Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve football picks

This week's NFL picks--I was 7-9 the last week I picked them. Time to get back on that roll...

ARIZONA 3.5 over Green Bay. PICK: CARDINALS. With a win, Arizona can guarantee itself a home playoff game. That might give them the extra oomph they need.

ATLANTA 2.5 over Tampa Bay. PICK: FALCONS. They've continued to play hard for Coach Mike Smith, and even with all their injuries, they have a big talent advantage here.

Baltimore 10.5 over OAKLAND. PICK: RAIDERS. With the Ravens' inconsistent offense, I think this many points is too much to cover for Baltimore on the road.

Indianapolis at BUFFALO--off the board. PICK: COLTS. Because I think the Colts backups can beat the Bills first-teamers.

New Orleans at CAROLINA--off the board. PICK: PANTHERS. They seem to be playing better football right now.

Chicago 3 over DETROIT. PICK: BEARS. With all the Lions' injuries, their offense seems to have been hardest hit; they just can't score.

CLEVELAND 1.5 over Jacksonville. PICK: BROWNS. They're hot, and at home--ride 'em.

DALLAS 3 over Philadelphia. PICK: EAGLES. More big-time playmakers on Philly's side, and the Eagles' offense is clicking slightly better than is the Cowboys'.

DENVER 13 over Kansas City. PICK: CHIEFS. With Denver's offense, I still think odds are that 13 points is too much to cover.

HOUSTON 8 over New England. PICK: PATRIOTS. I wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots play their regulars in this game longer than many suspect.

Pittsburgh at MIAMI--off the board. PICK: STEELERS. The Steelers still have a shot at the playoffs, so they have more to play for. That might give them the oomph they need.

MINNESOTA 9 over NY Giants. PICK: VIKINGS. What do the Giants have left to play for? A promising season completely gone down the tubes.

NY JETS 10 over Cincinnati. PICK: BENGALS. My reading of the situation tells me that Marvin Lewis will play his regulars for a good while, and the Jets' offense has been iffy at best.

SAN DIEGO 4 over Washington. PICK: CHARGERS. San Diego is playing so well, and the Redskins' offense has been so putrid, that you have to go with the Bolts here.

San Francisco 7 over ST. LOUIS. PICK: 49ERS. That Niners defense should shut the injured Rams down.

Tennessee 4.5 over SEATTLE. PICK: TITANS. Look for Vince Young to have a big game.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday's wash

Wow, the Obama administration is taking it on the chin these days--from many of its allies in punditry and elsewhere, who deplore its failures and its attitude. From Ruth Marcus in today's Washington Post:
"The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn inside his underwear. And at the Obama administration's initial, everything's-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction....And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration's communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that they were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down? This was not just one supposedly out-of-context stumble by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; it was the official line. Making the rounds of Sunday talk shows, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs resisted every effort to get him to acknowledge that something had gone seriously wrong."
And then there's this surprising evisceration from Maureen Dowd in today's NY Times:
"Before he left for vacation, Obama tried to shed his Spock mien and juice up the empathy quotient on jobs. But in his usual inspiring/listless cycle, he once more appeared chilly in his response to the chilling episode on Flight 253, issuing bulletins through his press secretary and hitting the links. At least you have to seem concerned.... Citing the attempt of the Nigerian’s father to warn U.S. authorities six months ago, the president intoned: “It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.” In his detached way, Spock was letting us know that our besieged starship was not speeding into a safer new future, and that we still have to be scared. Heck of a job, Barry."

So Texas Tech has indeed fired Coach Mike Leach. He was accused of, among other things, confining an injured player to a small, confined space more than once out of concerns for the player's work ethic.
This is sad to me because I've thought for some time that Leach, despite his at-times quirky strangeness, was an excellent innovator when it came to football offenses, and I enjoyed watching his teams play. If the accusations are true, though, I guess he may have done himself in. I'm not sure this story is done, however. I've read elsewhere (for example, read this story on ESPN) that a number of Leach's players, both current and former, strongly defend him; and that the player Leach is accused of mistreating, Adam James, has perhaps been a malcontent in the Tech program for some time and indeed had work ethic problems. So how credible are his accusations? This story may not go away quite so quickly.

The University of Notre Dame women's hoops team wins again, 85-52 over Central Florida. I saw the game on TV; I liked the Irish' aggressiveness, pressing, and overall defense. They've got a chance to be really good. Once again they forced their opponent to commit over 30 turnovers, and UCF was a team which had played Florida State and Alabama tough.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday's trackings

Unfortunately, Charlie Sheen and his latest antics seem to fit the mold of a wealthy celebrity who thinks rules don't apply to him, though his wife apparently ignored it all:
"The bad boy image Charlie Sheen earned long before his Christmas Day arrest once seemed little more than a laughing matter to wife Brooke Mueller. Seven months before she dialed 911 to report her firsthand take on the actor’s bad behavior, Mueller explained how she saw Sheen. “It’s hysterical to me that he has this reputation,” Mueller told In Touch Weekly. “Charlie is just amazing.” So amazing, evidently, that the “Two and a Half Men” star’s laundry list of low moments hardly registered with his bride. That’s quite the oversight considering the highlights include a $50,000 call-girl tab, a “no contest” plea to past battery charges and an accidental gunshot wound to short-term fiancĂ©e Kelly Preston, just to name a few."

Perhaps Sheen's brand of selfishness and irresponsibility is a good reminder for all of us this holiday season, especially as we approach the celebrations of New Year's.

National Review Online explains well today why the attempted Christmas Day terror attack is a good reason NOT to close Gitmo:

"On Christmas Day, we got yet another indicator of how reckless this obsession with closing Gitmo is. A well-to-do Nigerian jihadist, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, tried to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253, carrying 289 passengers and crew, as it was preparing to land in Detroit after a flight from Amsterdam. The 23-year-old Mutallab attempted to ignite an incendiary chemical bomb, the components of which he assembled in flight after smuggling them onto the aircraft. He reportedly confessed to the FBI that he had been trained and tasked for the operation by al-Qaeda in Yemen. ABC News reported on Monday that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — a merger of the network’s formidable hubs in Yemen and neighboring Saudi Arabia — has claimed responsibility for the attack. Hailing Mutallab as a “hero” and “martyr,” the organization boasted of its success in designing “advanced explosive packages” that can evade U.S. security measures. It promised additional strikes against Americans....What should not wait another day, however, is for President Obama to disavow his plan to shutter Guantanamo Bay. The chieftains of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) currently include at least three Gitmo alumni who have returned with a vengeance to the jihad. Said al Shihri, AQAP’s second in command, is a former Gitmo detainee who is believed to have been behind the 2008 attack on the American embassy in Sanaa. Gitmo veteran Ibrahim Rubaish is the Islamic jurisprudential authority responsible for approving AQAP terrorist operations. Muhammad Attik al-Harbi became an AQAP field commander after being released from Gitmo on the promise that he’d be rehabilitated in the Saudi re-education program — a scheme premised on the dubious notion that terrorists can be wooed away from jihad by immersion in Wahhabist principles. (Al-Harbi is reportedly back in Saudi custody, undergoing re-re-education.) AQAP’s senior operatives also include Anwar al Awlaki, the Muslim cleric with whom Nidal Hassan consulted in the months before carrying out the Fort Hood massacre. It is entirely possible, if not likely, that at least some of the former Gitmo detainees in Yemen are complicit in the Christmas Day attack, and that they are planning similar strikes. It is incredible that the administration would even consider adding to their ranks. Yemen’s record of permitting jihadists (including the bombers of the U.S.S. Cole) to escape from custody and rejoin the fight is appalling."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday's musings

Specifically, whither the Nigerian terrorist who attempted to blow up a plane in Detroit?:
"As a member of an uppercrust Nigerian family, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab received the best schooling, from the elite British International School in West Africa to the vaunted University College London....Nigerian officials say his interest in extremist Islam prompted his father to warn U.S. authorities. As Abdulmutallab was being escorted in handcuffs off the Detroit-bound airliner he attempted to blow up on Christmas Day, he told U.S. officials that he had sought an extremist education at an Islamist hotbed in Yemen. A portrait emerged Sunday of a serious young man who led a privileged life as the son of a prominent banker, but became estranged from his family as an adult. Devoutly religious, he was nicknamed "The Pope" for his saintly aura and gave few clues in his youth that he would turn radical, friends and family said."

Our progressive friends have too often lectured us concerning how terrorism arises out of poverty and ignorance. Yet looking at the backgrounds of real terrorists reminds us of just how false that old cliche is.
And by the way, it's clear now to everyone that Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano stepped in it again with her recent comments:
"Mr. Obama’s remarks to reporters were the first public comments he has made since arriving here Thursday and the first since a Nigerian man tried to set off explosives aboard a flight approaching Detroit on Friday. Questions about how the man slipped through the security system have been compounded by the Obama administration’s assertion over the weekend that “the system worked,” a judgment it reversed Monday. Just hours before the president’s appearance, his secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, appeared on NBC’s “Today” show to recalibrate the assessment she and another top official offered on Sunday. Ms. Napolitano said her remark had been taken out of context and that the thwarted bombing in fact represented a failure of the nation’s aviation security system. “Our system did not work in this instance,” she said. “No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way.”

The fact is, of course, that her statements were not "taken out of context", and that's why she's again had to backtrack. Don't be surprised if Secretary Napolitano is out of job by the time 2010 is over.

Jets 29, Colts 15: Well, I would have loved to see the Colts go unbeaten...but I really can't argue with the logic of Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian. Peyton Manning and the starters played into the 3rd quarter, and played pretty well. But there was no point in getting somebody hurt, and that's why they were removed even though the final outcome of the game was still in doubt. The main goal has to be winning the Super Bowl, not going 16-0. As the Patriots learned in '07, going unbeaten but not winning the big one hurts...a lot. I think the starters played long enough yesterday to stay sharp. I hope they play long enough to accomplish that in the season's final game, too.
Meanwhile...49ers 20, Lions 6. The Lions just flat-out have a long, long way to go, in most phases of the game. Drew Stanton, the starter for yesterday's game, is their 3rd starting QB this year, and he couldn't move the team, either.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Christmas Eve

And here's some stories of Christmases long ago...:

"It is accepted among some historians that Hessian soldiers who fought alongside the British first introduced the Christmas tree to the colonies during the Revolutionary War. Others claim German immigrants who settled in Eastern Pennsylvania started the tradition. All agree that prior to the Revolutionary War, Christmas was not celebrated with much merriment and outward adornment, as this did not befit the proper Puritan of that day. Christmas celebrations were regarded as tributes to the practice of Bacchanalia-the worship of Dionysus, whom the Romans called Bacchus-and were therefore sacrilegious.

Some colonists did not hold to the Puritanical ban however. Philip Fithian, of colonial Virginia, recorded in his diary entry for December 18, 1773: "When it grew to dark to dance....we conversed til half after six; Nothing is now to be heard of in conversation, but the Balls, the Fox-hunts, the fine entertainments, and the good fellowship, which are to be exhibited at the approaching Christmas."

Fithian's Christmas Eve, 1775 diary entry from Staunton, Virginia, described other common pastimes of the holiday celebration: "The Evening I spent at Mr. Guys-I sung for an Hour, at the good Peoples Desire, Mr. Watts admirable Hymns-I myself was entertaind; I felt myself improvd; so much Love to Jesus is set forth-So much divine Exercise."

The month of December was ironically a turning point many times during the war. It was on November 28, 1775 that Congress established The American Navy. December 23rd of that same year King George III issued a royal proclamation closing the American colonies to all commerce and trade, to take effect in March of 1776. Also in December, Congress was informed that France might offer support in the war against Britain.

On January 5, 1776, the assembly of New Hampshire adopted the first American state constitution. It was on January 9, 1776, that Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" was published in Philadelphia. Paine criticized King George III and attacked allegiance to Monarchy in principle while providing strong arguments for American independence. "We have it in our power to begin the world anew...America shall make a stand, not for herself alone, but for the world," Paine wrote.

On December 6, 1776, the British captured the naval base at Newport, Rhode Island. On the 11th of that month, Washington took his troops across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. The next day, over concerns of a possible British attack, the Continental Congress abandoned Philadelphia for Baltimore. Among Washington's troops was the infamous Thomas Paine, who wrote of that event, "These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country: but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

December 25, 1776, saw George Washington taking 2400 of his men and recrossing the Delaware River-this time to conduct a surprise raid on 1500 British-Hessians (German mercenaries) at Trenton, New Jersey. The Hessians surrendered after an hour with nearly 1000 taken prisoner by Washington who suffered only six wounded (including future president Lt. James Monroe). Washington reoccupied Trenton. Only a week later, January 3, 1777, Washington celebrated a second victory as his troops defeated the British at Princeton and drove them back toward New Brunswick. Washington then established winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey. During the harsh winter, Washington's army shrank to about a thousand men as enlistment periods expired and deserters fleed the hardships. By spring, with the arrival of recruits, Washington had 9000 men.

Of that turning point in the war, Mark Alexander wrote in The Collegiate Patriot (Dec. 22, 2002): "Indeed, our first national Christmases tell the tale of the Revolutionary War's ebb and flow. The so-called Christmas Campaign successes of 1776 at Trenton and Princeton were presaged by General George Washington's writings of December 18: 'If every nerve is not straind to recruit the New Army with all possible Expedition I think the game is pretty near up....No Man I believe ever had a greater choice of difficulties & less the means of extricating himself than I have-However under a full perswation of the justice of our Cause I cannot but think the prospect will brighten.' But these surprising victories were followed a year later by the Revolutionary Army's retreat to Valley Forge, the trail marked by bloody footprints in the snow. Washington's discouragement was evident in his writing of 'A character to lose-an estate to forfeit-the inestimable blessing of liberty at stake-and a life devoted, must be my excuse,' and about how 'it was much easier to draw up remonstrances in a comfortable room by a good fire-side, than to occupy a cold bleak hill, and sleep under frost and snow, without clothes or blankets.'"

It was also at Christmas-1783-that General George Washington chose to step down as leader of the Revolutionary Army. Author Stanley Weintraub wrote in his book "General Washington's Christmas Farewell": "In late November 1783 when Washington finally received formal notice of the signing of a peace treaty with England he had little more than a month to accept the transfer of power from British troops in New York; to bid farewell to his troops; and to resign his commission to Congress if he hoped to make it to Mount Vernon for Christmas. He could have remained in charge of the army and become a virtual king to the Americans who loved him. Control of the newly forming government was his to take - yet he chose to resign. It was that decision, coupled with his later decision to step down from the presidency after two terms, that rendered him 'the greatest character of the age' (according to none other than King George III).

Washington's homeward journey is one of the most moving and inspiring stories from his great and eventful life. When he bade farewell to his troops at Fraunces Tavern in New York City there were no dry eyes. When he reached Congress and gave a retirement speech, it cemented his greatness more fully than had his victory over the British. When he made it to Mount Vernon, finally, on Christmas Eve, it could not have been a happier homecoming."

It can be said, indeed, it is being said by this author, that Christmas has not only brought us the Prince of Peace, it has also brought us the freedom to worship the prince of Peace in the manner which we as a free nation choose. The fight for individual freedom for all Americans would come less than a century later."

Well said. Merry Christmas to all! And to all, a good night...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday's wash

AND the day before the night before Xmas, too...

But as we head into Christmas, we must acknowledge that, in politics, President Obama's actions have not at all lived up to his words of 2008, as Jonah Goldberg points out well today:

"...Clintonian means cannot further Obamaian ends. For the last year, Obama’s party has made a mockery of everything Obama was supposed to represent. The tone has gotten worse as his communications staff spent the year demonizing Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Fox News. House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called opponents of their health proposals “un-American.” Over the weekend, Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse insisted that Senate opposition is being driven in part by “Aryan support groups.” Everywhere you look, the sizzle doesn’t match the steak. He won the Nobel Peace Prize as he (rightly) sent even more men off to war. He promised that the oceans would stop rising but delivered a nonbinding something-or-other in Copenhagen. In his special health-care address to Congress in September, he said, “I am not the first president to take up (the cause of health-care reform), but I am determined to be the last.” Those were just words, and everyone, including Obama, knew it. Indeed, the only grounds for supporting the bill, according to progressives, is that it is a “first step” or a “starter house” that they’ll build on for years, even generations, to come. In other words, the health-care debate is not only not going to end, it’s going to get uglier for as far as the eye can see."

Oh, gosh, Ms. Dowd of The Times has soured on John McCain:
"John McCain is no longer the media’s delight and his party’s burr, bucking convention with infectious relish. The man used to be such a constructive independent that some of his Republican Senate colleagues called him a traitor. Now he’s such a predictable obstructionist that he’s in the just-say-no vanguard with the same conservatives who used to despise him."

So let's translate that: McCain was a "constructive independent"---as long as he opposed George W. Bush.

Now that he's opposing Barack Obama, and acting like a conservative, oh, goodness, Dowd and her fellow progressives in the media have no use for him, none at all. The establishment news media loves "maverick" conservatives--but only when that supports liberal outcomes.

I actually thought Michigan State played fairly well on the road against a Final Four-caliber Texas team, but they lost 79-68. But 22 turnovers are too many. Will MSU improve as the season goes on? Izzo's teams have a habit of doing so...
The University of Michigan's hoops team meanwhile needed a win, and got it...but it was only vs Coppin State, 76-46. Michigan's 3-point shooting though was still lacking. It needs to improve. But Michigan opens its Big Ten season New Year's Eve against a team it can beat, Indiana. Let's see if they can get it done, and get this season back on track...
And Notre Dame's men's hoops team played well again, jumping off from their past weekend's win over UCLA with a thumping of Bucknell last night, 101-69. But, it was only Bucknell. The Irish are 11-2 this year so far, with their next game in conference next week. But will their defense be good enough???

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday's trackings

So why is Senator Ben Nelson saying he'll vote for the senate bill now? Simple:
"Nelson got the feds to pick up forevermore 100 percent of the additional Medicaid spending that will be imposed on Nebraska by the bill. In stereotypically Orwellian fashion, the provision is called “Equitable Support for Certain States.” That, naturally enough, translates into special, inequitable support for three states, totaling $1.2 billion over ten years. Vermont and Massachusetts argue they are due the funds for prior expansions of Medicaid, but what’s Nebraska’s excuse?"

There is none. Read Lowry's entire piece--this is indeed an example of "shameless audacity."
Thank goodness polls continue to suggest the public is fed up with this nonsense. The latest poll to come out on health care is Quinnipiac--and they show only 36% in favor of the health care bills currently in Congress; 53% opposed.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday's musings

Many news outlets screaming "Democrats rush to pass health care reform by Xmas."

Which ignores the fact that perhaps the biggest hurdle yet remains--reconciling the House bill with the Senate version. There are huge differences, and huge problems with these bills. Conservatives need to keep highlighting them.
So, no, it's not over yet. NR Online points out other reasons why as well--for example:

"Public Revulsion. The bill was already under water in every major public-opinion poll, and opposed by a margin of almost 2 to 1 in the latest CNN poll. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll put its support at freezing, 32 percent. A few ticks downward and the bill will be in the 20s. Is anything that has happened recently likely to change the trajectory? The Reid bill just got even longer, and the new version includes more tax increases. Even by the standards of the United States Congress, the process has been hide-the-children ugly: massive payoffs to the on-the-fence senators and a heedless, late-night rush to pass something, anything. The Democrats have shown no inclination to let public opinion hold them back, but the stiff headwind makes everything a little harder and reduces an already-small margin for error."

The #4 ranked Notre Dame women's hoops team showed why they're so highly ranked this year, blowing out Charlotte 90-31. The Irish had 22 steals in the game--at halftime. Their pressure defense and its effectiveness may be one reason why this Irish team can go much further in the tournament than did last year's team...

The Detroit Lions lose again, to Arizona 31-24. But at least younger players and backups, such as Drew Stanton, Louis Delmas, and Maurice Morris, show some fight. And right now Lions fans will take anything, anything at all...!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday's football picks

First, let's do all the upcoming college football bowl games!

NEW MEXICO BOWL: Fresno State 11 over Wyoming. PICK: FRESNO. They can score; and they've played some major-conference opponents tough.

ST. PETERSBURG BOWL: Rutgers 2.5 over Central Florida. PICK: UCF. I think they'll play well close to home.

NEW ORLEANS BOWL: Southern Miss 3.5 over Middle Tennessee. PICK: SOUTHERN MISS. Again, I think they'll play well close to home.

LAS VEGAS BOWL: Oregon State 2.5 over BYU. PICK: COUGARS. Look for QB Max Hall to have a big game.

POINSETTIA BOWL: California 3.5 over Utah. PICK: GOLDEN BEARS. Go with the team from the stronger conference.

HAWAII BOWL: Nevada 13 over SMU. PICK: PONIES. Look for Coach June Jones to have a bunch of new wrinkles, and for SMU to be ready to play.

LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA BOWL: Ohio 2.5 over Marshall. Again, here I go from the team from what I see as the stronger conference.

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL: Pittsburgh 3 over North Carolina. PICK: TAR HEELS. Because I suspect Pitt will have a letdown from that tough loss to Cincinnati.

EMERALD BOWL: Southern Cal 9 over Boston College. PICK: TROJANS. Too much talent, and Pete Carroll has an excellent record in bowl games.

MUSIC CITY BOWL: Clemson 7 over Kentucky. PICK: TIGERS. Look for C.J. Spiller to have a big game.

INDEPENDENCE BOWL: Georgia 7 over Texas A&M. PICK: AGGIES. A&M is playing better; they put up 39 points on the very tough Texas defense.

EAGLEBANK BOWL: UCLA 4 over Temple. PICK: OWLS. I think Temple, long starved for bowl activity, will be the more motivated team here.

CHAMP SPORTS BOWL: Miami 3 over Wisconsin. PICK: HURRICANES. I just don't think Wisconsin's defense will slow down the dynamic Miami passing attack.

HUMANITARIAN BOWL: Bowling Green 1 over Idaho. PICK: BG. I go with the team from the stronger conference.

HOLIDAY BOWL: Arizona 1.5 over Nebraska. PICK: WILDCATS. Because Nebraska struggles so much to score.

TEXAS BOWL: Missouri 6 over Navy. PICK: MIDSHIPMEN. They beat Wake Forest and Notre Dame this year, and their option offense can be hard to prepare for.

ARMED FORCES BOWL: Houston 4.5 over Air Force. PICK: COUGARS. Houston can put up a lot of points.

SUN BOWL: Oklahoma 8 over Stanford. PICK: CARDINAL. I think Stanford can and will move the ball against this defense, with Toby Gearhart leading the way.

INSIGHT BOWL: Minnesota 2.5 over Iowa State. PICK: GOLDEN GOPHERS. Their defense will lead the way here.

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL: Virginia Tech 4.5 over Tennessee. PICK: HOKIES. That defense will stuff the Volunteers.

ROSE BOWL: Oregon 3.5 over Ohio State. PICK: DUCKS. They will easily outscore the Buckeyes, who play way too conservatively to beat a team like this.

SUGAR BOWL: Florida 11 over Cincinnati. PICK: BEARCATS. 11 points is way too much in game like this, in which Cincy's offense can score, and Florida is bound to have a letdown from that Alabama game.

OUTBACK BOWL: Auburn 7 over Northwestern. PICK: WILDCATS. Hey, Northwestern is no patsy; they can move the ball offensively and they beat Iowa on the road.

GATOR BOWL: West Virginia 3 over Florida State. PICK: SEMINOLES. FSU will win one for Bobby.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL: Penn State 2.5 over LSU. PICK: NITTANY LIONS. Penn State QB Daryl Clark has for the most part played very well over the past 4 games.

INTERNATIONAL BOWL: South Florida 6.5 over Northern Illinois. PICK: USF. Stronger conference.

PAPAJOHNS.COM BOWL: South Carolina 4.5 over Connecticut. PICK: GAMECOCKS. The ol' ball coach will have some wrinkles for the bowl game.

COTTON BOWL: Ole Miss 3 over Oklahoma State. PICK: REBELS. They've played well at the end of the season.

LIBERTY BOWL: Arkansas 7.5 over East Carolina. PICK: RAZORBACKS. Stronger conference.

ALAMO BOWL: Texas Tech 8 over Michigan State. PICK: RED RAIDERS. Too much turmoil and uncertainty at State.

FIESTA BOWL: TCU 7 over Boise State. PICK: HORNED FROGS. Too much speed, too good of a defense, not to pick them; though this should be an excellent game.

ORANGE BOWL: Georgia Tech 4 over Iowa. PICK: YELLOW JACKETS. The Hawkeyes should be healthy; but that Ramblin' Wreck offense is hard to prepare for.

GMAC BOWL: Central Michigan 3.5 over Troy. PICK: CHIPPEWAS. Look for QB Dan Lefevour to once again showcase his talents.

BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Alabama 5 over Texas. PICK: LONGHORNS. I suspect that maybe, just maybe, the Tide expended a lot of energy and emotion in that Florida game; and Colt McCoy has dealt with tough defenses before.

Last Week I was 10-6 again, for the second straight week. Let's keep it going:

NEW ORLEANS 7.5 over Dallas. PICK: SAINTS. Nobody's slowed the Saints down yet; hard to see how the Cowboys will be much different.

Arizona 13 over DETROIT. PICK: CARDINALS. Normally this would be too many points, but it's hard to see how the battered, beaten-down Lions can slow down the Cardinals' all.

BALTIMORE 11 over Chicago. PICK: BEARS. The Bears will run it enough and put up enough opposition to Joe Flacco to keep this one close.

DENVER 14 over Oakland. PICK: RAIDERS. Again, I think 14 is too many at this point of the season; I wouldn't be surprised if the Raiders respond well to Charlie Frye, and the Broncos offense isn't that dynamic.

KANSAS CITY 2 over Cleveland. PICK: CHIEFS. Hey, somebody's got to win this one...

Minnesota 9 over Carolina. PICK: PANTHERS. The Vikings struggled in their last road game; I suspect they will here, too, as the Panthers will want to look good on a national stage.

New England 7 over BUFFALO. PICK: BILLS. Buffalo should have won the game back in week 1 at New England; they'll keep this one close, too.

NY JETS pick 'em vs Atlanta. PICK: JETS. Atlanta has too many injuries.

PHILADELPHIA 8.5 over San Francisco. PICK: NINERS. I suspect Philly will win this, but they might be looking ahead, and San Fran's defense and run game can keep them in this one.

PITTSBURGH 2 over Green Bay. PICK: PACKERS. The Steelers have faded; the Packers are coming on.

SAN DIEGO 6.5 over Cincinnati. PICK: CHARGERS. San Diego is playing some of the best football in the league right now.

SEATTLE 6.5 over Tampa Bay. PICK: SEAHAWKS. They're at home, where they usually play well; and the Bucs have played some of the worst football all year in this league.

ST. LOUIS vs Houston. This game was off the boards last I checked. PICK: TEXANS. Too much offense not to pick them over the lowly Rams.

TENNESSEE vs Miami. This game too was off the boards; lots of injury concerns. PICK: DOLPHINS. Chad Henne has played remarkably well; and while Vince Young might start for the Titans, I question whether that hamstring will allow him to finish the game.

NY Giants 3 over WASHINGTON. PICK: GIANTS. The Redskins have played better lately, no doubt. But the Giants still have more talent and they need this game more.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thursday's throwdowns

Our economy, after close to a year of Obama, is mending, but only slowly, and...note what else is being found:
"A report on unemployment claims and a forecast of U.S. economic activity pointed Thursday to an economy mending slowly, without the job growth needed to fuel a vigorous recovery....employers across the country remain reluctant to ramp up hiring. "People who have already lost their job are having incredible difficulty finding a job," Dan Greenhaus, an economist at Miller Tabak, said in a research note Thursday. A big problem is that companies lack confidence in the strength and sustainability of the recovery. FedEx Corp., for example, offered a tepid outlook Thursday for the quarter that ends in January. The package delivery company expects the recovery to continue next year. But FedEx questioned whether demand for its services will stay strong after the peak holiday-shipping season."

Hmmm. So little job growth, and little confidence. And this months after the hundreds of billions of dollars of "stimulus" money pumped into this economy by the Obama administration which, they told us, would really help things. But it hasn't. Conservatives told you so.

And by the way--the RCP average of the generic congressional vote for 2010 now has Republicans averaging out on top by more than 2 points.

Answer--not much, and that's a very good thing, as stability is being found there along with a lot less casualties:
"e don’t hear all that much about Iraq these days, do we? The war at one point almost tore apart this country. Public anger sent George W. Bush’s approval ratings plummeting. And the outrage over our losses helped elect vocal anti–Iraq War candidate Barack Obama. But Iraq is hardly in the news anymore. That seems odd, given there are still 120,000 American troops stationed there. So, why the silence? In short, Americans are not dying in Iraq as they were from 2006 to 2008. Twice as many Americans have died in Afghanistan this year as in Iraq. As of this writing, in December, there have been four coalition fatalities. That’s about one-tenth of the number of people murdered per month in Chicago in 2008."

