Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Government Shutdown/Debt Ceiling Issue

There is a lot of talk about a solution emerging from the Senate. There may be a compromise among senators from both parties, but the fact remains that the problem is in the House. The problem is that there are idiot tea party Republicans who I really do not think understand basic finance. The idea that the U.S. government can just be allowed to default on any of its obligations is completely ridiculous, but we have members of the tea party caucus who think it would not be so bad.

John Boehner has a choice: (1) allow a "clean" spending bill and debt ceiling increase to go forward and probably lose his job as Speaker from a revolt by tea party folks, or (2) continue the shutdown, do not pass a debt ceiling increase, and watch the U.S. and global economy fall into a major depression. The second option allows him to keep his job temporarily, but he will probably lose his Speakership because Dems take over the House.

It is scary to think about how bad it will really be if the tea party radicals win out.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lovie Smith to Coach the Tampa Bay Bucs

OK, I don't have any inside information, but this would be a great hire. Schiano won't be the coach next year. It is very clear that the locker room hates him. Frankly, if I were the Bucs management, I would cut my losses right now and do what I can to bring in Lovie Smith.

Say what you want about Lovie, but he is a player's coach who knows D and who is well respected around the NFL. He could quickly fix the locker room problems that exist and could get far more out of the somewhat talented, but completely underperforming, Bucs players. I hope it happens because I think Lovie is a very good coach.

Monday, October 14, 2013

NFL Notes

The Packers were able to squeak by the Ravens. I am sure John Harbaugh is questioning his decisions. He went for a 4th and 1 at the goal line and got stuffed early in the game. That field goal would have helped. I had no problem with going for it there. You want to try to show some confidence in your team and it is early - it just didn't work. However, the decision to be aggressive right before halftime was disasterous. The Ravens were fortunate to only be down 3-0 just before halftime after Mason Crosby missed a late field goal. There were 12 seconds and instead of just running the ball or downing it at the Ravens' 35 yard line and going into halfime they tried to throw the ball. Sack, fumble, field goal Packers at the half. Now you are down 6-0. The problem I had was that they hadn't done anything in the first half, points were at a premium, and what did they think they were going to do with just 12 seconds. Even if Flacco completes a pass the best they are going to be able to do is go for a Hail Mary. Bad coaching mistake that ended up being the difference in the game.

The Houston "fans" who cheered Schaub's injury are fools.

The Vikings should go to Josh Freeman right now.

The Bucs need to fire Schiano right now.

The Saints displayed very poor clock management and blew the game against the Patriots. They had that game won, but gave the Patriots the ball 3 times in the final 3 minutes. They deserved to lose for their poor clock management.

The Deadskins stink. But RG3 looked much more dynamic in the running game. He missed some open throws and had some balls flutter out of his hand; he also fumbled a couple of times and threw an interception, but he does look better. The Deadskins and him personally would have been better off waiting a few weeks until after the bye. He would have been rusty, but at least his legs would have worked.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bears Win

The Bears made it interesting, but in the end they beat the Giants 27-21. As I was watching it, it seemed like the Bears were going to win pretty much the entire time. However, in the fourth quarter the game was close and the Bears could very well have lost the game. I got nervous that Eli was going to pull one out, but Tim Jennings effectively ended it with his second interception of the night.

Here are a couple of thoughts:

1. The offensive line and Jay Cutler both played well. I liked that Cutler didn't make any boneheaded plays and threw it away a number of times. He also made some plays with his legs to keep drives going. Nice job.

2. The running game was OK, but will need to get better. I thought some of it was play calling. They didn't really run consistently - particularly in the first half. They also seemed to call a lot of plays between the tackles and it just wasn't really there tonight.

3. The Bears defensive line was short-handed. Henry Melton and Nate Collins - two major players at DT are lost for the year and Stephen Paea did not play because of a toe injury. As a result the Bears gave up a fair amount of rushing yards. It is probably my biggest concern going forward.

The Bears get a bit of a mini-bye and can recover from some of the nagging injuries before going to DC. Hopefully the DT situation will improve, because the Deadskins will bring a much more potent rushing attack. Should be fun.

Republican Foolishness

The government shutdown is a mess of a problem that is completely manufactured by Republicans who just cannot accept the Affordable Care Act. It is the law and they want to find a procedural way to stop the law. It passed legislatively, it was upheld by the Supreme Court, we have had a presidential election in which people could vote out President Obama if they didn't like his signature policy. The Republicans lost a significant number of seats in the Senate and the House in the last election while campaigning against the Affordable Care Act - and yet, they still cannot give it up. Idiots.

I am 100 percent with President Obama's position that no negotiation should take place until the government is back in business and there are no threats to the debt ceiling. No President - Democrat or Republican - should negotiate with a Congress that won't take care of the bare minimum requirements of governing. The thing that scares me is that there are so many Republicans who simply do not understand what the debt ceiling is or the consequences of defaulting on any of our government's financial obligations.

It would be a complete disaster to allow the government to default. Interest rates would likely spike and the future value of U.S. Treasury notes would greatly diminish. It would be harder to service our national debt and we would all likely have to pay far more for our cars, houses, school loans, etc. Hopefully the adults in Congress will stick the idiots who don't understand the consequences of default (i.e., tea party Republicans) in a corner with their dunce caps on.

