Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year Ball Rising

When my son and I went to the city the other day, we not only enjoyed the Christmas Tree and holiday lights at Rockefeller Center, but also the extremely bright lights of Times Square. He sounded excited when I told him that tomorrow (this was the night before New Year's Eve), this very famous place would be filled up to the brim, and that all eyes would be cast upwards, to watch the ball coming down.

As we were there, they actually lifted the ball up, which was unique and cool! I told him that his mom and I had been there to see the ball drop once, back in the year 2000. This was another thing that he seemed to get excited about. Now, here we were, watching them raise the ball up.

So, I took a video, and thought it worth sharing. Thought that this was perhaps a hopeful sign.


Book Review: Case Closed by Gerald Posner


When I learned that my flight plans for the big western trip that my son and I were taking over the summer had been changed by the airline, and that we would be spending almost 24 hours in the Dallas/Fort Worth area (instead of the three or four hours that we originally were supposed to be there for), there was one place above all others that stood out as a must see destination while down in Dallas. That would be Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy was assassinated more than half a century ago now. 

In the confusing aftermath of the event itself, Americans generally believed that the assassination was part of some larger, secretive plot. The official Warren Commission report did little to alleviate the doubts, and the conspiracy theories grew. Jim Garrison's investigations initially re-energized the conspiracy theorists, although his mishandling ultimately compromised them. Still, they did not go away, and when the Zapruder film was finally released to the public in March of 1975, the doubts about the official version grew, as did the various alternative theories. Shortly after that, it was discovered that the CIA withheld assassination plots against Cuba's Fidel Castro from President Kennedy and even CIA commissioner Allen Dulles, and this fanned the flames still more. Another official government investigation, the House Committee, investigated the assassination again, and at first, it agreed with the Warren Commission report. But then, with the addition of audio tapes purported to have been from the assassination brought into the mix, the House Committee changed it's mind, and suggested that a conspiracy was likely. An official government body suggesting such a thing confirmed the worst suspicions of conspiracy theorists, and these took off, even though some of them went far, far beyond reasonable doubts about the official version. Some of these theories were downright crazy. Then, in the early 1990's, Oliver Stone released his movie, JFK, about the assassination and his belief that it was a conspiracy, and the doubts multiplied even more. They have never gone away, either. 

Knowing this in advance, I brought the one book that looked especially appealing about this singular event. It was Gerald Posner's "Case Closed."

Yes, I brought it with me, and right after landing at Love Field Airport (the same airport that the John F. Kennedy landed at, and which his body was flown out of a few hours later, as well as where Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office to become the new president), my son and I took the rental car, and the first place that we headed was to Dealey Plaza. I wanted to see it, badly.

It was smaller than I thought, and my impressions have already been posted here in an earlier blog entry during the summer.

However, one thing that I did was bring my book there, and started reading it, right there at the controversial site that was the center of all of that controversy. Indeed, fittingly, Dealey Plaza almost feels like a sacred burial site of sorts. Everyone who's there knows what happened, understands the significance of it, and shows a certain measure of proper respect (a rarity these days). 

I mentioned how taken I was a few years ago by the whole chapter in history of the Kennedy assassination, and the surrounding controversies that ensued from it.

Some of the lingering questions that persist, to me include the following:

 - the movement of Kennedy in response to the kill shot. 

 - the mysterious (or non-mysterious, according to Posner) deaths of people associated with the case, which 

- the files that remained closed to the public, and which secretive government agencies go to extraordinary lengths to keep from the public eye.

Why so many of the files pertaining to the assassination remained so secret for so long, and why some still have yet to be released to the public. If there is any one thing that has, if anything, added constant fuel to the fire and kept the controversies alive, it is this reluctance to fully release the documents regarding this case. Keeping them locked up for decades and decades, until the thing hardly matters, was probably the idea. However, the Kennedy assassination has taken on a life of it's own, and despite the fact that most Americans were not even born yet when it actually happened (and that includes yours truly), there still remains this kind of morbid fascination with the whole event that is not about to go away soon.

Indeed, Posner recognizes this much, and quotes Professor Josiah Thompson about this, as Thompson likened the entire event - and particularly it's aftermath - as sort of "a religious event":

"There is a fantastic way in which the assassination becomes a religious event. There are relics and scriptures and even a holy scene—the killing ground. People make pilgrimmages to it." (p.413)

Yes, the assassination has taken a life of it's own, and that is an understatement. Indeed, there are almost religious overtones surrounding this event, as in many respects, it seemed to usher in a dark, new reality in the country, and indeed the world. What had existed before came to an end, and what has come to be the reality since has never fully been pinned down. But there is a sense by many that there are forces that control every event in this world, and that these powers that be rule over us secretly. They orchestrate everything, and this seems to have really come out in full force following the assassination of Kennedy. Surely, this thinking goes, the world could not have been shaken so dramatically just because of one crazed man, one lone gunman, right?

Well, indeed, sometimes it is extremely hard to believe. Difficult to the point that the doubts begin to creep up once again. The fact that he was basically a nobody, but somehow managed to take down the most powerful man in the world, adds still more mystery to the whole thing, and heaps still more skepticism from those who reject the official verdict of the Warren Commission. Indeed, with so many strange coincidences surrounding the assassination, and with such a seemingly small chance of this guy actually succeeding in actually killing the president, it really is no wonder that a majority of Americans have consistently not believed the official account of how the assassination took place. 

And yet, the arguments that Posner and others who believe that it was Oswald, and Oswald alone - behind this assassination are hard to refute. When you examine Oswald's life and history of violence, and take into consideration the facts of where he was and what he did in the lead-up to the assassination, and then take into consideration how some men just below the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository heard the bullets falling to the ground, and how Oswald, a political animal, did not even stick around by the site of the assassination of the president just moments after the event, and his shooting a police officer and physically resisting arrest, it becomes very difficult to at least not believe that he was most certainly involved in the killing of the president. Then, when you look at the fact that he was, indeed, a loner who was generally, largely friendless, and how nobody seems to have proven any concrete links to Oswald actually being some secret agent within the government, then the prospect that he was, indeed, the lone assassin - however improbable it might seem - starts to feel a lot more plausible.

