How Do You Like the NBA So Far?

You paying any attention to the NBA? The KC Star is running some stories but still no box scores. How interested are the sports guys there?

Management wants you to log in to the website to pick up the box scores. I have a better idea. Why not get the good stuff from a site like Vegas Insider. You will get the full background on the games, plus get an insight on the point spread. Of course, those who bet no doubt have their favorite sites.

So how is the betting going? If you have been betting the home favorite during the playoffs, you are taking it in the shorts. The HFs are 23-30.

Here are my matchups for the semifinals.

Team PR PPR HF HD RF RD W-L PF PA
Atlanta 5.5 2.5 2-5-0   2-3-0 2-0-0 8-6 99 97
Cleveland 4.5 7.2 2-4-0   2-1-0 3-1-0 11-2 99 92
Golden State 8.5 7.6 2-5-0   3-3-0 1-0-0 11-3 104 97
Houston 3.5 -2.1 4-3-0 3-0-0 0-1-0 4-2-0 9-8 108 110

Legend: PR–Power Rating, PPR–Playoff Power Rating, HF–Home Favorite, HD–Home Dog, RD–Road Dog, PF–Points For, PA–Points Against.

Cleveland’s regular season power rating is more skewed than the others because of various injuries and the availability of LaBron James.

When the NBA gets down to the playoffs, I get more interested. During the regular season, teams have a tendency to glide.

The season should be over sometime in June. Then you can get ready for next season with the NBA draft. Here’s Sports Illustrated’s take on the draft. I picked and chose to use their elaboration on certain players.

  1. Minnesota. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 6-11, 250. Polished post player who also thrives at the free-throw line. The chance to send Towns to Kevin Garnett College for a year has to be appealing to the Timberwolves, too.
  2. Los Angeles Lakers. Jahil Okafor, Duke, 6-11, 270. Somewhere, Kobe Bryant is smiling. In Okafor, the Lakers get an NBA-ready center who can score in the post and should be a strong complement to returning power forward Julius Randle. Okafor won’t transform the Lakers  into title contenders, but Randle coupled with a free agent signing could help the Lakers compete for a playoff spot next year.
  3. Philadelphia. Emmanuel Mudiay, China, 6-5, 190.
  4. New York. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State, 6-5, 180.
  5. Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia, 6-11, 209.
  6. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 7-0, 234. Too high for Kaminsky? First you have to identify what his major flaws are. Kaminsky is a smooth shooting big who can score off the dribble and from beyond the three-point line. The Kings have a gaping hole at power forward, and Kaminsky could complement DeMarcus Cousins. There are issues defensively, but few better scoring options for George Karl’s offense.
  7. Justise Winslow, Duke, 6-6, 225.
  8. Stanley Johnson, Arizona, 6-7, 245.
  9. Devin Booker, Kentucky, 6-6, 206.
  10. Myles Turner, Texas, 6-11, 240. Tantalizing talent. He’s long, blocks shots and has three-point potential. He’s a stretch-five prospect. He’s also a superior defender with excellent timing, scouts say. His agent attempted to quell fears about his awkward gait at the combine by putting Turner through a battery of tests beforehand. If sold, teams might jump at the chance to grab a player with such high potential.
  11. Mario Hezonja, Croatia, 6-8, 201.
  12. Trey Lyles, Kentucky, 6-10, 235.
  13. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7-0, 240. The Suns would love an offensive-oriented big to fall to them here. Cauley-Stein is limited offensively, but he is a versatile defender who can help solve the Suns’ rebounding problems. And he is the most NBA-ready big man in the draft.
  14. Oklahoma City. Cameron Payne, Murray State, 6-2, 180. There was a measurable buzz around Payne at the draft combine in Chicago, with executives seeing a natural playmaker who blends scoring and distributing well. Payne is a little undersized, but the Thunder can patiently develop what could be a quality backup to Russell Westbrook.
  15. Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6-11, 240.
  16. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6-9, 220. Some intriguing freshmen are on the board here—Kevon Looney and Kelly Oubre—that could appeal to Celtics GM Danny Ainge. For now, pencil in Dekker, who tested extremely well athletically at the combine and, more important, shot well from three-point range. Dekker has an NBA body that executives love.
  17. R.J. Hunter, Georgia State, 6-6, 190. A postseason appearance accelerated Milwaukee’s youth movement, but there are still holes. The Bucks need a pivot, though drafting a five here would be a stretch. Expect Milwaukee to grab a swingman like Hunter, one of the draft’s best shooters, a nice fit to develop behind Khris Middleton.
  18. Kelly Oubre, Kansas, 6-7, 200. Raw and struggled last season in the role as Andrew Wiggins’ replacement. But he has tremendous physical tools and a shooting stroke scouts like a lot. In time, Oubre could develop into an elite defender. Oubre is likely destined for the D-League next season, but the Rockets have enough depth to wait for him to develop.
  19. Kevin Looney, UCLA, 6-9, 220.
  20. Tyus Jones, Duke, 6-1, 190. Among the most impressive players in interviews at the combine, showing uncanny polish, a demeanor that mirrors his play on the floor. the Raptors targeted a point guard in the first round last season—Phoenix grabbed Tyler Ennis before they could—and will target the same this year.
  21. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6-8, 240.
  22. Christian Wood, UNLV, 6-11, 220.
  23. Rashad Vaughn, UNLV, 6-6, 210.
  24. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona, 6-6, 220.
  25. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, 6-5, 202.
  26. San Antonio. Justin Anderson, Virginia, 6-6, 227.
  27. Lakers (via Houston). Delon Wright, Utah, 6-5, 190.
  28. Aleksandar Vezenkov, Bulgaria, 6-9, 225.
  29. Chris McCullough, Syracuse, 6-10, 220.
  30. Golden State. Jarell Martin, LSU, 6-10, 236.

TGIF, So Take Time to Laugh a Little

Kevin was a single guy living at home with his father and working in the family business. When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his ill father died, he  decided he needed to find a wife with whom to share his fortune.

One evening, at an investment meeting, he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Her natural beauty took his breath away.

“I  may look like just an ordinary guy,” he said to her, “but in  just a few months my father will die and I will inherit $200 million.”

Impressed, the woman asked for his business card and three days later, she became his stepmother.

