Thursday, October 31, 2013

Geico Problem

The only TV I watch is (a) live sports, or (b) the ESPN/NFL network (everything else is off commerical free steaming Netflix).  So the main commercials I see are geared for men, which means (a) insurance, (b) cars, (c) crazy medications, and (d) beer.

Like most people, I think the Geico commericals are very good, a quite memorable.  Their ad execs must have superpowers or something, because I'd say it's one of the best campaigns of the past 10-15 years.  So much so that when my wife and I first got a car, we went with Geico.  

Here's the problem: they sucked

We found this out when some idiot hit our parked car in a parking garage.  Geico had the car fixed with authorized mechanics who messed it up so badly, repeatedly, that we had to get a new car.  And new insurance.

As a result, while I can enjoy their commercials, I know they put way more money into their ads than into their service/product.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lou Reed

So, Lou Reed, important (Jewish) rock pioneer died this week.  He was one of those artists that I felt I *should* like way more than I actually did.  I have a bunch of his albums and they are largely unlistenable.  But he was a very important source for not only blues-rock but punk, as I found out in the The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's.

American League Pitchers

I've been watching the World Series and I just love it when the AL pitchers have to bat.  The look on their face is like mine if I'm asked to daven musaf: "Yeah, I have been trained in this, but this isn't what you pay me for..."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Steelers Week 8 Reactions, part 2

Part 1 here was a straightforward essay about the disaster the Steelers have become.  Here now are some shorter comments & issues:
  1. Note: i didn't see the game, only listened on the radio... which was a nightmare!
  2. I'm especially troubled because I made a prediction that "if Polomalu and Roethlesberger are healthy for all 16 games, we'll make the playoffs" And that looks like it won't happen. I was wrong. What did I think wrong? It's possible that I underestimated the quality of the regular NFL team. We've got 2 legitimate superstars, who are playing as well as they can play, and we can still lose games! Even though it looks like all the teams are bad, the error I made was thinking that's because the teams are all bad - it could mean that they are equally good. Actually, scratch that, the teams are mostly bad, it's just that a superstar can only do so much.
  3. Big Ben is a great athlete but we can't think he's a great QB in the mold of Brady/Manning who are good because they know the game; Ben has generally a low game IQ. There may be two types, a 12 and a 7.
  4. How can it work one week and not another? Answers: (a) Jets & Ravens aren't good teams and/or (b) those two teams under-estimated us, because we were 0-4, and they couldn't adjust. That may be it.
  5. We're so bad that it's depressing to watch a good team, like I felt last night watching the Packers (briefly - I'm more focused on the World Series for my son's sake, he's a Sox fan and I'm such a good father that he's gotten me to care).
  6. Fire tomlin? Tunch & Wolf are saying it's crazy to ask for that. Except its not motivated because we're losing its because it's HOW we're losing.  
  7. There's the black box problem - coaching is critical importance yet it's so internal that even the beat reporters won't know what's happening.  I heard rumbling last year, and occassionally this year, but I'd like to know the truth from someone perceptive enough to explain the difference instead of guessing.
  8.  What worries me is that Noll himself was hot and cold.  He was the greatest coach in the world in the 1970s and then the team got crappy in the 1980s.  Why?  Is that what's happening now?  Noll was so blind, that in 1983 he decided not to draft Dan Marino because Noll felt that Bradshaw was good enough and we should go defense again.   Can you IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN HAD THE STEELERS DRAFTED MARINO IN 1983?!?!?   Is that same thing happening now?  Too much early success?
  9. We're so bad we can't even get points from interceptions and fumbles! 
  10. People on the radio are saying the team looked unprepared and listless for the first half. And you can blame the players but i think that's on the coaches. I call it the Orgo Effect - devised when I was back in college from my friend telling me about everyone in his Orgo class failing an exam.  I replied: "if everyone in class fails a test then the students aren't at fault, but the teacher."
  11. Also, about the field goals:  It's not Sushi's fault that we lost - but it shows how much our offense depends on him, because we would have won this game had he made the FGs. But to depend on a kicker means your team is terrible. 
  12. We can blame some bad calls, but we just sucked the whole time. 
  13. I've heard Dave & Dave talk every week that the Steelers are built to succeed only when we get the lead.  So that means get points early.  Which means get the ball first.   Why then does Tomlin keep deferring to the second half?  Well, the simple answer is that there's a frilly strategy concept that if you get the ball first in the second half, you will also try to get the ball last in the first half and then dominate the other team.  Seriously, that's the idea.  I've heard it comes from Belicheck, but who knows... it's a caveman concept - it's based on hopes and wishes.  
    1. Because I'm a law-inventer, I will compare it to another lesson/law I learned: the Bridge Too Far Effect, which I learned from the movie, about Operation Market Garden.  Turns out the Wiki also acknowledges that the phrase is: "An idiom inspired by Operation Market Garden, meaning an act of overreaching."  But the specifics are important.  The British in fall 1944 wanted to take the success of D-Day (OK, Operation Overlord) and go straight to Berlin by Xmas.  
    2. The plan required seizing 4 bridges in one swoop to allow a tank army to run straight over the 4 and take over Germany.   The key was that if any aspect of the plan failed, the whole thing would crash and burn.  I've seen this a lot with bad planners - they don't respect Murphy's Law.  Leaders should always plan for mess-ups.  It's actually part of good leadership & planning, otherwise you're just a dreamer.  
    3. BTW, the same concept of bad planning was also in Black Hawk Down (one reason why that movie was so awesome).
    4. How does it apply to Tomlin and the "Defer to get Back to Back scores" thing?  Well, obviously (to use the verbal crutch of Coach Cliche, as I've seen him called) it's because to work, the Steelers will need to get the ball and score at the end of the first half and then do so at the second hafl.  
    5. This is as opposed to just scoring at the beginning of the first half.  If Tomlin thinks he can do it in quarter 3, why not think he can do it in quarter 1?   Especially because you'd then be ahead... which your team NEEDS TO BE!
    6. Guess who got the ball first in the Jets and Ravens games?  Steelers.
  14. Can we beat the Patriots. Yeah, we have the talent to do that. But I won't expect us to win, because we lost to the Vikings, Raiders & Titans in the same fashion. We're a legendarily bad team. We'll talk about the 2013 Steelers with misery. We've given up the biggest QB run in NFL history! The worst Steeler season since 1972 was 5-11 back in 1988 and that's what my goal is this year - to be better than that.
Two important quotes:

1. After the game DE Brett "The Diesel" "The Beard" Kiesel seemed to say he knows players aren't showing up to play with attitude. I wonder if it's Clark? Or are the rookies to blame?:
“We gotta come out of the locker room ready to play, we do,” Keisel said. “We can’t ease into football games. When the National Anthem goes, you gotta be ready to go. So far this season we’ve struggled in that area. We gotta step into stadiums ready to go. “It’s gonna be addressed. It’ll be addressed. I might address it. It’ll just be something where I’ll talk to the team. We’ve gotta be better in that area. I want everyone to understand that.”
Then Bleacher Report, in "No Matter What, It's Too Little Too Late for the 2013 Steelers" said something I totally agree with:
When the Steelers have gotten hot, it's been more of a smoldering fire, one able to be snuffed out at a moment's notice by one ill-thrown pass or one poorly timed fumble. Every step forward seems to have a corresponding step or two backward—a 45-yard punt return by Antonio Brown followed by a Roethlisberger interception, a two-game win streak followed by a frustrating road loss. And each attempt at recovery seems to come just a little too late.
I've felt that way since 2011. 

Here are the in-game notes I was taking:
  1. Why isn't Sanders returning punts?
  2. Oy Mesko
  3. Oy Sushi!
  4. Maybe now that they can't score a FG, they'll actually try TDs now!
  5. What the heck is happening to our O-linemen?
  6. This proves it - we're a bad team. I've seen enough games this year to know. We also have a knack in making bad teams look good. It hurts.
  7. So what we need to score a TD: a crazy turnover by the raiders on their own 11 *plus* 4 tries.  Wow we suck.
  8. Why the heck did we defer? It's like Tomlin doesn't know about meta-gaming. He's so old school, he doesn't even study the game!

