Friday, September 28, 2018

What's The Supreme Hurry? One Observer's Look At An Incredible Senate Hearing

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Christine Blasey Ford's testimony was entirely credible, and Brett Kavanaugh's defense of his character and actions was passionate. 

The only thing that makes sense now is to do what the American Bar Association advises:  Delay a vote on Kavanaugh's nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court until Ford's claims of Kavanaugh's sexual assault can be thoroughly examined by the FBI.

It's important to note that the ABA has strongly supported Kavanaugh, so this is not some kind of partisan stalling mechanism. It's the right thing to do - period.

+++

UPDATE: Led by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a handful of Republicans have called for a one-week delay on a full-Senate vote so there can be an FBI investigation into these allegations. 

Even Donald Trump is calling Ford a "credible witness" now.

Maybe it's just for show -- I think we'll be able to tell if that's the case -- but it's definitely progress.

Mostly, it's good to know that Flake and a few other senators read The Baldest Truth!

+++

OK, now that I got my main point out of the way ...

From 10 a.m. until nearly 7 p.m. Thursday, I sat in front of my computer monitor watching this most unique Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about a sexual assault that allegedly took place 36 years ago, when both people were in high school. 

It was the first time I had watched anything like this from beginning to end, only taking breaks when the hearing itself took breaks. It was that riveting. 

I decided that I didn't want to be bombarded by all kinds of banners and bells and commentary, so I watched the stream on the USA Today website. Their video included almost no dramatic graphics or silliness, as I figured streams from CNN, Fox News or other TV outlets might. 

I also did not listen to any commentary during the breaks. I had a dog to take care of, a mouth to feed (my own) and some stuff I had to get done that had nothing to do with the hearing.

Almost immediately after it ended, I left for a poker game at a friend's house, so I did not sit around watching hours of analysis. The hearing was intense enough, and I'm fully capable of coming to my own conclusions; I did not need to listen to what Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity or Wolf Blitzer or Newt Gingrich thought about it.

I am proud to be a registered "Unaffiliated" (what N.C. calls an Independent), and I have done my best to keep an open mind about all of this. 

Here are 20 of my observations and thoughts, roughly in order of how they happened during the hearing:

1. Ford's demeanor was outstanding and her testimony was believable. 

She was obviously nervous and a bit beleaguered, but she willingly answered every question and did not seem to dodge any query - including those from the female lawyer that the 11 white male Republicans on the committee hired to do all of their questioning. 

She repeatedly stated that all she wanted to do was be helpful.

She certainly did not come across as a liar, actress or pretender. The two adjectives that best fit her were "credible" and "courageous."

2. The fact that she brought her allegations to the attention of her local congressperson several days before Donald Trump chose Kavanaugh as his nominee definitely gave her more credibility as both an accuser and a witness.

It showed she wasn't trying to take part in a partisan attack against Trump's choice just because he was Trump's choice. Had the president selected any of the other conservatives on his list, we never would have heard of Ford.

3. It is completely believable that a victim of the kind of attack Ford described from 36 years ago would not remember small, relatively unimportant details pertaining to the hours before and after the incident while remembering even the tiniest details of the act itself. 

For those who dismiss her account simply because it was so long ago - a tactic our cloddish boor of a president used - I ask this question: 

Were the thousands of Catholic boys who were sexually abused by priests - but who didn't give their accounts until decades later out of fear or shame - also liars?

I don't know how anybody could have watched Ford's testimony and come away thinking, "Wow, what a liar!" Indeed, her sincerity and courage shined through so forcefully that even several of the crusty old Republicans on the committee praised her.

4. It's hard to blame Republicans for choosing a female to question Ford. They were almost in a no-win situation, as any aggressive questioning by the 11 white men would have been viewed (probably correctly) as bullying an alleged victim of sexual assault.

However, they can't have been pleased by the work turned in by Arizona sexual crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who if anything helped turn Ford into an even more sympathetic figure. 

Mitchell failed to poke a single hole in Ford's testimony. And near the end, she made excuses for her poor performance by saying how difficult it was to question a witness in 5-minute segments.

I'm not saying this was Mitchell's fault, by the way. She is a prosecutor, so she spends her days trying to get guilty verdicts against those who commit sex crimes. She simply wasn't the right choice for this assignment, although perhaps, given the circumstances, there was no right choice.

Regardless, the Republican senators themselves took over the questioning of Kavanaugh.

5. Ford's recounting of the assault - especially her description of Kavanaugh laughing with a buddy who also was in the room, Mark Judge, both during and after the incident - was both totally believable and intensely compelling. 

As she described the alleged assault, I could almost see it in my mind. It was impossible not to feel sorry for her.

6. Some of Kavanaugh's defenders - including one of his friends - are doing him no favor by ridiculously pitching a "mistaken identity" defense. 

Their claim: OK, maybe Ford was sexually assaulted, but it was by somebody who only looked like Kavanaugh.

How despicable and desperate does that sound?

Asked by Senator Dick Durbin, "With what degree of certainty do you think Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?" Ford leaned into the microphone and strongly stated: 


"100 percent."

She was far more believable than the dopes pushing the "mistaken identity" silliness.

7. Of the details Ford couldn't recall clearly, the only one that surprised me was that she couldn't remember how she got to the party on the night of the alleged assault. (I do understand her not being able to remember how she got home, though.)

Also, while one of her good friends who was at the party has said she believes Ford, the friend also has said she couldn't remember the gathering having taken place at all. Kavanaugh repeatedly brought that up, and I would have, too.

