Do Nothing Congress Does a Lot to Harm So Many

The do-nothing efforts of the 114th Congress provide numerous opportunities for slam articles. Unfortunately, the power of the pen dwindles under the obstinate leadership of obstructionist right-wing Republicans.

Oh so much is not being done, from getting a justice appointed to the Supreme Court to helping seniors overcome the cost of living slight and to boosting the overall welfare of the country.

At my last count, only 31 pieces of legislation have been written into law in this congressional term. Hardly any of them would qualify as major.

Any chance of something being done? Well, fewer than 70 days are left on the Senate calendar to be in session.

President Obama is trying to do something about the congressional malaise. For example, he’s pushing back on the Senate’s efforts to block a vote on his nomination of appellate Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Monday, he took the political battle involving his pick for the court vacancy to the home states of seven Republican senators up for re-election in November. He conducted interviews with local television anchors where he argued that Republican senators should hold confirmation hearings and vote on his nomination.

The effort extended to the Kansas City area. “What my argument is: Let the American people see Judge Garland, let him answer questions, let them hear his responses,” Obama told WDAF-TV Fox 4 in Kansas City, a market that straddles states where senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Jerry Moran of Kansas are up for re-election.

Obama also talked with a television anchor from Iowa, home to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who has helped lead efforts to block Garland. Obama also spoke in Ohio: Rob Portman, Wisconsin: Ron Johnson; Arizona: John McCain; New Hampshire: Kelly Ayotte.

According to Senate historians, the process to seat a justice fits neatly into a workable time frame. However, Republican leaders have been resolute that Obama’s successor, who will be elected on November 8 and take office on January 20, should fill the vacancy left in February by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Despite the Republican hope that a member of its party — Donald Trump appears to be the nominee now that Ted Cruz has dropped out — will select the next justice. That could backfire if Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the election.

The court is now split 4-4 between conservatives and liberals, meaning Scalia’s successor could influence its ideological direction for years to come.

The conservative bent in Congress has certainly hurt seniors, children and the infirm. The COLA on Social Security’s annual payments reflects the problems for seniors. With the COLA already squeezing the amount allotted to those on Social Security, Congress has chosen to ignore any relief.

Barbara Kennelly, CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said congressmen have ignored the reality of the situation, noting that the low rate of inflation overlooks how seniors’ costs are going up. “Health care costs especially are rising rapidly, and the elderly on fixed incomes spend a significantly larger share of their income on health care,” she said.

Retirees and those with disabilities know about the rising costs, especially medical care, prescription drugs, food and housing. Yet, because of a formula set up in Congress in the late 1970s, these people are receiving no increase  this year in Social Security cost of living adjustments.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and 18 of her colleagues, introduced stopgap legislation to address the lack of an adjustment. Her proposal, called the Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act, would require the nation’s wealthiest to pay more.

The top 350 CEOs in the nation received a 3.9 percent raise in their pay last year. And she thought that if 3.9 percent was good enough for CEOs, it was good enough for seniors, people with disabilities and veterans.

The bill would provide a one-time payment equal to 3.9 percent of Social Security’s average benefit, or about $580. The bill would fund the payments by closing the “performance pay” loophole, which allows CEOs to escape the $1 million cap on their compensation, and their companies to deduct the excess compensation, at a cost to taxpayers of approximately $9.7 billion a year. In theory, the excess pay must be performance based — but research shows that it rises even when CEOs drive their companies into the ground.

Another report by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government shows, for example, that Gary Loveman, CEO of Caesar’s Entertainment, received in 2010 and 2011 “performance-based” and other fully deductible bonuses totaling $10 million for those two years, the same years the company experienced $1.5 billion in losses.

The bill has been referred to committee and faces a certain negative Republican response.

Of course, the Republicans are fighting on other fronts to smother those who need help. If the House of Representatives gets its way, Obama won’t be able to crack down on unnecessary fees that cost Americans billions of dollars in retirement savings a year.

The House recently voted 234 to 188 to undo a rule proposed by the Labor Department that would require anyone getting paid to provide retirement investment advice to act in the best interest of retirees. Many people think that’s already how things work, but it isn’t.

The way things work right now is that brokers who oversee retirement savings accounts can be paid extra to steer their clients into unnecessarily expensive funds or excessively risky investments, without disclosing that fact to their clients. That sort of conflicted investment advice costs Americans saving for retirement $17million a year, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

To remedy the situation, the Obama administration proposed a fiduciary rule to keep Wall Street from taking so much money in fees from retirement accounts. The financial industry has opposed the rule from the start, saying it will raise costs and limit the advice investors can receive.

Guess which side the House comes down on!

Well, the do-nothing Congress does something to do nothing. And so many suffer.

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Intolerance Helps Fuel the Vitriol in Political Campaigns

Scared to death. My gosh, quaking. Fear mongering has taken hold. The cry wolf of the Republicans is at a roar.

I’m always hesitant in dealing with racial prejudices. I’m a white guy. And, on occasion, I’ve stood by some racially charged issues. I have not always been tolerable. I sometimes wonder why we question profiling; if a certain segment is performing certain acts, why not concentrate on that group?

See, there I go. Hey, I’m getting better, especially after listening to vicious, pejorative and inflammatory rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz.

For example, they have taken Islamophobia to new heights. You would think that a Muslim stood behind every door, along every dark street.

As a white guy, I understand intolerance has been more than just Islam. The prejudices in America go deep into history.

A thumbprint of past intolerance is embodied in the murder trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. These two self-avowed anarchists and atheists were arrested in April 1920 for two Massachusetts murders. From the start, it was clear their trial was not about the murders, but about their backgrounds and beliefs. The judge violated all semblance of impartiality by criticizing their political views in court. Their guilt or innocence remains uncertain, and the circumstantial evidence on which they were convicted was murky. The jury found them guilty, and after six years of delay, Sacco and Vanzetti were silenced permanently by the electric chair.

Intolerance can grab hold of a country and shatter its very foundation. Well, it’s fomenting again. Race and religion bigotry will do that to a country. We recently saw that in the outbreak of violence in Ferguson, Missouri. But now, the focus appears to be on the Muslims.

The alarming rise of vitriolic anti-immigrant, xenophobic rhetoric from the right wing has alarmed a large segment of the American people, but equally disturbing is how much support these noxious views are getting from the public. This recent tremor of hatred is shocking in its intensity and in the apparent rejection of that decades-long progress toward social peace.

Republican leadership stirs the pot of boiling brew and conservative media, from Fox News to Michelle Malkin and Laura Ingraham, keep the mish-mash bubbly.

As I have pointed out before, my dad reacted with racial blasphemy when confronted with a job loss. He didn’t like blacks making inroads into previous white strongholds. Well, jobs may be part of the problem now.

Income stagnation has been fermenting for some time now with the middle class suffering as good-paying jobs dwindle. A study by the Pew Research Center found that one-fifth of Americans are living in poverty or near poverty (defined as a family of three with an income of less than $31,402 annually). One indicator is child poverty, affecting as many as two-fifths of all American children. It’s not just a problem of the inner city blacks; one in seven white child is poor. Many have slipped economically Since George W. Bush Great Recession.

Globalization has created a situation where many of those good jobs have left the country. Instead of companies paying workers $30 an hour with benefits, they ship the jobs overseas and pay $6 an hour. The social safety net is tattered.

Those in need of a job too often point to outside issues. Immigrants, including Muslims, will take menial jobs, simply wanting some kind of income to support their families. Of course, that creates an avenue of distress for the needful white guy in search of work. He does not like the competition. He goes after the people he believes responsible.

And Muslims get a lot of the blame, from petty thefts to horrible acts of terrorism.

According to the FBI,  94 percent of terrorist attacks carried out inside the United States from 1980 to 2005 have been by non-Muslims. Keyword: Non-Muslims. Looking overseas, fewer than 2 percent of of terrorist attacks carried out in Europe in the past five years have been by Muslims.

From 9/11 to the end of 2015, fewer than 0.0002 percent of Americans killed were killed by Muslims. No matter where you look, every single statistic will scream to you that there is absolutely no valid association between the more than 1.6 billion peaceful Muslims in the world and the terror committed by those who hijack religion.

Muslims make up less than 1 percent of the total U.S. population. Have you ever heard of a minority of 1 percent of a nation’s population succeeding in taking over the other 99 percent?

Symbols sometimes don’t tell the full story but maybe this one will mean something to you. Five of the last 12 recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize have been Muslims.

Muslims will tell you that they are the biggest segment of people victimized by ISIS’s terror as well as the largest victims of all terrorism in general. The U.S. Department of State will verify that.

But sitting around the 19th hole or bellying up to the bar, the topic will focus on the perceived threat of Muslim terrorism.

Locally, you can hear the vitriol. Why? Oh my gosh, there are 15 Islamic centers that serve an estimated 20,000 Muslims in the Kansas City area.

Fear-mongering persists, however. The Kansas City Star recently ran a story out of St. Cloud, Minnesota, where an anti-immigration activist held court and delivered a ramped-up speech full of Islamophobia.

Ron Branster, a St. Cloud car salesman, said the United Nation sent Muslim refugees to the U.S. “to divide and conquer, get rid of our Constitution, get rid of our way of life and implement it with another way of life called…” The story said he paused at that point for effect and a few people in the crowd of 100 shouted: “Shariah law!”

He says the transition to an Islamic state is already underway, funded by American corporations hungry for cheap labor and condoned by the Obama administration, which, he adds, is staffed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Can you believe that assertion!

Oh, he has more. CIA Director John Brennan, he maintains, is a devout Muslim. Hillary Clinton is an “evil, evil lady” who will take away First Amendment rights if elected president, and a “third wave” of immigrants will soon inundate the United States as those already here bring in relatives.

Muslims have derided his talks as inflammatory. The St. Cloud Times fact-checked one speech and found it riddled with errors.

But in a community settled largely by German Catholics, Branstner draws a steady stream of residents struggling to understand their new Somali neighbors. Oh, is thy name Intolerance.

Trump, in his recent incoherent speech on foreign policy, provided an antithesis: We have to work with Muslim allies, but none of them is allowed to come here. He said he would demand the United States temporarily halt Muslims from entering the United States.

So, are you going to cower in the corner or go about your life?

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Among Glitterati, You Can Mix the Levity With the Barbs

Admit it. You like gossipy interludes. You enjoy seeing the hoity-toity prance in front of cameras, their eye candy on their arms, the outfits dashing and often revealing.

You watch the red carpet shows on TV at the Oscars. You still check out the beauties in the pageants. You pour over the glitterati pages of People Magazine. You concentrate on over-the-fence chit-chat that weaves intriguing and sometimes salacious stories in tabloids.

You love the Royals and you dearly want to know all about Eric Hosmer’s girlfriend. Oh, you do, too.

As a kid, I went over the Kansas City Star and Times from front to back and after I had devoured the sports section, I always stopped at the society page. The wedding pictures didn’t grab me but stories on the well-to-do fascinated me. I couldn’t understand how people could live that way, taking fabulous trips overseas, holding parties at the Carriage House, escorting their daughters to debutante balls. I had insight into a life I did not know as a snot-nosed kid growing up in the Northeast area.

The paper no longer has a society page but I can get a peek at how the other half lives from other sources. So there I was Saturday night, clicking the remote to find various TV stations covering the White House Correspondents Dinner. When the pundits opened their mouths on CNN and MSNBC, i returned to C-SPAN, which stayed with the crowd.

The dinner was offering much more than well-dressed celebrities. I waited eagerly for President Obama. He has impeccable comedic timing. His pauses, his rolling eyes, his smirk — all are just where they should be. Oh, he’s good.

He had many, many jokes from which to choose and he obviously chose the right ones.

No one was spared. I loved the one on Hillary Clinton: “If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans.”

Indications before the dinner were that he favored Hillary in the presidential race. He noted that “next year at this time someone else will be standing here in this very spot, and it’s anyone’s guess who she will be.” Oh you clever rascal.

The barbs flew at Republicans. Obama’s shrewdness! He called out Republican party chairman, Reince Priebus, and mentioned what a mess the GOP nominating contest had become. “Glad to see that you feel you’ve earned a night off. Congratulations on all your success, the Republican party, the nomination process, it’s all going great, keep it up.”

One of those creating the mess is Senator Ted Cruz. Obama is a basketball nut and he couldn’t turn down a chance to needle Cruz about his misunderstanding of the sport. On the campaign trail in Indiana, Cruz called a basketball hoop a basketball ring. Obama mockingly asked, “What else is in his lexicon? Baseball sticks? Football hats? But sure, I’m the foreign one.” You caught the last sentence, right!

Oh many more. Just go to the transcript on the internet and you can have a ball reading them again.

Comedian Larry Wilmore did the usual stand-up routine for the dinner. His performance was edgy. Maybe a little dark. But it is an acceptable style to so many.

And he had perhaps the top zinger of the evening. Well, I liked it. He looked into the audience and then blurted, “Have you seen Morning Joe? C’mon, guys, seriously. No, you know it’s true. Guys, Morning Joe has their head so far up Trump’s ass they bumped into Chris Christie. You know that’s true. You know I’m not lying.”

Joe Scarborough turned weenie on his show Monday by not even addressing the barb, ignored it. In fact, he and his sycophant sidekick, Mika Brzezinski, snubbed the hot topic of the weekend in Washington, D.C. And MSNBC says it’s the place for politics. Well, not in this instance.

Wilmore had a serious moment in his delivery: “When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people could not accept a black quarterback. Now think about that, a black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world.”

Oh then this. Obama had praise for Donald Trump’s foreign policy experience. After all, he said, Trump previously owned the Miss Universe pageant and has extensive experience with “Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.”

Trump did give a foreign policy speech last week and it might as well have been about the beauty pageant. Before, he had come out in support of torture and bombing the hell out of ISIS.

In the speech, was he trying to put his inflammatory foreign policy statements behind him? He promised he would lay out a foreign policy “that replaces randomness with purpose, ideology with strategy, and chaos with peace.” Instead, Mother Jones’ Max J. Rosenthal wrote, the address was a baffling combination of GOP talking points, attacks pulled from Trump’s rallies and media appearances, red-meat jabs at Obama and Hillary, and even an “America First” slogan once used by 1940s Nazi sympathizers to try and keep the United States out of World War II.

He continually contradicted himself.

He said the United States had “no coherent foreign policy” and needed to again become a stable and dependable ally. How to do that? “We must, as a nation, be more unpredictable.”

Trump loves to attack China, Rosenthal said, and he once again complained about the United States’ large (but shrinking) trade deficit with China that’s “letting them take advantage of us economically.” But he also claimed that the Obama administration has huge, unspecified financial leverage over China, which isn’t being used to make China take a tougher line against North Korea.

Trump once again criticized other countries for not spending enough on their own defense: “Our allies are not paying their fair share.” He then pledged that America would again be a powerful and respected ally to the same countries he had insulted.

“Not one dollar can be wasted,” Trump said of the federal budget, blaming much of America’s supposed decline on government overspending and debt. He also called for the United States to pump cash into building new weapons to rebuild the American military, demanding hugely expensive and wasteful systems such as new fighter aircraft and warships, Rosenthal noted.

“The power of weaponry is the single biggest problem we have today in the world,” Trump said, seemingly forgetting his demand that the United States spend billions of dollars more adding to that very problem.

Rosenthal wrote, “The foreign policy establishment has already reacted with almost universal horror to Trump’s rise. A group of more than 75 Republican foreign policy experts blasted Trump in an open letter last month, saying he was ‘fundamentally dishonest’ and ‘utterly unfitted’ to be president. CIA Director John Brennan said he would refuse any orders to resume water-boarding or other acts of torture, which Trump has said he would bring back. Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, attacked torture as ‘inconsistent with the values of our nation’ in response to Trump’s comments.”

The correspondents dinner provided some levity to a very serious situation with the possibility that Trump could become president. And a chance to take a look at all those “in” people.

 

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Chiefs Get Thumbs Up for Draft — With Two Asterisks

Grading the NFL draft is a crapshoot at best. Then as a TV watcher, you have to rely on others to provide insight. You lack that inside access to get all the pertinent information on just how good the draft went for a particular team.

The Chiefs apparently have satisfied most of the analysts. However, criticism surfaced after the Chiefs drafted wide receivers Demarcus Robinson of Florida and Tyreek Hill of West Alabama. Both have had disciplinary problems off the field.

Overall, the Chiefs drew above average grades. You’ve had awhile to assimilate the information from last week’s draft. What do you think?

Adam Teicher, writing for ESPN, gave the Chiefs a thumbs up. The Chiefs deserve credit for accumulating some extra draft picks, he said. They entered the draft with seven picks, including two in the top 125. They parlayed that into nine picks and five of the top 126 choices. They also addressed a shortage at cornerback by drafting three.

The Chiefs list:

  • (37) Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State
  • (74) KeiVarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame
  • (105). Parker Ehinger, G, Cincinnati
  • (106) Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota
  • (126) Robinson
  • (162) Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
  • (165) Hill
  • (178) D.J. White, CB, Georgia Tech
  • (203). Dadi Nicolas, OLB, Virginia Tech

Teicher said Jones was the best pick, noting that he had a first-round grade but slipped a little because of the talent at the position. “He’s a powerful athlete up front who will make plays,” Teicher wrote.

More Teicher analysis: The draft was all about value for the Chiefs. They traded out of the first round and still got a high-end, starting-caliber defensive lineman in Jones. Russell is potentially a starter for the Chiefs. Had he not missed so much time in college due to academics and injury, he may not have been around in the third round. Ehinger is a big body blocker who can play tackle or guard. He’s a good system fit, but it was a surprise to see him get picked before Connor McGovern of Missouri. This isn’t a knock, but Hogan can be a great backup for the Chiefs. Pass rusher Nicolas is a player who could get stashed on the practice squad, but his athleticism and length are incredible.

Hill, a former Oklahoma State all-purpose offensive player, already has created a negative stir despite his potential as an NFL contributor. While the question of whether a player should be drafted often comes up with sixth-round draftees, with Hill, the conversation has centered on a disturbing bout of violence that has many questioning the NFL’s commitment to creating an environment that truly opposes domestic abuse, according to a story in the Washington Post.

The outcry was sparked by an incident in December 2014 when Hill choked and punched his eight-weeks pregnant girlfriend in the face and stomach. This was after he threw her cell phone and laptop out of his room and then proceeded to lock her out in the hallway. After the victim elected to press charges, he plead guilty and is in the midst of a three-year probation period. His record will be wiped clean of the incident if he completes probation without another incident.

According to the Oklahoman, Hill apologized for his actions in the courtroom: “I did something I shouldn’t have done. I let my feelings take control of me.”

Hill was kicked off the Oklahoma State football and track teams after the incident and resulting court case made national headlines. In the 2015 season at West Alabama, a Division II team, his speed and ability as a return specialist caught the attention of NFL scouts.

Most NFL analysts said Robinson was a difficult player to quantify. He has tons of talent and some rawness on the field. Off the field, he was suspended four times in three years for violations of team rules (widely speculated to be failed drug tests). He missed six games as a consequence.

He has many explosive traits, but lacks polish and a well-developed route tree, problems that could easily be fixable if Robinson learns to focus, analysts said.

Apparently, the Chiefs AFC  West Division rivals fared well in the draft, too, with only the Oakland Raiders drawing a thumbs down rating by ESPN.

Denver, the reigning Super Bowl champions, drafted the player they hope will be the quarterback of the future. They traded up five spots in the first round to grab Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. They believed the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns were trying to move in front of them to take Lynch. Second-round pick Adam Gotsis, a former Australian rules football player, was a bit of a reach, but has enormous potential, according to one scouting report. The Broncos found top-shelf value on the third day with Utah running back Devontae Booker in the fourth round and Missouri guard Connor McGovern in the fifth round. A punter — Syracuse’s Riley Dixon — in the seventh also was rated a reach.

In rating San Diego, Eric D. Williams, another writer for ESPN, said, “Once again, GM Tom Telesco stayed true to his nature by making solid and sensible selections that filled team needs throughout the draft. But he missed a good opportunity to swing for the fences in passing on Myles Jack. The UCLA product’s knee issues have been well documented, but Telesco had a chance to have first-round pick Joey Bosa and Jack and Jack on the same defense. Instead, he took the top tight end on the board in Hunter Henry in the second round.” However, Henry could serve as the eventual replacement for Antonio Gates.

Something must be in the water in the San Francisco Bay Area. The 49ers and the Oakland Raiders were the only two teams to draw thumbs down from ESPN’s draft ratings.

Early on, it seemed the Raiders were bent on drafting players with knee issues, though they did address needs at safety and pass-rushing. Still, they did not draft a pure middle linebacker and, instead of finding a serviceable backup quarterback late in the draft, they took the fourth-ranked quarterback in Michigan State’s Connor Cook. They already have a franchise starter in Derek Carr. An ESPN analyst said not addressing immediate needs was a real head-scratcher.

The 49ers caused the curious stir because they drafted three cornerbacks but no inside linebackers. They traded up to select a player at a position that was already addressed in free agency.

Denver’s foe in the Super Bowl, Carolina, filled the hole left by Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, who has moved on to Washington. In the first round, the Panthers took defensive tackle Vernon Butler. Then they took cornerbacks James Bradberry, Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez. They filled needs.

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Translation of Bible Provides Many and Varied Spins

Once again, I find myself caught up in a wish-I-had-spent-more-time-in-college-studying-religion moment. The topic is so fascinating, so bewildering, so intense, so argumentative.

A recent story on the internet by Carol Kuruvilla, an associate editor of HuffPost Religion, caught my attention. She wrote that the top 10 most challenged books for 2015 included an entry that might seem unlikely for many people in the United States, which is home to more Christians than any other country in the world.

According to the American Library Association’s latest “State of America’s Libraries’ report, the Bible was ranked as the sixth most challenged book in America because of its religious viewpoint.

The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has been collecting data about books that have either been challenged or banned from American schools or libraries since 1990. James LaRue, OIF’s director, told the Huffington Post that the Bible popped up regularly on the organization’s annual challenged books list, but that it had never before breached the top 10.

“Some conservatives in the media have already started using the Bible’s appearance on this list as fodder for the idea that American Christians are somehow losing their right to practice their religion freely,” Kuruvilla wrote. “But is that what’s really happening?”

The ALA defines “challenge” as a “formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” In 2015, the group recorded 275 challenges to books, down from 311 from the year before. This year’s list of challenges have mostly taken place in high schools in the South and Southwest. The book that topped this  list was Looking for Alaska, by John Green, which was questioned for having offensive language and being sexually explicit.

LaRue said that the Bible was sometimes challenged because of “sexual content inappropriate to minors” and “incitement to violence.” More often, he said, people mistakenly believe that just having the Bible in a library violates the separation of church and state.

Four other books also made it to the most recent top 10 list because of their “religious viewpoints” — including Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan,  a narrative about a young girl trying to get an education in Afghanistan; the book was No. 9 on the list. Kuruvilla wrote that one complaint about the book that originated in Florida reportedly criticized it for promoting prayer directed at Allah.

“Even though the Bible has worked its way into the top 10, the truth is that a high percentage of these attempts at censorship are aimed at what the ALA calls ‘diverse content’ — in other words, ‘books by and about people of color, LGBT people and/or disabled people,’” she reported.

Concerning the 2015 list, the ALA said on its website: “While ‘diversity’ is seldom given as a reason for a challenge, it may in fact be an underlying and unspoken factor: The work is about people and issues others would prefer not to consider.”

The Bible?

I have argued about the passages the book contains as questionable because of translation problems and the illogical descriptions of certain mystical events.

The argument thrown back at me is wispy at best: One should have faith.

Scour the internet and you can find numerous translations.

The Septuagint translation in 280 B.C. of what we now know as the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek is the earliest known Bible translation. As the Jewish people were scattered, Greek, rather than Hebrew, became the commonly spoken language.

During the seventh century, Aldhelm Abbot of Malmesbury and Bishop of Sherbome, translated the Psalms into Anglo-Saxon.

In 735, The Venerable Bede, a monastery Abbot, near the end of his life, decided to translate the Gospel of John, as a continuing help for the monks in his monastery. Bede translated chapter by chapter through the Gospel of John, a scribe sitting next to him writing it down as he translated, according to references on the internet. Bede was old and dying, his strength failing as they continued to work. Just after writing the final chapter, as the story went, he exclaimed “Glory to God!” reclined on his sleeping mat and died.

John Wycliffe, the Oxford academic, inspired, instigated and supervised the translation of the Bible into English from the Vulgate. A reference said, “He was motivated by his concern about the corruption of the church and its leadership. He realized the leadership had an interest in denying the laity access to the Bible for fear of the discovery of ‘a massive discrepancy between the lifestyles of the bishops and clergy and those commended – and practiced – by Christ and the apostles.'”

According to religious educators, Wycliffe sought to call people back to a biblical Christianity because he “believed that the people needed the Bible in their own language for a revival to take place.”

Many Southern Baptists rely heavily on the King James version of the Bible. The date of his finished translation generally is placed at 1611. In an effort to mend the Puritan rift in the Church of England, King James I authorized the production of a new translation. The King James version soon replaced the Latin Vulgate as the translation of choice among English scholars.

According to professor John Crossan of Biblical Studies at DePaul University, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, needed a single canon to be agreed upon by the Christian leaders to help him unify the remains of the Roman Empire. Until this time the various Christian leaders could not decide which books would be considered “holy” and thus “the word of God” and which ones would be excluded and not considered the word of God. Constantine offered the various Church leaders money to agree upon a single canon that would be used by all Christians as the word of God. The Church leaders gathered at the Council of Nicaea and voted the “word of God” into existence. The Church leaders didn’t finish editing the scriptures until the Council of Trent when the Catholic Church pronounced the Canon closed.

Constantine ordered and financed 50 parchment copies of the new “holy scriptures.” that gave rise to historians making the statement: It was the Roman Catholic Church that decided which books would make up the Bible.

Do you see the problems? Each translation of the Bible tends to put its own spin on the text and this can give rise to controversy. Too, go back and one translator was sick and dying. Are these translations credible? Contemporary translation can oftentimes create wrong impressions and inferences.

When you add the questions about events depicted in the Bible, you must understand why so many close their eyes and begin to wonder about the words. For example, did Moses really split the Red Sea or did he simply know a shallow way across during low tide? Did Jesus rise from the grave or did his followers simply pry the stone loose and remove his body?

Yes, indeed, faith must be the answer in believing in the Bible. Erudite scholars continue to argue the origins and translations. For me, the questions are many.

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Obama the Magnificent Works Magic Against Detractors

Republicans have done their darndest to belittle, obstruct and damn President Obama. The right-wing base may be satisfied with the tactics but in reality he may go down as one of the top 10 best presidents.

Oh the campaign of denigration has been fierce. Glenn Beck, a right wing-nut commentator, accused Obama of having deep-seated hatred for white people. Obama is half white and was raised by a white mother and grandparents.

Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing spokesman with a dominant radio network, has been taking potshots at Obama during his two-term presidency. He called Obama a “halfrican American,” adding that the president was not black but Arab because Kenya is an Arab region, even though Arabs are less than one percent of Kenya. Despite the fact Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law school, Limbaugh has called him a product of affirmative action. Rush even repeatedly played a song on his radio show — Barack the Magic Negro, using an antiquated Jim Crow era term for a black man. Limbaugh also said Obama and Oprah Winfrey were successful only because they’re black.

The falsehoods spread about Obama are many.

For example: Obama has waged a war on the rich. False, false, false.  A study from market research and consulting firm Spectrem Group has found that there are now 10.1 million households in the U.S. with $1 million or more in investable assets, excluding the value of their primary residence. That’s up from about 9.6 million in 2013, and tops the prerecession peak of 9.2 million in 2007. It’s the highest number since Spectrem began tracking the data in 1997. Climbing stock markets and rising real estate values helped create nearly 500,000 new millionaires in the U.S. in 2014, according to a recent report.

Conservatives constantly fear-monger that Obama is out to take away your guns. They believe he’s trying to erase the gun-toters’ Second Amendment rights. Well, he does want to put back in place the assault weapons ban that was supported by presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush that expired in 2004.  He also wants to limit magazine size to 10 rounds and require universal background checks for all gun purchases – something that is overwhelmingly supported by most Americans, regardless of political affiliation.

Jeff Schweitzer, a scientist and former White House senior policy analyst, wrote in a blog: “By any objective measure, we are better off after nearly 8 years of Obama. He has made important progress in tackling issues of health care, crime, racism, immigration, environmental protection, energy, trade and national security. Of course more needs to be done, and he did not do all he wanted. That is the reality of democracy. But given what he inherited, and the opposition he faced, his accomplishments border on the miraculous.”

The country is now in the longest streak of job growth in history, adding 14.4 million private sector jobs over 73 straight months, with lower unemployment than under Reagan, about half of what he inherited from Bush.

Obama has reduced the deficit by more than $1 trillion. Schweitzer wrote, “Even if you look at total debt, which obviously goes up because there is an annual deficit, Obama added less debt as a percent change in public than either George Bush, or that paragon of fiscal conservativism, Ronald Reagan.”

Under Obamacare the number of uninsured to has been brought to below 10 percent for the first time in the country’s history.

He saved the auto industry, which sold 17 million cars in 2015, the most in history. The stock market has soared to record heights during Obama’s tenure, and gas prices are the cheapest in more than a decade.

The housing industry was near collapse, the banking industry was imploding and the stock market cascading. As Schweitzer noted, the remedies to keep those things from happening are historic accomplishments.

Obama has been successful at home and as The Nation concluded, he has become a Foreign Policy Grandmaster. He reduced the troop number in Iraq and Afghanistan. He put together the means for eliminating al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

In diplomatic moves, he thwarted Iran’s nuclear program, removed chemical weapons from Syria, halved the number of Russian and American nuclear missile launchers, redirected relationships with Cuba, improved ties with India and signed a climate deal in which China for the first time agreed to participate meaningfully.

Yes, the ISIS situation deserves a critical look. As Schweitzer wrote, any decision on the world stage will have undesirable impacts, and these are naturally the focus of critics. The conservative Wall Street Journal offered: “Give the president his due here. Mr. Obama has largely succeeded in what he set out to do.”

Now then, set his accomplishments on the political stage where the Republicans have impeded his every move. Don’t forget what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his No. 1 priority was making sure Obama was a one-term president. Obviously, that didn’t work out for the Kentucky Republican but he has made it difficult for Obama to carry out his plans.

Think about what McConnell said. As Schweitzer noted, “Not making America great, or preventing terrorist attacks, or helping the middle-class, or bringing home our troops. No, the Republican leader has one top goal: to deny Obama any success, at any cost to America. GOP leaders wish for Obama to fail more than they hope America will succeed.”

Hillary Clinton is trying to become the Democratic presidential flag bearer. She wants to carry on much of what Obama has established. McConnell and his buddies will do everything they can to keep her from doing just that.

However, there’s another facet to this process. You hear repeated references that supporters of her primary rival, Bernie Sanders, will withhold support of Hillary if she wins. She will have enough to fight without progressives in her own party making digs. Withdrawing support for the Democratic nominee, be it Bernie or Hillary, is not an option because not voting is no different than pulling the lever for Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

Liberals need to stop moaning about Hillary. They need to recognize that Obama achieved the near impossible. And she wants to continue to push his productive policies.

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GOP Answers the Call For Christian Right Issues

The Christian Right fills in many of the blanks for the Republican Party. Look over the GOP platform and it’s full of socially conservative policies, from public buildings able to put the Ten Commandments to forcing the shutdown of Planned Parenthood.

Several southern states and Iowa may march to the evangelical downbeat more than Missouri and Kansas politicians but not by much.

Abortion rights continue to be a prime target of the Christian Right. They are more concerned about a fetus than a child. These avowed politicians clamor to repeal the right to choose and to disable those who care deeply about providing proper care for women.

Ultra conservative legislators hold hearing after hearing in attempts to find fault with those in favor of choice but seldom find time to work positively for those children in need, from food to education.

The Christian Right holds sway with the U.S. House of Representatives with discussions, bills and investigations evolving into witch hunts. The representatives haven’t learned from the costly hearings on the Pillory of Hillary involving Benghazi, emails and various other toothless tiger probes fueled by partisan politics.

Any political junkie, but especially progressives, should study and pour over these right-wing machinations.

A look into the latest attacks on pro-choice involves the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives in the U.S. House and various committees in the Missouri and Kansas legislatures.

House Republicans claim to have new evidence that abortion providers are illegally profiting from fetal tissue donation — but its source and reliability remains a mystery. Republicans presented documents at a hearing April 20 that they claim show Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers using fetal tissue donations as a moneymaking scheme. But they would not reveal the source or context of those documents — even to their Democratic colleagues sitting on the same investigative committee.

Republican lawmakers hope to catch Planned Parenthood, the national women’s health organization, breaking laws related to fetal tissue donation. In Missouri, senators threatened to throw the head of St. Louis’ Planned Parenthood affiliate in jail, holding her in contempt of court. They claim the clinic has refused to turn over a broad swath of private medical documents, which the organization says would violate federal privacy laws.

The contempt charge is related to a November subpoena issued to Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, by the interim Missouri State Senate Committee on the Sanctity of Life. The committee was convened to investigate allegations that the women’s health organization illegally sells fetal remains, made by the Center for Medical Progress’ widely debunked videos.

Among the requested documents are all consent forms signed by patients as part of receiving abortion care or prior to being administered anesthesia since 2010. As the clinic is the only remaining abortion provider in the state, this would effectively give lawmakers the names of women who have received abortions in recent years, other than a small number of procedures performed at hospitals. The committee’s document request makes no specifications about what would happen with the information after it would be turned over, so there is no guarantee that the information could not be turned over to the public.

Planned Parenthood’s lawyers contend that the committee lacks the authority to subpoena the documents and that turning them over would be a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality and federal privacy laws.

However, the committee, led by State Senator Kurt Schaefer, continues to smear Kogut; if charged, she could face 10 days of jail time as well as a $300 fine. The last time contempt proceedings were initiated in Missouri was in 1903.

The attorney general of Missouri has already cleared the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic of wrongdoing after an extensive investigation.

House Republicans on the select committee brought exhibits to the hearing that appear to be marketing materials for an unnamed fetal tissue procurement company. The documents showed the company promoting itself to abortion clinics as a way to expand their profits.

Under federal law, abortion clinics can receive reasonable reimbursements for the costs of donating fetal tissue to medical research companies.

The hearing was on C-SPAN and Representative Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, said, “This does not sound to me like tissue donation for research. This sounds like someone who wants to make money — a lot of money — selling baby body parts.” She’s chairman of the committee and presented the documents.

Democrats said the redacted documents were probably stolen and manipulated by David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist behind the Planned Parenthood videos. He was indicted by a grand jury in Texas in Texas for tampering with a governmental record. Daleiden created a fake driver’s license and fake identity to gain access to medical conferences and secretly recorded Planned Parenthood employees discussing fetal tissue donations. The Texas grand jury, which was initially convened to investigate Daleiden’s claims against Planned Parenthood, cleared the family planning organization of any wrongdoing.

Twelve states have completed investigations into Planned Parenthood following the videos’ release and not one of them has found fault with the women’s care group.

Democrats on the select committee have repeatedly asked their GOP colleagues where the documents came from — but the Republicans have not explained the documents’ source. Democrats circulated a letter written by an attorney for StemExpress, a fetal tissue procurement company that worked with Planned Parenthood, that claims the documents presented as evidence by Republicans look similar to documents that Daleiden stole from StemExpress. A representative from the company offered to testify before the House panel and explain its cost structure, but Republicans rejected that witness and also declined to question Daleiden himself under oath at the hearing.

Representative Jackie Speier,, D-California, asked rhetorically: “Is this hearing really going to proceed based on stolen and misleading documents?”

Representative Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said at the hearing: “This investigation has never been and has no promise of becoming fair or fact-based. Our Republican colleagues’ disdain for the facts –- and for women and their doctors –- is putting researchers, doctors and women at risk.  It is time for Republican leadership to bring this investigation to an end.”

Planned Parenthood has posted a fact sheet on the internet that says for nearly 100 years, women and families have trusted the care center for high quality, affordable health care and information. Fetal tissue donation is critically important for developing treatments and cures for serious diseases, and for advancing public health. Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue is limited, its spokesman said.

Whatever the defense, the Christian Right will continue to prod elected officials to carry their cause, no matter the harm.

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Lots of Sports Stuff From Good Quotes to the NBA

This is my all-time favorite, far above the rest, quote involving sports.

The University of Wyoming basketball court is 7,220 feet above sea level and the coaches there make darn sure the opponents know all about it. Basketball is an energetic sport and the elevation creates stress on the respiratory system. They run up and down the court and, oh, you know what it does.

Anyway, Coach Jerry Tarkanian took his UNLV team to Laramie and the players certainly picked up on the elevation reminders. Tark had to field questions before heading to a workout and ever the clever one, he responded, “Oh, don’t worry about it. After all, we’re playing indoors.”

——

A friend sent me an email on old quotes by sports folks. Here are some of them:

  • “Blind people come to the ballpark just to listen to him pitch.”
    Reggie Jackson commenting on Tom Seaver
  • “I’m working as hard as I can to get my life and my cash to run out at the same time. If I can just die after lunch on Tuesday, everything will be perfect.”
    Doug Sanders
  • “When it’s third and ten, you can have the milk drinkers; I’ll take the whiskey drinkers every time.”My knees look like they lost a knife fight with a midget.”
    E.J. Holub, regarding his 12 knee operations”
  • When they operated, I told them to add in a Koufax fastball. They did, but unfortunately it was Mrs. Koufax’s.”
    Tommy John, recalling his 1974 arm surgery
  • “I don’t know. I only played there for nine years.”
    Walt Garrison, when asked if Tom Landry ever smiles
  • “When I’m on the road, my greatest ambition is to get a standing boo.”
    Al Hrabosky
  • “Because if it didn’t work out, I didn’t want to blow the whole day.”
    Paul Horning, on why his marriage ceremony was before noon.
  • “I learned a long time ago that ‘minor surgery’ is when they do the operation on someone else, not you.”
    Bill Walton
  • “All the fat guys watch me and say to their wives, ‘See, there’s a fat guy doing okay. Bring me another beer.'”
    Mickey Lolich

——

The KC Star didn’t run the stats on the Kansas State spring football game played last Saturday in Manhattan so I thought I would fill you in.

PURPLE 35, WHITE 21
White   0   7   0   14 — 21
Purple 14   0   7   14 — 35
First Quarter
P — Reuter 10 pass from Ertz (McCrane kick), 9:11
P — Pringle 73 pass from Hubener (Patterson kick), 3:32
Second Quarter
W — Burns 1 run (Lynch kick), 11:54
Third Quarter
P — Jones 1 run (McCrane kick), 6:15
Fourth Quarter
W — Sutton 33 pass from Hubener (Lynch kick), 14:54
P — Silmon 5 run (Patterson kick), 12:18
W — Burns 3 run (Lynch kick), 4:43
P — Silmon 1 run (McCrane kick), :13
                              WHITE    PURPLE
First downs               17                22
Rushes-yards       31-106         35-134
Passing                     255              327
Comp-Att-Int       27-20-0     37-26-0
Return Yards            93              38
Punts-Avg.             7-41.3        5-41.4
Fumbles-Lost          0-0             0-0
Penalties-Yards      6-55           6-45
Time of Poss          28:20         31:40
INDIVIDUAL
RUSHING — White, Ertz 7-49, Richards 6-25, Burns 8-23, Delton 8-6, Silmon 1-2, Warmack 1-1. Purple, Silmon 14-85, Jones 12-36, Warmack 4-27, Ertz 1-(-3), Delton 1-(-5), Hubener 3-(-6).
PASSING — White, Delton 8-11-0 99, Hubener 8-9-0 130, Ertz 4-7-0 26. Purple, Hubener 13-16-0 189, Ertz 8-11-0 98, Delton 5-10-0 40.
RECEIVING — White, Sutton 3-85, Zuber 3-22, West 3-22, Gammon 3-21, Harris 2-29, Burns 2-16, Goolsby 1-26, Munds 1-18, Langvardt 1-12, Moore 1-4. Purple, Pringle 9-163, Heath 5-55, Burton 4-36, Reuter 3-23, Warmack 2-19, Valentine 2-15, Jones 1-16.

——

Kellis Robinett, K-State beat writer for the KC Star, did a good thing when he did his version of the Wildcat football team two-deeps. It’s difficult to get much out Coach Bill Snyder on player status so Robinette did his own thing.

He didn’t list particulars so I filled in those from the K-State roster posted on the internet. The class designation is for the 2016 season.

Offense
QB – Jesse Ertz, 6-3, 205, junior, Burlington, Iowa;  Alex Delton, 6-0, 201, freshman, Hays/Joe Hubener, 6-5, 211, senior, Cheney
RB – Charles Jones, 5-10, 206, senior, Mandeville, La.; Dalvin Warmack, 5-8, 187, sophomore, Blue Springs, Mo./Justin Silmon, 5-10, 191, sophomore, Tulsa
WR – Byron Pringle, 6-2, 185, sophomore, Tampa, Fla.; Corey Sutton, 6-2, 200, freshman, Charlotte, N.C.
WR – Deante Burton, 6-2, 205, senior, Manhattan; Isaiah Zuber, 6-0, 180, freshman, Stone Mountain, Ga.
WR – Dominique Heath,5-9, 175, sophomore, Huntersville, N.C.;  Zach Reuter, 6-3, 190, sophomore, Columbia, Mo.
LT – Scott Frantz, 6-5, 275, freshman, Lawrence; Bryce Fitzner, 6-7, 292, sophomore, Poway, Calif.
LG – Will Ash, 6-3, 325, senior, Indianapolis; Ajahne Brager, 6-3, 303, junior, Magnolia, Texas
C – Dalton Risner, 6-5, 300, sophomore, Wiggins, Colo.; Reid Najvar, 6-4, 290, junior, Spring, Texas
RG – Terrale Johnson, 6-1, 303, senior, Manhattan; Tyler Mitchell, 6-4, 301, freshman, Mathews, Ala.
RT – Abdul Beecham, 6-3, 280, sophomore, Judson, Texas; Alec Ruth, 6-7, 300, sophomore, Highlands Ranch, Colo.
TE – Dayton Valentine, 6-4, 262, sophomore, Baldwin City; Blaise Gammon, 6-7, 240, freshman, Overland Park
Defense
DB – Dante Barnett, 6-1, 193, senior, Tulsa; Brogan Barry, 6-2, 195, junior, Topeka
DB – Kendall Adams, 6-1, 213, sophomore, Forth Worth; Jesse Mack, 6-0, 180, senior, Spartanburg, S.C.
CB – Duke Shelley, 5-9, 160, sophomore, Tucker, Ga.; Ryan Mack, 5-9, 175, junior, Buford, Ga.
CB – Johnathan Durham, 6-0, 180, freshman, Aledo, Texas; Tevin Geddis, 5-10, 175, senior, Wichita
LB – Elijah Lee, 6-3, 218, junior, Blue Springs, Mo.; Justin Hughes, 6-1, 210, freshman, Tucker, Ga.
LB – Will Davis, 6-0, 224, senior, Southlake, Texas; Sam Sizelove, 6-3, 217, sophomore, Argyle, Texas
LB – Charmeachealle Moore, 6-0, 221, senior, Dallas; Cameron Morgan, 6-10, 194, senior, Omaha
DE – Jordan Willis, 6-5, 250, senior, Kansas City, Mo.; C.J. Reese, 6-1, 265, sophomore, San Antonio
DE – Tanner Wood, 6-5, 263, junior, Conway Springs; Reggie Walker, 6-2, 239, freshman, Ponchatoula, La.
DT – Will Geary, 6-0, 297, junior, Topeka; Craig Settles, 6-5, 310, senior, Glendale, Calif.
DT – Trey Dishon, 6-2, 317, freshman, Horton; Mitch Copeland, 6-0, 260, sophomore, Wichita
Special Teams
K – Matthew McCrane, 5-10, 165, junior, Brownwood, Texas
P – Nick Walsh, 5-11, 212, junior, Lyndon
KR – Pringle
PR – Heath

——

I was surfing the TV channels when I came across an NBA development league game. This one guy looked familiar, a little thinner looking perhaps and no facial hair. Then the announcer gushed that Rodney McGruder had just swished another trey.

Then the announcer said, “He has developed into one of the best players in the league.”

That McGruder, the one from Kansas State. Yep. So I followed up on it. The Sioux Falls Skyforce website headline read: McGruder Scores 30 as Skyforce Take Game One in L.A. The D League is at the finals stage and the Skyforce won the first game 104-99 Sunday night.

McGruder averaged 15.6 points as K-State senior. He went undrafted but signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder, only to be waived. He played in Hungary, then joined the Maine Red Claws of the D League before going to Sioux Falls, where he’s averaging 16 points a game. The Force is affiliated with the Miami Heat.

They will play the second game of the series tonight.

——

So much is made of power ratings when betting sports. But in the NBA, it’s difficult to establish because of the rest periods and injuries affecting the margin of victory.

There’s quite a differential in some of the overall power ratings (PR) and the playoff power ratings (PPR). When  you account for the caliber of team in the playoffs, the differential can be skewed. For example, San Antonio swept Memphis, a team without several of its star players, and ran up a 22-point differential.

I factored in various criteria to set the PR.

Of course, when figuring power ratings, other aspects will enter in — trends, injuries and home court, to pick a few. As an aside, handicapper usually add four points to the PR for the home team.

Golden State played a couple of playoff games without Stephen Curry and he didn’t play the second half in yesterday’s 121-94 victory over Houston.

But you can see where the PR is pretty solid, for the most part, with favorites San Antonio, Oklahoma City, LA Clippers, Miami and Cleveland at the top with the Warriors.

Team                   PR        PPR
San Antonio         10.5        22.0
Oklahoma City      7.5         18.2
Golden State         11.0         15.3
LA Clippers           -1.5          4.8
Miami                     2.0          6.0
Cleveland               6.0           8.5
Atlanta                   3.5           0.3
Indiana                  2.0           0.0
Toronto                  4.5           0.0
Boston                    3.0         -0.3
Detroit                     1.0         -8.5
Charlotte                 3.0        -6.0
Portland                  1.0         -4.8
Houston                  0.0        -15.3
Dallas                       0.0       -18.2
Memphis                -2.0      -22.0
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Looks Like More of Last Season For the Royals

Pitching and defense. Pitching and defense. When the Royals give their opponents a double dose of that baseball antidote, they remain healthy, wealthy and wise. Everything else, for the most part, falls into place.

Wondering about this year’s team? If you liked last year’s lineup, you will love this year’s. And you all know what happened last season. The roster changes, in almost all regards, are minimal and the results look just fine. A new right-fielder is the only spot with a new starter. Jarrod “Speed Do” Dyson is there, bringing his lack of fundamental concepts on defense with him.

Of course, the starting rotation is different, with highly-paid Ian Kennedy and long, lean Chris Young joining Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura.

A couple of glitches and the TV dugout interviews are about the only things to really gripe about in regards to the Royals. Well, maybe you could stew a little over a lack of runs.

They’re 12-6 and they’re averaging just 3.9 runs a game. But they’ve outscored their opponents 70-55. They’ve pushed across more than 4 runs only four times — 3 or fewer seven times.

Check out those batting averages: Alex Gordon .246, Alcides Escobar .244, Kendrys Morales .242 and Lorenzo Cain .212. Eric Hosmer is the only full-time starter above .300 at .314. Gordon also has struck out 23 times with Cain at 19.

The Royals rank 10th in the American League in batting average at .258. Boston is first at .273.

It’s not just the averages, but the way the hitting plays out during a game. For example, in the 3-2 home loss last Wednesday to Detroit, the Royals had 10 hits including two home runs  but scored  only two runs, stranding nine runners. Not capitalizing with runners on base is remindful of last season when they would pound out 11 and 12 hits to score 3 or 4 runs.

The 8-3 loss Saturday to Baltimore at Kauffman was the antithesis of how the Royals have played for most of the season. Bad pitching, bad defense and bad hitting. The game also highlighted the ineffective play of Cain. His situation is doubly hard to take because his defense seems to have fallen on inattentive times. He hasn’t been getting to balls he reached last season; Saturday, he misplayed a ball in the sixth, failing to track down a shallow blooper in front of him.

But he wasn’t the only one Saturday. The Royals badly misplayed a possible double play in the fourth inning and Escobar muffed a potential double play ball in the first inning.

In the loss Wednesday, Moustakas was caught wandering too far off first and got nabbed in a run-down to end the third inning. Then in the fifth, after putting runners on first and second with nobody out, Omar Infante failed to get down a bunt before striking out and Dyson grounded into a double play.

The negatives on defense are just not the Royals.

In typical Royals fashion, they bounced back in the game. It came down to the wire when reliever Francisco Rodriguez served up back-to-back homers to Gordon and Salvador Perez in the ninth. But the veteran closer struck out Moustakas and left runners on first and second.

Jordan Zimmermann (3-0) scattered seven hits and a walk over 6⅓ innings, striking out eight. He has yet to allow a run over 19⅓ innings, a stretch that is beginning to make the $110 million, five-year contract he signed in November look a monumental deal.

The Royals rebounded the next day, beating the Tigers 4-0 behind Volquez’s five-hit, no-run seven-inning performance. On Friday, Young, now 1-3, found his stuff and stifled Baltimore as the bullpen closed out the final three innings without allowing a run. The Royals won 4-2 with Moustakas producing three RBIs.

It was not pretty Saturday. The O’s pounded out 14 hits and, well, all that business in the field.

Sunday at Kauffman was just right — pitching and defense, plus productive hitting.

Ventura, his body language more subdued and the snit fits fewer, settled down after a shaky first inning to allow three hits and a run through seven as the Royals beat Baltimore 6-1 in the rubber game of their three-game set. The Orioles last won a series in Kansas City in May 2012.

Putting that unsteady start aside, Ventura retired 19 of the last 21 batters he faced.

Hosmer homered to push his AL-leading on-base streak to 26 games. Gordon also provided a solo blast. But it wasn’t until the seventh inning that the Royals were able to build a solid lead. Timely hits helped produce four runs and the margin of victory.

The effective pitching did a number on Manny Machado, who went 0 for 3, ending his AL-best 16-game hitting streak.

This is a good hitting Orioles team, ranking third in the AL. KC pitching limited them to 2 runs Friday and the 1 run Sunday.

You recall the concern voiced before the season about the Royals’ starting rotation? Sure you do. Well, take a look at these ERAs: Kennedy 1.35, Volquez 1.46 and Ventura 2.35. The bullpen? Outstanding: Kelvin Herrera 0.00, Wade Davis 0.00, Dillon Gee 0.96 and Luke Hochevar 2.35.

There was that one four-game stretch — the seventh through the 10th — that the Royals limited their opponents to just two runs in each outing. Only twice have the pitchers fallen apart, the 8-2 loss in the sixth game and then Saturday.

The pitching should remain strong and possibly become even better if reliever Joakim Soria has worked out a mechanical flaw. He discovered a problem in his delivery during a video session Wednesday with Manager Ned Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland. Soria thinks the flaw is the reason he has struggled after signing a $25 million, three-year deal in the offseason.

The problem has to do with his left arm drifting off to the first base side, which isn’t generating the guidance or power needed for his throwing arm. The flaw affects both movement and location. Can he fix it. He better, huh. For the time being, Herrera will replace Soria in the eighth-inning bullpen slot and Yost said he would mix and match the seventh.

Oh these Royals, so intriguing, so difficult to figure out. After they jumped off to an 8-4 start, Yost told reporters: “They just don’t understand who we are. They can’t quantify who we are. The things we’re so good at, they’re not stat-able.” Go figure.

Those who suffer from insomnia and love to watch the Royals on TV will have their fill this week as KC heads west. Kennedy will make the start in the first of a six-game road trip against the California Angels. After those three games, they head to Seattle for three more. The first five games will start at 9:10 p.m., Kansas City time, and the finale at 3:10 p.m.

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Sports Ranking Way Too Early But Take a Look Anyway

Oh my gosh, they have come out already with national polls on college football and basketball. They concede it’s way too early to do this and call them Way Too Early Top 25 selections.

In checking out the ESPN picks, yes, of course, the SEC dominates in football. But in basketball, the Big Ten placed five teams in the poll to tie perennially touted ACC. The Big 12 and the Big East each had four.

In ESPN’s football selections, the SEC had six teams, followed by the Pac 12 with five. The Big 12, Big Ten and ACC each had four teams selected. Hey, how did the Pac 12 get in there like that!

The Big 12 rankings in football: Baylor No. 4, Oklahoma No. 7, TCU No. 15 and Oklahoma State No. 22.

Baylor

2015 record: 10-3, 6-3 Big 12
Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: WR Corey Coleman, OT Spencer Drango, DE Shawn Oakman, LB Grant Campbell, DE Jamal Palmer, NT Andrew Billings, CB Xavien Howard

Outlook: Coach Art Briles transformed the Bears from a Big 12 cellar dweller into a national hampionship contender with recruiting classes that weren’t highly ranked. Now he has inked what is arguably the best class in school history. The Bears picked up a couple of much-needed ESPN 300 offensive linemen, Patrick Hudson and J.P. Urquidez, and speedy receivers Devin Duvernay, Tren’Davian Dickson, Jared Atkinson and Denzel Mims. The Bears must replace four starting linemen and star receiver Corey Coleman. The good news is that quarterbacks Seth Russell, coming off neck injury, and Jarrett Stidham, ankle injury, will be back.

Oklahoma

2015 record: 11-2, 8-1 Big 12
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: WR Sterling Shepard, C Ty Darlington, LB/DE Eric Striker, DE Charles Tapper, CB Zack Sanchez, LB Dominique Alexander

Outlook: The Sooners will have to replace a lot of production on defense after losing top pass-rushers Eric Striker and Charles Tapper and linebacker Dominque Alexander, who left early for the NFL draft. But with quarterback Baker Mayfield and tailbacks Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon coming back, they’ll be capable of scoring a lot of points. Penn State transfer Geno Lewis might help OU at receiver. Texas A&M transfer Kyler Murray might be the Sooners’ quarterback of the future.

TCU

2015 record: 11-2, 7-2 Big 12
Returning starters: 3 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: QB Trevone Boykin, WR Josh Doctson, RB Aaron Green, OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, C Joey Hunt, FS Derrick Kindred, CB Corry O’Meally

Outlook: After injuries derailed the Horned Frogs’ Big 12 title hopes in 2015, they’ll have to reload to make another run this coming season. TCU loses record-setting quarterback Trevone Boykin and All-American receiver Josh Doctson, along with six other starters on offense. Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill is the early leader to replace Boykin, and Coach Gary Patterson has help coming for the receiver corps. LSU transfer John Diarse and juco transfers Ryan Parker and Taj Williams might be able to help immediately.

Oklahoma State

2015 record: 10-3, 7-2 Big 12
Returning starters: 10 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: DE Emmanuel Ogbah, WR David Glidden, QB J.W. Walsh, CB Kevin Peterson, CB Miachael Hunter

Outlook: After the Cowboys dropped their final three games in 2015, Coach Mike Gundy was determined to improve his team’s offensive line and running game. OSU ranked 113th in rushing (126.8 yards a game) and surrendered 32 sacks. The Pokes signed seven offensive linemen, including juco transfers Larry Williams and Shane Richards, who might be able to provide immediate help. Seven starters are coming back on defense, but pass-rushing star Emmanuel Ogbah will be missed. OSU’s road schedule this coming season includes challenging trips to Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma.

The ratings:

  1. Alabama
  2. Florida State
  3. Michigan
  4. Baylor
  5. Clemson
  6. LSU
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Stanford
  9. Notre Dame
  10. Ohio State
  11. Houston
  12. Tennessee
  13. Mississippi
  14. Michigan State
  15. TCU
  16. USC
  17. Iowa
  18. North Carolina
  19. Georgia
  20. Oregon
  21. UCLA
  22. Oklahoma State
  23. Washington
  24. Florida
  25. Boise State

The Big 12 rankings in basketball: Kansas No. 4, West Virginia No. 15, Oklahoma No. 18 and Iowa State No. 22.

Kansas

Combined with an Elite Eight loss, the end of Perry Ellis’ career and Cheick Diallo dipping his toe in the NBA draft waters, Wayne Selden Jr.’s announcement that he would enter the draft and, yes, hire an agent was one more bummer for KU fans. Ah, but Coach Bill Self is back and you can count on him to do well, whether bringing in more talent ot doing the job with his returnees. If Diallo stays in the draft, the Jayhawks will still have the Frank Mason III/Devonté backcourt combo, talented freshman arrivals, a host of rising role players, tons of depth, and a coach coming off his 12th straight Big 12 title.

West Virginia

After the Mountaineers’ season ended, rebound-robot forward Devin Williams announced that he would leave for the NBA, and he seemed fairly definitive on the topic. Then Coach Bob Huggins said Williams wouldn’t hire an agent. Which is probably wise, because it’s no guarantee Williams is even invited to the combine, which tends to make getting drafted in the NBA tough. The Mountaineers will still have most of their backcourt press-application personnel in the mix no matter what Williams decides — but losing a guy who grabbed 15 percent of available offensive boards and 29 percent defensively would, obviously, hurt.

Oklahoma

Losing a historic 3-point scoring machine is tough enough; losing two seniors with whom he started well over 100 games is brutal. Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins are all done, and Coach Lon Kruger has a huge task ahead of him. But he also has Jordan Woodard and Khadeem Lattin back — both players, however, must take on expanded roles next season.

Iowa State

Monte Morris says he’s coming back next season and passing on the NBA draft. That means the Cyclones should field another highly competitive team. The departure of forward Georges Niang — plus Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay — doesn’t look quite so so dire. The Cyclones will  also return Nazareth Long, Matt Thomas and Deonte Burton. They need to add depth.

The ratings:

  1. Duke
  2. Villanova
  3. Kentucky
  4. Kansas
  5. Louisville
  6. North Carolina
  7. Virginia
  8. Indiana
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Oregon
  11. Xavier
  12. Arizona
  13. Michigan State
  14. Maryland
  15. West Virginia
  16. Purdue
  17. Syracuse
  18. Oklahoma
  19. Texas A&M
  20. UConn
  21. Seton Hall
  22. Iowa State
  23. Mary’s
  24. UCLA
  25. Cincinnati
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