Chicago Bears - New York Giants

The Giants are 0-5 and should end up 0-6 after they play the Bears tonight. The Bears are 3-2 and have played fairly well over the first 5 games. Losing the last two to Detroit and the Saints is OK if they beat the Giants and the Deadskins next week.

As for tonight, the key will be who controls the line of scrimmage. The Giants have been struggling but the Bears have 2 rookie o-linemen and a rash of injuries on the defensive front. In the end, I expect the Bears to win by at least 14 points in a game that largely controlled by the Bears.

Jay Cutler does not usually play well under the lights, so I am interested in seeing what he does. I suspect there will be a heavy dose of Forte and Michael Bush tonight, and the passing game will feature some quick hitting timing plays to the wide receivers. I'd love to see Hester break one - it has been a while. Can't wait for tonight.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Federal Government Shutdown

Living in Maryland, the shutdown is having a pretty dramatic immediate effect. Many of my neighbors are federal employees or government contractors and there are certainly many who are staying home. It is unfortunate because the work that they do is essential. I have neighbor friends who work for NTSB, NIH, and NSA who are all home not doing the work of the American people.

Here is my bottom line take on the shutdown - Republicans are idiots. They could not defeat the Affordable Care Act legislatively, so they have decided to shut down the government rather than fund the law that was passed and upheld by the Supreme Court. Frankly, they have no leverage to stand on. "Negotiating" with hooligans who would rather bring down the government than work to change the law makes little sense. Democrats and the President have no reason to "negotiate" because Republicans aren't offering anything other than the normal functioning of the government.

When people die from tainted food because food inspections aren't being conducted, or veterans stop receiving their benefits, or income tax refund checks don't get mailed, the outcry will get louder and the Republicans will ultimately give in. The American people may not fully understand why the shutdown is happening, but in the end they will know it was the Republicans who caused it.

Chicago Bears 3-1

Jay Cutler had one of his soul-crushing performances that he pulls out from time to time. Three interceptions and another fumble that went for a TD were too much to overcome. The Bears D played pretty well given all of the short fields and offensive mistakes they had to try to clean up.

That said, the Bears are where they need to be four games into the season. Players sometimes have the kind of horrible days that Jay went through - the key is not to have more than one per season. The Saints are visiting Chicago this week and then the Bears play the Giants and Deadskins before the bye. If they win two or three of the upcoming games they will be in good shape following the bye. I do think this week's game against the Saints will be a great test of how good the Bears really are. Playing at home against an undefeated Saints team, following a loss, is a good situation to see what the team is made of.

Monday, September 23, 2013

3-0 Bears

The Bears won their third game in a row and their first win on the road. They played a desperate, but undermanned, Pittsburgh team and won. There were points in the game when the Bears looked unstoppable, and then there were other points where it looked like they might blow it. In the end, it was a very good NFL road victory.

The first quarter was fantastic for the Bears. They took the opening drive down the field and kicked a field goal. The D got a turnover and created a short field which then ended in a Forte TD. The D forced a 3 and out and the Bears third drive ended in a Bush TD run. It was 17-0 and it looked like the rout was on. After a Pittsburgh field goal, the Bears O was stopped for the first time in the game but after the punt, Big Ben threw a pick-6 to Major Wright. Bears 24-3.

At that point, it looked pretty bad for the Steelers. The Bears D held and had forced a punt. But a roughing the kicker penalty on the Bears extended a Steeler drive that resulted in a TD. So, the halftime score was a respectable 24-10. The Bears forced a Steeler fumble after the half and kicked a field goal. Bears 27-10. Then the Steelers clawed their way back and with about 10 minutes to go had closed the game 27-23. Cutler pulled out another great fourth quarter drive that ate up clock and ended in a TD. Bears up 34-23 with under 6 minutes to go and the game was effectively over. Peppers ran in a 42 yard fumble to put the final margin at 40-23.

It was an efficient offensive game, with a couple of timely drives for the Bears, but it was a truly dominating defensive performance. The Bears forced 3 fumbles and the Bears safeties picked off two passes. Add three sacks and constant pressure on Big Ben, along with two more defensive TDs last night, and the Bears D showed itself to be a real force.

On to Detroit for a stiffer road test.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tim Tebow to Jacksonville?

The Jaguars stink right now. They have some nice young pieces and their D is OK, but they stink. They will be lucky to win 3 games this year. The fans don't show up to games and there is a lot of gloom around the team. So, does it make sense to sign Tebow?

There was a "rally" to get Tebow. He got 20 supporters to show up. There is also an online petition in Jacksonville that has nearly 600,000 people saying he should not be signed no matter what.

In the end, it probably is not worth it. If you sign him you have to deal with the circus around him. That is OK if you win a couple of games, but you cannot run a pro-style offense and it may actually hurt the development of your offensive line and receivers. I doubt you would keep Tebow next year when the first pick will likely be a QB that you want to build around. Use this year to work on fundamentals and figure out who the character guys are on the team. Then, next year let the rebuild start with around a new QB.

Fantasy Football

I lost my two games last week and won my two games this week. So I am 1-1 in both leagues. I got Giovani Bernard in the middle rounds of both leagues and he may end up being a steal. He scored twice for Cincy last night and secured my victory for the week in one of my leagues (I benched him in favor of Ahmad Bradshaw in my other league).