Steelers Week 8 Reactions, part 1

Welp, it's over.  I want to thank the Steelers for the 2 games against the Jets & Ravens because those were sweet.  We fans had the puffed delusion that we could actually make the playoffs and that our hope that the clear talent of the team would be realized.  Those weeks were great.   But even if we beat the Patriots next week etc, there's no chance we'll feel as good again as we did for those 2 weeks.  Because by losing to the cruddy Raiders, after 2 weeks of getting better, the Steelers showed us that they can't be trusted.

It's sad that its basically over halfway through the season, because we were steadily getting better from 1-7 (including the pre-season).  To go back to being a bad team - for no reason - means that we're just not a good team.   First 3 weeks we had valid excuses: crazy injuries.  Week 4 our excuse was "jetlag" and that is a sign of unprofessionalism, but it may actually be what happened.  But 2 wins, solid wins, made it look like we've fixed the problems and could get on with the rest of our season.   But then how could we revert to this crap?  No excuse!

Even the broken up O-line can't be an excuse (can't be ignored) because that wasn't the reason we lost.  We lost for 2 basic reasons:  We can't score TDs in the red-zone and we can't stop the run.  We have a porous  defense... it's just laughably bad more often than it's good.  Teams seem to be able to march down the field on us.  Cruddy special teams.  Dropped passes.  No running game.

I'm a fan.  So I will gladly watch/listen to the games and hope we win, but it hurts too much to keep thinking we'll be good.  I'll be glad when we win, but I can't expect it.  Look: it's not that we lost, but how we lost.  Because it showed that we are either not talented enough or coached well; either way, we're unreliable.

The best answer for why we lost comes from Pitt beat writer Dejan Kovacevic.  He reported that in London, Tomlin was acting polite, contrite and decent to the reporters.  But after 2 wins, Tomlin went back to being a real jerk, and DK predicted doom because of it. Boy, was he right!  The key detail came in the Tuesday press conference after the Jets game.  In response to questions about game management - which Tomlin clearly shuns as important, a particular galling symptom of his attitude - Tomlin said, off mike but audible enough to hear on a recording, that "you guys have too much time your hands."  The "guys" referred to the reporters, but Tomlin (like the GOP and other bad leaders) don't seem to get that reporters are the representatives to the constituency.  *I* listen to the press conference.  When you disdain the reporters, you are also disdaining the fans.  The reporters want answers and when Tomlin acts arrogant and dismissive, he's showing the fans disrespect.

Kovacevic predicted that Tomlin's change in attitude between week 4 & 7 was a sign that the team was going to return to their losing ways... and he was completely right.

What makes DK correct is not a simple guess - DK explains the reasons why (as far as I've perceived) the Steelers act consistent like 2 different teams.  When we're good, we act the same way; and when we've been bad, it's been the exact same way.   When we're bad, we slum, we don't prepare, we're lazy and expect others to pick up the slack; this especially happens when we play bad teams.  So, I used to think it was the players, but after Kovacevic's insights and prediction, I am now more convinced that it's Tomlin. 

Tomlin's dismissiveness is without foundation - but it's reflected in his players' sluggish playing, especially against bad teams.  Tomlin himself may get keyed up for good games, but he seems so arrogant that he blows off the stuff that he considers unimportant, whether that is clock management, bad teams, reporters, or his freakin' job.  And the players reflect that; at least since 2011.

[More in part 2]

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Steelers Week 7 - Reflections

