country mile. Current DNC Chairman Tom Perez supported her at that time, and got some mention as a potential running-mate for her. Clinton won the pledged delegate count cleanly, the overall delegate count clearly, and the popular vote by roughly 15%. Despite the cries of conspiracy nuts, there is no sign that the DNC took any clear or tangible act to support Clinton in her race against Bernie Sanders. Even the over zealous cries of a “rigged” primary by Donna Brazile and others had to be walked back when placed under the microscope of reality in the time since the conclusion of the 2016 Election.

Here’s the fact- the 2016 Democratic Primaries were totally fair, Hillary cleanly beat Bernie, the “superdelegates” have never tipped a Democratic nomination against the winner of the pledged delegate count, and the Democratic Party had absolutely no need to reform their process in selecting a Presidential nominee. Despite the complaints of backers of Bernie Sanders, he quite simply lost the vote to be the Democratic nominee. The voters did not want him. The DNC under Perez has chosen to “bend the knee” to an old man who lost clearly, and is not a member of our party. No one actually benefits here, except for potentially the GOP.

There was no pressing need to change the Democratic nomination rules. Never since the adoption of the modern Democratic Convention nomination rules have the delegates chosen to override the selection of the elected delegates to be our Presidential candidate. This includes the nominations of Hillary, Barack, Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Dukakis, Mondale, and Carter. There is no need to “return the nominating process to the grassroots,” because the will of the people has always been done.

Beyond that point though, the reforms being done will cut off more access for party activists, not improve it. More party and elected leaders are likely to run for pledged delegate slots to the national convention, given their inability to vote on the first ballot, cutting down the opportunity for most common voters to be a delegate. Given the probability of a large 2020 field, there is a high likelihood that those superdelegates that don’t run as pledged delegates will decide the nominee if the vote goes to a second ballot. In the search for a problem to solve, the DNC made their process less fair and likely to increase access to the grassroots, and probably created an unnecessary monster for 2020.

The Democratic Party made their Presidential nominating process worse for 2020. While “solving” false problems, they made it less likely we get a fair nominee. More importantly, they paid mere lip service to real problems of voter suppression. They didn’t force states outside of the “first four” to abandon caucuses (states after Iowa and Nevada don’t nearly get enough personalized attention from candidates and campaigns to justify highly restrictive caucus systems). They didn’t ban “open primaries” that encourage non-Democrats to run. They did nothing to empower the Democratic base in the process. They empowered loons and wackos, and made it harder to stop future unelectable, “McGovern style” nominees from getting nominated.

Tom Perez’s DNC should never have entertained suggestions to change the nomination process from the “Unity Reform Commission.” These folks set out to do damage, and their reforms do more harm than good.

McCain

In 16 years of working in politics the only time I was conflicted about winning was my 2008 work against John McCain. It is not that John McCain was moderate, he absolutely was not. It is not that McCain appealed to me personally, he certainly did not. It is that McCain, for all of his faults and imperfections, represented something good about us. He was decent. He was honest. He was real.

There is certainly lots to hate about McCain, much of which lead me to oppose him in 2008. John McCain elevated the idiocy of Sarah Palin when he nominated her for Vice-President in 2008, which lead us down our road to Donald Trump. John McCain supported the Iraq War that did so much to harm our nation. John McCain did not push as hard as possible to stop the Trump Presidency. McCain voted for some of the most awful voices on our Supreme Court. McCain voted for every major Republican tax cut bill in our time. McCain voted against recognizing MLK Day as a federal holiday, opposed Obamacare, supported the NRA, and supported de-regulation of banks, and impeaching Bill Clinton. If I judged John McCain entirely on his Congressional voting record, I might compare the man to Newt Gingrich, or worse. This is even ignoring his near ruin in the “Keating Five” scandal. There is plenty for a Democrat to object to in the life of John McCain.

There is the other side of McCain though, a more symbolic existence in American life, in which he represented something better though. The man that wanted to select his friend, Senator Joe Lieberman, to be his running mate in 2008, that publicly praised the work of Hillary Clinton in the Senate, that mentored Senator Klobuchar, that publicly praised his friend, Vice-President Biden, and that publicly embraced the description as a political “maverick” in a day of political polarization. Indeed, if I get beyond the pure political sorting of John McCain’s day, I see a man who wanted a better, more unified union. I see the man who defended the integrity of his 2008 opponent, President Obama, both in his answer to a questioner seeking to slander Senator Obama as a “Muslim” and terrorist, and in his incredibly gracious concession speech on the historic election night in 2008, where McCain fell at the feet of the altar of history, and allowed America to graciously take a step towards being a more just and decent nation. Sometimes, John McCain exceeded his own political imperfections and made us better.

