Monday, September 17, 2018

Florence Clears Out, And We're A-OK

^
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!

+++

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?
^

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.
^

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.

+++

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.

+++

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.

+++

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.

+++

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.
^

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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

^
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.

+++++

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 ...

+++++

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.

+++++

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.

+++++

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.

+++++

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. 

+++++

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.
^

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Jim Thome gets my Hall call, and so do 7 others - including one previous 'reject'

^
Because of fairly recently changed rules that mostly affect lifetime Baseball Writers Association of America members - in other words, old guys like me - I'm not sure how many more years I'll be allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame. 

It's a shame that many former long-time journalists are being pushed aside, as most of us have remained active observers of the game. Thanks to technology, I follow the sport every bit as closely now as I used to, even though I haven't actively covered baseball for more than 7 years. I believe us oldsters provide nice balance to the voting process. I take my responsibility as a Hall voter very seriously.

But hey ... nobody asked me what I think. And one of these years, I'll be told, "Thanks, but no thanks. Now go try to find your car keys."

I had many of these same thoughts a year ago, and one thing that kept going through my mind was this:

At the very least, I hope I get to vote for the Class of 2018, because I really want to check the box next to the name of JIM THOME.

Jim Thome: Great guy, great hitter.
(Photo from nbcsports.com)
I covered Thome for a long time. I like "The Pride of Peoria" as a person and I admire what he accomplished as a ballplayer. He finished with 612 HR (8th most all-time), 1,699 RBI (26th), and a .956 OPS (18th). And he did all that without be stained by steroid allegations. 

Thome played the game hard, he played it right, and he should be a slam dunk for the Hall.

Another obvious choice in his first year on the ballot: CHIPPER JONES

His credentials are so good that I don't feel like wasting my time or yours reciting them here.

Chipper Jones delivers again for the Atlanta Braves.
(Photo from newyorkmetsreport.com)
Thome and Jones were 2 of 8 former stars to earn check marks on my ballot, and I'll talk about the others in a second. First, a few words about some of the ballot newcomers who did not get my vote ...

++ Omar Vizquel ... A slick-fielding, slap-hitting shortstop in the mold of Ozzie Smith ... except he wasn't quite as good as Smith. Advanced stats doom Vizquel's candidacy. As stated in a recent article by MLB.com's Jordan Bastian:
Separation comes into play when considering the context of the eras in which they played. Vizquel has an 82 OPS+, which means he was 18 percent below the MLB average over his career. Smith, even with very similar rate and counting statistics, posted an 87 OPS+. Vizquel rated as above average in two of his seasons, while Smith had four such campaigns.
Among the 135 Hall of Famers with at least 4,000 plate appearances, Vizquel's OPS+ would be tied for last with Luis Aparicio and Rabbit Maranville.
Using Baseball-Reference.com's calculation of WAR, there was not only a considerable gap offensively (47.8 oWAR for Smith, compared to 32.2 oWAR for Vizquel), but also defensively (43.4 dWAR for Smith and 28.4 dWAR for Vizquel). This is not to say Vizquel's defensive WAR is subpar. In fact, it would rank eighth among all Hall of Famers. Smith's dWAR was just otherworldly, ranking first among all Hall of Famers regardless of position.
++ Andruw Jones ... A precipitous falloff after a torrid start to his career. Frankly, I don't think his numbers are as good as Jim Edmonds' were - and Edmonds got such little love from BBWAA voters two years ago that he immediately fell off the ballot.
++ Scott Rolen ... During Rolen's prime, my friend Ron Santo often said Rolen was the best 3B in the game. He was a superior fielder and a good (but not great) hitter, but I'm afraid he'll probably meet the same lack-of-love fate that Edmonds did. I was tempted to vote for him just to try to keep him on the ballot past his first year, but that's really not the best reason to vote for somebody.
++ Chris Carpenter ... Not enough wins, too high an ERA.
++ Johnny Damon ... It's cool that he won World Series with both the Red Sox and Yankees, and he compiled a lot of stats over a long career. But he doesn't rank in the top 50 in just about any important hitting or fielding category. 
++ Jason Isringhausen ... Just another in a long line of good relievers who aren't Hall material.
++ Carlos Lee ... A good run-producer and terrible outfielder whose numbers fall short.
++ Hideki Matsui ... The second-best Japanese import in MLB history, he lacks Ichiro's Hall resume.
++ Jamie Moyer ... The guy pitched for 25 years and made one All-Star Game appearance. Nuff said.
++ Johan Santana ... Kind of the Andruw Jones of pitchers. Awesome start to his career, then fell off a cliff.
++ Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano ... The former Cubbie hurlers follow each other alphabetically on the ballot, and I assume they will follow each other off the ballot after one year. Both had tremendous promise, especially Wood, but injuries and other woes kept both from reaching their potential. Although Wood pitched one of the greatest games ever (20 strikeouts, 1 disputed hit) and Zambrano threw a no-hitter, they also will be known as participants in one of the most infamous choke jobs in baseball history. Wood even used the word "choke" to describe his performance in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS.
As for those who have been on the ballot for multiple years, I discussed my reasons for excluding them in last year's The Baldest Truth post
One player I have not voted for in the past who is getting my check mark this time:
EDGAR MARTINEZ.
Edgar Martinez gets ready to take another mighty cut.
(Photo from SI.com)
I have tried to be consistent during the decades I have voted for the Hall, but every once in awhile I have had to adjust on the fly - as was the case this time with Martinez.
So many baseball people I respect are making such strong arguments for the former Mariners star - mainly through advanced stats such as WAR, OPS+ and JAWS - that I felt compelled to make him one of my choices this time. SI.com's Jay Jaffe makes one such case that traditional stats don't tell the whole story about Edgar.
See, you can teach an old BBWAA voter new tricks!
My other five selections are holdovers from last year and were discussed in previous editions of The Baldest Truth.
Here are the 8 players who received my check marks for the Hall of Fame Class of 2018:
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Vladimir Guerrero
Chipper Jones
Edgar Martinez
Mike Mussina
Curt Schilling
Jim Thome

