4/6 Windy Days

Yes, that jagged horizon you see over third base is not the top of the stadium, or a cloud, but a mountain. As the sun was setting after 7pm last night in Las Vegas, the 2022 Minor League Baseball season was opening. I missed being at Coca-Cola Park for my IronPigs opening night, but I did the best thing that I could- I took in my first Aviators game at the Las Vegas Ballpark, a 3-2 win over the Reno Aces. The ballpark is just a few years old, so of course it’s really nice, but a few things stood out to me:

  • There’s a pool in center field, which is part of a general theme of the ballpark reminding me a little bit of the Diamondbacks park in Arizona.
  • The palm trees in the park definitely gave it a San Diego/Los Angeles feel.
  • The lower deck really reminded me of Dodgers Stadium.
  • I couldn’t find any Oakland A’s fitted hats to get.
  • The bar in right center was cool.

Overall, really cool ballpark. Not really any bad seats in the place to speak of. “The Berm” in right field, the grass seating, is a great view, but definitely not as big as back home at Coca-Cola Park. There are actual seats pretty much all around the outfield, which was pretty cool too. And yeah, the view from the right field corner at sunset is fantastic.

The other day I got drinks at a place called Atomic Liquors in the Fremont East District. I figured the name was just a name, something the owner likes. It was explained to me that actually back in the day, people would sit there and drink, and watch atomic bomb tests way off out in the desert. That sounded insane for like ten seconds, then it dawned on me- yeah, part of the history out here is that we used to test bombs out here, and to this day we have major political fights about storing nuclear waste out in this region. While popular culture has made a story of UFO sightings and Area 51 (which is legit a shady place, but not for reasons of alien life), the real reason the government owns such a large amount of land in the Western states is one of two reasons- military/defense activity and conservation. The Departments of Defense and Interior both are major, major players out here.

There’s a whole history of the west that is entirely foreign to East Coasters and Acela centric thinkers. This whole region was literally at one time part of a foreign country. The government is the largest land owner. Climate change is a big issue everywhere, but here the fears are droughts and a lack of usable fresh water, and of course fires. Native American reservations are a huge part of the region, and take up a substantial portion of land themselves. The border is a bigger issue next door in Arizona and California, but it’s not an abstract political talking point out here, immigration matters to every part of life here. And yes, obviously the nuclear past and military presence here matter. Politics and society are just different in the Western United States. The issues, attitudes, and needs are different out here. It’s a very different place, in a refreshing way.

In my last post I gave you all of my regular season MLB predictions. To close the loop, I’ll give you my ridiculous playoff predictions now.

In the National League’s first round I’m predicting a New York Mets victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, and a Philadelphia Phillies win over Gabe Kapler’s San Francisco Giants. In the Divisional round I have the Los Angeles Dodgers outlasting my Phillies and the Mets knocking off the Atlanta Braves. In the NLCS I have the Dodgers sweeping the Mets. Mookie Betts wins the NLCS MVP.

In the American League, I have the LA Angels beating the Chicago White Sox, and the Boston Red Sox beating the Toronto Blue Jays in round one. In the divisional round I’m taking the Tampa Bay Rays over Boston, and of course the Houston Astros over the Angels. In the ALCS, Houston defeats Tampa. Jose Altuve wins the ALCS MVP to drive everyone crazy.

The World Series, you ask? Houston over the Dodgers. Verlander wins the MVP.

And there they were again- two Presidents, two guys that ran on two national tickets together, two people who seem to have a genuinely good relationship, a somewhat uncommon theme at the stratosphere of American national politics. Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden, both former bosses of mine (removed by many levels from my day to day, of course), are far more similar than most people would think at first glance. Obama is obviously younger, and was elected much younger than Biden, and his Presidency as our first Black President was far more historic by definition than Biden’s. When you get past their age and race though, their actual policies, political climates, and styles have more in common than different. Both faced an animated left flank that wanted them to go further on policy than they wished to go. Both had an ascending far right-wing movement that attacked them with previously unprecedented venom, both politically and personally. They bookended the highly consequential Trump Presidency and battled an increasingly belligerent Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Both ended a war began by George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 in Asia. And now, both legislatively and through executive action, both have massively expanded access to health care in the United States. Of course, there are more policy and legislative similarities. Both started their Presidencies with a need for a massive Stimulus bill. Both spent much of their first pushing through a major piece of legislation that is their signature achievement, for Obama it’s Obamacare and Biden infrastructure. Both have been unable to get major legislative action on climate or immigration through Congress. About the only major difference so far has been Biden’s attempt at passing Build Back Better, and his lack of success on it.

And for all of that, there is a question if their political fortunes are going to end up being a whole lot different. Obama took a beating in the 2010 midterms, like Bill Clinton before him in 1994, and it appears Joe Biden might join the club. The good news for Clinton and Obama is they were re-elected, unlike Carter and LBJ, who both suffered bad midterms before them. Obviously Biden would prefer to follow Clinton and Obama’s example, not Carter’s. The path from there is remarkably consistent, with the exception of Clinton having a better second midterm than Obama. Both men won and became more popular as they finished out their second terms. From there, both spent their first few years out of office as the most popular person in the party. For Biden, he can only hope for the same path, but there are complications. Hence, Barack Obama returned to the White House with an approval in the mid-50’s, while Joe Biden sits around 40% right now.

