Monday, October 23, 2017

NFL 2017-18 Week 7

This is my 4,000 published post! Just wanted to make a small announcement regarding that, before getting into the subject at hand.

Okay, so, another week of NFL football took place, and this one featured some lopsided games, as well as a surprising number of shutouts. 

As far as my predictions are concerned, I was only wrong about one of the games on Sunday, and notwithstanding what the results will be for Monday Night Football tonight, this was easily the most successful week of predictions that I have enjoyed this season thus far.

So, let's take a bit of a closer look at the games yesterday:

L.A. Rams 33, Arizona 0 - The Rams tore up the Cardinals in this game. Not only was Arizona unable to make it a game, they failed to even score any points! Yes, they got shutout, while allowing the Rams offense to more or less catch fire. That means that the trend thus far, with the Rams being hot and the Cardinals clearly being not continues, and most likely, this puts the Cardinals in a position of being dangerously close to out of relevance in the NFC West race, being increasingly far behind the two teams that are setting the tone so far - the Seahawks and these suddenly hot and explosive Rams. The Rams appear to be for real, and this just might have been their most impressive win this season yet! My pick: Accurate

Minnesota 24, Baltimore 16 - A game that pretty much went the way most would have expected. The Vikings used their solid home field advantage and wore down the Ravens, a team that has been nothing if not inconsistent so far this season. The Vikings kept their momentum from last week, now officially claiming sole possession of first place in the NFC North, at least for the time being. For Baltimore, this was a fairly predictable defeat, but it pulls them still farther behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North, and teetering on the brink of a lost season. My pick: Accurate

Chicago 17, Carolina 3 - The Panthers are in trouble again. This was a missed opportunity to take control of the NFC South, and it revealed some weaknesses that could seriously come back to haunt them. It also exposed the fact that they are not an elite team, like they were two seasons ago, and that the issues that plagued them last year are continuing to plague them this season. As for the Bears, a solid win that must feel good for their fans, and keeps everyone excited about their bright young quarterback prospect, and the future that he may have with this team. My pick: Inaccurate

Jacksonville 27, Indianapolis 0 - This game was more or less what most people expected, although Jax shutting Indy out might have been a bit of a surprise. The Colts now officially look awful, every bit as bad - if not worse - than their lowly record of 2-5 suggests. They fall even farther behind everyone else in the AFC South, while the Jaguars continue to surprise many with their solid play. They continue to look like solid contenders, and possibly even contender to win this division outright. A great effort by them both on offense and on defense, as they continue to enjoy a very solid 2017 season thus far.  My pick: Accurate

New Orleans 26, Green Bay 17 - The Packers had to figure out if they could contend without Rodgers, but so far, the signs are just not encouraging. Their offense stagnated against Minnesota last week without him, and now this week, they dropped an important game at home against the red hot Saints, who have now won four straight, and are looking not only like a playoff contender, but like the best team in the NFC South. For a second straight week, the defense looked great for New Orleans, and the Packers just could not keep up. A huge and important win for the Saints, and a bad loss for the Packers that edges them closer to irrelevance.  My pick: Accurate

Miami 31, N.Y. Jets 28  - A game that went more or less as expected, although it was a bit higher scoring than perhaps most people would have believed. These are two of the most inept teams in the league offensively, yet they both looked good in this one, with the Dolphins getting 30 points for the first time this season. And they needed it, as they stay in place in the AFC East, which they need if they hope to have any chance to win the division title, or even, most likely, to qualify for the playoffs. The Jets continue to exceed expectations, although once again, they are facing irrelevance.  My pick: Accurate

Buffalo 30, Tampa Bay 27 - The Bills needed to win this one, and they did. It was as tough a game as expected, because the Bucs are rapidly improving. Still, Buffalo is a tough place to play, even when the weather is still relatively mild. Tamp Bay played well, and looked capable of winning, but in the end, the Bills came up with the goods to keep up with New England and Miami in the AFC East race.  My pick: Accurate

Tennessee 12, Cleveland 9 (F/OT) - My pick here was accurate, although the Titans really struggled far more than expected. The Browns defense played surprisingly tough, although the offense still could not get anything going. Still, to force overtime and come close to winning against a decent team is not a bad Sunday afternoon's work, but Cleveland remains one of two winless teams in the league with this loss. In the meantime, the Titans may or may not have overlooked a weak opponent, although they nevertheless escape with a win that keeps them on track to contend for the division title and the playoffs.  My pick: Accurate

