Sunday, November 07, 2010

Joe Schwarz Should Run for Senate

The 2012 campaign is already underway. By now the media has taken its attention away from the midterms and is gearing up for a heated reelection campaign for President Obama. Obama will have to lay out his agenda in the coming months as he delivers his State of the Union address with the hopes of turning around the economy and the situation in Afghanistan.

Republicans will offer an array of Presidential hopefuls, each with their own set of bona fides, hoping to corral the entire party behind him (or her). Voters will get reacquainted with the likes of Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee, while others will be introduced to the likes of Tim Pawlenty.

We in Michigan will have a Senate election as Senator Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection. Stabenow won a close race in 2000 over incumbent Spencer Abraham, and won reelection in 2006 over Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard. Stabenow was largely credited for leading the ticket, despite the fact that it was Gov. Jennifer Granholm whose name was at the top of the ticket.

Stabenow is very popular among Democrats, and among voters across the state. At one time, she was the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate after Dick Durbin, the Minority Whip, and Harry Reid, the Democratic Leader. Virtually no Republican in the state has a shot at unseating her.

Except Joe Schwarz.

Dr. Joe Schwarz is a former Congressman who served Michigan's 7th Congressional District from 2005-2007. Schwarz's resume makes Stabenow's seem rather plain. Don't get me wrong, Stabenow is no slouch. She earned her bachelor's from Michigan State, and an MSW from MSU (she was a grad student when she won her first elected office).

Whereas as Stabenow went from being an Ingham County Commissioner to State Representative, State Senator, nominee for Lt. Governor, US Representative, and now Senator, Schwarz's curriculum vitae is even more impressive. He earned a Bachelor's of History from the University of Michigan, his MD from Wayne State University, and then entered the US Navy as an officer serving as a battlefield surgeon in Viet Nam. He joined the Defense Intelligence Agency and later the CIA, where he still today cannot disclose his full involvement.

He came back to Michigan and began a practice as an Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat), became Mayor of Battle Creek, was then elected State Senator in 1986, and served there until 2002 as a result of state mandated term limits. He made an unsuccessful bid for Governor of Michigan that same year, and lost decidedly to eventual winner, Lt. Governor Dick Posthumous.

In 2004, Rep. Nick Smith announced he was retiring and Schwarz decided to run for his seat in southern Michigan. He won a hotly contested Republican Primary against five other Republicans, and proceeded to win the general election over Sharon Renier with about 59% of the vote.

(Before I go any further, I forgot to mention this in my original posting. What's 15 minutes between the original and an edited update? We can still be friends, eh?)

Most freshmen Congressman accomplish very little in their first two years, let alone ten years if they make it that far in politics. Rep. Schwarz, however, was able to convince the Base Realignment Commission (BRAC) to save the National Guard Base in Battle Creek, which in turned saved thousands of jobs in the region.

Unfortunately, Schwarz lost his reelection bid in the 2006 GOP Primary to Tim Walberg, a social fanatic whose campaign was funded largely by out-of-state interest groups like the Club for Growth. Walberg's little helpers ran a misinformation and smear campaign against Schwarz who was targeted as a liberal due to his moderate stances on a number of social issues, such as abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and his opposition to a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, because he felt the matter did not rise to the level of a constitutional question.

Schwarz has not been involved in politics since he lost his seat four years ago. In 2008, he endorsed then-State Senator Mark Schauer from Battle Creek over Walberg. Schauer defeated Walberg, as he ran on Barack Obama's coattails. Despite being the superior candidate, Schauer was defeated last Tuesday by Walberg in a reelection bid that swept over 60 Democrats out of the House of Representatives.

But I think Schwarz should run. The likelihood of a quick economic rebound in Michigan is very low at this point. The economy is tied to Obama's fortunes, as well as many incumbent Democrats like Stabenow. Schwarz's moderate views could make his candidacy appealing to independents and some conservative Democrats all over the state, including vote-rich Oakland County, a former GOP stronghold that went for Rick Snyder this last election.

Despite his lack of name recognition, Schwarz's biggest challenge might be his aversion to fund raising. He has been known to avoid "the ask" to solicit campaign contributions. But perhaps a larger GOP operation behind him could alleviate some of that aversion.

There may be a question about his age. He was first elected to the House when he was 66. In 2012, he'll turn 75 in less than two weeks after the election. But age has rarely been an impediment for US Senators. Even if he only serves one term in the Senate and retires, his expertise on so many areas including the military, foreign policy, education, and science would make him an asset to the GOP caucus in the upper chamber.

A quick scan of the internet shows some interest on facebook among GOP activists at nominating former US Representative Pete Hoekstra of Holland. But no Republican has announced his candidacy yet. I would expect that sometime in the spring of next year, we'll begin to see exploratory committees formed and official announcements made in the fall of 2011.

As of today, I don't think it'll happen. More likely, he'll continue his practice at Battle Creek, work as a visiting lecturer at U of M, and accept an appointment here and there to various state boards commissioned by Gov. Snyder.

But the Republican Party, the state, and the US Senate need more people like Dr. Schwarz. I'm not trying to carry water for Republicans - they can do that without me.

But if Joe Schwarz gives it a go, I'll actually vote in 2012.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Reflections on the 2010 Midterms

Thought I'd just jot down some points about Tuesday's GOP smack down.
  • I did not expect the Republicans to win over 60 seats. I didn't begin thinking they'd win the House until September. Talk of taking the Senate seemed a might wishful.
  • Speaking of taking the Senate, the Tea Party cost the GOP control of the Senate. It would seem the Tea Party was more effective for House candidates, where regionalism reigns.
  • Christine O'Donnell, a Tea Partier, blames Republican 'cannibalism' for her defeat. She forgets the fact that she's Christine O'Donnell. Or that she's in Delaware. But she's right: Republican cannibalism was at work, as Mike Castle will tell you.
  • Lincoln Chafee is back in politics. Not following elections across the country like I did in my college days, I was surprised to see that he was running for Governor of Rhode Island. He won, too, as an Independent over a Republican (by a small margin) and a Democrat (wide margin).
  • For a while on Tuesday night, it looked like John Dingell (or his campaign) was going to have to pull an all-nighter. As time wore on, he began to separate from his opponent, Rob Steele. Still it would've been good to see him win in the low 50s. Even after half a century, it's still a good thing for democracy when even he needs to earn his seat.
  • Rick Snyder carried the Republicans all the way to Lansing. The MI GOP now controls all levers of government in the state. The GOP wrestled back control of the House after four years out of power. They now have a 2/3 majority in the Senate which means legislation can take effect immediately. The State Supreme Court now has a Republican majority again, thanks to the electorate voting out 'incumbent' Justice Tom Davis, a Granholm appointee.
  • This election was more than a rejection of Obama; in Michigan, it was a wholesale rejection of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Virgil Bernero is the Democrats' McCain in this state. Only Bernero was more obnoxious, pompous, disingenuous, and flat out wrong on so many things, unlike McCain.
  • 2011 will be a pivotal year for Obama. If the economy doesn't improve next year, he's done. I can't give you a benchmark; but if I had to, I'd say at least 3 million jobs alone next year and about that much in 2012.
  • I'd prefer Obama to Romney. Or Huckabee. Or Palin. But I'll take Chuck Hagel over Obama. Any day.
  • I still would've voted for McCain.
  • I feel no guilt about not voting. This might become permanent.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Staying Home on Tuesday

I won't be voting this year. And I'm pretty contempt with that. After just getting off the phone with one of my political science professors, he seemed disappointed in my decision, but if I could explain the merits in a way he could understand, I felt even more okay about it.

I just can't support the Republicans. I cannot vote for them, and I cannot give my support to third party organizations like the Libertarians, or the Greens. Ideologically, I align with the libertarian ideology probably 85-90% of the time, or 95% if I can better articulate the nuance. Once I even threw away my vote by giving it to a Green running for governor.

But the past few years, I've seen what appears to be an irreversible turn for the worse in the Republican and Libertarian parties. Both are bombarded by Tea Party fanatics, people who treat opposition to tax hikes like they're commandments, the intellectually lazy, overly populist, anti-gay, birthers, and peppered with some truthers.

I was going to work for Andrew "Rocky" Raczkowski, an Oakland County Republican looking to unseat first-term Rep. Gary Peters. I wanted to get back in the game after quitting midway in the 2006 Primary and not doing anything in 2008. Apparently Rocky made some campaign-speak he gave a wink and a nod to the racist anti-Obama crowd by saying indirectly he wasn't a US citizen. Rocky is an officer in the US Army Reserve and has served the nation honorably in Somalia, but what he did was way too over the line for me. He tried saying he didn't believe Obama was a legit president without directly saying it, giving himself an outlet in case he'd have to backpedal to the media. So upon hearing that, I opted to not associate myself with him.

But Republicans have simply lost their minds. This Tea Party isn't necessarily a movement based on race, hatred of Obama, fear of socialism, or a clandestine strategy on the part of fascists bent on consolidating power in the hands of a few - it is like any other movement in the nation's history. A political movement that is organized by a small number of wealthy individuals and was somehow able to capture the imagination of an angry portion of the electorate seeking an outlet for that fomenting rage.

However, this Tea Party is what's given us people like Joe Miller in Alaska and Christine O'Donnell in Connecticut. The Republicans in their respective states had intelligent and articulate moderate conservatives who had broader appeal in Lisa Murkowski and Mike Castle. By doing this, the Tea Partiers have in fact cost the GOP the Senate.

I'm no Democrat. I hold a lot of right-leaning and a lot of left-leaning views. I'm pro-gun, pro-vouchers, flat income tax, abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts, partial privatization of Social Security, and I support right-to-work laws. But I'm also pro-choice, for gay marriage and giving couples the right to adopt, legalizing marijuana, and I'm for reducing the defense budget.

It came down to character. By and large, I probably agree more with Sharron Angle than Harry Reid, but Angle has too many character defects to be trusted as a US Senator.

