Billy Walters Plays a Gambling Game in All Things Vegas

Golf pro Jim Colbert was opening up his new course, Sunrise Country Club, back in the boom times of the late 1980s and early 1990s in Las Vegas. As sports editor of the Review-Journal, he invited me to join a group of politicians and celebrities for a round of golf as part of the grand opening.

I went down the pairings. I smiled. There was Billy Walters. He was the talk of the bettors at the time, picking up millions as a central member of the “Computer Group.” He and others set up a system using computers before the casino sports books had entered the digital age. They picked out games they believed gave them an edge.

The group stationed someone at each book and on a precise time, they made large wagers, which could affect the betting line. Without a quick means to disseminate the information, the books couldn’t change the odds fast enough.

And the gambling man from Kentucky made a bundle.

Oh, Billy’s something else. Each time I would see him I would snicker and ask how it was goin’. Quite well, he would say unabashedly. And rightly so. He was a winner, a rarity among Vegas gamblers. He won a lot of ways. For example, he played Michael Jordan for a reported $10,000 a hole and won big. He played poker and raked in the chips. He bet sports and won there, too. He wins in Vegas while many lose.

He bought Sunrise, which had grown to 54 holes and a name change to Stallion Mountain, then in 2006 sold it for $24.5 million. The Sunrise purchase set in motion the development of several others, including Desert Pines, Royals Links and Bali Hai Golf Club.

Desert Pines sits in a relatively poor area of Vegas. Walters was able to promote the project as a neighborhood enhancement and at the opening was paying just a $1 a year for the city-owned land.

Yeah, he can deal. He’s known for getting the best of almost every wager, but now federal authorities allege he went too far.

Not only is Walters good at gambling he’s also marvelous at beating criminals charges. He has overcome state money laundering indictments tied to his computer group sports betting operation and battled back as officials pushed through legislation making so-called “messenger betting” illegal. The law was considered directly aimed at Walters’ use of agents as “beards” for his wagers. He has escaped several other charges and investigations.

He expects to beat the latest one, too. The Southern District of New York in connection with a lengthy insider-trading investigation claims he made millions at the expense of the Dean Foods Company of Dallas, and Olive Garden parent company Darden Restaurants. Walters’ insider connection at Dean Foods, according to the government’s previously sealed information, is former longtime board of directors member Thomas C. Davis. Now accused of 12 criminal violations, Davis resigned from the company in 2015 and has agreed to cooperate in the investigation.

Walters, 69, was arrested May 18 at his upscale Bali Hai Golf Club on Las Vegas Boulevard by agents from the FBI’s public corruption squad and IRS Criminal Investigation Division.

In a statement, Walters’ longtime attorney, Richard Wright, said the prosecutors’ accusations were based on erroneous assumptions, speculative theories and false finger-pointing.

In a parallel action, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced civil insider trading charges against Walters and Davis.

“As we charge in our complaint, Walters illegally reaped tens of millions of dollars with the benefit of the ultimate ace in the hole — confidential information leaked by a sitting board member of a public company,” SEC Enforcement Division Director Andrew Ceresney said.

According to published reports, Walters and Davis met in the mid ’90s and shared common interests in sports, especially golf and business. Although their attempts at working together on their own deals faltered, in April 2010, Walters helped Davis secure a $625,000 short-term loan and then later assumed responsibility for the balance of the note, the government alleged. The two later entered into a limited liability company to invest in preferred shares of a software company, according to the government.

It’s alleged that from 2008 to 2014, Davis provided private corporate information to Walters, who used the insider advantage to purchase and sell securities. The information included Dean Foods’ financial outlook and performance, its earnings results and the plan to spin off its WhiteWave subsidiary.

Walters’ insider stock buys generated approximately $32 million in profits and avoided $11 million in losses. According to the charges, Walters was such an active investor — and his plays so profitable — that on certain trading days, his purchases or sales based on inside information amounted to more than 30 percent of the total daily trading volume in Dean Foods stock.

On Walters’ side is the insider trading investigation setback in 2014 when a federal appeals court overturned the convictions of two hedge fund officers.

Walters is not only enormously successful betting on sports, but he’s also a high-rolling player in Nevada politics, donating generously to candidates and hosting fundraisers at his restaurant and golf course. And he’s close to many in the sports world.

This case made that point. Professional golfer and three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson will pay back the money he made from buying stock in Dean Foods after allegedly receiving privileged information, his attorney said in a statement to Reuters May 19.

Mickelson was named as a relief defendant in a civil case by the Securities and Exchange Commission that is connected to criminal charges against  Walters and Davis.

Mickelson entered into the situation in 2012, the SEC said, when Walters called him about a gambling debt the golfer owed him. During the call, Walters allegedly told Mickelson to buy Dean Foods stock, which Mickelson did. When Dean Foods announced quarterly earnings and a spin-off plan about a week later, the stock jumped 40 percent and Mickelson made $931,000, according to the SEC complaint.

Mickelson faces no criminal charges. As a relief defendant in the civil case, he is not accused of insider trading or any other wrongdoing, but he allegedly benefited from other people’s wrongful action.

Reuters reported that Mickelson said he had no desire to benefit from any transaction that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission viewed as questionable and that he took full responsibility for having become part of the probe.

Sometimes what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas.

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What in the World Is Wrong With These 43 Percent?

There it was, right there. The poll read that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were basically tied in their run to become President of the United States — 43 percent each.

Please, someone tell me that the figures lie, that they compute from a mad scientist. Surely, 43 percent of those polled can’t be for this guy, this glib-tongued devil, this say one thing one time and another later flip-flopper, this liar. How does he offer so many mendacious statements? Let me count the ways.

Just think, 43 percent. Right. Can it be? Can so many be duped into thinking this guy can lead the country? Apparently.

He’s a snake-oil salesman. He talks about being a billionaire and won’t release his income tax returns to help prove it. He talks about running the government like a business and at least four of his properties went bankrupt.

His foreign policy experience is mingling with Miss Universe contestants. His loyalty to family values rests in three marriages. He tells the NRA folks that he would abolish gun free zones, yet his hotel properties don’t allow guns.

Geez, 43 percent. Are they stupid?

Picture him popping off as the President of the United States. Is that what you want as the leader of our country — a sarcastic smart-ass!

How does he get by with all this! Well, Ronald Reagan did for many years. He wasn’t the Teflon President for nothin’. The Republicans continue to adore him, placing him on a political pedestal taller that the Washington Monument, bigger than the Lincoln Memorial. Marines were killed in Lebanon on his watch and no big deal. The debt skyrocketed and no big deal. The middle class waned and no big deal.

Well, Reagan was a B movie actor, so why not a reality show moderator? What an apropos name for Trump to star in, the Apprentice. That’s what he would be as the President. Fire him now.

