Deranged Man Yells At Clouds

For months now Sean Hannity has been heaping praise on his idol and BFF President Trump, giving him all the credit for the meteoric rise of the stock market. But somehow the correction that’s occurring this week, the one that everyone knew was coming, is Barack Obama’s fault. Mr. Hannity explained how the market slide is due to artificially cheap money, which we have “because the Obama economy was so weak all of these years.” Thank you, Adam Smith.

My wife has watched Hannity’s show almost every night since she drank the Fox News Kool-Aid sometime in 2016. She watches him on an iPad with headphones since I refuse to abdicate our TV to this kook. (I mean Hannity, not my wife.) Every now and then she’ll mutter “wow” in response to the latest hysterical news about THE MEMO or the sinister workings of the Deep State. It angers me that she believes everything this huckster says, unconcerned with how he bends the truth and invents facts to support his wacky theories. And I take no comfort in knowing that shes’s not the only one.

In the forty-five years since I started paying attention there have only been a few times when it felt like national politics had a direct impact on me. The era of the Vietnam War draft was a nervous time. When Dick Nixon fought like a cornered cur during the Watergate scandal it felt like the country was being ripped apart. To me it feels much the same today. This man we elected president has divided us like no politician I have ever seen, and he seems to revel in it. The people who support him lap it up, and Hannity wields the biggest megaphone of all of Trump’s disingenuous cheerleaders.

Sometimes I catch my wife glaring at me with her headphones on and her iPad on her lap, and when I see that look I know Hannity has scored yet another scoop that somehow eluded every other news organization in the world and and he’s practically shouting the sordid details directly into her susceptible brain. My refusal to watch this nightly farce only reinforces her opinion I have become the worst thing a person can be these days – a goddamn leftist. Never mind that it’s not true. Without even trying I have somehow become the enemy, and it’s Sean Hannity’s fault. Ted Koppel famously told Hannity he thought he was bad for America. Five nights a week I witness the proof of it, right in my own living room.

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The First Domino Falls

Center fielder Lorenzo Cain has signed a five year, $80 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, and the long anticipated break-up of the Kansas City Royals has officially begun. The Royals get a compensatory draft pick, somewhere around #30 in the first round, and the Brewers get a very fast, streaky hitter who should have at least a couple of good years left in his thirty-one year old legs. This is not a given however, because those speedy legs are also maddeningly fragile. The Brewers should budget for at least one stint on the Disabled List per annum.

It’s been a pleasure watching LoCain do his thing in the Kansas City outfield in the prime of his career. He’s a good guy and I’m glad he landed with a team that’s got a shot at contending this year. Adios amigo. Thanks for the memories.

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The Circle

imageThe Circle is a large, cutting edge tech company in northern California. Everybody wants to work for the Circle. Imagine if Google and Apple and George Orwell had a baby, it would be The Circle.  This is a cautionary tale of a company whose ultimate goal is to control all the information in the world while at the same time eliminating basic privacy, which the Circle views as “theft” from others who have a right to know what anyone is doing at almost any time. Thank god it doesn’t yet include going to the bathroom. Mae is a young woman who gets a job at the Circle thanks to her college roommate Annie, who is a Circle executive. Mae eventually becomes the public face of the company when she agrees to go “transparent”, which entails wearing a camera that broadcasts everything she sees and every word she says, as well as those of everyone she interacts with, all day every day. She soon has millions of followers worldwide. As the story progresses we meet some people who are not fans of the Circle because they recognize the danger it poses to individual freedoms. I would like to be able to tell you that the resisters prevail in the end but unfortunately I can’t. I don’t think I wasted my time reading The Circle, but I came away feeling that it could have been better.

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One of the few good things about Kansas in January.


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The Word of the Week is:

Shit-hole: noun, vulgar slang. 
an extremely dirty, shabby or otherwise unpleasant place.

Sure sounds like the Haiti I’ve heard about. But it also describes an apartment I had at college. It wasn’t dirty, but it was otherwise unpleasant because I was miserable there for a semester. Shithole very adequately describes my hometown; a small, dying town in the delta country of southeast Arkansas, where downtown buildings collapse for lack of care and two blocks of Main Street were closed for more than a year because nobody took responsibility for cleaning up the rubble.

Our president finds himself in a heap of trouble for saying shithole in a meeting last week. People cried racism because of how he used the word. Personally, I don’t think he’s any more racist than your average New York City billionaire. We know the man uses colorful language. Given all that he’s said over the past year how is anyone still shocked. Then again, something about “shithole-gate” has struck some tender nerves.