And of course, there were no corroborating witnesses for Ford's account. That's why it's so hard to prove sexual assault. It's also why so many victims don't report the crimes or seek justice. 

8. While Ford's opening statement was short, and her nervousness was obvious, Kavanaugh began by launching a long, passionate, often angry (and a few times tearful) defense of himself. 

Although his voice rose numerous times, and his lip quivered when he got weepy, he mostly sounded like a polished defense attorney, delivering a courtroom statement that sought to refute Ford's claims point-by-point.

When he let himself be vulnerable, I certainly could empathize with the anguish and frustration that any man might have felt after being accused of a heinous act he knew in his heart he didn't commit.

A man I'm very close to was falsely accused of inappropriate behavior a few years back. It devastated him. Even after he was fully exonerated by an investigation, he has never forgotten the hurt of what he calls one of the worst times of his life.

9. That Kavanaugh almost immediately attacked Democrats and praised Trump no doubt helped him with the Republican base, but it irreparably damaged any semblance of the independence he had spent weeks claiming he had. 


This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

It was a blistering, bitter, extremely partisan diatribe.

I wasn't at all surprised that a few Republican senators (especially an irate Lindsey Graham; more on him later) took that tone, but I didn't expect it from a prospective Supreme Court justice fighting a sexual assault allegation.

Given his history as an attack dog for Republicans, most Independents and Democrats already were leery of Kavanaugh's ability to be objective in any rulings he might have if confirmed for the Supreme Court. 

His opening statement left little doubt that they are correct to be leery. He sounded like a Republican politician. Even worse, he sounded like Trump or one of his conspiracy-theory-spouting sycophants.

It was not a good look for a supposedly independent jurist trying to get confirmed to the most important court in the land.

10. Saying you don't remember a party taking place is not the same as the party not taking place.

Kavanaugh tried to use the former as the equivalent of the latter dozens of times ... and he had success doing so. The committee members mostly let him get away with it, so I don't blame him for going back to it repeatedly.

11. Kavanaugh apparently lied about the meaning of a word he used in his yearbook profile: "boofing." 

He claimed it had something to do with "flatulence." It actually is a sexual act. "Devil's Triangle" - another yearbook reference - also has to do with sex, so Kavanaugh was misleading about that as well.

Additionally, there were yearbook statements by Kavanaugh and several of his friends that they were "alumni" of a girl from another school. He tried to say Thursday that it was a term of endearment, but it almost surely meant that the boys were claiming to have had sex with her. That's certainly how the girl - now a woman - understood it in recent interviews.

I don't want to make too much of the juvenile yearbook stuff of teenage boys ... but why lie about it under oath?

12. If you didn't already know it before Thursday, you know it now:

BRETT KAVANAUGH REALLY, REALLY LIKES HIS BEER. 

He said words to that effect ... oh ... about 300 times. 

Although a few Democratic senators, most notably Amy Klobuchar, pressed him on the subject, even citing statements from Kavanaugh's college friends that he was often drunk off his arse, I didn't think the senators were forceful enough in general. They let him either change the subject or simply get away with dismissing it with some form of, "I like beer."

Perhaps the single most unbelievable part of Kavanaugh's testimony was that he was absolutely certain that he had never, ever, ever blacked out from drinking. 

He testified that he liked beer a ton, that he drank regularly and sometimes to excess, that he started drinking when he was young, and that he often drank so much he had to puke. And he admitted that sometimes he fell asleep after drinking. 

But we're supposed to believe that he never blacked out one single time during all of these drinking episodes?

Of course, if he did admit it could have happened, it would have opened the door to the possibility of him committing a sexual assault and not remembering it.  

Klobuchar was one senator who at least took a shot at the subject, gently asking Kavanaugh if he had ever blacked out. Kavanaugh took a condescending tone, shooting back: "I don't know, have you?"

A short recess followed Klobuchar's questioning, and upon returning to the proceedings, Kavanaugh apologized. So either Kavanaugh knew he sounded like an overly defensive jerk, or somebody told him he did and strongly recommended that he apologize.

13. Hey, I like beer, too. I was too much of a goody-two-shoes in high school to do much drinking then, but I more than made up for it when I was in college. And I enjoy a craft beer (or 2) now.

However, I'm not a Supreme Court nominee, and I don't need to be (as the old saying goes) "as sober as a judge." 

Does this guy have a drinking problem? It's a legitimate question.

14. Kavanaugh suggested that he couldn't possibly have had a black-out-type drinking problem or that he didn't party on weeknights because he was a serious student, both in high school and college.

Well, one of my good friends at Marquette had roughly this routine:


9 a.m., wake up ... 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., class ... 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., study ... 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., dinner ... 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., study ... 9 pm. to 2 a.m., drink and smoke dope to excess ... 2 a.m., pass out. 

Day after day, week after week, that's what my friend did with few exceptions. He also was a straight-A student, and he has been a very successful businessman for years.

I couldn't do it, but some people can. My friend could. According to many of his Yale classmates, Kavanaugh could, too.

15. Given that Ford brought her accusation both to her congressperson and to the Washington Post on her own, I'm surprised Democrats on the panel mostly let Kavanaugh get away with suggesting that Dems had put her up to the whole thing as part of some conspiracy.