Trump. Can you imagine, 43 percent. Will he bomb hell out of the Mideast? Will he cut taxes altogether for the one-percenters? Will he freeze Planned Parenthood? Will he round up illegal Hispanics and throw them into hell holes? Will he sign an executive order to burn all Korans?

Please, are you kidding, 43 percent of you?

President Obama probably doesn’t understand why 43 percent would vote for Trump. Although Obama avoided saying the presumptive Republican presidential candidate’s name, nearly all of his recent commencement address at Rutgers University was dedicated to Trump’s mix of anti-intellectualism and isolationism.

“In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue,” Obama said. “It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.

“When our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods, and just making stuff up while actual experts are dismissed as elitist, then we’ve got a problem. The rejection of facts, the rejection of reason and science, that is the path to decline.”

The President argued that building walls and closing borders would hurt America, anger its allies and threaten the country’s ability to solve global problems like the Ebola virus.

“The world is more interconnected than ever before,” he said. “Building a wall won’t change that.”

He closed by urging students to be optimistic and engaged in the political process, saying that “cynicism is so easy, and cynics don’t accomplish much. The system isn’t as rigged as you think, and it certainly isn’t as hopeless as you think.”

Well, it is if 43 percent of those polled opted for Trump. Now, we don’t know how many people that 43 percent represented. But the mere fact that figure is put on a media outlet is disturbing enough, no matter how many possible voters the poll included.

Maybe some of the 43 percent will walk down a Yellow Veneer Road, enter a Tyrant Tower and look behind the curtain of this Wizard of Political Oz.

Trump wrote in The Art of the Deal, published in 1987: “I never get too attached to one deal or one approach. … I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.”

How prophetic! How ingenious! How disingenuous! This is how he makes deals. Don’t you 43 percenters see that?

Tessa Stuart wrote in Rolling Stone:  “Throughout the primary, Trump has mostly managed to avoid staking firm positions on important issues by speaking in general, hyperbolic and unspecific terms or even leaving his sentences half-completed. For example, when Trump was asked … what the federal minimum wage would be under his administration, he answered, ‘My real minimum wage is going to be — I’m going to bring companies back into this country and they’re going to make a lot more than the $15 even. They’re going to make a lot more than that.”

Take a look, you 43 percenters, at just three of his policy mumbo-jumbos, as Stuart noted.

On abortion
May 30, 2016: “The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment [for a woman seeking an abortion].”
May 30, 2016: “The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”

On assault weapons
January 15, 2000: “I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”
September 19, 2016: “Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like ‘assault weapons’, ‘military-style weapons’ and ‘high capacity magazines’ to confuse people. What they’re really talking about are popular semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans. Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.”

On raising taxes on the wealthy
May 8, 2016: “For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it’s going to go up. And you know what? It really should go up.”
May 12, 2016: “I really want to keep taxes for everybody as low as possible. … When you start making them too high, you are going to lose people from the country, and oftentimes these are the people who create the jobs.”

So, 43 percent want this man as President. How sad!

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Sins in Baylor Athletics Continue at an Immoral Pace

Ann Richards was one of my favorite politicians. Kenneth Starr is one of my least favorite on several fronts.

Both provide a peek at the machinations of Baylor University. And too many times this Southern Baptist school has wallowed in the sins of athletic avarice, misdeed and chicanery. Felony charges abound, from assault to rape to murder.

The athletic department operates under a cloak of wrong-doing, including charges that they recruit thugs with little or no interest in education.

Richards and Starr?

Well, Richards, who died in 2006, was the 45h governor of Texas. A Democrat and a graduate of Texas and Baylor, she first came to national attention as the state treasurer of Texas, when she delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. She was frequently noted in the media for her outspoken feminism and one-liners. Her famous jab at George W. Bush was priceless: He can’t help; he was born with a silver foot in his mouth. W. got the last laugh, however, defeating her for governor in 1994. She was often credited — some say wrongly — with getting Baylor included into the Big 12 conference, saying that if the Bears weren’t voted in then neither would any other Texas school.

Starr is president of Baylor — or is he! Reports continue that university officials have fired the former independent counsel who led the investigation that resulted in the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.

The negative drumbeat along the Brazos River has continued since the early 2000s when a murder investigation rocked the basketball program.

Now it’s all about multiple accusations of sexual and domestic violence.

Art Briles, Baylor football coach, is right in the middle of it all. But will he face problems, what with his glowing 50-15 record?

Oh the questions are there, especially when considering what is happening at Mizzou, where enrollment is way down with parents and students questioning the administration’s handling of various wrong.

We’re talking money here, too. Room, board and tuition per semester at Baylor, a private school, is approximately $27,500. Fewer students, less revenue. If matters continue to become more intense, nobody’s job is safe.

In several of the cases involving felonies, players didn’t miss games. Reportedly, the Waco police kept records hidden.

Meanwhile, stories of how Baylor’s administration handles sexual assault accusations, not only the ones involving athletes, continue to circulate. They do not paint a pretty picture, and they also suggest the issue is far bigger than football.

According to Sports Illustrated, the most egregious case did not have a long paper trail that reporters could follow until after the player involved, former Baylor defensive lineman Tevin Elliott, went to trial. In January 2014, Elliott was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault. Three women testified in court that Elliott had raped them in incidents occurring between 2009 and 2012. A civil suit filed by one of the victims whose 2012 accusation led to Elliott’s arrest and eventual imprisonment, claimed that when a different woman went to report Elliott to Baylor chief judicial officer Bethany McCraw, McCraw told the woman she was the sixth female student to report being assaulted by Elliott and that Briles was aware of the accusations.

So, did Bears coaches allow a serial rapist to remain on campus when they could have taken more decisive action?

As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated alluded to, is this the reaction of a Baptist university that sells a more wholesome college experience than the ones available at secular and state schools? If the university regents determine the cost to the school, in dollars and esteem, is high enough, they might just force out Briles and McCaw.

If the reports pan out, Starr may be already be out. How ironic! Just think back to his days involved with Clinton. Here’s Starr now possibly finding  himself on the business end of a high-profile investigation into sexual impropriety.

In the early 2000s, Baylor’s basketball program was investigated and punished for numerous NCAA violations. The scandal broke out after the 2003 murder of men’s basketball player Patrick Dennehy. His teammate, Carlton Dotson, pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to a 35-year prison term.

With the murder case underway, the school and the NCAA began investigations into multiple allegations, ranging from drug use among players to improper payments to players by the coaching staff. Baylor self-imposed punishments, which the NCAA augmented to include extended probation for the school through 2010, the elimination of one year of non-conference play and a 10-year show-cause penalty on Dave Bliss, who had resigned. The sanctions so crippled the Bears that they didn’t have another winning season until 2008, under new coach Scott Drew. The penalty represented one of the harshest ever imposed on a Division I program that didn’t include a death penalty.

Tom Stanton, the former athletic director who directed the coverup of the basketball scandal, was forced to resign, too. He was defended publicly by then Walmart bigwig and Houston Astros owner, Drayton McLane, who called for him to stay on. The move was over-ruled.

McLane grew the grocery business started by his granddad in 1894 into one of the country’s largest. After selling to Walmart in 1991, he bought the Houston Astros, partly because he considered baseball a family game, then secured a beautiful downtown ballpark. Now out of baseball, he gave his alma mater, Baylor, the biggest gift in school history for a new football stadium. Forbes reported that the amount was “north of $200 million.” McLane denied the figure but admitted paying for naming rights. His choice? Baylor Stadium.

He’s chairman of the McLane Group, a holding company that comprises a variety of diverse enterprises. On the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, he was ranked No. 324 in 2015 with an estimated net worth of $2 billion.

He was a contributor to Bush’s career, donating almost $100,000 to Bush’s drive to get into the governor’s office against Richards. Like the Enron crowd, McLane was part of the Bush bunch.

Ah yes, politics, crime, sports, skullduggery. All at a Southern Baptist school.

Make no mistake about it, the atmosphere at Baylor is full of polluted air.

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Tolerance Needed When Crossing Ethnic Differences

Tolerance, understanding and forgiveness. In this day and age, those attributes seem difficult to attain. Ethnic differences have soured many relationships in intra- and inter-national symbiosis. If you’re not bred and born here, you don’t belong here is just one adage that foments distrust and disapproval among mixed nationalities.

History has shown the United States is not without racial sin — Indians in colonial and pioneer days, black slaves in the South, the Irish in Boston,  Jews in New York City. Recently, of course, the U.S. is awash with Islamophobia and Hispanic illegal immigration.

Nerves jangle and tempers flare with the mention of a perceived racial slur. Representative Peter King, Republican-New York, certainly created angst among Japanese Americans the other day when he referred to Japanese as “Japs” during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Priscilla Ouchida, a civil rights leader as executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, took offense. On the internet, she wrote that the JACL for decades has worked to expunge the term “Jap” from American speech, signs, names, advertisements. “Jap” is and has been a racial pejorative that has been long viewed by the community as a word associated with civil rights injustices, discrimination, hate crimes and persecution that spanned over a century, she said.

“It is a word that was flaunted in anti-Japanese persecution of World War II and in the yellow Jim Crow environment of the late 19th and the 20th century,” she wrote. “… It was the word used by politicians as they passed laws to deny citizenship, deny property ownership, deny the right to marry an American citizen, and create segregated schools.”

“Jap” is hate speech, she said with emphasis, adding, “‘Jap’ is a repugnant reminder of anti-Asian racism and of episodes that represent America at its worst. We as Americans should aspire to the ideals of a democratic nation, and those who choose to revert to usage of ‘Jap’ must understand the burden of that word.”

King’s words on discussing Donald Trump’s foreign policy during the Morning Joe show: “National defense and homeland security are issues that mean the most to me and there’s real issues with him, real problems with his views. I don’t know if he’s thought them through, or it’s just like the guy at the end of the bar that says, ‘Oh screw them, bomb them, kill them, pull out, bring them home. You know, why pay for the Japs, why pay for the Koreans?”‘

King brushed off the ensuing torment over the use of the racial slur by stating that “we’re getting too politically correct” and “oversensitive.”

Well, you talk to World War II veterans and they will say the country is siding way too much with the Japanese and forgetting how soldiers were treated during World War II. Ask a veteran who served in the South Pacific theater whether he would buy a Camry and you may get an earful in return.

When dealing in sensitivity, whether it’s coming from Ouchida or King, you might want to consider those veterans. They know what happened to their buddies; they know the results of Japanese Kamikaze and Banzai attacks; they know the atrocities throughout the conflict.

One such example of cruelty occurred in Palawan Island, Philippines. A POW massacre. The Japanese stationed there tried to kill all their American prisoners after wrongly assuming Allied forces had invaded. After driving the prisoners into makeshift air raid shelters, the Japanese burned them alive.

Those who fled the burning structures were bayoneted, shot or bludgeoned to death. A few dozen managed to make it as far as the shoreline and hide there; the Japanese caught, tortured and executed almost all of them. Of the 150 prisoners, fewer than a dozen survived to tell the tale. The few who made it found the strength to swim across a bay to safety.

News of this grisly massacre prompted Allied forces to embark on a series of raids to liberate prisons and camps held by the Japanese across the archipelago.

Those are memories not soon forgotten.

So Ouchida needs to understand the other side of the story.

Oh, she certainly has a right to her feelings. In commenting on King’s statement, she wrote, “Irony of ironies, I was attending an All Camps Consortium Conference when I got word of King’s statement. Participants represented organizations from all ten concentration camps where Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. The work of the conference was to make sure that the injustices perpetrated primarily on the Japanese population — 62 percent of whom were American citizens — are not inflicted on another group of people.”

King’s rhetoric was not a simple matter of political incorrectness, she wrote, adding, “He used the same dehumanizing term that turned an entire nation against loyal Americans. For those at the conference, the word drained the blood from our faces and brought back the nightmare of numbers instead of names, of horse stalls and desolate prisons, and of a destruction of property, assets, community, heritage, culture and language. Even if King had apologized, he could not erase the impact of his racism. But he did not apologize.”

More than 127,000 U.S. citizens were imprisoned during World War II. Their crime? Being of Japanese ancestry. Despite the lack of concrete evidence, many Japanese Americans were suspected of remaining loyal to their ancestral land. Anti-Japanese paranoia increased because of a large Japanese presence on the West Coast. In the event of a Japanese invasion of the American mainland, Japanese Americans were feared as a security risk. Even Japanese-American veterans of World War I were forced to leave their homes.

All Americans of Japanese ancestry were ordered to relocate in concentration camps in the interior of the United States. Many families sold their homes, their stores and most of their assets. They could not be certain their homes and livelihoods would still be there upon their return. Because of the mad rush to sell, properties and inventories were often sold at a fraction of their true value.

Until the camps were completed, many of the evacuees were held in temporary centers, such as stables at local racetracks. Ten camps were finally completed in remote areas of seven western states.

Too often we see only “our side” of an intolerant issues.

President Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit the site of the U.S. atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima as part of a late-May swing in Asia. Tens of thousands of Japanese civilians were killed in a nuclear blasts on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

Weighing the visit, White House officials faced questions on whether Obama’s presence would amount to an apology for using nuclear weapons, a move many historians consider essential to ending the war. The White House has said the United States does not owe Japan a formal apology for using the atomic bomb in August 1945. Instead, officials say the visit will serve as a reminder of the terrible destruction that nuclear weapons can inflict.

Words hurt, too, and all must be careful when delivering insensitive ones.

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Indeed, When the Horse Is Dead, It’s Time to Get Off

The highest authority in Johnson County government says the administration of Governor Sam Brownback is a disaster.

From economic to health issues, criticism continues to rain on Slam Bam Sam.

Whether it’s his poor record or wishful thinking, he spawns rumors and speculation on many fronts involving the state’s political future. Will he quit and become president of Kansas State University? Will Kris Kobach run for governor in 2018? Can the Democrats find anyone to run against Kobach or any other Republican candidate?

Ed Eilert, former mayor of Overland Park and current chairman of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, was speaking last Monday to members of the 40 Years Ago Column Club on various topics, including a new county courthouse. Then, during a question and answer session, he was asked about Brownback’s policies. Of course, everyone knows about the economic squeeze on the state budget after Brownback instituted his tax-cut plan.

Well, Eilert responded: “When the horse is dead, it’s time to get off.”

The Laffer Curve, he said, has created a mess and everyone should know that trickle-down economics ultimately results in increased expenditures. Brownback believes whole-heartedly that cutting taxes, including incomes of the more affluent, is good for business. In reality, Eilert said, Kansas faces a huge loss in revenue and that leads to dysfunctional government.

He pointed out that the Kansas Department of Transportation was losing all its good people as Brownback continued to move money away from the state agency. In fact, Eilert said, many other leaders of state agencies are leaving.

Without some sort of moderate Republican resurgence or a Democrat miraculously emerging, Brownback’s management style will continue to bury Kansas.

And Brownback isn’t the only villain.

With plenty of sarcasm, Eilert said, “We have so much voter fraud.”

Of course that was a reference to Secretary of State Kobach, who hasn’t seen a voter fraud he didn’t like. But his bravado is all a hoax.

Kobach warned Kansas lawmakers last year that he knew of at least 18 suspected cases of double voting in recent elections. With this spurious counsel, he was able to get the Legislature to make him the only secretary of state in the country with the power to prosecute in these fraud cases.

Actually, Kobach was simply continuing his attacks on U.S. immigration policy. The aliens are coming, the aliens are coming.

Instead of voter fraud, he’s exposed as the fraud. Throughout the country, studies have shown voter fraud is rare.

Oh, Kobach’s big campaign. Well, since the law took effect July 1, 2015, Kobach had filed just six cases.

Will Kobach run for govenor? Well, you know he came out for Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary. Kansas political observers believe Kobach has his sights set on Washington, D.C., maybe with Trump appointing him to a Cabinet post or maybe even a vice-presidential spot, which would be akin to his over-stimulated approach to voter fraud.

Representatives Lynn Jenkins and Mike Pompeo are mentioned as possible candidates for governor. So is state Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the early front-runner.

Jenkins was elected representative in 2008, not mentioning anything about a divorce as she embraced her husband, Scott, after the victory. Just three days after she won, her husband filed for divorce, citing incompatibility as the reason.

Would the announcement have made any difference if it had come during her campaign? Who knows!

Now for the possibility that Brownback will take over at K-State. Why would the Board of Regents approve a guy who continues to cut the budgets of higher education? Moody’s Investors Service recently added Kansas State University, Wichita State University and Pittsburg State University to the negative outlook. The University of Kansas already had been moved there. Lower ratings tend to increase the interest rates the schools would pay on bonds they issue to raise money.

Brownback is a graduate of K-State but wouldn’t the students and faculty boo him if he took over? The Bronx cheers in the Little Apple!

His ultra conservative policies deserve many negative responses.

He has added fodder to those who believe he already has damaged the health programs in the state, from mental hospitals to Medicaid. Mental health advocates are raising concerns about a bill passed by Kansas lawmakers that would require doctors to try cheaper drugs before more expensive ones for Medicaid recipients.

The process, called step therapy, is common in many private and public health insurance plans. It was a key to resolving budget issues because it would reduce the state’s cost of providing health care for poor residents by nearly $11 million a year. Brownback signed the bill May 17.

People have different responses and tolerance levels with psychiatric drugs, said Rick Cagan, executive director of the Kansas affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He told reporters, “Individuals and their prescribers need to have the greatest degree of flexibility to ensure a good match for patients. We don’t know as much about how the brain responds to this whole kind of cadre of medications.”

Lawmakers assured their colleagues during debates in both chambers that mental health patients would be safeguarded by a measure passed last year. The law allows insurance companies to require prior authorization for certain mental health drugs for Medicaid recipients, but it also created a nine-member committee of mental health practitioners and pharmacists who offer recommendations to a state drug review board. The board decides whether to accept the committee’s recommendations on prescription drug use. For example, the committee recently reviewed dosing limits for children’s antipsychotics.

The committee was created to address safety issues, but Amy Campbell, lobbyist for the Kansas Mental Health Coalition, worries that under this year’s bill the committee will be asked to recommend blocking access to medication because of cost. The issue is worsened for mental health patients because new anti-psychotic drugs tend to be expensive, she told reporters.

Another concern is whether mental health patients will be able to navigate administrative hurdles if they’re turned away from a pharmacy because the drug their doctor ordered was too expensive, Campbell added.

Everywhere you look in Kansas state government, there’s trouble. When the highest political authority in Johnson County calls Brownback’s policies a disaster, let us count the ways.

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Congressional Make-up Provides Unfair Small-State Edge

The Constitution, gerrymandering and general conservative control of state legislators result in the unfair congressional representation of the people.

The Constitution provides that two senators from each state shall make up the U.S. Senate. Gerrymandering has developed districts for the U.S. House of Representatives that favor Republicans. The state legislatures devise rules and regulations, like voter I.D. for example, that create problems for many Democrats.

In the U.S. Senate, there are 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and 2 Independents, who caucus with the Democrats. The Republicans control the House 247 to 188.

Well, they won in a democratic election. What’s the gripe? I aim to show you the problems.

I went state by state and figured how many people the senators represent. When the state was divided with one Democrat and one Republican, I gave each party half of the population — I also put the independents in the Democrat column. The result? The Democrats in the Senate represent 166,732,452 people with the Republicans at 154,014,141. That’s almost 13 million more people for the Democrats. Yet, they are not in control in the Senate.

How does this happen?

I based the population on 2015 figures. Small Republican states like Alaska (738,432), South Dakota (858,469) and Idaho (1,654,930) elect two senators each just like large Democratic states California (39,144,818) and New York (19,795,791). Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Mike Rounds and John Thune, and Michael Crapo and James Risch carry as much senatorial power as Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand.

Then there are 672,228 people who are really unrepresented — the District of Columbia. Being a government population center, you can be sure many of them would vote Democratic if they were allowed to go to the polls to vote in a congressional election. Of course, Republicans fight any mention of allowing them national ballot access.

Combined with a lock-step high plains mentality with a die-hard conservatism of the South, the Senate marches to the drumbeat of starve-the-beast tom-tom-tom right wing demagoguery.