John McCain defied our political definitions, and in many ways moved us forward. He is both the man who made Sarah Palin his running mate, but also who refused to take part in calling President Obama a terrorist. He’s the man who fought against human trafficking, but also defended an unjustifiable war in Iraq. He criticized Donald Trump and his worst rhetoric dividing us, but also voted for Neil Gorsuch and tax cuts for the rich. McCain cast the decisive vote saving Obamacare, but also voted to convict Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial. John McCain was complicated. So is the America he represented and defended. He was in many ways, us.

In closing, let me quote Senator McCain in the Fall of 2017, speaking at the U.S. Naval Academy:

We have to remind our sons and daughters that we became the most powerful nation on Earth by tearing down walls, not by building them.

John McCain is probably the most decent and honorable man I ever worked against. May he have fair winds, and following seas on his journey home. I think it is quite telling that he requested the two Presidents that defeated him, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, eulogize him. He more than earned that honor.

The Mistaken Connection of Ideology and Partisanship

Many political observers are decrying the “polarization” of our politics. The feeling is that the two parties are becoming more ideological, both in Congress and the electorate. By confusing ideology and partisanship, we are doing ourselves no favors. While ideological movement in the parties is questionably happening, partisan movement towards nearly tribalism is clearly impacting our politics every day.

I have no doubt of the ideological differences between Mark Meadows and Charlie Dent, but I would argue there is very little difference in their partisanship. Dent was an open moderate ideologically, one who criticized Trump even. Dent was also an 85% Republican vote in the U.S. House, meaning the difference between he and the ultra-conservative leader Meadows was about one in ten votes in Congress, or less. One could argue the same on the Democratic side using Elizabeth Warren and Joe Manchin in the Senate. While activists would point to obvious differences between the two, it’s important to note that both have been pretty solidly Democratic votes in the Senate against Trump, including the major votes like health care. It’s important to understand there are differences between moderates and the liberal and conservative wings of their respective parties, but it’s important to not over-state them- the gap is only one or so votes out of ten, which adds up to a small hand full of votes over the life of each Congress.

Partisanship is the dominate factor in our Congress right now, more so than ideology. Members of Congress stay loyal to their parties in Congress, regardless of whether they represent safe or in-danger seats. The main reason for this is that voters, regardless of their ideology, don’t often reward bi-partisanship. Occasionally this isn’t true, when an issue of general consensus comes up, but these are increasingly rare. With so much demographic sorting going on, the two political parties want different things. We really don’t “all want the same things in the end,” as many people like to say. The two parties have different priorities and views of the world, and so there’s less and less to do together. With gerrymandered districts making most Congressional races about the primary, where bi-partisan work is *mostly* frowned on. Even a moderate legislator is smart to vote with their party almost all of the time.

This does not mean that John McCain is Rand Paul now, it just means that they’re going to vote together almost all the time. For all the ideological kicking and screaming about Hillary and Bernie in the 2016 primaries, it’s important to note that they voted together about 90% of the time in Congress. It also does not mean that they’re ideological matches though either. There are substantive ideological differences in both parties. A potential Senator Mitt Romney viewsthe world far different than Donald Trump, even if he ends up voting with him regularly. Reverse their roles and you would get a very different government, even if the policy overlap would be substantial. The ideology gap is real.

Even ideology isn’t what it used to be though. The Blue Dogs on the Democratic side and the “Rockefeller Republicans” on the Republican side are mostly gone. Southern white Democrats are basically a historical artifact, while the California Republican Party is literally so weak in the legislature there that they don’t have to show up for work for business to go on. With such past forces of moderation gone, the internal gaps in the parties are smaller than before. The debates in the Democratic Party are over what role the government should play in health care, not if they belong involved. How much should the minimum wage rise? Republicans have similar debates over what shade of red their policies should take, not if they should be red. The terms “conservative Democrat” and “liberal Republican” are mostly dead.