And don't forget--much of that is due to the fact that the Bush administration refused to abandon the mission there, put in more troops when it seemed like everyone was screaming not to do it, and now...we may be approaching victory there.

The Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. The Mavs are now quietly sporting a 19-7 overall record, and are 10-4 on the road so far. What was impressive about last night was that they trailed at one point by 4 in the 4th quarter...but rallied impressively to win comfortably. That's what good teams do--take control in the 4th quarter.
The Detroit Pistons, though, blew a 16 point lead and lost to New Orleans on the road, 95-87. Typical thing for a road game--the Pistons moved the ball well and executed in the first half, and that got them the lead; but in the second half, when the home team made its inevitable run, they got away from it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday's wash

Bad news today for those on the left advocating major health care reform, but good news for conservatives. Democrats and liberals are fighting again:
"Former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean argued Wednesday that the health care overhaul bill taking shape in the Senate further empowers private insurers at the expense of consumer choice. "You will be forced to buy insurance. If you don't, you'll pay a fine," said Dean, a physician. "It's an insurance company bailout." Interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America," he said the bill has some good provisions, "but there has to be a line beyond which you think the bill is bad for the country"....Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., a prominent House liberal, protested the absence of any government-run insurance option in the Senate bill. "We can't let the perfect be enemy of the good," Weiner said on CBS' "Early Show," "but we are reaching a tipping point."
It's sputtering in the senate, too.

And by the way, the public still doesn't like much of any of this:
"More than half of those polled, 53 percent, see higher costs for themselves if the proposed changes go into effect than if the current system remains intact. About as many (55 percent) say the overall cost of the national health-care system would go up more sharply. Moreover, just 37 percent say the quality of their care would be better under a new system; 50 percent see it as better under the current set-up. Even among those who presumably stand to benefit most from a major restructuring of the insurance market -- the nearly one in 5 adults without coverage -- there are doubts about the changes under consideration. Those without insurance are evenly divided on the question of whether their care would be better if the system were overhauled....Obama's domestic battles have taken their toll, as his approval ratings on key issues have sunk to the lowest points of his presidency. On health care, 53 percent disapprove of his performance, a new high. On the economy, 52 percent disapprove, also a new high mark in Post-ABC polling. Same on the deficit, on which 56 percent now disapprove of his stewardship. On the politically volatile issue of unemployment, 47 percent approve of the way Obama is dealing with the issue; 48 percent disapprove. Under the weight of these more negative reviews, the president's overall approval rating has dipped to 50 percent, down from 56 percent a month ago."

Have fun, Democrats!

And we can't be too sad that the "climate change" conference in Copenhagen is having trouble, too, can we? There too we have too many folks seeking potentially economy-busting regulations, taxes, and whatnot, all at the behest of those claiming that human action has caused global warming, a conclusion that seems less and less settled by the day. Interesting times we live in!

The Detroit Pistons lost last night at Houston, 107-94. But the Pistons had won 5 straight before that, despite being riddled with injuries. And even last night, Detroit played with some toughness. Let's hope that continues.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesday's trackings

Vice-President Biden tries to frighten Democrats into supporting the administration on health care reform:
"If the U.S. Congress fails to agree on a healthcare bill soon, the opportunity for a sweeping overhaul of the $2.5 trillion system will be lost for a generation, Vice President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday."

But will it work? Polls usually speak louder than these kinds of warnings, and polls suggest that the public isn't behind this. Congressmen and Senators don't want to get booted from office in 2010...
And by the way, right now the RCP average of all the polls on support/opposition to the health care proposals currently in Congress stands at 38% supporting, 53% opposing. Wow...

FOCUS ON 2010:
Respected political analyst Stu Rothenberg echoes what others are seeing (including me): when it comes to Senate contests next year, Republican prospects look much better than they did in January 2010:
"...GOP recruiting successes and a change in the national political environment have shifted the outlook for next year's Senate contests. Suddenly, Democratic seats started to look more and more vulnerable. As 2009 draws to a close, Democrats now could lose seats, a dramatic change from January that could end the party's 60-seat majority in less than two years. And GOP gains could be large enough to sink any major Democratic initiatives not passed before Congress adjourns for the midterm elections."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday's musings

Keep an eye on the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Barbara Boxer in California--one senses there's a lot of energy on the part of those opposing her:
"The widely played video clip of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer reprimanding a general for calling her "ma'am" is the gift that keeps on giving for the two Republicans hoping to challenge her next year. Republicans Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore are trying to capitalize on the exchange by making it a key ingredient of their fundraising efforts and attempts to recruit grassroots support. Both campaigns say the video revs up a GOP base that already has long-standing animosity toward Boxer, among the most liberal members of the Senate."

As the rest of the article points out, there are certainly plenty of folks in California and elsewhere who pooh-pooh this and claim it won't be an issue. But I wonder. This is an off-year election. Turnout will be lower. Often the race goes to the candidate with the most energized, motivated voters, who turn out and vote. That's why this kind of issue can help Republicans in a race like this. And Republicans CAN win in California, as somebody named Schwarzenegger, whatever his failings, has shown.

Colts 28, Broncos 16: The Colts struggled some. The Broncos have a tough defense. But again, we saw the Colts go on an 80 yard, 7-minute march in the 4th quarter to secure the win. And the Colts' defense was tough in the red zone again, forcing turnovers, holding Denver to field goals. Here's an interesting stat: the Colts have turned the ball over 18 times this year. How many times, after those turnovers, has the opposing team scored a TD? Answer: zero.
Meanwhile--Ravens 48, Lions 3: the Lions as usual were manhandled by a tough, physical team. Did they give up? Maybe. They certainly shied away from a fight, and showed a lack of heart.
Lions fans keep thinking the horrendous, horrible performances have come and gone and can't get any worse. Then comes days like yesterday...

The University of Michigan men's hoops team got a much-needed win yesterday, over Detroit Mercy, 75-64. Michigan's defense improved some, it appears; and it needs to, because Michigan was nationally ranked when the season began, but is now only 5-4 and goes to play #1 Kansas later this week.

Nope--for example, conservative Republican Pat Toomey continues to lead Democrat Arlen Specter in polling for the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate election.
And yet another poll--this time from Bloomberg--shows Republicans leading Democrats in the 2010 generic congressional ballot. Wow!

Remember--many of the claims coming from liberals and Democrats concerning health care reform and the need for more government involvement are simply false. For example:
"Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) said that half of all bankruptcies are caused by medical bills. A 2006 study found that only 9 percent of bankruptcies were primarily the result of medical bills. The study where Durbin’s claim originated used very loose criteria to classify bankruptcies as medical in nature; even in that study, only 29 percent of those surveyed blamed health expenses for their bankruptcies."

Read the whole thing--lots of good links to lots of good evidence.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday's football picks

Next week we'll pick all of the college football bowl games.
But now, on to this week's NFL picks; I was 10-6 last week, and I'm 1-0 so far this week, having picked Cleveland to cover last night...and boy, did they ever. Who woulda thunk, 5 weeks ago, that the Steelers would appear to be done and out of the playoffs by now? But, barring a miracle, it would appear they are. On to this week's games...