Women are so much better at financial planning than men.

——

Ah, the wonderful Irish. Here a couple of stories to let you know why.

The first:

A group of American tourists went into a pub in Cork, Ireland. One of the Americans said, in a loud voice, “I hear you Irish think you’re great drinkers. I bet 5,000 Euros that no-one here can drink 30 pints of Guinness in 30 minutes.”

The bar was silent; the American noticed one Irishman leaving; no-one took up the bet.

About 40 minutes later the Irishman who left returned and said, “Hey Yank, is your wee bet still on?”

“Sure” said the American, “30 pints in 30 minutes for a bet of 5,000 Euros.”

“Grand, ” replied the Irishman, “so pour the pints and start the clock.”

It was very close but the last drop was consumed with just a few seconds to spare.

“OK Yank, pay up,” said the Irishman.

“I’m happy to pay; here’s your money,” said the American.

“But tell me, when I first offered the wager I saw you leave. Where did you go?’

The Irishman replied, “Well, sir, 5,000 Euros is a lot of money to a man like me, so I went to the pub across the road to see if I could do it.”

The second:

John O’Reilly hoisted his beer and said, “Here’s to spending the rest of me life between the legs of me wife!”

That won him the top prize at the pub for the best toast of the night!

He went home and told his wife, Mary, “I won the prize for the best toast of the night.”

She said, “Aye, did ye now. And what was your toast?”

He replied, “Here’s to spending the rest of me life, sitting in church beside me wife.”

“Oh, that is very nice indeed, John!” Mary said.

The next day, Mary ran into one of John’s drinking buddies on the street corner. The man chuckled leeringly and said, “John won the prize the other night at the pub with a toast about you, Mary.”

She said, “Aye, he told me, and I was a bit surprised myself. You know, he’s only been in there twice in the last four years. Once I had to pull him by the ears to make him come, and the other time he fell asleep.”

——

How to install a southern home security system;

  1. Go to Goodwill and buy a pair of size 14-16 men’s work boots.
  2. Place them on your front porch, along with a copy of Guns & Ammo Magazine.
  3. Put four giant dog dishes next to the boots and magazines.
  4. Leave a note on your door that reads: Me and Marcel, Virgil, Ezra, T-Bone and Jimmy Earl went for more ammo and a gallon of sweet tea. Be back in an hour. Don’t mess with the pit bulls. They got the mailman this morning and messed him up bad. I don’t think Killer took part, but it was hard to tell from all the blood. Anyway, I locked all four of ’em in the house. Better wait outside. Be right back. Bubba

——

From the senior citizen email bag with the perks and events of reaching old age:

  • Kidnappers are not very interested in you.
  • People call at 9 p.m. and ask, “Did I wake you?”
  • People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.
  • There is nothing left to learn the hard way.
  • Things you buy now won’t wear out.
  • You can eat supper at 5 p.m.
  • You can live without sex but not your glasses.
  • You get into heated arguments about pension plans.
  • You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.
  • You sing along with elevator music.
  • Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
  • Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.
  • Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.
  • Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size.
  • You can’t remember who sent you this list.

And this admonition: Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night!

——

A sad, sad senior tale.

She was single and living right across the street. Bill could see her place from his kitchen window.

One evening, he watched as she got home from work. He was surprised when she walked across the street, up his driveway and knocked on the door.

Larry opened the door. She looked at him and said, “I just got home, and I have this strong urge to have a good time, dance, get drunk, and get laid tonight! Are you doing anything?”

His eyes wide he quickly replied, “Nope, I’m free!”

She said, “Great!” A pause and then she said, “Could you watch my dog?!”

——

The other night Larry was sitting on the sofa watching TV when he heard his wife’s voice from the kitchen: “What would you like for dinner, my love?  Chicken, beef or lamb?”

Larry answered, “Thank you, dear, I think I’ll have chicken.”

She replied, “You’re having soup, asshole. I was talking to the cat!”

——

Those ol’ farm boys really are quick on their feet.

At a high school in North Dakota, a group of male students let three goats loose inside the school. But before turning them loose, they painted numbers on the sides of the goats: 1, 2 and 4.

School Administrators spent most of the day looking for No. 3.

Government Can Help Those In Need

Many years ago, a conservative looked me in the eye and said: “I can tell if you are a conservative or a liberal by asking the question, do you believe government can help you?” Of course, we all know the answer.

That’s a pretty darn narrow definition.

I must really be a leftist because I believe the government can really help the country. Education, infrastructure, defense, health, regulation, law enforcement. Yeah, I would say those are important items that so many conservatives overlook when screaming and hollering about how the government spends so much money.

Insert welfare into the equation, however, and folks of all political persuasions go ballistic. Unfortunately, too often those who denigrate welfare overlook the needs of families — if not for the adults, at least for the children.

Some critics rationalize that they don’t hate welfare but that they hate welfare abuse. Don’t we all. You can hear so many say they have no problem with helping a person who’s down on his luck but then they say, “When you hear about third generation welfare families, there is a problem. When you hear about a family on welfare living it up better than a family that’s working, that’s a problem. Welfare is there to help us out when we are down, not to be a permanent solution.”

Do these people want to be in their culture of poverty or do societal directives keep them there? Ask yourself if you could live on $250 or so each week!

The question also might be asked: Just how wide-spread is welfare abuse? Many anecdotes, few incidents of empirical evidence.

The Scandinavian welfare system receives high marks by their residents. The only people in Scandinavia who are against the welfare system are those at the top of society.

However, in America, Great Britain and Germany, the vast majority of people hate the idea of welfare.

Obviously, the Scandinavians espouse a more liberal philosophy. And they seem to live quite well.

Meanwhile, so many families are living in poverty in America. Yeah, affluent America.

So why are so many against helping those in need? Close to home, in Missouri and Kansas, state legislators labor furiously to put more hurt on the poor, the disenfranchised, the infirm.

Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback and his conservative cronies are trying to pull themselves out of a deep hole they dug when they pushed their ill-advised tax-cutting program, one that really has hurt those in need.