Just goes to show, sometimes you have to separate character from the issues a person takes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Juan Williams and Reflexiveness of Media

I heard former NPR analyst Juan Williams was fired last week over comments he made on The O'Reilly Factor where he said he gets nervous when he sees a person in Muslim garb on an airplane. The comment was the last straw in a tug of war between Williams and NPR, who had been at odds over his dual role as a Fox Contributor.

Apparently for some time, the top brass at NPR had been unhappy about Williams' work at Fox News Channel, leading them to one point ask the network to stop using his NPR ID when he appeared on such shows as The Factor in 2009. NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard stated "Williams tends to speak one way on NPR and another on Fox," after Williams made the quip, "Michelle Obama, you know, she's got this Stokley Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking, as Mary Katherine is suggesting, her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I'm the victim. If that stuff starts coming out, people will go bananas and she'll go from being the new Jackie O to being something of an albatross."

I don't know exactly what NPR was getting at by denouncing some of his comments; his politics had been known for sometime, now. He had written op-ed columns for several other publications, including The New Republic, Time, Fortune, and the Washington Post, so it wasn't like he had somehow managed to conceal his views until last week.

Even if his comments were that offensive (remember, he did later qualify his remarks stating it was wrong to have those kinds of thoughts later on in the interview), certainly they weren't as incendiary as Nina Totenberg's comments about there being "retributive justice" if former Senator Jesse Helms had gotten AIDS. Last anyone checked, Totenberg still has a job there, and a quick glance at her biography shows anyone her allegiances.

The way I see it, Williams' point about getting nervous when he sees Muslims in Muslim garb is offensive, but it's an honest admission of character flaw. But the offensiveness is minimized if you put his entire interview with O'Reilly into context. He said having those kinds of thoughts are wrong. He is saying that you can't extrapolate the acts of 19 hijackers on 9/11 to all Muslims.

(I still have a bone to pick somewhat with his comments since he seems to also rehash the idea that extremism and terrorist sympathies aren't widespread among the Islamic world - but another time, another day.)

I don't feel sorry for Williams. He has since losing his job at NPR 1) received an outpouring of support within the media and from liberals and conservatives alike, and 2) was offered a $2 million contract with Fox News for the next three years. His new contract will put him on firm financial ground even if he doesn't work for the next ten years after his contract is up.

(I still hate the fact that the news networks always do this - make such a hoopla over getting a new personality and paying him/her loads of cash. Or giving a current personality a contract extension and a generous raise. Thank you for rubbing this kind of stuff in our faces, media. Have you seen the latest unemployment figures?)

Williams' new status at Fox will certainly raise his profile at the network. We'll probably be seeing him a lot more (err, people who watch Fox will - I don't watch TV). Having Williams there also raises Fox's credibility ever so slightly, given that Williams has a center-left take on things; I generally find him to be quite intuitive as he offers worthwhile commentary.

NPR, in the meantime will and should take a hit. Why did Williams' comments all of a sudden matter? Was it to please its liberal base of listeners? I listen to NPR and I won't stop because of this. It'll just remind me that NPR, too, can't pretend that it is somehow above the nonsense of the MSM all the time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

This Moment In Suck Has Been Brought To You By Dylan Ratigan

The other night I was thumbing through the Huffington Post's website. Jumping from page to page, I came across one particular story, Dylan Ratigan Blasts Bill O'Reilly, 'War on Islam' on Morning Joe. Ratigan, an MSNBC anchor and host of the Dylan Ratigan Show, criticized Fox News' Bill O'Reilly for comments he made on ABC's The View Thursday, saying he opposed the "Ground Zero Mosque" because we were attacked by Muslims, or "Muslims killed us on 9/11."

O'Reilly's much publicized appearance on the View was controversial and memorable because at one point, co-hosts Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg were so upset with O'Reilly that they both stormed off the stage. It made for good TV. O'Reilly was chastised moments later by host Barbara Walters (after she chided Goldberg and Behar for leaving) saying that you can't condemn an entire religion for the acts of a few hijackers.

The next day, in typical MSNBC fashion, all the talk was about what somebody on or from Fox News said, because they can't report news themselves, they have to rehash what was said on Fox because Fox apparently puts a daily beatdown to MSNBC in the ratings everyday. I'm not a Fox defender; I don't watch TV to begin with, but Fox is an entertainment channel, solely, not a news organization.

MSNBC figured this out a few years ago and copied Fox's style. They gave us Keith Olbermann, a poor man's O'Reilly, and then followed up with Rachael Maddow and Ed Schultz, the former who intentionally distorts quotes of Republican politicians, and the latter who's too ignorant to understand simple things like rounding errors. MSNBC is Fox for liberals. They have a primetime lineup that hews to the Democratic base, and a tiny cadre of token conservatives, in mirror opposite to Fox's anchors and their "Fox News liberals."

Friday morning was a typical day at MSNBC. They spent their day watching Fox News or its personalities on other networks the day before and reported what they were doing. Dylan Ratigan was a guest panelist on the show Morning Joe, hosted by token conservative Joe Scarborough (who is MSNBC's Alan Colmes). Scarborough wasn't on, and that left Willie Geist to host the show.

After they aired the clip, Norah O'Donnell was first asked her thoughts and she said she supported the women walking off the stage (Goldberg and Behar) because they felt they were being "bullied" by O'Reilly. Yes, never mind the fact that Behar and Goldberg were Obama slappies in 2008 who feathered then-Sen. Barack Obama with softball questions, while they grilled Sen. John McCain during the presidential election.

Even though I don't watch The View, you can read enough newspapers and blogs to know that the show is slanted with a left-leaning bias. Their token conservative panelist is Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who's really a lightweight compared to the bombastic Behar and Goldberg. They do their fair share of "bullying." It's their show, it's their right. But O'Donnell apparently failed to grasp that notion when someone of equal bombast (O'Reilly) gave them a taste of their own medicine.

Ratigan came on next, and in usual politically correct form, pretended like every other idiot who thinks Islam isn't a violent religion and had this to say:

"We are not at war with Islam, we are not at war with Muslims, Iraq, Iran, it's nonsense! They hold up signs, 'I hate America.' Have you seen the signs we hold up? The only people that have ever funded a terrorist attack from that part of the world on us...was this Wahabi sect. And it is an extraordinary failure of our politicians and our media and anybody else who has an opportunity to communicate information to fail o make that distinction, because to fail to make that distinction is to risk a scale of conflict and a scale of disenfranchisement and alienation on this planet that may be convenient for TV ratings and votes, but is an abomination for the human beings that will populate this planet and it's a lie."

First of all, what got everyone's blood boiling was hearing O'Reilly say we weren't attacked (killed) by Muslims on 9/11. In an act of pure stupidity, Whoopi Goldberg immediately denied that, like instead we were attacked by some occultist sect. What O'Reilly said was 100% true, the 19 hijackers were all Muslims. Sunni Muslims. Muslims killed on 9/11 - there is no way around it.

Muslims attacked the country on 9/11. They attacked the USS Cole in September 2000. They attacked the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. They blew up the Khobar Towers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1996, and the OPM-SANG headquarters in 1995. My father and four other Americans were murdered in that attack.

Does Dylan Ratigan or Whoopi Goldberg want us to think differently? These were murders, and the victims were murdered in the name of Islam. It's completely absurd on their part to hear someone say "Muslims killed us" and assume that they're applying the murder label to all Muslims. It's even more dangerous to assume that Islam is somehow not at war with us.

Al Qaeda isn't a fringe group. It is a multinational terror network. The reason it has or had as now is the fact that it had millions of sympathizers and supporters in that part of the world. 9/11 wasn't the work of a small Wahhabi sect in Saudi Arabia as Ratigan would like all of us to think.

I can only guess the motives as to why some people are still willing to live in denial of Islam's purpose. It's not about peace. It cannot be progressive. If people weren't so afraid of being accused of bigotry, it wouldn't be as difficult to call it like it is.

And on that note, today's date is October 17. It's Jim and Marilyn's 46th anniversary. It's too sad I can't be with them to celebrate or even give them a phone call.

Ratigan's timing couldn't be worse.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Does Abortion Find Its Way In Here?

At about 49:29 of the Gubernatorial debate, both candidates were asked their positions on abortion, gay marriage, and affirmative action. The latter two, gay marriage and affirmative action, have been addressed by the voters in 2004 and 2006 respectively and both were outlawed.

My problem is with abortion, no matter where you stand on the issue (I being pro-choice), it doesn't matter in the context of a state office race. The Governor of Michigan cannot outlaw abortion. The only way abortion can be outlawed is either by the US Supreme Court overturning the ruling in Roe v. Wade or the country enacting a constitutional amendment that bans the procedure.

Our state has far too many issues to deal with. A distressed economy, a budget that is cobbled together on an annual basis using accounting gimmicks, an education system that is short on cash and long on uncertainty, a leadership vacuum in Lansing created by term limitations.

Rick Snyder's pro-life stance means nothing to me. Virg Bernero's support for a woman's right to choose means the same. Both can tinker in very small ways to restrict access or expand it, but the fact of the matter is, the issue will not be resolved in four years by either candidate - even if they wanted to.

We voted to ban gay marriage, because so far, the citizens of Michigan still have the right to do so. I'm not sure putting the rights of individuals up before a popular vote and having their fate decided by people's retrograde values is even remotely ethical, but it was done.

When we voted to ban affirmative action, I felt a little more sympathetic to those pushing the issue, but I voted no because I believe it would hurt the prospects of kids growing up in Northern Michigan and finding their way into one of the state's 15 public universities, among others.

Abortion will be never be outlawed in this country because of how impossible it is to undo Roe. Even as conservative as the Roberts' Court is, even they don't want to touch the issue because they don't want to break precedent, otherwise known as stare decisis (let the decision stand).

The other way, which is even more impossible, is to amend the US Constitution. That means 2/3 of both the US House and Senate would have to pass the measure. Then it would have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states.