Some thoughts as the Steelers winning "streak" continues:
  1. Steeler football is not like watching other teams (e.g. the Colts/Broncos last night).  The 2 styles are almost Lombardi vs. Coryell - i.e. win with (a) running & defense, or (b) high scoring, screw the defense.  I mean, the Steelers over the past few years have just grounded out games, and it makes me tense to watch, and the margin of error feels like almost nil.
  2. The offense is doing pretty well. Amazing what happens when you get your top players back, eh? (see my previous entries for this prediction).  Which means we'll get even better when our #2 TE comes back (and possibly even more with the rookie Wheaton, but I think our TE situation needs more rapid improvement).  Tight Ends are a crucial part of the modern NFL offense (which could explain why we got another one recently; sadly he broke before he could play).
  3. We're getting better every week.  Which should scare everybody.  
  4. See this page for detailed examples of the improved O-line and running game.
  5. Our getting better shows that the coaching is getting better.  I stand by my earlier assessment that the coaches of previous years were not that good, especially on o-line. The best proof for a better O-line coach is seen by Guy Whimper (aka, for real, "Abdullah the Butcher"), who was discarded from other teams, and was not good in training camp (so sez the beat reporters, who should know) but had a very credible game on Sunday against a monster defensive line.
  6. From the above link: "Abdullah and Kelvin Beachum, considered mere depth back in training camp, combined Sunday to hold the dangerous pass- rushing tandem of Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs to 1.5 sacks in the Steelers' 19-16 win..."
  7. Because I can see very clearly that the coaches know what they're doing, and that the in-season moves have actually been effective, I will restore my trust in the front office.  They do seem to know what they're doing, at least so far.
  8. Why was it bad before and good now?  Well, I think Tomlin has limited wiggle room because, and this is pure speculation, the Rooney's seem to have close scrutiny and may make certain decisions by fiat; especially as it comes to coaches.  They seem to be the ones who fired Arians (which I was happy to see, and as I said before, Haley was working out even last year before Ben got hurt). 
  9. The defense is also slowly getting better.  If it works out like last year, then LeBeau could get them in such shape that we'll have a crackerjack shutdown defense by the last quarter of the season.
  10. I see people talking about the Steelers still in the Wild Card race.  I think more of winning the division, but I guess the others' want WC because that makes us in control of our destiny while the division needs to have the Bengals stumble.  Note, that the Bengals have always stumbled, but I see their mentality's advantage.
  11. About the WC race, the standing right now are Patriots win the E, Bengals N, Colts S, and the freakin' Chiefs the West.  The WC would be Denver & the freakin' Jets.  Because of KC & Denver, there's only 1 real WC spot left, so the Steelers will need to battle it out with all the mediocre AFC teams, which for now are numerous.
  12. Anyway, while it still is possible to make the playoffs, my reason to look at that is in order to see how the team/games are still relevant.  That's key.
  13. Emmanuel Sanders should be our PR/KR.  Duuuude.

Further personal note:
Except for football, I'm a NY team fan, but Pittsburgh is my #2 for the rest (I was born in Pittsburgh but lived in the NY area for most of my life).  For historians, it goes like this:
    • #1 Steelers (1972-present)
    • #2 Jets (1980-1983), and I still have occasional sympathy
    • #1 Mets  (by a big margin)
    • #2 Pirates (because of history, and what can you do?)
    • after this, it's pretty much rooting against whomever I hate.
    • #1 Knicks, but I am feeling some growing sympathy to jump ship to Brooklyn, (displaced) land of my fathers.
    • #2 I really don't care very much about basketball, to be honest
    • #1 Rangers
    • #2 Penguins
    • If it's possible to care less about basketball, that's how little I care about hockey
OK now thats done.  I set that up for this point: So, I follow the Pittsburgh teams via Pitt radio and Steelers beat writers, and I noted how the Penguins were one of the best and they died in the playoffs   Pirates did the same. It's possible now to think that the Steelers can possibly repeat 2011 - make it and lose in 1 game.  There's double precedent!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Steelers, Week 6 comments

Finally, some breath for a drowning team!  We win 16-9 over the Jets and save ourselves from being bagel'd.  

Here's Labriola on Steelers' win over Jets:
There was a dropped touchdown pass. A dropped interception. Seven penalties. The rushing total again was under 100 yards, and the three tailbacks averaged a meager 2.6 yards per carry. The offense was inefficient in the red zone (0-for-2), the defense allowed the Jets to drive 51 yards in 43 seconds at the end of the first half to answer a Steelers field goal with one of their own, and special teams didn’t have a single decent return and stuck the offense at its own 21-yard line once with an illegal block penalty.

I can't contradict his numbers, but I think this was a good win. What's the difference between this and a bad win?  Well (1) we were in the lead for almost all the game, (2) we never relinquished the lead, (3) we didn't turn the ball over. Those 3 alone make any win a good win.