Ann Mah, a Democratic activist in Topeka, said in her newsletter: It is becoming more evident that the Governor’s policies on food stamps and cash assistance are having a negative impact on Kansas families and kids. Over the last five years the number of families enrolled in cash assistance has dropped by nearly 60 percent, from 14,200 in 2010 to 6,200.  The Governor said the drop was due to the parents finding jobs, but the truth is that the state just made it more difficult to get help.

Kansas is setting records for the number of children in foster care.  The state is actively recruiting foster parents, anticipating more children will wind up in foster care as families cannot afford food or housing.  The state government is also working on a communications plan to notify food pantries and homeless shelters that they will likely get more business soon.

One of the most serious setbacks for residents of Kansas and Missouri is the refusal to expand Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. Neither Missouri nor Kansas elected to participate.

The failure to enroll is costing Missouri $2.2 billion and Kansas $950 million in federal funds. The result is a squeeze on hospital budgets and needy residents. Under the ACA, the federal government picks up the costs of the expansion through the first three years, and then its share gradually drops to 90 percent.

The economic and human costs of conservatives’ ideological crusade against the ACA is difficult to overstate. Missouri and Kansas aren’t just rejecting an opportunity to expand coverage; ACA assumed that expanding Medicaid would dramatically reduce the number of uninsured patients showing up at emergency rooms for treatment they couldn’t afford, so it cut funding for hospitals that treat large numbers of these patients. Without those federal dollars coming in, a number of hospitals that serve low-income populations in refusing states have already been shuttered.

In Missouri, the failure to expand Medicaid has left hospitals with a $1.1 billion tab for uncompensated care costs.

There’s also the point of job creation, or loss. A thousand health-care jobs have been slashed in Missouri because of the failure of the legislature to act. Experts have shown how expansion would help create 24,000 jobs in Missouri. For every dollar that Missouri invests in Medicaid expansion, $13.41 in federal funds would flow into the state.

Expanding Medicaid likely would generate state savings and revenues that exceed expansion costs.

In Kansas, the budget battle appears more like a war on those in poverty. Brownback is shoveling away at various revenue plots to see if any of them will yield a way out of a mess that he created. He’s championing a plan to raise Kansas’ sales tax and repeal an income tax break. But even his GOP cronies in the legislature are split and influential business groups oppose it.

The Assessment and Taxation Committee’s plan would raise $496 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1 to close a projected budget shortfall and leave the state with a small financial cushion. The measure also would increase tobacco and gasoline taxes.

The state’s projected budget shortfall of $406 million for the next fiscal year arose after legislators cut personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging.

The key issues for Republicans are how much to increase the state’s 6.15 percent sales tax and whether to backtrack on a 2012 policy exempting the profits of 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers from income taxes. Brownback pushed for the exemption, and he and business groups saw it as an economic stimulus.

Various surveys and reports by economic think tanks show that the poorest Americans pay nearly 11 percent of their income in taxes. By comparison, the wealthiest pay only a 5.4-percent tax share.

Of the three main forms of state taxes—sales, property, and income—the sales tax hurts the poor most. State sales taxes are highly regressive; that is, they end up taking a bigger chunk of change from people that have smaller sums of money and slower income growth.

Dude, You Are Indeed Rude

Maybe people are just being rude. Well, it could be that they are following the words of the inimitable Howard Cosell: Tell it like it is.

For example, I came across this anecdote the other day on the internet. A young, sexy gal was talking about a bummer dates and said, “It’s like winding up with a guy who has undescended testicles.” Ouch. That’s cutting.

Well, you no longer describe rude as simply seeing a grizzled old varmint spittin’ and missin’ the spittoon.

Through the years, rude has varied from culture to culture, era to era and generation to generation.

We have a tendency to frame everything into what’s happening now, forgetting the discourtesies of yesteryear. It’s similar to what those who hark back to the perceived halcyon years of the 1950s. Well, white guys liked it better then because women and blacks felt the lashes of bigotry and subjugation.

The social media crowd gets much of the blame today for the professed increase in rudeness. There’s a certain anonymity in typing on a cell phone or a computer, instead of conversing face-to-face.

In a response to an internet blog, one person wrote:  “Anonymity really brings out the bad in people in my opinion. There are ‘trolls’ who enjoy riling people up and purposefully make comments that will cause anger and confusion. I think the internet offers a venue unlike any other before because a lot of people see it as a consequence-free way to say things they would never say out loud or to someone they knew personally. It’s a lot easier to insult someone when you’re not within punching distance.”

The insults come fast and furiously on Facebook. Maybe the insensitivity evolves with the constant use of digital devices. Texting is an addiction, pure and simple. Watch young people today and see how intense they are thumbing the keyboard on their cell phones. How can they be courteous if they don’t even look up to acknowledge you exist. No eye contact, no hello, no nothing.

I have seen studies that say the dealers in pornography greased the fast-track for digital devices, from computers to cell phones. They fill cyberspace with lots of skin. Dirty and obscene pictures and comments? Oh yeah. Wait, is that rude? Or lewd?

Rude behavior surfaces in many ways and many places. I find rudeness on the highways and byways probably more than in any other venue.

Road construction has been going on at Highway 71 near the 87th Street turnoff since the Battle of Westport. Anyway, if you want to see rudeness, aggressive rudeness, then this is your place of vigilance. Here you are, courteous, getting in line at the proper time. And there come the mad dashers bullying their way between cars. Do they really save that much time? Can’t they just move over at the proper time? Yeah, road rage. That’s the acme of rude, right!

You don’t have to be driving to anger someone. How about the big vehicle that takes up two spaces in a crowded parking lot!

Oh so many areas of rude behavior. It’s difficult to categorize smart-ass.

No tact. No graciousness.

How about this one when a woman sees another in a new outfit: I wouldn’t be caught dead in that.

Here are some shots:

  • It’s pointless to make fun of you because it will take you the rest of the day to figure it out.
  • I’m condescending? Do you even know what that means?
  • Look, lady, shouldn’t you be in the kitchen?
  • Hey, sweetheart, you better hope you marry rich.
  • She says guys are like parking lots — all the good ones are taken and the rest are handicapped.
  • The thin guy looks at an overweight man in the elevator and says, “It looks like you traded in your neck for an extra chin.

Even famous folks have shown an acerbic tongue. Abraham Lincoln once said of a foe: He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of anyone I know. Then there was the legendary one by Winston Churchill: You have all the virtues I despise and none of the vices I admire.