Gerrymandered districts also produce a Republican advantage and the U.S. House Republicans benefit grandly. What is gerrymandering? The dictionary describes it as an electoral boundary manipulation so as to favor one party. Democrats have used the tool of contrivance.

Gerrymander, as a word, was first used for the masses on March 26, 1812 in the Boston Gazette. The word was created in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under Governor Elbridge Gerry, 1744-1814. In 1812, he signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party. When mapped, one of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander. Appearing with the term, and helping spread and sustain its popularity, was a political cartoon depicting a strange animal with claws, wings and a dragon-like head satirizing the map of the oddly shaped district. Historians believe the cartoon probably was drawn by Elkanah Tisdale, an early 19th-century painter, designer and engraver who was living in Boston at the time.

The process remains a tool for politicians. Republican strategists spent years developing a plan to take advantage of the 2010 census, first by winning state legislatures and then redrawing House districts to tilt the playing field in their favor. Their success was unprecedented.

In states like Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina, Republicans were able to shape congressional maps to pack as many Democratic voters as possible into the fewest House districts.

This political chicanery could evaporate over time as the population moves and shifts. However, you can rest assured the Constitution’s edict on two senators will remain intact.

In 2013, the New York Times addressed the small state issue and the story included: “To be sure, some scholars and members of Congress view the small-state advantage as a vital part of the constitutional structure and say the growth of that advantage is no cause for worry. Others say it is an authentic but insoluble problem.

“What is certain is that the power of the smaller states is large and growing. Political scientists call it a striking exception to the democratic principle of ‘one person, one vote.’ Indeed, they say, the Senate may be the least democratic legislative chamber in any developed nation.”

How so? Well, look at the power of a filibuster, far more common than in past decades. Research by two political scientists, Lauren C. Bell and L. Marvin Overby, found that small-state senators, often in leadership positions, amplified their power by using the filibuster more often than their large-state counterparts.

The Times story noted, “Beyond influencing government spending, these shifts generally benefit conservative causes and hurt liberal ones. When small states block or shape legislation backed by senators representing a majority of Americans, most of the senators on the winning side tend to be Republicans, because Republicans disproportionately live in small states and Democrats, especially African-Americans and Latinos, are more likely to live in large states like California, New York, Florida and Illinois. Among the nation’s five smallest states, only Vermont tilts liberal, while Alaska, Wyoming and the Dakotas have each voted Republican in every presidential election since 1968.”

Wyoming has 0.2 percent of the U.S. population but has 0.6 percent of the Electoral College votes for President, and 2 percent of the U.S. senators; while California has 12 percent of the population, 10 percent of the electoral votes and still only 2 percent of the senators. To put it another way: Wyoming has 6 electoral votes and 2 senators per million voters, while California has 1.5 electoral votes and 0.06 senators per million voters. There is also a disparity in federal funding; for example, Wyoming received $7,200 and California $5,600 in direct federal spending per capita in 2001.

On the whole, the disparity in the Electoral College is pretty minor, but the U.S. Senate disparity is huge: the 21 smallest states have the population of California but 42 Senators compared to California’s two.

To think of it another way, California has 12 percent of the U.S. population. Suppose it were overrepresented and elected 40 percent of the senators. It would bother people that almost every other senator would be from California. Weird would be a good word. Clearly, the state would be over-represented. However, know this: the 21 smallest states, where the  total population is less than California’s, get 42 senators. And you don’t mind that! These small states are different entities and, therefore, have different names, so their overrepresentation is not so obvious.

Mississippi stands as a two-pronged beast of right-wing philosophy — it’s less than 3 million in population and sits in the Deep South.

Conservatives, of course, can point to the small population states in the Northeast. And the point? Well, New Hampshire (1,330,608) and Maine (1,329,328) each has a Democrat and a Republican senator. Rhode Island (1,056,298) and Vermont (626,042) do have progressive senators. Vermont also has Democrat Patrick Leahy, who had the most tenure of current senators, and is the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

But simply refer back to the Democrats representing more than 12 million people than the Republicans and yet is in the Senate minority going up against a party with a disciplined ultra-conservative agenda.

So what can be done? You can twiddle your thumbs. Shrug and accept it. Or you can insist on rules changes in the Senate. Maybe a concession where-large state senators received more representation on pivotal committees, like the Committee on Appropriations.

Something needs to be done. This bloc of small and southern states is troublesome. Some sort of proportionality is needed.

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So What Do Ya Think? Royals Have Won 3 of Last 4

Fewer runs, blame starters. Intoned like the old Miller Lite commercials of less filling, tastes great, the argument persists on the causes of the Royals not-so-hot so-far record. They’re 20-20, good for eyesight and rifles but lackluster for the reigning World Champions.

Yesterday in a day-night doubleheader against Boston at the K, they won the first game 3-2 for their third straight victory but lost the second 5-2.

After going 5-13 from April 25 through May 14, they have posted a 3-1 record. A naysayer just might want to focus on that losing stretch.

Well, it isn’t difficult to do. Look, the starting pitching continually drew the blame for the team’s shortcomings, but keep looking at the box scores and you will discover that it takes 9 or 10 hits to score 2 or 3 runs. Oh, there’s plenty of blame to go around for that 5-13 downturn.

But no matter what you may think of the pitching, you sure as heck won’t get the job done when scoring  just 3.1 runs a game, as the Royals did in posting the 8-14 record since April 25. The 3.91 team ERA for the season ranks 15th in the majors and seventh in the American League.

Just consider:

  • Manager Ned Yost’s strange decisions, especially in making out batting line-ups and handling game-time decisions on pitching.
  • The continuing love affair with Jarrod Dyson. He still lacks fundamentals in playing the outfield and “speed do” won’t allow him to steal first base. Right field, where he’s playing mostly now, should be occupied by a power hitter, at least someone who can produce runs, as Paulo Orlando has been doing recently. Sure, Dyson threw out a runner and stroked a triple in the 3-2 victory yesterday but he’s still batting .222 for the season.
  • A lack of alertness in making defensive plays and running the bases.
  • Too many low batting averages by too many hitters expected to deliver in the clutch. Kendrys Morales, the designated hitter of things, is batting just .195 with 16 RBIs and 5 homers. Alex Gordon is at .211 with 10 RBIs. He got his first rest of the season in the second game yesterday.

Eric Hosmer is doing his part at bat and in the field. He’s hitting .327 with 20 RBIs.

Ah, but there may be a couple more reasons for the downturn. Are the Royals missing anyone from last season’s World Championship run? Of course. Ben Zobrist signed a four-year $56 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. Johnny Cueto went to San Francisco, fattening his wallet with a 6-year $130 million deal.

Zobrist told reporters in Chicago that he wasn’t going to compare the Cubs, off to a 28-10 start this season, to the Royals team that won the World Series last year. Way too early.

His playoff performance (.880 OPS) with the Royals reinforced what the Cubs already knew – that he could put zip in their batting line-up. He’s a line-drive switch-hitter who gets on base almost 36 percent of the time, doesn’t strike out that much and can handle all types of pitching in high-pressure situations.

“I don’t see this as an aberration,” Zobrist said after going 4-for-4 during last Tuesday’s 8-7 victory over the San Diego Padres. “I don’t see that this is something that we can’t continue to do in some way. Obviously, you can’t stay this hot all year long. It’s just such a long season. We know we’re going to have down points. The time that we stop and have a powwow about it is probably the time that we start losing. We need to just stay in the moment and stay with our routine. I think the best things happen when you’re not over-thinking it.”

Since he made those statements, the Cubs have gone 3-4. But he continues to post good numbers at the plate with a .328 average and 28 RBIs.

Then there’s Cueto. So many Royals fans were happy to see him go. Take your dreadlocks, quirky mannerisms, inconsistent outings and vamoose. Well, he went. And he surely must be a happy man.

Cueto threw a four-hit complete game last night as San Francisco edged the Padres 2-1 in San Diego. the victory ran his record to 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA.

Padres Manager Andy Green told reporters after the loss that Cueto played into your aggression, adding,”He throws pitches that have the appearances of strikes that gets you chasing out of the zone. He was somewhat masterful today.”

A week ago, the Giants beat Arizona 4-2 as Cueto bested Zack Greinke, another former Royal. Cueto pitched seven strong innings while Greinke had another difficult outing, dropping his record to 3-3 — he’s now 4-3. Cueto allowed two runs and eight hits, striking out nine and walking two in a matchup of two of the highest-priced free agent pitchers last offseason — Greinke signed a six-year $206.5 million deal. The pitchers easily could have wound up on opposite teams. The Diamondbacks courted Cueto and the Giants thought they were in on Greinke to the last minute.

When reporters reminded Cueto of that possibility, he smiled broadly and said, “Right now I belong to the Giants.”

San Francisco is 8-1 in Cueto’s nine starts. He’s gone at least seven innings in all but one of his outings.

“He’s been so consistent and done a great job of giving us quality innings,” Manager Steve Bochy told reporters after the 7-1 victory. “He’s fun to watch. He pitches out there and did a great job against a tough lineup.”

The Royals, meanwhile, are scavenging for starting pitchers. Ian Kennedy and Edinson Volquez are the only two who have shown a modicum of success. Kennedy is 4-3 with an ERA of 3.24 and Volquez is 4-4 with a 3.79 ERA.

Yost is plugging in Danny Duffy and Dillon Gee as starters after they pulled bullpen duty. Neither Chris Young nor Kris Medlin was effective and now both of them are on the disabled list.

In the 4-2 13-inning victory Sunday over Atlanta, Yost used nine pitchers, starting with Duffy.

Mike Moustakas is on the 15-day disabled list but is expected back at third this weekend. In 25 games, he hit .258 with seven homers and 13 RBIs. When he returns, Cheslor Cuthbert, who has filled in superbly at third, is expected to move to second. Christian Colon has moved from second to Omaha. In 12 games, Cuthbert has batted .250 with 13 RBIs. The Royals are not happy with Omar Infante’s play at second and it will be interesting how they handle the situation. He was expected to bounce back from an injury-plagued season but in 31 games, he’s hitting only .239 and has slowed in the field.

Yeah, the Royals won it all last season, but what have you done for me today!

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Trump, All Smoke and Mirrors, Continues Campaign Bombast

Donald Trump’s candidacy for President is like a pinball machine — flashing lights, direction-changing flippers, inflated scores, free games and the most important element: tilt!

Actor Johnny Depp says a Trump presidency would be kinda exciting in a way, from an historic point of view; he would be the last United States President. Which conjures up all sorts of mental pictures. He would be the last because … fill in the blank. Like this: The country would no longer exist under his bombastic, braggadocio, belligerent leadership.

Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, has said he’s willing to contribute campaign funds for Trump that could exceed $100 million — more than he has given any other candidate. Wonder what he would want in return? Hmmm!

For sure, Trump would like the money, although he brags about his candidacy being self-funded. He has done well in his cut-rate approach by calling eager TV reporters willing to speak with the great and powerful wizard. He receives a lot of free time on TV so he can mumbo-jumbo his rhetorical voodoo. Just the other day, he was on the Today Show spinning and detracting accusations that he used false names — John Barron or John Miller — to pose as a spokesman for himself.

When host Savannah Guthrie pointed out that reporters maintained Trump routinely called them under the pseudonyms, Trump denied the claim, then questioned why he was being asked about it: “No, it was not me on the phone, it was not me on the phone. And it doesn’t sound like me on the phone, I will tell you that, and it was not me on the phone. And when was this, 25 years ago? Wow, you mean you’re going so low as to talk about something that took place 25 years ago about whether or not I made a phone call.”

Oh, it’s low to bring up something 25 years ago for Trump but not for the Clintons. He’s trumpeting the womanizing charges against Bill Clinton that occurred during his presidency. A Trump supporter pooh-poohed the comparison, mocking that the impeachment far over-shadowed a fake telephone call report.

Ah, but the hoax, the cover-up, the pretense, my friend. Prétexte, prétexte, toujours prétexte. Se méfier. Pretense, pretense, always the pretense. Beware.

According to the Washington Post, Sue Carswell, a reporter for People magazine, played a recording of “Miller” in 1991 to several different New York reporters who all said it was Trump. She also played it for Marla Maples, Trump’s ex-wife, who confirmed it was Trump. The newspaper pointed out that Trump’s alter-egos offered a way for the business mogul to generate positive coverage about his love life and business interests in the press without actually boasting of them himself.

Geez, this Trump. He loves taking his verbal prestidigitation show on the road. The question is: Will the SRO crowds at his entertainment venues transfer to the ballot box?

Also, some Republicans are expressing concern about Trump’s effect on down-ballot races this fall.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat-Nevada, told reporters he would do everything he could to make sure his party took advantage of Trump’s style of campaigning.

Democrats need to net four Senate seats to regain control of the Senate in November, and Reid pointed to a string of contests that he called “competitive and more,” in part because of the real estate developer.

Among them were contests for GOP-held seats in Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Hampshire that already were expected to be hard-fought, but Reid also added Missouri, Arizona and Iowa to the mix. Those last three feature three of the big names on the Republican side of the aisle: Missouri’s Roy Blunt, Arizona’s John McCain and Iowa’s Chuck Grassley.

Reid pointed to remarks McCain himself made that surfaced about facing “the race of my life” if Trump became the GOP standard-bearer.

Reid singled out Grassley for his role in leading the judiciary committee and blocking hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. “Someone that was unbeatable — unbeatable — Chuck Grassley; his favorability has dropped 20 points,” Reid told reporters in a conference call. “I’m not here predicting we’re going to win Iowa, but I guarantee you — guarantee you — that this race is much different than it was a month ago.”