Given that most polls show the country evenly divided on the issue, there is no way the pro-life movement will ever muster up enough support to ban the procedure.

And Rick and Virg will have even bigger issues on their plate come January.

The Michigan Gubernatorial Debate

Oh my god. This debate was not a debate. It was embarrassing. I don't think I can vote.

Rick Snyder, the Republican candidate, could not provide specifics. He spoke through the entire debate saying "we need to do this," "we need to do that," and "this is how we measure this."

Virgil Bernero, the Democrat, was worse. Some will say he won the debate because he attacked Snyder for allegedly moving business to China. His facts are disputable, a very generous term. If your facts are out of line with reality, doesn't the opponent technically win by default?

Snyder's novice political qualities are shown in full light. Bernero showed he's nothing more than an overly aggressive loudmouth who "writes checks his ass can't cash."

This will be the only debate, and it should be. No one will watch a 2nd or 3rd debate, and no one watches debates between the other candidates for statewide office. How good would they be for the public? At best, it'd be out there on TV for an hour and then in cyberspace.

It's to Snyder's advantage not to have another debate. It'd be like 1998 all over again when the Democrats nominated someone even more obnoxious and even less qualified to be governor: Geoffrey Fieger. Why should then-Gov. John Engler have chosen to debate him? It would have been a circus. Fieger compared Engler to Stalin and Hitler, his ads made your skin crawl, and the state was humming along fine.

It seems like people have already made up their mind at this point. Methinks I'm staying home.


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Sunday, October 10, 2010

It Just Feels Oh-So-Good

The Lions have finally won their first game of the season after blowing out the St. Louis Rams 44-6. After starting the season 0-4 and losing three very close games, the Lions did everything right on both sides of the ball.

The first quarter ended with the Lions and Rams tied at 3-3. Then in the second quarter the Lions blew it wide open. A 105-yard kick return for a TD from Stefan Logan turned a lead into a snowball effect as the Lions scored two more touchdowns before halftime, taking a 24-6 lead.

St. Louis, led by the No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, had nothing in the second half as the Rams continued their collapse. The 44-6 victory is the Lions' largest margin since 1995, and their first blowout victory since they beat the Denver Broncos in 2007, 44-7. The win over the Broncos was also the last time fans in the Detroit market watched the team win on TV. The following year the Lions went 0-16, and in 2009, both victories came at home, while the game was blacked out.

The Lions were still without starting QB Matthew Stafford, who looks probably like he's set to return in Week 8 against the Washington Redskins on Halloween. Backup QB Shaun Hill threw 21 of 32 passing, for 227 yards and 3 TDs. It's the best he's looked all year and for the first time, I had confidence in our 2nd stringer.

By the end of the game, the Lions' D took over as Bradford threw two interceptions, one to Ndamukong Suh, the picked right after Bradford in last April's draft, and Alfonso Smith, a newly acquired DB from Denver, who ran it in for a TD.

The Lions, despite having won their only game of the year so far have actually outscored all their opponents combined, 126-112. What makes this victory extra sweet is that they made up for the one difference that has kept them away from winning in three other close losses: they were in the game for all four quarters. Instead of disappearing for a quarter or more, the Lions were in it the entire way.

It's scary to think that had they been firing on all cylinders like this all year, this team could actually be 4-1 right now.

On Tap: Rams at Lions - & What About U-M/MSU?

I'm predicting my Lions will get their first victory of the season today. I know that Sam Bradford, the Rams' rookie QB has played well the last two weeks, but he's a rookie, and like every rookie, they won't develop consistency right away.

Bradford and Lions' QB Matt Stafford will be forever linked as the two Number One picks of their respective drafts (Stafford in 2009 and Bradford in 2010). They will always be compared to one another. Hopefully it'll be a Brady/Manning (with Stafford being more Brady) comparison, and not, say a Manning/Leaf or even Bledsoe/Mirer comparison.

As far as this game goes, both teams are evenly matched on both sides of the ball. Bradford has a better offensive line and RB Steven Jackson is a stud. But he doesn't have much for a receiving corps.

The Lions will again be without Stafford and they are starting Shaun Hill. Hill has put up some decent fantasy numbers, but he'll have to do a good job of managing the offense.

Detroit's single biggest problem in games this year has been the disappearance of the offense for a quarter, or quarter and a half. They need to control the ball, make some plays, and keep the defense off the field for as much as possible. You can't rely on letting the other team build a huge lead, and take their foot off the gas in the second half.

The Lions will have rookie RB Jahvid Best, although it's anyone's guess how good he'll be today. Also returning is TE Tony Scheffler, who has seen tremendous production since coming to Detroit. If Shaun Hill isn't going to manage the game, then the Lions just need to be in 2-minute offense form the entire game. It seems that's the only way they're able to move the ball and score.

I'm guessing the score will be Lions 24, Rams 21.


On a side note, I did not see the game yesterday between Michigan and Michigan State. Apparently the game ended in the second quarter as Michigan apparently did nothing the rest of the way, blowing a 10-7 lead and turning it into a 31-10 deficit in the second half.

The papers are saying Denard Robinson looked human, ONLY running for 86 yards. 86 yards? I know that's his lowest total running yardage of the year, but Jesus, that's a lot for Michael Vick, pre-2007. His other less than impressive statistics - 17 of 29 passing for 215 yards, 1 TD, and 3 picks. Two of those picks were in the end zone.

Is it safe to anoint Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins the best in the state? I think so.

Michigan, I root for you above Michigan State. But after losing three in a row, how does it feel to be "Little Brother?"

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Maybe One Day "Close" Will Count for the Lions, Too

There's an old saying, "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." Maybe the Lions should be spotted a 3-6 point handicap.

I sat through a typical game today. 1 - they lost. 2 - they disappeared for about a quarter and a half, just like they did against Chicago and Philadelphia. 3- just like the three games before, they came oh-so close to pulling off another upset victory, a sure sign of a team that is better, but still not good enough.

This 0-4 team isn't like the 2008 debacle. More like the 2001 debacle. If you'll remember, that team started the season losing its first 11 games before winning an upset over the Minnesota Vikings at home. Many of those games comprised of the Lions losing the game by less than two possessions. The 2008 version had the Lions out of the game by the first or early second quarter most of the time.

They had six penalties for 57 yards in the first 20 minutes of the game. Gosder Cherilus returned to form with two penalties in the second half. Stephen Peterman maintained his streak of at least one penalty per game, making it No. 4 today. Most surprising of all, Jeff Backus didn't make the one dumb play needed to put the game out of reach for Detroit.

RB Jahvid Best failed to score a touchdown in the game for the first time in his career. His rushing numbers at least through the first six carries were respectable (26 yards), but Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan simply didn't employ the running game enough to facilitate his game plan. Whatever that was.

I saw some bright spots, however. First, the secondary, as weak as that corps is, made some HUGE interceptions. I expected Aaron Rodgers to have the kind of game where he'd throw 350 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs (due to throwing the ball on every down), but the secondary gave the Lions' life after the team made so many mistakes. It would've been 3 INTs, if not for the first one being overruled on account of a defensive penalty.

Calvin Johnson played the first half. Well, the second half, too, but he amassed six catches for 86 yards, and 2 TDs in the first half. He brought the Lions back to life at the end of the 2nd quarter with his TD catch, making the score 21-14. It's only significant because Detroit got the ball back in the 3rd quarter.

But Detroit started the 2nd half the way they played through much of the first half. Lifeless. But Brandon Pettigrew amassed nine catches for 84 yards. Unfortunately, his two drops in the 2nd half proved more damaging to Detroit than his nine receptions did to Green Bay.

Still, with over six minutes left in the 4th, the Lions were, only down by 2 points after a series of turnovers and Jason Hanson field goals. All it would've taken was one drive and the Lions would have the lead, either by FG or TD. But the Lions fell 4 yards short, and opted to punt instead of kick a 54-yard FG. Hanson missed a 55-yarder at the end of the 1st half. The miss wasn't even close. But he later hit a 52-yard FG and a 49-yard FG with plenty of clearance. The kind of clearance he would've needed to make the 55-yarder.

Still, the Lions punted. Green Bay held the ball for the rest of the game, taking away any more opportunities for Detroit. The Packers fell apart, only to put it all back together with their last chance.

Shaun Hill, despite my view of him as only a game manager, again put up 300+ yards in the loss. He also threw multiple interceptions. But he did have one Denard Robinson like play, breaking loose and running up the middle for a 40-yard gain that allowed the Lions to come within two points of the Packers.

I suspect he'll start against the Rams, and that Matt Stafford will return to the lineup come Week 8 after the Bye Week. If that's the case, Shaun Hill should be given one more shot, and if he can't beat the Rams, why not take one last look at Drew Stanton before sending him off? The season's lost, and you won't get much more out of Hill than what you've already gotten.

Be that as it may, no matter how much closer the Lions have gotten to victory against three of the first four teams they played (5 points, then 3, then 2), losing is losing. Expectations change in football and the other sports I don't give a damn about. When you come into the game expected to lose by 14-17 points and come within striking distance of winning it at the very end, it shouldn't raise morale.

Yes, they should be 3-1 after four games, but they're still bottom dwellers. And that sucks.

By the way, I was kind of stoked to check my twitter account (which blows up my phone because I follow people who 'tweet' such useless crap), and saw Tom Kowalski respond to a question of mine. Check it out here.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

One Ugly Human Being

Sometimes somebody makes you sick to be an American. Meet Andrew Shirvell.

Last week, I saw Anderson Cooper cover a story about someone so bizarre I could not believe my ears and eyes when I learned that one of our state's Assistant Attorneys General, Andrew Shirvell, apparently kept a blog he maintained, which existed solely as an attack blog on the President of the Michigan Student Association, Chris Armstrong.

This started when Chris Armstrong ran for President of the Michigan Student Association last spring. Armstrong won, becoming the first openly gay MSA President. Shirvell started his blog after the Alliance Defense Fund put out a notice about Armstrong advancing a "radical homosexual agenda." Shirvell had apparently posted numerous blog entries attacking Armstrong and his friends/allies, accusing him of being a racist, a Nazi, and photo shopping pictures of Armstrong next to a gay pride flag with a swastika encircled in the middle of the flag, and the word "Resign" scrawled across Armstrong's face.