I also have Kembrell Thompkins as a late round pick on both my teams. He would have had a great week if he could have held on to the diving catch he tried to make this past weekend. Tom Brady is still looking for options in the passing game. I think Thompkins is the best bet to emerge among the lesser known guys. Julien Edelman looks like he will be the new Wes Welker. Gronk will be Gronk when he comes back, but Thompkins looks like the guy who will be the deep threat.

To win in fantasy football, you have to have guys who come out of nowhere and become studs. Injuries always play a part, but the difference in the end is finding players who are late picks and free agent pickups who become point producers and difference makers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

2-0 Chicago Bears

Awesome game yesterday. I had a bye week from soccer and it was the first time in a long time that I got a chance to go to a sports bar and watch my Bears play. My son is a Ravens fan and we were able to sit and watch the Bears and Ravens play at a local establishment. The Bears were in a back-and-forth battle all day. The game was filled with huge plays and tide-turning mistakes. The Vikings returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a TD. Devin Hester had two really long (about 80 yard) kickoff returns and one that was about 50 yards (he set a record for most return yardage for a Chicago Bear). Tim Jennings got a huge pick-6, but Cutler gave one up with the Bears driving he fumbled and it got returned for a TD. The Bears had a first and goal on the 1 yard line and then called for a play action pass that got deflected and intercepted in the end zone, but then Cutler closed the final 3 minutes by driving the ball down for the winning TD pass to Bennett. Great game to watch because we won.

I like the Bears offense. There is a great mix of shots down the field with short passes. I haven't looked at the stats, but there were a lot more 3rd and 5 plays than 3rd and 10 plus plays. The Bears have a lot of manageable 3rd downs that they have to deal with but when they get them and keep drives alive it saps some of the energy from the opposing team. The offensive line is playing very, very well. The pass protection is there, but so are the running lanes. There is great balance with the play calling and the key players are making plays. Marshall had another 100 yard receiving day. Bennett got 75 yards and 2 TDs. Forte rushed for 90 yards and got another 70 receiving. Jeffery and Earl Bennett also had key catches. In fact, the Bears offense moved the ball pretty well most of the day. If not for the two first half turnovers that I mentioned above, the Bears may have cruised to victory.

The defense is solid. They got sacks and they largely controlled AP. He ripped off one 36 yard run, but other than that he was held in check. The Bears also got the pick-6 and bailed out the offense after a Forte fumble in Chicago territory and after a second Cutler interception.

The Bears go on the road to Pittsburgh. To me, that is a game I expect the Bears to win. Fantastic start against solid competition, but they just have to keep it going.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Chicago Bears - Minnesota Vikings

The Bears get a second game at home and could establish themselves as a team to watch out for if they can beat the Vikings. Frankly, I expect the Bears to win by at least 10 points. Defensively it all comes down to stopping Peterson - which I believe the Bears will do. Christian Ponder will make a couple of mistakes and set up short fields. The Bears' offense is a work in progress, but if they can keep Cutler upright they should be fine. In the end, I expect a 24-14 game, that goes to the Bears.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thoughts on Syria

No question that Syria is a mess. It is quite likely that chemical weapons were used against the Syrian people by their government. Last night the President spoke to the nation - unfortunately I did not watch it, but I have an understanding of what he argued for. We will use diplomacy with the help of Russia, and if that doesn't work stronger action will be taken. The President is trying to build support for military action, but it is not likely to come. Quite frankly, unless there are clearer objectives and a strategy that is in our national interest we should stay out of Syria.

Bashar al-Assad appears to be a cruel dictator, however, regime change does not ensure Jeffersonian democracy that favors American interests. Iraq is still a mess. Afghanistan is still a mess. Egypt is a mess. Libya is a mess. The "rebels" in Syria are unlikely to have strong pro-American views, so if we were to support them, it is likely that they to will be anti-American soon after they were to take power.

The moral argument that we have to protect children who are being gassed by the Syrian government is a compelling moral argument, but the U.S. is not the policeman to the world and there is no real national interest for the U.S. that I can see that would convince me that American blood and treasure should be spilled in Syria. I may change my mind, but for now there just isn't a reason that I can see.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NFL Thoughts after 1 Week

There is so much hype and craziness after one week in the NFL. The teams that won are all going to the Super Bowl and the teams that lost have major problems. Here are my top five stories after week 1.

1. Pittsburgh may be in trouble. They could not run the ball at all and struggled mightily on offense. They lost Pouncey and Foote - two key veteran players and don't seem to have an NFL running back on their team.

2. The AFC North teams all lost - Ravens, Cincy, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. Cincy probably played the best of the bunch, but who knows what is going to happen. I think the Ravens and Pittsburgh are a little worse this year from a personnel standpoint. Cleveland is better - but their QB situation may be trouble. Cincy should probably win the division.

3. The flying Chip Kellies in Philly will be interesting to watch. They are unique, and they pretty much destroyed the Redskins in the first half. The second half they seemed to slow down, but it is hard to tell if it was a function of taking their foot off the gas (they seemed to run much more in the second half), or playing prevent defense and allowing points. My view is that Vick will get hurt in a few weeks and Foles won't be as effective. I also fully expect defenses to catch up to the tendencies of Chip Kelly. By mid year we'll see how effective the offense really is.

4. Jacksonville should sign Tim Tebow. That franchise has very little going for it and the way they got carved up by KC at home is messed up. There were no fans left early in the fourth quarter. Tebow will sell tickets and may be able to generate some excitement.

5. Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning are really good. Both exploded this week and it is tough for me to decide who was better. They have to be the favorites to meet in the Super Bowl after week 1.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Chicago Bears 1-0

The Marc Trestman era is off to a great start. I was able to catch the fourth quarter and saw the Bears complete the comeback against a very solid Bengals team. Here are a couple of initial thoughts. The Bears defense is going to be really good this year. They have a great rotation on the defensive line. The linebackers are very active and the secondary is awesome. I think the retirement of Brian Urlacher has actually helped the defense in that the team's speed is better. I know there will be times when calls won't be right, but as the season progresses, I think the additional athleticism will be more beneficial.

The special teams were solid. Robbie Gould hit a franchise record 58-yard field goal - which turned out to be the difference in the score. Kickoffs were also good, so it looks like he has recovered fully from his late-season injury from last year. I'd like to see more out of the return game - and I expect to see it in coming weeks as Devin Hester is now basically just a full-time return man.

The offense started slow, but it seems that the offensive line is much improved. They played well against a very good front 7 and did not give up a sack. After Cutler threw a horrible interception early in the 4th quarter, the defense forced a fumble and the offense just seemed to click. Cutler was efficient in moving the ball 80 yards for the go ahead touchdown. It was a great drive with a good mix of runs and passes. There was a long pass to Marshall, an 18-yard scramble by Cutler, an 8-yard run by Forte on a 4th and 1 play, and then a laser pass to Marshall on a back shoulder fade type route that capped the drive. The Bears D held Cincy and the Bears offense was able to bleed the final six and a half minutes of the game with a great sustained drive. I was very pleased with the effort and think the key to the season is continuing to improve on offense. This should happen as Trestman gets more comfortable with the personnel and the Bears get more comfortable with his system.

Next up is Minnesota at Soldier Field. I like the matchup for the Bears.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

NFL Predictions

The season starts today and as always I am excited. This is a time of year when hope springs eternal and everyone can dream of the Super Bowl for their team. Here are my top five thoughts:

1. Super Bowl Predictions. First, I think a lot of teams have a chance, but if I had to pick a final game I would say San Francisco vs. Denver. Denver wins the championship. The Broncos offense will be very good this year. They have great wide receivers, good running backs, and a great QB. There is some question about the offensive line, but with their quick passing attack they should be fine. The question will be on defense and special teams. People remember Jacoby Jones getting behind the Bronco secondary, but they forget that there were two special teams TDs that also did in the Broncos. I think Denver will put it all together and win this year. Frisco is a tremendous defensive team that plays a very physical offensive game also. However, Kaepernik won't sneak up on anyone and I expect he will take a few shots on the field as he takes off to run.

2. Chicago Bears. Very unusual for a new coach to inherit a 10-6 team that has a very good defense and great offensive pieces. Everything will hinge on Jay Cutler this year. Sure Marshall and Forte have to deliver, but the question that has to be answered is whether Cutler is truly a franchise QB. He has to make plays that keep drives alive and he has to avoid the soul-crushing turnovers that he sometimes commits. The offensive line has 4 new starters and has shown some good signs in pre-season, but I expect that there will be some issues early, but I like Marc Trestman and believe he will call more innovative plays that take advantage of Cutler's abilities to move out of the pocket and throw. In the end, I expect the Bears to go 11-5 and compete with Green Bay for the division crown. I think the Lions and Vikings are solid teams, so it is going to be a tough race. As with most teams, the key will be who can stay healthy. With a little luck, I do think the Bears can compete for the Super Bowl.

3. Washington Redskins. Great offensive team when RGIII plays. Solid team when other guys are at QB. The defensive secondary is still too weak to compete for the NFC title. Too many teams have wide receivers that can torch the Redskin D. I think the Redskins will go 8-8 this year. I do think the NFC East is a weaker division so that helps. The Eagles should be improved, Dallas is OK, the Redskins are OK, and the Giants are better than average. My sense is that the Giants are the team to beat. I know there is a lot of love for the Redskins in the national media, but there are simmering issues with RGIII/Shanny and it is not clear how a change in play calling (away from the read option) will help/hurt the Redskins. People should not expect RGIII to electrify like he did last year, and if he doesn't and the Redskins lose a few because of their suspect secondary then there will be a weird dynamic on the team.

4. Dark Horse Teams. The three teams that I would say could surprise this year are Kansas City, Carolina, and Cincy. Cincy was a playoff team last year and I am not sure if they are much of a surprise, but Carolina should be improved and I expect Cam Newton to really take off. Carolina played a lot of close games and I also think their style of play will allow them to compete against Atlanta and New Orleans who should be at the top of the division. However, with a couple of breaks, Carolina could surprise folks. Kansas City has a QB and a coach with a history of success. I would not be surprised if they compete for a playoff spot. They seem hungry and they play in a weak division.

5. Weak Teams. Oakland is terrible. The organization is a mess and they will clean house after this year. The Jets are probably going to have to clean house also. I think San Diego will be considering a change at QB next year. Tennessee won't go anywhere with Jake Locker. There are a lot of mediocre teams, but the one surprise team I'll put on this list is Dallas. Romo got a huge contract but I am not sure he can overcome all of the issues on the team. The team lacks overall depth and there are questions about Garrett as a head coach. Romo is likely to still make a lot of bone-headed mistakes. The receiving corps is still suspect. Dez Bryant is a star, but Witten is getting older, and Austin always seems to be hurt. Injuries on the defensive side of the ball may not be able to be overcome. Somehow I think Dallas is ripe for a disaster this year.

Should be a fun season.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Virginia Football

Great start to the college football season for Virginia. A home win against a solid BYU team in a driving monsoon wasn't pretty, but it will work. The defense was huge - it was an attacking defense that held BYU in check and got the big turnover late in the game to set up the winning score in the final 3 minutes.

Oregon is coming to Charlottesville next week. More than likely, they will roll over Virginia. But it will be a pretty good indicator of how far the D has come. I expect a 20 point loss next week, but that may not be that bad if the Cavs O can score 20.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Michelle Obama's Healthy School Lunches

Some idiots in Kentucky are complaining that the healthy lunch program that Michelle Obama has advocated for has food that "tastes like vomit."

I call them idiots because they have a couple of different options if they don't like trying to be healthy.

1. Michelle Obama didn't make the standards - nutritionists, doctors, and food experts developed the guidelines. Blaming Michelle Obama as if she is sitting in the White House dictating food standards based on her own whims is plain stupid.

2. Make your own kid's lunch and put whatever junk food you want to put into it.

3. Don't get federal funding for your school's lunch program. If you don't like the food guidelines, then don't take federal money. No state or school district is required to take federal money, but if you take the funding then you have to follow the rules.

4. Find some better food suppliers. Complaining about skim milk and wheat bread when we have an obesity problem in this country makes little sense. If the food actually tastes like "vomit" then I suggest you find better suppliers. Skim milk and wheat bread does not normally taste like "vomit."

FYI, Kentucky is ranked number 7 in per capita obesity rates in the U.S. among all states Shockingly (not), the most obese states tend to be red states mostly in the South. Not surprising when you see nuts in Kentucky complaining about skim milk and wheat bread and blaming Michelle Obama for not supporting their choices to fatten up their kids.

Chicago Bears 2013/2014

I could start my post with the typical prediction that I make every year - "Super Bowl" - but I am not going to.

Realistically, I think the Packers and Bears are going to battle for the NFC North Championship. With Lovie and his staff gone, and Brian Urlacher now retired, there is obviously going to be some adjustment period. I like Marc Trestman and he seems like he is going to be creative on offense. The D should be pretty strong given their talent and the new pieces they have picked up. All that said, I could see the Bears going anywhere from 6-10 to 12-4. My guess is the Bears will go 10-6 and make the playoffs this year.

The areas I am most concerned with are offensive line - where it looks like 2 rookies will be starting - and QB. The O-line will be a work in progress, but I do think Trestman will also be better about play-calling which should help cut down on QB hits. Jay Cutler is in a contract year, but he is picking up a new offense. That should work out fine, but if Jay gets hurt, the Bears really do not have a quality backup. This is negligence on the part of the GM in my opinion. Can't wait to see what happens.

Where have I been?

Man, I haven't been on my blog site for months. I've been super busy at work, home life, and with kids' activities. Now that football season is upon us, I am likely to start posting again. I will also be adding my thoughts about politics and life as usual.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

State of the Union/Rubio's Response

Pretty hum-drum SOTU address last night. I would even say that it was a bit boring. At the end, I thought the President hit a pretty strong chord when he pushed for votes on gun legislation, but otherwise I thought it was pretty much standard fare with little in terms of new legislation or policy.

The highlight of the night was really from Marco Rubio who delivered the Republican response. Goodness, the guy has a huge audience that he can introduce himself to and he looks totally uncomfortable and his whole tone was ridiculously combative. The combination made him look like a panicky angry dude.

From a content perspective, I thought it was odd that he talked about government policies that helped his family (Medicare for his dying father and ailing mother, government loans so he could go to college, etc.) and then basically talked about the need to cut back on government policies. However, it wasn't the bad/inconsistent content that he delivered that was as much the problem as his weird hand gestures and struggles to keep from sweating. His pause to lean over and grab a bottle of water was particularly strange. It was like a bad SNL skit - which I am sure will happen this week.

In the end, he really botched an opportunity to look presidential. He kept wiping his forehead and lips and looked really uncomfortable. Then when he reached for the bottle of water. I laughed out loud as if it was a skit. I'm not sure if it will make all that much difference in the long run, but it was a pathetic effort to exude confidence and look like a leader.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Conservative vs. Republican

There is little question that President Bush was a Republican who abandoned many aspects of conservatism (NCLB, Medicare Part D, and worldwide interventions are primary examples). When the standard bearer of the Republican Party is not conservative, it creates a lot of confusion. I also think it gave rise to the radical tea party movement that tried to lurch the Republican Party back toward conservatism in its own way. The end result is a Party that really does not know what to project or what to believe in.

This weekend I was at a dinner party and got into a pretty good political discussion with someone who claims to be conservative, but no longer identified with the Republican Party. This person is well educated and is a fairly rich, high priced consultant working for a major firm in the DC area. I was struck by how defensive he was and how much he wanted to avoid being labeled a Republican. His problem was mostly the anti-science and hyper-Christian conservatism that have hi-jacked the Party, but he also complained about the failure to maintain economic discipline during the Bush years. He clearly disliked the President's policies but seemed exasperated that there was no credible Republican leadership at the federal level.