That race and other Senate contests across the country could turn into a rout for the GOP if Democrats seize the chance presented by Trump, Reid said.

Here’s a constant theme being played out among political observers: Congressional Republicans face a tough 2016 landscape even without Trump. Senate Republicans are clinging to a four-seat majority as they defend 24 seats versus just 10 for Democrats. And House Republicans are expecting to lose roughly a dozen seats in 2016. Trump’s rhetoric, they fear, could cause those losses to grow substantially.

Several Republicans voiced their concerns in internet reports.

Representative Greg Walden, Republican-Oregon, is one of those concerned about Trump. “This is not what we’re about as a party, and this is not what we’re about as a country, and we cannot yield to this,” the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee told reporters. “It puts, certainly, competitive seats in jeopardy. We’ll have a much more difficult time. People have to be very careful about what they say at all times.”

In a more blunt statement, Representative Steve Stivers, Republican-Ohio, the NRCC’s deputy chairman in charge of helping reelect embattled GOP incumbents, said, “It would be devastating to our attempts to grow our majority and would cost us seats.”

Representative Charlie Dent, Republican-Pennsylvania, who represents a swing district that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, said Trump’s comments “have to be condemned. Are these comments helping us as a party? No. Running political campaigns and winning elections is an exercise in addition, not subtraction. … When comments are made that are so divisive that alienate women, Hispanics, the disabled, Muslims — it just simply limits your ability to win. It’s that simple.”

The statements after the recent meeting between Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan were warm and fuzzy but did the two solve their differences? They said the meeting in Washington, D.C., was a “positive step” toward unifying the Republicans.

However, Ryan again declined to endorse Trump.

Later, Trump tweeted that things were “working out very well.”

That’s interesting because the two remain apart on entitlements, immigration, minimum wage, Muslim ban and trade.

Despite all this, political pundits and observers say the race between Trump and Hillary Clinton, who appears to have obtained the Democratic nod, is very close. Why? Oh, the Clinton bashers will pull out all the misinformation and lies to bolster their arguments. But using common sense and simple logic, there’s no way this snake oil salesman should have a chance against Hillary.

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Despite Right-Wing Attacks, Hillary Stands With Integrity

So many right-wingers roil and boil about the perceived notion that Hillary Clinton is a long-time crook and they point to Benghazi to conjure up this diabolical web of conspiracy.

She’s not in jail; she hasn’t been charged. She has integrity. You gotta wonder about that wonderful trait when you watch Fox News or pay attention to something spewed by Judicial Watch. Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, yells conspiracy before he can get Democrat out of his mouth.

He’s on point now, drumming up dastardly plots that generally blow out the door in a churning blast of hot air. Media Matters, a liberal watchdog, continually finds error after error in Judicial Watch’s many fallacious accusations.

Fitton is frothy over the Benghazi affair, one that has morphed into a monster of a molehill over stacks and stacks of emails.

Shortly before the House Benghazi committee ramped up its battles with the Department of Defense in its probe of the 2012 terrorist attack on the American consulate, the committee’s own top lawyer admitted at least four times in interviews with military officials that there was no more they could have done on that tragic night.

That’s according to a letter obtained by the Huffington Post to the chairman of the committee, Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican-South Carolina. The letter originated from the top Democrats on the Benghazi panel and the House Armed Services Committee: representatives Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Adam Smith of Washington.

The military accused the committee late last month of demanding increasingly frivolous interviews from irrelevant service members; Gowdy responded by calling that charge a partisan attack.

But in the letter, Democrats say Gowdy’s own staffer agreed with the military. According to the letter, that staffer, former General Dana Chipman, said in interviews with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Defense Department Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash that the department did all it could on that night when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi or in Tripoli or elsewhere in the region,” Chipman told Panetta in the committee’s January interview with the former defense secretary, according to transcribed excerpts. “And, sir, I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”

Look, the FBI is investigating the tragedy, too. Ah, but not enough for the right-wingers. The Iraq War pales into comparison with Benghazi when you consider Congress has held so many more investigations, discussions and hearings. This is one of the longest-running special congressional investigations in history. So far, no conclusions, a number of failures, no signs of wrong-doing.

Oh but the emails. The select committee, which has spent nearly $7 million, found that then-Secretary of State Clinton kept all her official email on an unsecured private server.

The Huffington Post quoted Democrats about the investigation.

“Republicans have now spent more than two years and nearly $7 million of taxpayer funds for the illegitimate purpose of bringing down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, as Kevin McCarthy admitted,” said Cummings, the top Democrat on the select committee.

California Representative Adam Schiff, a senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said, “It has been apparent since the beginning that the Select Committee on Benghazi would be little more than a politically motivated fishing expedition. As we get even closer to the 2016 general election, all but the most dedicated partisans have written off the committee and its tremendous cost as one of the worst investigative abuses in congressional history.”

Cummings noted, “The Select Committee has discovered no new evidence that contradicts the core findings of the previous bipartisan and independent investigations.”

As the committee’s investigation has dragged on, Cummings said, Republicans have progressively cut Democrats out of its workings. Members of the minority are now only allowed to review transcripts of witness interviews, and only with a Republican staffer observing them. They’ve also been excluded from contributing to the committee’s report.

“Two years and millions of dollars later, Republicans have lost any semblance of credibility as they continue to drag this out as close as they can to the election,” Cummings said.

The Benghazi Research Center, put together by Democrats, has a website that disputes much of what the Republicans have charged and backs Clinton in her fight against the ultra conservative allegations.

“In interviews, testimony and in her book, Secretary Clinton has taken responsibility repeatedly,” the website said. “Secretary Clinton appointed a nonpartisan, independent Accountability Review Board to review what happened and began the process of implementing the 29 recommendations put forth by the ARB before leaving the State Department.”

The hearings have been on C-Span and Clinton fully answered questions before Congress. The report of the ARB is just the second to be made public, making it one of the most transparent internal reviews in State Department history, the website said.

“The investigations have included ten different congressional committees and over 30 hearings dealing with the tragedy, more than 50 senior level staff briefings, more than 20 transcribed interviews, multiple independent/bipartisan reports and the disclosure of at least 100,000 pages of documents,” the website noted. “Past investigations of the tragedy have cost taxpayers millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours. The newest committee has already cost taxpayers more than $6.8 million to date, at a rate of $8,000 per day, while the committee chairman presents false information to the press.”

Gowdy’s select committee is the eighth congressional investigation into the tragedy. In the course of those previous investigations, all of the questions have been asked and answered, and recommendations were made as to how to prevent another tragedy from happening again, the website noted, adding, “However, preventing another tragedy has never been the focus of Gowdy’s committee. Take a look at the sheer number and size of the investigations thus far, as well as Gowdy’s committee’s deranged obsession with Secretary Clinton and her emails, and it’s clear that this committee was formed with no other purpose other than to destroy Hillary Clinton.”

A sampling of the numbers game:

  • $22 Million: Minimum total cost to the taxpayers of congressional investigations into Benghazi.
  • $14 Million: The State Department’s costs in responding to congressional investigations into Benghazi.
  • $2 Million: The cost to the Pentagon of the multiple investigations into Benghazi.
  • 33 congressional hearings, according to publicly available hearing transcripts, congressional reports, and committee websites and fact sheets.
  • 244 witness appearances before House and Senate committees and staff for hearings, briefings, and interviews.
  • 30 or more FOIA cases involving searches of Clinton’s emails.

Other high-ranking politicos have used private email systems. Jeb Bush, for example, took more than seven years to turn over emails, as required by Florida law, and You know what, approximately 300,000 of them were reported missing. According to state statutes, he was in violation for failing to turn over his complete e-mail record at the end of his term in office. He could have faced fines up to $1,000 and up to a year of confinement for various charges related to his handling of the emails.

Then there was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee email problems. His staff destroyed 91 hard drives at the end of his tenure.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s emails were retained for seven days before being automatically deleted during his tenure. Former Governor Bobby Jindal turned over zero work-related emails after two terms in office.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell preserved no emails and turned over zero emails to the State Department from his private email account.

So, when someone tells you they haven’t done enough in investigating Hillary, pass along the facts. Let them stew in their conspiracy theories.

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That New Twenty Contains A Whole Lot of Black History

So, when you thumb through your money clip or wallet, you soon will see a new face. That is if you’re flush with cash and have a few $20 bills tucked away neatly.

A portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president, will no longer grace the twenty. A white slave owner from Tennessee, he will be replaced by a black anti-slavery activist, Harriet Tubman.

What’s the big deal; he hated paper money anyway.

When you get down to it, why does Jackson County revere this slave owning, anti-Indian southerner in the first place. See, there are these marvelous statues of him right in front of the county administrative building in Kansas City and the county courthouse in Independence. Why him? Just because he was a war hero and a president? What did he do for Missouri?

Well, you won’t have his $20 bills to kick around anymore. And, oh, the southern gentile and the bigots are raising heck about Tubman’s entry into the financial world.

Times change. So do the faces on $20 bills. Grover Cleveland was on them before Jackson replaced him in 1928. Before that the bill had many different designs and faces. Alexander Hamilton, James Garfield, John Marshall and George Washington were all on the twenty before Jackson. The Treasury Department used to change bills on a regular basis to deter counterfeiting. Now they don’t have to as often because of recent technological developments.

Quite frankly, there are no records as to why Jackson was put on the bill anyway. As one wag said, perhaps the Federal Reserve did it simply to spite his memory.

After all, historians say Jackson’s mission in life was to end the Bank of the United States. He saw gold and silver as real currency. He abhorred the power that a National Bank would have over the people. That’s why he vetoed the National Bank’s charter in July, 1832. It was a popular decision and in the 1832 election, Jackson won in a landslide with 55 percent of the vote.

His fight against the bank is probably the most defining act of his entire presidency. He saw his struggle as sticking up for the common man by protecting him from bankers and the elite that would destroy the currency with inflation. Killing the bank is what he saw as his legacy.

That’s what makes having Jackson’s face on the $20 bill so terribly ironic. He no doubt would have spurned his portrait appearing on paper currency. He surely wouldn’t have championed the Federal Reserve System or the U.S. eschewing the Gold Standard. So happy days; he’s going off the bill.

Tennessee folks, including Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, are less than enthusiastic about the move. Howard Kittell, president and CEO of the Andrew Jackson Foundation in Nashville, argues it’s unfair to judge Jackson’s views on slavery and his treatment of Native Americans in the early 1800s through a 21st-century lens. Though it’s hard to imagine today, Jackson’s positions on those issues and others “fell within the mainstream of American thinking” at the time, Kittell said, and it’s important to evaluate him in that context.

Besides Jackson’s slave holdings, he forced Native Americans from their land in a bloody campaign that came to be known as the Trail of Tears.

Liberals and black Americans appear elated over the switch to Tubman. What a fighter she was. She became famous as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad during the turbulent 1850s. Born a slave on Maryland’s eastern shore, she endured the harsh existence of a field hand, including brutal beatings. In 1849, she fled slavery, leaving her husband and family behind in order to escape. She returned to  Maryland at least 13 times to lead her family and other slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. She also served as a scout, spy and nurse during the Civil War.

Not unexpectedly, questions on such as a subject as freeing slaves create debate. One story said that she a $40,000 “dead or alive” bounty on her head. According to a Tubman biography by Kate Clifford Austin, the only reward for Tubman’s capture was in an advertisement in October 1849 for the return of “Minty” and her brothers “Ben” and “Harry,” in which their mistress, Eliza Brodess, offered $100 for each of them if caught outside of Maryland.  Slaveholders on the Eastern Shore of Maryland had no idea it was Harriet Tubman (or, Minty Ross, as they knew her) who was helping and inspiring people to run away.  The $40,000 bounty figure was made up by Sallie Holley, a former anti-slavery activist in New York who wrote a letter to a newspaper in 1867, arguing for support for Tubman in her pursuit of back pay and pension from the Union Army.  To put this in perspective, the US government offered $50,000 for the capture of John Wilkes Booth, who murdered President Lincoln in 1865 — $40,000 is equivalent to several million today.

The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad. It got its name because its activities had to be carried out in secret, using darkness or disguise, and because railway terms were used by those involved with a system to describe how it worked. Various routes were lines, stopping places were stations, those who aided along the way were conductors and their charges were known as packages or freight. The network of routes extended through 14 Northern states and “the promised land” of Canada – beyond the reach of fugitive-slave hunters. Harriet Beecher Stowe, famous for her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, gained firsthand knowledge of the plight of fugitive slaves through contacts with the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Estimates of the number of slaves assisted vary widely, but only a minuscule fraction of those held in bondage ever escaped. Few, particularly from the Lower South, even attempted the arduous journey north. But the idea of organized “outsiders” undermining the institution of slavery angered white southerners, leading to their demands in the 1840s that the Fugitive Slave Laws be strengthened.

As black historians noted, two things sustained Tubman: the pistol at her side and her faith in God. She would not hesitate to use the pistol in self-defense, but it was also a symbol to instruct slaves, making it clear that “dead Negroes tell no tales.” Timid slaves seemed to find courage in her presence; no one ever betrayed her.

According to historians, after the war, Tubman returned to Auburn, New York, and continued to help blacks forge new lives in freedom. She cared for her parents and other needy relatives, turning her residence into the Home for Indigent and Aged Negroes. Lack of money continued to be a pressing problem, and she financed the home by selling copies of her biography and giving speeches.

She’s testimony to celebrating the strength of black women and to struggling for a life of dignity and respect.

 

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