Shirvell further went on to show up at rallies with offensive signs linking Armstrong to the KKK and even once showed up at his house with a video camera.

Cooper picked up on this story and interviewed Shirvell on his show, AC360 on Tuesday evening.

The first thing I noticed was just how scary it was this kid could be so unfazed by what he was doing. It never seems to occur to him that he, as a state official who represents the State of Michigan in court cases can somehow find it appropriate to attack not a state or federal official, but a student at a public university.

Chris Armstrong is 21 years old. He is the student body representative to the University of Michigan governance. He is not some influential public official. God knows, he probably makes no more than $300 a week (I haven't looked; and I don't care) at his job. Armstrong is elected to a 1-year term. Most likely he won't run again.

Shirvell maintains that this is a political campaign he's waging. He argues that Armstrong is pushing a "radical homosexual agenda" at the University of Michigan.

Please, no gays in Ann Arbor is like there being no rice in China.

Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan are one of the gay-friendliest communities in the world. The fact that only now in 2010, Armstrong is the first openly gay President only means that it's only about goddamn time. And maybe it's time for Shirvell to join us in the 21st century.

Unfortunately (or maybe it is fortunate), Shirvell's blog is no longer open to the public. Deleting the whole thing might have been better. I did view it on Wednesday, and while not shocked, I was a bit annoyed at the way he referenced phrases such as "gay rights" or "homosexuals" in quotations.

This is pure bigotry, plain and simple. No matter how hard he tries to disguise it, he fails. The fact that he is still allowed to represent my state in the courtroom is disturbing. Attorney General Mike Cox has maintained that while Shirvell's actions are offensive, they are done on his own time, and he has otherwise performed acceptably as a state attorney. Shirvell worked on his reelection campaign in 2006.

Cox recently lost a close race for Michigan Governor in the GOP Primary. He has since then gone back to his duties as AG. Observers have speculated the only reason Shirvell still has a job is simply Cox's way of repaying him for his loyalty. Cox does have a religious, values voters political base to consider. After all, we have not heard the last of Mike Cox in Michigan politics, I think.

I think Shirvell has not only done himself harm, but he apparently hurt his other cause even more simply by speaking his mind. Ever since Shirvell's interview, support for Chris Armstrong has skyrocketed. Thanks to our Asst. AG, Armstrong is probably more popular than ever, free to push his agenda, one of which is gender-neutral housing, which Shirvell says is a "radical redefinition of gender roles."

Even our ever-popular Governor, Jennifer Granholm couldn't resist the chance to take a swipe at Cox, saying if she were still Attorney General, he would've been fired already. Thanks, Gov, but every public statement you make from hear on out should an include an apology for the way you've run the state for the last eight years. Nice try scoring political points, but it's too little, too late, ma'am.

Maybe there is a silver lining to this cloud. Shirvell has recently taken paid sick leave, and when he comes back, he will be facing a disciplinary hearing. It isn't specific, what the hearing will be about, but what else could it be, really?

On Tap: Lions at Packers

The 0-3 Lions head into Green Bay to face the 2-1 Packers at Lambeau Field, a place they haven't won at since 1991. I remember watching the tail end of that game as Barry Sanders was given a carry or two before the game was over.

Even more amazing might be that I actually remember the first game of the current losing streak. Played sometime in late November/early December, Lambeau was covered in snow, and Green Bay managed to go up 28-0 or 35-0. I don't remember the exact score, other than Green Bay having more points. What I do remember is watching Rodney Peete getting pulled early as Wayne Fontes apparently gave up on the game (and the season), and the team got a look at Andre Ware for the remainder of the year.

If the Lions lose tomorrow, the streak goes to 20 games. Chances are, they will. The Lions losing will maintain three unfavorable streaks: a losing streak of 8 games, a road losing streak of 21 games (3 away from tying the old record set back in 2003 by guess who - the Lions), and the 20 games at Lambeau.

Green Bay, despite their loss to the Bears, and the Bears' current record, is the strongest team in the NFC North. I still think the division is the Packers' to lose at this point. So is this game.

Aaron Rodgers will probably emerge this season as one of the Top 5 QBs in the game. Green Bay is otherwise, one of the teams who are pretty strong everywhere - except the O-Line. I expect this to change in the coming years as their 1st Round pick - Brian Bulaga emerges as a solid left tackle, and they use the draft to replace aging interior O-lineman.

Detroit is still without QB Matthew Stafford, who continues to recover from a shoulder injury suffered in Week 1 just before halftime against the Bears. It remains possible he will play the following week at home against the St. Louis Rams, but the Lions ought to put the future of the team and their franchise QB ahead of winning a single game, lest they risk losing Stafford for the entire year.

At this point, I've seen enough of Shaun Hill to realize he's a permanent backup, and on a more capable team like New England or Indianapolis. If Stafford is ready to return in Week 8, a week after the Bye, I don't see why the Lions don't give Drew Stanton one more shot and play him against the Rams or Giants.


As far as the game goes, for Detroit to win, once again it will come down to what the front 4 on the D-line can do. The Green Bay O-line is probably the weakest in the division, and that may put pressure on Rodgers, who is otherwise mobile and has a good arm. RB Ryan Grant is lost for the year, so that leaves it up to the receiving corps with WRs Donald Driver, Greg Jennings (Western Michigan), and TE Jermichael Finley to attack the Lions' weak secondary.

The Lions' offense will have their hands full as Green Bay is loaded on defense with B.J. Raji at DT, Nick Barnett as OLB, and Charles Woodson (Michigan) in the secondary. There's an old adage, 75% of the Earth is covered in water. The rest is covered by Charles Woodson.

The Packers will give the Lions' offense fits, especially since the only viable weapon the Lions have at WR is Calvin Johnson (Nate Burleson is out with a sprained ankle). The Lions have seen production out of their TEs, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. RB Kevin Smith is back and will split time with the probably Offensive Rookie of the Year, Jahvid Best.

Final Score:
Detroit 21
Green Bay 31

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Not Another Jobbing - Just Plain Bad Football

My Lions lost again today, 24-10 in the Metrodome. The game ended in a way all too familiar to most Lions fans. They were down by double digits, and the game ended on an interception.

Unlike the last two games, this was less close than it appeared. I did predict the Lions would win, and unfortunately the only thing I got right was the score of the winning team, 24. But what I predict doesn't matter; I was willing to take a chance of getting it wrong since being wrong would be inconsequential.

I expected the Lions to be 0-3 at this point. I further expected them to get their first win against St. Louis in Week 5. After all, they play in Green Bay next week, and Aaron Rodgers is looking more and more like a Top 5 QB.

But after listening to FM radio when I left my sister's, I can hear people beginning to jump off ship and saying the season's lost. Well of course, they never really had the season. No one thought the Lions had a serious shot at getting to the playoffs.

Then again, predicting a team will go 0-4 in the first month and living through that first month are two different things, aren't they?

On Tap: Lions at Vikings

Detroit heads into Minnesota today to play the Vikings at 1 pm. Both teams are 0-2 with both teams losing close games in each of their first two contests.

The Vikings' offense has been slowed by the loss of their top two receivers, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. Rice is out indefinitely as a result of a hip injury requiring surgery, and Harvin is questionable due to recurring migraines he has suffered from.

But the real story has been the mediocre play of Brett Favre. Without his best two targets, Favre's performance this year has been underwhelming. It hasn't helped him that his left ankle hasn't fully heeled yet (at least that's what it seems).

On the other side, the Lions are still without Matthew Stafford (shoulder). That leaves it up to Shaun Hill to once again take the reins. Hill will be facing the team that gave him his start in the NFL. Hill did nothing there, and eventually went on to have greater success in San Francisco.

Last week, Hill threw for 335 yards, was 25-for-45 passing, and had three interceptions. Most of his passing yards came late in the 4th quarter with Detroit down by 18.

The key to this game comes down to two things - 1) will Minnesota's D-line (the best in the NFL with Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Jared Allen) be able to overwhelm an improved Lions' O-line, 2) will the Lions' pass rush culminate in sacks and hurries for Favre?

If the Lions' front seven can get pressure on an immobile QB, it'll lessen the risk of Favre carving up the Lions' secondary as they have been all year. Minnesota's average receiving corps against Detroit's subpar secondary gives Minnesota a chance to blow this thing wide open.

But I think the Lions match up better than a lot of people give them credit for.


Aww, hell with it. The 13-game losing skid in Minnesota ends today.

Lions 24
Vikings 21

Sunday, September 19, 2010

On Tap: Eagles at Lions

It's been a week since the "catch heard round the world," when Lions' receiver Calvin Johnson made a spectacular mid air catch and came down with it in the endzone with 24 seconds left to go against the Bears in Chicago. Only the play was ruled an incomplete pass on account of Johnson not "completing the process." Basically, the rule in the NFL is that if you complete the catch and then begin to turn around as though you are going to pick up more yardage, you have to hang on to the ball in the second phase of the catch.

The NFL has been embarrassed as they've been exposed the enormity of how poorly this rule was put together. When you have all the Bears' players and fans thinking that was a catch, you know it's a bad rule.

Apparently in the Canadian Football League, that play would've been ruled a catch. In the Arena Football League, it would've been a catch. In the NCAA, it's a catch. According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, it would've been a catch. Even the Lingerie Football League would've ruled it a catch. I know that, cos I'm in the union.


Okay, getting back to this week, Detroit plays its first home game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams are going into the game without their starting quarterbacks as Detroit's Matthew Stafford is out indefinitely as well as Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb.

Because the Lions are without DE Cliff Avril, that makes their run defense more vulnerable to Michael Vick taking off and picking up 15 yards at any time. Although they get MLB DeAndre Levy and FS Louis Delmas, this defense might not hold up against Philadelphia.

