Reflections on the first 2 rounds of March Madness

I left Reno early Sunday, making my final three bets on my way out-of-town. The roads were clear, I wanted to beat the crowds back, and I didn’t want to be late for a family event.

The three favorites I bet Saturday went 1-2, with Kentucky the only one to cover the number. I went with one favorite and two dogs Sunday, and the dogs were barking. If you had bet the dogs in all eight of the Sunday games, you would have gone 7-1.

Huggy Bear’s boys covered the number

I bet the only favorite that covered the number–West Virginia–and took Nevada (+8.5) over Cincinnati and Syracuse (+9.5) over Michigan State, mainly because I thought the favorites were getting too much credit. Image my surprise when they both won, especially Nevada. (Until about 10 years ago, you couldn’t place a legal bet on UNR or Vegas in Nevada.)

That brought my four-day record to 15-9, a solid 62.5 percent win rate that paid my expenses and left me with some walking around money. Beats working for a living, which I don’t do anymore anyway.

Here are some general thoughts on the first two rounds:

–The Pac-12 is an embarrassment. First, they got swamped in the bowl games,  then UCLA and Arizona State lost play-in games for the tournament, and our only seeded representative, Arizona, lost by 21 to Buffalo in the first round. Truly embarrassing.

–While I generally don’t root against teams, I was glad North Carolina got swamped by Texas A&M Sunday, losing 86-65. Coach Roy Williams, using his aw shucks country boy act, insists he knew nothing about his players taking no-work classes. The NCAA, showing its usual deference to elite teams, rolled over on this massive cheating scandal.

–UMBC’s upset of Virginia–the first time a No. 16 seed has beat a No. 1 since the tournament went to the currently format–was not that big a surprise to regular readers of The Wall Street Journal. The Journal, which has one of the sharpest sports sections you’ll find anywhere these days, ran an article last week pointing out that Virginia’s plodding style of play made in vulnerable to an upset.

–One of the attractions of the tournament is that at least a couple of schools from the so-called minor conferences always manage to do well. Three of those schools are still alive, including what are apparently the two best teams in the west–Gonzaga and Nevada. Mark Few is truly a great coach.

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March Madness: Where only the strong survive

Having nothing better to do, I spent three hours on U.S. 80 earlier today driving to Reno to meet two old friends to view the first two rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, aka, March Madness.

Given the crappy weather we’ve had the last few days, the drive wasn’t all that bad even if it was slow and tedious. I owe it all to my 4-wheel drive Highlander.

We met up at the El Dorado hotel/casino, not my preferred venue but Bill and Evan wanted to stay downtown and they outvoted me. It turned out to be good decision because there’s a lot of snow and ice around Reno, making for hazardous driving conditions.

The El Dorado is within easy walking distance of several downtown sports books, making comparison shopping a lot easier. When you ‘re trying to beat the point spread, it always pays to shop around.

Where the action is

March Madness is turning into the biggest sports betting event of the year, mainly because of all of the illegal office pools. It is estimated that $10 billion will be bet on the 63 games to be played between now and April 2.

Very little of the money will be bet in Nevada (about $300 million in Vegas, according to USA Today), but you would never know it from the number of people crowding the sports books around town. If you like college basketball and want to be in the middle of the action, Nevada’s the place to be.

I’ve done this enough times that the novelty has worn off, but I like the challenge of trying to make some money betting on teams I pay little attention to during the season. Then there’s the bragging rights that go with doing better than Bill and Evan–I topped them with a 14-5-1 record last year, and I’m looking to repeat.

I’ve known Bill and Evan since all of us were pre-teens. Bill was a classmate at an elementary school in San Mateo, Hayward Park, that doesn’t exist any more. We met Evan playing basketball there.

All three of us stayed pretty close to San Mateo so it wasn’t hard remaining friends. Bill became an accountant and retired as a partner at one of the major firms. Evan was a regional sales manager for one of the big breweries. All three of us are big sports fans.

That doesn’t mean we know a lot about college basketball. Like most opinionated sports fans, we are frequently wrong but never it doubt. I actually paid close attention to what was going on in the last month, and Bill and Evan claim they’ve also been doing prep work,  so we’ll see if it pays off.

(I should point out that none of us went to a school that’s in the tournament, so we won’t have to contend with that bias.)

Against my better judgement, I’m going to post the bets I make so that anybody who’s interested can follow along. I say “against my better judgement” because I typically don’t do well when I spout off about the teams I’m betting.  We’ll see how it works this time.

The hardest part will be to drink moderately and eat a semi-healthy diet. That gets easier as I get older.

I’m going to bet the early Thursday games that interest me before I go to bed tonight so I don’t have to get up too early tomorrow, and then I’ll post all of my Thursday bets here before noon tomorrow. To get warmed up, I’ve made two NBA bets tonight:

–Wizards (-3.5) over the Celtics;

–Wizards/Celtics over 204.