The question Democrats should be asking about right now is why does every Presidency of their’s go right according to the same script? For how awful, ignorant, racist, and whatever else the party says the GOP is, the voters keep giving them back control of Congress the first opportunity they get to after we win the White House. Is it inevitable that the party that wants to govern can’t possibly deliver what they promise? Is it just inevitable in American politics? Or is what the Democratic Party offering simply not that wildly appealing? On some level it’s probably mostly a combination. Obama and Clinton’s Presidencies became more popular as people had a chance to take in the benefits, rather than watch the process. This begs another simple question- why get bogged down in the process over and over again? The definition of insanity, from the city supposedly filled with “smart” people.

To close, I went to the Sportsbook on Monday afternoon and did something idiotic- I bet on Kansas to win money line (straight up bet) and North Carolina to win against the 4.5 point spread. I only bet a couple of bucks on each (cash in my wallet), but as soon as I thought through my bet, I regretted it. Neither was a big enough wager alone to win a payout larger than the money I spent. Well wouldn’t you know it, I won both. My next prime rib is paid for.

4/4- Patiently Waiting

Happy Opening Day of Baseball week. It’s a beautiful day here in Las Vegas, the sun is out and it’s hot! The Grammys were here yesterday, but are they really the Grammys with no Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift, or Kanye West (I know he’s batshit and troublesome, but still.)? Tomorrow night I’ll be watching the Las Vegas Aviators open their AAA season against the Reno Aces (Oakland vs. Arizona), but the big news here is the A’s considering a move from Oakland to Sin City. This comes days after some billionaire proposed a new casino and arena on the Las Vegas strip. Is there a new basketball team moving here or something? No, not at this point. But why not build a new arena with no tenant?

This is not a unique issue to Vegas, but it is particularly visible here. The Governor of New York (more on this in a moment) has so far proposed a new Madison Square Garden (a couple of years after renovating the old one) and is about to build the Buffalo Bills a brand new Taj Majal stadium on the state’s dime. In Nevada, the stadium/arena craze fits into a larger attitude of building to build. There’s a ton of open land around Las Vegas, it’s in a desert, so why not just keep expanding metro Vegas. Build a new arena, casino, or condo complex, tear down the old one, build something else. If you drive in metro Vegas during the day you see lots of work and construction trucks weaving in and out of traffic. If casinos and gambling are the primary industries of Vegas (with all apologies to the music industry, sex workers, bail bondsmen, and the weed industry), construction is their sidekick here. I’m not sure that’s a sustainable model in a West that lacks the resources they need, but absolutely nobody asked me.

Andrew Cuomo really might do it. He might launch a primary challenge to his successor, Governor Hochul. Hochul went from a smooth entrance to a mess. Her Lt. Governor might be jail bound for bribery. Her and the legislative leaders who ran Cuomo out can’t pass a budget or get much done. Her money for arenas and stadiums is getting a cold response in the press. Her polling leads on Cuomo are somewhere between 4-8% suddenly, meaning she’s in a world of hurt. In short, she’s vulnerable and the spurned predecessor still has millions in his campaign account to spend. The cheap, canned thing to write here is that after Trump, smart money is on Cuomo shocking the world. Right now, that’s wrong. If he enters, and one more bomb drops on her, that very well might be true.

Other than Andrew Cuomo, I can’t think of anyone this race really benefits. I guess that would “vindicate” him against the Democratic establishment all the way up to the White House, and that is more than a bit amusing to me (because somehow they probably deserve it), and it would deliver an absolute death blow to the New York City far-left crowd, which I’d be happy with. Honestly, Cuomo would be betting that public sentiment of the Democratic Party being awful would fuel his campaign, and it might. He may in fact prove that even Democratic primary voters didn’t care about the accusations against him, which I suspect is partially true. But who really cares if he’s right or not? This is a vanity run, meant to show he’s bigger than his critics. It’s nothing more than that. It doesn’t disprove the harassment or nursing home accusations, or that his brother used his media position to help him, or really mean anything. I suppose you could kindly say it proves New Yorkers thought he was a good governor, but didn’t his three victories prove that? In my humble opinion, many of Cuomo’s fiercest critics in their liberal enclaves of the city, are awful. I think he was a pretty good Governor, but I’m not sure he’s a great guy either anymore. We don’t need a primary to re-litigate this.

I think the “off-season” is finally over enough to put out my MLB regular season predictions. These will inevitably be wrong, but why not?

AL East- x1. Tampa Bay Rays 97-65 x2. Boston Red Sox 91-71 x3. Toronto Blue Jays 88-74 4. New York Yankees 84-78 5. Baltimore Orioles 56-106

AL Central- x1. Chicago White Sox 90-72 2. Minnesota Twins 83-79 3. Detroit Tigers 80-82 4. Cleveland Guardians 72-90 5. Kansas City Royals 62-100

AL West- x1. Houston Astros 95-67 x2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 86-76 3. Seattle Mariners 81-81 4. Texas Rangers 73-89 5. Oakland Athletics 62-100

NL West- x1. Los Angeles Dodgers 106-56 x2. San Francisco Giants 90-72 3. San Diego Padres 80-82 4. Colorado Rockies 74-88 5. Arizona Diamondbacks 60-102

NL Central- x1. Milwaukee Brewers 92-70 2. St. Louis Cardinals 83-79 3. Chicago Cubs 78-84 4. Pittsburgh Pirates 62-100 5. Cincinnati Reds 58-104

NL East- x1. Atlanta Braves 95-66 x2. Philadelphia Phillies 88-74 x3. New York Mets 84-78 4. Miami Marlins 76-86 5. Washington Nationals 70-92

