Poverty Scores Big Vs. South

The South shall rise again. Oh they hope. But, like yeast in dough, a punch here and a stomp there and poof goes the best-kneaded plans of a neophyte chef.

I have this picture of the stereotypical southern sheriff pulling me over on a two-lane highway and saying with a gruff drawl. “You in a heap o’ trouble.” And then I am thrown into a dark corner of a roach-infested jail and forced to stay there for the entire weekend — undergoing physical threats from each Bubba with a billy club.

Obviously, the bully boys of the South are products of a regional lifestyle that rewards power and greed. It’s a disease carried throughout the country, not just the South, by the Republicans. It’s just that the South provides such a well-defined poster for laying the blame on the haves in their subjugation of the have-nots.

The South rise again? The question might be which South — the plutocrats or the oppressed? Right now, the bully boys are on top with some making noise that sounds a lot like a separatist movement. To me, the have-nots wallow in apathy, unlike those that rose against segregation and exploitation.

Them that’s got do well in the land of cotton, oil, bourbon and lumber. Those good ol’ boys have taken the one percent philosophy and run like a Bama backfield.

However you look at an economic graph, you see the haves of the South enjoying the cocktails on Saturday and the sermons on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the have-nots in the South suffer, from salaries to funding education. The bully boys say hell no to any progressive policy, as evidenced by their disdain for the Affordable Care Act. And guess who needs that health? Right, all those southern folks who don’t have Big Daddy to fund their lives and good times.

The Great Recession and Not-So-Great Recovery have been bad news for most Americans, but some folks have suffered more than others. As one pundit put it, “We call those people ‘Southerners.’”

The southern states showed the biggest increases in the number of people living in what are known as “poverty areas” between 2000 and 2010, according to a Census Bureau report. For a family of four, the poverty line in most states is an annual income of $23,850.

Today, 25.7 percent of all Americans live in such areas, up from 18.1 percent in 2000, according to the report. Having a quarter of the nation living this way results in higher crime rates, poor housing conditions and fewer job opportunities, the report pointed out.

Southern states were five of the six biggest gainers. This shouldn’t be cause for a shock face because southern states consistently lag the rest of the country in good things like wages, economic mobility and access to health care, while leading it in bad things like poverty, obesity and general unhappiness.

Just as an aside, Mississippi has more internet hits on porno sites than any other state.

Another thing Southern states have in common is Republican leaders who have spent their political lives shrinking the social safety net.

Why does the South remain so poor?

David Kaiser, an historian of international and domestic politics, provides part of the rationale: the de-industrialization of the South, thanks to NAFTA, and the general movement of industry overseas. Regions that live by cheap labor, it turns out, die by cheap labor, because there is always somewhere where labor will be cheaper still.

The South remains strong for Republicans, who reflect the tenets of the old Dixiecrats. The election of 2008 drew a clear line around the deep South. Virginia and North Carolina, both of whom include substantial new urban and educated areas, voted narrowly for Obama, as did Florida, which is only partly a southern state at all. But the rest of the old Confederacy voted overwhelmingly for Republican candidate James McCain, based on the same sad resentments that have controlled much of the poor white vote for most of the last 150 years.

Ask someone from the Deep South if Obama was born in the U.S. and you shouldn’t be surprised that the answer oftentimes is no.
The South has no corner on power and greed, but they live true to their beliefs.

Awhile back, Daisy Grewal, a social psychiatrist, wrote: “Who is more likely to lie, cheat, and steal—the poor person or the rich one? It’s tempting to think that the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to act fairly. After all, if you already have enough for yourself, it’s easier to think about what others may need. But research suggests the opposite is true: as people climb the social ladder, their compassionate feelings towards other people decline.”

She said research showed how upper class individuals were worse at recognizing the emotions of others and less likely to pay attention to people they were interacting with.

“But why would wealth and status decrease our feelings of compassion for others?” she asked rhetorically. “After all, it seems more likely that having few resources would lead to selfishness.”

The answer is that wealth and abundance give people a sense of freedom and independence from others. The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings, Grewal said, adding, “This leads us towards being more self-focused.”

Given the growing income inequality in the United States, the relationship between wealth and compassion has important implications, she wrote. Those who hold most of the power in this country, political and otherwise, tend to come from privileged backgrounds. If social class influences how much we care about others, then the most powerful among us may be the least likely to make decisions that help the needy and the poor.

What can be the consequences of all this? In an essay published in Politico magazine, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer warned that the widening income gap in the U.S. would eventually spark a violent revolution. He didn’t say so, but maybe something along the lines of the infamous Watts uprising.

“No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality,” Hanauer wrote. “In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out.”

Hanauer, who lives in Washington, suggested raising the minimum wage to $15 and the Seattle city council obliged recently, passing an an ordinance including that figure.

Oh, but detractors certainly remain. Andy Puzder, the head of CKE restaurants, the parent company of Hardees and Carl’s Jr., said the consequences of raising the minimum wage included more youth unemployment, higher prices and increased automation.

“If government gets out of the way, businesses will create jobs and wages will go up,” he told Yahoo!.

Many economists say his statements are bull. By the way, Puzder made $4.4 million in 2012, according to Forbes.

Will the South rise again? So goes the South so goes the country — a lot of focus on power and greed.

(The Sands Blog Is Scheduled To Return July 24).

Stay Awake for This One

Get the white coats. The loony bin must be around the corner.

Within recent months, I’ve awakened and was damn sure a tarantula was crawling across my pillow. I saw it, big as ever. I even slapped at it. Then I saw one racing across the wall. I did. I really did. Am I nuts? Yeah, it really wasn’t a spider. It was a shadow. A little Twilight Zone music, please.

Okay, yeah, you know what it is. Sure. The DT’s. A booze hound with the affliction. Ha, ha, ha. Aren’t you funny. Well, it isn’t delirium tremens. No, it isn’t. I don’t suffer from a severe form of alcohol withdrawal involving sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes. Smarty, you think so, huh. I like my Beefeater martinis, among various other libations. But DT’s, well, analyze this.

But, hey, I am going to talk to the doc about this spider business. I scoured the internet and came across a lot of comments from people who have gone through the same experiences.