Dallas 40, San Francisco 10 - The Dallas Cowboys had not played especially well so far this season, and were in danger of falling too far behind the Eagles to remain in contention in the NFC East, if they kept losing. They absolutely needed to win this game, which is perhaps why they left no doubt. The Cowboys completely dominated the hapless 49ers, who once again looked inept and vulnerable on both offense and defense, after several weeks in a row where they looked more competitive. A solid win for Dallas that should help to get their season back on track. My pick: Accurate

Pittsburgh 29, Cincinnati 14 - This is another game that pretty much went the way most people figured it would. The Bengals stayed in it for a while, but the Steelers always seemed to hold the advantage, and in the end, they kept their mastery over the Bengals intact. Cincy was not able to win, and now find themselves almost hopelessly behind the Steelers in the AFC North race, and will have to try and get back into contention for a wildcard spot. For Pittsburgh, this was the necessary kind of win to go where they seem to be heading, which is to the playoffs in January as division champs, with at least one playoff home game to play.  My pick: Acciurate

Denver at L.A. Chargers 21, Denver 0 - I expected the Chargers to win, but shutting and blowing out the Broncos came as a bit of a surprise. Suddenly, Denver is in trouble, having dropped their second straight game, and now being just ahead of the surging Chargers and Raiders for second place. Los Angeles, in the meantime, is playing some hot football, and are on a roll. If they can keep on winning like this, they might start to look capable of replicating the feat of the 1992 San Diego Chargers, overcoming an 0-4 start on the season to qualify for the postseason. As for the Broncos, they just need a win again before this losing streak starts to grow out of control.  My pick: Accurate

Seattle 24, N.Y. Giants 7 - This game went pretty much as everyone expected it to. No offensive fireworks from either team, mostly a defensive struggle, with the end result being a decisive win by Seattle. The Giants might have earned their first win of the season last week, but they remain winless at home. But the Seahawks are a very tough team to try and earn your first win at home against. Unfortunately, the Giants did not come close, as they drop to 1-6. Seattle, in the meantime, is in a serious race with the Rams for supremacy in the NFC West.  My pick: Accurate

Sunday Night Football - New England 23, Atlanta 7 - No huge, epic collapse this time for the Falcons. Just a more typical game where they are worn down by a better, stronger opponent right from the start. New England dictated the tempo of this game early, and the end result was never really in doubt after that. The Pats got a trademark, convincing victory at home before a nationally televised audience, while right now, there are only question marks in Atlanta, as the Falcons drop a second straight game and are now at .500 more or less at midseason. They appear to be in trouble now, while the Patriots, once again, look like the toast of the AFC East.  My pick: Accurate

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Trevor Noah Nails the Casual Racism of Donald Trump & Millions of Americans

"In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist - we must be antiracist."

~ Angela Davis

There has been much debate and controversy about Donald Trump and his racist tendencies. 

Some argue, of course, that he is not racist at all. That he is fair, that indeed, both sides were to blame in Charlottesville, Virginia, just like President Trump suggested, even when white supremacists were clearly caught on tip bringing weapons and armor, gearing up for a fight. He himself would be quick to point out that he condemned both sides, including the racist side, although it took him long enough to criticize white nationalists by name that it made many of his fellow Republicans, and seemingly even prominent members of his own administration, very uncomfortable.

Yet, he is damn quick to condemn mostly black athletes who are peacefully protesting racial injustice in this country, calling them "sons of bitches" and loudly proclaiming that they should be fired!

Of course, many dismiss that, too, just like they dismiss, or in some cases very conveniently overlook, how he said Mexicans as rapists and criminals, or how he clearly targets and demonizes Muslims, and how he belittles women. In fact, there seems to be only one group that this pathetic excuse for a man, let alone our supposed "leader," is not quick to condemn, and that would be white males. Particularly those white males who agree with him and support him.

Still, many are not entirely convinced that he actually has racist tendencies, and they argue and contest and over-analyze everything. Perhaps because he is not outright calling blacks "niggers" or calling outright for all Mexicans and/or Muslims to be deported or doing straight arm salutes, that he is, in fact, just fine, and not really racist. And they get angry if anyone insinuates that he does indeed seem to have racist tendencies.