As we continued our discussion - which was friendly even as we conflicted - he seemed surprised that the federal budget deficit had shrunk under the President. It may very well be the case that the deficit is cut by a half trillion dollars from where it was when the President took office. We shifted to Obamacare and when I asked him what he didn't like, he couldn't really give anything of substance. He then argued that employers should not be required to pay for health care for employees, but argued that individuals should just pay into a federal system (i.e., single-payer) to get health care like they do in Canada and Europe. When I mentioned that this was not a conservative view, we decided to move on to dinner and the conversation just ended.

The two points I will make about this whole conversation is that (1) this individual completely dislikes the Republican Party, and (2) doesn't even know basics about major policy initiatives. This is how many Americans are, which is why you need to have clear, consistent ideas and steady leadership in order to make progress. The Republican Party needs to establish what it wants to do and who will lead them, otherwise they will continue to just twist in the wind.

RepubliCANTs

There continues to be ridiculous opposition of the President by Republicans. Senator Lindsay Graham wants to hold up perfectly qualified candidates for the CIA and Defense Department because he is still unsatisfied about Benghazi. There is little question that they would be approved, but Graham wants to cause trouble.

Senator Bob Corker is starting to question the legality of drone attacks. I don't necessarily disagree that we need better oversight - especially when Americans are targeted. But, what bothers me is that Corker and his Republican friends had no trouble with this during the Bush years.

Representative Eric Cantor went on Meet the Press yesterday and hammered the Obama Administration for wanted to raise taxes. A couple of days earlier he seemed to be more conciliatory and even seemed open to working with the President, but he fell back into his same pit bull mentality with largely useless/baseless Republican talking points.

Until the Republican Party can lay out a real agenda and get serious about governing without all the bluster and the attempts to score political points, they will remain a Party in decline.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Couple of Economic Thoughts

So, the economy (GDP) shrank by 0.1 percent in Q4 of 2012. This is a bad sign, but it is completely understandable with the Super Storm Sandy, the threat of major cuts in government spending through the sequester, and the Republican obstructionism that continues.

The private sector grew significantly, but government spending and contractor spending took a nose dive as agencies and private firms that work for the government (particularly in the defense industry) started cutting back significantly to prepare for the automatic cuts that Congress enacted as part of the sequester deal. With government spending shrinking so significantly and the major disruption in business activity in New Jersey/New York, we saw a flat economy.

The markets did not collapse as a result of the surprise contraction in the economy, so it was not completely unexpected.

Today, we saw another 157,000 jobs created with fairly strong private sector growth. Unemployment ticked up to 7.9 percent so that means more people are returning to the job market. Anemic numbers, but coming on the heels of the GDP figure, I would say it was a pretty solid employment report today.

If we are really looking to improve job creation and jump start economic growth, the government needs to increase spending - preferably on construction projects which impact labor, manufacturing operations, and the transportation/logistics industry. We would also get physical assets (i.e., buildings, schools, roads, bridges) that would last for years and pay for themselves over time.

If Republicans would just get out of the way they wouldn't continue to harm the economy by creating economic crisis after crisis.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Republicans Talking a Good Game

In recent weeks, leading Republican politicians have tried talking a good game. They talk about giving people ideas and appealing to women, minorities, and immigrants. The problem is that they do not really offer any specifics and they remain held back by the tea party type nuts who remain obstinate.

It is odd, because there are some steps toward consensus building, but then Paul Ryan will blast the President for nothing on the Sunday talk shows. John Boehner actually said that the President wants to destroy the Republican Party. These guys just don't get it - they need ideas and substance, not petty whining.

In Virginia, Republican state senators snuck a re-districting map of the State's districts through on Inauguration day because one of the State's black lawmakers was attending the President's Inauguration. This allowed them to sneak the map through with a 20-19 vote. The Republican lieutenant governor had already nixed the idea because it was ridiculously bad, and he refused to agree to break the tie in favor of Republicans. The Republican governor has openly come out against it. In addition, Republican senators want to change how the State's Electoral College votes are divided. Instead of winner take all they wanted to divide them by districts and then give the two additional votes to the winner of the greatest number of districts - not based on the popular vote. This makes no sense whatsoever unless you are trying to make sure that Republicans get more EC votes in the short term. Again, the Governor thinks it is inane (which it is). Instead of working on ideas, many Republican state senators in Virginia just want to change the rules. It may help them in the short term, but it is almost surely going to continue to hurt them over the longer term

President Obama on Football

The President was asked by The New Republic about football. He commented on the violence of the game and the fact that he would "have to think long and hard" about it. I say good for him and I totally agree.

I was a pretty good high school football player, and I enjoyed playing. But I had my share of injuries, including stingers where my arm went numb and I played through. I never suffered a concussion, but am sure I played with concussed players. I still have knee, back, and neck issues as a result of playing. Fortunately, I was a starting player who played for a winning team - but most players aren't as fortunate.

As much as I love football, and as much as I enjoyed my high school experience, I don't want my son to play. I won't prevent him from playing high school football if he wants to and he is good enough to make the team, but I am not going to sign him up for youth football and I will actively discourage him from playing. Too much risk in my opinion.

Pro Bowl Nonsense

I watched a few plays of the Pro Bowl last night and found it to be pretty much unwatchable. There is no reason to even have a Pro Bowl. Guys don't want to get hurt and everything moves at half speed most of the time. It is foolish to even call it a football game.