One person wrote:
Help! I keep waking up from my sleep seeing spiders. every time so far it has been spiders. They look so real to me that I have actually started to hyperventilate and scream and run out of my room. Last night I woke up and was sure I saw one scurry across the pillow next to me and started to freak out. I saw it run under my boyfriend’s neck and actually started to try and hit it, waking him from his sleep — yet there was nothing. I don’t know why this is happening and why it’s spiders every time. I know it’s obviously me making this up, possibly still in a dreaming state or something. Sometimes it’s like 12 spiders hanging in front of my face when I wake up. The first time this happened I started screaming and kicking and flailing and ran out of the bedroom. I couldn’t catch my breath after and couldn’t fall back asleep. I was sweating heavily and felt panicky.

Another wrote:
I’m so glad that I have found other people that are going through the same thing as I am. I thought I was going a bit crazy. I’ve been having these vivid sights since I was 20 and I’m now 24. I keep seeing huge tarantulas coming down on the curtains, spiders jumping from the walls on my bed, spiders crawling on my pillow. Always spiders! I really don’t like them and have put this issue down to that but after seeing this forum, I am now thinking of actually going to see a doctor as it’s disturbing my sleep. Had one last night where I was trying to go to sleep and saw a huge spider with legs spread out coming down on me from the ceiling. I freaked out and had to look twice and it was still there. It was only until I actually got out of bed that I realized that It wasn’t real. I have difficulty going back to sleep then. They’re horrible!

But I never really got an answer as to how and why. Get ready, doc, I’m coming to see you.

I’ve heard of all kinds of sleep disorders. So I researched narcolepsy. Well, it’s an idiopathic neurological problem that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness. People with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness and intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the daytime. These sudden sleep attacks may occur during any type of activity at any time of the day. In a typical sleep cycle, experts say, we initially enter the early stages of sleep followed by deeper sleep stages and ultimately — after about 90 minutes — rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. For people suffering from narcolepsy, REM sleep occurs almost immediately in the sleep cycle, as well as periodically during the waking hours.

I like my naps but, hey, I’m not into this narcoleptic state.

Sleep apnea? Well, some of my friends went to the doctor and were diagnosed with this disorder. It’s a common problem in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Usually a chronic condition, the disorder causes breathing pauses that can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can’t detect the condition during routine office visits.

When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring.

Like they say, how can you know you have it because you’re asleep. Talk to your doctor, huh.

Apnea? Hmm. Arachnid, as in spider. Yeah, yeah, it’s a stretch.

DT’s, well, I recall hearing that term for many years. When we used to go near the City Market in the old days, we would see gandies along the old buildings and my dad would talk about those ol’ boys suffering the DT’s. Quite a stigma, huh. You could see them slapping at their arms. Hell, I just thought they were crazy and let it go at that.

The DT’s can occur when a person stops drinking alcohol after a period of heavy drinking, especially without eating much food. It also can be caused by head injury or infection. It is most common in people who have a history of alcohol.

Symptoms include body tremors, agitation, confusion, delirium, fear, hallucinations and sensitivity to light.

Delirium tremens isn’t something to laugh about. A hospital stay is necessary because it’s a life-threatening disorder.

But the spiders? Geez. I sure thought they were real. What a horrifying experience. Bipolar? Nah. Just plain crazy? Nah. Thank goodness, it’s been awhile since I “saw” them.

Hallucinations, sleep-walking. Oh the mind, oh the veritable labyrinth of daily and — and nightly — excursions created in the wonderment of existence.

Believe me, the doc and I are going to talk about this. And soon.

You Want Scandal? Here’s Some Scandal

Senate Democrats are attempting to fast-track legislation that would override the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case and compel for-profit employers to cover the full range of contraception for their employees, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

The bill, co-authored by senators Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Mark Udall, D-Colorado, would ban for-profit companies from refusing to cover any federally guaranteed health benefits for religious reasons, including all 20 forms of contraception detailed in the ACA. It would preserve the contraception mandate’s current exemption for churches and accommodation for non-profit religious organizations, such as certain hospitals and schools.

The court’s decision opened the door to unprecedented corporate intrusion into private lives, Udall said in a statement. Women shouldn’t have to rely on permission slips to access common forms of birth control or other critical health services, he added. The bill, he said, would keep women’s private health decisions out of corporate board rooms and bosses from dictating what was best for families.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last week that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects closely held corporations like Hobby Lobby, an evangelical-owned chain of craft supply stores, from having to cover birth control in their health insurance plans if they morally object to it. The owners object to what they consider methods of abortion.

“Your health care decisions are not your boss’ business,” Murray recently told reporters.

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it is unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But Democrats hope it will at least make senators go on record supporting or opposing universal birth control coverage.

——

A Republican representative from Missouri has introduced a bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from working on any new regulations until it conducted an extensive review of every single existing rule.

Representative Sam Graves released a statement that the legislation would protect Americans from an “out-of-control” EPA agenda.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently visited Graves’ home district in the northwest part of the state to reassure farmers about changes to the Waters of the United States rule, The changes, open for public comment until October, seek to clarify protections for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

Liz Purchia, EPA spokeswoman, said, “EPA was created by Congress to protect public health and the environment and we are committed to fulfilling our mission, because all sides should agree that we have a moral obligation to leave a healthier, safer planet for the next generation.”

——

House Republicans certainly are out of touch. Their priorities lack reason and common sense. A prime example of this is that they already have spent an estimated $14 million in investigating Benghazi and a House Select Committee has requested a $3.3 million budget to do more.

The attack on Benghazi has received more inquiry attention that the Iraq War, yet the Republicans push for additional probes. It is part of their attack on President Obama with faux scandals, including one with the IRS.

Think about this: the Select Committee budget request is bigger than the one granted to the committee overseeing the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.

——

You want scandal? How about Warren G. Harding?

Before Harding became president of the United States, he was involved in a 15-year love affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips, a stunning beauty in the popular Gibson Girl tradition of its time.

In the summer of 1920, immediately following acceptance of the Republican nomination, Harding disclosed his affair with Mrs. Phillips to the party bosses, and also disclosed that she was in the possession of hundreds of love letters he had written to her, many on Senate stationery. Afraid of a scandal involving both an affair as well as Mrs. Phillips’ government files for supporting Germany in the recent war, the party bosses impressed upon Mr. and Mrs. Phillips the importance that their travel abroad could keep the matter quiet. Carrie refused, and immediately dictated the terms under which she would consider the party’s wishes. In return for Mrs. Phillips’ silence on the matter, the Republican Party would pay for an extended tour of Asia and the Pacific Islands, as well as an annual stipend to Mrs. Phillips in return for her silence on the matter for the remainder of her life.

