Saturday, September 10, 2011

Conservatives accuse PBS of conspiratorially covering up huge Obama "gaffe" about Lincoln, even though there was no gaffe, no conspiracy, and no cover-up

Yup, here we go again. As LGF's Charles Johnson notes:

Practically the entire right wing blogosphere went into vapor-lock this morning, shrieking in unison at the evil librul PBS for "editing" the transcript of the President's joint session speech on jobs, to cover up his "gaffe" that Abraham Lincoln was a founder of the Republican Party.

Evil, evil PBS! Shame on them!

Oh, wait...

So are they right? Did PBS edit the transcript?

Gasp! Yes, they did! Full Text: Obama Vows to Spur Job Creation, 'Jolt' Economy in Speech to Congress.

Why in the world would they do something like this? Why, I ask you?

EDITOR'S NOTE: The original transcript provided on this page, as was noted, reflected the president's remarks as prepared for delivery and released by the White House. This transcript has been updated to reflect the remarks as delivered and released by the White House.


There you go. PBS didn't do anything wrong. In fact, it did what pretty much every news organization does, running the prepared remarks, which it received in advance, and then not "editing" them but changing them to reflect what was actually delivered.

Conservatives really do jerk their knees in the stupidest ways.

(Actually, as Johnson also notes, Republicans commonly refer to Lincoln as the founder of their party -- and understandably so given that Lincoln gives them instant credibility, even though Lincoln and the current GOP, which is anything but Lincolnian in its right-wing ideological extremism, have next to nothing in common. It's never a wise thing to trust Wikipedia entirely, but its current phrasing is good: "[Lincoln] was instrumental in forging the shape of the new Republican Party." That was way back in the 1850s. Needless to say, the GOP has taken on rather new shapes since then.)

You can find more on the whole brouhaha at Mediaite:

If PBS wanted to "cover up" the gaffe, they did a lousy job when they posted the full video of the speech, including the Lincoln remark at the 27:35 mark. A quick review of the President's "Prepared Remarks" versus his "Remarks As Delivered," both of which we posted here at Mediaite, reveals that PBS didn't "alter" anything, they simply ran the prepared remarks, and never added the transcript when it was released several hours later...

So, again, big deal. There's hardly a "liberal media" pro-Obama conspiracy going on here. Conservatives are just desperate to find one.

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The Unsung (and Furry) Heroes from 9/11

In the wake of the tragedy at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA - many groups of heroes went about their work to search, rescue and recover. For the Homo Sapien members at both sites - their incredible hard and emotional work was made that much simpler and that much more productive with their friends from the Canis Lupus Familiaris.

Dogs being just dogs already make life more pleasant and joyous for their human counterparts. However search and rescue dogs are a special group. Rescue dogs are some of the biggest heroes of all. These amazing creatures will go above and beyond the call of duty to save a human. They take risks when some men will not or just cannot. These dogs are completely focused at the job at hand and oblivious to the scents and sights that would overwhelm their human partners.  But most of all they are selfless in their tasks.  The dogs take their jobs seriously.

Handler Tony Zintsmaster and his search and rescue dog Kaiser work at Ground Zero hours
after the attack. Photo from Bob Kaufman
And as it is with their human partner, this is a job fraught with risk - many times in the course of saving the life of a victim in a tragedy - the dog will lose their own.

The vital nature of dog rescue in the collapse of the towers cannot be underestimated - they are every much the hero. Dozens were sent to both New York and Washington to search and recover - several did not survive and many became sick from the poisonous air.

The most common rescue dogs are Bloodhounds, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers. Many other from the hunting and sporting groups can also be trained as a rescue dog. Some of the attributes of these rescue dogs are their phenomenal physical strength, their mental toughness and stability and their incredible loyalty.

Last week the American Humane Association honored the dogs who were very much a part of the recovery of 9/11.  This Sunday, the Tails of Hope Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to advance veterinary medicine in the fight against cancer and other diseases, will honor the dogs and their partner in Liberty State Park, New Jersey.  While we should never forget the victims and all the people that went to the 3 sites of the attacks to search and help - we should all also honor the furry heroes of 9/11.

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Thanks Rick

By Capt. Fogg

I didn't listen to the President's speech Thursday night, partly because I had a meeting to attend and partly because I've ceased caring. Of course not listening to the president's ideas about reviving the economy by putting people to work seems to a matter of pride in this part of the swamp and one squints when asked "didja listen to to President?" with that certain tone. The proper answer is of course, "hell no!" Why should I care about a country wherein this sort of idiocy is called "patriotism?"

Of course I didn't listen to Rick Scott, our Governor/Medicare Fraudmeister either -- hell no. I save such things for later and I prefer to read that kind of news rather than to be waterboarded with it. That way I can take a deep breath when I read that before the speech, he snarked that there wouldn't be anything for Florida in it and my TV was safe from having my foot through the screen when I read that it's likely he'll turn down 7.5 Billion allocated to improve and upgrade our infrastructure. That's money that would employ a lot of people who would spend their income in Florida and make Florida more attractive and accessible to the tourists upon whom our economy depends.

It wouldn't be the first time Ricky has turned away an opportunity. He refused to accept 2 billion to build a high speed rail line - you know the kind of thing other countries we feel superior to have. The kind of thing that, once again, would boost tourism and tax dollars. Oops - I used the magic word tax and Rick doesn't like taxes. Of course he doesn't like employment and he doesn't like the President and isn't about to let him do anything about employment because the only way to get out of a recession is to make sure the state doesn't take in a dime and to fire so many employees and cancel so many necessary projects that hardly anyone has enough income to require them to pay any taxes.