The NFL should reward players as Pro Bowlers - and I don't really care if they leave the system as is - and give them a check/bonus. Don't worry about playing football. Then, instead of a football game they could have a series of competitions (40 yard dash, weight lifting, obstacle course, etc.) and make it interesting. I don't know if people would really watch, but I know I would be more interested.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ravens and 49er Coaching Thoughts . . .

with a little sprinkling of thoughts about the Bears mixed in.

I like the matchup and am looking forward to the Harbaugh Bowl. I love the Ravens - next to the Bears they are my favorite team. I like their style of play with a focus on D and the running game. I also think Flacco is a very good player.

I want to point out a couple of things about the Ravens. They really scratched their way into the playoffs. They lost 4 of 5 down the stretch and finished 10-6. They lost big in the middle of the year to Houston 43-13. Those kind of numbers might have gotten John Harbaugh fired in Chicago, but because of the division the Ravens played in it was good enough to win. The Bears had a very similar season as the Ravens, but ended up short - that is the way it goes sometimes.

The 49ers went 3-2 down the stretch with a loss to St. Louis and a thumping by Seattle 42-13. Big losses happen in the NFL and teams recover.

I think the big thing that happened for both teams was that both coaches really went unconventional and made big changes during the season. The 49ers changed QBs and it certainly looks like a good move now. I think Alex Smith can play and will start again in the NFL. I expect him to end up in Cleveland with Norv Turner, but Colin K is Jim Harbaugh's guy. In Baltimore, there was some friction between Flacco and Ray Rice and Cam Cameron. The team was doing OK offensively - it was the defense that was really letting them down - but John Harbaugh fired Cameron and went with Jim Caldwell. Another big gamble that paid off for them.

What I like about these moves is that they were gamble for teams that wanted to find a way to break through to a higher level. Both ended up working out. I am hopeful that the Bears decision to be a little more bold will end up pushing them higher.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Clinton on Benghazi

So the Secretary of State testified before a Senate panel today. I didn't see the testimony but read her explanations and about the points where she became combative. In response to Republican Senator Ron Johnson she said,

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make” Clinton scolded Johnson, raising her voice. “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”

That pretty much sums up what I think about Benghazi. The Republicans want to try to pin blame and argue that the President and the Secretary of State willfully did something wrong. The fact is that bad stuff happens and processes sometimes need improvement. I have no issue with having hearings, but the political grandstanding is annoying. Until I see something to say that there was willful negligence, I don't think it serves any purpose to just whine and complain as Republicans have been doing.

In the end, the American people won't care, just as they didn't really care about Iran-Contra - and that was a far more substantive and sinister story of government intrigue and over-reach.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

President's Agenda

President Obama gave a great speech that tapped into liberal/progressive American values. There are a lot of Republican/conservative critics who are complaining that the President did not reach out to them. That is utter nonsense. First, these Republicans are the same ones who have been obstructionists for everything in the first term. These are the same ones who argued that their singular goal was to make President Obama a one term President. Guys like Paul Ryan were plotting a strategy for how to obstruct the President on the day of President Obama's first inauguration.

Republicans moan and whine about the President not working with them, when it is clear they have no intention of working with the President.

The President laid out a very clearly different agenda for the country than the Republicans 5 years ago and he won the election. He has governed for 4 years in a way that has been very different than the policies of Republicans and he has a far higher approval rating than Republicans. He laid out a completely different vision than Mitt Romney and he trounced Romney to get re-elected to his second term. When will Republicans get the fact that their policies are not wanted by the majority of Americans!

I'm glad President Obama was forceful in his defense of his policies and laid out a muscular agenda for his second term that is very different than what Republicans want. Without the concern for re-election, President Obama is free to push for the policies that he has advocated for in his campaign. We will be better as a country for it. The economy is far improved from where it was 4 years ago. The deficit is shrinking - not expanding as Republicans want people to believe. Employment is improving. After 8 years of President Obama we will be in a far better place than when we started. That will be his lasting legacy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration Day

My family and I went down to DC for Inauguration. We stayed off the Mall - there were literally hundreds of thousands of people and I don't like being in that big a crowd. We saw those types of crowds last time and when Stewart/Colbert did their Rally a couple of years ago. Instead, we got bleacher seats on Pennsylvania Avenue on the parade route (at a substantial fee). We got to listen to the speeches and platform party remarks and we got to enjoy what turned out to be a pretty good day.

It is interesting being there for real American history being made. I wasn't really keen on going down - I was fine watching it on TV. But, I have to say that I did enjoy being there live. We were sitting at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House is at 1600 Pennsylvania, so we were pretty close to the end of the parade route. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the President walking in front of us. He got out of his limo and walked about 5 blocks before our spot and then about 2 blocks after us. We did see him in his limo with the Secret Service all around, but I would have loved to have seen him walking. Can't have everything I guess.

Security was thorough but easy enough to get through. We only had to wait about 10 minutes in line to get in. I think part of it was the fact that we paid good money to be where we were. The snipers and spotters on top of buildings were everywhere. My kids really found that part of the security system fascinating. There were a couple of high rise hotels that were around our bleacher area, so it looked like they were pretty busy watching for suspicious activity. I'm sure the proximity to so many hotel rooms overlooking the parade route was a big reason the President didn't get out near us.