“Lee Harvey Oswald wanted his name to go down in history and he got his wish. Sometimes it seems that before all America knew those five nerdish syllables nothing could go wrong for us, while in the years since Thanksgiving time, 1963, nothing has gone quite right. This may be illusion conditioned by age, but surely there is something to it. Looking back, we seemed then to stand at noon. After the fall of John Kennedy in Dealey Plaza the shadows kept lengthening.”
(The Loser’s Loser by Robert Stone JUNE 22, 1995 ISSUE Review of Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery by Norman Mailer - http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1995/06/22/the-losers-loser/)

That last description was probably the most poignant quote on this whole event, because it really hit the mark. For me, and others who were not yet born to witness the Kennedy assassination, let alone the "golden age" of America that had come before it, this singular event - literally, the death of the handsome, witty, glamorous, idealistic young president that seemed to represent the country itself at the pinnacle of it's success - marked the definite end of an era. Up to that point, it felt like the country could do no wrong, that it was far and away the envy of the world in almost every respect. But the assassination was the turning point, and ever since, the country seems to have been sinking ever downward, and the standards just keep lowering and lowering. As if to both illustrate and underscore this point, look at the two major party nominees for the highest office in the land during this past election for proof of just how far this nation's standards have sunk. The notion that either one would have had an icicle's chance in hell of being taken seriously, with their level of corruption and empty political rhetoric and insults to groups of millions of Americans with careless words. In many respects, the United States has become a laughing stock, and you get the impression that not only prominent political leaders, but the American people themselves, would not have stood for that in the glory days of FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. But with the assassination, and the skepticism and wild theories that followed, something seemed to have snapped from the previously well-oiled machine that this country had relied on and likely taken for granted. 

The fact of the matter is that, given just how much the assassination seemed to end the glory days, and to be a harbinger of things (and not good things) to come, it really is no wonder then that the assassination became such a source of controversy. Plus, there are just so many coincidences, that one cannot help but be uncomfortable committing either to some of the conspiracy theories (and some of them are really out there), nor to the official version. It feels like each interpretation has holes in it. It feels like this mystery will never be resolved, and that these lack of answers happen to coincide with the lack of answers about exactly what had gone wrong with our country, as well. 

Probably, that explains the morbid fascination that this event still holds over the country, and indeed, much of the world. This was a tragic loss for us, a life taken far too early, and of a man who seemed to most of us to hold some kind of potential for a brighter, more inspiring future. His untimely death not only shook the world, but ended what must have felt like a magical run for Americans. The country has clearly never been the same since, and that is clear even to those of us not yet born on November 22, 1963. 

That is why we continue to study this event, and to read about it. Truth is, I do not fully know what happened. Frankly, I am not certain anyone does. Even Gerald Posner, who has written this rather authoritative book on the subject, admits that it is reasonable for many to have their doubts about what happened on that day that changed American history forever.

Indeed, that is why we explore this particular chapter in history, over and over again. It is one of those singular events that just never seems to fully go away. People still view those six or so seconds on a late autumn day in Dallas as relevant to what has happened since, and to what still could happen. Many people feel that Oswald was not the one who really wanted Kennedy killed, although there are various theories as to who was behind it. In each case, there are powerful, ominous forces who were behind the assassination. Some of the most popular theories was that it was inside the government itself, whether Lyndon B. Johnson, or the CIA, or the FBI. Some believe that it was the Soviets, or the Cubans, or communists inside of the country. Some believe it was the mob. Some feel it was another group behind the killing.

And, of course, many feel that it was Lee Harvey Oswald - and Oswald alone - who was behind the killing.

We have been exploring this issue ever since, and even the staunchest supporters of the official version seem to admit to doubts. Norman Mailer wrote an entire book on the subject, and came into it skeptical that Oswald could have done it, but he reluctantly changed his mind, even though he still expressed some mild doubts. Stephen King claims to be 98 percent sure that it was Oswald acting alone, but that still leave a little room (admittedly, very little room) for doubt. Even Posner, the chief living advocate for the official Warren Commission version, has admitted that much about how the investigations were conducted were extremely flawed and only served to hasten the avalanche of skeptics. 

Visiting New York For the Holidays With My Son

Took my son to Rockefeller Center and Times Square last night!

He really enjoyed the lights of the Christmas Tree and the environs of Rockefeller Center, as well as Times Square last night! He also enjoyed the Minecraft style light up sword that he wanted, and which I got him, as well as the peanuts and pretzel. 

We even got to visit the 95 Theses exhibit at the Morgan Library, although that was obviously more for me than for him.

My son really enjoyed it, and expressed great enthusiasm for possible future visits to the big city!











RIP in 2016

We all know that 2016 has been a year where a lot of unfortunate, notable deaths took place. It started in January with David Bowie, but it never seemed to slow down, let alone stop.

I already did some RIP pieces here for some of these individuals, but let me take some time to honor these people now in a specific entry for this year of 2016 which, mercifully, is quickly coming to an end now. These were some of the deaths that really stood out for me, personally, although I am surely missing or forgetting some people. No disrespect intended. 


David Bowie - One of the most unique and talented musicians of our age. He is credited with fathering the modern pop scene. His creative musical career spanned many decades. 


Glen Frey - A member of the Eagles, as well as a successful act in his own right. He was an influential music beyond this, as well. 


George Martin - Often referred to as the "Fifth Beatle." He helped to perfect the music of the Beatles, and was a legendary producer. The Beatles would certainly not have been the same without him!


Prince - A legendary musician, with amazing skills on the guitar. A brilliant songwriter who created some of the most iconic songs of the past three decades. 


Harper Lee - Great writer who wrote 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' One of the most defining literary works of the latter half of the 20th century. 


Muhammad Ali - Three time world heavyweight champion. Activist, and one of the most influential and inspirational athletes in history. Willing to lose his title to take a stand against Vietnam.


Elie Wiesel - A Holocaust survivor, and Nobel Literature Prize winner. Wrote some unbelievable works, and was a great thinker and activist. 


Henry Heinrich - This man created the Heimlich Maneuver, which is still taught in First Aid classes, and has helped to save countless lives. 


Leonard Cohen - One of the most creative musicians, poets, and lyricists of the 20th century. Had some iconic, thought-provoking pieces. 


George Michael - He was half of the Wham! band that was big in the early eighties, but he took it to a new level with his solo career. Will likely forever be remembered for 'Faith," his biggest album.


Carrie Fisher - She played Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, and reprised her role for last year's "The Force Awakens." She was an advocate for mental health awareness. 


Debbie Reynolds - Carrie Fisher's daughter, who died the day after her daughter died. Best known as the actress/singer in "Singin' in the Rain."


John Glenn - American astronaut, the first to orbit the Earth. He also was a Congressman for the Democratic Party. Returned to space, becoming the oldest man ever to enter space. 

2016 is Finally Yielding to 2017

I wrote this last year at this time, and thought it would be good to post it again, only with some thoughts following this past year.

Of course, 2016 was a tumultuous, and very, very bizarre, year. Think of what the world seemed like in the beginning (and it was already weird), and how it feels now.  There were a bunch of celebrity deaths, and there was one celebrity who, rather undeservedly, rose to the highest office in the United States. There was also Brexit, and plenty of destablizing conflicts around the world. 

Much of the news was depressing, and most of this year just felt weird, frankly. So, many people want to make a fresh start of 2017. At the bottom of this blog entry, there are some links with tips on how to keep your New Year's Resolutions.