I would have asked, "If you're so sure that Dr. Ford was part of a partisan hit job to crush the president's nominee, why did she contact her congressperson with this BEFORE you were the nominee? Why wouldn't she have waited until you were the nominee? Why didn't she (or other Democratic operatives) try the exact same tactics with Neil Gorsuch, the very conservative, Trump-appointed judge who was confirmed for the Supreme Court last year?"

16. Kavanaugh made a big deal out of a calendar he started keeping when he was a teenager that served as both a planner and a diary.

It was an effective method to show his busy schedule, and the fact that it included plans for some of the parties he went to gave it a feeling of authenticity. 

He used it to help show that he wasn't around much in the summer of 1982, when the assault allegedly took place, and he tried to claim that there were no weekends in the middle of that summer where he took part in parties.

However, as reporters for several Web sites have since pointed out, on July 1, 1982, leading into Fourth of July weekend, Kavanaugh's calendar said he went "to Timmy's for skis w/Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie, Squi."

"Skis" were "brewskis." Judge was Mark Judge, the friend of Kavanaugh's whom Ford said was in the room when the assault took place. PJ was another Kavanaugh friend Ford also said was at the gathering. Ford said all of that before any of us knew that Kavanaugh's calendar existed.

So was Kavanaugh lying?

None of the senators, either Republicans or Democrats, asked Kavanaugh about this discrepancy in his testimony. Maybe no one noticed it, which also doesn't speak well of their ability to ask important questions.

17. A few Democrats on the panel, most notably Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Patrick Leahy and Kamala Harris, did a decent job pressing Kavanaugh and trying to get him to stick to facts.

All too often, though, the senators let him get away with changing the subject or simply not answering questions.

And while I get the reason they want the FBI to investigate Ford's accusation - I do too, as I already have stated - they hammered at Kavanaugh far too much about it. 

He's not the one who can call for an investigation ... and even if he asked Trump to call for one - as a couple of senators implored him to do - Trump wouldn't do it.

18. The Democratic senator who came out looking the worst was Diane Feinstein, who had been told by Ford about the alleged assault more than a month ago and who had pledged not to reveal Ford's identity.

Not only did Ford's name get out - turning her life upside down, leading to death threats, upsetting her kids - but Feinstein sat on the information until the 11th hour before springing it on her fellow senators.

It gave the appearance of a partisan hack job by Feinstein and the Democrats. That's exactly what it was, and the shame of it is that Ford was made to look guilty by association.

Kavanaugh repeatedly said that the Democrats could have had their FBI investigation a month ago if Feinstein had gone to the FBI with the allegations. And I agree.

The Democrats could come to regret their tactics if and when they get back in power and they try to get their president's next Supreme Court pick confirmed.

19. Lindsey Graham is sometimes accused of being a "RINO" because he often has been willing to work across the aisle. That's a good thing in my estimation, but it's seen as a black mark to far-right extremists.

Well, he certainly solidified his far-right cred with his blistering takedown of Democrats when he took the microphone.

Calling it "the most despicable thing I have seen in my time with politics," he said Democrats wanted "to destroy this guy's life, hold his seat open, and hope you win (the presidency) in 2020. Boy, you guys want power. God, I hope you never get it."

He also went out of his way to point out that he voted for Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - President Obama's two liberal Supreme Court nominees.

(Of course, he didn't mention that he was party to the highly respected Merrick Garland being denied even a Senate hearing after Obama nominated Garland with almost a year left in his presidency.)

Graham ran against Trump for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, and was critical of Trump early on after the election, but he has become one of the president's allies. And his performance Thursday definitely will help his standing with the Republican base.

Later on, he claimed that he believed Ford ... but that the attacker wasn't Kavanaugh. Again, the "mistaken identity" defense. Weak.

I'm pretty sure that if Kavanaugh punched Graham in the face, Graham would not think somebody else did it.

20. Kavanaugh is obviously an intelligent man and has been involved in jurisprudence for decades. 

That didn't stop him from repeatedly trying to claim that a short statement written by an attorney on Mark Judge's behalf was the equivalent of an independent FBI investigation and/or testimony under oath before the Senate.

Kavanaugh even tried to blame alcohol addiction for any poor behavior by his friend.

I want to hear from this guy, Mark Judge. He supposedly was in the room when a nominee for the highest court in the land committed sexual assault. He should be interviewed by the FBI, and he should be subpoenaed by Congress and compelled to testify.

Yes, the FBI already has looked thoroughly into Kavanaugh's background. But its officers have not had a chance to do so since these very credible allegations have come to light.

+++

Bottom line:

If I were a Republican senator who wasn't a total partisan hack, and if I cared at all about both the truth and the sanctity of the Supreme Court, I would tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay the vote until after a full FBI investigation.

That's apparently exactly what happened, thanks to Flake and a few other Republicans who were on the fence after Thursday's testimony.

I'm impressed that Trump agreed to it - every once in a very great while, he does give us a pleasant surprise.

Here's hoping that this isn't just a head fake to placate a few Republicans, that it's a legitimate investigation. There were enough inconsistencies (and maybe even misleading statements) from Kavanaugh to warrant an extra look.
^





Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Racist School Superintendents For $200, Alex

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A Texas school district's superintendent named Lynn Redden apparently wasn't happy that Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans lost 20-17 to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. So he posted this comment under a Houston Chronicle article on Facebook:
"That may have been the most inept quarterback decision I've seen in the NFL. When you need precision decision making you can't count on a black quarterback."
As you can see in THIS ARTICLE, this effen bozo tried to defend himself in two ways:

1. He said he thought he was talking in private to a friend. 

Because, you know, it's OK for a school superintendent (or anybody else) to be a racist as long as he practices his "craft" in private.