The Lions will be without Stafford for probably another 3 weeks, unless his shoulder injury isn't as serious as we think. That leaves journeyman Shaun Hill, whose lifetime starting record is 10-6, to start. Hill's starting experience entails a full season, and 10-6 is a playoff caliber record. But Hill is a game manager. He won't torch the defense with his arm like Stafford can.

For the Lions to win, they need to get more production out of the running backs. Then they have to get Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson more involved in the passing game. Johnson saw the ball come his way only once in the first half of last week's game against the Bears. Not good enough.

Philadelphia is without their starting center and their O-Line is hurting. They're also without their starting MLB and their defense isn't the defense from their heyday in the mid aughts. This is also Michael Vick's first start since 2006, but he's been in Andy Reid's system for over a year, so he knows the playbook as good as anyone.

Final Score, Philadelphia takes it, 27-17.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Heavy Thoughts and Reflections On American-Islamic Antagonisms/Relations

The 9th anniversary of 9/11 passed us a week ago. From waging two wars in Afghanistan in Iran to today, world events have played out before our eyes to where we are today.

I've also passed a milestone. It was 15 years ago this Saturday was the last time I saw dad alive. I was a 15-year-old who just started his sophomore year of high school in Northern BFE, Michigan. Dad was a contract specialist who worked for the US Dept. of Defense in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His job was the planning and execution of economic development projects, such as construction and infrastructure upgrades, etc.

Prior to seeing him last, I had spent the summer of 1995 with him in the Kingdom. He got me a summer hire job working at the Motor Pool. Dad was something of a socialite as he intermingled among several social circles. Of course, working for OPM-SANG (Office of the Program Manager, Saudi Arabia National Guard), meant you work in a community of 400-500 people. You're bound to rub elbows with everyone at some point.

In the two months that I lived with him, we did everything together. My summer ended with me having a nice wad of cash to take home, since I couldn't spend my 40-hour minimum wage paychecks there. I came back to the states the same way I left, flying it alone across the Atlantic with a stop at London's Heathrow Airport. Living in the Kingdom gave me a greater academic lesson in two months than I could've had in an entire school year.

Like Dad, I was always fascinated with history and world events. His grasp of such a broad range of subjects was astounding; he could've taught history. He seemed to have an appreciation for Islam and Muslim culture. If he were here today, he'd be quite the voice of reason among many a conflicts that brew in the Middle East.

Dad came back a week after I did, and as usual, when Dad was home (a total of about 3-4 weeks in a whole year), the house was wound tightly. Mom had been battling diabetes for about six years, so even though having Dad home was great, it placed additional stress on her as both her and Dad had to take care of family business that accrues in six months in two weeks. My two oldest sisters were home because school hadn't started back up at Lake State or Northwood yet. Dad also has to make his rounds across the state as his mother and sister's family lived in the Metro Detroit area, so he had to leave the house for a few days to make the 3 1/2 hour trip to Clinton Township or Dearborn.

I remember the September day if not the date vividly in my mind of when we left to take Dad to the airport in Alpena (for whatever reason compels me, I should point out this is the same airport Die Hard 2 was filmed). Dad and I talked about among other things, me playing football and my upcoming biology project. That was that, and Dad boarded the plane headed to Detroit.

I played football that fall and we won the North Star League title that year. I stayed in touch with Dad by letter writing. My last letter to him was probably late October/early November. I asked for money to buy my high school class ring.

One Monday in November we saw on the news a bombing had taken place in Riyadh. I never suspected anything, since you can't really recognize a building once it's been half-demolished by a car bomb. We kind of all expected Dad to call us in a few days and give us the inside story. The next Tuesday I was in my third hour English class. I got a call to go to the principal's office, and the secretary told me I had to leave; my grandmother was waiting outside.

I got into the car, and my youngest sister told me that the bombing in Saudi Arabia, well Dad was killed in it. I barely remember what happened next, except trying to keep a straight face. We had to leave school because Mom was in a hospital an hour away in Cheboygan, fighting off more infections from her bouts with diabetes (a recurring theme before and after Dad's death).
We had to be there because there were two representatives from the Army waiting to deliver the bad news, and we couldn't let them do it without us being there.

We got to Cheboygan Hospital two hours later and we were greeted by the hospital staff who all knew before Mom was told. I don't remember anything that was said when we entered her room. I just remember her falling apart before my eyes.

There isn't much I remember about that November 14th day afterward. I think I sat in the cafeteria at one point, my face staring straight at a wall that either had nothing or some kitsch art. There was a staffer who asked me if I was okay; apparently I looked like I was in some kind of catatonic state. I must've nodded or something because they left.

My Dad had been murdered by Islamic fundamentalists opposed to the House of Saud that has ruled the Kingdom since 1931. Three groups, "Tigers of the Gulf," "Islamist Movement for Change," and "Fighting Advocates of God," claimed responsibility, and the Saudi government allegedly caught the perpetrators and executed them in "Chop Chop" Square. The attacks were later attributed to Al Qaeda, a yet-unknown terror network that would become a household name by September 12, 2001.

I remember asking Dad that summer about terrorism and if it could happen here. He didn't sugarcoat anything; he said the possibility of it happening here is quite real. But Americans and Westerners who had fallen victims to Islamic fundamentalists had usually been victimized by Shi'ite Muslims; the Kingdom is a predominantly Sunni state.

He was also well-versed on the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Israelis. Oddly enough, given his conservative worldview, he tended to side more with Arabs. I imagine he supported the establishment of the Israeli state, but when he spoke of Arabs and Islam, he spoke of a proud race of people and proud traditions. They were friends to him.

I today cannot share his admiration. When he first died, I tried to be PC. I put on the politically correct face. You can't blame all Arabs for his killing and the killing of four other Americans, not to mention the dozens of people hurt in the blast, I would think.

It didn't take long for that to unravel. I did evolve. My ever expanding knowledge of the Middle East took my crosshairs off "Arabs" and placed it on the real culprit: religion.

Shortly after Dad's death, I became a born again Christian. I was full-on Evangelical. At one point, I had accepted the view of some revisionists who denied Evolution (Dad raised us as Lutherans; he believed in it and didn't think you would go to hell for doing so). I'd go to a non-denominational church that preached Creationist/Young Earth theory ("Intelligent Design" had yet to enter our lexicon).

When I came to Eastern Michigan years later, I drifted further and further away from religion. A gay roommate opened my eyes to an "enlightened Christianity." I still saw homosexuality as a sin, but a sin on the level of getting a tattoo, being overweight, or smoking. It was not to be a crime. It did not keep you from entering into Heaven. In the Christian gospels, one is to be absolved of their sins by asking God for forgiveness, no matter how many times the sin is recommitted. I told my roommate that being gay doesn't send you to hell and that I concurred with him about the insanity of such backlashes against gay rights - since I was also a libertarian-leaning conservative in my early 20s.

Eventually, I dropped the religiousness altogether, months before September 11. My Creationist apostasy followed, strangely, months later as I just gradually accepted things such as the Earth existing for millions and billions of years. I just didn't think of evolution that much, to be honest.

But September 11 happened on a Tuesday morning. I slept through the attacks as I didn't usually wake up until around 10-11 am. My sister called me and told me to turn on the TV because the World Trade Centers had been "knocked down" (wha?) and both the Pentagon and State Department had been attacked.

3,000 Americans died that day. No one I knew had been hurt or killed. But the pain was there. It was real, as though November 13, 1995 was happening all over again. I was then almost six years removed from that day.

We knew who committed the attacks. I didn't know the name "al Qaeda," but I knew one name, Osama bin Laden. I had known the name for over five years. He had launched several attacks after the November 13 bombings, like in Jeddah in June 1996. They bombed embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. They attacked the USS Cole in the Persian Gulf in 2000.

I've always felt it inappropriate to be so open about this. For instance, when September 11 occurred, I told only one professor of the shared grief. I didn't want to seem like someone who was craving sympathy in the wake of someone else's tragedy.

I also don't feel it's appropriate to say that I know how the victims' families feel. I don't. Although we shared a similar tragedy, no two events are ever exactly the same.

I gave up on religion just in time to see it in its most destructive form. I realize I'm ending this post with kind of a thud. But I have a truckload of thoughts that I need to get off my chest. I've got more to come.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On Tap: Lions at Bears

Week 1 of the 2010 NFL Season is upon us, even if it started last Thursday with a dry, opening performance between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings, with the Saints winning 14-9.

My Lions are playing in Chicago today, and while I predicted the Lions would go 5-11 this year, I see this game as an upset. Last year, I predicted the Bears would beat the Lions 41-17. The Bears won 48-17. Not bad.

This year things are different. The Lions are moving up, and the Bears have decided they will implode because they hired Mike Martz to be the offensive coordinator and have chosen to keep Jay Cutler their starting QB. Martz was legendary prior to 2005 for running "the Greatest Show on Turf." Since then, he has been fired from 3 coaching jobs, one as an Offensive Coordinator with the Lions.

Meanwhile, Cutler has floundered since getting dumped from the Denver Broncos prior to 2009. While throwing 27 TDs, Cutler led the league in interceptions with 26. Cutler looked god awful in the preseason, and I'm hoping he continues that play into this game at least.

The only way the Lions will win is on offense. The offense looked good in the preseason, and now it's time for QB Matthew Stafford to take it to the next level. The Bears' defense on paper is still scary, but they're getting old. Led by Brian Urlacher who is 32, the Bears' D is coached by former Lions' coach Rod Marinelli, who led the Lions to the first 0-16 season ever.

The Bears offense is porous, but not as in bad a shape as the Lions' defense. Aside from the defensive line, the Lions will be without MLB DeAndre Levy, which means only Julian Peterson at LOLB and Louis Delmas will be the only reliable players. The jury's out on Zack Follett replacing LB Ernie Sims. But the secondary can be expected to give up the most yards all season long.