Inter-racial conflicts create considerable hate speech and ethnic slurs. Politics offer an atmosphere of basic rude.

Check these out:

  • Using derogatory terms to describe a person (saying that a person is stupid, fat, or ugly).
  • Discouraging a person’s participation in a conversation with phrases such as “shut up” or excluding someone from a conversation.
  • Ordering people over whom one has no legitimate authority.
  • Bullying, bigotry, hypocrisy, boasting, harassing.
  • Nose, ear or belly button picking in public.
  • Turning up the volume on TVs, radios and boom boxes.
  • Temper tantrums.

President Obama stands as a metaphor for victims of rude behavior. So much hate creates so much ill will. The cruel posters, the bitter and vindictive diatribes, the dreadful jokes. They speak volumes about how people have lowered respectful discourse into ill-mannered affronts.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S. Carolina, shouted “You lie” during Obama’s health care speech to Congress. The good was that members of both parties condemned the heckling. After the speech, even Wilson issued a statement apologizing for his outburst.

However, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, provides the most vindictive and wrong-headed comments about Obama. He claimed the Obama administration appointed three different ambassadors to the Vatican that were pro-abortion. The administration has appointed two ambassadors to the Vatican, and neither supports abortion rights.

Then he called the Commander Chief the Barney Fife in combating terrorism.

Gohmert is a man who professes to be Christian. But his tongue speaks with venom. He is steeped in rude. He could make strawberry shortcake taste bitter.

I guess being rude is relative. Are we more rude than the Romans during the empire days? Or what about the British during the American Revolution? Or the German Gestapo and Japanese officers in concentration camps? They were more than rude. They were ruthless. Being rude at the dinner table is not the same as ethnic cleansing.

Too many acts deserve words like impolite, discourteous, uncivil and ill-behaved. Just plain rude.

Anyway, so, you, over there, watch your manners.

Dressing Up Seems Out of Style

Bet you’re one of those guys who frowns, grimaces and moans about putting on a suit and tie. You’re one of them, aren’t you. So what do you gals think of a guy who eschews the suit and goes sloppy casual?

While traveling by plane awhile back, I reminisced about how people dressed up to get on a jet. Yeah, they really did. Now you see baggy shorts, tail-out shirts and tennies worn by these travelers.

And dinner out! I recall folks used to dress up to go to a nice restaurant. I was at Jasper’s one evening recently and a family of five strolled in. Dad wore khaki shorts, Mom had capri pants and a loose blouse while wearing flip-flops and the kids wore shorts and tank tops.

Hey, is all that wrong? Guess not. It’s just that I miss the days of dressing up, looking nice.

I used to have a snapshot of my dad standing on a corner, a three-piece suit and a cigarette squeezed between his fingers. He told me that he was 18 when the photo was taken. It was the only suit he had. He was on the corner simply looking for action, maybe someone to tell him where a Catholic wedding was scheduled so he could get a bite to eat and a drink. He didn’t have one red cent in his pocket. But he looked nice.

As a kid, I never had much in the way of in clothes. Instead of Levis, I wore baggy-pants jeans purchased at Montgomery Wards. Instead of fashionable shirts, I wore cotton flannels. I thought Thom McAn shoes were a big step up.

This one time I had to wear a hand-me-down pair of gray wool slacks and I thought I was going to die. I scratched until red streaks criss-crossed my legs. I never knew that wool pants could have liners in them. But I learned. Yes I did.

I discovered how to overcome the itchy-scratchy when I had to wear a suit while selling women’s shoes at the Holiday store downtown. I was working my way through junior college and I found that this part-time job was a good way to get money. Baker’s was the more popular fast-floor shoe store at the time but I did just fine at Holiday.

I had to lay out a year from school to build up savings. I wanted to go to Mizzou to become a foreign correspondent. Well, heck, in your youth you set your sights high. Anyway, I became a full-timer at Holiday for a year.

Funny things happen at women’s shoe store. Well, maybe not funny but darn interesting, intriguing and ironic. I met my wife there. Yep. She looked good as she came in with her mother and another woman. She wanted a particular shoe in the window and, being a good salesman, I knew all the styles but after measuring her foot I was in trouble. No size for her. I went back to the stock shelves and pulled out shoes that resembled the one she wanted. Gotta switch her mind, I told myself.

Uh-huh. She told me in no uncertain terms these weren’t what she wanted. I smiled and said I would see if I could find a pair somewhere else. I knew we were out. So, I took a drag on a cigarette that I had laid on the ash tray — I smoked in those days but I wised up soon after I finished college.

Sheepishly, I stood before her and said, “I’m sorry but I couldn’t find that shoe for you. But we’re expecting another shipment soon and if you would give me your telephone number, I would be glad to call you.” Of course there was no shipment coming. Oh, I was so clever. I got a phone number.

So off to Mizzou we went. I found a job at the Novus Shop in Columbia. High fashion, from Capezio to Andrew Geller to Old Maine Trotters to Schiaparelli. Marriage, job, school. A triumvirate of stress.

I needed another suit and really didn’t have the money. But I saw a sale at Woolf Brothers. As a kid I used to spend a lot of time in downtown KC and I used to walk by Woolf Brothers and see the suits and shoes in the display window. Hickey Freeman suits, Johnston Murphy shoes. Who could afford those prices, I would ask myself. Well, Columbia had a store, too, and I made a move to buy a suit. I bought a Beatles-style suit — black linen and tight-fitting — and a corduroy one.

My bosses frowned at the styles but they liked how I sold lots of shoes for them. Lots. Stephens College students flocked to the Novus Store. They were called Susies and the college was more of a finishing school back then. I could tell a Susie from a Mizzou coed with one look after school had gone on for a couple of months. They had a way about them.

Just before my graduation, the store ran a sale and I made $320 that week. At 7 percent commission, just figure how many shoes I sold. I laugh now because the KC Star offered me $98 a week to come to work.

What times.

Anyway, I still didn’t have much money to spend on good clothes. But I found a way. I had gone to Manhattan, Kansas, to work and became friends with the manager at Woody’s, a clothing store in Aggieville. The Woody’s look became fashionable in the Midwest with Sports Illustrated even alluding to the neat, no-edginess look in a story on Mizzou.