And then you cut costs more which puts more people out of work which means they spend less and so less gets made and companies go out of business and fire more people so there are still fewer with any money to buy anything -- and by and by everything gets better. Don't get it? you must be a liberal, or so the Teabrains tell me and I'd rather argue with a toadstool than with the kind of fungi and pond scum that make up that seething ferment. I mean, who can afford to care any more?

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Nobody Asked Me, But...

By Carl
[ed. note "Nobody Asked Me, But..." is a weekly round up I post to my personal blog, Simply Left Behind, to summarize news you might have missed. Today, I broke from the usual format and felt I should share it with my friends at The Reaction]
1) 9/11 Changed Everything.
I spent the dinner hour last night investigating gyms around my neighborhood.
All my life, I've been an on-and-off gym rat. A body like mine takes a lot of hard work, a combination of intense training and hard-core drinking and eating, to develop this perfect set of mushy but bulky muscles. I can lift a Buick but look ridiculous in a Speedo. That sort of thing.
I haven't been to a gym regularly since I spent eighteen months with a personal trainer in the early '00s, and I've been suffering injury after injury, even just walking down the block. The final straw was curtailing my bike riding this summer, a real passion, because of a bout of severe tendinitis.
I was walking home from what will likely become my new gym and I started to let my mind wander (realize that I had no clue about this story perking in the background, altho it's conceivable that subliminally I heard it being discussed on one of the ubiquitous TV sets around the gym.)
I started to think about this weekend. see, I got a guest pass from the gym and I wanted to find a way to use it that simulates how I'd regularly use the facilities. After all, if it's packed on Monday nights, that's something I need to know.
It's 9/11/11, after all. I determined to try to avoid the television as much as possible that day. And I started to think about how the world has changed.
Not your world. Not the world world. My world.
I've changed a lot since 9/11. That event was a catalyst in my life, created a whole new dynamic for me.
I guess I realized that security was an illusion, that the very people in charge of protecting us couldn't, or wouldn't, or more likely, couldn't be bothered. The oceans no longer protected us from our enemies, and all the duck-and-cover drills we learned as kids were meaningless when the building itself was about to collapse. You get a little scared (first post. I'll get to that in a minute.)
If security is an illusion, then why was I protecting myself, my thinking went? If enemies foreign could smite me, surely enemies domestic could do it, and for far less incentive. So why was I sitting in an office, making gobs of money for someone else, all for the crumbs of recognition I was getting? Sure, I was making good money (still am, just not quite as good,) and the people were nice and the perks of the job were enjoyable, but it was all an illusion.
Ten years later, the job isn't as fun, the perks have been culled to the bare minimum, I haven't had a raise of any note in eight years (9/11 changed things there, too,) the people around me are antsy, and the illusion has been damped down. I still work where I worked on that fateful day when the plane tore past my office window, but the man who worked here that day is gone. And soon, the man he evolved into will likely leave as well.
Part of it is, I'm sure, just the normal aging process. But some of it is because of the realization that the illusion is incomplete.
In the 1990s, I would have been content with working, then going out with buddies after work, getting drunk and staggering home to my family (that's changed, too.) That's an illusion too, and it's an illusion designed to feed the illusion that a job matters to your life.
The money does, its true, but the job itself is pretty meaningless. Unless you can find a real meaning in it. Making someone else richer is not a meaning. It's an excuse.
My attitude towards life changed, mostly. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when most people were pondering how to protect themselves-- duct tape, plastic sheets, first aid kit, cell phone-- I took up SCUBA diving. I always wanted to do it, and realized that buildings fall but achievements last. I may as well do the bucket list thing now.
I was careening towards fifty at the time. I knew I'd have fewer days ahead than behind shortly. Time is a companion that guides us through life, gently reminding us that we don't have as much of its companionship left as we hope. Diving meant dive vacations, which meant travel. I never traveled much as a kid/man. Now I travel regularly. There's too much of the world to see, both above and below the water, and I need to see it, to record it for posterity, and to have stories to tell in heaven or hell.
That was the first psychotic break from my previous life. I started looking through the lens and into the world, shooting pictures. Again, to record what I saw, how I saw it. I took cameras below the water because I realize 99% of the people around me (including you, my readers, but I'll get to that in a second) will never see the undersea world up close and personal, the way I can shoot it.
The final break from what I will euphemistically call "reality" came on August 4, 2005. A friend and co-blogger (if she ever stops playing with her kittens and iPad), Katrina, persuaded me that my voice needed to be heard. I was too intelligent and too passionate to sit around on blogs and websites commenting. So I did. Timidly, at first. This was, after all, the height of the frustration the nation was having with then-President Bush the Younger, and a lot of vitriol was flying in both directions. I really didn't know how I'd stomach taking responsibility for my own words at my own blog.
It took a while. A year and a month, almost precisely, for me to reconcile myself to the fact that I was going to have to strip away a few layers of undergarments if I was to communicate my message, and make an impact. I've tried to make this a personal blog even as I've talked about world events and made connections between disparate things. I know my hit count it way below where it could be. I know other blogs that have started the same time as mine and through a combination of fortune, harder work, and more likeable personality, those blogs have flown high.
But I'm proud of the work I've done here, and prouder still that my small corner of the world has not contained my barbaric "YAWP!" I'm proud to have been quoted, prouder still to have won awards for my blogging (sheesh...I forgot to include those when I switched to the new format!)
But more, I'm proud of the friends I've made blogging.
9/11 changed the world, but it changed me even more and for the far better. It made me look at myself and take a hold of my life and start doing something to make a difference in my own world, and I hope, in yours.
Even so, I'd give all that good that has happened back to see the world the way it was at 8:45 AM, September 11, 2001.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