So let's take a look at what he actually said about, say, Mexicans, during the 2016 presidential campaign:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

This was the controversial quote, and many called it racist, although his supporters seem to feel that it is not. However, if you look at the quote, you would get the distinct impression that Mexican immigration is an evil plot by the higher ups in Mexico to get rid of their worst people, and bring them to the United States, like it is an official policy of the Mexican government. Also, that seems to imply that all the people from Mexico now living in the United States are indeed criminals and racists who are bringing drugs. And then, kind of passively, he suggests that maybe, some are actually okay, although he does not seem too sure about this. He sure seems to have no doubts that the vast majority of them do indeed fit those horrendous labels, that they are, for all intents and purposes, terrible people. As for his one concession that they are not all bad? Well, even then, he seems to be catering to a racist audience who, in fact, feel that Hispanics in general, and Mexicans in particular, indeed are all exactly how Trump has described them here. 

Now, more recently, I noticed a post from a former coworker and current Facebook friend, and apparently major Trump supporter, who kind of illustrated this kind of dishonest racism by an angry white man - and I would definitely suggest that he fits the bill of being an angry white man. In fact, his anger was kind of a running joke when we worked together, but these days, with Trump in power, I am not longer joking or laughing. His anger is what I find that is so wrong in this country, and his inability to pierce through the veneer of what Trump wants him and other supporters to see and believe, rather than to see Trump for what he clearly is (a con artist and a phony), is no laughing matter, as far as I am concerned.

Anyway, this guy posted this on Facebook:

"If we are removing "To kill (sic) a Mockingbird" due to the use of "N" word, how many rap albums are going with it?"

Now, aside from the fact that I personally am dead set against censorship and pulling books from the bookshelves of libraries (especially books like "To Kill a Mockingbird"), and also forgetting for a moment that the music which blacks listen to is no longer called rap, the fact of the matter is that this particular question is not all that perplexing. In "To Kill a Mockingbird," the novel portrays racism as something very much alive, and the "n word" is used by racist whites to degrade and dehumanize blacks, while when hip hop artists, or rap artists if you will, use that term, it is meant to take away the power of that poisoned word. It is meant to make it sort of a joke, and as such, it is a means to empower blacks who obviously would be offended by that word when it is indeed said by a white. 

Yet, people like this - like my friend and former coworker, would take exception - possibly violent exception - to being called racist. 

Late night comedian Trevor Noah, who himself has an interesting take on racism, having been born and raised in South Africa during the days when apartheid was still the law of the land, weighed in on this. I tried to find the video on Youtube so that I could place it here, but was unable to find it, and was unable to embed it here. However, I added the link to BBC Newsnight, where you can see the video clip (see the bottom of the page), and I also added quotes that show just how deeply he pierced this problem and pegged the casual racism that he sees as persistent in Trump's America:

"America is the kind of place where  someone can get more offended at you calling them a racist than at the fact that they are racist. And that's become like a new thing that I've stumbled across. They go, how dare you call me racist? And I go, well how dare you be racist. And that's the world that Donald Trump is in. People try and trap you into being afraid of saying what the person is doing, as opposed to them being afraid of acknowledging the world that they're living in."

~ Trevor Noah

Some Trump supporters really were not, and are not, racist. Sure, there are plenty of Trump supporters who clearly are, and are, as Bush recently said, emboldened in their racism and feel that they have an ally in Trump. But not all Trump supporters are racist.

However, all Trump supporters at least seem to be willing to give him a pass whenever he does seem to lean towards racist tendencies and behaviors that have many minorities in this country feeling decidedly uncomfortable and unwelcome. They were willing to overlook his racist attitudes and arguments, willing to overlook his sexism, and his overall crass and disgusting behavior and attitude. Not all Trump supporters are racist or sexist, but the ability of all Trump supporters to overlook these disturbing trends suggests that they also seem to dismiss any notion that racism and sexism are big problems in this country, and they refer to people who stand up against the president's racism and sexism as "snowflakes" or even question how American they are. 

And that is the problem. On many levels, I believe that Trump is worse than McCarthyism was, and made all the more extreme because most people indeed believe that we live in supposedly more enlightened times, when we really should know better (but apparently do not). 

One thing that Trump has reiterated time and time again is this notion that the whole world is laughing at the United States. They are laughing because, he suggests, we got a bad deal that we nonetheless signed up for the Paris Accord (as if this global accord was one big, elaborate scheme to screw the United States), and they are laughing at us because we signed a bad deal with Iran, and they are laughing at us if we do not stand up to North Korea (apparently, the most appropriate response is to threaten them with nuclear annihilation, because what can possibly go wrong?). 