The thing I will say is that being in DC today, one could really see how much love this President has. It was a great, diverse crowd of Americans having a good time and being witnesses to history.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bears Defense to Change

Coach Trestman is coming in and hopefully will do something with the offense. Apparently, the defensive coordinator will change. Rod Marinelli will be moving on. It is disappointing that a 10 win team with great special teams and a great defense will have an all new staff. Hopefully this is going to work out.

I am disappointed in the coaching changes that appear to be coming. I wait and see who the coaches are before making a final judgement.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Obama Takes on Gun Control

The President is pushing forward common sense gun legislation. He signed a number of executive orders including outlawing high capacity gun clips, reinstating the assault weapons ban, requiring background checks for all, etc. The NRA will fight back - that should not surprise anyone. The question that we need to have answered is what Republicans will do. If they actually argue that this is all a big gun grab or some kind of attack on Americans' rights, I would be surprised if they win the policy or political debate. We'll see what happens - should be interesting.

Marc Trestman to Coach Bears

The Bears named Marc Trestman their next head coach. I don't know much about him, but looking over his past experience and all of the QBs he has developed I think it is a good pick. I hope that the Bears are able to keep most of their defensive staff together. Much of that will probably depend on if Lovie gets a head coaching job (which is looking less likely).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Obama Won't Negotiate

Finally, the President took the right stand with Boehner. The Debt Ceiling is not a political tool that should be trifled with. For the RepubliCANTs to threaten destroying the economy for political reasons is completely insane. They are committing financial terrorism and I'm glad the President is turning his back on them. You cannot negotiate with idiot terrorists - and that is what they are.

If RepubliCANTs would just get out of the way and stop holding the country hostage all of the time there would be far more financial certainty and the economy would grow even faster. We are in the midst of a recovery that has a horrible drag on it from RepubliCANT lunacy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Republicans Willing to Allow Government Default?

WTF? These people are complete idiots. I'm not going to say much more than this if they are seriously willing to allow the U.S. to default on its fiscal obligations for the first time in American history.

Coaching Notes

I am coaching basketball and indoor soccer. My teams are going in two very different directions. We are 7-1 in indoor soccer and 1-4 in basketball. That said, I am not too worried about the records, especially basketball. We have played the tougher teams in basketball and all but one of the losses was a close loss. Four out of our next five games are against teams that I think are less talented. I expect to win at least three of the next five and would like to see at least four wins. We should have a little more momentum and confidence going into our post-season tournament. It is exactly what happened last year. My boys are now learning to execute our four offensive plays and as we get better at it we tend to play better. We'll see.

In indoor soccer we had a huge game yesterday. We played the only team that had beaten us - the last unbeaten team. We were in second with a 6-1 record. The game got off to a rocky start. Both teams were putting pressure but they went ahead 2-0 about 15 minutes into the game. In the last 10 minutes we got two penalty kicks and I had my son take the shots. He nailed it both time and you could see our team really take off. We went into the half at 2-2. Then went ahead early in the second half 3-2. They tied it about halfway through the half at 3-3, but we got two more goals to win 5-3. Great game and a particularly good game by my son. His defensive skills have really taken off, but his kicks are huge. He had two more free kicks from about 25 yards out that he blasted toward the goal but hit just above the goal. It was awesome.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Politics Thoughts

Republicans need to get their collective act together. It is clear the Boehner is having trouble holding his caucus together. It seems to me that Eric Cantor is a snake who is ready to stab his leader in the back in an effort to gain power. I have thought that for some time, but the way he voted against Boehner in the fiscal cliff deal really sent a message. Boehner was trying to avoid the fiscal cliff and was pushing his fellow Republicans to vote for the deal that was negotiated and Cantor - who is the Majority Leader in the house voted against it. When you have divided leadership it is difficult to govern.

The debt ceiling has to be raised. We may not like it, but citizens should not be fooled into thinking that the U.S. can just default on its financial obligations and there won't be significant consequences. Republicans played chicken and held the country and the world economy over a barrel last time as they fooled with the debt ceiling and flirted with U.S. default. That cannot happen.

Boehner knows it, but Cantor and the increasingly inane Republican caucus that follows him don't seem to understand reality. It should be interesting, but if Republicans in the House hold the debt ceiling hostage, they should be removed from office and tried for treason. Clearly they would be working against the interests of the United States.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Chicago Bears Thoughts

The Bears won their last two games and finished 10-6 but still missed the playoffs. If was a second year in a row and 4th time in the last 5 years. The decision to fire Lovie Smith was not surprising. I support the decision because I think there needs to be more accountability for the failures of the last two years.

I do believe that Lovie is a great coach and should be a head coach again. He is a players' coach and his no nonsense style is great for eliminating drama. I think he would be great for a team like San Diego or Arizona. I do not think he would be good in Philly. The reason is that the fan base in Philly likes drama and wants a coach who is demonstative.

As for the Bears, I'd like to see them keep their defensive coaches in place. I wouldn't mind seeing a new offensive system brought in. My favorite choice at this point would be Dave Toub, who is the current Special Teams coach for the Bears. I'd like to see him hired and for him to bring in a new set of offensive coaches. My second favorite choice is Mike McCoy the current offensive coordinator in Denver.

Happy New Year

I have had a nice long break. Been busy with family, work, and a ton of errands around the house. I'm going to work my way back into regular posts.