She holds the infamous distinction of being the only woman in U.S. history known to have successfully blackmailed a major political party.

On July 29, a century after the affair, approximately 1,000 pages of love letters written by a married Harding to Phillips will be released to the public. Harding’s extramarital trysts were no secret — even his wife, Florence, knew about them.

A letter dated December 24, 1910 read: “My Darling. There are no words, at my command, sufficient to say the full extent of my love for you — a mad, tender, devoted, ardent, eager, passion-wild, jealous … hungry … love … It flames like the fire and consumes … It racks in the tortures of aching hunger, and glows in bliss ineffable — bliss only you can give.”

After becoming President, Harding rewarded his friends and contributors, known as the Ohio Gang, with powerful positions. Multiple cases of corruption were exposed, including the notorious Teapot Dome scandal.

——

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is suing Kansas over the Second Amendment Protection Act, a Kansas law that exempts all state-made firearms that have not crossed state lines from all federal gun control laws.

The Brady Center views the law, signed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback in April 2013, as an unconstitutional violation of federal law that “cripples law enforcement’s ability” to combat gun crimes by allowing the sale of firearms to individuals otherwise prohibited from owning them.

According to a Brady Center press release: The law allows the sale of firearms to violent domestic abusers and permits the sale of handguns to minors under the age of 21. It also allows gun manufacturers in the state to make guns without serial numbers and guns designed to avoid metal detectors. The law prohibits background checks for guns made in Kansas and the tracking of guns used in crimes. It also prevents local authorities from referring gun crimes to federal agencies.

Brownback, also named in the suit, said that attorneys for the state would vigorously defend the gun rights of Kansans.

Cheney an Imperialist — or Just a Neocon

Who is Dick Cheney? Really.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd calls him Vice, for good reasons.

Valerie Plame no doubt has choice words of description after he was instrumental in outing her as a CIA agent.

Harry Whittington probably calls Cheney a poor shot after a hunting accident that resulted in his suffering more than 30 pieces of pellets fired into his cheek, neck and chest, contributing to a non-fatal heart attack.

Neo-cons love him for his jingoistic breast-beating.

Critics who follow business scandals say Cheney’s role with Halliburton reeks.

Colin Powell’s former chief of staff believes Cheney, by nature, is imperial.

Progressives, well, to them the expletives rate triple-X.

Dowd writes eloquently and her recent column on Vice included this prose: “Who would have thought that Iraq imploding would give the mountebanks who tricked us into war a chance to rear their heads and seek rehabilitation — somehow grabbing onto the hellish spiral as proof that they were right in their original wrongness?

“But, then, they did always create their own reality spun from grandiosity.

“They are shamefully showcased on cable TV, which has so much airtime to fill that it doesn’t care if it’s hot air. They are once more pounding on the fear button and warning that America needs to attack or risk being emasculated by Middle Eastern terrorists.”

With Iraq in trouble again, Cheney speaks of new fears and Dowd says: “That causes the man without a pulse to pulsate with bile.”

In 2005, the Washington Post reported that the vice president’s office was central to the investigation of the Plame CIA leak scandal. Following an indictment, Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, resigned. In 2006, the National Journal wrote that Libby had stated before a grand jury that his superiors, including Cheney, had authorized him to disclose classified information to the press regarding intelligence on Iraq’s weapons. In 2007, Libby was convicted on four felony counts for obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements to federal investigators.

Independent prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, in his closing arguments, said that there was “a cloud over the vice president.”

Cheney unsuccessfully lobbied President George W. Bush to grant Libby a presidential pardon.

Whittington, now 87, was shot in 2006. The Texas attorney was with Cheney on a quail hunt in Kenedy County, Texas. Because of the small size of the birdshot pellets, doctors decided to leave up to 30 pieces of the pellets lodged in his body rather than try to remove them.

The incident has been the subject of jokes, satire and public ridicule.

The neo-con ways and means will go down as one of the most misguided, ill-informed and ideologically blinded political movements in American history. These chicken hawks were wrong about every premise and prediction on Iraq. Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol played armchair generals and it cost the country dearly, leading to two wars and depletion of the budget. The neo-cons and their bellicose foreign policy should be thoroughly discredited. And yet, media outlets continue to give them a platform to theorize about the current situation in Iraq.

With the Democrats in control in 1993, Cheney left the Department of Defense and joined the American Enterprise Institute. From 1995 until 2000, he served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton.

Cheney’s record as CEO was subject to dispute among Wall Street analysts and the company faced charges of artificially inflating its stock price. In 2010, Cheney was named in a corruption complaint filed by the Nigerian government against Halliburton, which settled for $250 million.

His net worth is estimated as high as $86 million.

During the Iraq War, Halliburton and its associates were charged numerous times with over-pricing services. No one has taken a long, hard look at how much money the company took out of the war. Also, questions remain on whether Cheney profited in any way with Halliburton’s income from the war services.

Retired colonel Lawrence Wilkerson has no doubt that Cheney is bad for the country. With Cheney, it’s all about power and money, the former chief of staff to Colin Powell said, adding that as an amoral individual, he’s dangerous for the country, especially as he exploits politics in order to carry out state purposes.

Progressives continue to hammer Cheney on his policies and statements.

After the invasion of Iraq, Cheney remained steadfast in his support of the war, stating that it would be an “enormous success story.” He has often criticized those against the war, calling them “opportunists” who were peddling “cynical and pernicious falsehoods” to gain political advantage while American soldiers died in Iraq. In response, then Senator John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, said, “It is hard to name a government official with less credibility on Iraq [than Cheney].”

Progressives note that his imperialist nature surfaced when he was a prominent member of the National Energy Policy Development Group, commonly known as the Energy task force. The group was comprised of industry representatives, including several Enron executives. After the Enron scandal, the Bush administration was accused of improper political and business ties. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Department of Commerce must disclose NEPDG documents, containing references to companies that had made agreements with the previous Iraqi government to extract Iraq’s petroleum.

Cheney refused to release the documents, citing his executive privilege to deny congressional information requests.

His policies on NSA Wiretapping and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques drew considerable criticism.

Former President Bill Clinton also has taken Cheney to task for his statements. Recently, Clinton said if the second Bush Administration hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, none of what is happening now in the Mideast would have occurred. He told the “Meet the Press” audience, “Mr. Cheney has been incredibly adroit for the last six years or so attacking the [Obama] administration for not doing an adequate job of cleaning up the mess that he made. And I think it’s unseemly.”