At the time, I was a perfect size 40, one used by wholesalers to demo their wares. The manager would alert me to a deal and I wound up with some great buys, including accessories on Gant shirts and Bert Pulitzer ties. I had so many Gant shirts that I wore them to cut the grass — my work shirts.

In those days, most sportswriters dressed up, but I really dressed up and felt good doing so.

Nowadays, the only time I see fashion, it seems, is when the NBA and NFL hold their drafts. Some of the outfits are too far out for me but I like them better than I do t-shirts and baggy pants.

I’m not into Armani or Versace, but I like fashion. In retirement, I look at Polo ads and admire the style. Now, Polo is the Woody’s look to me. My fashion wear today? Anything for the golf course.

The Star Shines Less These Days

The Kansas City Star continues to raise rates and yet cuts back on producing a superior product. Reports persist that advertisers are looking for alternative ways to push their wares. That recreates the theory about why pour more money into a company offering less bang for your buck.

Last month, the Star’s management offered every employee in the newsroom a severance package. That’s not a good sign, huh.

Is management cutting back on full-time personnel so they can offer contracts instead of salaries? Of course that could be done to limit benefits and release personnel without cause.

My old journalism buddy is looking better and better on his forecast that the Star will go to a three-times-a-week publication. The Monday edition weighs less than a roll of toilet paper. Pretty soon there won’t be enough there to wrap around your fish.

Then there are reports that the Star will stop delivering the paper altogether. That seems far-fetched. Or does it? You would think the paper could manage to have good service to your door when you’re paying $370 for a year’s subscription.

Complain if you wish, but you won’t get satisfaction.

With a customer service unfit for good business principles, the Star is telling customers too bad, so sad. Complaints over delivery problems and news content are piling up and management’s answer is to shrug and cut back all the more. When subscribers try to voice complaints, they are greeted by an automated device. If they stay on the line for a real voice, they are transferred to someone in the Philippines — and communication suffers.

A friend of mine is livid about the Star’s cutting major league box scores to only the Royals games. It is interesting that not one letter to the editor has run to decry the lack of the boxes. Can so many baseball fans restrain themselves from writing about the absence of such an essential part of coverage? Or is the Star simply censoring those letters?

My friend wrote a letter to the editor. The Star declined to run it. Here it is:

“Looking for major-league box scores? Yes. Well, they can no longer be found in print on the sports page of your newspaper.

“Granted times change, fewer people read, and much information is gleaned from the internet. However, those continuing to subscribe to the Star enjoy reading the morning paper complete in print rather than being inconveniently directed to scroll, click and search for information they pay to receive within the publication itself.

“As the size of the newspaper continues to dwindle, so does its content. Whether this is a move to save on paper cost, or a bait and switch ploy, Star readers are being short-changed. Specifically sports and baseball coverage is only half complete when box scores are omitted.

“If readers cannot find which was once inclusive information appearing in the Stare … then why bother to subscribe to the Star!

“It’s a shame what is happening to a once great newspaper.”

Huh! wonder why they wouldn’t print that? Oh, you think.

Another problem, of course, is the Star’s new early deadline, said to be 10:15 p.m. No way the paper can get in late-breaking sports news if they continue to go with such an early deadline. So, is this another way that management tries to force its subscribers to go to the website? Some of the game stories get in through a journalism term “chase.” They get a story on the press, trying to get it to as many readers as possible. With high-speed presses, the process is stop-gap at best.

Is the McClatchy chain poor-mouthing its financial situation to detract and  make steep cuts for devious reasons? Reports continue to surface that the Star is making money but that the corporate amoeba is absorbing the profits to make up for other bad revenue newspapers like the Miami Herald.

There’s also the question whether newspapers are such bad investments in all ways financial.

The publisher of the Los Angeles Times is buying U-T San Diego for $85 million, strengthening its presence in Southern California and putting the top newspapers in the state’s two largest cities under common ownership.

Tribune Publishing Co., owner of the Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and other publications, reported recently that the 145-year-old U-T would remain a separate newspaper.

Executives were examining how operations might be consolidated, with one possibility being that the Times would print the San Diego paper, the Times reported. The U-T said the newspapers would share some stories, photos, video and other content.

The Times is the region’s largest newspaper by far, with an average print circulation of 650,718 on weekdays and 965,598 on Sundays, according to Alliance for Audited Media.

The U-T has an average print circulation of 268,038 on Sundays and between 177,885 and 216,417 on weekdays. The U-T’s circulation trails the Orange County Register on Sundays but is ahead on weekdays.

Tribune Publishing’s newspapers were spun off from Tribune Media last year as a separate, publicly traded company based in Chicago.

Warren Buffett is a newspaper cheerleader. His annual shareholder letter in 2013 had a huge section on newspapers. In the 15 months leading up to the report, Berkshire Hathaway acquired 28 daily newspapers for $344 million.

With what everyone says about the death of print media, many might wonder why he would take these on. Buffet answered that in his letter, saying newspapers continued to reign supreme in the delivery of local news. “If you want to know what’s going on in your town — whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football — there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job,” he said. “A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about Canadian tariffs or political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents.”

He believes that delivering comprehensive and reliable information to tightly-bound communities and having a sensible Internet strategy will remain viable for a long time.

He will not, however, continue the operation of any business doomed to unending losses.

The Star seems to be focusing on local news but they need to do a better job of it and get the newspapers to the subscribers in a reasonable time. The paper’s management is just making too many poor decisions.

From Royals to Golf Skins Game

The KC Royals were in Texas for a four-game series with the Rangers. The Rangers let the beast loose, piling up 41 hits and 22 runs. Thank goodness for the Royals, they had the ability to score, too, to salvage a 2-2 split with the suddenly hit-crazy Texans.

Coming into the series, the Rangers were suffering from bat anemia. Shinn-Soo Choo was hitting .183, Delino DeShields .200 and Adrian Beltré .236. In the four games, Choo went 10 for 19, DeShields 6 for 11 and Beltré 5 for 17.

Then there was Prince Fielder; he continued his hot streak. In the two victories he went 5 for 9 and after the 6-3 loss Thursday had a .348 batting average. He went 2 for 5 with a double and home run as the Rangers took the opener 8-2.