As for the individual awards, I’m going with the following:

NL MVP- 1. Freddie Freeman 2. Bryce Harper 3. Christian Yelich

AL MVP- 1. Vlad Guerrero Jr. 2. Mike Trout 3. Shohei Ohtani

NL Cy Young- 1. Walker Buehler 2. Aaron Nola 3. Corbin Burnes

AL Cy Young- 1. Lucas Giolito 2. Noah Syndergaard 3. Shane Bieber

NL Rookie of the Year- 1. Seiya Suzuki 2. Oniel Cruz 3. Bryson Stott

AL Rookie of the Year- 1. Spencer Torkelson 2. Bobby Witt Jr. 3. Adley Rutschman

NL Manager of the Year- 1. Brian Snitker 2. Craig Counsell 3. Joe Girardi

AL Manager of the Year- 1. Charlie Montoyo 2. Alex Cora 3. Joe Maddon

It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans were a bunch of prude squares, trying to impeach a President for having a consensual affair. They were full of religious fanatics and blowhards, televangelists that routinely said completely insane stuff that even they couldn’t possibly really believe. Not much has actually changed, only two years ago they put a fully unqualified, religious fanatic in Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court, and she will probably write at least part of the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade when it comes out next month. Yet, perception has changed. It’s Republicans (incorrectly) ranting about suppression of First Amendment rights, while it’s Democrats who threw a fit about the last President having an affair with a porn star. To at least a chunk of the public, it’s the GOP that is now “live and let live,” while the Democrats are the annoying party arguing for repercussions for your every vice. Sure, House Democrats just passed legal weed on a near party line vote, but who would even know it? Our messengers in DC are simply terrible at this.

Back in the next couple days…

3/29- Weather or Not…

My posts lately have been less frequent than when I first arrived here in Las Vegas. Nothing is wrong. There’s just not much to tell you about. I’m alive, healthy, and perfectly happy. I’m just boring too. I went to a Golden Knights game last week for the first time, and they beat Nashville 6-1. As always, live hockey is amazing. I got another Prime Rib $8.98 special at Poker Palace. I found a bar I really like, Velveteen Rabbit in the Arts District (I live there). They make an awesome variation of a Moscow Mule, a “Watermelon Jalapeño Mule.” We had record heat here last week, touching into the 90’s in March. Then it rained last night, which is of course weird in a desert.

There’s just not much to tell you about my life here at almost two months. The initial glamour of Vegas’ bright lights has faded into a more realistic view of the city. This isn’t New York or Los Angeles, at least not off the strip. It’s actually a very blue collar place. The city is filled with working class people. There are Midwestern retirees everywhere. People in the service industry everywhere. First and second generation Americans everywhere. People who moved out of high expense Southern California for a cheaper standard of living here. Even most of the people on the strip are middle class vacationers. Vegas is just a collection of a lot of average people living in pretty good weather and a bit of luxury. It’s actually a lot more charming than my initial read on this place.

I tend to romantically long for the 1990’s. Politically there was Bill Clinton and economically there was his booming economy. The grunge/alternative rock boom in rock and rise of gangsta’ rap in hip hop made for an era of music unmatched since. Life seemed to just be better. My life was simpler in a way I’ve never recovered from. In my mind, I’ve made the 1990’s perfect. They weren’t though. It was actually a somewhat shady, decadent period that produced all kinds of weird. That President I think the world of was highly controversial, with his personal life setting off a culture war that ended in his impeachment, not to mention that his policy decisions set off a civil war in the Democratic Party that I tend to think might be fatal for our democracy. Many of the rock stars of that era have OD’ed at this point and the two biggest rappers of the day both got shot up in still unsolved murders. There was the OJ and Michael Jackson trials, both complete circuses that couldn’t help but make you doubt justice. It was kind of a decade of beautiful chaos, that was then followed by a decade of terrorism, war, natural disasters, a mortgage meltdown, and economic collapse. I’ve come to the conclusion that the 1990’s were in fact better, and felt way better than anything after, but they were a dark, seedy time that lead us towards a mess. Many of the smiling faces were masking some fucked up shit underneath.

This is a long winded way of me getting to how sad I am about the death of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. You cannot talk about the band without talking about Hawkins, a founder of the band with Dave Grohl, quite literally the heartbeat of arguably the greatest rock n’ roll band of the last 25 years. The Foo Fighters represented to me the most musically wholesome thing to come of the 1990’s. They were the anti-Nirvana, ironically. While all the other major rock bands that emerged in the 1990’s either faded from view, had their front man OD, or had their front man turn into a conspiracy nut on Info Wars, the Foo Fighters kept going, kept churning out hit records and tours, and did so smiling. Grohl might be the most famous rock star in the world, but Hawkins was his “happy warrior” sidekick the whole time. Yeah, we knew the Foo Fighters weren’t as perfect as it looked, but they made being a rock star look fun. Hawkins did it with a smile. And even if we knew he had past issues, we fooled ourselves into believing how happy it was. These were rock’s good guys. This wasn’t going to end like Cobain, Weiland, or Cornell. They weren’t the Smashing Pumpkins. You could enjoy their work and be happy.

Reality is shitty in that you can’t beat it. Taylor Hawkins, the heartbeat of the Foo Fighters, is dead at age 50. The circumstances of his death are still murky, but the details being rumored are indicating the worst fears of fans everywhere- maybe things were never as happy as they looked. He was far too talented, far too young for this. We’re young enough that our stars shouldn’t be dying yet, but another one has. He’s one that wasn’t supposed to either. The whole thing is depressing.