2. As part of his non-apology apology, Redden said black quarterbacks "have had limited success" throughout the league's history. 

Yep, keep digging, buddy. You're gonna need a bigger shovel.

The Onalaska Independent School District board is meeting Saturday to discuss the issue (and, theoretically, Redden's future), but as THIS ARTICLE shows, several parents are supporting their racist superintendent.

Cindi Rivera, whose daughter attended school in the district for 13 years before graduating in 2017, said ... Redden is a man of integrity and strong morals. His Facebook comment shocked her, she said, because she hasn't heard him make any racist or defamatory comments to students or parents. She still backs him as a person: "He helped all of us raise our kids. This man backs every single student."

Well, there's nothing like a helpful racist with integrity!

The Texans rallied around Watson and ripped Redden, with coach Bill O'Brien saying: 
"Deshaun represents everything that's right about football and life. It's amazing that BS exists, but it does."
Actually, it's not very amazing at all.

What's amazing is that there really are yahoos who believe that racism no longer exists ... and even total dopes who contend that "reverse racism" (whatever that is) is a bigger problem in America than actual racism.

It's 2018, folks, and we still have a LOOOOONG way to go.
^

Monday, September 17, 2018

Florence Clears Out, And We're A-OK

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Hey everybody ... it's all good!

After fearing the worst, our brick home in suburban Charlotte stood up against Florence's fury and performed wonderfully.


Not a drop of water inside, and no damage on our lot. There is cleanup to do, but it's not bad. We know we're so, so lucky compared to the death and destruction Florence wrought on other parts of the Carolinas, particularly the coastal areas.

Simmie and I took a walk around the neighborhood a little while ago and it appeared damage was minimal. A few trees fell, but it didn't appear any fell on houses, fences or other expensive structures. This despite our town leading the entire county in rainfall during the 48-hour storm, some 10.7 inches. (We're No. 1!)

There were reports of numerous streets in the metro area closed by flooding, fallen trees, etc., but Robbie got to work just fine this morning -- good thing for the sick kids and families she helps as part of her every workday.

Thanks to the many family and friends who inquired about our situation. It's always nice to know people care.

The only negative was that we didn't lose power ... meaning I had to watch my Panthers lose a tough one to the hated Falcons! Of course, I also got to watch the Patriots lose, so it wasn't all bad!!

+++

Speaking of football, I happened to catch the end of the Packers-Vikings game and I saw what hopefully will be the worst officiating call of the season.


(Video from Fox TV via YouTube)

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews put a textbook hit on Kirk Cousins just as the Vikings QB was releasing a pass. The ball floated and was intercepted by Green Bay's Jaire Alexander to seemingly clinch the Packers' victory.

But referee Tony Corrente whistled Matthews for roughing the passer, and, given a reprieve, Minnesota went on to tie the game.

Matthews didn't hit Cousins high, didn't hit Cousins low, didn't hit Cousins late, didn't hit Cousins with excessive force, didn't use his helmet to hit Cousins and didn't drive Cousins to the ground.

I am not one to blame officials very often. Heck, I officiate youth baseball and basketball games myself, so I know how difficult it can be. Almost always, a team has chances to overcome even the worst calls, and certainly the Packers could have won this game despite Corrente's flag. 

Still, this was a truly horrible call, and it played a huge role in preventing a deserving team from winning.

As Cousins himself said: 

“I’m sure it was probably a generous call."

Yes, if "generous" is a synonym for brutally bad.
^

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Damn You, Florence! How The Nadels Are Getting Ready

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Hurricanes and other natural disasters suck.

There. I said it. You can always count on me to tackle the tough debates of our time!

With Florence bearing down on the Carolina coastline even as I write this, Roberta and I have been touched by all of those who have reached out to us. Family, friends and even people on the interwebs that we never have met have inquired about how we're doing and have wished us well. A bazillion thanks!

When our son Ben called yesterday and asked if I was worried, I responded:


Of course I'm worried! Both of the Panthers' offensive tackles are hurt ... and I don't want Cam to have to run for his life!! Greg Olsen's hurt, too, dammit! And I might have to scramble to find a place to watch Sunday's game!


You know, if I have to miss seeing us beat the Falcons, this will be the worst Florence since Henderson!!

But seriously, folks ... here's what I can tell everybody as of 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13:

++ Charlotte is well inland. We will not get anything close to the worst of Florence. I am deeply concerned about our friends who live on the coast or close to it, and I hope they are doing everything possible to protect their most valuable asset: their lives.

++ The very latest update I read has Florence now a Category 2 hurricane that figures to hit sometime tomorrow somewhere between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. It then is expected to move slowly inland to the south and west. 

++ This is the image that was on the Charlotte Observer website, featuring what was expected of the storm track as of 11 a.m. Thursday:



++ It will weaken gradually, but "weaken" is a relative term. It will bring torrential rain and high winds throughout the Carolinas, with the Columbia area right in the path.

++ Forecasters believe Florence will pass well south and west of Charlotte, but it is a very wide storm and we still will get a lot of rain and wind. 

++ Most projections are for rain and wind to move in here sometime Saturday, with Sunday being the worst day. Experts are calling for 5-8 inches of rain in the area -- that's a ton to fall within only a 48-hour window -- as well as winds of 30-50 mph. 