I confess I’m no stranger to the word myself. I have worked in shithole towns, dined in shithole restaurants and drank way too much in shithole bars all across this great country. The best tacos I ever had in my life were a weekly special at a shithole in El Paso. Regrettably it has since been re-purposed as a trendy pizza restaurant. The best walleye I ever tasted I bought at a shithole in Eagan, MN. I saw two cowboys duke it out once at a shithole in Oklahoma City. I watched a woman lift two quarters off the bar at a shithole in Tulsa, using only her spectacular boobs. I spent ten days at a shithole motel in Glasgow, MT. and enjoyed every minute of it.

I know the nice people I met would argue I am guilty of gross misrepresentation when I describe these places as shitholes, and they would probably have a valid point. As it turns out, whether or not something qualifies as a shithole is much like beauty – it’s all in the eye of the beholder. For example, there are a small number of people who, if asked to name the most beautiful woman in the world, would not answer Charlize Theron. Unbelievable, I know. People of such questionable judgement were obviously raised in shitholes, however, they are most likely unaware of it.

If I have a point, and it’s debatable that I do, I’ve learned that it’s not fair to paint places and the people who inhabit them with a broad brush, but I’m still going to do it occasionally because I also like to use colorful language. But in my defense, I do at least realize that one man’s shithole is another man’s country, or hometown or neighborhood gathering place. And I understand why a lot of people find it doubly insulting when the word is used by a clueless billionaire whose own shithole is a golden throne in a Fifth Avenue penthouse.



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The Jealous Kind

imageThis is the second James Lee Burke book I have read that is not about Detective Dave Robicheaux. Instead it’s from the Hackberry Holland series, but you would not know this if you didn’t read the inside back cover of the book. The only other clue comes very late in the book when the young protagonist mentions that he is the grandson of the legendary Texas Ranger. Like all James Lee Burke stories his descriptions of the setting, in this case Houston, Texas in the 1950’s, are a pleasure to read. On almost every page there is something about the indigenous flora or the colors in the sky. Some of the places he mentions are familiar since I lived in Houston during this time period, so that was an extra personal bonus for me.

Our hero, Aaron, is a high school boy who pisses off some bad people when he intervenes in an argument between a boy and his date at a drive-in in Galveston. This sets off a chain of events that puts Aaron and his family in ever increasing danger. Oh, and he also ends up falling in love with the girl. My problem with Aaron is that Mr. Burke has given him the cojones of a Navy Seal, which doesn’t not seem plausible for a high school kid. There is apparently no danger Aaron fears, and after a while it becomes difficult to believe. At one point Aaron swaggers into an office where the head of the Galveston mafia is eating lunch with his lieutenants and proceeds to tell him how the cow ate the cabbage. Please. As with all James Lee Burke stories this one is a page turner and overall I think the pluses outweigh the minuses. The author has said he thinks it’s one of his better efforts in his long career. I’m not sure about that, but I can say that as long as you are willing to go along, it’s an enjoyable ride.

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Betting On The Come is Bad Baseball Business.


I don’t get OPS. I don’t know what WAR is and after 50 years of watching baseball I still cannot recognize a balk. But what I think I know, so therefore it’s an opinion, is when an elite player finally gets the payday he’s been dreaming of since high school, more often than not he does not live up to expectations. Josh Hamilton, Pablo Sandoval, Carl Crawford, Jason Bey are but a few recent examples. Albert Pujols could be as well. All signs point to it. The explanation for why this happens is simple, really. It’s stress from the additional pressure a player puts on himself, consciously or unconsciously, to prove to fans, owners, everyone at MLB Network and himself that he’s worth his extravagant new salary.  Put another way – it gets in his head, and once it takes root it can’t be overcome, because baseball, much like golf, is a mental game. Paging Dr. Freud.

And that’s why I hope the rumor that the Royals have offered Eric Hosmer a seven year, $147 million contract is as false as it is absurd, and GM Dayton Moore has not completely lost his mind. He need look no further than his own clubhouse to see the foolishness of such a notion. Next time you’re down there Dayton, stand in front of the locker with ‘Alex Gordon’ etched into the shiny gold nameplate, and muse about how his contract has become your worst nightmare. You gave him $70 million and he gave you a season that would have seen him busted down to AA Northwest Arkansas had he been anyone else. And yet not only did he remain on the big league club, he remained in the everyday line-up, futility personified. Can you really afford to take the same chance on another player whose popularity exempts him from logical business decisions? I think, deep down, you know the answer.

Here’s my advice, Dayton, and it’s free, so you know what it’s worth. Spend our money on pitching and rebuilding the farm system. Don’t tie your hands for the next seven seasons with another (potentially) multi-million dollar albatross. Let another team roll the dice on Eric Hosmer.  He’s a great guy, and he’s shown signs he could be a great player, though he’s not there yet. Bottom line, Dayton – it’s a bet we can’t afford to lose.

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