Look, I know its the Jets, and they are a "bad team." Except, so are the Chiefs and the Titans and the Browns... and this year those teams are good. So far.  By December we'll know who's bad and who's not. But for now, the Jets were 3-2 heading in the game and they had the #2 defense in the NFL.  That's serious.

Watching the game, it felt like watching 2011 & 2012 - both years we had talent and luck to reach either 12-4 or 8-8 (and, duh, yeah that's what happened, but I think it sets the facts). We've got the talent, I think, to still win the division.  Seriously.  For most NFL fans who don't listen/read what I do, that sounds like pie in the sky, but I can tell you, we are actually a good team and our problems are normal.

Bottom line, is that as opposed to Baseball, Basketball and Hockey - who have so many games it feels like the volume knob is stuck on 11 - a single game matters in Football.  I've been watching baseball as much as I can since August and it's stunning how a team can be good one day and bad the next.  This is acceptable.  So when that happens in football, it's grevious, but happens it does, to even great teams.    
 Anyway, here are some other random reactions: 
  1. I wonder if they did the gadget play because Cowher was in the booth?
  2. Nantz mentioned that the Steelers are the least penalized team in the league. And considering some of the penalties were ridiculous (see tripping, week 1) that this is a good sign. 
  3. Since we're not really doing the outside running game, or I think the zone blocking scheme, and since Levi Brown seems to be out even before he was in, maybe that means... Max Starks will be back!
  4. A certain amount of the defensive success was probably because of the rookie QB. 
  5. We need 2 things now: (a) win all remaining division games, (b) hope Bengals lose more. 
  6. We have enough rookies to keep it going so we can get the big needs for next year (1) LT, (2) CB, (3) TE. 
  7. We really got lucky given the first 2 injuries. that's a hypothetical to recognize, in a pure snakebit scenario, we'd have had another injury in game and wouldn't have had any backup linemen.
  8. The Big Ben to AB tandem was rockin' the whole game. 
  9. This next game is a must win.  Home game; Divisional game. If they lose, then I don't think we have anything but a miraculous chance.  Both because of the odds, and because it'll show that we're not actually any good (again, barring injuries).  If we win then the Ravens have our # of losses, and we'll be 1-1 in the division... oh it could happen!  
  10. I've learned to covet a tablet given the way I watch the games now: (1) I mute the TV and listen to the audio from the Steelers broadcasters, (2) I read the twitter comments from the Steelers reporters.
 I feel that if we play as good as we did in NJ, we have a chance to win Sunday.

Punish the GOP aka This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

The first thing I think about the horrible modern Republican party, which hasn't been functional or acceptable as a national party since 1994 (but flew to flinders under Bush in 2000), is "this is why we can't have nice things."  How can our country ever really get back on track with these jokers around? 

Those of you who have a choice in November to vote out a national Republican, do it.  They need to be punished, especially now, so their primitive reptile brains will see the cause and effect from the near-catastrophic Govt Shutdown of 2013 and their political death.

If you happen to be a Republican, for God's sakes why?!   Most Republicans I know have either switched to (a) "independents" (b) are hopeless blinded ideologues, or (c) are just plain racists.  So, please, come to your senses.  You'll hate yourself even more than you already do if you keep this up.

Phrase Watch

I learned the phrase "This is why we can't have nice things" from Archer, but it evidently was invented - like everything in the past few years - by 4chan, although this clip is a credible source:

I love the phrase because it highlights the fact that the person complaining about how bad things are is the cause of that badness.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

All in All a Good Night

Let's recap:
  1. The Tea Party caved and the President didn't.  The government will reopen with only billions of dollars lost in the meantime (by the party who claims "fiscal conservatism" - what a bunch of horrible people)
  2. Cory Booker won in NJ.  While I don't actually like him, for the legislature you need to vote for party, as the recent insanity proves ever more.
  3. The Cardinals lost, at least for tonight.
All in all, a good night.