Bottom line, it'll be close, but I think the Bears take this, 28-24.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Snyder and Bernero

Now that the Labor Day weekend is over, the real campaign begins in Michigan. The race is now between Rick Snyder (R), an Ann Arbor businessman, and Lansing Mayor Virgil Bernero (D).

I'm tempted to not vote in this election, if not for the fact that I am more concerned with an issue on the ballot. This year a question will be put to the voters whether or not to call a constitutional convention. Per the Michigan Constitution, the state is to ask voters every fourteen years if they'd like to keep the current, or rewrite a new one. Since we badly need a new constitution (the current one went into effect in 1963), I wholeheartedly will vote "yes."

But most people's attention will be on the Governor's race. President Obama is not at the top of the ticket and our current Governor, Jennifer Granholm, is very unpopular after 7.5 years. The latest EPIC-MRA poll has put Snyder 22 points ahead of Bernero, 51%-29%.

Bernero has a myriad of problems. Him being down so many points, the only place you would think he could go is up, and that is technically true. The problem on one end is that, Snyder can also go up. Bernero has only two months to make up this deficit, and I don't think he can.

The second reason is Bernero's negatives. Bernero was behind Andy Dillon most of the way in the Democratic Primary. Bernero spent almost $2 million from his campaign trashing Dillon instead of showcasing himself. That has left him with a lot of negatives going into the general.

The economy is and always will be a politician's single greatest asset/liability. Bernero is the heir to Gov. Granholm's legacy, whether he likes it or not. Voters are very simplistic. They see their fortunes, they look to the people in charge, and whatever letter is next to their name, they either are rewarded or punished. It's political science 101.

Snyder's problems are somewhat less critical. His moderate stances have rubbed a lot of conservative Tea Partiers the wrong way. His liability may be overshadowed by the unpopularity of the Granholm administration, the same way John McCain's fortunes were tied to President Bush in 2008. I expect one recurring theme of Snyder's campaign will be to link Bernero to Granholm the same way Obama linked McCain to Bush.

Even if Obama comes to Michigan to campaign for Bernero, his visit won't do much good. In fact, he may even hurt Bernero's chances even further. Even if Obama can bring in some badly needed cash to replenish Bernero's war chest, the acrimony among voters in this state toward Obama will only be reinforced.

Bernero has picked Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence to be his Lieutenant Governor for obvious reasons. The rule among Michigan Democrats about nominating a candidate for one of the top four spots on the ticket include having at least one female candidate (which will be Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State), and one African-American candidate (Lawrence). Lawrence is a Detroit native and former candidate for Oakland County Executive in 2008. She is expected to draw interest among likely Democratic voters in southeastern Michigan.

Unfortunately, Lawrence won't draw enough because people don't vote for Lt. Governor. To add to that, Bernero is apparently getting trounced by Snyder everywhere but Wayne County. To be fair, one poll shows Snyder up 14 points in Detroit. Expect that one to come down a bit by November. According to Tim Skubick (since I can't yet cite EPIC-MRA on this one), Bernero is even getting beat in the Flint-Saginaw corridor. That is a trend more likely to hold for Snyder than Detroit.

Snyder being up 51%-29% tells me there are a lot of undecideds left in the state. I suspect Bernero can win most of that undecided 20%, but I also suspect those who've made their choice by now are staying with that choice through Election Day. That means Snyder's 51% margin will only go up, even if he picks up only 6-8% more of that undecided 20.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Lions in 2010

Well, the preseason's over, and Detroit managed to go 3-1. They say the games are meaningless, and that's 90% true. After all, they went 4-0 in 2008, and the regular season didn't end quite as well.

But it's still important that players get on the field, follow their assignments, and if everything goes according to plan, you come away with a victory. Winning in the preseason means something's been done right.

The offense clicked. The defense, shows promise in some areas, and deficits in the secondary. Does it mean playoffs? No. About 27 teams have a realistic chance to make the playoffs. This year, the Lions are one of them. But I would rank them as No. 27.

Matthew Stafford showed us he's continued to mature as a 2nd-year QB. He's connected in the endzone with Calvin Johnson. He's also shown us he's still a 2nd-year player.

This offense will be good. How good is the question. I'm predicting they'll finish somewhere between 15th and 10th in terms of offensive production. My biggest area of concern is the Right Tackle. Is Gosder Cherilus finally going to get some consistency, or will he wind up another bust from the Millen years? Suprisingly, the Lions cut Jon Jansen in an effort to show that this is a youth movement. They drafted Jason Fox in the 4th Round in 2010, and picked up Corey Hilliard, a guy who can play left and right tackle. Jansen's age + the fact he's suited to RT made him expendable.

The defense will be bad, but comparatively speaking, better than 2007 through 2009. I predict they'll end up ranked somewhere between 20th and 27th. The secondary and weak-side LB are the biggest concerns of mine. It wouldn't shock me at all if Detroit took a CB in both the 1st and 2nd Rounds of next year's draft. They're that bad there. Rookie Amari Spievey was recently converted to Safety, but there's no guarantee it's permanent. Only Louis Delmas is a reliable player, and a standout to boot.

The D-line, however, I expect will be among the best in the league. Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Cliff Avril will be getting to the QB. Suh may leave with the QB's head detached from his body, but all the NFL will do is fine him another $7,500. DeAndre Levy and Julian Peterson are solid at MLB and LOLB respectively. I'm concerned with if Zack Follett is a good fit. If not, the Lions may have to decide between either CB or ROLB in next year's draft.

The defense should be good at stopping the run. It's the 3rd and long situations I'm worried about. The best thing for the defense will be if the offense can hang on to the ball, since it'll be all on them to win games.

As for the season, I'm predicting a 5-11 year. I suspect they will start off on very bad footing, at some point winding up at 1-5 before things look up. That's mainly due to the fact that four of the first six games are on the road, and the only game that I see is as close to a sure bet is against the St. Louis Rams.

A game-by-game breakdown:

Week 1 - @ Chicago. Possible upset in place. They haven't won at Chicago since 2007, but there's some history. The last time the Lions were on a very long road losing streak (24 consecutive games, they snapped it here in Chicago, opening day 2004). The Lions face former coaches Mike Martz (offense) and Rod Marinelli (defense). Martz is not the brilliant OC he once was and Jay Cutler looked lost in the preseason. But I'm going with Chicago. 0-1.

Week 2 - vs. Eagles. Home opener, the Lions face former 1st Round pick, Ernie Sims. The Lions just didn't think Sims was good enough, especially when you consider Sims was drafted for the Tampa Two Defense. The Eagles are without Donovan McNabb at QB and are going with unknown commodity, Kevin Kolb. Maybe an upset, but I have to give the nod to Philadelphia. 0-2.

Week 3 - @ Vikings. At Mall of America field, the Vikings will again contend for the NFC title. The Lions have little to no chance. Win goes to Minnesota. 0-3.

Week 4 - @ Packers. The Lions haven't won here since 1991. The weather will be warm, but Aaron Rodgers will be hot. Packers win. 0-4.

Week 5 - vs. Rams. The Rams were the only team with a record worse than Detroit's in 2009. (1-15 to 2-14). Who was the only team the Rams were able to beat? Detroit. But Detroit's gotten better and even though the Rams have Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick, I'm going with Detroit. 1-4.

Week 6 - @ Giants. Against Eli Manning, the Giants are not the team they were in 2007. The latter half. But they're better than Detroit. 1-5.

Week 7 - Bye.

Week 8 - vs. Redskins. They now have Mike Shanahan, Donovan McNabb, and a cluster of RBs. But no viable weapons in the receiving corps outside Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. Could be an upset, but I'll take the Redskins. Remember, the Lions snapped their 19-game losing streak in Week 3 against the Skins in Detroit. 1-6.

Week 9 - vs. Jets. The talk going into this game? Matthew Stafford vs. Mark Sanchez. The Jets were one half away from the Super Bowl last year. But I see growing pains for Sanchez this year. Just not in Detroit. 1-7.

Week 10 - @ Bills. Probably will wind up as the worst team in the league by season's end. The Bills have too many questions on both sides of the ball. Trent Edwards, the once and future QB, is on his last leg with the team. If the road losing streak ends, it will end probably no later than here. 2-7.

Week 11 - @ Cowboys. You might think that given all the prognostications about the Boys heading to the Super Bowl, think about this. Their O-line is suspect. They no longer have Flozell Adams (a better cheap shot artist than a LT). Plus, the Lions have had a history of upsetting the Cowboys. But I suspect that won't be the case this year. 2-8.

Week 12 - Patriots on Thanksgiving Day. The Patriots were the team of last decade. Tom Brady is the best in the game, despite the insane insistence of some sports writers that Peyton Manning is. The problem for the Patriots as I see it, the days of Super Bowl glory are probably gone. Brady, despite not holding out for a new contract, is going to be asking for a lot of dough. Left Guard Logan Mankins promised to hold out the entire season until he gets a fatter contract. This is a complete reversal from even five years ago, when everyone who played for the Patriots was willing to accept a smaller contract for an opportunity to win championships. The NFL's a business, sure, and Logan Mankins is only trying to do what a lot of players who have won Super Bowls early in their career have done, start cashing in. But it looks to me as though the culture that once defined the Patriots is gone. But, hey, all that money and a victory in the Thanksgiving Classic should console their crocodile tears. 2-9.

Week 13 - Bears. I suspect that by this time of year, the Bears will begin wearing down as the players get more frustrated with the coaches (mainly the offense with Martz), Jay Cutler's performance will diminish even further. This lack of unity and cohesion benefits the Lions on their own turf. Put this one in the win column. 3-9.

Week 14 - Packers. Aaron Rodgers is expected to have another 4,000 yard passing season. Barring injury to Rodgers, the Lions probably will keep this one closer, but come up just short. If the D-Line can get to Rodgers through a less than spectacular Packer O-Line, then Lions have a shot. 3-10.