Yes, Trump keeps telling his supporters, angrily, that the world does not respect the United States, and in fact, is laughing at us. And in fact, these days, that very well might be true, on some level. But it is not for the reasons that Trump supporters think. In fact, they are laughing at us because we elected a clown to represent us for the next four years. They are laughing because we believe him, even when he has an extensive history of being a con artist and a liar. They are laughing at us because we want to believe what we want to believe, collectively, instead of certain irrefutable truths that are right in front of us, yet somehow manage to be the best kept secrets in this country (such as that every other industrialized nation in the world has a far better and fairer - and cheaper - healthcare system than we do). They are laughing at us because we have become so addicted with patting ourselves on the back, that we will go to extraordinary lengths to fight anyone who wants people to look at the fact that we have serious problems to deal with, and not the fake problems that our fake president wants us to believe in. They are laughing at us because, by showing a willingness to elect a man like Donald Trump to represent us in the White House, we have shown a similarity to burying our head in the sand like an ostrich, and refusing to wake up and face the real world, preferring our own dream world. Indeed, Trump supporters are dreaming when they believe Trump to be the honorable and hugely successful man that they claim him to be. And if there are doubts about that, let me turn back to a quote taken from Paul Thomas of the New Zealand Herald that I have used fairly often here before, but which best sums up what the world truly thinks of President Donald Trump, and why there is such a disconnect between the rest of the world, and Americans who support him in strong enough numbers that he was entrusted with the highest office in the land:

“Trump personifies everything the rest of the world despises about America: casual racism, crass materialism, relentless self-aggrandizement, vulgarity on an epic scale. He is the Ugly American in excelsis.” 

Here are the articles that I used in writing this blog, particularly using their quotes:

The greatest threat to America? Republicans by Paul Thomas of the New Zealand Herald, 17 Jul, 2015:

Donald Trump’s false comments connecting Mexican immigrants and crime By Michelle Ye Hee Lee July 8, 2015:

To view the video:

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Two Former Presidents Criticized Trump on Thursday

The conduct of President Trump has obviously raised the ire of many people, although now, it has garnered criticism from two ex-presidents.

This past week, two former occupants of the White House got political again, and sounded off on how much things have deteriorated since Trump announced that he was running for president, and ultimately won the election.

Since then, of course, Trump has reached all sorts of new lows that the country, and indeed the world, has not seen in such a powerful leader for a long, long time. And this has generated criticism lately from George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the two previous men to have occupied the Oval Office before Trump got in.

It is not surprising at all that Obama criticized Trump. After all, he is a Democrat, while Trump is a Republican. Obama actively campaigned against Trump right to the end, and even though some cordial meetings took place between the men after the election, Trump has made all sorts of claims about Obama since, and has attacked and tried to dismantle his policies consistently since.

That Bush criticized Trump is a bit more surprising, although also not very surprising. After all, Trump seriously attacked Bush's brother, Jeb Bush, during the Republican primaries, singling him out specifically. He also was critical of George W. Bush in the past, including with the Iraq war, and Bush clearly never likes to be criticized for the invasion of Iraq. However, he laid some serious and heavy criticisms on the country as a whole in this age of Trump, and although again, he never mentioned Trump specifically by name, most people seem to understand that this was hardly a veiled attack on Trump and his style of leadership.

Let's take a closer look at what these two former presidents said earlier this week:

President Obama addressed a Democratic campaign event in Newark, New Jersey, on Thursday, and here is a summary of some of what he said:

 - Americans should "send a message to the world that we are rejecting a politics of division, we are rejecting a politics of fear".

"What we can't have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before that dates back centuries.

"Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That's folks looking 50 years back. It's the 21st Century, not the 19th Century. Come on!"

Later on in Richmond, Virginia, he reiterated many of these same points:

"We've got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonise people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage."

Obama also urged Democrats to ignore the polls. People laughed as he slowly said these words, clearly reminding people of what happened in the 2016 election:

"I don't know if y'all noticed, but you can't take any election for granted. I don't care what the polls say. I don't care what the pundits say."

In the meantime, these comments by Obama came hours after George W. Bush lashed out at many of the troubling trends that he sees within the country today. Here are some of the main points that generated a lot of headlines in his roughly 16-minute speech:

"Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.

"There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned - especially among the young." Americans, he said, have "seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty".

"At times it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together.

"We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America."

"We've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty ... Argument turns too easily into animosity." 

"It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on passing along civic ideals." 

"Bullying and prejudice in our public life ... provides permission for cruelty and bigotry." 

"The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them." 

While never mentioning Trump by name, Bush did criticize the growing presence of "bullying and prejudice" in America today. Most people took away that he was at least criticizing Trump to some degree, although his criticisms were not merely restricted to Trump.