Progressive bloggers believe that one of the big reasons Cheney is unloading his thoughts during cable-TV interviews is that he’s pushing for his daughter, Liz, to somehow gain a foothold in any political arena.

Cheney was born on January 30, 1941, in Lincoln, Nebraska, and was raised in Sumner, Nebraska, and Casper, Wyoming. He attended the University of Wyoming, earning an MA in political science. After working for politicians in Washington, D.C., he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served Wyoming from 1979 to 1989.

George H.W. Bush appointed him Secretary of Defense in 1989 and he stayed until 1993. He was George W. Bush’s vice-presidential running mate in 2000 and won, beating Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. They were re-elected in 2004.

And the country has been worse off for it.

Catholics Reign Supreme on Court

I played a lot of basketball at the Assumption Church gym. At Redemptorist High School, too. Had a lot of friends at Holy Cross and Glennon schools. Filled my belly as a young man at Catholic weddings. Had my first Scotch at a Catholic church wedding reception. The monsignor in Manhattan poured a powerful libation. Many of my friends in the North End professed the Catholic fate. My kids married Catholics. I play golf with conservative Catholics. I am not Catholic, but I get along fine with Catholics.

Oh, that is, until some of us discuss politics. It can be a little nasty.

Such is the case with the Hobby Lobby decision. What really struck me that in the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in upholding the company, five Catholic males made the decision that will hurt the health care of women.

You need not wonder why many women feel as if the conservatives are at war with them. They seldom receive a positive vote from Republicans.

I’m a big fan of the Rev. Barry Lynn, who has served as executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. In addition to his work as a long-time activist and lawyer in the civil liberties field, Lynn is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

The U.S Constitution says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 is a federal statute aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion. Lynn said in a recent TV interview, “But never ever did any of the left, right or center people supporting the religious freedom restoration act believe that it covered a for-profit company like Hobby Lobby with its 20,000 employees all over the country, particularly to allow that company to make decisions that would violate the conscience of their individual employees.”

He said he didn’t think for-profit companies could exercise religion, adding, “I think that is an absurd idea. And even if they could exercise religion, certainly there is no substantial burden on their exercise of this so-called religion simply by presenting an insurance plan for women employees and letting some of them accept contraception.”

Hobby Lobby is pushing its own version of Sharia Law in the health care system, according to a letter to the Kansas City Star. The writer noted how Muslims wanted to sneak in Sharia Law in the legal system. The letter went on, “The Hobby Lobby people have a strange way of showing their private religious convictions. They will do business with China while overlooking the Chinese system of forced abortions and slave labor used to create the merchandise sold at their stores.” The letter writer hinted at a company boycott.

More cases are pending on the separation issue and the situation will just get more messy.

Should we blame the Catholic dogma? Negatives exist in the Catholic religion, from the Spanish Inquisition to pedophile cases. However, many judge the Catholic religion in a mainly positive manner. I recall such pro-Catholic movies involving Boys Town or the noted film “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. But then these five Catholic males. Damn.

You may recollect that John F. Kennedy gave a wonderful speech when he ran for President against Richard Nixon in 1960. He knew he had to face his Catholic background and tell the voters just where he stood.

On September 12, 1960, he spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association and began: “While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida–the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power — the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms–an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.

“These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues–for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.”

Then he said, “But because I am a Catholic and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again — not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute — where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote — where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference — and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

He said he believed in an America where religious intolerance would someday end — where there was no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind.

Unfortunately, the vote of five Catholic men smears the idealistic painting by Kennedy.

John Roberts Jr., Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted for a company and against women.

Thomas has Missouri roots, but he was born in 1948 in the Pin Point community of Georgia near Savannah June 23. He married Virginia Lamp in 1987 and has one child, Jamal Adeen, by a previous marriage. He attended Conception Seminary and received an A.B., cum laude, from Holy Cross College, and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1974. He was admitted to law practice in Missouri in 1974, and served as an Assistant Attorney General of Missouri from 1974-1977, an attorney with the Monsanto Company from 1977-1979, and Legislative Assistant to Senator John Danforth, R-Missouri, from 1979-1981. He became a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1990. President Bush nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat in 1991.

By voting in the majority, Justice Kennedy placed a higher priority on giving corporations the right to impose their religious beliefs on employees than on the rights of those employees. In his separate, but concurring opinion, Kennedy went so far as to suggest no real harm done to women because the government could provide women with birth control under the “existing program.” Really!

Republican presidents have found Republican Supreme Court candidates to their liking. Catholics have generally been divided on Democrats and Republicans but Catholic teachings on Natural Law and the sanctity of life have made conservative Catholic nominees particularly attractive to Republican presidents who oppose abortion.

And this bad 5-4 decision is the result.

Is Boehner’s Threat of a Suit Just a Threat?

Hallowed Walter Williams Hall at the University of Missouri offered many a sermon on who, what, when, where, why and how from the revered scripture of journalism.

They were simple words of wisdom, not hell, fire and brimstone. Besides the omnipresent tenet of accuracy, accuracy, many tidbits of admonition flowed throughout the classrooms. A recent story emanating from the not so consecrated halls of Congress recalled one of those morsels. Yes, the one that cautioned editors not to overplay a story where someone threatened to file a suit if a certain action failed to take place. Too many times, the professor said, the suit is not filed, for whatever reason.

Well, House Speaker John Boehner recently announced that he planned to file a lawsuit against President Obama over his use of executive actions.

Will he file a suit? And so what if he does?

Obama certainly went on the offense after hearing about the possibility of a suit.

He continued his fiery rebuke of a gridlocked Congress and defended executive actions as the only recourse he had to a Republican opposition that was “doing nothing,” adding, “Middle class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me.”

Such actions were necessary because Republicans have been unwilling to compromise, Obama has pointed out on numerous occasions.

“As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something,” he said.

So sue me, huh.

Does Boehner believe that suing the President will help Republicans in November? On the contrary, many think a suit would provide a gift to the Democrats, noting how it would excite the base like nothing they could do themselves. The day after Boehner announced he would file a suit, the Democratic National Committee raised more money in one day than they have ever raised in one day.

Seventy percent of Americans will know the threat is just a political stunt and would much rather Boehner and the House spend their time doing the people’s business by raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, legislation on equal pay for equal work and immigration reform.