Washington's NFL Team

I've written about this in the Olde Styxe (I can't seem to find the link/reference so easily... I should upload my old styxes!), but I find the Indian names of sports teams offensive.  I didn't need Costas to tell me that.  Just rename the team the "Warriors" - it'll have alliteration and you can even keep the logo unchanged.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Tea-Party and the Civil War

I made the comment in this post about the Tea-Party led shutdown feeling like a second civil war, and some of my thinking is affected by the reporting of James Fallows(who has done a very good job of marshaling data). A reader of his, a lapsed Republican, makes this comment which really sparked a moment of clarity for me:
"Tea Partiers seem to have more in common with the fire eating secessionism of John Calhoun, than with the statesmen of the GOP. Like Calhoun, the Tea Party is obsessively fixed on a peculiar institution, regarding which they will accept no compromise. Congress must defund Obamacare, they insist, or they will burn down both our government and the full faith and credit of the United States of America."
The idea is sparked was this: (a) this dude is right, that the Tea Party is treating Obamacare in particular as a target to destroy, (b) why should that be?, (c) oh right, because it's Obama's main (if not only) policy legacy, and (d) the Tea-Partiers appear to be very open about their inveterate racism - so to allow Obama to change this country in any way would be like miscegenation. Obama's legislative DNA would infect the country, making us a Black Country, a drop of Negro Blood! Seriously, this is what I fear is motivating the Tea Party. And that also means that they won't give up.

Alas, most of the anti-Obama people I've met are not-so-open racists. Sad but true. Yes, yes, it's quite possible to be anti-Obama and not be a racist, just as you can be anti-Israel and not be an anti-Semite. But some advice for y'all who fall into either group: you really gotta *work* to make that clear. Because I know what racism and anti-Semitism sound like, and y'all basically fit it. Hatred is hard to cover. Orthodox Jews are almost all Republicans and I hear mildly racist stuff all the time. Not "kill them all" racism, but a basic belief that Blacks are all bad. It sickens me that Jews should feel/believe these things, but I have no idea how to get them to stop it.

Anyway, we'll see if this insight plays out, but I think this is why the Tea Partiers can't back down - because in their minds, Obamacare is tantamount to having sex with Obama, or whatever nonsense the KKK is on about.

And for all of y'all who are Orthodox Jewish Tea Party supporters - please stop.

Update: This New Yorker article gives a great picture as to the members of the "GOP Suicide Caucus."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Steelers Notes, Bye Week, Pre-Jets

The moment of truth is today at 1pm, Steelers vs. Jets in my new home state of Jersey.   If we lose today, then the roof has caved in.  Maybe.  Ya see, the reason why I haven't utterly given up hope is because I think we're a decent team that has been snakebitten (see previous entries). Compare to last year's Chiefs & Browns, that we are better than our record, but because of the way the game is played, the breaks don't go our way. 

The basic problems, to recap, have been (a) starting the year with injuries, (b) starting the year with green-horn rookies, especially on Defense, which is legendary for not being amenable to rookies.

Each week, there's a different reason why we've lost, but it comes down to those 2 things, the offense's injuries and the defenses soft middle.  And every week, we seem to be giving evidence that we will break out of those problems.

So today is the proof of the pudding; barring any injuries, or any obvious fluke (like bad calls, which we've gotten BTW) if we lose today then it means that we actually aren't good enough to break 500.

If we lose today and I still see signs that we've been improving, or we've suffered the snake-bites like the now undefeated Chiefs back in 2012, then I may maintain some optimism.  

But I do believe we will lose today because despite having a HoF QB, and HoF safety, and many pro-bowlers, our 2 weakest areas are lethal: left tackle, inside linebacker.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Mad Boom-ber

This is my favorite Inspector Clouseau cartoon. Oh man, do I love this one.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Second Civil War

James Fallows of The Atlantic has been doing a very good job exposing the Constitutional crisis being forced by the current GOP.   It's a good question in my mind whether this is what a civil war looks like before it happens.  Remember, the GOP is basically the party of the armed crazies. 

While I don't think we'll devolve into real tanks and planes violence - our Federal power is too entrenched to allow that to happen - but it's good to pay attention in a scientific fashion when a variable is added or removed.  Just as the "Great Recession" of 2008 would have been a repeat of 1929 had we not had the major failsafes put into place, so too this conflict could possibly dissolve into a 1960s era chaos.