Despite getting 14 hits in the second game, the Rangers lost 7-6. Fielder went to work again in the third game, going 3 for 4 with a 2-run homer.

The Rangers seemed ready for KC so the Royals showed they could take a team’s best shots. Last season, the Royals might not have had the ability to do that.

A big reason for better offense is the addition of Kendrys Morales — he’s hitting .303.

Ah, Eric Hosmer. Yeah, you might say he’s helping. In fact, he’s reaching for stardom. Take Thursday afternoon, for example, in KC’s 6-3 victory. He went 3 for 5 with a 2-out, 2-run homer as his batting average climbed to .333. And he continues to save errors on errant throws to first.

Ah, Lorenzo Cain. He’s on the launch to stardom, too. Big-time defense, speed and a developing prowess with the bat — a .312 average. He rested Thursday.

Look at these other averages: Alcides Escobar .318, Mike Moustakas .315 and Salvy Perez .283. Alex Gordon is at .277 and providing leadership on the field.

Some negatives, of course. They needed 14 hits to score the 6 runs Thursday. That recalls the way it was last season on too many occasions. The bullpen is just a smidgeon off. The starters are struggling. Then there’s the love affair that Manager Ned Yost has with outfielder Jarrod Dyson, who’s batting .196 and struggling in the field. Did you see the way he misplayed that line drive to center Thursday. Geez. He’s just fundamentally unsound.

Now comes the dreaded Yankees. The weekend should be something.

——

Kansas will host Kentucky and Kansas State will be home to Mississippi  in the Big 12-SEC basketball matchups this season.

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “Our teams have had unprecedented success on the basketball court over the last two seasons and we are excited to provide the fans more quality opponents on the schedules.”

For the first time, all games in the Challenge will be played in one day — Saturday, January 30. ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU will combine to televise every game of the third annual event matching every Big 12 team with 10 members from the SEC.

The Big 12 is 13-7 in the Challenge, having won the series in each of its first two seasons.

The Challenge has eight teams ranked in the early ESPN.com top 25 rankings, including five Big 12 teams: No. 1 Kentucky, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 6 Kansas, No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 17 Baylor, No. 19 LSU, No. 23 Texas and No. 24 Texas A&M.

KU has beaten Kentucky in the last three meetings in Lawrence. K-State beat Mississippi State when the two teams last met in 2013.

The eight other games: Georgia at Baylor, Tennessee at TCU, Vanderbilt at Texas, Iowa State at Texas A&M, Oklahoma at LSU, Oklahoma State at Auburn, Texas Tech at Arkansas and West Virginia at Florida.

——

I worked with Bill Guthridge at Kansas State, where I was sports information director and he was assistant ticket manager and assistant basketball coach at the time.

He died Tuesday.

He spent 30 years as an as an assistant under Dean Smith at North Carolina. He joined Smith’s staff at UNC in 1967. I remember the time well. I had become sports editor at the Manhattan Mercury. Bill was a bit frustrated that he wasn’t moving up at K-State. One day he saw me at the K-State athletic offices and told me he had an offer to go to North Carolina. “You think I ought to take it,” he asked. Are you kidding, I recall saying. Of course.

He loved Kansas State and was hesitant to leave.

What a good guy. He would take time to play with my son and was constantly teasing him in a good way.

I used to needle Bill because he never took a drink of alcoholic beverage. Never.

He did well at North Carolina, so much so that he became an icon. Got married there — to a woman already with four children. The fans loved him as an assistant, giving him a new Carolina blue Cadillac. He was a good golfer and had entree to all the great courses in the state. Michael Jordan always saw fit to invite Guthridge to the Bahamas for his annual celebrity golf tournament.

Bill grew up in Parsons, Kansas, where his father was superintendant of schools. He went to junior college and then played for Tex Winter at K-State. He was on the Wildcat team that went to the Final Four in 1958.  After graduating from Kansas State, he coached at Scott City before returning to work at K-State. While he was an assistant, the Wildcats went 93-43, won two Big Eight Conference crowns and went to the 1964 NCAA Final Four.

After Smith retired in 1997, Guthridge spent three years as the head coach. Smith also was from Kansas, playing high school ball at Topeka and college at Kansas. He died in February at the age of 83.

The Tar Heels went 80-28 in Guthridge’s three seasons and made the Final Four twice. He won the Naismith College Coach of the Year award in 1998.

“Coach Guthridge is the best I have ever seen in selecting potential in high school players,” Smith once said.

——

Last weekend’s Player Championship golf tournament was one darn exciting sports event. Man! What shot-making. For example, on one of the most difficult part 3’s in the world, No. 17 at the Stadium Course, Rickie Fowler played it three times Sunday and did it with a total of six shots. Geez.

The drama was extra exciting.

Interesting, too, was the kiss he got on the final day of the tourney. Yeah, the one from his girlfriend, Alexis Randock. Hot stuff, baby, hot. Rickie, a former Oklahoma State golfer, is 26, handsome and rich. He won $1.8 million for his victory. Lots of folks were rooting for him to get that victory.

Then the golfing world got a peek at Alexis. Well, more than a peek. She almost, well, what kept that blouse up? I know, I know. I know what kept it up. Alexis is a graduate of Arizona State University and works as a model. After searching the internet, I found she’s not bashful about showing skin.

She put a new angle on golf skin games.

Columnist’s Perception Misses the Mark

KC Star columnist Sam Mellinger believes the Big 12 has a perception problem. Really? Rated the second best football conference last season. Rated the best basketball conference last season. Revenue is up. After defections, stability is back. Hmmm!

Picking on the Big 12 as a microcosm of the NCAA seems a bit jaundiced. Each conference has its perception problems. You certainly can focus on the perception of the SEC, for example. Like educational shortcomings, like dormitory robberies, like female assaults. One shouldn’t forget that when Urban Meyer was coach at Florida, football players faced 47 felony counts.

Are there questions in the Big 12? Of course. But is the conference singularly facing concerns? No.

The NCAA is coping with the power conferences and what they may do to the current setup. Teams are moving all over the place.

Is the SEC ideal? No. Look at that format — league football teams don’t even play all the members.

The Big 12 is doing well, despite what Mellinger wrote in his column of May 10.

Is any conference without territorial and parochial bluster? Does Indiana believe that Ohio State and Michigan have too much control of Big 10 business? Is Texas still too strong in administering the Big 12? Do the schools in the Pac-12 feel divided by diverse territory, from Washington to Arizona? Does Alabama control the SEC with its strength in football recognition? Is the ACC so basketball crazy that football suffers? What about the Mountain West and its inferiority complex?

Each conference has shortcomings. It isn’t about perception. It is about each trying to do better.

I wrote to Mellinger and said the column like he wrote on perception of the Big 12 certainly doesn’t help.

“I would have been more impressed if you singled out who the people are that hold the Big 12 in such low esteem,” I said. “Maybe the Big 12 is a microcosm of all things NCAA. Why not look at the image of the SEC. Oh, yes, big, big in football victories.”

Then I pointed out that the specter of Coach Meyer, now at Ohio State, lingers at the Florida campus.

“How about violence against women — Alabama has a recent case and you surely can recite the problems at Mizzou,” I wrote. “Maybe you can address academic achievement.  Heard any good jokes lately on the dumbing down of the SEC. I think I read where Missouri moved into the SEC and immediately became a high-ranking educational entity.”

He used Baylor’s schedule as part of his argument and I wrote, “You denigrate the Big 12 schools and their schedules. Well, let’s take a look at the non-conference slate of the top four teams last season in the SEC.”

Alabama

  • West Virginia
  • Florida Atlantic
  • Southern Miss
  • Western Carolina

Missouri

  • South Dakota State
  • Toledo
  • Central Florida
  • Indiana

Georgia

  • Clemson
  • Troy
  • Charleston Southern
  • Georgia Tech

Mississippi State

  • Southern Miss
  • UAB
  • Southern Alabama
  • UT Martin

“Not exactly a stellar lineup, huh,” I said.

Of course, I noted, the Big 12 has made mistakes after the secession of Mizzou and Texas A&M. Granted.

“But your negative look at the conference certainly minimizes the good that is going on — like K-State’s stadium expansion, like the conference’s increased revenue, like the all-sports abilities of the schools,” I said. “Tell me that Kansas City isn’t bonkers about the Big 12 basketball tournament.

“So much good. So much you overlooked.”

I simply believe he took the wrong tack in his column.

Mellinger wrote back, “Thanks for the email and thoughts. It sounds like you want me to defend the Big 12 no matter what, and I’m not going to do that. I have to write what I see. I’m not sure the point of the non-con schedules you mention here. The reason those matter more in the Big 12 is that they don’t have that 13th game to bolster the schedule (not to mention the SEC is generally stronger than the Big 12 anyway). TCU and Baylor knew the rules when they made the schedules.

“And of course the basketball tournament works here. Again, I’m not sure the point or why that’s relevant. I love the league, and want it to succeed, which I guess is why I get frustrated when I see that the structure is working against the greater good, and limiting a man who could otherwise be a strong commissioner.”

Of course, I answered. I couldn’t let that get by: “Why do you infer that I want you to defend the Big 12 no matter what? You say the Big 12 is failing the perception test without naming those who are doing so. My point is that each conference must pass the perception test and other conferences have those problems, yet you picked the Big 12. I think the SEC has a perception problem. Ergo: the Big 12 is not failing the perception test like no other.

“Is your point that the commissioner is weak? is that the whole rationale of your column? Is not the Big 12 basketball tournament important in projecting a positive perception! I don’t understand your point about TCU and Baylor knowing the rules when they made the schedules. That didn’t seem to bother the committee during the season (when the schools were ranked high.) I think if you need to look back at what happened in the final countdown in picking the top four teams. Review the scenario of the selection. TCU simply got screwed. The bad perception should be focused on the committee. Again, the point of the non-con is that the SEC also plays a patsy schedule. Again, the point of the tournament is to show how strong the Big 12 is in basketball. A columnist’s role, of course, is to project opinions. i simply disagree with your opinions in the strongest way possible.”

He wrote back, “I think, basically, everyone sees the Big 12 is failing the perception test. No league has these instability issues of the Big 12. No other power league, anyway.”

Well, I thanked him for the exchange and added, “Since I disagree then everyone doesn’t see the Big 12 failing the perception test. You do better with this kind of column than when you go off on a long-winded take-out piece.”

I simply believe that by singling out only the Big 12 as having a perception problem puts them below other conferences, which, indeed, have their own set of troubles.

Beware the Voices of War

Second of Two Parts

Retired generals, ex-congressmen, former government aides, Pentagon officials and defense officials play key roles in keeping the military industry complex at full throttle.

They not only occupy important counsel and propaganda posts but they also find leadership roles with contractors ready to pick up a piece of the military outlay for services rendered.

Retired General Jack Keane is one of them; he’s mainly a front man for selling the product. He also sits in the background while collecting paychecks from those in the defense industry. The Nation wrote: His think tank, the Institute for the Study of War,  which he oversees along with neoconservative partisans Liz Cheney and William Kristol, has provided the data on ISIS when he has appeared on Fox News — at least nine times over a  two-month period to promote the idea that the best way to stop ISIS is through military action. In one of the only congressional hearings about ISIS, Keane was there to testify and call for more American military engagement. He says President Obama’s speech on defeating ISIS was insufficient, arguing that a bolder strategy was necessary.

Left unsaid during his media appearances (and left unmentioned on his congressional witness disclosure form) are his other gigs: as special adviser to Academi, the contractor formerly known as Blackwater; as a board member to tank and aircraft manufacturer General Dynamics; a “venture partner” to SCP Partners, an investment firm that bundles with defense contractors, including XVonics, an “operations management decision support system” company used in Air Force drone training; and as president of his own consulting firm, GSI LLC.

“To portray Keane as simply a think tank leader and a former military official, as the media have done, obscures a fairly lucrative career in the contracting world,” the Nation said. “For the General Dynamics role alone, Keane has been paid a six-figure salary in cash and stock options since he joined the firm in 2004.” One year, General Dynamics paid him $258,000.

Retired General Anthony Zinni, perhaps the loudest advocate of a large deployment of American soldiers into the region to fight ISIS, is a board member to BAE Systems’ US subsidiary, and also works for several military-focused private equity firms.

CNN contributor Frances Townsend, a former Bush administration official, has called for more military engagement against ISIS. As the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit that studies elite power structures, reported, Townsend “holds positions in two investment firms with defense company holdings, MacAndrews & Forbes and Monument Capital Group, and serves as an advisor to defense contractor Decision Sciences.”

There are thousands of lobbyists in Washington to guarantee the ever-expanding budgets for war and homeland security. One such example is former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff who pushed the purchase of the heavily criticized full-body scanners used in airports. When Chertoff was giving dozens of interviews to convince the public that the machines were needed to hold back the terror threat, many people were unaware that the manufacturer of the machine was a client of the Chertoff Group, his highly profitable security consulting agency. This time, his client didn’t get the business.

Lobbyists maintain pressure on politicians by framing every budget in “tough on terror” versus “soft on terror” terms. They contend they have the perfect products to pitch.

Military contractors are part of the complex — and the problem. Eli Lake, a noted journalist, wrote in the Daily Beast last summer that numerous contractors were ready to cash in on the ISIS war. President Obama pledged that the war against ISIS wouldn’t be fought with U.S. ground troops. He didn’t say anything about contractors, who saw his statement as a chance to sit down for the next big meal ticket.

The ISIS conflict and Syrian troop training represent business opportunities for an industry that had shrunk in recent years. Former military personnel trained by the U.S. will be ready to pull down the cash.

The accounting of the financial cost of the nearly decade-long Iraq War will go on for years, but one analysis has shed light on the companies that made money off the war by providing support services as the privatization of what were former U.S. military operations rose to unprecedented levels.

Private or publicly listed firms received at least $138 billion of U.S. taxpayer money for government contracts for services that included providing private security, building infrastructure and feeding the troops.

Ten contractors received 52 percent of the funds, according to an analysis by the Financial Times.

The No. 1 recipient? Houston-based energy-focused engineering and construction firm KBR, Inc., which was spun off from its parent, oilfield services provider Halliburton Co. in 2007. Oh, that Halliburton, the Halliburton that former Vice President Dick Cheney ran.

More than $60 billion in U.S. funds has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade through lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents, an independent panel investigating U.S. wartime spending estimates.

News reports have said that the Taliban, criminals and power brokers have managed to get hold of the millions of dollars in government funding through profiteering, bribery and extortion.

An audit found that much of the money spent in Iraq was ineffective. Many development projects remain  unfinished, and the futility of the money spent on training Iraqi troops has been on full display during the ISIS advance.

The military industrial complex has fed at the Mideast trough for lo these many years. Now it sees a huge payday on the horizon with the expansion of ISIS and growing turmoil in Iran.

Weapons sales are on the rise. The exported weapons market for American companies is massive, and the Middle East comprises 32 percent of that market. America sold $43 billion worth of weapons from 2010 to 2014 with a 71 percent increase to the Gulf Cooperation Council in that same time.

“This is one of the unintended consequences of this Iranian nuclear threat —  you have a now far better armed Middle East than before, with more arms than ever before,” Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told reporters. “Even if you don’t have a nuclear Iran, you will have a number of militaries that are far more muscular than they were a decade ago.

Lots of cash from the government in the purchase of weapons — and all the supportive complements. And we continue to listen the neo-conservative jingoistic spiel. Shame, shame.

The military industrial complex rubs its hands raw in anticipation of the windfalls.

Ike Had It Right About the Military Industrial Complex

 

First of Two Parts

The phrase continues to find its way into punditry, op-ed pieces and political essays. Who would have thought that progressives today would fall back on what a Republican said on January 17, 1961.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the “military industrial complex” and his words have proven to be right on target — be concerned and pay close attention to what these contractors will do. Progressives are trying to monitor what is going on but the task is formidable. They know what Eisenhower said then is truthful now.

He, of course, had more to say in that speech and many use just the phrase. An excerpt that included the admonition:

“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

“Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Unfortunately, the watchdogs for the citizenry have allowed the military industrial complex to exert more power over the economy and politics.

The Pentagon budget could reach $560 billion for operations in 2016. That’s a lot of pie to cut. So much money floating around makes the complex scratch for the bucks.

Lots of money. And lots of weaponry. From 2010 to 2014, the U.S. was the world’s biggest exporter of major arms, accounting for 31 percent of global shares, followed by Russia with 27 percent. The USA delivered weapons to at least 94 recipients.

Then there’s hanky-panky money. An obscure Pentagon account has powered the U.S. war effort in the Middle East since shortly after the 9-11 attacks. For a decade and a half, the White House, Congress and the Department of Defense have played a deceitful game in funding the $1.7 trillion cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, keeping much of that spending “off budget” even as it still added to the national debt.

I like Ike for pointing out the power of those associated with the military more than 50 years ago. But what about now? Is the progressive push strong enough? It takes considerable moxie to stand up against these powerful people. The defense does not rest. So how can we control this powerful authority?

The Nation took a look at the complex’s influences. And what it saw was not pretty. Mainly, its focus was on the powerful positions retired military personnel now hold with corporations or the media.

If you are a cable news junkie, you no doubt have heard the exhortations of various generals on how important it is for the U.S. to keep up its military presence in the war-torn Mideast. Their propaganda holds considerable sway in forming public opinion.

The Nation addressed the issue: “If you read enough news and watch enough cable television about the threat of the Islamic State, the radical Sunni Muslim militia group better known simply as ISIS, you will inevitably encounter a parade of retired generals demanding an increased US military presence in the region. They will say that our government should deploy, as retired General Anthony Zinni demanded, up to 10,000 American boots on the ground to battle ISIS. Or as in retired General Jack Keane’s case, they will make more vague demands, such as for ‘offensive’ air strikes and the deployment of more military advisers to the region.”

But what you won’t learn from media coverage of ISIS, the magazine article said,  is that many of these former Pentagon officials have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world. Ramping up America’s military presence in Iraq and directly entering the war in Syria, along with greater military spending more broadly, is a debatable solution to a complex political and sectarian conflict. But those goals do unquestionably benefit one player in this saga: America’s defense industry.

These hired guns, if you will, pack considerable firepower in the halls of Congress where billions and billions of dollars are assigned to the military industrial complex.