I have two primary concerns for how Robbie and I could be directly affected:


  1. We do not live in a flood plain, nor are we near any large bodies of water or creeks. Still, our backyard tends to get waterlogged very quickly even if there's only a relatively short but hard rain. Plus, our driveway at the front of our house has a gradual decline leading to our garage. So I am a little concerned that we could get some water in the house, possibly through the garage. We have lived here for 7 1/2 years and have never had a drop of water get into the house from a storm, but we also have never experienced a storm like this.
  2. As with everybody else in the area, we could experience a major power outage that could last for days.


Both of those outcomes would be unpleasant and inconvenient, but they shouldn't be life-threatening. And they hopefully will be relatively easily remedied after the storm passes.

We don't expect to have to drive through flooded streets or, really, to do much at all outside our house. We're prepared to "batten down the hatches" and "hunker down" and all those other cliches.

We are well-stocked with necessary provisions: candles, flashlights, batteries, ice, drinking water, etc. We have more peanut butter than some grocery stores (I really like peanut butter), and plenty of other non-perishable foods to keep ourselves nourished. 



We have beer in the fridge, too. If we lose electricity, we might have to make the ultimate sacrifice and drink a lot of it before it gets warm. 

If we lose power, we will be able to cook and heat stuff on our gas grill once the wind dies down, and we have a spare propane tank. 

Both cars have full tanks of gas, we have taken down all hanging plants, bird feeders, potted plants, etc, and we either already have or soon will move inside anything else that could blow around our yard. It doesn't look like either we or our next-door neighbors have trees that could fall on our house.

I'm not sure what else we can do at this point except think positively and stay prepared.

I will try to keep people posted, but if we lose power I'm not sure how easy that will be. If anybody tries to call and I don't answer, it might just be because my phone is out of juice, so don't call in the National Guard on our behalf.

Worst-case scenario ... we end up in Oz.



I hear Munchkins actually are quite tasty as long as one has plenty of peanut butter available for spreading on them and beer available to wash them down ... so no worries!
^

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Black and White of Trump's America

The Florida gubernatorial campaign started in earnest this week after the primaries produced two surprise candidates: a white Republican named Ron DeSantis who was personally chosen by Donald Trump, and a black Democrat named Andrew Gillum who was endorsed by Bernie Sanders.
And here's what the white guy said in his first Fox News interview:
"You know, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views and he's a charismatic candidate. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state."
So, in his very first national comment about his opponent, DeSantis managed to get in both ARTICULATE and MONKEY. He could have used thousands of other words, but he carefully selected those.
Bravo, sir! Way to stir up the racist base!
When called on it, naturally DeSantis feigned ignorance and his apologists feigned outrage:
How could anybody even think think this was about race? "Articulate" is a compliment! Our hero obviously wasn't calling his opponent a "monkey"! It's absurd that anybody could possibly think the white guy was intentionally using dog-whistle terms when talking about the black guy! If anything, this is reverse racism, which as everybody knows is worse than actual racism!
In Trump's America, racists and misogynists and anti-Semites need not sneak around in the shadows. They need not wear hoods. They need not work behind the scenes to push their divisive agenda.
No, they are free to come right out into the open and do their thing ... whether it's "some very fine people" marching with torches and chanting "blood and soil" ... or a white gubernatorial candidate using "monkey" in his first public comment about his black opponent.

Monday, August 27, 2018

McCain remembered ... 8 years in NC ... kids show adults how to behave ... another mass shooting by a white guy

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Since John McCain died Saturday, many are sharing their favorite memories of the Vietnam War hero and U.S. senator from Arizona.

Mine comes from a town hall meeting that was held in a Minneapolis suburb shortly before the 2008 election.

A man took the microphone and said, "Frankly, we're scared of an Obama presidency." 

McCain's response:

First of all, I want to be president of the United States, and obviously I do not want Senator Obama to be. But I have to tell you: He is a decent person, and a person who you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States.

There was some grumbling in the crowd, and an older woman took the mic: “I can’t trust Obama. I’ve read about him, and … he’s an Arab!”

McCain shook his head, took back the mic, and responded:

No, Ma’am. No, Ma’am. He’s a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that’s what this campaign is all about.

For those interested, here's a YouTube clip of those exchanges:





You just don't find that kind of decency in politics any more. Heck, it's difficult to find that kind of decency outside of politics here in the Divided States of America. 

I'll always respect John McCain for that, and more. He was a great American.

+++

This week marks the 8-year anniversary of me and Roberta moving from Chicago to Charlotte.

Our N.C. experience has been interesting. When we arrived, the state was considered the "Progressive New South." Politically, it was purple, having voted narrowly for Barack Obama in 2008 but populated by millions of conservatives, too. 

Republicans gained big all over the nation in the 2010 midterms, and nowhere was the gain bigger than in my new state. Less than 3 months after we arrived, the GOP assumed control. They used their new-found power to gerrymander the hell out of every voting district. They have passed one draconian law after another -including many that courts have struck down as racist or homophobic - making the state not very welcoming politically to Independents like me and to Democrats.

Politics aside, I do like much about where we live. Our neighbors are nice, our weather is mostly great, Roberta gets tremendous satisfaction from her challenging job, I have enjoyed coaching basketball here, we like the craft-beer scene and some other social things, and we have made many good friends. And even though folks here complain about the traffic, it is a breeze compared to what we left behind in Chicago.

Nevertheless, I honestly don't see us making this our permanent home. For one thing, our kids are too far away. But I wouldn't be surprised if we spend 8 more years here before we go.