Enjoy!


Here we are again. Out with the old, and in with the new. As John Lennon sings about in that song, it's "another year over, a new one just begun."

The arrival of 2015 was a welcome development for me last year. 2014 wound up being a very bad year, as it essentially began with my losing a part-time weekend job that paid very well, and where I felt comfortable. Perhaps I had gotten some sense of entitlement or a false sense of security, because after being there 11 years, it seemed that there would be no reason to remove me (or anyone else on the job) for any reason other than if something serious happened. However, all part-timers were removed, and I was out of a job, and feeling depressed and dejected. Plus, finding another part-time job that paid anywhere near what I was getting there proved exceedingly difficult - it still has not been found by any of those guys who lost their jobs then!

The result was that I felt down and went through the motions, largely, in 2014. Ran into some financial difficulties, and that made things worse, and even more depressing.

When the new year came, there was a determination to change things this year.

For the most part I did, although I can look back upon 2015 and see the mistakes made, and learn from them.

Now, with 2016 here, I am more determined than ever not just simply to go through the motions, nor to repeat the same mistakes, but to make a solid start, and not simply to hope to find the stability that I have been longing for, but to actively produce it.

That is my New Year's Resolution for 2016, if there is one. That, and perhaps one more that I began to feel determination to do in 2015, but have wavered in and out with, and that would be to stop to take time and be grateful for all of the blessings in my life. I felt more gratitude in that sense this year than any before, and it is a tonic that is not only refreshing, but I think good for a person in general. It helps to keep yourself, and your worries and ambitions, in check a little bit. So, that is one thing that I would like to not only continue in 2016, but strengthen.

If there are other goals, or perhaps resolutions, then they would be these: I want to continue to spend more quality time with my son, and I want to read more. This year has been probably the laziest reading year that I have had in many, many years, as I barely read over a dozen books. I do not believe that I averaged much more than one book per month, and that is something that should not be repeated in 2016.

Okay, I know that a lot of people are known for dropping their New Year's resolutions within a few days of the new year. Perhaps the may even make it a few weeks, tops. But too often, it ends there, whatever those resolutions might be. Perhaps it is a resolution to lose weight, eat healthier, or to stop swearing, or to do better in school. These are some common resolutions, and they are ones that I myself have had at some point or other, going all the way back to my years in high school - and that was a long time ago!

More often than not, resolutions go by the wayside, because people are people, and change is difficult.

However, I ran into a couple of links that provide some tips on how to keep your New Year's resolution, if you are interested.

Also, I wrote an article in the Guardian Liberty Voice (GLV) last year on the history of New Year's Day celebrations, a tradition that actually dates back some 4,000 years ago. This was the last article that I wrote and published for the GLV for 2014, and it took a considerable amount of research. But I felt proud once it was done, and happy when it was published fairly quickly after I submitted it. It was a fascinating and revealing article to write, and I hope everyone will take a look by clicking on the link below:

http://guardianlv.com/2014/12/new-years-in-history/






How to fulfill your New Year's resolutions By Jacob deNobel, Times Staff Writer December 28, 2014:

http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/features/ph-cc-new-years-resolutions-20141228,0,5847777.story




Why 2015 might well be mankind’s happiest new year

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/12/why-2015-will-probably-be-the-best-year-in-human-history/




New Year’s Traditions and Facts: Do You Know How It’s Celebrated Around the World?

http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog/new-years-traditions-facts-around-the-world/

Michio Kaku Discusses How Our Universe Created Itself

This has been a fascinating topic of conversation lately. Not sure why it has been brought up, but it certainly causes your mind to think.

Just how did the Universe come into being? How could a bunch of nothing come together and simply explode, and from that, every known thing in this universe come to being afterwards?

For that matter, what came before the Universe?

What is outside of our Universe? Is there, as scientists suggest, literally nothing? And even so, is not nothing something? Or, if they are wrong, what if there are other universes? Why not billions of other universes, with ours neither being particularly unique or big, or even particularly noticeable in any major way? What if, just like we are like grains of sands within this world, and this planet is like a grain of sands in our galaxy, and our galaxy is a grain of sand within the universe, this universe is itself a grain of sand within a much larger system? 

All very fascinating questions. Here is a link that allows you to explore this topic a little more, by noted scientist Michio Kaku:

Can a Universe Create Itself Out of Nothing? Over a year ago  by Michio Kaku:

Canada May Surprise Many Americans

Here is yet another blog entry that I have been meaning to publish now for quite some time!

These are 25 facts that would likely surprise Americans about their neighbors to the north. Not sure why, because we Americans should know a hell of a lot more about Canadians (and the rest of the world more generally) than we tend to, honestly. They know a lot more about us then we do about them, but again, that fact also seems to generally be true about the rest of the world, as well. 

In any case, here is the link, if you want to be exposed to some things about Canada that, as an American, may surprise you:



25 Things That Surprise Americans About Canada November 14, 2016 by Justin Andress

Star Wars Little Known Facts

My somewhat traditional New Year's Eve blitz of blog entries right at the end continues.

This one is for any Star Wars fans, such as myself. These are 50 little known facts that may surprise you.

Here is the link to the article, and I will try to have a review of the latest film up here soon (hint: I was not all that thrilled with it):


50 Star Wars secrets that will blow your mind by Josh Hill1 year ag

Some Mostly Unknown Facts About ‘Three’s Company’

For any fans of Three's Company out there, this is a link for you!

When my brother and I were younger, we both used to watch this show rather addictively. Probably, we have each seen every episode of this series at least three or four times now.

Still, the show has plenty of fans remaining, and so this goes out for them:



28 Things You Need to Know About ‘Three’s Company’TV | December 7, 2016 | By Brian Delpozo

Jimmy Carter Will Be Only Former President Attending Trump's Inauguration Day

Thought that this was interesting, and showed both class and faith in government and democracy on the part of President Carter.


He certainly didn't vote for Donald Trump, but Jimmy Carter says that he'll be there for Inauguration Day  Rare JILL VEJNOSKA Dec 5th 2016 9:27AM

Bernie Sanders Our Revolution Book Event




I heard about this event only a few weeks before it took place. It was not surprising to me that Bernie Sanders would write a book, following his hugely successful presidential campaign that energized so many millions of Americans, and provided some real hope for a better future there for a while.

So, I had kind of figured that he would come around with a book and, hopefully, a book tour. Having missed any earlier campaigns (although I came close to attending one at my alma mater - Rutgers University), I really wanted to get a chance to see Bernie Sanders, and to continue to hear what he has to say.

Of course, a book tour allows both, as you get to at least see the candidate in person (and get your picture taken exclusively by a professional), and you get to read his book to learn more about him personally, and his ideas, of course.

As soon as I saw that he was coming, I wanted to go, to make it happen!