I’m not a big fan of Will Smith, despite his Philly ties. The Eminem line “Will Smith don’t have to cuss in his rap to sell records, well I do. So f*** him, and f*** you too” kinda tells you my feelings. I’m also of the opinion that comedians should have some license to say fucked up stuff in their jokes, not walk on eggshells for being scorned because they insulted someone. Chris Rock definitely uses every inch of that license, if not more. So I’m hardly shocked that Rock crossed a line with his joke, or that Will Smith decided he needed to show us what a man he was on a global telecast. They both performed their norm here. Based on my views of comedy, I guess you’d guess I side with Chris Rock- and if you force me to pick, I do. I think both looked ridiculous though, and Chris Rock only looks good in that he looks less ridiculous than a clown that made a fool of himself on the biggest night of his career. I guess Will had to let us know he and Jada’s relationship was stronger than we all thought. Lord help him.

Don’t mistake my Will Smith slander for a pass for Chris Rock. He and his writers could have done a basic Google of Jada to know her hair situation was a health issue. Once he got slapped, he could have literally done anything better than what he did. He could have made jokes at Smith’s expense. He certainly should have pressed charges. Instead he is trying to let it go. Nah man.

As for Will Smith- whatever. Keep the damn Oscar, dude. You showed yourself for the thin-skinned pretty boy you are. You could have simply been waiting at Rock’s car afterwards to have a chat with him. Instead you made a fool of yourself, and more people remember that than his actually well deserved Oscar win.

Spring training is winding down, as are the NBA and NHL seasons. The NFL is begging for Spring attention again with free agency and televised workouts for next year’s rookies (how does anyone watch that?). It’s a great time to be a sports fan. Out here the Golden Knights, thought to be a Cup contender, are battling to just get in the playoffs, while the Las Vegas Aviators are getting ready to open AAA baseball season. It’s all cool, but I do miss Philly sports.

My Phillies are getting ready to break camp. It’s an exciting time, with reigning MVP Bryce Harper getting some new help from Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, two guys that will fit Philly perfectly. JT Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins look healthy and ready to go, and young prospects Bryson Stott and Mickey Moniak look ready to help this team now. I’m excited for the season. It looks fun again.

This picture almost made me jump ship on Joe…

Did you watch the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson? I hope you didn’t, for your sake. If the hearings for Judge Kavanaugh were outright acrimonious, and the hearings for Judge Coney Barrett were a complete joke, these hearings were an embarrassment to humanity. Ted Cruz, who once let Donald Trump call his wife ugly, again showed himself to be a joke of a person when he asked the Judge if she would be teaching CRT to our students- as if she was a teacher. Lindsey Graham started out by explaining that he respects and understands the job of being a public defender and/or a private practice defense attorney representing your client- then he proceeded to attack her for doing those jobs. Neither matched Josh Hawley, he of January 6th instigation fame, who accused the Judge of being soft on pedophiles as both a member of the Federal Sentencing Commission and as a judge, all of which was a gross misreading of her record. It was embarrassing. This woman is clearly a mainstream judge and highly qualified. If you want to join Senator Sasse and say you are impressed by her and think she’s qualified, but you disagree with her views and you’ll vote no, fine. What you got from the GOP members of that committee was mostly embarrassing though.

This is not to say I was fine with all of her answers. When the judge was asked to define a woman, I think she should have either given some sort of answer (I would say anyone who identifies as a woman), or at least some sort of read on how she would view the question, legally. No, the clown asking her about it didn’t deserve an answer, but I do think she could have struck back at the absurdity of the question more aggressively. It didn’t change my view on her confirmation though. She deserves confirmation.

Until next time…

3/21 Death Valley

I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Literally now. Yesterday I took the two hour ride up to Death Valley National Park in California. Thankfully I went on an 80 degree day in March and not a 110 degree day in June. I got to enjoy the amazing sites and desert beauty without dying of dehydration.

Things are just different out west. When you stop in the visitor center, the warnings they give you are not things you’d see in most places. There’s a whole room dedicated to water, with a warning sign on the wall about the dangers of dehydration killing you, or causing serious illness. Walk a few yards up and there’s a board with warnings about feeding coyotes and other wild animals. If you feed them, it’s a “death sentence” for the animals, they tell you. I guess it is.

Ball go boom. That is the Phillies strategy for 2022, and it’s a good one. Sure, bad defense can hurt. Sure, a questionable bullpen could lose you games. In the end though, a sneaky good pitching staff, on paper, and an electric offense should be enough to get the Phillies to the postseason. Last year the Phillies had the 7th best record in the NL at 82-80. If you believe Rhys Hoskins will be healthier, or that Aaron Nola will be better, or now that Schwarber and Castellanos will be what they’ve been in recent years, you should see this team as better. Hell, if you think Knebel, Familia, and Hand will just be league average relievers, this team has a shot.

Looking at the National League right now, I think one can fairly call the Braves, Brewers, and Dodgers favorites to win their divisions. The Phillies, Mets, Cardinals, and Giants all appear ready to give those teams a run, while the Marlins, Cubs, and Padres also seem capable of contending. That’s ten teams for six spots. I’m not sure what to make of Colorado, but neither is Colorado. Figure Arizona, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Washington are glorified AAA ball in 2022. Health will thin out at least some of these ten teams from contention. Now that the Phillies are into the luxury tax, they should do what is necessary to get into the post-season. They shed a lot of payroll next off-season anyway. I figure it’ll take at least 86 wins.

One thing you have to hand Republicans is that everything they do is about winning elections. They’re lunatics, but they occasionally try to aim their crazy shit at voters who live in swing districts and states. As I watch Democrats in 2022, that’s not something we do very well. We largely message towards our base voters, particularly small dollar donors and volunteers, to gin up excitement. That’s great and all, but it doesn’t do much to deal with sagging approval numbers with Black men, Latinos, and people who happen to live in swing Congressional seats. If you’re not aiming your message at voters in NJ-7 or NY-1, or PA-7 or 8, but instead are fighting inside policy and messaging battles with “The Squad” and other safe leftist members of the party, are you actually trying to win.

One thing I wonder about the Democratic Party is if it actually knows much of anything at all about the voters who live in swing legislative seats? Certainly one can argue that there are different dynamics at work in different battleground Senate races (Georgia and North Carolina vs. Pennsylvania and Ohio, for instance). How about swing Congressional and state legislative districts though? Sure, there are demographic differences between some of these seats, but the lion’s share of the electorate deciding control of the House, and even the Senate, are educated suburbanites that live within commutable range to cities, and dislike both Trumpism and tax increases. They don’t like “big government,” and they don’t like “stupid” either. They’re probably not big fans of MTG or AOC. They’re almost certainly not monthly online donors to either party. They voted for Joe Biden as much for how he was “different than other Democrats” as how he is different for Trump. They mostly despise both Washington and their state Capitol.

I do not believe my side is doing a good job of reaching these people.

Until next time…

3/14 Workflow

Happy-ish Tuesday. I’m coming off a quieter weekend than the last one. Saturday night I went down to Aria and Paris for drinks. Sunday night I took a long walk down “the strip” to Strat. I stopped at Tacos Mexico for dinner. I managed to hit the gym a couple of times. I spent this morning getting a new rental car, which was fun. Work is also very busy this week. Lots of meetings and attention from out of town. But hey, it’s going to be 80 degrees and sunny today. Let me live.

Get ready for some very positive Phillies spin here. Unlike many people you read on the internet, I think they’re a borderline playoff team as is, and probably a playoff team after they (inevitably) make a big splash signing this week. The 82-80 of last had four positions play terrible all year, one where an injury cut short a 40 home run type season, and at least one more that was solid but not up to expectations. They finished with the bullpen throwing a start every time through the rotation, Kyle Gibson reverting to the mean, and Aaron Nola completely lost. Oh, and that bullpen… yeah.

With the exception of Harper, Wheeler, and Suarez, virtually everyone has a decent chance of being better in 2022. And with those three, does anyone expect them to turn into stiffs? With all of that in mind, and understanding that they routinely spend in the top fifth of the sport, they will add a big bat this week. Right now I have the Braves, Brewers, and Dodgers winning the NL Divisions, with the Phillies, Mets, Cardinals, Giants, and Padres hanging around for the three Wild Cards. A good signing should tip things in the Phillies favor.

Remember Covid-19? Numbers are down to a trickle again. Oil at $130 a barrel? It’s under $100 again. Are you hearing these stories? Not really. Are you seeing gas prices fall? No. Hearing about how we survived the worst of Covid? No. And it’s political malpractice. I’m not saying have Biden land a fighter jet on the deck of an aircraft carrier with a huge “mission accomplished” banner, but I’m also not saying not to…

Until tomorrow…

3/9 Wow

$8.98. Seriously. That’s what the above costs at Mandy’s Cafe at the Poker Palace Casino in North Las Vegas. It’s way below market priced prime rib that was really big and really good, all to get you in the door. It worked. I’m glad it did. Next time I’ll hit up the Sportsbook too.

I want to talk about two things quickly- let’s start with inflation, which is getting plenty of press this year. To hear some people tell it, government spending, Covid regulations, supply chain issues, or corporate greed might be the reason for it. It’s important to understand that’s almost all BS though. Inflation right now is not the result of government policy. Inflation is an issue in America, but it’s also an issue in Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit UK, in war torn Eastern Europe, and across Asia. The truth is it is largely supply and demand. Demand boomed when people started leaving the house again last year. Higher demand means higher prices. Yes, that demand was partially primed up by the government getting money into the hands of people during the pandemic, but inflation is high in both countries that gave out free money and countries that didn’t. And yes again, the trouble employers have had filling key supply chain roles, both because of demand for higher wages and Covid, has had a real impact. With that said, supply chain issues have been happening in both high and low wage countries since the pandemic, and inflation is an issue even in countries with less problems. Basically we’ve been re-opening from a global pandemic, and the return of consumption in our economy has risen prices.people are back working, back out in the economy, and back spending. Two years ago, right about now, none of that was happening anywhere. So yes, prices are rising regardless of whether you have a left or right wing government.

Ok, now let’s talk about gas prices. They are going up, and it hurts. There is no question it is hurting average people. So why is it happening? Some say corporate greed, which is always a thing, but no. Others say it’s because we’re not pumping enough oil out of the ground, which is silly, because we’re not pumping out any less than we were two months ago, when gas was a solid dollar cheaper. Other people want to blame it on the war in the Ukraine, which is only partially right. The fact is that the war has not stopped Russian energy production in any major way, nor production in any other country. What is happening is investors are taking stock of where they think the future is going, and readjusting their portfolios to fit that new reality. Investors think Russia may become a pariah state that has troubles selling its oil into the market the way it has. It’s pipeline to Germany is currently scrapped, and European and American regulators are banning them from markets. The cheapest oil is the freest flowing oil. Investors see these barriers to the Russian market as a hindrance. Basically, they don’t like the direction of things. So the price of oil rises.

So Aaron Rodgers took Green Bay’s money after all. John Elway still got his man with Russell Wilson going to Denver. Now you’ll see teams turn their attention towards QB’s like Watson, Wentz, Bridgewater, and Jimmy G. And of course the Brady rumors will persist until they don’t. For teams like my Eagles, who should not be settled at the QB position, they’ll be linked to everything, I’m sure. I’m definitely open to them bringing in an upgrade at QB, or really any number of other positions- I am not swayed by their playoff appearance last season, I still think this team is miles away. With Rodgers and Wilson off the board as options, I don’t see any option available by draft, free agency, or trade as a Super Bowl level change. So if the Eagles want to give Jalen Hurts a second season as starter, and draft four starting players in the first two rounds, I’m good with that. If they decide they love a QB in this draft and pick them with one of those four picks, I’m also okay with that, as it would free up Hurts as a potential trade chip too. And if they somehow do bring in a veteran upgrade on Hurts? No complaints here. To be blunt now, with the elite options off the board, the Eagles aren’t going to be big contenders in the NFC, let alone for the Super Bowl, not unless whoever the QB is does much better than the last two seasons. That’s just not likely. So there’s no point being too hung up on it.

Until tomorrow…

3/8 Recovery

You can do Vegas or you can do Vegas. This weekend I did Vegas. Friday night I got acquainted with “The Strip.” Saturday night I was back down there for UFC 272, where I got to see Colby Covington dominate Jorge Masvidal and Greg Hardy get beat like he was back in Dallas (You #StillDemBoyz?). Sunday it was a trip up north to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to watch Alex Bowman win the Pennzoil 400. UFC and NASCAR are both high adrenaline sports that play way up in person. It was definitely high excitement.

The big thing I’m learning out here is the food situation. My Lyft driver set me straight on finding good food Sunday, as we drove back down Las Vegas Blvd. through North Las Vegas. He showed me some small casinos that are just about giving food away. One was advertising a T-Bone or Prime Rib for $10.49! It turns out they’ll give you a meal for a king for close to nothing to get you in the door, in the hopes that you’ll gamble your money away. Then I had a friend tell me there’s a place down on The Strip selling a steak and lobster tail combo for $19. I will definitely report back how this goes.

Why did I get into politics? Perhaps it’s in part because I live in the most swing region of the most swing state in a narrowly divided country. Joe Biden edged Donald Trump by .6% in the newly redrawn 7th Congressional District, which encompasses Northampton, Lehigh, Carbon, and a slice of Monroe Counties. If you want to know how an election is going to go, just watch the Lehigh Valley.

How is it going to go? Not great for Democrats. Their agenda is stalled in Congress because some folks don’t understand the “art of the possible.” Inflation is wiping out what would be historic wage growth, which is to be expected post-pandemic. Gas prices are jumping astronomically with the war in Ukraine and it’s side effects. Are these things a result of government policy? Only in a very small part. That’s not going to matter at the ballot box. Amazingly you still have some DC Democrats who want to have ideological battles right now, when they need to be seen as razor focused on being responsive to these “pocket book” issues. There will be a price for that.

MLB and the MLBPA are agreeing to a bunch of rule changes to the game that are both not ending the lockout and not changing the trajectory of the game, but are altering the sport. Moving the bases and speeding up the time between pitches are utterly pointless and won’t appease people not watching baseball right now. Banning shifts I’m more open to, but not overly enthusiastic about. If baseball wants broader appeal, they need to end a third of their league tanking every season. A salary floor, a higher luxury tax threshold, and an international draft are the keys in a deal. Obviously I’m hopeful they reach a deal today, but my sense right now is that Manfred and the owners are wasting our time. I’m not mad at the Phillies for four hour games, I’m mad at them for putting a decade of slop teams on the field, even when they do spend money. I bet Baltimore fans feel the same.

Until next time…

3/3 Easy Living

They tell you your hardest jobs will be your earliest. They don’t lie. Your best paying jobs will come when you are established. They still aren’t lying. What qualifies as hard work by 38 is making spreadsheets add up and handling personnel. That is kinda harder to accept than it should be. You’re not the guy out beating the pavement anymore. You hope that life is passed.

Las Vegas after two weeks is a fascinating place. Clark County has over 2 million people, but you literally go from being in a population center to being in the desert immediately. Los Angeles is over three hours away, Phoenix is over four, and Reno and Salt Lake City are over six and five hours away. These are the close cities! Unlike the New York to Washington corridor with four major cities, the southwest literally has no real suburbs in between. The weather is beautiful, but the air quality can be rough, and the dust can aggravate the sinuses. There are super rich high rollers around, but lots of homeless folks sleeping outside too. Most of the actual residents here are working class and don’t hang out on the strip. Yet the strip is always packed.

The contrasts, man…

Two years ago today was Super Tuesday, the night Joe Biden put a death grip on the Democratic nomination for President, putting Bernie, Warren, Bloomberg, and whatever other crazies still thought they could win the nomination in the dust. I was proud to be apart of that team, working on Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Massachusetts for the Biden campaign. In the two years since, I’ve faded further and further away from that moment in my life. I’m proud to have played my role in those victories, and in electing this President, but I’m less and less “married” to it, compared to that day. I feel much more free to talk about the President and his team today, since I’m not paid by them, and I’m much more open minded to criticizing the Democratic Party than I was then. And with all that said, I’m proud I worked for Team Joe.

There’s an open question that has been debated ever since- why did Joe win the nomination? Today it seems like it was inevitable, but it was truly in doubt then. Bernie had so much momentum, so many small donors, and energy. Warren had “a plan for everything,” a party that seemed to want to nominate a woman, and real support among activists. Bloomberg spent half a billion dollars and was making inroads in the South right up until South Carolina night. Buttigieg and Klobuchar had started gaining ground and generating interest in Iowa and New Hampshire. Yet they all faded away, and fast, in the 72 hours after the South Carolina Primary. Biden literally won once, and the race was over.

It’s important to understand that activists, small donors, and Twitter supporters are mostly not representative of the people who really choose Democratic nominees. The coalition picking winners, a collection of working class Black, white, Latino, and Asian voters, are not seeking a revolution. They’re less concerned about bold change or identity than getting someone competent, someone trustworthy, and someone they think is sane. They don’t think America sucks and they don’t want a crusade to destroy everyone who disagrees with them. And more than anything, they wanted someone they thought had a chance. While the political class obsessed over every last supposed hit Biden took, most people shrugged their shoulders. It is possible, though I hope and believe it’s unlikely, that future Democratic electorates of millennials and zoomers will move future nominating contests towards the ideological left. If they do so, the Democratic Party will become substantially less viable and useful in American life, and America will move politically right. Biden won two years ago today though because these folks are precisely who doesn’t pick Democratic nominees. We’re all better off because of that.

Time has a funny way of changing you. From a hyper ambitious 23 year old college graduate going to Iowa to start a career that ends with you as a household name, to a 38 year old that wants to mostly be left alone, to chill out. I like my money now, but I really don’t need any attention, or want to be the face of anything. Change is a funny thing. It’s kind of a comforting thing though.

As I plan out my Spring in the West, I’m trying to pick out some games to go to. I definitely need to see a Vegas Golden Knights hockey game while here, but the stinky Flyers won’t be here, so it’ll have to be somebody else. The Oakland A’s triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas Aviators are a month away from starting, and I plan to see them. The Sixers do a trip through LA and Phoenix later this month, and I’d like nothing more than to see them beat on LeBron, if possible. Those cities are far though. The Phillies will do Denver in April, and Seattle and LA at my birthday week in May, just before I leave. So if there’s baseball this year, I’m seeing them. And of course, UFC and boxing matches are often here. What do I go see? I’m still working on it…

Until next time…

3/2 Heat Wave

Good afternoon from sunny Las Vegas, where we’re hitting 80 degrees today and I’m currently having some In-N-Out burger. This is my third time eating here, and every time I’ve had my meal “Animal Style.” I hear there is some other secret recipe called “monkey style,” but I don’t know what that is and I’m not rolling up to order and asking for anything “monkey style” until I know what it is. The food is phenomenal though.

As I said, we’re getting a mini heat wave. It’s remarkable and I’m totally sitting out on the deck tonight, even if the dust is bothering my allergies. It’s too good not to. Especially after spending yesterday on laundry, setting up at my new gym, and work. Vegas was as much about nicer weather as anything else for me. I better enjoy it.

MLB blew itself up yesterday. Rob Manfred announced he’s going to start canceling games now, since there was no deal with the players by his arbitrary deadlines. If I understand this all right (I do), basically at the last CBA the owners stuck it to the players, then decided to contract the number of minor league affiliates to cut costs, then decided to lockout the players in December (a choice), wait 43 days to make their first proposal, and then wouldn’t budge on increasing player salaries at the major or minor league levels by very much, even when getting playoff expansion to 12 teams, the big pot of money they want. They wonder why the fans are distraught with them.

The owners want you to view this as millionaires vs. billionaires and simply throw your hands up in disgust. How they don’t want you to view this is that the overwhelming majority of professional ball players never reach free agency and get that big contract. They don’t even reach arbitration. Most see their careers end in the minor leagues, where they make below minimum wage. Even most players in the majors never complete three years of service time, where they reach salary arbitration, the first potential pay day. Sure, they were prepared to increase the rookie scale (first three year) minimum salary, and have a small bonus pool for successful players, but that increase wasn’t keeping up with growing profits, or inflation. Every team in the league starts every season off making at least $100 million between their local and national TV money, yet over a third of the league isn’t spending that much on salary. In the last pre-pandemic season, baseball continued a decade of increasing profits with an all-time record. The owners have done well and want to do even better. The offer on the table allowed them to do that. It just spread the wealth around. They chose to hurt their sport instead.

When you let trash in, your place stinks. The problem is that our political system is polluted with said garbage. Last night, Congresswomen Boebert and Taylor Greene decided to remind us again that they are human trash with their yelling and antics. Ignorance is not a virtue, civility is not a vice. These two idiots are not helpful for the Republican Party, at least not to somewhat human, normal people. They refuse to deal with them.

Although wildly outdone by the right’s freaks and ghouls, “The Squad” made sure to remind me why I dislike them with their post speech rebuttals of the President. Sure, President Biden openly called them out with his “fund the police” line, so they had every right to respond (even though he is 1,000% correct), but their responses were not helpful to moving anything forward. Calling for a further left, more progressive agenda, when the agenda President Biden has is stalled in Congress and underwater in polling is a complete waste of time. The stuff they are calling for isn’t going to happen, and isn’t going to make the Democratic Party more popular. They’re a bad look for Democrats to semi-normal human beings.

Let’s talk about Biden himself though, and the speech. Obviously there was a lot in the speech I could agree with, but I was a Biden delegate to the 2020 Democratic Convention and employed on his campaign. Biden excels to a degree in settings like last night, times where his likability contrasts clearly with his opponents (see above), and where his message can speak broadly to America on popular topics- like bringing down violent crime, supporting the Ukraine, and fighting cancer. For all of those reasons, I think he gave a good speech and he can probably expect somewhat good reviews. I just don’t have super high expectations in the end. This speech wasn’t an Obama or Clinton State of the Union. He’s just not that kind of orator. His talents are different than their’s were and probably benefit him differently. And frankly, he hasn’t had too many wins lately, which likely means less people paid close attention anyway. All in all, I give him a B. it was well done, but nothing historic.

My grand hope is that the Biden Administration can use all the bipartisan applause to pivot into some broadly popular legislative victories. My grand fear is that the folks who are in position in DC to do that have no clue how to. There are clearly opportunities on things like insulin prices, criminal Justice reform, and fighting cancer to pass stuff. As the economy continues reopening and begins to stabilize, inflation will fall back in line with supply and demand forces on it. If they can do popular things with real people, apply some mitigation to an actual overheated economy and slow inflation, and deliver a positive outcome on the global front in Eastern Europe, Joe Biden will recover politically, because he’s a likable and smart guy. I don’t doubt the President though, but I do doubt the forces around him. Time will tell.

2/28 Happy Doomsday

Wars. Lockouts. James Harden on the Sixers. Failing markets. The return of heat today. There’s so much going on today as the month of February ends and March arrives- along with the Spring, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, and God willing, baseball.

It was a fun weekend here. I spent Saturday night on Fremont Street, watching bands and sipping on a vodka/green apple slushy. I decided to finally go in a casino. The casino I picked ended up being the Golden Nugget- in honor of my dog, Nugget. I played $1 on a Penny slot machine and ended up with $.12. I’m not a gambler.

Presidents fighting Russians on the ground, crippling sanctions, nuclear threats- and the Russian invasion of Ukraine is only days old. Things have not gone according to Vladimir Putin’s plans. The Ukrainians have proven resourceful and willing to fight for their nation and future self determination. Superior weapons and conventional tactics haven’t made the difference for Russia because the Ukraine has had the will to do whatever it takes to win. Champion boxers have taken up arms to fight. A marine blew up a bridge with himself on it to stop their tanks. Miss Ukraine is armed and shooting. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Russia may still wear them down and eventually win, but the cost in blood will almost certainly not be worth it.

It won’t be in dollars either, and that should scare the shit out of you. President Biden and his allies have imposed sanctions on Russia that should inflict a depression the likes of which they haven’t seen. We’re talking real life conditions in Russia they haven’t seen since the Nazis invaded them. On Thursday and Friday the oligarchs were losing over a billion dollars an hour in their net values. That will get worse this week. They will pressure Putin to win or get out. That was the point of the sanctions. We have never seen Putin cornered like that. He’s already making noises about having his nukes ready. The next several days could be a very scary place, or even deadly.

Russia had no legitimate reason to attack Ukraine. They’re not the first country to start an unwarranted war, and probably not the last. Whether this was ultimately about “Historic Russia”/Neo-Soviet aspirations (it was) or NATO expansion (it mostly wasn’t), Putin needs to be taught a harsh lesson, or just flat out removed now. His nationalistic, “historic Russia” rambling speech could be seen as the opening salvo in a campaign that sees him trying to take countries in Central Asia, Finland, Poland, or even as far west as Slovakia. Estonia, Latvia, they’re basically gone if he has his way. It’s going to be a dangerous, ugly week. God willing, everyone survives it. That includes Russian citizens hoping for a better tomorrow. They didn’t pick this pathway.

Well, it’s finally here- MLB’s self-imposed “deadline day” to get a deal to end the lockout and start the season. Never mind that the owners locked the players out, refused to put forward a real offer for over 40 days, and now refuse to offer much of anything for the tens of millions they each want for expanded playoffs. At the heart of this is a broken economic system where every owner in the league makes $100 million (on the lowest end) between their local TV deal and the national TV deal, yet 12 teams didn’t even carry that in payroll. Remember, that was before they sold you a single $30 (upper deck) ticket, got your parking money, got your $13 for a beer, sold jerseys and hats, or got your parking money. That’s not taking into account the access to capitol owners have for owning these assets- even the small market Kansas City Royals sold for over a billion dollars just a few years ago. These guys have a license to print money. They won’t pay minor leaguers the minimum wage.

The owners should absolutely get their expanded playoffs, even though “traditionalists” like me hate it. They deserve to grow the game since they invested in it. In exchange they should set a salary floor, raise the luxury tax threshold, and pay minor leaguers better. They’re resisting doing that, even though they would still win on the deal. Instead they want to delegitimize the season. The NFL is a way more disgusting league to watch, but at least they don’t self-sabotage.

I’m not going to say beating the Timberwolves (playoff bound) and Knicks (dead enders) shows the Sixers to be more likely to win a title with James Harden in this season. I am going to say that Harden looks happier, healthier, and like his skills are still on point so far. He’s dropped a triple double, Embiid is still putting in 30+ a game, and Maxey looks like a budding star through two games together. Sure, they need to get Tobias involved more, and sure, they need to figure out the rotations. With that said, they have three guys playing at an All-Star level right now, and the best player in the league this year. That’s why I’m hopeful for a title.

Until tomorrow…