And just like the 1860s, and the 1960s, this fight is ultimately about race.  Again.  Wow, I had really no idea how deep this hatred ran in America.  It's almost as bad and deep as the anti-semitism of Europe.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Holocaust Survivor Wins Physics Nobel

I do love Nobel week, and this year a few more Jews have won, but this news is very gratifying:
[Fran├žois Englert of Belgium], 80, is a Sackler Professor by Special Appointment in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Tel Aviv University, among other appointments, and is a Holocaust survivor.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Nightnmare World of Scalia

If there's any one person whose presence is dooming the world more than anyone else, it's Antonin Scalia, the caveman who has been occupying a seat on the US Supreme Court for decades.  He is, quite frankly, a menace to us all.  More than George W. Bush, more than Dick Cheney, because Scalia can't be removed from office and his views of the world have given the necessary legitimacy to the rest of the GOP.  They have been able to destroy our nation - and by extension the world - because of the Supreme Court, and especially the linchpin, Scalia.

I was alerted to a recent interview  with Scalia in New York Magazine, and this tidbit was highlighted as an example of where the Most Powerful Man in the World gets his information:
What’s your media diet? Where do you get your news?
Well, we get newspapers in the morning.
“We” meaning the justices?
No! Maureen and I.
Oh, you and your wife …
I usually skim them. We just get The Wall Street Journal and the Washington
Times. We used to get the Washington Post, but it just … went too far for me. I
couldn’t handle it anymore.
What tipped you over the edge?
It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often
nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning? I don’t think I’m the
only one. I think they lost subscriptions partly because they became so shrilly,
shrilly liberal.
So no New York Times, either?
No New York Times, no Post.
And do you look at anything online?
I get most of my news, probably, driving back and forth to work, on the radio.

and lest you think he means NPR, the journalist did his job

Not NPR?Sometimes NPR. But not usually.
Talk guys?
Talk guys, usually.
Do you have a favorite?
You know who my favorite is? My good friend Bill Bennett. He’s off the air by the
time I’m driving in, but I listen to him sometimes when I’m shaving. He has a
wonderful talk show. It’s very thoughtful. He has good callers. I think they keep off
stupid people.
So basically, he doesn't read normal newspapers, and another part of the interview he says he largely is off the internet.  His news comes from the Right Wing crazies.   God help us.

h/t Fallows.

Barukh Dayan Ha-Emet, Hagaon Hagadol Harav Ovadia Yosef ZT'L Passes Away

I just came back from a bris to read: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ZT'L Passes Away. What a terrible loss; the greatest halakhist of the past 25 years (since the passing of Rav Moshe). Despite my dismay at many of his political statements, Harav Ovadia Zt'l was in my mind the Gadol Hador in halakhah. I'm quite shaken and sad.

When the Gadol ha-Dor passes, we all mourn.

So to say to all of us: Hamakom yinahem etkhem betokh sha'ar avlei Tzion ve-Yerushalayim.

UPDATE: The picture is from Rav Ovadiah z'l at the dedication of Yeshivat Har Etzion.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Chuck Asay Retired!

Whoa, I totally missed this! On June 28, 2013, Chuck Asay one of the most evil GOP-suckin' editorial cartoonists retired. Wow, I didn't even know, yet I feel a great relief that his demolished moral compass no longer infects us. Thanks Chuck.

The Tea Party Shutdown

One of the best editorial cartoonists is Ben Sargent and this is a recent one that shows a possible reason why the GOP loves both the tea-party and "freakin' guns" - because the GOP can't tell the difference between a good policy ('well regulated militia') and the inevitable consequences of their childish ignorance (gun massacres every week)

Steelers, Week 4, Quick Thoughts

Didn't get to watch it yet (may never), only heard the game on radio. But, in one word, yeeeesh. If I needed any proof for the necessity of a workable Left Tackle, it's these first 4 games. But then again, I didn't expect our defense, the Dick LeBeau defense, the "#1" defense, one with HOF shoo-in Troy Polomalu, to be so freakin' bad.

Like any normal Steeler fan, I need to think about next year's draft. We'll have a high one. We need a primo Left-Tackle. And maybe let some other organization choose it for us. After the LT, maybe finally get a CB who can catch a ball.