Here's hoping that the BBWAA lets me cast a ballot next year for Mariano Rivera - not that the most dominant closer in baseball history will need my vote to crash the Hall.
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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ardrey Kell's Lady Knights take over Wilmington

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A few photos from Ardrey Kell's 50-40 victory over two-time defending champion Hoggard High School (Wilmington, NC) in the championship game of the Leon Brogden Holiday Basketball Tournament at Wilmington's Laney HS ...


The 2017 Leon Brogden Tournament champion Ardrey Kell Lady Knights
Front: Riley Littlejohn, Deniyah Lutz, Journey Muhammad, Stephanie Sherril
Back: Ast Coach Mike Nadel. Head Coach Jeff Buseick, Ast Coach Queen Smith,
Kennedy Cash, Michelle Ojo, Shy Booker, Meghan Rogers, Evan Miller,
Emerson Harding, Shonti Lutz, Nia Griffin, Lucy Vanderbeck.

When our standout senior Shy Booker boxes you out, you stay boxed out!
Shy has signed a national letter of intent with Austin Peay.

Our senior captain Journey Muhammad is our best 3-point shooter and
offensive engine, but she also is a fine defensive player.

Senior Deniyah Lutz puts suffocating pressure on a Hoggard player.
Deniyah, bound for Wofford College, also is one of our offensive stars.

Our bench looks on intently in the first half.

Fourth-year Coach Jeff Buseick has taken the AK program to new heights,
and we are off to a school-record 13-1 start this season. 

Yours truly joins some of our reserves as we listen to
Coach Buseick during a time-out.

The long and short of it ...
Journey and Shy made the All-Tournament Team.
Shy, who scored 11 fourth-quarter points in the
title game, was named Tournament MVP.

It's always great to line up for post-game handshakes
with another big victory on our record!
(All Game Photos Courtesy of Rodney Williams Photography.)

The tournament was held at Laney HS, most famous for being Michael Jordan's alma mater. Not surprisingly, the school has taken advantage of the link to one of the most recognized athletes in the history of mankind. We played our first game, against Wilmington's Ashley HS, at "the old gym," which is called Michael Jordan Gymnasium. Note the large photos of Jordan to the upper left and right, and his iconic Jumpman logo behind the basket.



We played our second game, against Wilmington's New Hanover HS, and the title game in the school's recently opened new gym, part of the Michael Jordan Sports Complex. If you look closely at the floor behind our team in first photo in this post, you can see the Jumpman adorning center court.

Below is a photo of the new gym's lobby display case, featuring MJ's Laney jersey and prototypes of every Air Jordan shoe.