Week 15 - @ Buccaneers. The Buccaneers drafted one spot right after the Lions. Tampa Bay took DT Gerald McCoy. The Suh-McCoy debate was about as hotly debated an argument between two players of the same position since Manning/Leaf in 1998, or even Bledsoe/Mirer in 1993. I have nothing against McCoy. It wouldn't shock me if he had a better year than Suh, but I think Suh will have a more productive career. I doubt we'll be talking in ten years about how good one was and how bad the other was like we were the previous two. Lions win. 4-10.

Week 16 - @ Dolphins. I really don't know where this team will be at by season's end. Chad Henne is perhaps the team's answer after a decade's long search for its Dan Marino replacement. Henne has all the tools and intangibles needed to be an All-Pro. I'm looking forward to watching a rivalry develop between Henne and the Jets' (ooh, just saw that pun) Mark Sanchez this decade. This might be the Lions' upset game of the year. 5-10.

Week 17 - Vikings. Ugh, the Vikings are still too good. Or, are they? Unless Favre starts handing the ball off 60 times in a game, I think he will have been worn down by the grind of a 16-game season. Plus, he's at the Lions. This game will be closer, but it's another win for the Vikings. 5-11.

This Detroit team is a team that can finish 8-8 (if you count @ Bears, Redskins, and Eagles). What I do predict is another losing season and a Top 10 draft pick come April (some 5-11 teams wind up in the Top 5 of the draft order, which can only help).

Fans want to see improvement in the number of wins. Real fans of football shall enjoy some of that, and more of watching these players develop into a competitive organization by 2011 and 2012.

Barring a strike.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Okay, Got the Old Template Back

After playing around with the new templates for about an hour, I discovered a link that allowed me to go back to the classic templates. Hooray! Of course, now the page looks like it's straight outta 2004.

Now to just figure out how to make it look fatter without having to zoom in all the time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Was Going To Write About My Top 5

The Quarterback is the most important position in football. The greatest football teams of all time are built around their QB. The Pittsburgh Steelers had Terry Bradshaw in the 1970s and Ben Roethlisberger today. The Dallas Cowboys had Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. The New England Patriots had Tom Brady. The San Francisco 49ers had Joe Montana. All of these players were the centerpiece to their respective championship runs.

There is no debate about who the Lions greatest QB of all time is: Bobby Layne. Layne led the Lions to three NFL championships in the 1950s. He was subsequently traded in 1958, where legend has it as he left Detroit he muttered "this team won't win for 50 years." Known as "The Curse of Bobby Layne," the Lions did not win another NFL championship and have never been to the Super Bowl. In the half-century since, the Lions have won only a single playoff game, in 1992 against the Dallas Cowboys before being routed by the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium. The 50-year curse culminated in 2008, with the Lions being the first team ever to go 0-16.

When I was a kid, I didn't follow the Lions because I had heard all they ever did was lose. And when you're watching the Tigers and Pistons win (late 1980s), why bother with a game you didn't understand. All of that changed in 1991 when Detroit went to the NFC Conference Championship. Ever since, I have been hooked to the Lions. Like all other Lions' fans, my hopes have risen and fallen with promise and disappointment.

Like everyone else, I watch the QB most of all. The Lions have tried everything. Whether drafting a QB with their 1st Round pick (Chuck Long, Andre Ware, and Joey Harrington), to taking a later-round pick (Rodney Peete, Charlie Batch, Mike McMahon, and Dan Orlovsky), to bringing in someone via free agency (Scott Mitchell, Gus Frerotte, Jeff Garcia, and Daunte Culpepper), the Lions have had next to no success in finding the right guy to lead them to the Super Bowl.

So it falls on me to ponder who has been the best and why. To me, the best is the guy who wins. The stats, the accolades, are no substitutes for victory. Peyton Manning can win 5 more MVPs, but Tom Brady is still the better of the two because of his Super Bowl wins.

When I originally began thinking about this post, I thought I should just blog about the Top 5 Quarterbacks in the last two decades. Ugh, I couldn't do it. There probably is a "Top 5," but once you get past No. 2, no one really did anything to stand out.

Thus, I'm left to discussing only two QBs, (1) Erik Kramer and (2) Dave Krieg. Is it about winning? Mostly, yes. Could it be about statistics? They help.

Both Kramer and Krieg were somewhat mediocre to slightly above average throughout their careers. Krieg was a journeyman QB who had played previously for the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs. He made the Pro Bowl three times, but his play was marginalized by periods of inconsistency and an apparent lack of appreciation in the Seahawks' front office leading to his dismissal after the 1991 season.

After a 10-6 stint with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1992, the Chiefs signed the legendary QB Joe Montana, who played the final two seasons of his career there. Krieg stayed in KC for one more year before signing with the Lions in the 1994 off season.

Krieg was initially intended to be the backup to newly acquired Scott Mitchell, the guy considered to be the hottest QB prospect of that off season. Mitchell's play was underwhelming, leading the Lions to a 4-5 record before breaking his hand at Green Bay. Krieg took over and almost lead the Lions to a comeback. He would finish the season 5-2 as the starter, and a loss at Green Bay in the post season.

Statistically, Krieg's numbers were the best of any Lions QB ever. His TD-Int. ratio was 14/3, and his QB Rating was 101. Had he thrown eight more passes, he would have been recorded as the highest rated QB of that season.

However, the Lions chose to stick with the youth movement and let Krieg go after 1994. The idea looked smart at first; Scott Mitchell posted a career best 32/11 TD-Int ratio and a playoff berth in 1995. His play subsequently diminished and was replaced early in the 1998 season for rookie QB Charlie Batch.

Meanwhile Krieg went on to play for the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, and finished his career as a backup with the Tennessee Oilers. While he is considered to be one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, Krieg is not a Hall of Fame member. Despite the fact that he is in the Top 15 for most completions, attempts, TDs, passing yards, and victories, Krieg is a largely unsung hero, and probably isn't remembered much outside of Seattle.

Erik Kramer, on the other hand, is simply the best the Lions have had in the past 20 years. You could make a case for Greg Landry being the best since Bobby Layne left Detroit because of Landry being the only Pro Bowl QB the Lions have had. But Landry doesn't have any playoff victory with Detroit, and thus, didn't come as close to the Super Bowl as Kramer did.

Yes, Kramer did lead the Lions to their one and only playoff victory since 1957. But more than that, Kramer rescued the team twice. The first time, in 1991, was when Rodney Peete went down with a season-ending injury and Kramer stepped in leading the Lions to their best regular season ever, a 12-4 campaign. His play earned the Lions their first NFC Central Division Championship since 1983, the first playoff appearance since 1983, and more importantly, gave Lions fans a reason to believe.

What was Kramer's reward for proving himself? The following season Coach Wayne Fontes named Peete the starter. On top of playing behind Peete, Kramer also played behind former Lions' No. 1 pick, Andre Ware, a player largely seen as one of the Top 10 busts of all time.

Even though Peete was later benched for Kramer midway in 1992, at that point, the Lions were out of playoff contention. Kramer's performance that year mirrored the disappointing campaign, throwing 4 TDs to 8 Ints. He was later replaced by Andre Ware who finished out the season for the Lions in their final three games.

Kramer bounced back in 1993. After fumbling around with QBs between Peete, Ware, and then back to Peete, Coach Fontes finally gave Kramer the nod in the final four games. Kramer went 3-1, salvaging Detroit's second NFC Central Title of that decade, and leading the Lions into the playoffs. It would be their last playoff home game, the last one at the Pontiac Silverdome, and Kramer's final game in Detroit. The Lions were up 24-21 on Green Bay and about to put the Packers away before Kramer through an interception to George Teague in the Packers' end zone, who returned it 106 yards for the TD and 28-24 victory over Detroit.

At that point, Kramer had enough of Detroit, and bolted for Chicago. Kramer played five seasons with the Chicago Bears, and then saw his career curtailed by an injury while playing for the San Diego Chargers in 1999.

Kramer by and large, didn't have a memorable career. Neither did Krieg. But I can say with deep conviction that Kramer was definitely "the one that got away." Comparatively speaking, that is. I don't think he would have led the Lions to the Super Bowl, or a Super Bowl championship. I do think he would have at least won one or two more playoff victories, and maybe another division title.

You can blame Wayne Fontes for the way he handled his QB situation. He spent a 1st Round pick on Andre Ware, but was all about Rodney Peete. This left Kramer the odd man out more than once. Like Terry Foster once said, once Fontes realized Kramer was the guy, he wanted nothing to do with the organization.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We Aren't the Saudis; So Build the Mosque

Newt Gingrich is on a tirade. Rick Lazio is running for Governor of New York and he's demagoguing. Rush Limbaugh is out of his mind.

I concede there are plenty of arguments against building a mosque near Ground Zero. Most are emotional, one is political. It's a slap in the face to the 3,000 who died on September 11, 2001. They don't allow churches and synagogues in Mecca. Of all places, it has to be so close to where the World Trade Centers once stood. Most politically that I see: it would be a PR coup for Muslim fundamentalists bent on seeing America destroyed to build a mosque right there.

If I could for a minute: stop. Please stop. Just let it be. It's the American way.

I admit first and foremost that if you accused me of bigotry toward Islam, I'm probably guilty. I have no use for it. To be fair, I have no use for Christianity, either. In fact, I'm pro-Jew, even though I'm not Jewish nor will I ever convert. I know next to nothing about Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, or even Zoroastrianism to make any commentary on, so I leave them alone.

Above all else, what Newt Gingrich fails to realize (or knows deep down and won't concede for political posturing), is that this is why we're different. We are better. We're better because we can have mosques. And churches, synagogues, temples, and whatever they pray in inside the other religions. The First Amendment protects that right.

I know the people protesting the mosque are aware of this, and that all they want is for it to be moved farther away from Ground Zero. But the fact is, it's got to go somewhere. There's about 600,000 Muslims that live in New York City. They have as much a right to use public spaces as do any other practitioners of faith.

For Rick Lazio, who's running to be the next governor, this is will only get you so far.
What exactly do you expect NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to uncover? We know the Imam leading the movement denies Hamas is a terrorist organization. We know he is linked to the flotilla sending humanitarian aid into Gaza.