And so, I did, going straight from my night job to New York City, to Manhattan, where the event was to take place at the Barnes and Noble on 46th Street. The pre-signed books were supposed to be available at 9AM, but we were still on line well past 11AM (it might have been 11:30), and there were still long lines long after I had finally gotten inside and made my purchase. 

I also obtained a flier for other upcoming author events in Barnes & Noble stores in Manhattan. Among some of the other prominent names were Tony Bennett (same night across town), Simone Biles, Trevor Noah, Kathy Griffin, Sarah McLachlan (cd signing(, and Anne Rice. There was also an instruction sheet for how this particular event would run. The way that they did it seemed a little bizarre to me, as we had to arrive in the store to obtain our pre-signed book (only one per customer). It was supposed to be available at 9am, but it was closer to 11:30 or so when I finally got mine.   

In any case, we had to come back at around 7:30pm for our chance to actually meet the man. I live across the Hudson, in New Jersey, and was not about to go all the way back home, just to have to come back into the city during the peak of rush hour, so I had to stay in the city. Took advantage and visited the nearby New York Public Library and Bryant Park, which I had not visited in years! Went back after a few hours and waited it out on a long line, feeling colder and colder, despite how relatively mild it was out for mid-November in New York. But it was worth it. I had missed my opportunity to attend one of his rallies at my alma mater, Rutgers, months ago, and cursed myself for it. But perhaps it meant more now, after the election is finally over, and as the nation faces four years of Trump.









I noticed Jane Sanders here, and pointed her out to my neighbor on line, as we had been talking here and there a bit. What was also hard not to notice was the very angry looking police officer staring me down, as well, after looking very annoyed at everything going on around him. It was so completely unnecessary, but what can you do? He gave me a sardonic smile when I put my phone down and made it clear that I noticed him, too. Just cannot understand why he seemed so damn angry. Guess he was a Trump supporter. Would not surprise me. However, that was not my problem, and still is not a problem on my end, so why worry about it?









Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 - The Year in Review

The one word that keeps coming up in most people's descriptions of this year is this: weird.

Yes, it was a very weird year. Unusual. Strange. Unorthodox.

Frankly, most of us have never seen a year quite like it. It seemed that we kept receiving bad news, almost from the beginning, and going straight through the year. There were the strange and unfortunate election results that promised to bring radical changes to the countries that voted for them. There was the war in Syria, which seemed to get worse and worse, as the Syrian refugee crisis has now become the most serious humanitarian crisis since World War II. There was a developing situation in South Sudan which some are suggesting might be the biggest episode of ethnic cleansing since Rwanda back in 1994. There is a continued push for Israeli settlements in Palestinian lands, and now, there seems to be an attempt in the United States to punish any criticism of Israel, in keeping with other attacks on traditional American freedoms. There were terrorist attacks in several European countries. And, of course, there were the deaths of noted artists, from musicians to authors to actors and actresses.

So yes, 2016 was strange and, for the most part, unfortunate. That seems to be the general consensus, anyway. I even saw a cartoon that insinuated as much, with a man representing 2016 dousing everything with gas and setting it all on fire, then turning to another figure representing 2017 just standing there, with either no obvious reaction, or perhaps just too stunned to show any outward reaction.

That was the kind of year it was in the news. And many of us seemed to feel it, too. Indeed, this year felt like a bit too much for many, if not even most, of us.

We lost some tremendously talented and inspiring people, from David Bowie to Prince to Leonard Cohen to Muhammad Ali to Gordie Howe to Carrie Fischer to Debbie Reynolds to George Michael to Harper Lee to Alan Thicke and so many others. I will try to post something about the deaths later.  

And of course, the news around the world otherwise was not good, either. There was the terrorist attack at an airport in Brussels, another terrorist attack in Nice on France's national holiday, and the attack on an outdoor Christmas shopping market in Berlin. The war in Syria intensified, creating horrific scenes in Aleppo, a mass wave of immigration out of the country towards safe havens in other Middle Eastern countries and in Europe (as well as, to a much smaller degree, North America). The Russians have grown more involved in the war, and their air strikes coupled with the Assad regime's military power seems to have taken back much of Syrian territory from ISIS. 

The situation in South Sudan kept deteriorating, until the world was warned of yet another episode of genocide that seemed to be developing there. Many now feel that the situation has gotten so bad, that this country - the youngest country in the world right now, being only a few years old - is on the verge of a Rwanda style genocide. This in a country that was part of the whole Sudan crisis some years ago, when similar ethnic cleansing in Darfur sent shock waves around the world. Now, the situation in South Sudan itself is apparently much worse still. Much like with what happened in Rwanda back in 1994, the world still seems reluctant to act.

There were elections that sent shock waves throughout the world, too. The United Kingdom voted in favor of their Brexit, as the next few years shall see Britain now formally making an exit out of the European Union, and the reverberations from that were felt immediately, and will surely continue to be felt for years to come. Many businesses are looking to relocate out of London and into some other market that is still officially in a European Union member state. There seemed to be a sense of lingering, but mostly quiet, resentment towards the British from other European nations, as well as a sense of regret felt by millions of British people, who feel that their country leapt into this mistake too quickly and easily. 

Then, of course, there was the 2016 American election. Largely outside, supposed "fringe" candidates wound up doing better - much better - than expected. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz did very well on the Republican side, ousting more traditional, conventional candidates like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker and Marco Rubio and John Kasich. Bernie Sanders did extremely well on the Democratic side, taking well over 20 states against heavily favored Hillary Clinton, who showed her first signs of weaknesses during the primary. She asked for help, and received it (illegally) from the Democratic Party establishment. Perhaps the coup de grace on this election year was the irony that the stand pat party, the Republicans, allowed this shake up to go on, and saw Donald Trump's rise to prominence culminate with his being nominated as the Republican presidential candidate in the general election, while the Democrats, the party that is supposed to represent meaningful change, was too scared to allow this outside "threat" of a grassroots candidate like Bernie Sanders from possibly winning the nomination. And so, despite the official requirement that they were to stay neutral, the Democratic Party leadership, particularly Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, instead actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton, trying to discredit and undermine Bernie Sanders at every opportunity. Still, he almost won, although in the end, the unfair primary system that is publicly funded, but with very tight rules making it for official Democratic insiders, went in favor of Hillary Clinton. Then, she and her supporters boasted of a Democratic Party mandate that many, if not most, felt was illegitimate. 

All of this led to the general election, where at points, it seemed like Donald Trump was actively trying to sabotage his own campaign. He made headlines daily with some ridiculous things that he said and did, and it seemed that all this guy was about was generating headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yet, despite the incessant lies and abominable behavior, he was not the most disliked among the two. Fully two-thirds of Americans expressed both a dislike and distrust towards Hillary Clinton, although you would never know this if you listened to the Democrats, who uniformly pretended that the primary that she "won" was not somehow tainted. Few outside of staunch Democrats supported or voted for her with enthusiasm, as most of her votes seemed to be from people who, at best, viewed her with a lukewarm reception at best. More often, we heard the same kind of complains that we always do, about this being an election where we are forced to pick "the lesser of two evils." Many on the conservative side felt the same way, and there was, at some point, a considerable "Never Trump" movement. Some were even suggesting that another Republican should run in his place, and Kasich and Ryan kept being mentioned as possible suitors - even Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for the White House. 