Bottom line: If I were rating our NC experience, I'd borrow a word the kids today like to use: It's been "aiight."

+++

Obama, who opposed McCain for the presidency in 2008, will speak at McCain's funeral.

Joe Biden, who as Obama's vice-presidential nominee often criticized McCain's policies, will speak at the funeral.

George W. Bush, who went toe-to-toe with McCain for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, will speak at McCain's funeral.

Donald Trump? He was asked by McCain's family to stay far, far away.

How big a jerk must a sitting president be to specifically be asked not to attend the funeral of a U.S. senator and war hero?

Nuff said.

+++

I really enjoyed the Little League World Series this year. The winning team, Hawaii, played spectacularly. More than that, they were among the many participants who showed exemplary sportsmanship throughout the event.



(AP Photo)

They all made America look really good, and the international teams were fine ambassadors for their countries, too.

Now, if more adults would only take a cue!

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Yet another mass shooting - this time at a gaming event in Jacksonville, Fla.

Where is the president to demand that all white males be deported?

I mean, white men just keep shooting into crowds, gunning down our fellow Americans, so obviously we all have to go.

But hey ... we've had a pretty good run, haven't we, boys?
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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Trumpian Logic

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Here's Donald Trump on July 18, 2015, talking about. U.S. Sen. John McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prison (after courageously refusing to use his father's influence to be freed if it meant those with him would be left behind):

He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.

(An hour later, Trump being Trump, he denied saying McCain wasn't a war hero - yep, denied the exact words he just said! Deferment Don also couldn't remember which foot supposedly had the bone spurs that kept the coward from having to serve.)


Photo from AFP/Getty Images

Now, here's Trump on August 22, 2018, talking about Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager, who probably will spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of 8 felonies:

I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. "Justice" took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a "deal." Such respect for a brave man!


Photo from Getty Images

So, to recap ...

Deferment Don has no respect for a decorated war hero who volunteered to serve his country. Because, you know, that man was captured.

But he has "such respect" for a multiple-count felon who served nobody except Trump (and himself). Even though, you know, that man was captured.

McCain is not heroic ... but Manafort is "brave."

This is the world according to dishonest, egomaniacal, dangerously ignorant Donald Trump, the most corrupt president ever.
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Monday, August 13, 2018

We Need A Decent President Like John Kasich - Also, fun with Tiger, the KKK and Omarosa

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I just watched Ohio Gov. John Kasich for 10+ minutes on NBC's Meet The Press ... and I couldn't help but feel sad.

He would have been SO much better president than the two people on the 2016 ballot, it isn't funny.

I strongly suggest that everybody who cares about our great democratic republic watch this video:



I can hear my friends from both side of the aisle now. Some of my liberal friends will say he is too conservative on issues such as abortion and say they would worry about the kinds of Supreme Court justices he would appoint. Some of my conservative friends will call him a RINO or "too establishment."

As a registered Independent who is a centrist on most economic issues and left-of-center on most social issues, I am not entirely comfortable with some of his platforms or with his tendency to drift toward religiosity.

However, I am about getting our country moving the right direction again. Kasich knows how to govern, he knows that bringing Americans together (and not dividing us) is the answer, he is reasonable and pragmatic, and I really do think he is a good human being.

Those last three words alone make him a bazillion times better than the immoral, corrupt racist currently in command.

I am disappointed in Republicans for letting themselves get conned into nominating a me-first, un-American, unstable liar - not to mention a guy who, as Kasich pointed out, is neither a Republican nor a conservative.

And I am disappointed in Democrats that they couldn't have put forward a candidate better than the flawed, dishonest person they nominated. As an adjunct, I am disappointed that Dems didn't come out to vote for the person they did nominate. I hope y'all are happy with the results of your apathy: the most corrupt president in history.

Here's hoping Kasich, a true leader who actually wants to lift all Americans rather than divide us, runs for president in 2020.

Unless the Dems nominate somebody really darn good, Kasich will get my vote.

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The last two golf majors have been a lot of fun, mostly because Tiger Woods - who had been sidelined and/or weakened for most of this past decade by personal problems, injuries, swing flaws and lack of confidence - is good enough to contend again.

Sunday's final round of the PGA Championship was filled with thrills as Tiger came charging from behind to pull within a stroke of Brooks Koepka down the stretch. But as had been the case at the British Open last month, Tiger made a couple of crucial mistakes. And as had been the case at the U.S. Open in June, Koepka simply was too good in the clutch for the rest of the field.

It's incredible that golf has gone 10 full years without Tiger having won a single major; he had captured 14 titles in his first dozen years on tour, and seemingly was a shoo-in to surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. Heck, Tiger hasn't won any tournament at all, major or minor, since 2013.

Sunday, he had a drunk driver - it kept steering him miles from the fairway. But he responded by repeatedly escaping from horrific situations thanks to some of the most incredible iron shots we've seen since ... well ... since Tiger was TIGER! a decade ago.

After claiming for several years that "I'm close," he does finally look close to being one of the world's great golfers again. If he had driven the ball even OK at the PGA, he probably would have won.

One thing for sure, though: Today's pros are no longer intimidated by "The Tiger Factor" as they once were

At the British, his playing partner, Francesco Molinari, waved off Woods' comeback attempt to pull off an impressive victory. And Sunday, Koepka ignored the raucous cheers of Tiger's massive gallery to drill 340-yard drives right down the middle of the fairway and follow with practically perfect approach shots.

Given that he has won 3 of the last 6 majors - the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens and now the PGA - Koepka certainly has the look of Best Player in the World right now.

Will Eldrick T. Woods, who turns 43 in December, be able to prove he consistently can play with Koepka and the many other fine young pros - guys who were pre-teens during Tiger's heyday?

That will be the story line of the 2019 season.

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After watching the PGA Championship, Roberta and I went with another couple to go see BlacKkKlansman - the Spike Lee film that was based on the true story of a black cop infiltrating the Klan in Colorado Springs in the 1970s.


It was an amazing film, smartly written and extremely well acted. Given the backdrop of the 1-year anniversary of the deadly Charlottesville white-supremacist rally, it was extra interesting.

Several scenes reminded the audience that, even 40 years later, we haven't come as far in race relations as one might have thought or hoped.

Warning: Despite the opportunity to hear white folks use every epithet in the book to describe black people and Jews ... racists probably will not enjoy BlacKkKlansman.

Spoiler alert: The Klan doesn't come out looking very good.

David Duke, don't say I didn't warn you - and your hero, Donald Trump.

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I was proud to be an American on Sunday.

Counter-protesters outnumbered white supremacists by more than 100-to-1 at a "White People Can't Catch A Break In America" whine-a-thon held in Washington on the 1-year anniversary of Charlottesville.

A few Nazis tried to stage a similar "celebration" in Charlottesville, but there too they were dwarfed by the number of decent Americans shouting them down.

What really made me proud is that there was no violence at either location; it would have been easy for protesters to have been egged into it by the racist, anti-Semitic douchebags who have been emboldened by the leaders of our country.

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I wouldn't be surprised if a recording surfaced proving that Trump used the N-word and other racial epithets, as reality-show-personality-turned-presidential-adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman claimed Sunday on Meet the Press.

Nevertheless, Omarosa wasn't an especially convincing person to make that or any other charge.


Like pretty much everybody crammed into Spanky's Clown Car, she spent her time serving the president by being a liar who cared far more about "what's in it for me" than about our country. She admitted to being complicit with our "truly racist" president ... but it rings pretty hollow now, as she makes the circuit to promote the anti-Trump book she wrote after being fired last December.

Still, it was hilarious (and yet sad) to watch her get attacked by members of Spanky's staff - people who have spent two years lying on his behalf.

Her book is "riddled with lies and false accusations," said Sarah Sanders Huckabee, whose job as chief liar for the Liar In Chief depends upon her willingness to lie dozens of times a week.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway criticized Omarosa for turning against Trump after having praised him. Of course, Conway was extremely critical of Trump when she was working for Ted Cruz, but she had no problem turning on Cruz and becoming yet another town liar after Spanky hired her. It was Conway, remember, who coined the term "alternative facts."

The most intriguing part of Sunday's interview was the recording Omarosa played of chief of staff John Kelly firing her in the Situation Room.

Omarosa secretly recorded the interaction, which is against protocol but seemingly not against the law. Holding such a meeting not in his office but in the Situation Room, which is only supposed to be used for top-secret matters of national security, also would appear to go against protocol.

Listeners could clearly hear Kelly threatening and trying to intimidate Omarosa - referring to "difficulty in the future relative to your reputation" if she didn't go quietly.

Many are criticizing Omarosa for making the recordings, but frankly it's hard to blame her. Having swam in Spanky's Swamp for more than a year, she knew exactly what she was dealing with, and she knew nobody would have believed her account.

Again, listening to Spanky sycophants talk about the lack of protocol in the White House is precious, given that their hero uses knee-jerk Twitter proclamations to make policy, lash out at allies, praise dictators and lie non-stop.

As usual, the Trump Administration is an embarrassment to our great nation. It's a dangerous operation with an unhinged leader surrounded by deplorable people.

It is, in a word, a shit-show.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Long Time No Write ... Good Thing There's Nothing Going On!

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It's been more than 6 months since I've posted, by far my longest blog-free span since I started The Baldest Truth in advance of the Bears' 2007 Super Bowl run.

Hey, I've been busy! 

Writing personal finance articles, coaching basketball, going to weddings, umpiring baseball, dealing with the enormity of having a treasonous pathological liar as president ... 

You know, the usual.

Anyway, enough excuses. Let's catch up a little.

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If you're reading this, it means you probably like my take on things in general, so I'm not going to spend too much time writing about the most corrupt president in the history of our democratic republic.

The whole "preaching to the choir" thing, you know?

July 16, 2018 might have been America's darkest day since 9/11. Our president, given several opportunities to tell the world that he believes our intelligence community and several chances to challenge Vladimir Putin to his face for meddling in our 2016 election, instead did the exact opposite. He sided with the murderous ex-KGB agent, and smiled when Putin rewarded him with a soccer ball for being a good boy.

Can you get more Typical Bully behavior than that? Given the chance to confront a sworn enemy of the United States, President Bone Spurs backed down like the coward he always has been.

The entire world already knew that Putin was smarter, more savvy, more politically experienced and more ruthless than his orange counterpart. The way Putin played him in Helsinki, it's even worse than most of us thought. 



Given Comrade Trumpsky's horrific public performance, every American should want to know exactly what he promised Putin during their private meeting. A few senators, including Republican Marco Rubio, say they are determined to find out. We'll see.

I was heartened to see a few Republicans strongly rebuke "Spanky." But in truth, most of those men only found courage after they decided to not run for re-election. 

Most Republicans were content to say nothing, having long ago sold their souls to a corrupt, racist, cowardly, un-American liar.