American Gridiron: Previewing the 2011-12 NFL season

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Today is one of the greatest days of the year. Why? Because it's the start of NFL's regular season, the day we look forward to all year. Sure, being an NFL fan is a year-round thing, what with the draft and off-season stuff, but there's nothing quite like the excitement this time of year brings. Summer is drawing to a close, the weather is getting decidedly more autumnal, as it suddenly has in Toronto the past few days, the kids go back to school -- and Sundays are soon to be all about football again. And for those of us who play fantasy football, well, that just adds to the excitement.

As I've mentioned previously, we're going to be doing a bit more sports blogging here at The Reaction, including with an international sports reporter who writes about that other game of football, specifically of the English variety. That means baseball, that means hockey, and, yes, above all else, that means football. (And, no, not the CFL, which actually can be quite entertaining, but the NFL.)

Starting on Sunday, when Week 1 gets underway in earnest, after tonight's prime-time opener between the Packers and Saints, we'll be doing weekly previews and picks. By "we" I mean me, Richard Barry, and our good friend Comfortable Kid (not his real name). We'll offer our picks for each game of the week, provide some commentary/analysis, maybe also look back at the previous week, and keep track of how we're doing over the course of the season.

Can you find this elsewhere? Of course. A lot of people do NFL picks, including a lot of supposed experts. All I can say is that we know our football here, both real and fantasy, and can offer some interesting insight. Basically, though, it's just for fun -- our own fun but hopefully yours as well. Our primary focus will continue to be politics, no worries there, and that will only get more intense as go deeper and deeper into the 2012 campaign. We will write about the national scene, and particularly the Republican hopefuls (who provide a seemingly endless amount of material, most of it thoroughly outrageous), but we'll also delve into state races, balancing partisan commentary with careful analysis both of the issues and of the races themselves. But that also means we need a break from time to time, and our football blogging will provide just that.

How we do this will evolve over the course of the season, but, again, we'll aim not just to provide our picks but to back them up with thoughtful commentary. And we encourage you to participate as well, should you feel so inclined, by adding your comments.

Before we get to our Week 1 picks, though, which we'll post Sunday morning, let's do a brief preview of the upcoming season. Read on for our division winner, wild card, and Super Bowl picks, as well as our choices for offensive and defensive MVP, with a short preview from each of us.

Oh, before I forget, here are our picks for tonight: 

-- MJWS: Green Bay 30, New Orleans 24
-- RKB: New Orleans 24, Green Bay 17
-- The Kid: Green Bay 28, New Orleans 21 

Okay... let's do this!

We hope you enjoy.

Michael Stickings (Stickings' Pickings)

AFC East: New England
AFC North: Pittsburgh
AFC South: Houston
AFC West: San Diego
Wild cards: N.Y. Jets, Baltimore 

This looks awfully similar to Richard's and the Kid's picks, and I'm tempted, just for the hell of it, to go the other way. Jets in the East, Ravens in the North, not the Colts but the Titans in the South, and... oh, well, it really has to be the Chargers in the awful West. Consider these my bizarro picks. Actually, bizarro might mean picking the Browns to win the North and the Chiefs to prove last season wasn't a fluke by winning the West over an obviously superior (if not necessarily better coached) Chargers team, but I can't go quite that far.

I'm also tempted to reverse jinx the Ravens by picking them to get by my beloved Steelers at long last. The game on Sunday should give us a sense of where that intense rivalry is headed. I love the Steelers' offence this year, particularly the fantastic group of WRs (Ward, Wallace, Sanders, Brown, Cotchery) they've assembled for Big Ben and some depth at RB with Isaac Redman backing up an overworked but in-his-prime Rashard Mendenhall. This could turn out to be the most potent offence they've ever had. Maybe not superior to those great teams of the '70s, but the game was different back then, the offences hardly as liberated as they are in today's pass-happy NFL (and with rules limiting what defensive players can do). The question marks are all along the O-line, but it's actually not as bad as its reputation. It provides superior run protection and usually gives Ben enough time to make things happen, often by scrambling out of the pocket and making something out of seemingly nothing. Having Heath Miller, one of the best all-around TEs in the game, to help with the blocking helps a great deal.

The Steelers' much-heralded D is still awesome, particularly up front. The line is old, but there's talented youth (2009 first-rounder Ziggy Hood, 2011 first-rounder Cameron Heyward) ready to step up. The linebacking corps is, in typical Steelers fashion, ridiculously good. All-pro James Harrison's health is a concern, but this is the year Lawrence Timmons could become a superstar, and he and James Farrior, the D's veteran leader, are a force in the middle. LaMarr Woodley, opposite Harrison on the outside, was signed in the off-season to a huge contract but has the talent to continue to dominate. Despite the presence of the otherworldly Troy Polamalu (my favourite player) at safety (who hopefully will be fully healthy this year), the secondary isn't great, particularly at CB, and that's where they can be beaten, as the Packers showed in the Super Bowl. As long as an opposing O-line provides adequate protection, a good QB (and more so a great one like Aaron Rodgers) can spread the field and pick the secondary apart. Defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau is a god, but even he may not be able to make up for this weakness.

Sorry, I love the Steelers. What was I saying about the Ravens?

If Joe Flacco emerges as something more than just a competent QB, if Ray Rice emerges as truly one of the most dynamic RBs in the game, if Anquan Boldin and newly-acquired Lee Evans can prove to be elite threats at WR, and if the defence can patch up its holes in the secondary in with respect to its pass-rushing, this may just be the Ravens' year. There are a lot of ifs, more than with the Steelers, but they're a talented team with a great deal of upside. 

Possible surprise teams: Tennessee (could even win the South), Cleveland (likely won't finish any higher than third in the North, but will makes strides to respectability), Denver (if they don't succumb to Tebow fever and new coach John Fox gets the D in order). 

Likely regression teams: Kansas City (tough schedule, not buying a Cassel-led offence), Indianapolis (without Peyton Manning, just how good are they?), the Jets (maybe Sanchez isn't that good, maybe Plaxico is a dud, and I just hate them).

NFC East: Philadelphia
NFC North: Green Bay
NFC South: New Orleans
NFC West: St. Louis
Wild cards: Atlanta, Dallas 

Philadelphia was the sexy team here, what with Michael Vick taking his game to a new level last year and with super-CB Nnamdi Asomugha in the fold, but I think Green Bay is the team to beat. The Packers might just be better than they were last year (when, lest we forget, they barely squeaked into the playoffs with an ugly 10-3 win over the Bears in Week 17). With TE Jermichael Finley back from injury, with a load of other weapons to choose from, and with a solid O-line, Rodgers should be able to up his game even further. This is the year, I think, the Manning-Brady hold on top of the QB field is broken. It could be Philip Rivers of the Chargers, it could be Drew Brees of the Saints, the latter of whom has come close (and was simply amazing in 2008-09), but I suspect we'll end the 2011 season recognizing Rodgers as the best QB in the game.

Behind the elite three of Philly, Green Bay, and New Orleans, there are a bunch of teams that are close but not close enough, specifically Dallas (potentially great offence, definitely not great defence), Atlanta (maybe the next "greatest show on turf" with QB Matt Ryan and WR Roddy White, but lacks depth at RB, must rely on a rookie WR (Julio Jones) oppose White, and has serious question marks on D), Tampa Bay (very likely to take a big step back this year even with a bright future), and Detroit (the sexy "sleeper" pick, but now too sexy for their own good -- let them prove it before we celebrate how good they supposedly are).

As for the West... so I really have to pick a winner of that lousy division? It could be San Francisco with a new coach, it could be Arizona with a new QB (Kevin Kolb), but it will likely be St. Louis, with a budding star in QB Sam Bradford now being coached by new offensive coordinator (and ex-Broncos failure) Josh McDaniels. 

Possible surprise teams: St. Louis (Bradford, McDaniels, growth on both sides of the ball, weak division), Arizona (some Kolb-to-Fitzgerald magic, good coaching, weak division), San Francisco (not having Mike Singletary as coach can only be good, weak division), Detroit (wouldn't really be a surprise given all the hype, and I don't think they'll be that good, but you never know). 

Likely regression teams: Tampa Bay (Freeman is good but overrated, not nearly enough weapons on offence, tough division), Chicago (still hasn't sorted out WR mess, questionable secondary, just got lucky last year), Seattle (won horrible division at 7-9, won't come close even to mediocrity this year), Atlanta (will still be very good, but not 13-3), maybe the Giants (injuries, Eli Manning and his INTs, tough division). 

AFC winner: New England
NFC winner: Green Bay

Super Bowl winner: Green Bay 

This could actually be the year we see a Super Bowl repeat: Packers over Steelers, again. Given that there hasn't been much time for teams to come together, what with the extended lockout, the key word this year will be consistency, with the teams with solid structures and rosters having an advantage over those making major changes in the off-season.

But I have to go with New England in the AFC, also a team of perennial consistency under Bill Belichick. I think Brady's got a lot left in the tank and was embarrassed by last season's meltdown in the playoffs. He's got that competitive, win-or-nothing spirit you want in a franchise QB, and though he lacks major weapons at WR and especially RB, he'll somehow make it happen, while the D continues to develop into one of the best in the league, back where it usually is. San Diego is another option, but, really, Norv Turner? They've got a ton of firepower, and Rivers is elite, and the new kickoff rules (leading to many more touchbacks) will help a team with historically horrendous special teams play last year, but I'm not convinced the defence can keep up. The Jets? Ugh. Maybe. I hate the Jets, almost as much as I hate the Cowboys. (I respect the Patriots and Ravens, even if I root against them.) But, sure, if Sanchez grows up a bit. They've certainly got the personnel and coaching to go all the way.

In the NFC, Philly or New Orleans would be a fine pick, but I see the Packers as slightly better than both, mainly because I'm not all-in on Vick this year (he's one big hit away from Vince Young taking over for the season, and defences have learned how to play him and if not shut him down at least contain him) and because I'm not sure the Saints' great depth on offence adds up to much more than the sum of its parts, nor that their opportunistic defence can keep down the top offences in the conference (Green Bay and Philly, as well as Dallas and Atlanta). What's more, the Packers should be able to run away with a fairly easy division, one in which Minnesota won't be good (even with top RB Adrian Peterson), Chicago will regress severely, and Detroit won't live up to the crazy hype.) If they can stay healthy, look out. 