Most likely, that was to be expected. At different points, Trump had insulted most Americans during his campaign. He claimed that Mexicans were rapists and criminals. He made a sweeping judgement of blacks, assuming that they all seemed to live in the ghetto, and asking them what they had to lose by voting for him. Of course, his being backed by white supremacists, as well as his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again!" made them nervous, as well. And he seemed to make a habit of offending women, portraying them as sexual objects time and time again. He wanted to hall all immigration by Muslims, and seemed to be favorable towards the idea of creating a mandatory national registry of Muslims. Plus, his tweets were often infantile and reflected an impulse to lash out at critics and foes, revealing that he never seemed able to rise above petty political and personal squabbling. All of this, coupled with the sense that he lacked the kind of self-control, dignity, and restraint that most other serious Presidential candidates tend to have, gave many millions of Americans the sense that he was a loose cannon on many levels. He became the butt of jokes both inside of the United States, as well as around the world.

Yet, despite all of the nonsense from the Donald Trump side, and his seemingly rapidly diminishing base of support, Hillary Clinton never was able to capitalize and take a huge, insurmountable lead. Of course, she was plagued by her own scandals, with everything from her poor handling of emails, to the rigging of the primaries, the meeting by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, with Attorney General Loretta Lynch while his wife was still actively under investigation, the whole controversy regarding Hillary's claims of coming under sniper fire in Bosnia (and then lying about lying about it, if that makes any sense), and her taking a question from Donna Brazile in preparation for a presidential debate against Trump, all of this cast Clinton under more clouds of suspicion by the American public, who viewed all of this with clear skepticism. Ultimately, FBI Director James Comey said that investigations into Hillary Clinton's email scandal were still active, even though months before, they had been closed, as it was determined that she had acted in a very irresponsible manner, but not in a criminal manner. Plus, she seemed to many to be too elitist in her own right, wrapped up as she was in Washington politics. For many, she was the ultimate Washington insider, and the help that she received during the primaries, as well as during the FBI investigation, seemed to cement this notion. Then, dismissing tens of millions of her fellow Americans for being a "basket of deplorables" allowed her to make controversial headlines of her own, and forced her and her campaign to squirm uncomfortably. It seemed to me to be the Democratic version of Mitt Romney's "47 percent" statement from the 2012 Presidential election. 

Then came the shock waves of the election itself, as Clinton, who still entered as a solid favorite to win, wound up losing the electoral college race. This, despite the fact that she won the popular vote convincingly - by some 2.7 million votes, according to the latest numbers. Many Americans were horrified and devastated - at least as much as many British were following the Brexit vote. And President-elect Trump wasted little time in assembling a cabinet that horrified many Americans, and those outside of America's borders. His closest adviser sympathized with white supremacists, and the team that he chose was filled with elite billionaires and climate change skeptics. Trump himself remained as reckless as ever, showing more concern with his Tweets when it came to Saturday Night Live's alleged unfair portrayal of him, while he himself undermined the importance of national security briefings.

More recently, in Italy, there was a vote on a referendum for constitutional changes that would bring Italy closer to the democracies of Western Europe. But the vote quickly became seen as a de facto referendum on not only conditions in Italy presently, but on the European Union itself, coming quickly on the heels of the Brexit vote. Some even called this the Italexit vote. And, naturally, the vote against these constitutional reforms was victorious, and some now believe that Italy could perhaps be the next nation to vote to leave the European Union.

Yet, nationalist movements seem to be on the rise throughout Europe. Austria had an election, as well, and it would have possibly put in place the most extreme right wing government and leader since World War II, although in the end, the Green Party candidate won. Still in the Netherlands, the Party for Freedom, led by nationalist Geert Wilders, is on the rise, largely on the popularity of their anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The Front National, led by Marine Lepen, also seems to be thriving, following the terrorist attacks, and President Francois Hollande's blathering and inept response to them. Nationalist movements seem to be on the rise in Germany and in Britain, as well, with other figures, such as Nigele Farage gaining popularity in Britain. 

Even in the world of sports, logic did not seem to prevail. We witnessed one of the most shocking upsets in all of sports when tiny Iceland, the World Cup's version of David, knocked off one of the Goliaths in this World Cup, beating England. That came on the heels of the Brexit vote. In the Super Bowl, the Carolina Panthers, who had dominated the entire season up to that point with a very elite 15-1 regular season record, got dominated themselves by the Denver Broncos, who's defense shook up NFL MVP Cam Newton throughout the game. In the NHL the Pittsburgh Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup. In the NBA, the defending champion Golden State Warriors dominated all season long, racing off to a North American professional sports record 24-0 start, and finished the regular season with a historical 73-9 record. But they fell behind three games to one in the Western Conference Finals to the Oklahoma City Thunder, before coming back to win it in seven. In the NBA Finals, the Warriors themselves went up three games to one, only to watch helplessly as the Cleveland Cavaliers came back to take the title, giving the city of Cleveland (often referred to as "Believeland") their first sports championship in 54 years! And Cleveland almost followed up on that when their baseball team, the Cleveland Indians, had a three games to one lead in the World Series, but wound up losing the next three to the Chicago Cubs, the team with the longest drought in professional North American sports history, as they had not won a championship in 108 years! But the Chicago Cubs won the World Series this year, and the city celebrated with the largest public gathering in American history to honor the team. It also was the seventh biggest public gathering in recorded world history. 

So, as you can see, 2016 was a memorable year, although not always for the right reasons. 

I just wanted to remember 2016, as well as to raise a glass in hopes of a better one to come in 2017!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

NFL 2016-17 Week 17 Preview

New Orleans at Atlanta  - The Falcons have a chance to win the game and lock up the second seed in the NFC playoffs, although they have to do it against the league's top-rated offense. Clearly, New Orleans was in the mood to play spoiler against Tampa Bay last week. While this game does not hold quite the same significance, the Saints could still deny Atlanta the second seed, as a Falcons loss coupled with a Seattle win would force the Falcons to host a Wild Card game next weekend, instead of getting the weekend off to rest. Still, Atlanta has been playing hot all season, and their offense is not too shabby, either. I predict that they get the job done in this particular contest. My pick: Atlanta


Baltimore at Cincinnati - A meaningless game now. The Ravens already lost the big game last week, and are now out of the playoffs for yet another season. Still, they would like to at least finish on a winning note, and with a winning record. So, expect them to play well against a hapless Bengals team that has disappointed time and again this season. Not a thrilling game, most likely, but one that the Ravens likely win for their home fans. My pick: Baltimore


Carolina at Tampa Bay  - Not quite meaningless, although the chances of Tampa Bay qualifying are so remote as to be essentially non-existent. Since this game could mean something for the Bucs, I suspect that they bounce back from their two previous disappointments in the last couple of weeks, and finish up strong by beating Carolina. Talk about disappointing seasons! The Panthers had a disastrous season, when many (including yours truly) expected much, much more from this team. My pick: Tampa Bay


Houston at Tennessee - Another meaningless game now. I thought this was going to be a huge, winner takes all showdown, but by virtue of Tennessee losing last weekend coupled with Houston winning and clinching the division, the Texans can now rest their starters, and Tennessee will likely play a statement game with their pride on the line. This will be the Titans playoff game, in effect, while the Texans rest up and get ready for the real playoffs. That gives Tennessee a decisive advantage. My pick: Tennessee


N.Y. Giants at Washington - This game will mean everything to Washington, and essentially nothing to the Giants. I suspect that the Giants might have their starters for at least part of the first half, although they will likely take them out by the time the second half kicks off. Why risk any injuries to key players? Also, Washington is determined to win this one, surely. So, it is hard to imagine the Giants winning this divisional road game, even if it would be nice to see them do it. Better to stay healthy for the playoffs. But that likely means a forgettable game this Sunday. My pick: Washington


Green Bay at Detroit  - Now this is the big game! A winner takes all showdown for the division title, with the loser likely missing out on the playoffs altogether. The Lions have home field advantage, and that could prove to be huge. After all, the Lions are 6-1 at home this season, and that one loss was by a single point against Tennessee. Plus, I would hate Detroit's chances if this game had to be played in frigid Lambeau Field, as their history there is especially bad. Green Bay, in the meantime, is 3-4 on the road, although they have been absolutely on fire in the last few weeks, winners of five straight. That makes this game very intriguing. History would suggest that the Packers will win, because they always seem to get the best of the Detroit Lions. Sooner or later, these things change, right? Still, I am not convinced that the Lions, who have a history in recent decades of choking in big games like this, will find a way to do it, although this year, they actually have, earning the moniker of "cardiac kids" for the 2016 season. This should be a really great game, but I cannot get past this feeling that the Packers will win. My pick: Green Bay


Jacksonville at Indianapolis - Neither of these teams are going to the playoffs, although both of these teams have played some incredibly impressive football games recently. The Colts are the better team, and they have home field advantage, so I would expect them to win. Still, Jax's win against Tennessee last weekend was mighty impressive, and a win here would obviously give them a boost for the offseason to come. But the Colts had playoff expectations, and want to close this season out in the strongest fashion possible, which a solid win would provide. My pick: Indianapolis


New England at Miami -  The Dolphins already clinched a spot in the postseason, and so they do not really need this game. Of course, the Patriots clinched the division, but they are looking to lock up the top seed in the AFC, so this does mean something to them. New England obviously knows how to win, and my suspicion is that they will notch another mark in the "W" column in this contest. My pick: New England


Chicago at Minnesota - Yet another meaningless game. These are the two bottom feeders in the NFC North. While the Vikings had a much more successful season, they also have to live with having gotten off to an impressive 5-0 start, only to watch the entire season fall apart for them thereafter. For Chicago, this was a miserable season as well, although expectations were not as high. Also, they have improved and played better as the season grew older. Not sure if that will be enough to win a road game in Minnesota, though. My pick: Minnesota


Buffalo at N.Y. Jets - The Bills enter this game without head coach Rex Ryan, after this franchise missed the playoffs for a record 17th consecutive season. Buffalo is disappointed, and the tough loss to Pittsburgh, with everything riding on it, seems to have burst their bubble. Frankly, I am not sure that they will be anywhere near their best, given the hectic nature of this week. The Jets, in the meantime, have suffered through a miserable season, and the lowest point surely had to be that 41-3 beating last week at the hands of their longtime division rival and tormentors, the New England Patriots. For the Jets, nothing will make this season memorable, although a win to finish out the year would be a solid way to end a very difficult and frustrating season. My pick: N.Y. Jets


Dallas at Philadelphia - The 'Boys will travel to Philly to face the Eagles, who managed a huge win against the Giants last week. Yes, the Eagles showed that they were not merely quitting on the year, and their fans will be fired up to aim for a big win to end the season against their most hated rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. As for Dallas, they really have nothing to gain by winning this one, and after Elliot was on ice for the second half of the season, they may indeed pull out their starters early, which gives the Eagles a very good chance to pull off a win here. My pick: Philadelphia


Cleveland at Pittsburgh - The Browns will try and notch their second victory of the season against a Steelers team that might just rest their starters. The Steelers have nothing to really benefit from winning this game, as they are pretty much locked in the third seed. So, this could be a real opportunity for Cleveland, although I suspect that maybe a first half start by the Steelers regulars, coupled with the ineptitude of the Browns, could ultimately result in another in a long line of Cleveland losses. But they played inspired to win against San Diego last week, and are playing a team with nothing to prove, giving them a chance to steal this one. My pick: Cleveland


Oakland at Denver - The Raiders hope to finally clinch the AFC West division title, while the Broncos want to end their season in a positive fashion, having already been knocked out of the playoff race. Denver will want to put on a good show for their disappointed home fans, but this game actually means quite a lot for the Raiders. There are questions as to how well they can even perform without Carr, but I suspect that they really, really want to win this game to get that division title and the playoff bye that comes with it. So, my suspicion is that they find a way to win on the road at Mile High. My pick: Oakland


Arizona at L.A. Rams - The Rams are terrible! They were 3-1 after a quarter of the season was done, and looked like legitimate playoff contenders. Since then? 1-10 and, most likely, about to be 1-11. Fans on the Los Angeles area might have been ecstatic to get their old team back, but the Rams quickly doused that enthusiasm with such a poor level of play. I mean, seriously! The 49ers are literally winless against the rest of the league, but they are 2-0 against the Rams. Yes, that's how bad LA is. As for the Cardinals, they went 13-3 last season, and made it all the way to the NFC Championship. Then, they made some moves in the offseason that some people felt put them as among the two or three elite teams with a legitimate chance at the Super Bowl. This season has been disastrous for them, although they are still far, far better than the Rams, and should be able to prove it fairly easily in this game. My pick: Arizona


Kansas City at San Diego - The Chiefs are still fighting for a possible AFC West title, which will come their way with a win and an Oakland loss. That is not an impossible scenario by any stretch of the imagination, as Oakland has a tough road game against last year's Super Bowl champs, while KC is playing a weak San Diego team. The Chargers found various ways to keep choking earlier in the season, and they appear to be returning to that now, as the season is winding down. KC probably comes in with serious intensity, and that should prove to be too much for the reeling Chargers. The Chiefs should win, although whether or not the AFC West title comes with it is not necessarily a guarantee. My pick: Kansas City 


Seattle at San Francisco - The 49ers finally snapped their 13-game losing streak, although they now have to finish off the season against the Seahawks. Still, Seattle is not the same team that we have gotten used to them being in recent seasons. That said, they should beat the 49ers, as they want to be prepared for the postseason, and also, still have a chance at that second seed. So, expect them to beat a San Francisco team that, I suspect, will try to put on a show and end on an up note for their home fans, following a disastrous season. It could go either way, but the Seahawks are the better team, and I expect them to show it in this game. My pick: Seattle

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Yesterday Marked the 25th Anniversary of Tour Featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, & Pearl Jam!





Sometimes, you turn around and look back, and it is stunning just how long ago some things in your life were. When something like that happens, you can hardly believe it. Where did the time go? The calendar may tell you that those memories were a very long time ago, even though it sometimes feels like it was not all that long ago. Sometimes, it feels like they just happened.

The article below was a little like that, harkening back to a day when the Red Hot Chili Peppers were already big (although not as big as they were to become). They had a tour, and two emerging bands - Pearl Jam and Nirvana - were the bands that supported them, opened for them. That tour started a quarter of a century ago yesterday - on December 27th, 1991.

When I think back to 25 years ago, it is like that. Obviously, I was younger - much younger. Also, I was still in high school. The Cold War had just ended. Two years before, several political revolutions in eastern Europe - mostly peaceful - had broken out of the long Soviet control that had been in effect in the post-war years. On the day that this tour started, the Soviet Union had just officially dissolved, and the last vestiges of the Cold War days ended. 

Yes, the world was a different place. Apartheid was still being dismantled in South Africa, although the pain of this change would last a while yet. Saddam Hussein had just been brought down on his knees during the first Gulf War, kicked out of Kuwait unceremoniously. And a presidential election was about to kick off, although at that time, incumbent George H.W. Bush was widely popular and considered a huge favorite to win re-election. By the time that the Democratic challenger was nominated, Bush would be a lot more vulnerable. As it turns out, that Democratic challenger would be Bill Clinton, and he would win two terms in the White House.

That was the backdrop for this mini tour, with these three bands playing some incredible shows, right on the even of when they were all about to explode in terms of popularity! This was made possible only because another great band that was about to explode in a similar manner, the Smashing Pumpkins, had to pull out. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were, at least at that point, the most established of the bands,and coming off their strongest album ever with Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Now, the early 1990's was a time when some great albums came out, including those be the other bands on this bill, with Pearl Jam's Ten and Nirvana's Nevermind. But Blood Sugar Sex Magik was one of the very best albums of that period, and still sounds fresh and unique today - a full quarter of a century later!

I have been to a lot of concerts, and have seen almost all of the bands involved with the tour. I have seen Pearl Jam numerous times, saw the Smashing Pumpkins a couple of times (as well as Zwan, which was comprised of a couple of members of the Smashing Pumpkins), seen the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and saw the surviving members of Nirvana perform with Paul McCartney (this makeshift band was called Sirvana).

Still, I regret to say that I did not go to any of these shows. But to have seen all of these bands back then, when they were at or nearing their peak, would have been something incredible! Frankly, it gives me a sense of awe just thinking about it, reflecting on how it must have been even all of these years later! What a bill!

Below is the link to the article about this mini tour with some of the standout, iconic bands of a truly great era!




Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, & Pearl Jam Started A Tour Together On This Day 25 Years Ago  posted by Dave Melamed on Tuesday December 27th, 2016:

A Short Rant on Our Low American Expectations & Self-Imposed Limitations

Just lately, something unusual and unexpected - but not unwelcome - happened.

On my Facebook page, a couple of my sentiments were shared by other people. 

This one was initially shared by one friend. Incredibly, 13 of her friends went ahead and shared it! The person who shared it has access to a much wider audience than I do.

So, it seemed like something worth sharing myself, since I was the one who wrote it initially, to begin with. Here is what I posted:

I'm tired of how easily convinced Americans are of their own limitations. We are indeed told that alternative energy options are not viable, even while other, much smaller nations are making it work, including Germany, the Netherlands, and even tiny Iceland, which somehow is beating superpower America in this regard! We are also told that a universal, affordable healthcare system that does not leave tens of millions behind is "pie in the sky" kind of dreaming, even though the United States stands as the ONLY industrialized nation that fails to provide it's citizens just such a system. Our schools are failing, and other countries lead in this regard, as well. College is free in numerous other countries, but here they are centers for mass profits for the elites, and sources of huge accumulation of debts for the little people trying to improve themselves. Other countries have significantly better benefits, including affordable child care and much longer paid vacation, and most European countries have far better public transportation systems, as well. In almost every meaningful field, we are either far behind or falling behind, and the so-called leadership keeps telling us that doing any serious improvements or investments to change all of this are not realistic, and Americans keep buying these silly arguments time and again! But the one thing that Americans repeatedly buy into are grandiose notions of being the "greatest country in the world" and listening to the President (pick the president, or the party that he belonged to) end speeches filled with half-truths or even outright deceit with the words "God Bless America." We need to stop being so damn stuck up, collectively, and realize that there is an entire world outside of our borders, with people actually, really living, and that we can learn something from them, instead of always assuming that they can learn better ways from us. If there is one thing that sometimes makes me feel ashamed to be an American, even more than Trump's victory or the ridiculous wars and foreign interference that we engage in, it is the collective arrogance of far too many millions of my fellow countrymen!



Now, the other commentary that was shared was one about Hillary Clinton, and how only mainstream Democrats seem to view her as some kind of a hero, and how they are also the only ones who cannot see what the vast majority of the country (two-thirds!) believed, which was that she was a corrupt Washington insider who had an extensive history illustrating how she could not be trusted. Originally, this was a comment that I made to someone's post, but that person liked this comment enough to share it on it's own, which was greatly appreciated, and was the first time anyone had done something like that, to my knowledge.


I borrowed this from Charbor Chronicles. Hehit (sic) the nail on the head about the DNC and Hillary Clinton. (Decmeber 23rd):

The only people who fail to realize how flawed Hillary Clinton was as a candidate are mainstream Democrats. They point to FBI director Comey, or to the Russians, or fake news sites, or to supporters of Bernie Sanders and/or Jill Stein. They claim that she was the most qualified candidate in history, and that only Republicans painted her as untrustworthy. But did the Russians force her to lie about coming under sniper fire in Bosnia? Did the Russians tell Bill Clinton to illegally meet Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an airport tarmac (possibly disrupting air traffic and inconveniencing thousands in the process) while Hillary was under active investigation? Did the Russians force Hillary to ask the Democratic establishment for help during the primaries, and did they also force the Democrats to comply in such an anti-democratic manner when they were supposed to remain neutral? Did the Russians force Clinton to hire Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as an "honorary" member of her campaign just mere hours after she was dismissed for failing to remain neutral and conducting a smear campaign against Bernie Sanders? Did they also force Donna Brazile to feed Hillary a question that she would later be given in the debate? All of those things, and much, much more, cast Hillary Clinton in a negative light. She had considerably more disapproval ratings than Trump, and she was distrusted by more Americans (a whopping 2/3's!). That's saying something, since almost nothing Trump says can be believed. She was the wrong pick for the Democrats, and the only ones who failed to see that, and who still fail to see it despite her loss, are the mainstream Democrats who put her in that position, rather undeservedly, to begin with.    



Then, I responded to someone's comment on this post, because he seemed to suggest that people being wary of voting for Hillary Clinton had ushered in a Trump presidency. I responded, and this response was shared, as well (again, I feel extremely flattered by it). This is what I said:

Borrowed this from Charbor, he nailed it on the head once again.

While I agree with the disappointment of seeing Trump win the presidency, I do not believe this automatically should translate to unconditional support for Hillary. Probably the major problem in American politics today is this: while politicians are increasingly, transparently bought off by corporations and promote their narrow interests at the expense of the American people, far too many of those people themselves are passionate and unconditional in their support of their favorite political party and their candidates for high office. When you get that kind of unconditional, and frankly, undeserved, support, we get very flawed candidates like Hillary Clinton. Her staunchest supporters were painting her as a hero, as the savior, and as the "most qualified presidential candidate in history." Those who were saying that, and making light of any and all accusations against her, obviously were not only not in touch with the vast majority of Americans who felt otherwise, but they actively, albeit inadvertently, pushed people away from her with these suggestions of greatness. She was a deeply flawed candidate, and only those unconditional supporters failed to see this. They also failed to see that this election was all about the outsiders, and by rigging the election in favor of her, they reinforced the notion of her being an all-powerful insider with access and friends in high places, as well as buttressing the arguments that she could not be trusted. For supporters of Bernie Sanders, like me, that was completely unacceptable and undemocratic, and eliminated any chance of her receiving my vote. We were told that this was not the time for a protest vote, although frankly, I am not convinced that there ever was a more urgent time for one. In every single election, we are told that same thing, "Now is not the time." At some point, we need a serious candidate who will actually work for the American people, particularly for the working class. When Democrats start to take their support for granted, as they clearly did this time, it does them no good, either. They need to be reminded that they are not all powerful, that they need to listen to the American people, and earn every vote. Frankly, the Hillary Clinton campaign failed miserably at that, even despite winning the popular vote by nearly three million people. She received generally luke warm support at best, and that is the problem. And again, clearly, she was part of the Washington insiders club that is the problem, with the big money that pours into their campaigns, and their de facto pro-corporate agenda. So, please don't blame Sanders or Stein supporters for Hillary's loss. That was her own doing, as well as those who lent her that kind of unconditional support. We need to be reminded that politicians are seeking public office, and are thus public servants, and not the other way around. Our job, as informed citizens, is to hold their feet to the fire, and mythologizing them, as Hillary supporters did in this election, obviously has not worked. 


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Dallas Defeats Detroit on MNF

It was a meaningless game, effectively, for Dallas. It meant everything to Detroit.

So, of course Detroit loses. What else do the Detroit Lions ever do, after all?

Going in, some thought it would be wise for Dallas to rest their starters. After the apparent injury to rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot, it might have reinforced this message that this is what would have been wisest.

But Dallas had all of their starters in, and as it turned out, they had themselves an incredible game. Rookie Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott had perhaps the best game of his young career. He completed 15 of 20 pass attempts for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Overall, Prescott earned a 152.7 passer rating for this game, which is as close to perfect as you can get. In a losing effort, Stafford completed 26 of 46 yards for 260 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception, although Stafford ran for one touchdown in the first half, when Detroit looked capable of pulling off what could have been a huge win for them. 

Yes, for a while there in the second quarter, the Lions looked good, and seemed to want the game more than the Dallas Cowboys did. Dallas kept scoring touchdowns, and Detroit just kept answering, and even took the initiative by taking a short-lived, 21-14 lead. At that point, it was entirely possible to see the Lions at least lock up a playoff spot, and putting themselves in position to at least contend for the number two seed, with a win over Green Bay, and a Falcons loss.

That, however, was as far as Detroit's hopes would go, as it all began to fall apart for them very shortly thereafter.

It began with a Dallas drive that culminated in a brilliant touchdown catch by Dez Bryant. He juggled the ball initially in the corner of the end zone with one hand - with a defender draped all over him, to boot, - before bringing it in for the score. That was Bryant's 7th touchdown catch of the season, a new Cowboys record, and it tied the game up for halftime.

It did not take too long for Dallas to take control with a dominant third quarter. It began with a Detroit mistake. Matthew Stafford, who has been enjoying a brilliant season, made one of his rare mistakes, but it was costly. He threw a bad interception, giving Dallas the ball and great field positioning. Not too much later, Ezekiel Elliot, the young running back phenom for Dallas who had some impressive runs last night, wound up running it in a for a second touchdown to give Dallas the 28-21 lead. 

Not long after that, after the Big D defense stopped the Lions suddenly sputtering offense, Prescott ran after faking a hand off to Elliot, and took the Detroit defense by surprise, picking up solid yardage. Another trick play shortly after that saw Prescott hand the ball to wide receiver Bryant, who then threw the ball to tight end Jason Witten in the end zone, providing Dallas with a 35-21 lead.

In the fourth quarter, another brilliant pass by Prescott was followed by another brilliant catch by Bryant gave Dallas a 42-21 lead. 

The Lions still were fighting to stay alive in this game, and with under five minutes, they were in position to score, and at least close the margin a bit. Dallas defensive lineman David Irving had other ideas, though, as he hit Stafford and stripped the ball very close to the end zone. The ball was recovered by the Cowboys, ending the threat, and also effectively ending any remaining suspense in the game.

So, the Cowboys move to 13-2 on the season, and tie a franchise record for wins in one season, tying the 1992 Dallas Cowboys, who finished with a 13-3 record. They would end up going to the Super Bowl, and beating the Buffalo Bills for the first of three titles in the 1990's, when this franchise won "Team of the Decade" honors. Dallas already had the top seed locked up going into this game against Detroit.

As for Detroit, this was a huge disappointment, and they now face a winner takes all showdown with the Green Bay Packers, although at least for the Lions, they will be hosting it. Still, a win in Dallas could have secured a playoff spot, although the loss puts them in position of missing out on the playoffs should they lose the game next week, if Washington also wins. By virtue of this loss, the Lions lost the ability to control their own destiny.