Since the loss came from the defense...
All the commentaries are showing me my analysis is correct - there can't be turnovers, yet, because of our rebuilding phase... which this clearly is, BTW. The good veterans of yesteryear are gone, and with them the professionalism in the locker room. But the current state reveals a lot about last year's decision making: we thought we had the talent to make another 12-4 run. But because of injuries - and I believe that's the answer for last year's woes (plus the poisoned superstar pills of Wallace and Mendenhall) - we didn't have the consistency we needed. If we had in 2012 a healthy Harrison, Polamalu, Big Ben, and Antonio Brown for all 16 games, we'd have been around 12-4 again.

This is not the issue for 2013. We got rid of a HUGE number of people in order to get younger and (possibly) cheaper. With that, we've lost even more leadership: Max Starks, Harrison, Charlie Batch, Casey Hampton. These dudes obviously had enough talent, and even more leadership. We don't have that this year and you can see the fallout. But in the interest of the future, we needed to go younger.

What I saw in game 4 is that our offense is finally getting in shape, despite the crucial deficit in the o-line (see below about Levi Brown). It's amazing that the commentaries all lambasted Todd Haley, the OC, for 3 weeks and in game 4 he's finally doing well. Amazing what having your #1 TE, #1 RB, #1 FB will do, eh? The offense finally scored enough to win the game, it's the defense that let us down.

Same thing happened last year! And if Ben (and to a lesser extent AB) hadn't been injuried in the Chiefs game, I'd like to think we'd have kept the pace up and been around 12-4; we were that good.  The 2012 defense started badly and slowly but got great at the end, despite no turnovers.

 I'm thinking the same thing could happen this year, but with these caveats: (1) last year, the turnovers didn't come because we didn't have Harrison and Polomalu, (2) this year it's because we have a very young O-line (no more Hampton) which doesn't occupy the middle like we used to, and the middle LB - because of injuries - are 2 freakin' newbies! Vince Williams a rookie 7th rounder and Kion Wilson who was selling insurance last year. Our middle is so soft that it doesn't allow pressure to the edges and it forces the safeties to play linebacker. This neutralizes Polomalu and seems to have nerfed Clark.

Then again, given the number of rookies and over-fined vets, our defense could also be nerfing themselves so we don't give up 15 yard penalties all the time.  Our defense, with our as old-school as definitionally possible DC,  may not be able to adjust to the frankly chaotic rules changes.  Every team may suffer, but it could be the Steelers most of all.  The refs don't know how to call the imaginary penalties and this could make our group so flaccid.  Maybe.

The Levi Brown trade...
This incident shows how much the commentariat fire too fast. And how much trust has been lost.  The Steelers Lounge guys are a case in point - they made a special podcast on Wed afternoon to declare how horribly stupid the Steelers FO is - that they would dump 4 million dollars on a terrible LT!  They are desperate!!  Wah!!!   And I listened to them, and the entire basis for their freakout is that we paid too much.  They admitted b'ferush that if we paid "vet minimum" that the deal would be actually good. 

Which turned out to be precisely the case.

They haven't made another podcast since the full facts were announced LATER THAT AFTERNOON.  And so we can use them as an example of the standard internet paper tiger bluster: goin' nuts because of false information and too arrogant to admit error.

But these guys are experts and their doomsaying reveals a problematic context: they feel that the past few years has shown the poor decisions of the regime of Tomlin/Colbert and once the trust has been lost, it takes a lot of counter info to clean the slate.  The past few drafts have been just terrible.

Tomlin not Colbert

But let's look at the record: Colbert has been GM since 2000.  The drafts from then have been basically good.  When did things go terribly?  Well, Tomlin came aboard in 2007.  Look at this 2011 chart of his picks - there's a lot of busts in there, especially in the most recent years (2012 is a freakin' disaster).  It's possible to blame our previous success (see here, #5), that we can't pick higher because we're too good etc.  Except first and second rounders are supposed to be really good, no matter the draft position.  And Gilbert & Adams are both second rounders!

Until I see more information about Tomlin (so far, he's shown to be a bad evaluator of talent and a terrible in-game manager, and as seen in the disarray of 2012, a very bad disciplinarian) I will still blame the bad drafts on the bad position coaches.   Which, yeah, still goes back to Tomlin's lack of talent evaluation, but at least its one step removed.