Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Michigan - Notre Dame 2011

Once again the fabled heavyweights of college football played football. Once again, the third time in three years, Michigan won the game in the last 30 seconds – the final 8 seconds this time.

114,804 fans in the first night game at the Big House, all but 5,000 of whom were waving maize pompoms, watched Notre Dame snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for the third straight year.

The Fighting Irish controlled the line of scrimmage for the first three quarters, leading by 17 points entering into the final quarter. Then its defense collapsed, yielding 4 touchdowns, including 2 in 82 seconds at the end of the game. Notre Dame led the entire game until the final 73 seconds, when Michigan scored the first of two touchdowns while Notre Dame scored one. The Fighting Irish’s offense had faded in the fourth quarter, committing five turnovers overall.

Michigan has won more games than any other college. All the while the fabled Fighting Irish were exciting America under their fabled coaches Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine, and Lou Holtz, Michigan just kept racking up wins.

These two schools, barely 140 miles apart, one private and one public, share much in common: academic excellence, dedicated alumni, 2 of the 3 greatest college fight songs, 2 of the 3 top winning programs, 11 national championships each. Notre Dame has had 96 All Americans compared to 77 for Michigan and 7 Heismans to Michigan’s 3.

Just as the old ad said “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” neither the current Michigan nor Notre Dame football teams are those of past eons. They are but shadows of their former selves. Both are rebuilding, an unheard of experience for two teams who simply reloaded year after year.

Notre Dame has been rebuilding since 1996, the year Lou Holtz either resigned, or was pushed to resign. Every coach since Lou has been terminated: Bob Davie, Ty Willingham, Charlie Weiss, and George O’Leary after a record 5 days. A few more losses like last Saturday’s and Kelly will be unemployed, unless he has a heart attack first. The Fighting Irish are rapidly joining The Ohio State Buckeyes as the graveyard of coaches.

Michigan just suffered through the worst three years in its history – so much for Rich Rod and the spread. The Wolverines have lost three straight times to Little brother Michigan State. It has been, according to the daily clock on the Columbus Dispatch web site, 2,853 days since Ohio State has lost to Michigan in football.

The Wolverines’ slide had been apparent for several years, but was blatantly obvious to the world on September 1, 2007 when the Appalachian State Mountaineers defeated Michigan 34-32 in the Big House, with 2 Michigan field goal attempts being blocked in the final two minutes.

Special teams have become a weakness for Michigan. Watching field goals has become an adventure.

Michigan, which has produced a score of All American defensive backs, including Charles Woodson and Ty Law, hasn’t had a good pass defense in 4 seasons. The secondary has joined special teams in losing games.

Notre Dame’s pass defense was equally porous on Saturday.

Touchdown Jesus can’t help Notre Dame anymore.

A relaxation in admissions standards might, as Notre Dame’s great Paul Hornung said a few years back. Notre Dame doesn’t give slack in admissions of football players.
However, Stanford has the same high admissions standards as Notre Dame, and Jim Harbaugh proved you can build a winning program at Stanford.

Saturday was a great game. Michigan and Notre Dame weren’t playing for No. 1, or even a BCS Bowl, but for pride. They fought like two aging pugilists refusing to go down for the final count.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Will Today's Elections Portrend for 2012?

By year elections often foretell electoral shifts during the general election. For example Democrats picked up safe Republican seats in Louisiana, Illinois, and upstate New York as President Bush’s popularity plummeted.

Two Congressional elections today may, or may not, forecast the November 2012 elections result. Two “safe” seats, a Republican seat in Nevada and a Democratic District in New York, are in play.

Nevada is presumed to remain Republican so New York’s 9th Congressional District is attracting attention. The district overlaps Brooklyn and Queens. It is 30% Jewish and has voted Democrats to Congress since 1923. It’s been a blue district for 88 years.

The disgraced Anthony Weiner recently held the seat. He was preceded by his mentor, Senator Charles Schumer.

The Democratic candidate is David Weprin, scion of a politically prominent family and an orthodox Jew. Bob Turner, the Republican, is a 70 year old Catholic, whose claim to fame and fortune is that he produced the Jerry Springer Show.

Polls show independents, and perhaps Jewish voters, breaking for the Republican.

Assemblyman Weprin has run a poor campaign, perhaps because he is a carpet bagger who does not live in the 9th District.

Turner has run an inspired campaign, attacking the Assemblyman on local issues, and President Obama’s policies, especially to Israel. The President is in danger of losing the Jewish vote in 2012.

The long term implications of the election are small. New York lost 2 Congressional seats in the 2010 census. New York’s 9th District is presumed to one of the reapportionment casualties so whoever wins will be a short termer.

However, the short term political consequences will be dramatic. The election will reaffirm the 2010 election results. If the 9th, the bluest of blue Congressional Districts bleeds red, then few Democratic seats can be viewed as “safe” in 2012. The public employee unions will be politically weakened. Democrats nationally, especially Blue Dogs and Senators running for reelection, will stumble over each other as they run away from the President. The Democrats will accept any campaign funds he raises for them, but avoid him publicly. His proposals will be dead on arrival, even in the Democratic Senate.

The Democrats cannot afford to lose this election. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has poured $500,000 into the election. The teachers union is mounting a get out the vote campaign.

The Republican has two powerful allies in his campaign. Both former mayor Ed Koch and the New York Post have endorsed him.

The election should not even be close. Congressman Weiner defeated Turner in 2010 in a landslide 61-39% margin. But then again, Scott Brown never should have won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let Us Pray at Ground Zero, But Just Not Today

Today is the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, a day of remembrance and reflection, a day to honor the survivors and the families of the victims, and America and the American Spirit

9/11 brought America together ten years ago, if only for a few days. Congress sang Kumbaya on the steps of the Capitol.

The FDNY rushed up the stairs into the fires to their deaths while civilians escaped. The police forces of New York and the Port Authority suffered heavy losses. 341 firefighters and 2 paramedics died in the collapse of the Twin Towers as did 23 New York City police and 37 Port Authority officers.

Among the early fatalities was Fr. Michael Judge, Chaplain of the Fire Department.

New York City commemorated the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11 earlier today. Ground Zero is undergoing a rebirth. Most of the perpetrators have been killed or captured. President Bush promised American justice and he and President Obama delivered.

The tragedy of 9/11 made us stronger us a country. Treating terrorism as an act of war rather than a criminal act freed the United States to mount a full scale offense. Increased security, enactment of the Patriot Act, the combined actions of federal law enforcement services and intelligence agencies, the unpublicized efforts of the treasury Department to track monies, and the active intelligence operations of the NYPD, as well as some luck, have resulted in no successful external produced terrorist acts against the United States since 9/11.

9/11 and America’s response shows the growth of the American people. We demonized our enemies in the two World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. We interned American citizens of Japanese descent in concentration camp in World War II.

9/11 was different. President Bush led the way in not blaming the terrorist acts on Muslims, but on a fringe of radicals who happen to be Muslims.

But we did not pray at Ground Zero because Mayor Bloomberg said no clergy. No Catholics, or Protestants, Muslims or Jews, Hindus or Sikhs No priest, reverend, minister, pastor, rabbi, imam, mullah, pandit, guru, monk, or nun.

Mayor Bloomberg said no. He does support though an Islamic Mosque next to Ground Zero.

No fire or police either. Mayor Bloomberg said no to them too. They suffered individually and collectively for the loss of one fire fighter is felt by all, but the Mayor felt different.

The explanations make no sense. In essence the site is too small; so no room exists for the clergy, fire, or police. America is bigger than that.

The site of 9/11 can never be too small for religion, police, or fire. This is America, and they are victims. We are all victims of 9/11.

Today is a time for all of us, a day of unity.

It’s not just Mayor Bloomberg. The National Cathedral in D.C. is hosting clergy, which places it ahead of New York, but is excluding evangelicals.

9/11 was not just an attack on America. It was barbaric assault against the world and civilization, a crime against humanity. Christians were killed, as were Jews and Muslims. Presumably other religions as well, but I have seen no breakdown by religion. Religion, all religion, was under attack.

The site of Ground Zero is legally controlled by New York City, but it belongs to all Americans.

We needed to reaffirm religion today

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reflections on President Obama's Speech

President Obama can still deliver a speech. This is his most impassioned speech in eons. He was in his groove; his mojo was humming. He was smoking. The President regained his cadence. Vice President Biden stayed awake.

Forget the details; the presentation was great.

He felt this jobs speech; it is personal for the President is facing unemployment.

This speech was the kickoff of his reelection campaign, but it was good.

But was anyone listening?

Has the public tuned him out?

If so, nothing he says will make a difference.

As he spoke out to Congress, was he thinking how many of the Senators and Representatives will be unemployed after the November 2012 election? How many of the Senators and Representatives fear unemployment?

He repeatedly demanded “Pass it now” 17 times! That was the President’s tag line. He threw down the gauntlet. He challenged Congress, but the Republicans remained seated. They were not moved.

The Democrats stood, as they must for a Democratic President, but there were no long, time-consuming ovations.

The sounds of silence from both sides of the aisle are telling.

Of course, his campaign is based on running against Congress – a “Do Nothing Congress” – but that was President Truman’s campaign theme in 1948.

"Pass the American Jobs Act Now," but no Bill has been presented to Congress.

Pass the bilateral trade bills with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea, but he has yet to present these agreements to Congress.

As for the contents of the speech, it was poor. Nothing new, just repackaged fairness and spending. President Obama is big on recyling. “Shovel ready” is now “infrastructure.” Extending unemployment benefits is still extending unemployment benefits. Tax increases on those who can afford to pay more are still tax increases.

He quoted Warren Buffet in support of raising taxes. Just increase Buffet’s taxes, and be done with it.

The President proposed targeted tax breaks, up to a $4,000 tax credit for hiring those who have been unemployed for at least 6 months and for increasing wages.

Employers hire when they believe it will be profitable to do so. The targeted tax cuts to date have not worked.

The former political science major, community organizer remains ignorant of even basic economics.

The $450-500 billion plan is paid for, but the details won’t be available until Monday (Is it next Monday or a week from Monday? Promises, Promises!

And put teachers back in the classroom, and hire more teachers. Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO was an invited guest at the speech. President Obama knows the base of his reelection campaign.

The Republicans did not even present a televised response. Representative Pelosi was offended that the Republicans would insult the President by not responding. Why respond, when nobody watches these responses anyway? Why respond, when it would conflict with the pre-game show?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Caution: Paintballing is Hazardous to Your Silicon Gel Breast Implants

The health risks of silicone gel breast implants have been extensively studied, analyzed, and litigated. Just last month another study was released that absolved the implants. Fears of rupture and leakage are over blown. “Rupture phobia” was a false alarm.

And as trial lawyers in Southern California, the heartland of plastic surgeons, discovered, juries were unsympathetic to women who were unsatisfied with what nature endowed them.

The investigators should have noted the BBC news from Croydon, England. The British have given us so much, our language, our laws, our founding fathers, penicillin, radar, sonar, flush toilets, Bob Hope, Marxism, Mark Burnett, James Bond, and Twiggy.

And now comes definitive proof of the rupture risks of silicone gel breast implants.

A 26 year old English woman with implants was paintballing on Saturday, August 20 – not the balling the implants are intended to attract.

She was, of course, balled with the paint gel.

Complaining of pain from the paint, she visited her GP two days later. She underwent surgery after being informed an implant had ruptured.

The paintballs shoot out of the gun at about 190MPH, and then decelerate before striking the target, the ballee. The paintball capsules are made of a special gelatin shell filled with food coloring and “bio-friendly” paint. Our ballee’s gel was attempting to gel with the shooters gel – gel on gel, if you would.

Upon hearing of the unfortunate accident, a lead specialist nurse counselor said “Breast implants are made to meet the highest European and American standards and are extremely robust.” I always thought they were extremely inert.

UK Paintball, which operates the Croydon and 49 other UK sites, responded to the incident with two measures.

First, they want women with surgical breast implants (are there any other kind of implants?) to notify them at the time of booking. They then want the participants to sign a revised waiver form with the added line “Paintballs can damage/rupture breast implants.”

Second, the British have such a way with words. UK Paintball did not note the irony in this statement for women with the implants: “You will also be issued additional padding to protect your implants while paintballing.”

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Once Again With Michigan Football Predictions

The Big Bo Era (Bo, Mo, & Lloyd) ended at Michigan 3 years ago. The Rodriguez Era began. The Pro Power Set era was over; it had shown signs of fading. The Spread offense was in, brought by the master. Out with the old; in with the new.

Coach Rodriguez had been a success everywhere before. There would be no transition.

The change would be installed immediately. It was Rich Rod’s way or the highway. 25 players chose the highway. Even the weight lifting equipment was tossed.

He would run the spread, even if he lacked a quarterback to do it. He would run the spread without an offensive line. Offense was his forte.

Defense would be an issue; the secondary was weak and porous, and several star defensive linemen and linebackers had moved on to the pros. Recruiting had lagged a little the past few years of Coach Carr, but this was Michigan after all – the winningist program in college football history. Defense wouldn’t matter, because the explosive offense would rack up the points. It was time for the change. The baton would be passed seamlessly.

The predictions for success were made by those of us suffering from excessive exuberance. I predicted perhaps an 8-4 record. We were all wrong with the exception of Kirk Herbstreit, the ESPN broadcaster and former Ohio State quarterback. He predicted 3-9 or 4-8.

We scoffed at the Cassandra, but he spoke the truth.

He predicts 8-4 this year, and I will plagiarize his prophesy this time.

Coach Rodriguez went 3-9, losing to Toledo, 5-7, and 7-6. He lost three times each to Michigan State and Ohio State (by blowouts). The defense got progressively worse, setting records for futility. Denard Robinson may be an incredible QB, but you can’t score if you don’t get the ball. Wisconsin blew Michigan away last year, not throwing one pass in the second half because Michigan’s once fabled and feared defense could not stop the Badgers running game. The Coach recruited quickness out of Florida, almost all on offense.

Rich Rod was the wrong coach for Michigan – the fit wasn’t there.

Brady Hoke, perhaps the second coming of Bo, has arrived as the new head coach. He has brought with him two of the most respected defensive and offensive coordinators, Greg Mattison and Al Borges, in football.

This may not be a season of miracle. The defensive line and linebackers are suspect and the team lacks depth, especially on defense, but Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State play in Ann Arbor. The team is probably 2 years away from becoming a contender, but the Wolverines could start out 6-0, facing Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, San Diego State, Minnesota, and Northwestern, followed by Michigan State, Purdue, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State. The 5 toughest games should be Notre Dame, Michigan State, Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio State. One win out of those five game should yield an 8-4 record.

A win against Ohio State would signal the second coming of Bo.

Anticipation; anticipation!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why Can't We All Get Along in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin has brought us so much political excitement in the past year in between the football seasons.

The Republicans swept the 2010 election; a blue state bled red. The new Republican governor and legislature acted quickly, as did the Democrats in Washington in 2008, to capitalize on their newly acquired power.

Wisconsin’s state and local government budgets were hemorrhaging, as they were nationally. Public employee salaries, medical expenses, and pensions, as well as related contractual obligations were a major cause.

The Republican response in Wisconsin was to use the budget as the means to reform, that is, to curb public employee collective bargaining rights through the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill. Benefits would be trimmed. The employees would contribute more to their benefits. The unions, of course, screamed bloody murder.

But this wasn’t the real issue. The Republican measures were intended to defund and defang the public employee unions as banks for the Democratic Party. If money is the mother’s milk of politics, then the Republicans were aiming to forcibly wean the Democrats.

Government would no longer collect the mandatory dues of the public employees. Indeed, the public employees no longer have to pay mandatory dues, which makes Wisconsin a semi quasi right to work state.

No wonder the unions went ballistic. Other newly Republican states, especially in the Midwest, might follow. The union funds are an even greater issue to the Democrats than reapportionment.

The Wisconsin unions suddenly agreed to the employee contributions if the union busting provisions were dropped.

They demonstrated, followed by civil disobedience and sit-ins in the state capitol. The democratic senators fled to Illinois to avoid a vote. The unions sued; a friendly judge in Madison enjoined the bill until overruled by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

They unsuccessfully fought to block the reelection of a conservative judge to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The vote was 4:3 to uphold the statute. They mounted recall campaigns against 6 Republican Senators to turn the senate blue again. They won two Senate seats, but fell one short of control of the Senate. They are threatening to recall Governor Scott Walker next year.

Solidarity forever. Unions from outside Wisconsin poured funds and organizers into Wisconsin to defeat the Republicans.

The citizens of Wisconsin want the parties to work together. The Republicans are speaking magnanimously, but they won. They can be graceful in victory.

Some labor leaders are not in a conciliatory mood.

Randy Radtke, President of the Marathon County Labor Council, announced last week that elected Republicans would not be allowed to march in the Wausau Labor Day Parade. It is, after all, a parade to celebrate workers and the union movement. Republicans are not going to rain on their parade.

The ban received national attention, but not necessarily favorable.

The ban appears petty and vindictive. It feeds into the negative image many have of unions. One conservative wrote “Union Thugs Ban Republican Rep. Sean Duffy From Their labor Day Parade.”

The labor representatives refused to budge from their principles.

Jim Tipple, the non-partisan Mayor of Wausau, then stated that the labor organization would have to foot the costs of the parade. He said “This is not a political rally, it’s a parade, for God’s sake.” He also stated that the banning of a political party from an event co-sponsored by the city is against public policy.

He’s only talking $2,000, and the unions could certainly raise that money, but Radtke relented yesterday. Republican politicians, including the Republican Congressman, state senator, and assemblyman from Wausau can march in the parade.