It seems to me that President George W. Bush seems far better at being a former president than he ever was actually as president. These criticisms may be self-serving, as Trump obviously has had a feud with the Bush family now for some time, and really attacked Jeb Bush without pulling any punches during the Republican primaries last year.

That said, while I do not want to go too far with this whole Bush being anti-Trump thing, since Bush himself was rather guilty of some of the same things that he is criticizing America, and particularly Trump, for her, it nonetheless seems to me that Bush is right to criticize the conduct of a man who has other world leaders worried because he reminds them of Benito Mussolini in his conduct. 

Let me be clear: I did not agree with almost anything that President George W. Bush did or stood for while in office, and frankly, abhorred his policies. His environmental policies were overly self-serving and betrayed his clear cynicism of climate change, and the invasion of Iraq was outright immoral. Also, the intolerance that he seems to dislike and distrust in Trump was something that he himself was guilty of when he received significant opposition to his own policies. Plus, he was an elitist, with a typical elitist agenda, and advanced, rather than tried to scale back, the glaring inequality that has become such a huge problem in America today.

All that said, Bush seems mild by way of comparison to Donald Trump. It seems that there were at least some standards back then, and these seem completely absent these days. Trump represents an attitude where anything goes, and as such, he represents the ugly face (literally) of American excess and the worst attributes of American exceptionalism. Those are things that go beyond political differences, and so, on this one issue, I applaud Bush for taking a stand that is likely to draw criticism from his fellow Republicans.

Many people feel that Trump is a disaster for this country. I agree, although my take is a bit different than how most people feel, because I have long felt that a Donald Trump (that is to say, someone as polarizing, crude, arrogant, ignorant, and obnoxious as Trump) was inevitable. And I have said this before, but it bears repeating: Trump is, in many ways, the most fitting leader for the country today.

Whoa! How can I possibly say that, when I have completely trashed the man time and time and time again?

Well, because even though I do not like the man - and have not liked him since I first learned about him way back in the 1980's - he still symbolizes much that is true about America today. He built a fortune and for many, he is the very model of a success, of a man in action. Yet, his success was largely because of scams, of hurting others and ruthlessly using people's lives as mere opportunism to build his financial empire. These days, this is the reality of how the American economy works. He claims to be an expert at everything, and has a greatly exaggerated sense of self-worth and expertise, so that he feels he is at the center of everything, which itself is a reflection of the country that he comes from. He cynically claims to be the president for all Americans, a unifier, even while he clearly and shrewdly uses division to pit one group of people against others. He wears his patriotism loudly and proudly on his sleeve, while actually busily dismantling so much of what was indeed great about the country. he pretends to be a man of faith, even though his lifestyle, both in the past and in the present, contradicts this serious faith. In both patriotism and in religion, though, Trump embodies the nation that he now leads, because while these things are generally accepted and even required for politicians, most people do not even bother trying to live up to the ideals that either espouse.

As I have said many times before, Trump is a phony, a fraud. The ultimate con artist. Frankly, there seems to be nothing that is real or sincere about him. From the overly glitzy appearance of incredible wealth, only to find out that it is all gilded and phony, to his promises, which he regularly breaks (not that his supporters notice or seem to care), to his loudness and crass and classless behavior, to the need to have his name up high and lit up brightly above city skylines, to his obviously fake tan and positively bizarre hair, to his pretended values and respect, this man is a fraud and a master con artist. Quite probably, he is the greatest business con artist in world history.

Indeed, so much about the man is fake, including his very presidency. He pretends to have reverence for the country and it's institutions, but he has done everything to erode both the country and it's institutions.

So, is there anything real about Donald Trump?

Yes, there is. His addiction to greed and excess is all too real, as is his own overly high opinion and love of himself. His ability to con people, time and time again, is also very real. He was a master of doing it shrewdly throughout his life before the presidency, and he successfully managed to employ these same tactics to bilk millions of people from what would have been in their own best interests, and got them to support him, even while the policies that he is pursuing greatly - even exclusively - benefit wealthy people just like himself. And the damage that he is doing to the country, both domestically and with America's reputation around the world, also is all too real. Already, I fear that the Trump legacy will linger for many years to come, because people will not forget. Trump is a horrendous leader, but he was elected by the American people, even if he did not receive the majority of votes. After all, he is the man in charge now, isn't he?

And that, too, is quite fitting on so many levels, as well. 

The quotes used above were taken from these following sources:

Obama and Bush decry deep US divisions without naming Trump 20 October 2017

Obama slams state of US politics in 1st post-presidency campaign stops, calls for rejection of Charlottesville hate By JOHN VERHOVEK ALEXANDER MALLIN  Oct 20, 2017:

Commentary: George W. Bush's unmistakable takedown of Trumpism — and Trump by Aaron Blake, October 19, 2017:

Also, even though I did not actually get much of a chance to actually look at this article, the title and the source were intriguing enough that it seemed worth a look. It seems to me that indeed, the lowering of the bar by President George W. Bush allowed the bar to be lowered even further down with President Donald Trump. I have long felt this way, but this article at least suggests that I am not the only one who feels that President George W. Bush made President Donald J. Trump possible, and perhaps even inevitable. Take a look:

No Bush, No Trump Our previous Republican president fails to own up to his responsibility for our current one.  By Reihan Salam, October 20, 2017:

Friday, October 20, 2017

Today is the National Day on Writing

Yes, it is another holiday that is not especially well known.

This one is the National Day on Writing, which first took place in 2009 and then was celebrated again in 2010. 

It was established by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), with the hopes of increasing recognition for the role of writing in our everyday lives. 

Here is some more information on this day, according to the Wikipedia article on this topic:

Established by NCTE, the National Gallery and the National Day 

1. highlight the remarkable variety of writing we engage in today; 

2. provide a collection for research on whether writing today has risen to new highs or sunk to new lows; and 

3. help us help others to write better.

NFL 2017-18 Week 7 Preview

This weekend features some good games, although none are quite as enticing as the early anticipated Super Bowl rematch between the Falcons and the Patriots. No, New England does not look as good as they perhaps usually do, but don't they often just barely win, yet still do it enough to be a major factor come playoff time? And the Falcons did look dominant, until another huge collapse that underscored that team's issues with discipline and an apparent inability to keep a big lead ushered in still yet more questions and doubts about how good they are, and how apparently little they learned from last year's Super Bowl collapse.

Let's take a closer look at the week 7 match-ups to take place:

Arizona at L.A. Rams - The Cardinals are not the team that I expected them to be at this point. But then again, neither are the Rams. In fact, it seems that these two teams could have exchanged the types of seasons each has gone through, and it would make more sense. And yet, all of that can change if Arizona pulls of what would be a huge victory in Los Angeles this weekend. One win on the road against the Rams, and the Cardinals would be right back in the race for the NFC West title. But a loss, on the other hand, and they are well behind not one, but two teams, and with history not being especially kind to them. The Rams offense has looked incredible to this point, and Arizona's defense will have their hands full. I keep expecting the Rams to lose, and they keep winning. So, this weekend, I will go with the smart money, and predict the home team to produce a big, possibly season defining, win, and solidly establish themselves as a serious playoff contender. My pick: L.A. Rams

Baltimore at Minnesota - The two purple and gold teams square off against one another in a relatively rare meeting here. The Ravens have not shown any real consistency this year, and have looked suspect. The Vikings, in the meantime, have to be feeling good about their chances all of a sudden, with a huge victory against Green Bay, and the Packers loss of their best player, Aaron Rodgers. My guess, they should be extremely fired up, and playing at home, they will likely be a bit too much for the mostly unpredictable, but somewhat disappointing, Baltimore Ravens. My pick: Minnesota 

Carolina at Chicago - The Panthers missed an opportunity to take a solid lead in the NFC South last weekend, although they lucked out when the Falcons blew a big lead. Still, the Panthers will travel to Soldier Field to take on a suddenly tough Chicago Bears. Indeed, Mitch Trubisky has injected new hope to this recently beleaguered franchise, and now, the Bears and their faithful fans are beginning to believe that special things can and will happen for them. This should be a tough, back and forth game, and Chicago fans will likely have reason to feel good. However, my expectations are that Carolina will find a way to win this one in the end. My pick: Carolina

Jacksonville at Indianapolis - Most people might have thought that this would be a battle between two teams fighting not to be in last place by this point. And in a sense, perhaps, it is. But Jax has been playing surprisingly well to date, and they have every reason to believe that this can be a breakout kind of season. They have taken several teams by surprise, and they really do look good. The Colts, by contrast, look bad, and are in danger of falling into complete irrelevance. My suspicion is that they will, that their season is already over. My pick: Jacksonville