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Some thoughts on the Pennsylvania special election

The vote is still too close to call the winner in Pennsylvania’s special Congressional election, but it’s clear the Democrats are the big winners in a district that voted big time for Donald Trump in 2016.

The result also confirms some trends that don’t look good for Republicans as we approach the mid-term elections. Here are three of the more obvious ones:

–His base may love Trump’s crude, bullying style, but it’s becoming a big turn-off for other people, particularly those who reluctantly voted for Trump because they couldn’t stomach Clinton;

–It’s becoming more obvious that in Trump’s world, it’s all about him and not the Republican party. If he really cared about Tuesday’s election, he would have postponed firing Tillerson and his California-bashing trip until after the votes were in. Did his actions impact the vote? Every little thing matters in a race this close.

–Add Rick Saccone to Roy Moore, Sharron Angle and the other duds Republicans nominated for important races in the last decade. Social conservatives may love these people, but nobody else does.

Does this mean the Democrats are going to be big winners in November? No, but the trend is encouraging. Meanwhile, the Republicans can forget about Coattails Don. They’re stuck with Don the Magician, who can make a 20-point edge disappear in a New York minute.


Listen to Michael Steel, a Republican strategist, on Trump’s visit to his wall prototypes Tuesday:

“Whether or not ‘the wall’ ever gets built, footage of President Trump visiting these prototypes will play over and over again, particularly on Fox News and in campaign ads, as a visual argument that he has kept his promise to his base.”


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Will California greet Trump with violent protests? Bring it on!

President Donald Trump is scheduled to make his first trip to California Tuesday since he was elected president, and nobody expects him to get a friendly welcome.

The divider-in-chief

Just to make sure, the divider-in-chief threw more red meat to the hungry dogs during his weekly address over the weekend:

“The State of California is sheltering dangerous criminals in a brazen and lawless attack on our Constitutional system of government. (California leaders) don’t care about crime. They don’t care about death and killings. They don’t care about robberies.”

Trump will be inspecting prototypes of the border wall Mexico isn’t going to pay for, and is also scheduled to attend a fund-raiser in Beverly Hills, where I’m sure the steel and aluminum boys will be writing some big checks. The more protesters he encounters, the more he will like it.

Trump knows he’s very unpopular in the Golden State and that he has no chance of winning California in the 202o election. But the state is still useful to him.

California is very unpopular in states that back Trump, and he knows he can keep his base engaged if the protests that greet him here are big and hostile. Overturn cars? Set fires? Break windows? Scuffle with police? Bring it on.

There are more than a few progressives in the state who are willing to help him realize his fondest dreams. With any luck, the antifa people will be out in force.

WHO’S AFRAID OF THE NRA?: Well, it turns out Trump is.

During the phony meeting he staged in the White House to discuss gun issues, Trump accused Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and others of being afraid of the NRA, and boasted he could handle the political heat when it comes to raising the age for purchasing an assault weapon from 18 to 21.

That lasted until Sunday, when Trump announced he is appointing a commission to study that and other gun-related issues. In other words, he wants this stuff to die a quiet death while he focuses on an issue the NRA loves, arming school employees.

What a whimp.

Posted in Donald Trump, Politics, Progressives, Public Policy | 1 Comment

Is de Leon ready to lead state’s progressives? You decide

Republicans are hoping that a progressive version of the Tea Party is about to takeover the California Democratic Party, a radical shift the GOP views as good for its chances of finally becoming relevant again in the Golden State.

Dianne Feinstein

The state Democratic Party convention held recently in San Diego certainly gave the Republicans hope as the progressive wing of the party dominated the action.

Aside from promoting a series of radical policies, they managed to give the back of their hand to Senator Dianne Feinstein, a long-time liberal stalwart who operates on the quaint notion that you have to find common ground  with your opponents to get anything done.

They denied Feinstein their endorsement as she seeks a fifth term in the U.S. Senate, and made it clear they prefer her primary challenger, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon. De Leon tried to take the moral high ground in his short but well received speech to the delegates.

Kevin de Leon

“Real leadership, moral clarity, is always doing the right thing, even when no one is watching,” he said. “It should never take a primary challenge for California’s leadership to stand up for
California values.”

“I’m  running because California’s greatness comes from acts of human audacity, not congressional seniority. Who do you trust to have the courage of your convictions.”

So, what exactly was de Leon doing in the state Senate when nobody was looking? You can–and I will–make the case that he showed no vision or leadership when it came the issue of sexual harassment in the chamber he leads.

Take the case of de Leon’s former roommate and long-time buddy, former Senator Tony Mendoza. According to an investigation that led to Mendoza’s ejection from the state Senate, he routinely encouraged underaged interns and other young women who worked on his staff to drink alcohol and spend time alone with him.

Apparently none of this behavior set off alarm bells when de Leon was sharing a house with Mendoza in Sacramento. It took the investigation of an outside law firm to remove the blinder from de Leon’s eyes.

Of course, he’s never been much of a leader when it comes to fighting the sexual harassment of women who work for the state Legislature, or who have to do business with legislators and their staffs.

Teaming up with Senator Ricardo Lara, chair of Senate Appropriation Committee, de Leon routinely killed legislation sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez that would protect state employees who blow the whistle on sexual predators.

Melendez has introduced the legislation annually since 2014, and every year it was killed in committee. It happened again this session before it was abruptly revived, passed both houses of the legislature, and signed into law by the governor.

The about-face by Democratic leaders came as the #MeToo movement spotlighted sexual improprieties in the Capitol. Women have accused three Democratic legislators of misconduct, leading to two resignations and one suspension.

If de Leon wants to mount a serious challenge against Feinstein, he doesn’t need an anchor like failure to address sexual misconduct to drag around. He made an effort to put the issue behind him by releasing Melendez’s bill and calling for expulsion of his old buddy Mendoza.

Both actions came just before the release of substantiated sexual harassment claims against legislators and high-level employees where “discipline has been imposed or allegations have been determined to be well-founded,” according to legislative leaders.

Senator Connie Leyva probably summed it up best when she said: “There has been a clear lack of transparency, accountability and trust in how the legislature handles issues of sexual harassment. Retaliation is one of the biggest barriers for women and men who want to file a complaint about sexual harassment. The legislature must lead by example.”

We now know how de Leon acts when nobody’s paying attention. His progressive supporters may want to give that some serious thought before they decide who they’re going to back for the U.S. Senate seat.

Posted in Democratic Party, State Senator Kevin de Leon, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Here’s a strange story that is also true

My sister-in-law borrowed one of our cars, a Honda CRV, to run some errands in Auburn Thursday. One of her stops was at Safeway, where she left the car unlocked.

I drove that car to the gym this morning and when I got home, I noticed a bag of potato chips sitting on the floor behind the driver’s seat. When I opened the door, I found a bag of groceries, miscellaneous items that included a Safeway house brand.

I took the groceries in the house and showed them to my sister-in-law. Her response: “That isn’t mine. I didn’t buy any of that stuff.”

My guess is that whoever bought the groceries has a car just like ours. He or she put the groceries in the car before visiting another store, but the car was gone by the time they got back.

This is one time I wish I had a Facebook page, but this blog will have to suffice. If you can describe the food and the color of your CRV matches ours, the goodies are yours if you’re willing to drive to Lake of the Pines to retrieve them.

I always lock my car. This incident makes me wonder what I’ve missed all these years.

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Clueless–and newsless–in western Nevada County

The sanctuary movement has been a subject of intense discussion in California, the nation’s only sanctuary state and home to some of the highest profile supporters of the movement.

The Trump administration has been threatening to take action against the state and it finally made its move Tuesday, filing a suit to invalidate three state laws restricting the cooperation of businesses and law enforcement with federal immigration officials.

On the heels of that suit came Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who addressed the topic this morning at a meeting of the California Peace Officers Association in Sacramento. Talk about a subject ripe for discussion!

As luck would have it, the Nevada County Democratic Party sponsored a forum Tuesday night featuring the three candidates for Nevada County Sheriff. The format called for questioning by Pascale Fusshoeller, editor of YubaNet, and then members of the audience.

The forum included the predictable questions about gun safety and pot, as well as two lower visibility subjects–body cameras and concealed carry. But Fusshoeller, who had her own run-in with immigration officials a couple of years ago, apparently didn’t think the sanctuary movement was worth discussing.

The Union also dropped the ball in its coverage of the subject. The suit was filed in Sacramento before the federal courthouse closed at 5 p.m., and CBS 13 news–never known for its news-breaking abilities–led with the story on its 6 p.m. broadcast. The Sacramento Bee posted what was essentially today’s page one story at 6:20 p.m.

Today’s Union had a story about Sessions making a “major announcement about sanctuary policies” in Sacramento today, a story Associated Press clearly transmitted before the law suit was filed.

So why didn’t the paper pick up on the law suit story? My guess is that whoever monitors AP at The Union missed the story, didn’t appreciate its significance, or didn’t bother to look at AP after the decision was made to run the Sessions story.

Our local radio stations didn’t cover themselves with glory either. KNCO-AM had nothing about the suit on its web site as late as 10:30 a.m. this morning. It wasn’t even included in its ABC News “Top Stories” section. Meanwhile, KVMR-FM led its Tuesday evening news with a plug for the Feminist Film Festival at Sierra College.

But there’s another sheriff candidate forum tonight at Nevada Union High School, The Union publishes again Thursday, and our radio stations are still on the air. Here’s a chance to make amends.

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