If this suit is filed, is impeachment far behind? Boehner said that this wasn’t a prelude to a Republican attempt at removing the President from office. “This is not about impeachment,” Boehner said. “This is about his faithfully executing the laws of our country.”

Questions, legally and politically, surfaced after Boehner’s threat. What does suing the President actually mean, and what particular actions do House Republicans think necessitate a legal challenge? What can they accomplish?

Boehner paints the move as part of a constitutional struggle between the legislative and executive branches, saying that Obama has exceeded his presidential power by issuing orders on issues like the environment, paid family leave, health care and LGBT rights.

The idea that Obama is overstepping his authority is popular with the more conservative wing of the House GOP Conference, and many Republicans are fond of describing Obama as the mastermind of a law-flouting “imperial presidency.” They often insert “King” before Obama’s name into their political dissertations. In a midterm year, headlines like “Republicans to Sue Obama” serve to prove to the GOP base that party leaders in Washington are prepared to throw the kitchen sink at an unpopular president.

In a memo to members, Boehner notably did not say which of the President’s executive actions would be the primary target of the suit. GOP aides say that’s because they’re still determining which legal approach has the best chance of success. Critics argue, however, that without a specific target the threat of a lawsuit is little more than transparent political posturing at a time when Republicans have little meaningful legislation to tout.

“They’re doing nothing here and so they have to give some aura of activity,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said.

Democrats also point out that Obama has issued far fewer executive orders than his predecessors. According to the Brookings Institution, Obama issues such an order once every 11 days. Former President Ronald Reagan did so once a week. Obama’s rate is the slowest since the administration of President Grover Cleveland, the think tank found.

A list of presidents and their number of executive orders:
• Harry Truman (1945-1953 — 907
• Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961 — 484
• Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) — 381
• Bill Clinton (1993-2001) — 364
• Richard Nixon (1969-1974) — 346
• Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) — 325
• Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) — 320
• George W. Bush (2001-2009) — 291
• John F Kennedy (1961-1963) — 214
• Obama (2009-) — 182
• Gerald Ford (1974-1977) — 169
• George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) — 166

Representative Matt Salmon, R-Arizona, speculated that the suit might center on the administration’s deferred deportation policy for young immigrants, or on delays in enforcement dates for key sections of the Obamacare health law – both hot-button issues in many midterm races.

“The president doesn’t have the authority to arbitrarily change laws after he signs them into law and change the dates in them,” he said.

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who served under President George W. Bush, said on Fox News that Obama’s executive orders were distasteful but not unconstitutional.

Boehner is proposing to use a vehicle called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to try to launch the lawsuit. It’s the same organization used by Republicans to fight for the Defense of Marriage Act after the Justice Department stopped defending it on the grounds that the law was unconstitutional. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, with a price tag of more than $2 million to taxpayers.

Using the BLAG also allows Republicans to get around the Democratic-led Senate. While the House has introduced legislation to curb Obama’s use of executive actions, any such measure would be dead on arrival in the upper chamber. But the rules of the BLAG mean that Republicans are in charge of its work, so the lawsuit is their next best option.

Still, the federal court system hardly moves at lightning pace, so don’t count on a ruling anytime soon.

Ah, yes, the admonitions in Walter Williams Hall. Will the suit actually be filed?

(Next Blog Slated for Tuesday, July 8)

Ghost Town Reflects Effects of Pollution

Back in the old days of Class Double-Z wild, wild west movies, a ghost town stood as a symbol of old mining days or lawlessness or pioneers moving elsewhere. The picture was stark and dreary in the genre of black and white cinema.

Seldom did those movies focus on the cause of the ghost towns. They were just there, a part of a story line. They could have depicted the cattle drives upsetting the ecology or polluting the streams. They could have depicted the arsenic used to mine gold with the runoff creating a poisoned stream. But the old movie makers relied on six guns that fired 20 bullets, causing bloodless wounds.
Well, there are ghost towns today and the reasons are documented.

The Obama Administration’s recent announcement that it plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants evoked cries of protest and warnings of economic doom from the political right.

There’s a reason for an EPA push. Pollution has consequences. Consider the problems of Northeast Oklahoma where lots of land is hardscrabble, not fit for grazing or tilling. It’s a land that can create hardness to life and produce tenacious, competitive athletes like Mickey Mantle and Steve Owens. What mainly has resulted, however, is a hard life in the mining of lead and zinc.

The consequences of environmental disruption, from feed lots to mining to fracking to carbon emissions, show up big in this scrub land. The remains of Picher, Oklahoma, draw a austere picture of just what can happen when the laws of common sense are ignored.

Picher is a ghost town.

Formerly a major national center of lead and zinc mining in the heart of the Tri-State Mining District, Picher’s downfall was the result of more than a century of unrestricted subsurface excavation. The work dangerously undermined most of Picher’s town buildings and left giant piles of toxic metal-contaminated chat heaped throughout the area.

The discovery of the cave-in risks, groundwater contamination and health effects associated with the chat piles and subsurface shafts — particularly an alarming 1996 study which showed lead poisoning in 34 percent of the children there — eventually prompted a mandatory evacuation and buyout of the entire township by the State of Oklahoma and the incorporation of the town into the Tar Creek Superfund site.

Dan Shepherd, a producer for NBC News, wrote that 30 years and hundreds of millions of dollars since work began to clean up this former boomtown, progress was still being measured in inches or feet. That gauge is provided by the towering but slowly diminishing piles of chat.

During both World Wars, 75 percent of all the bullets and bombshells expended by American troops were made from metals mined in the region.

Groundwork for the boom times began in 1913. Lead and zinc ore were discovered on Harry Crawfish’s claim and mining began. A townsite developed overnight around the new workings and was named Picher in honor of O. S. Picher, owner of Picher Lead Co. The city was incorporated in 1918, and by 1920, it had a population of 9,726. Peak population occurred in 1926 with 14,252 residents and was followed by a gradual decline due to the decrease in mining activity, leaving Picher with only 2,553 by 1960.

The Picher area became the most productive lead-zinc mining field in the Tri-State district producing more than $20 billion worth of ore between 1917 and 1947. At its peak more than 14,000 miners worked the mines and another 4,000 worked in mining services. Many workers commuted by an extensive trolley system from as far away as Joplin and Carthage, Missouri. Mining ceased in 1967 — water pumping from the mines also stopped. The contaminated water from some 14,000 abandoned mine shafts, 70 million tons of mine tailings and 36 million tons of mill sand and sludge remained as a huge environmental cleanup problem.

Those efforts had a price. After being labeled one of the most polluted places in America by the EPA, the town was declared a federal superfund hazardous waste site in 2009 Finally, in November 2013, after nearly all of its residents had accepted federal buyouts on their homes and moved away, the town formalized the obvious — and dissolved its charter.

Shepherd wrote, “Today, there are only about 10 hardy souls left in Picher to watch as the clean-up slowly carves away at the dozen or so remaining piles of chat and restores Tar Creek, whose waters still run red from heavy metal runoff, to some semblance of its former self.”

Bob Sullivan, the EPA site manager for the cleanup, says the federal government has spent $301 million since Picher and the surrounding areas were declared a superfund site in 1983, when the town’s toxicity levels surpassed even those of the infamous Love Canal site in upstate New York in the mid-1970s, Shepherd wrote. Another $178 million is expected to be spent on the cleanup over the next 20 years.

Most of the remediation work going on now involves excavating contaminated sludge and remodeling stream beds with clean soil, adding water treatment units, collecting clean water from existing uncontaminated wells and distributing it via a pipeline network to the few remaining homes and farms in the area, while also drilling new wells.

The so-called “Tar Creek Superfund Site,” which covers 40-square miles and also includes the towns of Quapaw, Commerce, Cardin and North Miami, is just one of four “sub sites” within what is called the “Tri-State Mining District,” an area that covers 2,500 square miles and extends into southeastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri. Rivers and soils in Kansas and Missouri are also polluted by toxic runoff, and work needs to continue there to prevent that pollution from undoing the progress that’s been made in Oklahoma.

Some residents said they recalled tremors from digging and explosions at the mines, enough so that shook pencils off the desks at the high school. They blame mine owners’ greed for much of the problems.

Residents at the time knew to avoid Tar Creek after the waters started running red in the late 1970s — the result of pollution from heavy metals like lead, zinc, cadmium, arsenic, iron and manganese — but folks were slow to realize the extent to which the chat piles were slowly poisoning them, Shepherd wrote.

A few local doctors did notice that kids in Picher seemed to get sick often, and teachers observed that their students always seemed to be lagging behind those in other parts of the state in testing. But no one linked the high lung cancer rates, cases of hypertension, respiratory infections and high infant mortality rates to the chat piles in Ottawa County.

Then health studies from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 2004 showed some rates of disease in the three state mining area were 20 to 30 percent above average, but the rate of the chronic lung disease pneumoconiosis, for example, was 2,000 percent higher.

The federal and state governments were slow to appreciate the hazard as well, Shepherd said.

After tests ordered by the state of Oklahoma showed heavy metals contamination in 1980, the EPA plugged wells and studied the local aquifer more closely. By the mid-1990’s, crews started removing six to 10 inches of surface soil from residents’ yards, hoping this would limit resident’s exposure to chat dust and contaminated drinking water.

Meanwhile, another mining-related problem continued wreaking havoc in Picher. So many tunnels had been carved beneath the town that sinkholes began to appear as mines were abandoned, and officials realized they couldn’t guarantee the safety of residents. An Army Corps of Engineers study in 2006 showed that almost nine out of 10 buildings in town were susceptible to sudden collapse. The federal government began making buyout offers to residents and business owners, many of whom were reluctant to leave a place that had been called “home” for several generations.

As if the pollution wasn’t enough, an F4 tornado destroyed or damaged 150 homes in May 2008. There were eight confirmed deaths.

Picher is among a small number of locations in the world (such as Gilman, Colorado, and Wittenoom, Western Australia) to be evacuated and declared uninhabitable due to environmental and health damage caused by the mines the town once serviced.

Pollution has consequences.

GOP Predictions Fall Flat

The Republicans keep getting it wrong. They play with facts like pathological liars. Their dire predictions generally wind up totally in error, much worse than a 50-50 weather forecaster.

President Obama isn’t carrying out his duties, so they say, and they’re going to sue. The Affordable Care Act will destroy the country, so they say, but they’re losing credibility on that topic. Hillary Clinton’s book tour is failing, so they say, but “Hard Choices” is outdistancing conservative book sales. Poor people are just plain lazy, so they say, and they don’t need government help. Women’s care clinics don’t need buffer zones, so they say, so what if patients are threatened, shamed and harassed.

Obama last week said he wasn’t going to apologize for his use of executive power, dismissing a planned lawsuit by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as nothing more than a campaign ploy, a stunt.

In a memo addressed to colleagues earlier last week, Boehner officially announced he would introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would authorize the House General Counsel to sue the Obama administration and compel the president to enforce existing law. Boehner named health care, energy, foreign policy and education as areas where the president had repeatedly run an end-around on the American people.

“You notice that he didn’t specifically say what exactly he was objecting to,” Obama said in an ABC-TV interview. “I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing.”

Often stymied by a recalcitrant Congress, Obama declared 2014 a “year of action” and issued executive orders on immigration, the federal minimum wage and federal pay discrimination. The Environmental Protection Agency further plans to unveil unprecedented regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Progressive economist Paul Krugman recently noted that the ACA had receded from the front page. Good news keeps coming in but much less is being said about it.

“Indeed, health reform has been on a roll ever since March,” Krugman wrote, “when it became clear that enrollment would surpass expectations despite the teething problems of the federal website.”

The Republicans have been wrong on every distinct dire prediction.

“And let’s be clear: While it has been funny watching the right-wing cling to its delusions about health reform, it’s also scary,” Krugman wrote. “After all, these people retain considerable ability to engage in policy mischief, and one of these days they may regain the White House. And you really, really don’t want people who reject facts they don’t like in that position. I mean, they might do unthinkable things, like starting a war for no good reason. Oh, wait.”

Big companies are finding out about the power of ACA. A giant food service company unexpectedly reversed course recently after bumping thousands of college cafeteria workers from its health plan earlier this year and pointing a finger at Obama’s overhaul.

Sodexo’s experience could serve as a cautionary tale for other employers trying to pin benefit reductions on ACA. The company’s cutbacks fueled a union organizing drive and campus protests.

Whitehouse spokeswoman Erin Donar said in a statement: “Nothing in the Affordable Care Act requires an employer to eliminate health coverage for any employees or penalizes an employer for offering health coverage to all employees. An employer that eliminates health coverage is doing so by choice, not by requirement.”

It has been a little more than two weeks since Hillary’s book hit the shelves, and she’s already getting hit for a “disappointing” rollout. Critics say her book is “bombing” and sales are “tanking.” Those reports come from news outlets and conservative blogs that don’t let a few facts stand in the way of their stories.

Sales figures for “Hard Choices,” compared with sales of books penned by potential Republican presidential hopefuls, tell a different story. According to Nielsen BookScan data, Clinton has sold almost 135,000 copies of her new memoir.

Republicans who have similarly aimed to boost their profile with a book, including senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, have paled in comparison.

Pew Research Center has released a study detailing the American public’s deep-seated political divisions, analyzing not just the ideological disunity between the left and right wings but also the issues dividing the large political center.

Rather than just defining voters as liberal or conservative, the study breaks up voters into groups “based on their attitudes and values.” Liberals, for example, could be “next generation left” or “solid liberals,” while voters on the right are broken down as “steadfast conservatives,” “business conservatives,” or “young outsiders.”

Among the survey’s most striking findings, according to news reports, is that about 80 percent of conservatives agree that “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.” Meanwhile, more than half of conservatives believe that an individual’s poverty is based on “lack of effort” rather than circumstances beyond their control.

The belief that such assistance breeds overreliance on government is a key component of Republican arguments against programs like food stamps, with lawmakers condemning what they call the “culture of permanent dependency” and holding up individuals like Fox News’ “food stamp surfer” as examples of typical beneficiaries.

The conservative bent of the Supreme Court continues to vex liberal beliefs and endeavors. The court recently ruled on McCullen v. Coakley, striking down a Massachusetts law requiring protesters to stay at least 35 feet from an abortion clinic’s entrance and walkways. In a unanimous opinion, the court held that such buffer zones violate First Amendment free speech rights.

Massachusetts is beefing up security around abortion clinics and scrambling for a legal fix after the ruling. Several cities have deployed extra police to clinics, and abortion-provider Planned Parenthood said it was training new “patient escorts” to help women through protests if needed.

Eleanor McCullen, the lead plaintiff in the case, is a member of the anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue who argued the buffer zone violates her First Amendment right to free speech. Earlier this year, she told NPR, “I should be able to walk and talk gently, lovingly, anywhere with anybody.”

But abortion clinic escorts, owners and patient advocates say the protesters are anything but gentle. Pro-choice backers believe violence will increase.

Interestingly, the very group of justices that made the decision is protected by a buffer zone.

5 Men Control Lives of Millions of Women

Hobby Lobby won in the Supreme Court. Women lost in the Supreme Court.

And who knows what will happen in subsequent, related rulings. This case creates many questions, from the importance of appointing life-time justices to what else can a boss tell an employee about health insurance coverage, like transfusions, vaccines and even simply covering a tonsillectomy. Don’t laugh. Believers of Christian Science and Jehovah’s Witnesses reject medical attention in favor of prayer.

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the court ruled Monday 5-4 that closely held corporations can’t be required to provide contraception coverage for their employees. Just think, by the margin of a single vote millions of women will encounter problems with their health care. Five men voted that way. Five men against all those women.

So what is a closely held corporation? It’s one that has only a limited number of shareholders. Basically, the term covers as much as 90 percent of all businesses.

The ruling is likely to invite a string of pernicious consequences in which employees’ rights become secondary. The impact will go far beyond contraceptives and the companies involved.

It’s also important to note that the business owners’ objections were not to contraception, per se, but to abortion. They argued that four types of contraception required to be covered amounted to abortion.

The court ruled that the Obama administration had failed to show that the contraception mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act was the “least restrictive means of advancing its interest” in providing birth control at no cost to women.

Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned craft supply chain store, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Store, a Pennsylvania wood manufacturer owned by a family of Mennonites, had challenged the contraception mandate on the grounds that it violated their religious freedom by requiring them to pay for methods of contraception they found morally objectionable. The owners of those companies believe some forms of birth control — emergency contraception and intrauterine devices — are forms of abortion because they could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

The ACA contains a provision requiring most employers to cover the full range of contraception in their health care plans at no cost to their female employees. The Obama administration had granted an exemption for churches and accommodations for religious hospitals, schools and nonprofits, but for-profit companies were required to comply with the coverage rule or pay fines.

The court ruled that since the exemption already existed for religious institutions, there was no good reason for the government to prevent for-profit corporations owned or controlled by people with religious beliefs from claiming the exemption as well.

The opinion was written narrowly so as only to apply to the contraception mandate, not to religious employers who object to other medical services, like blood transfusions or vaccines. But the four liberal justices argued in their dissent that the ruling will have far-reaching implications, allowing commercial enterprises to “opt out of any law” to which they morally object.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a blistering 35-page dissent, lambasting the majority opinion as “a decision of startling breadth” that would allow corporations to opt out of any law they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs. Ginsburg’s opinion reasons that religious groups exist to serve the explicit interests of their adherents, while for-profit companies serve a fundamentally different purpose. Bucking the majority, Ginsburg sides with the Obama administration’s claim that for-profit companies do not possess religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

To further illustrate her floodgates point, Ginsburg cited retired Justice John Paul Stevens’ opinion in the 2010 campaign finance ruling Citizens United v. FEC that claimed corporations “have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.”

Ginsburg concluded, “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield by its immoderate reading of RFRA.”

From a conflicting perspective, a boss shouldn’t be able to decide whether you get access to birth control coverage. Studies show that 99 percent of women, including moms, use birth control at some point in their lives.

But the five male justices believe otherwise. It should go without saying that elections have consequences, far beyond a four-year political term. Supreme Court justices are appointed for life. The most influence a President can have on America is through the appointment of one or more justices.

Between the President’s ability to appoint and the Senate’s ability to approve, you can see why the progressives are worried about the mid-term election. Is the base fired up enough to go to the polls? Women certainly have reason to make a huge effort. Democrats sing their tune. If the right wing-nuts gain control of both houses, the balance of power immediately shifts. After all, everyone knows about how the five men voted on the Supreme Court.

The 2014 election could prove one of the most important in decades. Ginsburg is 79. Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are both 76. Stephen Breyer is 70.

The Supreme Court’s authority is vast, but its composition is borderline random. Bill Clinton, in his eight years as president, filled two vacancies on the Supreme Court — the same number as George H. W. Bush in his four years as president. Dwight Eisenhower filled five vacancies in his two terms, while Ronald Reagan filled three, and George W. Bush filled two. Gerald Ford was in office for only 2½ years and appointed one to the bench; Jimmy Carter was in office for 4 years and appointed no one.

Upset with the ruling, Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, said, “Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will.” She is conferring on several bills to offset the ruling.

Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said he would introduce a bill requiring corporations that were newly exempted from the contraception mandate to disclose their coverage policy to employees and job applicants.

There’s something else here. Is there not constitutional law about the separation of church and state?

Is it too far out to assume that a Ku Klux Klan restaurant owner can claim that his religious beliefs don’t recognize the rights of blacks?

Oh well.

Sports Notes Start With a Bounce

With Andrew Wiggins going No. 1 in the NBA draft and Joel Embiid No. 3, the Kansas Jayhawks picked up some good pub.

The selections also point out how much KU missed a leader at guard last season. Of course, the back injury to Embiid certainly played a factor in the drive down the stretch.

Cleveland took Wiggins, who has showcased an ability to defend multiple positions, an explosive secondary jump around the rim and a knack for finishing with aplomb in transition. The criticism remains that he wasn’t assertive enough to take advantage of his physical gifts. In KU”s NCAA tournament loss to Stanford, he scored just four points and attempted only six shots. Yahoo! Sports gave the selection an A grade.

Espn analyst Jay Bilas had Embiid as a No. 1 pick, no matter the injuries. So did I. Had he not added to concerns about his lingering back problems by also fracturing his right foot last week, he had a good chance of being selected No. 1. The Philadelphia 76ers tabbed him in the third spot. ESPN showed an analysis where Embiid compared very favorably to Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon — and not just because they both grew up in Africa, Olajuwon in Nigeria and Embiid in Cameroon, just south of Nigeria. Yahoo! Sports also gave this move an A grade.

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If the draft had been a horse race, I would have boxed the trifecta of Wiggins, Embiid and Jabari Parker, who went second to the Milwaukee Bucks.

I was two spots off on Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State. I thought he would go No. 4 but Aaron Gordon went to Orlando and Dante Exum went No. 5 to Utah. However, Smart got a good spot with the sixth pick to Boston.

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I wondered just where Doug McDermott, the Creighton all-American, would land. He wound up with the Chicago Bulls in the 11th spot. The Nuggets made the pick for the Bulls as part of the deal that sent the 16th and 19th picks to the Sixers.

He was college basketball’s national player of the year. He scored more than 3,000 points in his career with catch-and-shoot 3s or high- and low-post baskets set up by his ability to use screens. McDermott’s offensive game should translate fine in the NBA even against taller, longer, more athletic defenders. Yahoo! Sports liked this deal, too, giving it an A grade.

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The Royals have won only three of their last 10 games. Many times they didn’t hit. Sometimes they didn’t pitch. Most of the time, they lacked the winning edge, that inexplicable, mystifying ability to do the right thing in certain situations.

Take the 5-4 loss last Wednesday to the Dodgers. Many facets to the loss. Sometimes subtle, but always hurtful. Alcides Escobar was at the plate in the sixth inning with two on and no one out in a 4-4 game. He’s usually a superb bunter but this time his sacrifice attempt failed. He couldn’t execute on two pitches and swung away with two strikes, finally popping out to the second baseman. Jerrod Dyson then struck out and Brett Hayes grounded into a fielder’s choice. End of a chance to regain the lead.

More of the same in the top of the eighth. Wade Davis relieved James Shields, who had been shaky most of the game. Davis, much bally-hooed for his season-long performance, allowed the Dodgers to fill the bases. And what did he do then? Hit a batter. Yeah, hit him. The Dodgers took the lead 5-4.

A bad continuation. In the bottom of the ninth, Dyson, who had hit a solo homer earlier, once again struck out. Omar Infante singled and Pedro Ciriaco ran for him and stole second in a close play. Lorenzo Cain slashed a liner toward right but Adrian Gonzalez snow-coned it and flipped to second for the double play, ending the game. Ciriaco should know better. You hang tight at the base on a line drive to see what happens.

As the song goes, little things mean a lot.

Just look at the 5-4 victory for the Royals Sunday over the visiting Los Angeles Angels. After failing to execute time after time, they took advantage of a hit batsman and the Angels’ failure to execute a double play in the ninth inning. With runners at first and third and one out, Infante, becoming a clutch hitter, singled to left for the first walk-off victory this season for the Royals.

But look at the Royals’ lack of execution and production:
• Cain, who went 4 for 5 in the game, and Dyson seemed confused on a fly to right center with two outs in the first inning. Seemingly distracted by Dyson’s closeness, Cain dropped the ball to allow a run to score.
• With one out in the second inning, Infante tried to reach third on a single by Danny Valencia but was thrown out.
• In the third inning, Kole Calhoun grounded the ball between first and second and the far-ranging Hosmer grabbed it but threw wildly to pitcher Jeremy Guthrie covering. Calhoun went to second and then to third on a double play grounder, a play that would have ended the inning. Josh Hamilton’s double drove in Calhoun.
• Escobar tried to steal third with two outs in the fifth inning but was thrown out — the hot-hitting Cain was at bat.
• Cain led off the sixth inning with a double but the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters all struck out — Hosmer, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon.
• In the eighth, Escobar led off with a single but Dyson couldn’t get down a sacrifice bunt and the chance to get a rally fizzled.

A wonderful ninth for the Royals, but don’t overlook the lack of execution.

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Cameron Coffman, the much traveled quarterback from Raymore-Peculiar High, is now at Wyoming with another year of eligibility. He started at Arizona Western Community College, went to Indiana and now is with the Cowboys.

The NCAA rules are so weird but he has managed to take advantage.

You may recall Wyoming hired Craig Bohl as coach after last season. He was the head man at North Dakota State, the team that beat Kansas State 24-21 in the opener last season.

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Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams will be featured in this year’s edition of ESPN The Magazine’s The Body Issue, hitting stands July 11.

LPGA tour players have been into that for some time. They have filled many a photo gallery of late. Norwegian Suzann Petterson has made nude shots. Sandra Gal doubles as a fashion model.

Oh, and this. Michelle Wie, after winning the U.S. Open had a good time drinking beer out of the trophy cup and then twerking to celebrate. You can see it on the internet.