Before we jump into things, take a look at the 15 Most Beautiful Places in the US  according to The Discoverer. Not a bad list at all. Might want to add some to a Bucket List if you have one. I have only been to one – the Na Pali Coast in Kauai – and it’s worthy of being listed. #Honeymoon1991.
And here’s the 2024 Presidential Primary Preference Survey!  It’s anonymous – you don’t have to tell me who you are. Just have some fun and rank your choices! The results thus far are FASCINATING but I need more good people like YOU participating to make it a better, but still non-scientific, sample.
So … let’s jump into things.
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema left the Democratic Party and registered as an Independent. Here’s her op-ed. Key paragraphs:
Everyday Americans are increasingly left behind by national parties’ rigid partisanship, which has hardened in recent years. Pressures in both parties pull leaders to the edges, allowing the loudest, most extreme voices to determine their respective parties’ priorities and expecting the rest of us to fall in line.
In catering to the fringes, neither party has demonstrated much tolerance for diversity of thought. Bipartisan compromise is seen as a rarely acceptable last resort, rather than the best way to achieve lasting progress. Payback against the opposition party has replaced thoughtful legislating.
Arizona’s political party by registrations go:
Independent – 294k or 43%
Democratic – 197k or 29%
Republican – 189k or 27%
Sinema joins Senators Bernie Sanders (VT)and Angus King (ME) as Independents caucusing with the Democrats.
Here is the national Gallup polling breakdown of the R-D-I breakdown over the last year:
Notice how Independents moved late to the Democrats 5 to 3.
But are they REALLY that many Independents? Yes, but given the binary choice of picking between Democrats or Republicans, the plurality of people choose to NOT identify with either party even though they usually vote – with some consistency – one way or the other. About 9-10% are REALLY Independents.
The national center-left group The Third Way recently published a report entitled The Dangerous Illusion of a Presidential Third Party in 2024  that ends thusly:
Pundits spent years waiting for Trump’s base  to leave  him , either by abandoning the GOP and supporting Democrats, or by staying home on Election Day. But they won’t. The Trump base is far more loyal than Biden’s coalition.
Anyone backing a third-party candidate should be clear eyed: they are not establishing a new political faction, because their candidate is not going to win. Rather, they are creating a spoiler who will help elect Donald Trump.
So, they want a Third Way but not if it elects Trump. Here’s their graphic on the outcome Democrats were able to produce in 2020 with less successful third parties in key battleground states. I’ve pointed this out before but graphs always help.
Basically, the third, fourth, and fifth choices in 2016 cost Hillary! the Electoral College.
Switching gears to the Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout trade….
Let’s look at Griner’s stats with the WNBA team from Phoenix. Trivia first and NO GOOGLING! What’s the name of the Phoenix team? The Phoenix … (answer below).
Since 2013, Griner has averaged 17.7 points per game and 7.6 rebounds. That’s a pretty good stat line. Click here for all of her stats.  h/t to Basketball Reference.com.
I tried to find some publicly available data on Viktor Bout, notorious arms dealer, and I found this 60 Minutes segment called “Viktor Bout – The Merchant of Death” in which some of his arms deals are recounted. Pretty big numbers. 
As a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I am more than acquainted with bad front office trades and decisions. Our son, William, and I will never forget the day the Pirates traded Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and a player to be named later for Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Chris Archer.
Initially, we were kind of excited that the Pirates were making a move to try to make the playoffs in 2018. But we texted each other almost at the EXACT SAME TIME: “That player to be named had better not be Shane Baz!” As long as it was NOT Baz – our first round pick from 2017 – then this was an expensive, but understandable trade for sure. Adding Baz to the deal would be too much.
You can probably guess what happened next … YUP – those bozos in Pittsburgh later named Shane Baz to complete the deal. *FacialTicReturns*
It’s widely regarded as the worst trade in Pirates history and deservedly so. Many Orioles fans will never get over Glen “GlassJaw” Davis for Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch, and Steve Finley. And, of course, RedSox fans were cursed for nearly a century with the Babe Ruth trade for $125,000 in 1919.
My point is this – let’s see how the Griner for Bout trade pans out. Ya never know, right? Maybe Phoenix goes to the second round of the playoffs this year with Griner back in the lineup. *CrossesFingers*
I think the real question in this trade is whether or not Viktor Bout reprises his role as “The Merchant of Death.” That’s the real unknown here.
At least the WNBA is finally interesting!
Yes, of course, I am happy that Griner is back home safely and before the holidays, too. Here’s hoping that the other prisoners like teacher Marc Fogel  and former Marine Paul Whelan  can get similar deals before the trading deadline. (pun intended)
Shopping for wine for the holidays? Here’s the Bloomberg list of 50 under $50. 
My wine advice? Find a good retailer (I like The Wine Whisperer in Short Pump – see Jenna) and stick with them. Give them the parameters and trust their knowledge. Easy. Make notes and adjust. Have fun! It’s wine after all. It’s not like you’re betting on the WNBA playoffs or picking out furniture.
Speaking of meals for the holidays – Ina Garten’s Ultimate Beef Stew is phenomenal and a growing tradition in Casa de Saxman. We’ll aim for either the 21st or 22nd for that dish.
The 23rd is – of course – The Feast Day of the Immaculate Reception and in honor of Franco Harris and his Italian Army, I make my mother’s chicken cacciatore recipe. (H/t Momo – miss you! She still finds time to send cardinals to hang outside our kitchen window to remind me of her presence. Who knew Heaven had down time?) #10years
Christmas Eve is more casual and celebratory with Honey Baked Ham sandwiches and Emeril’s Oyster Stew with Andouille Potato Mash . Prosecco is a preferred accompaniment.
New Christmas movies I have enjoyed this year – The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix and the very new A Christmas Story Christmas – sequel to A Christmas Story. Recommend both as they finish strong. #RalphieGoesHome
Also – I watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for the first time last night. That’s a fun and, in the end, quite touching movie. I recommend that one, too.
Aaaand finally … a tribute to one of the most underrated singers of her generation, Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, who passed away recently. Songbird and Everywhere:
RIP and thanks for your gift of song and verse.
The Phoenix Mercury. Welcome home, Brittney.
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