All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. In addition to beating three Wilmington schools en route to the tournament title, we had a fun bowling outing, a great team dinner, and the opportunity to get to know each other even better. The latter was especially valuable for me, the newbie to the program.

With the holiday break just about over, I'm looking forward to getting back to what we all hope will be a State Championship season.

Go AK!
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Monday, December 25, 2017

Sports-A-Plenty dominate busy December

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I've enjoyed watching the Panthers put things together after a terrible loss to the terrible Bears dropped Carolina's record to 4-3.

Since then, Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly & Co. have gone 7-1, and they've clinched a playoff spot for the fourth time in the last five years. It's been a nice bounce-back - not only since Week 7, but also from last season's injury-ravaged, 6-10 showing.
The Panthers barely beat the banged-up Bucs yesterday. First, they converted a fourth-down by about an inch to keep their winning drive alive; then, Newton recovered his own fumble and dove into the end zone for the go-ahead TD. 
Panthers QB Cam Newton scores the winning TD in the final seconds to beat the Bucs.
(Charlotte Observer photo)
Had either play not gone the Panthers' way, I'd be lamenting another terrible loss to another terrible team!
My lads will have to play a lot better in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl again. Given that they've beaten the Patriots, Lions, Vikings, Falcons, Bills and Packers (with Aaron Rodgers) this season, they definitely have it in them.
Off the field, everybody in Charlotte is buzzing about the alleged sexcapades of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. In the wildest allegation, he reportedly called female employees into his office and asked if he could shave their legs!
He has announced plans to sell the team after the season, and everybody is hoping the Panthers go to somebody who will commit to keeping them in Charlotte - where they have incredible support and have sold out every game for years and years.
As an aside ...
Isn't it crazy that just about every powerful man in the country has had to face consequences for sexual misconduct except for the single most powerful (and single most orange) man?
Meanwhile ...



My Ardrey Kell Lady Knights are No. 1 in the Charlotte metro region, thanks in great part to exciting victories over the No. 2 and No. 5 teams.

Charlotte Observer Sweet 16 Girls Basketball Poll

Rk.
Team (Class)
Rec.
Prvs.
1
Ardrey Kell (4A)
10-1
1
2
Mallard Creek (4A)
10-1
2
3
Hickory Ridge (4A)
7-1
3
4
Gastonia Ashbrook (3A)
8-0
4
5
South Mecklenburg (4A)
10-2
6
6
East Burke (2A)
11-0
7
7
Monroe Parkwood (3A)
12-0
10
8
Providence Day (IND)
9-4
11
9
Rock Hill (5A)
10-2
12
10
North Iredell (3A)
9-2
5
11
North Mecklenburg (4A)
8-2
14
12
Berry (4A)
8-2
15
13
Salisbury (2A)
8-0
NR
14
Morganton Freedom (3A)
6-2
9
15
China Grove Carson (3A)
9-1
NR
16
Maiden (2A)
8-0
NR

I've had a lot of fun and learned a ton so far this season ... and I think the No. 1 lesson has been about how much more I have to learn!
We have had a little time off for December break, but we go back at it Thursday, Dec. 28, when we take part in the Leon Brogden Holiday Tournament in Wilmington, N.C.
Another great test for our talented team.
And In College Hoops ...
My Marquette Golden Warrior Eagles finished the non-conference schedule with a 9-3 record. 
We've had no "bad losses" (important when it comes to NCAA Selection Sunday) and several fine victories - including wins over VCU and LSU in the Maui Invitational, and a resounding 19-point road beat-down of the hated Wisconsin Badgers.
Marquette's Markus Howard, one of the nation's top shooters, drives and scores over Wisconsin star Ethan Happ.
(USA Today photo)
We're fun to watch because few teams in the entire country shoot as well as Marquette does. We have three of the best 3-point gunners anywhere in Sam Hauser, Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey
We're young, pretty small and don't play much defense, however, so the outcome usually comes down to if my heroes are draining 3s.
Marquette opens play in the rugged Big East on Wednesday night with a home game against Xavier, the nation's No. 6 team. Major challenge right out of the gate!
I'm also looking forward to our Jan. 12 date at Butler, the only game I'll be able to attend this season.
And Finally ...
I just sent in my completed Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, and that will be the subject of my next edition of The Baldest Truth later this week.
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