So how far do you think you'll get after corralling the Jewish vote? Maybe the GOP nomination. You may even win the election once more people start paying attention. But you're going to face problems in your state that go far beyond somebody putting up a mosque.

Like stopping those terror babies.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

I'd Like the Old Template Back, Please

Bah. I must've hit "apply" somewhere when I didn't mean to. Maybe it's time for a change.

I really don't think it's worth taking the time to navigate through every link to edit this template and background design. But the previous two templates probably were out of date. And yet, I liked them.

Sucks to be me.

I Chose Not To

I made a conscientuous decision a few weeks back. I chose not to vote. It's the first time I've missed a primary or general election since August 2000, when I didn't know I was supposed to cast a ballot then (I had voted in the Presidential Primary in February and didn't realize the other primary was in August for state and federal candidates).

It's not anything major. Right now I'm leaning toward not voting in the fall, which even though that isn't major either, a general election bears greater weight than a primary. Even that would not be newsworthy in and of itself.

It is cliche to be "disenchanted" with our political system, or just our politics. But I am. It's nice to think that I can somehow distinguish myself from anyone else, but I'm only human. I can only react to what is real and what I know.

I can thank the writers at "Freakonomics" for the beginning of this, and the aftermath of the 2008 election for the second part. I read an article from one of their blogs that was reproduced for the book's 2nd edition that talked about two economists who were embarassed to see each other at the polls voting. Why? Because in terms of economics, the vote you cast individually does not change the outcome of an election.

It is very rare that an election has a 1-vote difference. It has never happened in a popular vote in a Presidential election (even the winner in the Electoral College has to win 270 votes out of 538 to be elected President, a minimum two-vote difference). I'm unaware of any state Governor having won an election by one vote (although Marcus Morton won the Governorship of Massachusetts by two votes in 1839). I could be wrong, but no sitting US Senator since 1917, after the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution was passed, has won his/her seat by one vote. The only US House seat won by a one-vote margin happened in Buffalo, NY. In 1905.

Even as I write, there apparently was a one-vote victory in the GOP Primary for the 1st US Congressional District in Michigan, with Dr. Dan Benishek edging out State Sen. Jason Allen by just one vote. That will however change as a recount HAS to take place. That's my home district by the way.

The other elected offices? Have there been one-vote victors? Certainly. For sheriff, city council, commissioner, drain commissioner, and township clerk, etc. You get the picture. But those are small potatoes compared to the size and scope of Congressional, Gubernatorial, and Presidential elections.

Had I voted, let's say in the Republican Primary, I would have voted for Rick Snyder. I probably would have voted for Jason Allen because I am familiar with him, and I don't lend credibility to the Tea Party movement, as they've backed Benishek. So the outcome would have been a tie in that race, but not for long as recounts would have probably one candidate a narrow lead, even if it was only by less than 100 votes. Races that close have to be recounted for the sake of the election's integrity.

On the other hand, if I had voted in the Democratic Primary, I would have voted for Andy Dillon, who was trounced at the polls. Since you can't cross over in primaries, I would have had only a few choices in the remaining offices because there aren't a lot of Democrats who run for office in northeast Michigan/Montmorency County.

Now, the 2008 aftermath. I voted for McCain. It wasn't a vote for Sarah Palin. I was less skeptical of her in 2008, for sure. I have to admit, I read up on her before a lot of others and had initially thought she might make for an interesting VP candidate. I thought she would add some spark to the campaign, which they got. Ever since, I have become to think of her as someone addicted to celebrity (and probably milking the presidential speculation for all it's worth even though she'll never run).

You can blame McCain for running a poor campaign, but truth be told, George W. Bush cost him the presidency. Twice. I voted for McCain in 2000. I was a McCainiac. I had secretly hoped Bush would have lost in 2000 so that McCain could have ran in 2004 (because in either 2000 or 2004, McCain would have likely defeated Gore given the economy).

Barack Obama would have been an afterthought. The media loved him, but they loved George W. Bush the same way in 2000. It's the same way they seemed to like Clinton in 1992, and Reagan in 1980. These things have a way of swinging back and forth.

But they were clearly biased towards Obama the last time around. I thought very little of Obama. I thought even less of the Cult of Obama. The posters, the graphics, and stencils with the profile at the perfect angle with words like "Hope" and "Change." Barack Obama is NO AGENT OF CHANGE.

When I looked back on the 2008 election, I think, why is my generation so enamored by this guy? To me, he's another Bush. Plain and simple. Partly due to forces beyond his control (like historical and economic). But really, he's not this radical departure from the Bush years.

Today I don't hate him. If I give in to practicality, I'd vote for him over Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. But I hated the way the media let him define the election and define McCain without allowing McCain to return the favor. All they did was link a decorated Viet Nam war veteran to a draft-dodging prepster simply via party affiliation.

McCain stood in the way of many of Bush's initiatives, even when his popularity was in the 70s and 80s back in 2002 and 2003. Aside from the Iraq War, McCain had opposed Bush on his tax policies, embryonic stem cell research, prescription drug benefit program under Medicare, campaign finance reform, etc. McCain did more to oppose Bush than any Democratic leader on Capitol Hill. And we all listened Obama link McCain to Bush and allowed ourselves to believe him.

So I didn't drink the Obama Kool-Aid. Maybe it's not the system, just our state of politics that has disenchanted me. We're called "Millenials," but maybe a better name is Generation Suck.

Monday, August 02, 2010

State Primaries, Dem-Style

Those who plan to vote in the Democratic Primary this Tuesday have two choices: Andy Dillon of Redford Township and Virg Bernero of Lansing. The winner faces the Republican nominee in November.

He will lose.

Andy Dillon is the current Speaker of the House, and Virg Bernero is the current Mayor of Lansing. The two could not be further apart on social issues. Dillon is pro-life and Bernero is pro-choice. Dillon opposes funding embryonic stem cell research and Bernero is for it. Dillon is against same sex marriage and Bernero has the support of the LGBTA Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, the LGBT publication Between the Lines, and the Lansing Association for Human Rights (LAHR).

Dillon has gained notoriety for two reasons: being the subject of a failed recall attempt by Leon Drolet, and boldly proposing to consolidate all public health employees (state, county, municipal, and public educators) under one umbrella, which has cost him the support of the AFL-CIO, UAW, UFCW (I was a member of this union for 8 years), MEA, and the AFT (all of whom endorsed Bernero).

Bernero has fashioned himself as a union man's man. Aside from opposing Dillon's health care plan, he too has gained notoriety, mostly from his bombastic appearances (like this one) on Fox News Channel. Known as the "Angriest Mayor" Bernero sees an unholy alliance (his words) with Washington and Wall Street and has been vocal about the fact that union workers for the Big Three are taking concessions while Wall Street executives are taking taxpayer funded bonuses. He criticizes policies like NAFTA because they have hurt the standard of living and sent good paying union jobs to Mexico.

While Bernero has unions and social progressive groups in his corner, Dillon has put his lot in with inner city voters and has gotten the endorsement of the Free Press and The News. The divide between Dillon and Bernero is a microcosm of what has been a larger schism going on within the Michigan Democratic Party between the labor unions and trial lawyers.

Back in April, the state Dems opted for a pre-convention convention whereby the party hoped to preselect nominees for Attorney General and Secretary of State. The hope was, the losers of the caucuses would bow out gracefully and endorse the winners four months ahead of the August conventions. This would allow the winners time to build their grassroots networks ahead of their Republican adversaries. It was a stroke of genius, but also a telling sign: the Democrats conceded without actually saying that they are going to take a bath in November.

The plot was successful, partially. They got the nominee for Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, a Wayne State law professor who handily defeated Detroit City Clerk, Janice Winfrey.

But the Attorney General race was hotly contested. Richard Bernstein, whose fame comes from the "Bernstein advantage" commercials you see in Metro Detroit, ran unsuccesfully against David Leyton, Genessee County Prosecutor, for the Democratic nomination. Bernstein quipped that people were "tired of being pushed around and told what to do (by the UAW)". He apologized for the comment a week later noting his involvement with the union and his support for labor.

Yet, the damage was done. Leyton defeated Bernstein by less than 170 votes. It doesn't mean the trial lawyers will buck the Democrats in the fall and run to the GOP. It does show how powerful the union bloc still is within the Democratic party.

Dillon can't afford to alienate any more union voters than he has. Polls have fluctuated rapidly. Mainly because the makeup of primary candidates has changed, and mostly because the different times at which candidates have been in the race or dropped out. While he's trailing in the most recent poll by eight points (40%-32%), the unknown factor is still prevalent as 28% are undecided. It will help Dillon cover some lost ground. But it also shows how much of an uphill battle either he or Bernero face in the fall.

For what it's worth, I'd pick Dillon over Bernero. Not because he gives the Democrats a better shot at maintaining the Governor's office, but because he is practically better suited to the job.

The state is bleeding money. Okay, IT HAS NO MONEY. That hasn't stopped Dillon from offering a series of comprehensive reforms for state government. Putting all public employees into a single insurance pool isn't popular, but it's the right thing to do. It's the hallmark of "ballsy" and it would not get passed if it had been proposed by Republicans. We're looking at probably the most grandiose proposal since Proposal A in 1994.

Dillon wants also to amend the hated Michigan Business Tax. Politicians left and right agree that it has hurt the state's ability to be competitive and attract new businesses. He also wants to do away with the current property taxes and replace them with a sales tax that doesn't have exemptions for food and other services.

He's pro-life. I'm not. I prefer being "for a woman's right to an abortion," because being "pro-choice" is as vague as being "pro-life." He's against publicly funding embryonic stem cell research. I think it will lead to progress and promise in fighting diseases.

But this is Michigan, and the Democrats can't win without their DINOs anymore than Republicans can win without RINOs. Progressives are reluctant to admit it, but without them, they're just a minority in Lansing and Washington.

Dillon is the way to go.