BALTIMORE 13.5 over Detroit. PICK: LIONS. Not to win. But to cover. They covered last week at Cincinnati, and they're starting Daunte Culpepper, who's likely not to turn it over as much as does Stafford. Meanwhile the Ravens come off a short week, and have a lot of problems on offense.

DALLAS 3 over San Diego. PICK: CHARGERS. They've got more big playmakers than does Dallas. And let's face it, they have a much better track record in December than do the Cowboys.

Green Bay 3 over CHICAGO. PICK: PACKERS. I like the way Green Bay's defense is playing right now; while no Bear fan really likes the way the Bears' offense is playing.

HOUSTON 6 over Seattle. PICK: TEXANS. Time for the Texans' big guns, like Andre Johnson, to break out at home.

INDIANAPOLIS 7 over Denver. PICK: COLTS. The Colts were very solid last week. I like their defense's chances to control Denver's offense.

JACKSONVILLE 2.5 over Miami. PICK: DOLPHINS. The Dolphins are on a roll, and finding ways to win. Ride 'em.

KANSAS CITY pick 'em vs Buffalo. PICK: CHIEFS. Just a feeling--mainly because I sense Buffalo won't be mentally focused for this road game.

MINNESOTA 6.5 over Cincinnati. PICK: VIKINGS. Look for the Vikings' defense to step it up before a sold-out, loud Metrodome crowd.

NEW ENGLAND 13.5 over Carolina. PICK: PANTHERS. 13 points gets to be too much to cover for favorites like the Patriots, who have superior talent, no doubt; but who are struggling, finding ways to lose, dealing with injuries, etc. And the Panthers' defense can still play.

New Orleans 10.5 over ATLANTA. PICK: FALCONS. Again, too many points at this point in the season. The Falcons have little to lose now, and the Saints face another trap game (a la last week's game at Washington). I suspect the Saints will find a way to win, but at home the Falcons will play them tough.

NY GIANTS 1 over Philadelphia. PICK: GIANTS. Because they're at home, they seem to have righted the ship a bit, have momentum...and the winds and cold at the Meadowlands help the Giants, too.

NY Jets 3 over TAMPA BAY. PICK: JETS. The Jets' defense will shut down Josh Freeman. And I suspect the New York offense will play well for Kellen Clemons.

TENNESSEE 13 over St. Louis. PICK: RAMS. Remember--the Rams covered last week at Chicago. This is a trap game for the Titans, after a tough loss at Indy. I'm sure the Titans will win this one, but I suspect their focus won't be what it should be.

Washington 1 over OAKLAND. PICK: RAIDERS. Hey, they're on a roll. And this is another trap game--for the Redskins, who played well last week at home vs the Saints, but lost. Now they have to take a long trip out west and face a Raiders team that, believe it or not, is playing better than many of us thought they could.

Arizona 3 over SAN FRANCISCO. PICK: CARDINALS. They're getting on a roll. They lost to the Niners way back in the season's first week, but the Cardinal defense is playing much better, and their offense has so many more weapons than does that of the Niners that it's almost not fair. I really like the Cardinals here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday's throwdowns

She speaks again, this time in an op-ed in the Washington Post, on "Climate-gate"--the leaked e-mails from climatologists that suggest some dirty dealings on the part of scientists who advocate that "global warming" is man-made. Here's the most effective section of her essay:
"I've always believed that policy should be based on sound science, not politics. As governor of Alaska, I took a stand against politicized science when I sued the federal government over its decision to list the polar bear as an endangered species despite the fact that the polar bear population had more than doubled. I got clobbered for my actions by radical environmentalists nationwide, but I stood by my view that adding a healthy species to the endangered list under the guise of "climate change impacts" was an abuse of the Endangered Species Act. This would have irreversibly hurt both Alaska's economy and the nation's, while also reducing opportunities for responsible development. Our representatives in Copenhagen should remember that good environmental policymaking is about weighing real-world costs and benefits -- not pursuing a political agenda. That's not to say I deny the reality of some changes in climate -- far from it. I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state. I was one of the first governors to create a subcabinet to deal specifically with the issue and to recommend common-sense policies to respond to the coastal erosion, thawing permafrost and retreating sea ice that affect Alaska's communities and infrastructure. But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs."

Is former Gov. Palin trying to improve her "policy" props? Yes. Is she doing a good job of it? You betcha.

Nope. Rasmussen now has the likely Republican candidate up 13 points on Democratic Senator Chris Dodd in Connecticut, in advance of the 2010 Senate race there.
Dodd knows he's in trouble and has upped his visibility, news releases, etc lately. Hasn't helped him at all. Indeed, he's now further behind than he was 2 or 3 months ago.
As for President Obama's job approval, there have been 7 polls taken in the past week or 10 days or so. Five of them show Obama's approval rating under 50%. Again, a year ago, who'd a thunk it!

I was 10-6 this past week! Let's keep it going...

Pittsburgh 10 over CLEVELAND. PICK: BROWNS. A pattern develops in the NFL late in the season, I believe (it's a new theory of mine). Superior teams just have a tough time covering big spreads. The weather is bad, they're injured and beat up, other teams have little to lose. That's the case here--I expect the Steelers to wind up winning this one, but they've lost 4 in a row, they're not playing well, they have injuries, and even the lowly Browns can keep it closer than 10. Did you notice what happened this past Sunday? The lowly Lions, Rams, Redskins, AND the Raiders ALL covered! (and the Raiders even won!).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday's wash

The University of Notre Dame women's hoops team continues to look strong. They're ranked 3rd nationally, and beat IPFW last night 96-60. Which was expected--but still, what's encouraging was that ND had a balanced attack, with no single player scoring over 20 points. Their defense forced a bunch of turnovers. And the Irish, who in the last several years have struggled from the 3 point line, were 6 of 11 from 3. All good signs. The only bad sign? ND still needs to do better in defending the 3-point line, as the Mastodons shot over 50% from there.

They mount yet again today:
"The world's richest athlete and most famous golfer appears to have slept with at least 10 women while married to Swedish ex-model Elin Nordegren, before a day-after-Thanksgiving car crash led to a bevy of allegations and unwanted publicity, as well as Nordergren moving out. To be sure, Woods is not going to starve - or even have to give up his massive yacht - as a result of the lost endorsements and reported hush money payoffs to erstwhile lovers and the unhappy Nordergren. But PepsiCo Wednesday became the first major corporate sponsor to dump a Tiger Woods-related product -- a Gatorade drink called Tiger Focus. The company says it made the decision before the golfer's car accident led to a media firestorm surrounding his personal life."

Sure, sure they did.
But no worries, Tiger--I betcha Viagara would love to sign you up as a spokesman...
A guy with proven experience!

Much news the last day or two concerning the Senate Democrats' supposed "deal" that will satisfy both moderates and liberals. The NY Times seems to see hope for the deal:
"The “broad agreement” that Senator Harry Reid announced Tuesday night on the proposed overhaul of the health care system was less a comprehensive accord among Democrats than an effort by the party’s leaders to keep the process moving ahead, even as Republicans attempt to prolong a seemingly endless floor fight....Many Democrats had not even seen the agreement on Tuesday night, much less signed on to it. But by offering something to liberal Democrats and centrists, the tentative deal announced by Mr. Reid created a framework for an agreement with a chance of winning the 60 votes necessary to pass the health care bill in the Senate."
Indeed, Harry Reid has been claiming that any impasse has been resolved.
But he might not want to count his chickens before they're hatched; liberal groups remain mighty restless:
"After months of demanding a government-run health insurance option from Democrats, health care reform supporters are still pushing for the "public option" in the wake of an announcement of an agreement by Senate Democrat to forgo the plan. The Health Care For America Now Campaign (HCAN), comprised of more than 1,000 organizations in 46 states, sent an e-mail to its supporters Tuesday night asking them to oppose the compromise devised by a group of five liberal Democrats and five conservative Democrats. More than 40,000 people have signed on so far, the group reports."

Have fun, Democrats!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tuesday's trackings

Is this really what you voted for? Does this advance conservatism:
"President Barack Obama outlined major new government stimulus and jobs proposals on Tuesday, saying the nation must continue to "spend our way out of this recession." Without giving a price tag, Obama proposed a package of new spending for highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects, deeper tax breaks for small businesses and tax incentives to encourage people to make their homes more energy efficient."

At least Obama no longer seeks to hide what he's doing behind conservative rhetoric.

Not that Obama's big-government policies are helping either he or his party at the polls these days:

For the latest generic congressional ballot survey from Rasmussen for 2010 still has Republicans up 4.

Again--back in January 2009, when Barack Obama was being inaugurated as president and pretty much every media outlet was fawning over not just Obama but most Democrats---who woulda thunk we'd be talking about poll numbers like the above????

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday's musings

Senator Harry Reid, on the Senate floor today, discussing the opponents of Democratic health care reform proposals:
"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, 'slow down, stop everything, let's start over.' If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right," Reid said. "When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said 'slow down, it's too early, things aren't bad enough.'"

Heh, heh. Not to worry, folks. Don't be mad. Be glad. This kind of stupid, screaming rhetoric just shows that Reid and other Democrats are becoming frustrated, and desperate. It's a good sign.

President Obama's approval numbers continue to fall.
Gallup has him at only 47% approval. Wow. Who'd have thought that back in January '09?...

Colts 27, Titans 17. Another solid performance by the undefeated Colts. To me, the highlight of the game was this: Colts lead, 24-10, 4th quarter. Still only a two-score game. But the Colts go on a long, time-consuming 4th quarter drive that chews up over 7 minutes of the clock. That's how a team puts a game away. That is, potentially, what a championship team does.
All that having been said, should the Colts face the Chargers in the playoffs, that would scare me. The Chargers present matchup problems for anybody, especially with Darren Sproles.
Meanwhile--Bengals 27, Lions 10. Same old story for the Lions--a tiny few good moments, including Matthew Stafford's TD pass to Calvin Johnson. But for the much of the game, it was Stafford being pressured, and the Lions' defense getting pushed around. Still a lot of work to do in Detroit...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday's football picks (and other stuff)

First, some other stuff:

"A surprising drop in the unemployment rate and far fewer job losses last month cheered investors Friday and raised hopes for a sustained economic recovery. The rate unexpectedly fell to 10 percent, from 10.2 percent in October, as employers cut the fewest number of jobs since the recession began. The government also said 159,000 fewer jobs were lost in September and October than first reported."

But, question for the Obama administration: if in fact your first "stimulus" plan is now suddenly working, why do we need a second one???

President Obama and most of those around him believed, when he was elected, that indeed the American people were voting for a more activist government. Turns out, though, that they were wrong:
" today's hard economic times, something startling began showing up in public-opinion polls: fewer people than in the past wanted Washington to step in. In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, only 23% of respondents said they trust the government "always or most of the time"--the smallest proportion in 12 years. The percentage of voters who think government should "do more to solve problems and meet the needs of people" has dropped 5 points since Obama's first weeks in office, while that of those who think government should leave more things "to businesses" rose 8 points. The shift is especially noticeable among independent voters, a small plurality of whom wanted government to "do more" after Obama took office; now--by a margin of 17--they think government does "too much." "Audacity" was a catchy campaign theme, but it's less attractive as a governing principle. The all-important swing voters who decide elections are nervous about dramatic expansions of the Federal Government--even and especially in this time of economic distress. As it turns out, this financial crisis was not the call to bold action that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said shouldn't "go to waste." Quite the opposite: if he doesn't want his presidency to be held hostage by a string of nail-biter votes in Congress, Obama needs to recognize that he overestimated the public's appetite for taxpayer-funded solutions."

Don't try telling that to Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader in the Senate; he STILL trails his Republican opponents significantly in polls of his upcoming 2010 Senate race.

Now, on to this week's football picks!
I'm under .500. But maybe the conference championships and the bowl season will redeem me:

CENTRAL MICHIGAN 13 over Ohio. PICK: CHIPPEWAS. This is a good Central Michigan team.

Cincinnati 1.5 over PITTSBURGH. PICK: PANTHERS. Cincy's had some close escapes this year. Pitt is coming off a loss. But they're at home, and this is their chance at saving their season and going to the BCS.

SOUTHERN CAL 7 over Arizona. PICK: TROJANS. Just too much talent there to keep struggling in big games.

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP: Florida 5 over Alabama. PICK: GATORS. Seems like the trendy pick is Alabama, due to their defense and running game. But I think Florida has a clear edge in this game at the QB position in Tebow, and that counts for a lot. 'Bama struggles to score. That's not good when you play the Gators.

ACC: Georgia Tech 1 over Clemson. PICK: YELLOWJACKETS. They'll outscore 'em in a wild shootout affair.

BIG 12: Texas 14 over Nebraska. PICK: CORNHUSKERS. Texas will likely win. But look for Nebraska's defense and running game to keep this one close.

Again, I'm under .500 for the season now. But now the comeback begins!

CAROLINA 6 over Tampa Bay. PICK; PANTHERS. Carolina will get a boost from finally starting backup QB Matt Moore, replacing turnover-happy Jake Delhomme.

CHICAGO 9 over St. Louis. PICK: RAMS. The Bears will likely win, but in the December weather of Chicago, with the Bears' offense struggling, and with both teams beat up, look for both to struggle to score.

CINCINNATI 13 over Detroit. PICK: LIONS. The Bengals will surely win here. But in cold weather and with injuries existing on both sides, look for the Bengals to feature the run...and thus to run clock, shorten the game, and keep the score closer than many expect.

Dallas 2 over NY GIANTS. PICK: GIANTS. Because they're at home, and the more desperate team here (see Dallas' game a few weeks ago at Green Bay).

Denver 4.5 over KANSAS CITY. PICK: BRONCOS. Because just maybe the Broncos have righted the ship.

INDIANAPOLIS 6.5 over Tennessee. PICK: COLTS. Yes, the Titans are on a winning streak. But they have yet to beat a team of the Colts' caliber, not to mention on the road.

JACKSONVILLE pick'em vs Houston. PICK: TEXANS. Houston's offensive talent and ability to score will get them a road win over the inconsistent Jags.

Minnesota 3.5 over ARIZONA. PICK: VIKINGS. The Minnesota front 4 will get pressure on either Leinart or Warner, and rule the day.

New England 3 over MIAMI. PICK: PATRIOTS. Tom Brady and co. need this game; it's hard to believe all that offensive talent for the Pats won't get it done here.

New Orleans 9.5 over WASHINGTON. PICK: REDSKINS. The Saints will pull this win out; but look for them to have a bit of a letdown, and for Washington's running game to help keep this one close.

Philadelphia 5.5 over ATLANTA. PICK: FALCONS. The trendy pick is Philly here, due to all the Falcons' injuries. But Philly has injuries too, and this game is in Atlanta. Look for the Falcons to pull a surprise.

PITTSBURGH 14.5 over Oakland. PICK: RAIDERS. Not to win; but to keep it closer than 14. Steeler injuries and bad weather I think will also help keep it close.

San Diego 13 over CLEVELAND. PICK: BROWNS. Again, look for a Charger letdown, for Brady Quinn to maybe do a few things offensively, and for the general wear and tear of a season to affect the favored team and keep this game close.

San Francisco pick 'em at SEATTLE. PICK: 49ERS. The Niners appear to have righted the ship.

GREEN BAY 3 over Baltimore. PICK: PACKERS. The Packer defense, especially its secondary, is rounding into form. So is Aaron Rodgers. The Ravens meanwhile struggle in the red zone.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday's throwdowns

"Americans are turning away from the world, showing a tendency toward isolationism in foreign affairs that has risen to the highest level in four decades, a poll out Thursday found. Almost half, 49 percent, told the polling organization that the United States should "mind its own business" internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own, the Pew Research Center survey found. That's up from 30 percent who said that in December 2002."

Fortunately American history tends to suggest that this kind of thing runs in cycles. Remember the 1930s? In 1938, one poll found that 94% of Americans agreed that our number one foreign policy priority should be to stay out of foreign wars. Luckily World War II and the Cold War killed off that kind of extreme isolationism. But not before America and others in the West had failed to stand up to the likes of Adolf Hitler, thus bringing on World War II. Let's hope no such catastrophe occurs this time. It doesn't help matters, by the way, when President Obama truckles to such isolationist sentiment in his Afghanistan policy through his surge-but-pullout-in-18-months policy...

The Notre Dame women's hoops team has looked good; they're unbeaten, they just won the Paradise Jam tourney out in the Caribbean, beating Oklahoma for the title. But last night they struggled in beating Eastern Michigan, 69-59. But I have few worries--they hadn't been home that long, they were tired. And they found a way to win.
Meanwhile the University of Michigan's basketball team has already hit a crisis this early in the season. The team was ranked 15th in the nation to start things this year. But they've now lost 3 straight, as poor shooting and big holes in their zone defense doomed them again last night, losing to Boston College 62-58. I guess we'll see what this team is made of...

Yes, there's a game tonight...
NY Jets 3 over Buffalo (game to be played in Toronto). PICK: BUFFALO. Why? Momentum...and I just don't see the Jets' offense executing and scoring points as they need to do. The Jets have been so inconsistent, this is a game one can see them blowing. Look for Buffalo to win their 2nd strai

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday's wash

So the reviews are coming in for the president's speech last night, but they seem decidedly...mixed, at best--even from the president's allies::
"Lawmakers from President Barack Obama's own Democratic Party expressed deep skepticism about the plan's chances for success but conceded they had little likelihood of blocking it. Republican supporters of the troop increase had their own objections, chiefly Obama's announcement Tuesday night of a July 2011 timeline for beginning to bring American forces home."

Even the NY Times notes the contradictions in the president's policy:
"But by including an explicit timetable to begin a withdrawal, Mr. Obama highlighted the seemingly conflicting pressures defining the debate over how to proceed: to do what is necessary to ensure that the region is not a launching pad for attacks on the United States and its allies, and to disengage militarily as quickly as possible."

Even some Obama-ites at Salon mag are deeply unhappy:
"I may be the only person in the United States who was trying to wait for President Obama's Afghanistan speech to make up my mind about his war plans. Of course, I mostly failed at that. Sure, all of Obama's options are bad, but still, few decisions seem as clear-cut as this one. Escalation is hard to see as an exit strategy. Obama has no clear path to "victory." We are likely to waste more lives than we save. I thought that was true before Obama's big speech, and I still think it now, afterward. At the moment he needed all of his persuasive powers, Obama gave the worst major speech of his presidency. I admit: I expected to be, even wanted to be, carried away a bit by Obama's trademark rhetorical magic. But I wasn't, not even a little. I found the speech rushed, sing-songy and perfunctory, delivered by rote. I despise the right-wing Obama-Teleprompter taunts, but even I wanted to say, Look at your audience, not the damn Teleprompter, Mr. President. Obama looked haggard, his eyes deeper set, and I believe this decision pained him. But I'm not sure even he believes it's the right decision."

An AP "fact check" quickly found some Obama fact-fudging:
"The president raised expectations that may be hard to meet when he told Americans his troop increase in Afghanistan will accelerate the training of that country's own forces and be accompanied by more help from allies. A look at some of his claims and how they compare with the facts:
OBAMA: "Because this is an international effort, I have asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we are confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead."
THE FACTS: When Obama says he is confident that allied countries will provide more troops in the weeks ahead he is setting aside years of mostly empty-handed American efforts to get others, including allies in NATO, to deepen their commitment to combat in Afghanistan."

The Notre Dame men's hoops team is now 7-1, with a win yesterday over Idaho State, 80-70. That's nice; that Luke Harangody continues to pile up points, rebounds, and school records is great, he deserves them; and it's nice that ND can score.
But it's worrisome that a team like Idaho State can shoot 55% for the game against ND and hang with them for that long. Defense, or rather, the lack of it, killed the Irish once they got into Big East play last year. Will it do the same this year?
Meanwhile Michigan State lost--again--to North Carolina, 89-82. The Spartans didn't shoot well from the perimeter, and had trouble defended UNC's big men down low. But who's surprised that MSU, in playing such a tough schedule, is starting slow. Izzo's teams always seem to finish well, though...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday's trackings

So a big reason Weis was fired was because, though he certainly developed ND's offense through his recruiting, he never fixed his team's defense. Indeed, he never came close to fixing it. Meanwhile, at Michigan, what's been the biggest problem with Rich Rodriguez's tenure so far? His team's defense. And that his recruiting has continued to center on offense, despite his team's inability to stop people. Be careful, Rich. Learn from what happened to your comrade Charlie down the road...

The administration today makes a huge mistake, assuming this report is true:
"President Barack Obama plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan over six months, an accelerated timetable — with an endgame built in — that would have the first Marines there as early as Christmas, a senior administration official told The Associated Press. U.S. troops are expected to start leaving the region "well before" the end of Obama's first term, the AP reported Tuesday. A senior government official told NBC contributor Col. Jack Jacobs that the president believes that a transition from American-led combat to Afghan leadership of the effort will begin in July 2011."

Great! Gosh, why didn't the Administration simply send the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan a memo, telling them all they need do is hunker down, wait this thing out, wait for the Americans to leave--which they've now announced they'll do, and they've said when--and then renew their attacks? Leaking this kind of stuff and, more importantly, engaging in this kind of "strategy" is a sure recipe for defeat. Obama needs to seek victory in Afghanistan and elsewhere, not burden his strategy with concessions to the American antiwar left.
Although it also amuses that Rich Lowry is right as well today when he notes that, well, at least the president is ordering in a "surge" of troops---and you know what that makes him:
"Prepare for the advent of Barack Obama, neocon. On the Afghan War, he is throwing in with the lying, warmongering running dogs of neoconservatism by ordering a surge of some 30,000 troops.Obama has to become a president of victory even though he hails from a party of defeat. The responsibilities of office separate him from a political base that only sounded stalwart on the Afghan War so long as it was a handy political tool with which to beat George W. Bush about the head and shoulders."