New Orleans at Green Bay - The Packers now have to figure out how to remain competitive without Aaron Rodgers at the helm, but history has not been kind to them when they had to adjust without him. They tried it in the past, but only really started winning consistently with Rodgers back in the lineup. And they did not look good without him against Minnesota last weekend, either. But they do have home field advantage, although the Saints are looking hot right now. This is a tough game, and I can see it going either way. But New Orleans will likely put some points on the board, and I am suspicious about the Packers ability to match them without Rodgers. My pick: New Orleans

N.Y. Jets at Miami - A big divisional showdown between the surprising Jets and the Dolphins, who just might have saved their season with that awesome comeback in Atlanta, which is a tough place to play. Suddenly, the Fins should be feeling quite good about themselves, and this is their chance to solidly get right back into the AFC East race, and push the Jets farther back in the process. With home field advantage and a ton of momentum, it is hard to go against the Dolphins here. My pick: Miami

Tampa Bay at Buffalo - The Bills need to win this one to keep up in the tight AFC East race, as well. They will take on Tampa Bay, in another unusual match-up between unfamiliar opponents. Tampa Bay is a good team on the rise, but the Bills are one of the toughest defenses out there, at least so far. Plus, they have home field advantage, they are well rested, and they must have that sense of urgency, because they absolutely need to win this to keep up in the very tight AFC East race. The Bucs are improving, sure, but the Bills up in Buffalo should be a bit too much for them this weekend. My pick: Buffalo 

Tennessee at Cleveland - A few years ago, the Titans were at home and held a 25-point lead, and somehow squandered it. The Browns pulled off the biggest comeback history for any road team in NFL history, which is just about the only truly significant positive that this franchise has enjoyed in recent years. But the Titans are not the same team, and even though they are on the road, you have to think that they should be favored against a Cleveland squad that has truly looked horrible this season. Right now, it is difficult to see the Browns turning this around to salvage anything really for this season. And it is hard to see how they can really get the better of the Titans in this contest. My pick: Tennessee

Dallas at San Francisco - Wow! Remember when this was the rivalry in sports, back in the 1990's? Well, times have changed, as these two teams have combined this season for a 2-9 record to date. And those two wins were both by the Cowboys, who still have playoff hopes, although they have fallen far behind Philadelphia in the race for the NFC East title. Who could have predicted Dallas looking this mediocre so far? As for San Francisco, they have been more competitive than their 0-6 record would suggest, and they do have home field advantage in this one. But Dallas comes in well rested, and with a sense of urgency, because they need to get things done. They need to win this one, to do those things that everyone expected them to do this season. My guess is that they will. My pick: Dallas

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh - The Bengals have finally showed some signs of life, and seem to be back in this season. But this division, the AFC North, has been incredibly consistent and predictable. In other words, it has been boring. Believe me, I hope to be wrong with this pick, because every now and then, you want to see the Yankees not go to the World Series, let alone win, and you want to see the Steelers not dominate this division quite as often as they do. And Pittsburgh has been especially dominant against the Bengals. But unfortunately, that is likely to continue with this game. My pick: Pittsburgh

Denver at L.A. Chargers - Frankly, both of these teams are hard to figure out. The Chargers looked like they were going to suffer through another disastrous kind of a season, finding new and interesting ways to lose, much like they did all season last year. However, they suddenly seemed to find a way to win, with some big help from the Giants both times. First, the Giants lost to the Chargers last minute, allowing L.A. to earn their first win of the year. The, the Giants themselves earned their first win last week in Denver, which also helped the Chargers out again, as that team won a second straight game, beating the Raiders in Oakland. Now, incredibly, the Chargers have a real opportunity to pull ahead of the Broncos and keep up with the Raiders by winning this game, while pulling within a couple of games of the suddenly reeling Chiefs. That's quite incredible, considering that this team was 0-4 just two weeks ago! And you know what? I think that they are going to do it, to boot! My pick: L.A. Chargers
Seattle at N.Y. Giants - The Giants finally earned their first win of the season last week, shocking the Broncos in Denver to do it. That was unexpected, but can they really beat a well-rested Seahawks when that team comes to town? The Giants have home field advantage, but so far this season, that has not been any kind of advantage, as the Giants are still winless at home. The Seahawks still make mistakes, and are not quite what they were a few short years ago. Still, although I wish I did not have to say this, they should be better than the Giants, and should do enough to secure this win. My pick: Seattle