Ideological divides now generally are about the degree of compromise one should accept, and on what issues. “Berniecrats” want no compromise on leftist economics, while Hillary backers aren’t interested in compromise on social issues. Ideological fights break out when discussing if Senators or Congressmen should break from partisan orthodoxy to support home state commerce interests, such as Bernie Sanders voting with the NRA on guns or Cory Booker voting friendly to pharmaceutical producers. Ideological disputes are now mostly about whether party orthodoxy can be adapted and amended for local interests of the electeds.

It does is all no good to confuse partisanship and ideology, or their effects on our politics. Voters are generally not rewarding attempts at bi-partisanship in 2018 elections- they don’t see much common ground. The question of ideology is different though. While some purists, such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, are winning primaries, we’re seeing plenty of pragmatists win too. This doesn’t mean Conor Lamb and Gretchen Whitmer will be “Republican-lite,” it means they’re going to bend on the issues their constituents demand it on. It means a Senator Romney is probably going to criticize Donald Trump, while being a fairly reliable vote. Voters seem to like moderating, reasonable ideology, but still expect you to vote with your party, usually. These are the fault lines in American politics in 2018, and we’d all do better to understand them correctly.

The Pressing Phillies Questions

One could argue that the last four Phillies games were the worst four of the season. Losing a series to the Mets this season is inexcusable, but I could grant the de Grom game to them, just not getting shut out by Vargas. Then the first two Nats games were both really ugly, especially since the Nationals are throwing in the towel on the season trading away some key players. The last few days have given rise to several key questions moving forward:

  1. Is Seranthony the closer moving forward? My answer is no. He’s a guy with high velocity, sure, so he’s probably a major league reliever. His command hasn’t been impressive though, and the movement on his ball has diminished as the Summer went. I think he was lightning in a bottle, not our Kenley Jansen.
  2. What’s Odubel’s future in Philadelphia? It’s not looking great. His stat line usually comes out good, he’s shown impressive power this year, and he does make some amazing plays in center. He’s super streaky though, and sometimes really stinks. He makes bonehead mistakes. He’s a liability when he’s off. With the Phillies needing to open up a spot if they sign Bryce Harper this Winter, Odubel’s second half is making him expendable.
  3. What’s Roman Quinn’s future? As bad as Odubel has been, he’s opened the door for Roman Quinn to get a chance. I see Quinn limited to being a fourth outfielder at this point, as he gets hurt too much. He should get to play right now though, as long as he keeps hitting.
  4. Should Carlos Santana start over Bour? Right now? No. Bour is hitting better, right now. We need to win games, right now. You deal with the contracts in the Winter. For now, give me Bour.
  5. Can Jerad Eickhoff save the Phillies? This is a sleeper story on the horizon. Eickhoff was so good in 2015 and 2016 that many fans saw him as a cornerstone. Then in 2017 the Phillies seemingly tried to pitch him through pain/nerve damage, and messed him up bad. Now he’s rehabbing back towards the majors, just as several starting pitchers are hitting career inning highs, and several relievers look cooked. They very much need Eickhoff to be right.
  6. Is the back end of the Phillies rotation cooked? Eflin, Pivetta, and Vince are looking really inconsistent lately. Could they be out of gas? It sure looks it. The Phillies need some reinforcements.
  7. Why does Scott Kingery still start games? No, for real, why? He’s terrible offensively. He’s not a good shortstop. We sent Crawford down after he came off the DL, but Crawford at least can man the spot defensively. Cabrera should be playing shortstop every single game remaining, and if it weren’t for his contract, Kingery belongs in AAA. I don’t think his whole career will stink, but the Phillies rushes Kingery up early. He’s not someone who should be playing in a 2018 pennant race.
  8. Can the Phillies win games when Rhys Hoskins isn’t hot? It seems no. Rhys is having a really good season, and I’m a fan, but he’s been a bit streaky this season. When he’s in a funk, or even is just normal, the Phillies struggle. They’ve put a lot on a first year player this year.
  9. Will Nick Williams be back in 2019? I think this comes down to Williams and Odubel trying to hang on. Right now, I’d pick Williams. If we sign Harper, I think Odubel would lose his job, even though he’s the best center fielder in the group.
  10. What’s with Gabe’s line-up card? Not starting Bour and Cabrera against de Grom is a sin. Making sure he gets Kingery at-bats is a sin. Throwing Seranthony out to close is a sin. Gabe has to do better, this team can win right now.

That’s it for now. Hopefully we do some winning soon.

Donald Trump, Impeachment, and the American Right

Donald Trump is in a lot of trouble. Ultimately speaking, he’s in serious jeopardy of being indicted and tried after his Presidency. His company and his Foundation have probably broken laws. His campaign almost certainly operated in a conspiracy with Russia to win the election, which is illegal, based on the statements of he and his son. He has probably used the powers of his office to obstruct justice. Many close associates of Trump’s are now facing prison. The situation for the President is full of peril.

This is probably the point where I remind you that none of that is likely to make a difference in your life. The only thing of impact to the public that can happen to Trump is his removal from office. That can only happen by his being defeated in 2020, or impeached and convicted in Congress before then. It’s too early to tell about 2020, but it is likely to be another cliffhanger finish, given how close 2016 was. That leaves the impeachment process, and the many pitfalls that Democrats could encounter along the way. Looking at them, I don’t believe Trump will be removed from office early, based on what we know.

The first step towards impeaching Trump is Special Counsel Robert Mueller issuing a report that details specific crimes that he believes Trump committed. For historical reference, the Starr Report leading to impeachment on Bill Clinton wasn’t issued until his second term, so we may be pretty far away. Then the House Judiciary Committee would draw up articles of impeachment, hold hearings on them, and have to vote them out. This step in the process really can’t begin until next year, and would probably require a Democratic House Majority to even have a chance. Only then would the full House consider impeachment, and again, a Democratic Majority is a pre-requisite to even consider that. After all of that, you get a Senate trial where 67 votes are needed to convict and remove Trump. There will not ever be 67 Democrats to push this. In other words, at some point Democrats will need some Republicans to hold Donald Trump accountable, as President.

So I guess I’m saying Trump is in real personal trouble, but the Trump Presidency is safe and secure as long as he’s sporting 90% support from Republicans. I suppose it is possible at some point that Senate Republicans will decide it’s in their self-interest to remove Trump, provided that Mike Pence is in no real trouble, and that their base turns on Donald Trump for some reason. What would that reason be though? Conspiracy with Russia? They’ve rationalized that. Crude conduct with women and paying hush money for cover-ups? They quite literally don’t care. Tax cuts for the rich and huge deficits? They’ve always supported that. Latino kids in cages? They think they shouldn’t be here in the first place.

The things that activist Democrats hate about Donald Trump are what his voters like about him. The societal change the left wants is what the Trumpers support, and what makes the “American Middle” squeamish. A large portion of the voters who will probably vote to give Democrats a Congressional majority are probably conflicted on the cultural issues that divide us, and will mostly be voting against Donald Trump for poor performance in office, not diametric opposition to his vision. The most offensive issues about Trump, to the left- his cheating and covering up affairs on his wives, his nationalistic view towards immigration, his “traditionalism” on social issues in general- are exactly the kind of things that probably make him safe from removal. Those in the “pink hats” hate him for it, those in the “red hats” love him for it.

Donald Trump is a reflection of the world view in Conservative America, and for that reason, Republicans in Congress won’t turn on him. Obviously things change, and something could change the calculus. That’s unlikely though. As a result, impeachment is really unlikely too.

#LockThemUp- the True Criminals

If we now want to be honest, we can say the 2016 Election was a complete and total joke. It was covered as the complete inverse of reality, the person who more people voted for lost, there was rampant cheating and lying, and a foreign government was allowed to interfere in our elections, without any repercussions. There is no way to properly quantify just how unfair the 2016 Election was to Hillary Clinton properly, but we can safely now say that an unqualified person, who employed underhanded tactics and people, took the job of a more qualified, prepared woman- full stop.

Let us be clear- Hillary Clinton has never been charged in conjunction with any of the partisan investigations the Republicans trumped up against her. I didn’t say not convicted, that’s not even in the conversation, because she was never charged. She was not charged with any crime from her email server, Benghazi, Whitewater, or any other crazy conspiracy theory the American right-wing made up in the last 25 years. All she did was serve the public and try to solve problems for a quarter century, while Trey Gowdy, Lindsey Graham, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, and yes, James Comey drug her name through the mud, literally for no reason. I don’t think she was the greatest candidate, or possessed a magnetic personality, or hired the best people to run her campaigns, but I am damn proud to have worked for Hillary twice, and I don’t think she ever embarrassed any of us.

You can’t say the same for her detractors though. Donald Trump raised the spectacle of Hillary going to prison or being on trial, but now his campaign chair, his deputy, his former national security advisor, and his personal lawyer are prison bound. Michael Flynn lead the “lock her up” chants, but his next sentencing hearing is September 17th. Michael Cohen joked of Hillary Clinton going to prison on Twitter, and plead guilty to eight counts in federal court yesterday. Paul Manafort lead the campaign against Clinton, and he’s jail bound on eight counts too. All of these people are criminals. All betrayed America.

But we heard months of squawking about Hillary’s emails, of which no crime was committed. We heard several years of Benghazi. The press treated the accusations of thugs and criminals as a legitimate story. Even now they put Rudy Giuliani on TV, despite the fact he says “facts are not facts.” They attend Sarah Huckabee Sander’s press briefings, even when we’ve seen her willingness to lie and obstruct on camera. The coverage of the 2016 Election, the obsession with “her damn emails,” was clearly a joke- and it has continued.

What we now also know, in addition to the fact of Russian cheating in our election, is that Trump’s campaign violated campaign laws to hide damaging information. Trump had Cohen pay money to two women that Trump had affairs with, specifically to silence them in the closing days. Cohen paid the money, taking a loan, and the money exceeded the maximum limits for a contribution to a federal candidate. The campaign did not report the payments as expenditures. Trump commanded Cohen to make the payments for him, to avoid detection. All of these are campaign finance violations. The act of silencing the women may have influenced voters, by not giving voice to more negative stories about Trump. Like the Russian interference issue, we don’t know exactly how much the cheating impacted the election- but it probably exceeds the margins in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Even the primary season needs to be re-visited. Tad Devine testified in the Manafort trial as his business partner, because he knew of Manafort’s financial secrets. Devine had the same connections with the Kremlin from their work together in the Ukraine. Devine’s 2016 client, Bernie Sanders, made the same accusations that Hillary was corrupt and worked for the elite. With all we now know about that message, and Devine’s connection to Manafort, it’s time we question what we heard then, too.

The criminal enterprise that was the Trump campaign got less votes in 2016 than Hillary Clinton. Criminals that accused Hillary Clinton of crimes are now going to jail. The press treated illegitimate characters and their stories with more fairness than they did Clinton.

Now it’s time to lock these criminals all up. It’s in the best interests of the country.

The Old Timers Make The VMAs Great Again

I hadn’t watched the MTV VMAs in a few years. Why would I? No one makes music videos anymore, right? MTV isn’t showing videos anymore, right? It’s not like most new music on the radio is worth listening to. Rap isn’t what it used to be, rock doesn’t exist, and pop stars aren’t exactly Britney Spears. My expectations are low.

So of course my 23 year old sister wanted me to watch the last hour of the VMAs with her, and enticed me with “Aerosmith is ending the show.” That was enough to get me, and I’m glad she did. There was J-Lo winning awards with A-Rod as her date. There was Madonna recounting her life, looking like she’s 25 years younger than she is. There were some rappers I never heard of. Then Lenny Kravitz showed up looking like this:

Then there was Aerosmith, in all their glory. It was a really good look for Post Malone coming out on stage with them. Apparently Aerosmith, fresh off their solo tours, is getting ready to do a residency in Las Vegas for 2019, heading into their “50th anniversary” celebration in 2020. They are the true definition of legends. Their performance was epic.

The VMAs found a way to be relevant for a night, without trying to force me to love the Carters again (I’m still not loving Jay Z and Beyoncé). MTV should be credited for being smart enough to go back to the Aerosmith/Madonna/Jenny From the Block era, again. I’m really glad I tuned in to see this Madonna version for 2018.

Random Friday Thoughts

It’s Friday. I’ve got some random thoughts. Here’s a sampling for you to read:

  • I have not watched a full possession of Eagles’ pre-season football yet, and I’m not going to. Actually going to the games is fun, but watching on TV is brutal. The starters don’t play, or don’t play hard, because they don’t need to. The back-ups are basically there to show their special teams value and get reps. This stuff is mostly unimportant, unless your team is bad.
  • I found out last night that Ronda Rousey won an Olympic medal in Judo. I had no idea. It makes sense with her fighting style, but there was little hype about it. It also means her combat sports career was far longer than I thought.
  • For my two cents, I have no problem with Jim Clyburn becoming Speaker if Nancy Pelosi can’t in January. I’m torn in my feelings about Nancy Pelosi, both holding her career and record in high esteem, and thinking she has been there so awfully long, and is a giant political liability with the voters in the middle. I’m fine if she stays, I’m fine if she steps aside for someone else to be Speaker, but I’d like her to leave leadership after the 2020 Election at worst, an even 20 years in leadership. With that said, and I love Jim Clyburn, but I’d feel the same about him.
  • I’m getting sick of the media allowing Donald Trump to claim he can “fight back” against the Mueller probe- you don’t get to fight a legal investigation. You get to make a defense if you’re charged in a court of law, or Congress. You don’t get to try and stop an investigation- that’s obstruction of justice. When Trump says he fired Comey or pulled Brennan’s clearance because they started the Russia investigation, Trump is admitting obstruction. He’s admitting a crime. He’s making it very hard to argue that he doesn’t belong in prison.
  • Aerosmith is getting ready to celebrate 50 years together as a band with a residency in Las Vegas for 2019. Technically that’s their 49th year, but I’m betting some new music will follow. You know, this is a perfect point for me to note- I’m not always a fan of “new” stuff. If I flipped through every iHeartRadio rock station right now, I couldn’t find a “new” rock band on Aerosmith’s level. Sometimes the new stuff sucks and the old stuff is great.
  • How do you give up seven runs in one inning? Better yet, how are they all unearned? Well, you can only do all of this when you lose 24-4, like the Phillies did Thursday. In one of the great ironies of sports, the Phillies came back to win game two, and gain a half game for the day.
  • That’s all for today. We’ll be back this weekend.
  • The Phillies are Built to Last

    There was a certain satisfaction in watching last night’s Phillies win. The Boston Red Sox are certainly not one of my favorite teams, but they are baseball’s best team this year. The Phillies dropped a tough 2-1 battle on Tuesday, but managed to split the season series with a team that should easily top 100 wins. Boston may very well have this year’s AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, but the Phillies didn’t back down from them in any of the four games, in either park. Down 3-0 on Wednesday night, facing a sweep, they fought back and won 7-4. That is a satisfying win.

    When you look at the Phillies line-up, you aren’t overwhelmed. Nobody is going to hit .300 in this line-up. It’s highly unlikely anyone hits 40 homers. Rhys Hoskins is probably the only guy that drives in 100 runs, or probably hits 30 homers. They’re a bottom of the league team in batting average. What do they do well? They take a lot of pitches. Their on-base percentages are deceptively good. They’ll probably have six or seven guys hit 20 homers or more. They hit well later in the game. It’s not that they have nothing going here, but they’re not a line-up that impresses you much.

    The Phillies are a good team because they can pitch. Aaron Nola has been outstanding. Jake Arrieta has been way better than some fans give him credit for. While they’re inconsistent, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez have all dominated at times, in a season where they all made tremendous leaps forward. The bullpen has become deceptively strong as the season rolls along. This team has pitched it’s way into contention, despite relative youth and inexperience, and one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball.

    And yet, despite all of those positives, I’m not sure they will win the division. They are two games back of Atlanta for the first time since the virtual beginning of Summer. Atlanta has a young, ready for prime time offense. They’re beating up on bad teams better than the Phillies right now. Atlanta’s doesn’t seem like the same level as the Phillies, but they’ve done a more than admirable job, and the numbers are way closer than you think. Who wins this division probably comes down to whether Atlanta’s starting pitching or Philadelphia’s offense is better- assuming Washington is who they look like at this point.

    In the long run though, the Phillies are poised to dominate the NL East. If you were to ask me what I’d rather have to improve in free agency- starting pitching or offense- I’d take offense every time. We’re coming up on a major off-season, with major available bats like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper on the market, and the Phillies are well-positioned to make monster bids on both. Other than the often-injured Clayton Kershaw, there are less available game-changing arms on the market, and they will be very expensive. Atlanta simply doesn’t have the kind of money the Phillies do either, whether to extend contracts to their own players or free agents.

    Even if the Phillies third through fifth starters don’t all solve their consistency issues, the Phillies have a dominating AAA staff that is cruising through the International League, and Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina waiting in the wings to eventually fill in here. The Phillies will not need to dive into the expensive starting pitching market as much as Atlanta and others will. They will be able to spend in free agency to fill in their 2019 line-up, and trade from their depth of pitching to get more bats. With their deep pockets, the Phillies can build a sustained winner. The NL East is going to hate this group for a long time.