Offensive MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Defensive MVP: Clay Matthews 

It's all Green Bay here. Brady or Rivers could challenge Rodgers, and picking a defensive MVP is tough, as it's not always the best who get recognized (for example, shutdown corners like Asomugha, run-stopping linemen) but those who make the most visible impact (sacks, INTs, which can fluctuate a great deal from year to year even for the best players, depending on opportunity, luck, schemes, etc.), but these two, simply, are two of the very best. Matthews lost out to Polamalu last year. This will be his year.

Richard Barry (Barry's Tea Leaves)

AFC East: New England
AFC North: Pittsburgh
AFC South: Houston
AFC West: San Diego
Wild cards: New York Jets, Baltimore

AFC winner: Pittsburgh

New England, Pittsburgh, and San Diego. Not going to pick against any of these teams. If Manning were healthy, I wouldn't go against the Colts either, but since we don't know what's going to happen there, I say the Texans win the division by a hair. Much as it pains me, and much as I wonder if Mark Sanchez is ready to finish the job, I'll pick the Jets as one of the Wild Card teams and go with Baltimore as the other. The Ravens could win the division with Pittsburgh taking the wild card, but I doubt it.

NFC East: Philadelphia
NFC North: Green Bay
NFC South: New Orleans
NFC West: Arizona
Wild cards: New York Giants, Atlanta

NFC winner: Philadelphia 

As for Arizona, I think the Kolb-to-Fitzgerald combo may be enough to get them there. Hell, in that division it won't take much of a comparative advantage to steal the thing. I don't think Philly is going to go 14-2, but maybe 11-5 if Michael Vick can stay healthy, which is a big if. I also think the league will start to figure him out, but not enough to keep them from winning the division and maybe getting to the Super Bowl. Green Bay, of course, at least for their division. New Orleans is going to come back big this year after embarrassing themselves with that playoff loss to Seattle. They're a good team and they are going to be some pissed this year.

Disclaimer on the Giants: I'm a big fan, but I still think that they'll make the playoffs if Eli doesn't throw 25 INTs and they can otherwise hold on to the ball. There's a lot of talent there on both sides of the ball, though the raft of pre-season injuries does worry. If the G-Men don't make the playoffs, Coughlin is gone. As for Dallas, not so much. Romo doesn't do it for me. The Falcons will get in as a wild card. They were 13-3 last year. Matt Ryan had only nine picks in 2010. Somebody should give Eli Manning Ryan's phone number. They should talk. One team not on my list is Detroit. They're obviously ready to start to play with the big kids, but they're not going to win anything this year.

Super Bowl winner: Pittsburgh 

If Vick stays healthy, this could be the year. They may do it ugly, or at the very least wildly, but this really could happen.  And then just because it would be so damned much fun to have an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl, and so plausible, that's my pick. Sadly, I will say that Philadelphia will get to the big game only to lose it to Roethlisberger and Company. And it will just hurt the "Iggles" so much to come so close, but I won't care. Did I mention I was a Giants fan? 

Offensive MVP: Michael Vick
Defensive MVP: Troy Polamalu

Comfortable Kid

AFC East: New England
AFC North: Pittsburgh
AFC South: Houston
AFC West: San Diego
Wild cards: Baltimore, New York Jets

NFC East: Dallas
NFC North: Green Bay
NFC South: New Orleans
NFC West: St. Louis
Wild Card: Detroit, Philadelphia

AFC winner: San Diego
NFC winner: Green Bay 

Super Bowl winner: Green Bay 

Offensive MVP: Philip Rivers
Defensive MVP: Lawrence Timmons 

Thank you for this opportunity, gentleman. Just for fun, I would like to offer some quick and crude, "ticker-esque" prophesies:

With Peyton Manning possibly missing the majority of the season, Houston wins the AFC South under Matt Schaub's leadership and a vastly improved defence, but loses in the AFC Championship game to the now well-rounded San Diego Chargers.

Detroit squeezes into a wild card spot but loses badly to Philadelphia on Wild Card weekend.

Pittsburgh makes the post-season, but age and injury leave its defense vulnerable and ultimately too weak to contend for its seventh championship.

Despite being surrounded by offensive weapons and defensive prowess, New York Jets' QB Mark Sanchez solidifies his reputation as an expensive "game manager" after failing to even reach the AFC Championship.

The Green Bay Packers, despite a mediocre ground attack, protect against the injury bug and repeat as Super Bowl champions.

(Photos: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Troy Polamalu, Andre Johnson)

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What would Reagan think of today's Republicans?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Or perhaps the question should be, What would today's Republicans think of Reagan? Not "Ronald Reagan," not Reagan the Republican Myth/Saint/God, not the Reagan of conservative legend, but the real Reagan and what he stood for)?

Basically, they wouldn't much care for him. As the L.A. Times's Mark Barabak reminds us:

As president, the conservative icon approved several tax increases to deal with a soaring budget deficit, repeatedly boosted the nation's debt limit, signed into law a bill granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants and, despite his anti-Washington rhetoric, oversaw an increase in the size and spending of the federal government. Before that, as California governor, he enacted what at the time was the largest state tax increase in American history. He also signed into law one of the nation's most permissive abortion bills; any Republican who tried that today would be cast out of the party.

The fact that Reagan often took the actions grudgingly speaks to what, by modern Republican standards, may be one of the greatest heresies of all: At bottom, Reagan was a pragmatist, willing, when necessary, to cut a deal and compromise.

Check that. Republicans would loathe him, vilify him, and seek to purge him from their ranks, much the way they've done with any number of old-school, pragmatic conservatives, not to mention moderates, hardly any of whom are left.

Just keep all this in mind when Republicans, as they always do, turn to the Reagan hagiography and fall all over each other trying to score points by pumping up their Reaganesque bona fides.

Reagan himself had that commandment about never criticizing a fellow Republican. But the Republican Party has moved so far to the right as to make even Reagan, that conservative icon, look like a middle-of-the-road wimp, not to mention a dangerous heretic. 

One suspects that Reagan would not be amused.

(photo: Ronald Reagan Library)

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Karl Rove's message is getting clearer and clearer: Rick Perry is a crazy, unelectable extremist.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Republican presidential frontrunner Rick Perry has a long record of craziness, including his view that Social Security is an un-American Ponzi scheme:

In Perry's book, released just nine months ago, he writes on page 48 that Social Security is "by far the best example" of a program "violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles." On page 50, he says that we have Social Security "at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government."

On ABC yesterday, George Stephanopoulos asked Karl Rove about this, and Rove, like most Texas Bushies no great fan of the Texas governor, took the opportunity to slam Perry pretty hard:

STEPHANPOLOUS: And a lot of questions about how how Rick Perry will handle this test. So much talk about his books and what he's written in his books, "Fed Up!" Questioning the 16th Amendment, which imposed the income tax. The 17th Amendment, direct election of Senators. And I think he's gotten the most attention for what he said about Social Security, calling it a Ponzi scheme. Compares it to a "bad disease" that's been "imposed on us for 70 years." You know how much trouble that can be for a Republican candidate in a general election. So how does he handle it and must he disavow some of these statements in the book.

ROVE: What they've done thus far is, I think, inadequate. Which is to basically say, "look, we didn't write the book with the presidential campaign in mind." Well, okay, fine. But they are going to have to find a way to deal with these things. Because, as you say, they are toxic in a general election environment and they are also toxic in a Republican primary. If you say Social Security is a failure and ought to be replaced by a state-level program, then people are going to say: "What do you mean by that?" And make a judgment based on your answer to it. Each candidate has strengths. Each candidate also has challenges. This, for Governor Perry is his challenge. Now he's got formidable strengths. But this is his biggest challenge.

You'll note that Rove is sort of dispensing campaign advice here: Deal with this, it could be Perry's undoing. And he's also being a good team player: Perry has "formidable strengths."

But, yes, this is Karl Rove, a man who has achieve fame and glory playing to the extremes in campaign after campaign, saying that one of Rick Perry's core views, one that appeals to the far right of the GOP, and hence to much of the base, is "toxic," and hence that Perry himself is toxic. And not just in a general election context but within the GOP as well, including with the right-wing grassroots base that dominates the party's primaries.

Obviously, Rove has an agenda. Among other things, it is to try seriously to win the election. But the only way for the Republicans to do that, even in these depressed economic times, is to nominate an electable alternative to Obama. And seeking to dismantle Social Security, a highly popular, deeply ingrained, amazingly successful program, isn't exactly the way to go. Rove is saying that even his party's extremes find that too extreme.

And that's saying something.

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Tech Noir

By Carl
This might end up being a "tl;dr" essay, so please forgive me in advance. I'll try to be brief, but some of the concepts need exploring.
I woke up this morning at 3AM to the sound of garbage cans being emptied by the sanitation collectors. I couldn't get back to sleep, partly from the startle, partly because I just don't sleep so well anymore.
Mostly, because I started to think about Glenn Beck.
Well, sort of. His name came up in the monologue.
See, I started to think about the past twenty years of hatred and intolerance...really, fifty years, but liberal thought had managed to mask the undercurrent in American society and like mushrooms in a dank basement, hated took root and spored.
It's not that hatred is a new concept in America. Ask a turn-of-the-century Italian, or Catholic. Ask any black man from any era, frankly. Ask a woman. Ask someone gay.
It's that hatred has become mainstream. That's a novel situation in America, to be honest. Yes, there have been strands of hatred that seemed mainstream, but they've been beaten back and repudiated. I'm not sure that can happen this time, at least not for a while. Let me get into why.
To sum it up in a word: technology.
Human history suggests that advances in technology have mostly paced human development. I think that's because technology has been accessible to the layperson almost right away. (There are exceptions, and I'm getting to that.)
Some caveman smacked a flint rock and started a fire. It's not an unlikely scenario to suggest that happened on more than one occasion accidentally. The technology of fire rarely needed to be transferred or communicated. Another sharpened a rock into a knife. Similarly, it seems like an event that transcended special knowledge.
Smelting metal, hammering brass, working with iron and steel, all seem to be accessible technologies. Even if you couldn't figure it out for yourself, once it was taught to you, it wasn't hard to replicate. You could study it, adapt it, improve it. Moreover, you understood the dynamics, even if the underlying physics or chemistry was completely unknown to you. Fire hot, rock melt, glowing stuff hammer: sword.
Naturally, with technology came applications. Nothing is invented in a vacuum because inventions come about through need. Or opportunity. Usually, the first applications of any technology, from rock knives to fire to swords to gun powder and so on, is warfare.
Whether it's killing your neighbor or wiping out the next kingdom, you're going to use the latest technology because either your opponent doesn't have it, or more, because he does. Rare is the occurence where a lighter-technology overcomes a more advanced technology, and usually that comes down to incompetent application of the more advanced technology.
Side note: You might think 9/11 was such a case, but spot on, you'd be wrong. I'll demonstrate momentarily.
Even as late as the invention of the automobile, we obtained a technology that the average educated person could fathom. I mean, really, think about it: you turn a key or press a button, which completes an electrical circuit that sends an impulse down a wire that jumps a gap that's in a closed cylinder filled with explosive vapor that creates a pressure wave forcing a piston downward, which is connected to and impels motion in a wheel.
That's your basic car engine, in a nutshell. And among the first widespread uses of the automobile was warfare. It allowed information...key word move faster, weaponry to be deployed farther and faster, and troops to be repositioned.
Ultimately, however, technology becomes deployed for more benign purposes to the general population. Fire becomes cooking, knives become utensils, swords become...well, letter openers, gunpowder becomes fireworks, guns get used for hunting food, and engines become the family station wagon.
The 20th century saw a phenomenon unheard of in past milennia. We started to see the rise of technology that was limited in access to the general population. Airplanes, for example. Yes, the physics of flight is fairly simple: you have to generate lift that overcomes the weight of an object. How many people have driver's licenses versus how many have pilot's licenses?
There's a reason for that: piloting a plane requires a mastery of three dimensional thinking, a specialized training that, because of the hazards and conditions, is not available to everyone who walks up to a plane. Indeed, we pay good money (and often, pretty lousy money) to people with that special knowledge to get us from point A to point B safely. How many of us have chauffeurs, tho?
You can go down the list of technologies invented in the 20th century and find any number of instances where technology has exceeded human ken and evolution. Biotechnologies, genetic engineering, computers, atomic energy.
Software. And here's where we start to get into the rant.
Now, let me preface this by saying I'm no Luddite. I've studied computer science with experts. I can program in BASIC, Fortran, COBOL, and compile assembly code. I've used PCs since the early 80s. Even today, I can still crack my knuckles and write a simple Visual BASIC program for Excel or a macro for Word.
When I learned to use computers, we had to write our own programming. Conditional commands, root calls, subroutines...we understood by looking what a program was supposed to do-- usually because we were scratching our heads trying to figure out why it wasn't working. We got our hands dirty from start to finish. I've written ten punch card programs to add two numbers and print the answer out.
There was a time when MicroSoft held the patent for the most complex single piece of human engineering in history: Windows NT. Software had become so complex that no one person would ever again write a complete program. If you needed to splice in the time into a program, you could buy an off-the-shelf piece of component software. You'd work on one small part of a program, while a group of programmers were dedicated to melding your facet into the larger whole, comprised of hundreds of other facets and calls.
It became a religious ritual, frankly. A scriptorium of monks from the Middle Ages would feel at home, as each worked on a separate page of the Bible, illuminating passages, scribing chapters and verses. 
And like those religious rituals, it was shrouded in mystery from hoi polloi. 
Do you understand how blogging software works? Could you explain it in a sentence? And that's relatively simple word-processing/database management stuff! Imagine a CAD program. 
But wait, there's more to this analogy.
Information from the Bible was passed along in ritual fashion, designed primarily to manipulate the populace through propaganda, and a faith in the purveyors of that information: the priests, the bishops, the Pope. Similarly, in this great information age, where nominally anything should be available to anyone, we are so inundated with data that we rely on others to sort it all out for us (myself included, and by reading this, you too.)
Now...marry the two concepts in your head for a moment: technology is used first and foremost in warfare, and information is shrouded in mystery and parceled out in easily digestible bits and bytes.
And now you know why I was awake at three AM, thinking of Glenn Beck. The right wing, the folks who own much of the infrastructure-- radio networks, computer software companies, internet providers, media firms-- to declare technowar on the world, have declared war not on Iran or Al Qaeda (altho they too have been targeted) but on the American people.
That's the bummer. The good news is...well, anyone know how the church lost its stranglehold on the Bible?
That's right: someone common invented the printing press and a new way for information to be distributed came of age.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Romney vs. Perry, reductio ad absurdum

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I was too busy writing our (long) NFL preview post (up this afternoon!) to pay much attention to the Republican debate last night, but it would seem that these are the two key takeaways:

1) It's Romney vs. Perry now. All else is pretty much irrelevant, even Bachmann.

2) Perry can handle himself awfully well, while Romney remains awkward.

Here's The Hill reporting on last night's "fireworks":

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) began sparring over their respective jobs records less than 10 minutes into Wednesday's Republican presidential debate.

The highly-anticipated fight between Romney and Perry, the two front-runners for the GOP nomination, largely lived up to expectations, with extended spats between the pair throughout the debate.

And how about this nasty little exchange:

Perry responded: "Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt."

Romney retorted: "Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, governor."

I think Perry wins. Isn't it worse, if you're a Republican, to be compared to Dukakis than to Bush?

Whatever the case, it's rather amusing, in a depressing sort of way, watching two pro-business stooges talk about jobs. Romney made his wealth as a job-slashing management consultant, after all, while Perry is very much a corrupt crony capitalist (even Palin thinks so). But whatever. Let them duke it out.

While they do so, at least Obama has an opening -- even if his jobs speech was unfortunately re-scheduled to coincide with tonight's NFL opener -- to offer concrete solutions, to prove that he's serious about getting things done, about helping the American people at a time of significant economic uncertainty, instead of just trying to score cheap political points. The Republicans do enough of that.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Photo(s) of the Day: Tussling turtles (and Republicans)

From the Globe: "Two Aldabra giant tortoises fight for a carrot during feeding time at the Singapore Zoo."

I'm tempted to make some quip about how image this would seem to represent the current tussle between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, about how it symbolizes the pitiable state of the Republican presidential field, fighting over a carrot, but, really, these are such noble creatures. Why exploit them for such a foul purpose?


Turtles aside, you really want to accelerate the decline and fall of the American Empire? Here's your choice:


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GOP 2012 strategy: an idiot and a prayer

In 2008, the Republican Party chose as its presidential nominee a crotchety, 71-year-old Bush lackey, a stalwart Iraq War defender, and a has-been "maverick" who admitted, even as the economy began to sink, that he was ignorant about economic issues. 

Source: WMx Design
The guy they didn't pick was Mitt Romney.

Why this happened is a matter of opinion, and like... noses... everyone seemed to have one after Romney bowed out of the race in February 2008.

Mormons believed Romney lost the primary because of America's intolerance of Mormonism. Social conservatives thought his inability to wow the social conservative demographic cost him the nomination. Anti-abortionists said his flip-flopping stance on abortion was the reason for his defeat. Homophobes believed his flip-flopping on gay rights were to blame.

The rest of the party seemed to believe Romney lost because he was socially awkward, because he tried way too hard to appear charming, because looking at him gave people the creeps, and because electing him would have been like inviting Tom Selleck's smooth-chested, perfectly-coiffed, and pedophilic twin brother to the family Christmas party – a four-year Christmas party.

The fact that the Republican Party still doesn't like Romney, then, isn't surprising. It may be antithetical to their alleged goal of making Barack Obama a "One. Term. President." -- as Tea Party member and presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann likes to say -- but it's not surprising.

He's still Mormon. He's still not quite socially conservative enough to wow the Tea Party. He still tries way too hard to appear charming. And he's still awkward in front of both cameras and prospective voters.

Unfortunately for Republicans, Romney is pretty much the only moderate candidate in the entire field of GOP nominee contenders. (Ed. note: Maybe Buddy Roemer and Fred Karger, but that's about it. And these two aren't exactly serious contenders. Jon Huntsman is moderate on some issues, and generally has a moderate approach to politics, but is for the most part a solid conservative, if still significantly to the left of the party's new far-right mainstream. -- MJWS)

He may be a flip-flopping toady whom the electorate views as willing to say anything to get elected, but he's not insane. He doesn't advocate abolishing the Internal Revenue Service. He's not a birther, he doesn't believe evolution is a myth, and he has yet to claim that the Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly to end slavery."

For those reasons, Romney is much more palatable to the general, non-conservative electorate. But also for those reasons, he isn't palatable to the hard-core conservatives who turn out in swaths to determine who will be the next Republican nominee.

FreedomWorks, a conservative political action committee that raised $688,000 in 2010 to campaign for Tea Party candidates including Sharron Angle, Allen West, Mike Lee, and Ken Buck, has criticized Romney as "an establishment hack posing as an outsider" who "represents everything the tea party stands against" but who "suddenly... wants to be one of us."

Source: WMx Design
Western Representative PAC, which raised more than $400,000 in 2010 for Tea Party candidates, is also campaigning against Romney, claiming that his "flip-flops, lies, and support for the progressive agenda (undermine) his credibility on conservative issues."

"Mitt Romney brought us RomneyCare, donated to Planned Parenthood, and as governor oversaw the most anemic job growth in the Northeast," the PAC's website states. "Now, he says he wants to repeal ObamaCare, is adamantly pro-life, and wants to oversee the country's economy."

In June of this year, a former Republicans legislator from California, Steve Baldwin, launched the website, which "attacks Romney's (allegedly) conservative record as a businessman, fiscal issues, gay marriage, abortion, and a host of other issues."

As the GOP frontrunner throughout the first half of 2011, Romney raised a disappointing $18 million in the first quarter of the year – an astonishing $29 million less than President Obama raised this year, and $3 million less than he raised in his 2008 bid for the GOP nomination.

Perhaps the worst news Romney's campaign has received came following Texas Gov. Rick Perry's announcement that he would be joining the race. Within a week of his entrance, Perry was posting double-digit leads over Romney in almost every public opinion poll.

It appears all signs are pointing to no.

But not just for Romney.

Perry may have roused the Republican base when he announced his candidacy, but the change in energy, while noticeable, was akin to heavily sedating a formerly comatose patient. At no point in the race for the Republican nomination could anyone – the media, the candidates or the Republican Party's constituent base – claim to have experienced or witnessed genuine, across-the-board excitement.

Polls continue to show lagging enthusiasm for any of the candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination.

Source: WMx Design
The reasons for this are as obvious as the reasons behind the party's opposition to Romney: there are no medals for second place. Primary election victories don't mean anything. General election victories change the world, and no candidate currently in the race for the presidency has the mass appeal to oust President Obama.

The incumbent is expected to raise more than $1 billion for his re-election campaign – not one dollar of which will be wasted in a primary election.

The question isn't whether or not Republicans are able to compete with that. They aren't. The question is, are Republicans stupid enough to try to compete with that?

Throwing $1 billion at an unpopular candidate in an unwinnable race is neither fiscally nor politically responsible, let alone sane.

What's a party to do? – The same thing it did in 2000: pick the dumbest one and pray for a miracle.

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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