All right ... on to happier subjects ...

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Buy One, Get One (Not) Free

2018 has been The Year of Love for our amazing family! 

In March, Ben married Sammi in a beautiful, fun ceremony in Chicago.





Sammi teaches 5th grade in Northbrook. Ben is back in college, even as he works full-time. The two live on the North Side - only a few blocks from Ben's childhood home.

Two months after Ben and Sammi tied the knot, Katie got hitched to "her Ben" in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. (We Southerners say stuff like "get hitched," y'all.)





OK ... they actually had gotten married back in September in Seattle because there would have been too many legal hoops for the American to marry the Canadian in Mexico, but this was the celebration. And oh, what a week-long celebration "Randalls In Sandals" was!

Let's just say the tequila floweth ... and leave it at that.

Katie and Ben Randall live in a Seattle suburb; she works for a large mortgage company, and he is at Microsoft.

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Fun And Games

My first season as an assistant high school basketball coach didn't end quite as happily as we all would have liked, as our Ardrey Kell Lady Knights lost in the state quarterfinals to the team that would go on to win the championship.

It nonetheless was a spectacular season - including a 25-4 record, a regular-season conference title and the regional championship. I learned so much from our coach, Jeff Busieck, and the girls.



Our top three players graduated and soon will be starting their college basketball careers, so we will be a markedly different team next season. 

We had 3 weeks together in June - 7 practices, a team camp at UNC-Charlotte and a summer tournament - and the experience confirmed that we still have a lot of talent, we're well-coached (that's a nod to Coach B, not me!), we're smart, we're tough, and we will not be an easy team to beat in 2018-19.

Even with high school basketball on its summer hiatus, I'm still doing a little coaching, working at a couple of Hornets Hoops camp sessions.

I did a few sessions last summer and was assigned middle-school kids each time. Last week, however, I coached 7- to 9-year-olds. 



A real fun, goofy group. And led by my "Chris Paul" (the kid on the left wearing two different-colored shoes), we won our age-group title.

I also am in my sixth season umpiring youth baseball - mostly fun, and the kids are always great, but sometimes the coaches and parents get a little over the top in their, um, "enthusiasm."

In June, I had only my second-ever ejection of a coach. He was on me and my partner all game. In the 5th inning, when he called us "terrible" after one of my partner's calls (a correct call, BTW), I pointed at him and said, "I've heard enough. Consider this your warning." His response: "Go ahead!" So I did.




As a coach myself (as well as a former newspaper columnist in the early years of very nasty comment streams), I have thick skin and I'll tolerate a lot. As I said: I've had 2 ejections in 6 years. 

But when a guy who is supposed to be a role model for kids instead is a jerk, and then he publicly challenges you, you had better be ready to give him the heave-ho.

July and August are "dark" for the leagues I umpire, as it's in the 90s with high humidity pretty much every day. We'll get back at it in September.

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Mike's Writing Re-Boot

I haven't written about sports for any publication for many years, and (as we've already covered) I haven't blogged much, but I'm still doing plenty of writing.

Since late December, I have written several articles a month for a Web site called Daily Trade Alert. It's a bit of misleading name given that much of their content is not for daily traders but for long-term investors like me.

The folks at DTA have given me a fun assignment: Every month, they provide me with $2,000 in real dough-re-mi, and I invest it on their behalf. I pick the stocks, and I write about why I made the selections. So far, we have bought 13 companies.



We hope it will be a multiple-year project, kind of a primer in building a portfolio based mostly on the Dividend Growth Investing strategy. Click HERE to see my page, which includes more links to follow if interested.

DTA "recruited" me from Seeking Alpha, the investing site I've been writing for since 2012.

As THIS from one of my peers and THIS from one of my former editors show, a few folks at SA have said some very nice things about me. For a while, I was the site's most-read writer in my main category (Dividend Investing), and my Dividend Growth 50 project remains very popular.



However, Seeking Alpha has changed its contributor-pay model a couple of times since I started writing there, and it has resulted in me having to do more work to make less money - never an attractive combination.

I still occasionally write for Seeking Alpha - HERE is Part 3 of a recent series I did called The No. 1 Stock In The World.

But until Comrade Trumpsky really caves in to Puppet-Master Putin, the United States is still a capitalist country, so I'm going to do most of my work for the employer that compensates me the best.

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Which Brings Us Full Circle ...

Even as he sucks up to dictators who would love nothing more than to reduce the United States to rubble, Spanky calls our allies "foes" and our free press "the enemy of the people."

The self-described "very stable genius" actually is dangerously unstable. He is prone to extreme behavioral swings and easily manipulated; he showers adoration on anybody who has been "nice" to him while lashing out at any perceived "hater."

There never has been an American president who has brown-nosed murderous autocrats while defending criminals (Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn), unethical losers (Scott Pruitt), pedophiles (Roy Moore), racists (too many to name), soul-less demons (Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon), accused wife-beaters (Rob Porter), dirty lawyers (Michael Cohen), liars (WAAAAY too many to name) and other assorted thugs, boors and felons.

Where is the Christian right to express outrage? Where is the "family values" party?

We Americans can't wait for Bob Mueller to save us, because he might not be able to.

If Democrats and my fellow Independents aren't motivated to get to the polls this fall, shame on all of us. 

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Well, I think that about covers it for now ... and I didn't even share any musings about pro or college sports this time.

I'll try to check in at least once a month. No promises ... but I'll try.
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