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.