Well kidlings, it's time for the first 2017 round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction. When we play this game we usually we begin with an item from Big Rob's stomping grounds of Flint. Unfortunately, Flint's water situation continues, making the city the poster child for man-made tragedies. 


As of today, Flint residents have been subjected to surviving on bottled water for 1,023 days. This means children entering the second grade this past fall have never had a school day when they could drink from the their school's faucets. “On April 24, 2014, state and local officials ceremoniously began supplying the city with improperly treated water from the Flint River. Although the ensuing water crisis has long since faded from national headlines, for Flint residents, the ramifications of this disastrous, short-sighted attempt at cost saving are still very much a daily reality.” A video at 

http://on.freep.com/2hUeS4o documents what one resident described as “like being in war, but without violence.” (https://www.yahoo.com/news/after-1000-days-flint-is-still-without-clean-drinking-water-222111445.html)


Well, hopefully Flintites got a brief respite from their dire circumstances by watching the Super Bowl. Did you know that the big game has a lingering effect the day after? “Statistics show over 16 million people call in sick or just don’t show up to work. And for those that do, productivity plummets so far that the country loses on average around $1 billion.” This is why the Heinz company is pushing for a national holiday for the day after the Super Bowl – SMUNDAY. “So as far as we’re concerned at Heinz, we as a nation should stop settling for it being the worst work day of the year.”


There is an online petition you can sign to support this effort. “If we get over 100,000 signatures, it will be sent to Congress. If we can make Big Game Sunday awesome, we can make the Monday after awesome too.” The petition already has around 75,000 signatures. You can add yours at www.smunday.org


Even though the football season has just ended, Major League Baseball is just around the corner with spring training starting this month. This comes just in the nick of time for players because most of them need to shed some poundage. “Our analysis of historical data on body mass in nearly 18,000 professional baseball players showed that for 120 years, most baseball players (about 60 percent) were classified as normal weight and almost none were obese. Things changed in the past quarter-century. Professional baseball players have become larger: 70 percent are now overweight, and one in ten is obese. Only 20 percent of professional baseball players are normal weight.” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/10/04/baseball-mlb-playoffs-obesity-fat-column/91479384/)


This may explain why a rule change was proposed this week to raise the strike zone to above the knees. Hitters can't hit a low strike if they can't see a low strike due to expanded beltlines. Maybe they would be slimmer if they had to pay for ballpark snacks like fans do. Last year the cost for two beers and two hot dogs at Detroit's Comerica Park was $18.50. (http://money.cnn.com/interactive/news/economy/mlb-prices/)


Politics is always a good source of “can't make this up” material. For instance, how about that border wall thingy? It turns out we may be looking in the wrong direction. Bad hombres may be less of a problem than crafty canucks.  “Seven FBI Terrorist Screening Center monthly domestic encounter reports dating from April 2014 to August 2016 detail the number, type, and location of encounters with known or suspected terrorists across the United States. In all seven reports, the numbers of encounters at land border crossings were higher in northern states than southern. Not to say that Mexico isn’t a problem, but the real bad guys aren’t coming from there...In August 2016, for example, more than twice as many watchlisted individuals were encountered at land border crossings in northern U.S. border states than in all states on the Mexican border combined.” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/07/fbi-reports-show-terror-suspects-coming-from-canada-while-trump-stares-at-mexico.html)


I know the administration is afraid that some of those bad guys might vote in our elections. President Trump has claimed there is massive voter fraud afoot in our land. That's why appointing Gregg Phillips, whom the President touts as “an authority on voter fraud” is such an insightful pick. Phillips falls under the “it takes on to know one” strategy because he “was registered to vote in multiple states during the 2016 presidential election.” He was “listed on the rolls in Alabama, Texas and Mississippi, according to voting records and election officials in those states.” 


What makes this even more paradoxical is that: “Trump has made an issue of people who are registered to vote in more than one state, using it as one of the bedrocks of his overall contention that voter fraud is rampant. The Associated Press found that Phillips was registered in Alabama and Texas under the name Gregg Allen Phillips, with the identical Social Security number. Mississippi records list him under the name Gregg A. Phillips, and that record includes the final four digits of Phillips' Social Security number, his correct date of birth and a prior address matching one once attached to Gregg Allen Phillips.” (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/80497cfb5f054c9b8c9e0f8f5ca30a62/ap-man-claiming-3m-improper-votes-registered-3-states)


Politics in this country might be tough to figure, but at least it's not as bizarre as Italy. The country is in an economic crisis, but that has led to an odd expansion in certain business sectors. “Tarot card readers, clairvoyants and fortune-tellers are flourishing — superstition has proven to be a lucrative business. Growing despair over the socioeconomic outlook is pushing many Italians to seek occult idols and easy, quick answers to their problems and dreams. It’s one of the few sectors, in fact, that not only is thriving but that also hasn’t decayed. Other recession winners are wine, fashion and the Mafia. The equation is simple: The gloomier the outlook and the greater the people’s despair, the higher the profits of this segment of the black market economy.” 



You may laugh at the Italians, but think about it. It's a short leap from alternative facts and fake news to tarot card readers, clairvoyants and fortune-tellers. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews