Monday, November 29, 2004

Shanny can kiss my fanny

So Jack is happy this morning that the Broncos choked away an 11-point 4th quarter lead to lose to the hated (or in Jack's case, loved) Raiders. For my part, I'm just nauseous. Once again, Mike Shanahan can be blamed directly for this loss. For those of you who weren't watching, after the Broncos went up 24-13 early in the fourth quarter, they let the Raiders storm down the field not once, but twice, with big pass plays to set up touchdowns. With just under 2 minutes left, the Raiders had a 25-24 lead.

Our heroes did not give up, however, they came back themselves, setting up a 1st and 10 at the Oakland 26 with 38 seconds and 1 timeout left. At that point, Mike Shanahan went into brain freeze. I realize that the Broncos have a great field goal kicker in Jason Elam. I know that he has had great success kicking in all kinds of weather in Denver. And 44 yards is definitely within his range. But why, why, WHY must Denver take its foot off the accelerator at that point? Shanny had Ruben Droughns run into the line for 2 yards, and then Jake threw 2 incompletions to set up a 42 yard field goal attempt that was blocked. The Raiders won 25-24.

If we were moving down the field so well, why not just keep pushing with pass plays? Why run the ball, taking time off the clock and wasting a down? Keep your foot on the other guy's neck and don't let them catch their breath. We should have been playing for a touchdown when instead we were playing for a FG. That's a joke (and a bad one, I might add). It's especially appalling when you realize last night was a horrible night for kickers. There was a snowstorm, earlier in the game 2 kicks had been blocked and even the field goal that Elam made was a knuckleball that barely got over the crossbar. Why take a chance on a 42-yarder? Go for the gold and settle if you must, but don't get conservative in that situation. The same thing happened in Jacksonville earlier in the year, when Quentin Griffin coughed up the ball after Denver was in FG range, when in fact they should have been throwing it to try to score a touchdown.

The result is an embarrassing loss to a bottom-feeding team that basically killed Denver's playoff chances unless they are able to run the table, starting with this week in San Diego against what clearly looks to be a better team. It's time for Shanahan to take the head coaching job at the U of Florida and allow Denver to get someone who knows what the heck he's doing on that sideline. How about Jimmy Johnson?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Good sports news

So the Broncos not only won today, but they also managed to force some turnovers. And for once, it was the other team's quarterback who suffered a brain fart (Aaron Brooks tossed a stupid interception to Al Wilson, who ran it in 7 yards for a touchdown - but I'm not complaining). So the good guys are now 7-3 and staring at 2 games against the Raiders (at home) and Chargers (in SoCal) that could decide the division if we win both. Unfortunately, thanks to the Steelers and Pats, we can't get a first-round bye and won't even be able to get to the AFC Championship. But at least we seem to be getting better. and Ruben Droughns is still running well.

And the Nuggets seem to have righted the ship. As I write, they are leading Dallas by 21 with 3 minutes left in a game that will get them back to .500. There seems to be hope for them yet. Now if only they can win on the road.

Next up is getting the Cubbies to trade Sosa so that they can sign Beltran instead and all will be well with the world.

And just for the record, I think Ron Artest got off easy by only getting suspended for the rest of this year. He should pay a $1 million fine on top of that and should be subject to criminal charges, which may come anyway.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

A new member of the tribe

Mazal Tov to my dear friend Beth, who just had number 3 last Saturday night. Read all about it over here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

What are moral values?

A final (for now) thought about the election and the fallout: I've been reading some of what's been written about the whole moral values debate and how it swung the election and I think everyone on both sides is missing the point completely. The Saturday following the election, the NYT ran an opinion piece by David Brooks about the fact that moral values was the number one issue for voters. The point of the piece was that unlike Social Security, the war on terror, homeland security, etc, "moral values" is a nondescript issue. Everyone knows what Social Security is and (hopefully) knows where the 2 candidates stood. But if you ask 10 different voters what are "moral values" you are liable to get 10 different answers. Throughout the blogosphere, many people have questioned whether it is more "moral" to protect things like civil liberties or the definition of marriage. And both sides are correct because both points are important and an individual is the only one who can decide on what is moral to him or her.

The ultimate point of the commentary was that since "moral values" is a meaningless term by itself, it was probably used as a proxy for "other" by those who were polled. The fact that those people went 80-20 in Bush's favor does not necessarily portend a strong, sudden rightward shift in the electorate as much as people voting for Bush (or against Kerry, as the case may be) for something other than the other "obvious issues of the campaign. My personal guess is that the Republican refrain of Kerry being a flip-flopper led a lot of people to say something to the effect of, "I may not love what Bush is doing but gosh, I just don't trust that Kerry guy." Personal integrity would probably fall under most people's definition of "moral values", and deserved or not, Bush was probably viewed by most voters as the candidate they could trust because you know very clearly where he stands on different issues.

One of the points the political pundits on both sides seem to have missed is that both parties encompass lots of different views on lots of different issues. Arnie, Rudy and Pataki are all from the left wing of the Republican party. Many people who voted for Bush in this election do not agree with his views on stem cell research, abortion, gay marriage, etc. And believe it or not, there are people in this country who agree with him on some or all of those issues, but voted for Kerry. Colorado, as only one example, went to Bush by about 9%, but the Democrats won control of both houses of the state legislature. Democrats made great strides at the state level in many red states. That doesn't indicate confusion; on the contrary, I think that indicates an informed electorate that chooses who it believes to be the best candidate for each position.

I believe (IM not-so-HO) that the overwhelming majority of this country is not nearly as fiercely partisan as the talking heads would lead us to believe. I think that there has been somewhat of a rightward shift in terms of propriety in this country over the last 25 years (as there has been in most religious communities, including Judaism), but I don't think it is a massive shift in the tectonic plates; it is far more subtle and slow-moving than that. And the pendulum will inevitably swing back at some point. But this is only one election, one that was decided because the electorate liked one candidate better than the other. And it is silly for either side to assume that the result of this one election portends the election results for the next 40 years of our country's civil rights and "moral values".

So both sides should chill out and relax. The liberals do not need to fear we are embarking on an age of nazism at home and the conservatives should not celebrate that we are about to eliminate all the shameful practices our society currently seems to espouse (Desperate Housewives appearing to be just the latest example.

Out of practice

So I played bridge with my regular partner, D, a couple times in the last week. Once was at the local club and once was at a Sectional tournament (Swiss teams). We hadn't played in a few months and it showed. We have a fairly complex bidding system, based on Kaplan-Sheinwold, which is essentially a weak no trump with 2/1 game forcing. If that doesn't mean anything to you, please take up the game; it's great fun. [If I can get some help on the tech side, maybe I'll post a copy of the system so that people can make suggestions on how to improve it. D would like that because we have lots of open points we need to get to.]

In any case, it became very clear that we need to play more often. One time, when he introduced a new major suit at the four level after I had confirmed a fit in a minor (this was a competitive bidding situation), I left him in the new major even though I only had a singleton. [For those who don't know bridge and haven't yet given up on this post, that's a cardinal sin.] He only went down 1 in a 4-1 fit. We also missed a couple of slam hands and we have to learn how to deal with interference over our 1NT openings. We know how to escape if we are doubled, but have no idea what we are doing if someone interferes with a suit bid.

While we have a ways to go, we were not horrible, which was encouraging. At the club, we had a 50% to finish in the middle. Even though we are Strat C, we didn't get any masterpoints). At the Sectional, we won 3 of the 7 matches, so we got 0.63 Silver points , but none of the overall prizes, and we finished 3rd of 3 in Flight D, because we seemed to get skunked in the matches we lost. At least we had fun. And now that I got back to a taste of playing, I need it more. It is a highly addictive game.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Gray day

I went for a haircut this morning. As the trimmed hair started to cascade down onto the robe in front of me, I noticed a lot of white hairs. When did I go so gray? As I saw the woman sweeping up after I paid, I was shocked to see how gray my hair is. All this time I thought it was just the way the light was hitting it when I looked in the mirror. Oy vey. When did I get so old?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

He's not Resting. He's dead.

Ok. They mean it this time. Really. Here's the report from Fox. May his soul suffer as much pain as that suffered by his many victims and their families.

It now appears he will be succeeded by a bunch of different people to do each of his individual jobs (butchering, extortion, embezzlement, etc.) [Ooh. Ooh. Can I be Minister of Embezzlement? Please? Pretty Please? Pretty Please with with a knife at your throat and an AK-47 up your butt?] Could be Abbas, Qureia, Rajoub, Dahlan. Even though Rauhi Fattouh (who?) will be acting PA President until "elections" are held in 2 months, my guess is they purposely put up someone who no one had heard of so that each of the real players has a relatively fair shot. I have no idea which is best for the Israelis; I just hope that the Palestinians are able to hold a real election and actually choose the guy they want. And that the one they choose is serious about cracking down on Hamas and stopping the daily bombings. If that happens (am I asking too much?), maybe even Sharon will be able to bring himself to give them a contiguous state in 95% of the West Bank. Then they can get down to talking about the really important stuff like water rights, and maybe eventually innocent people will be able to go shopping, ride buses and eat in outdoor cafes without fear of being blown up.

Of course, this dream is way too good to be true. But at least now there's some hope. Let's pray there are some brave people on both sides who can make this happen.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

He's not Dead. He's Resting.

Maybe I'm nuts, but I think the beginning of this Reuters story about arafat reads a little bit like a Monty Python sketch. Thoughts?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Now what?

Ok. so bush won. While I think he was the better candidate and I voted for him, I can't seem to get too excited. There is a looming feeling of, "OK, Prez. You got your mandate. Now what are you going to do with it?" Jack seems to be feeling a similar ambivalence.

While Iraq was the right war at the right time, it is not currently being waged most effectively. How is that going to change? Are we going to devote more troops to the effort to snuff out the insurgents, or are we just hoping that they blew their wad in trying to influence our elections (or their own in January) and won't have much left for continued fighting beyond the Iraqi elections?

At home, he wants to change social security, health care, etc. But he had legislative majorities and wasn't able to get anything through before. Are the larger majorities going to make this happen? Are they going to temper some of his far-right views? Arlen Specter, who looks like he will be head of the Judiciary Committee, has apparently gone on record saying he does not want to see only strongly partisan nominees. While I think it's a good thing to have some moderation, I like the idea of replacing strongly conservative judges (Rehnquist, notably) with other conservatives. So how will this play out?

Monday, November 01, 2004

Will we have a winner?

Despite the failure of my previous forays into prognostication, I am going to take a flyer on the presidential race. No, I'm not going to officially predict a winner (though I regrettably expect Kerry to pull it out eventually). Rather, I am going to predict that we will know the winner sometime between December 7 and january 13. More specific than that, I think is a little too close to the edge for me. But I think it's unrealistic to expect to know who won on Wednesday morning. Not with both sides positioning lawyers and planning to litigate things like registration fraud and voter intimidation.

Bigger question is which is worse? Is it better to have your candidate win in a contested election that makes 2000 look precise, or better to have the other guy win by an unchallengeable margin? I think the latter is better. If we are trying to spread democracy throughout the world, then if we are unable to hold a fair election here, our credibility is pretty much shot. But in an informal poll of friends, most say that they think it's more important that their candidate (whether they are pulling for Bush or Kerry) wins (or that the other guy loses), regardless of how long it takes to determine. Do you readers have any thoughts on this?