Sunday Night Football - Atlanta at New England - The hugely anticipated rematch of last year's Super Bowl is finally here! The Falcons somehow blew that 28-3 lead and lost a Super Bowl that they seemed to have in the bag. Perhaps it is difficult not to take something like that personally. However, you have to wonder how much Atlanta actually learned from that loss, as they suffered yet another hugely disappointing loss after holding a big lead just last week. They took a solid lead, only to find a way to squander it and lose again. Had they won, they would have finally been alone atop the NFC South ratings. Instead, all they had were more questions and criticisms about being very talented but undisciplined, and lacking the common sense to run the ball and eat the clock up as much as possible when they have a big lead. That likely would have won the game for them last week, and it surely would have won the Super Bowl for them nine months ago - and it would have been this franchise's first and only Super Bowl championship. Now, they go up to Foxboro to take on the Patriots again, although New England has hardly looked like they normal, dominant selves, either. For some reason, the Pats have seemed particularly vulnerable at home, as that is where their only two losses thus far have come. That should be encouraging for the Falcons, although I am still a bit skeptical that they can find a way to win this one. Too much emotional baggage and, frankly, too undisciplined. My pick: New England 

Monday Night Football - Washington at Philadelphia - Philadelphia has sprinted out to a hot start, and that is what makes this game so huge! Because if the Eagles manage to win here, they will take the NFC East by the throat, and will appear to have the early momentum for a possible run at home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Of course, the season is still fairly young, but Washington needs to find a way to win this if they realistically want any chance at actually winning this division. But Philly looks good, they have home field advantage and a ton of momentum, and I suspect that they will follow through with a tough win, essentially outlasting Washington more than anything else. My pick: Philadelphia

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Honoring Diwali

Today, it is Diwali in India. Not many people know much about this holiday here in the West, perhaps particularly in the United States. However, it certainly seemed worth posting about the Hindu holiday known as Diwali, which is a celebration of the triumph of light over darkness, and of enlightenment over ignorance.

Like Channukah for Jews, Diwali is a festival of lights for Hindus. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is honored, as are the legends of Rama and Sita.

In celebration, people will decorate their homes and public spaces with lights and color, and fireworks normally are set off at night for the celebrations.

I was personally unfamiliar with this tradition, but found the following link useful and informative. Hopefully, if you are also unfamiliar, you might find this link useful, too:

Diwali 2015: The festival of lights, in pictures:

Behind Enemy Lines - Eternal Flame Lecture with Marthe Cohn at Pascack Valley High School on Monday October 19th, 2015

This particular blog entry was long overdue. Somehow, it got lost somewhere along the line, as a blog entry that I wanted to post, yet one that never did actually get posted.

It was not two years ago today that I attended this lecture by Marthe Cohn, a former French spy during the German occupation. And for some reason, despite never having actually published this blog entry, I thought I had.

So, let me remedy that now.

Marthe Cohn co-wrote “Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany.” in 2006 with writer Wendy Holden. It is a true account of her own experiences as a Jewish spy in occupied France during World War II.

And on this evening two years ago, she spoke about her experiences before a packed audience at Pascack Valley High School. It was so crowded, that there was no parking (I got lucky with someone pulling out not long after I arrived). When I got inside, there were no seats, so I stood in the back and listened.

This is an incredible woman, and her story should have become more generally well known a long, long time ago!

At great risk to herself, particularly since she was a Jew in Europe while the Nazis were still in power, she served as a spy and reported on German troop strength to the Allied forces. As the Germans were in retreat, she crawled under barbed wire and across a field to gain critical information about the German military, and then crawled back. 

In fact, she did it several times, doing her part to help the Allied cause, and beat back the Nazis and their persecution of Jews across occupied Europe. She spoke German fluently, which helped. 

Cohn did receive some distinctions for her valuable service. She was given the Croix de Guerre in 1945. Yet, her story only became more well-known in 1999, when she received the Medaille Militaire from the French government, which is a particularly prestigious, and relatively rare, distinction. That was when she decided to go ahead and tell her story, which she had not even fully shared with either her children or grandchildren. 

She explains:

“After the war nobody wanted to talk about it. People wanted to live and see the future and not talk about war.”

But receiving the Medaille Militaire put her story very much in the public. She started receiving invitations for speaking engagements, which was new. And in 2006, of course, came the book. Now, her story is starting to be much better understood and known. Cohn continues:

“Receiving the medal resulted in much publicity and I was invited to give talks about my life. Until then I didn’t speak about it. The memory of what happened in the past is very important to the future. Most people, especially young people, don’t know what happened more than 70 years ago."

Below is the article that I used for both quotes used in this blog, as well as a general refresher on the subject matter:

Holocaust Survivor to visit Spokane in June by Judith Spitzer For The Spokesman-Review,  June 11, 2017: