Monday, August 22, 2011

WHEN GREEN TURNS TO BLUE

The Oregon Ducks made it to the NCAA national championship football game last season, losing a close one 21-18 to the Auburn Tigers. The Ducks are ranked in the national Top 5 teams in all the preseason polls. So why do I find myself less excited than I should be? The season opener is about ten days away... the Ducks go to Arlington, Texas to play highly-ranked Louisiana State University in that huge stadium the Cowboys play in, it's an ESPN Game of the Week, etc.! What's not to be excited about?

I attended my first Ducks game at Autzen Stadium in 1977. For a few months out of every year since then, every week has involved a lot of anxious waiting around for Saturday afternoons or evenings to arrive. After baseball, my favorite thing to watch is college football, particularly if my Ducks are playing.

In recent years, the UO football program has scaled new heights. No longer one of the league doormats, Oregon now finds itself perennially in the nation's NCAA Football Top 25 polls. While this is great for recognition for the school and for the state of Oregon, with it comes other kinds of notoriety.

Just recently, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to enjoy watching my team without having a few twinges of guilt. As a relative newcomer to being a fan of a big-time football program (not just perennial Top 25, but getting to be more like perennial Top 10 now), I am also new to the intense media scrutiny the Ducks face, and to being a fan of a team whose players who get in trouble with the law (and whose methods of recruiting players are now coming into question to the point that possible penalties loom for the program).

It gets tiring reading about such ominous things in the paper every day.

It also brings about the realization (and an obvious thing that can sometimes be obscured by being a sports fan) that college should maybe be about learning and academics, and not so much about stud athletes.

I want my team to be the best in the country. It's what any fan wants for his team. I just want them to do it the right way.

Those things aside, my prediction for this season is a 10-2 regular season record, with losses to LSU in the opener and then to Stanford (at Stanford) during the regular season. That ought to be good enough for second place in the PAC-12 Conference and a very high-profile bowl game. But given the strength of Oregon's schedule, a 10-2 prediction could be optimistic.

Oregon has tough road games against the University of Seattle and the University of Arizona. The USC Trojans will be tough for the Ducks, although that contest is a home game for Oregon.

And the Ducks will face a tough challenge in their "Civil War" game with the Oregon State Beavers as always, but this year the game is in Eugene and the Beavers will likely find themselves outmanned.

Two or more losses will keep the Ducks out of the Bowl Championship Series, but they'll be very good, and highly entertaining to watch.

As long as their key players stay out of trouble, that is. No marijuana use in cars traveling 118 miles per hour, please.

And as long as the NCAA doesn't hand down any harsh penalties for recruiting violations... please, coach Chip Kelly! You and your staff need to stay on the up-and-up!

If the University of Oregon gets punished, it will get what it deserves. It's what usually happens when people push the envelope in such circumstances.

Did Oregon's coach Chip Kelly push the envelope too far? Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. We'll be finding out more about those things (and many others) during the coming year.





IT'S TIME TO STAND UP, MR. PRESIDENT!


(image from http://www.downstatenews.com/ )

http://articles.philly.com/2011-08-18/news/29900969_1_house-republicans-republican-congress-truman-approach


The above article contains the following, which I think is wonderful to read:


"And did you see what an ex-Bush White House adviser wrote online? Quoting Peter Wehner:

"If taxes cannot be raised under any circumstances, then we have veered from economic policy to religious catechism. There is something amiss when the political pressure in a party, any party, is so intense that it prevents a serious intellectual conversation from even taking place."
"If a former Karl Rove deputy can say those things, surely that is more than sufficient cover for you to go medieval on the GOP brand."

- Peter Wehner, former Bush aide and former Karl Rove deputy

Of course the "tea party" people will say because Wehner was an aide to Bush, he was an aide to one of the worst presidents in history so therefore his comments don't count for anything much... while at the same time they must be in love with the idea that Karl Rove is probably working 24/7 to help the GOP defeat Barack Obama at every turn.

I think Wehner is on to something here. Veering from economic policy to religious catechism, indeed. That leads to intransigence, and also leads to an inability to have serious intellectual conversations about matters which affect us all.

He's right, there is definitely something amiss.

Friday, August 19, 2011

THEY SHOULDN'T COUNT THEIR CHICKENS TOO SOON...

(image found at Squatlo Rants! blog)

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/g-o-p-house-majority-at-risk/

The conservatives can laugh at the Dems all they want, but they ignore us at their peril. All it will take to energize the Democratic base and get a whole lot of independents on board is for the GOP to nominate a far-right Republican. The contrast between Obama and someone who wants to trash just about every part of the current system will be stark.

BEWARE OF WOLVES IN SHEEPS' CLOTHING


http://www.democracynow.org/2011/8/17/ex_evangelical_denounces_michele_bachmann_calls

People are complex, and because that is so true, we can't be taking those with far-out religious ideologies for granted, particularly when they achieve high levels of prominence and run for public office. They can hide their real intent behind sound bites and platitudes.

While there may not be a lot of Christians in this country who are Reconstructionists in that they will openly say that's what they are, I submit that Reconstructionism is insidious... it is gradually finding its way into our nation's "mainstream" Christian culture as pastors and politicians who subscribe to its basic tenets gain more influence, then lead their flocks and followers. Inroads are being made toward theocracy, and we are fools if we don't sit up and pay attention.

Many who follow those pushing Reconstructionism are probably unaware of the extent to which their leaders want our country run by strict fundamentalist religion. I'm not sure if Michelle Bachmann would want public stonings, public executions for swearing, legalized slavery, and a society like that depicted in Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale", but you never know... she just might... and indicators suggest she may well have these ideals. If she is not an outright Reconstructionist, she is one highly influenced by Reconstructionists who has probably risen higher in the political food chain than any of her ilk before her.

Her supporters need to wake up, smell the coffee, realize what she is all about, and dump her like a hot potato. Her numbers would instantly drop to somewhere in the single digits. If they know what she is really about and they don't stop supporting her, scary times could be in store for our country sooner than we think.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A MARINER FAN's LAMENT

It has been another miserable season for the Seattle Mariners baseball club, at least at first glance. When one looks at the standings, they will see the M's in last place in the American League West Division with a record of 49-63.

But it hasn't really been all that bad a year, considering the team was 43-43 and nearly at the top of the division before embarking on a disastrous club-record 17-game losing streak. Since the losing streak ended? They have gone 6-3.

So, what happened during that horrific three weeks or so in July? Well... everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It was a combination of bad hitting, bad fielding, average-to-poor pitching, and bad luck. Some baseball statistician declared the odds of this year's Mariners losing 17 in a row would be about 10,000:1.

But it happened, and it caused the ball club to become "sellers" rather than "buyers" at the July 31 trading deadline. General Manager Jack Zduriencik made two deals. In the first one, he sent two decent to fairly-good pitchers, starter Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley to the Detroit Tigers. In exchange, Seattle got third base prospect Francisco Martinez (now playing for the Mariners' AA affiliate), Tigers' outfielder Casper Wells, and starter/reliever Charlie Furbush. There will also be a "player to be named later", whom we will know the identity of in a week or so, if not sooner; he will reportedly be one of the Tigers' top three draft picks from 2010.

Wells is now a regular in the Mariners lineup, and for now Furbush is in the starting rotation. Both have had good debuts for Seattle. Martinez is a work in progress, and the PTBNL (probably reliever Chance Ruffin, starting pitcher Drew Smyly or third baseman Nick Castellanos) will be a good player in time.

The second deal sent the frequently-injured starting pitcher Erik Bedard to the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox sent one prospect, outfield Chih-Hsien Chiang, to Seattle and two other prospects to the Los Angeles Dodgers. L.A. then sent Seattle outfielder Trayvon Robinson, who had been playing for their AAA team in Albequerque. Chiang is with the Mariners' AA affiliate and already playing well, and Robinson is with the Mariners and hit his first major league home run last night in his second major league game (in his first game, he made a spectacular catch in left field).

The Mariners are definitely better than they were in 2010, but they still have a long ways to go. What will happen next?

For the rest of this season, they will use a starting rotation of Felix Hernandez, rookie Michael Pineda, rookie Blake Beavan, rookie Furbush, and veteran Jason Vargas. In September when it is time to expand major league rosters and call up some players from the minors, a few more of their young starting pitchers will probably get a look. Pineda has had a great rookie season, and Beavan is off to a great start. Furbush looks like he could be pretty useful as well. Vargas is probably destined to be about average as a major league starting pitcher... but all in all, given that they have some very good young arms in the minors in Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker (to name a few), when it comes to starters they look pretty well loaded.

In the bullpen, Brandon League will probably continue as the closer. He was pressed into the job when last year's closer David Aardsma had a couple of surgeries that put him out for the season. Aside from an ugly four-game stretch about a third of the way through the season, League has been excellent. With Pauley gone to Detroit, veterans Aaron Laffey, Jeff Gray and Jamey Wright have had to take up some of that slack... but there have also been some innings for youngsters Josh Lueke and Dan Cortes. There is a chance League may be traded during the offseason in an attempt to bring some hitting for the offense, but for now he will finish games for the M's. The bullpen looks like it might be pretty decent next year. If Chance Ruffin is the PTBNL in the Detroit deal, he could be their closer in 2012.

Hitting is where the team needs the most help. The offense was historically bad in 2010. The Mariners had the worst offense in the American League since the advent of the DH... what was that, something like 40 years ago? Ugh.

Young Dustin Ackley was called up in June and has done amazing well at second base for the Mariners. Their first draft pick in 2009, he advanced rapidly through the minors and is showing Seattle fans he is capable of being an offensive force and an adequate second baseman for years to come. Designated hitter has been a problem for Seattle for a while, and they finally parted ways with Jack Cust after signing him as a free agent during the off-season in hopes he would add some power to the lineup. Now Mike Carp will get the bulk of the time at DH, and although it's a small data sample, his batting average is .300 so far... and that is encouraging.

Casper Wells is an instant upgrade over everyone the Mariners have been trotting out in left field this year. Shortstop Brendan Ryan anchors the infield, making some amazing plays and getting a timely hit here and there.

Justin Smoak has struggled at first base this season, dealing in part with the death of his father, some thumb injuries, and generally adjusting to the majors. The team still has high hopes for him. Likewise, outfielder Michael Saunders recently lost his mother to cancer and has struggled so far in the majors. He has good skills, and like Smoak, is still in his early-mid twenties. Let's hope that next season these two will blossom.

Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki is not necessarily a black hole in the lineup, but he does not appear to be seeing the ball as well as he has in the past, both in the outfield and at the plate. He will be 38 in October, and he has one year remaining on his large ($19M a year) contract. Will he retire? Or will he come back next year and give it another go? It's hard to say, but without him playing at the levels to which the M's are accustomed, he has not been as valuable this season as in years past.

Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez continues to battle irritable bowel syndrome, and he has never really been able to get started this season. His batting average is still below .200, and to me, he just looks tired. I don't know that he will be able to continue in the majors and have value as a hitter. His fielding is still very good, but his bat is not. It could be fortunate for the team if the newly-acquired Robinson does well over the next couple of months; he is a center fielder by trade.

Catcher Miguel Olivo is an erratic hitter, and while he has a good arm for throwing out baserunners, he lets a lot of balls get past him. He was signed as a free-agent last winter to a two-year contract, and I suspect they will still have him next year.

At the end of the season, the Mariners will have a much better idea of which kids will stick, and which aren't as likely to. During the winter, Jack Zduriencik will have the task of making some deals, either by trading players or signing free agents, for the purpose of adding offense to the lineup so the team can be more fun for fans to watch next year. While the team is devoted to a rebuilding process that emphasizes the drafting and development of young players, the Mariners also know they need to try and field a competitive product. Thus, I look for them to acquire a couple of players this winter who will have some degree of name recognition for fans.

Next year? .500 ball or better. But that's not guaranteed, and I can tell you, being a Mariners fan can be a really long slog sometimes.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

THERE IS NO "LIBERAL MEDIA"

Smart blogger S.W. Anderson of the Oh! Pinion blog at http://ohpblog.ohpinion.com/ alerted me to the following. Thanks, S.W.!

http://www.thenation.com/blog/162434/tiny-tea-party-rally-vs-large-progressive-rally-which-gets-more-beltway-ink

The following comment was made by yours truly at Oh! Pinion:

This is ample illustration of what should be absolutely apparent to anybody who pays attention: there is no “liberal media”.

Corporations control the media, and those who own the presses are the ones with “freedom of the press”. They have the freedom to select the stuff they want us to see and hear, and in many cases, they aren’t going to want us seeing things that go against their interests. Through this kind of manipulation, voters are fooled into thinking views like those of the Tea Party are mainstream, and that those views represent the views of the majority.

In this way, Tea Party and other far-right candidates get elected, and then they wreak havoc (or at least they try to). If they are allowed to have their way, they will decimate things like Social Security, Medicare, then Medicaid, public education… and then the American people will wonder what happened to those things! “Oh… you mean I voted for so-and-so and he helped get rid of that program I liked? How did that happen?”

I like to believe people are generally not stupid, but I do believe they can be manipulated through various means. Distraction is one way. What we are provided with by FOX, CNN, the major networks and most any source of “news” is not only going to NOT tell us the whole story, but it will often provide plenty of distractions so we will look the other way while other things happen… the kind that are going to impact millions of us on a personal level.

So for as many times as those on the right may cry about how Obama is getting all the breaks, there is at least as much time being given to those on the far right end of the political spectrum, and they will usually be allowed to make their point in a way which gives them the last word… and they get enough air time that they are given credence in the eyes and mind of the public.

The “tea party” was not a grass roots movement to start with, nor is it one now. It is a convenient way for certain interest groups who are not patriotic in any sense of the word to prey on the patriotism of average Americans, to use them as marching foot soldiers in advancing a corporate agenda.

So it comes to no surprise at all to me that a rally promoting progressive values would get virtually no press, while the “tea party”, which truly is a media darling because it is confrontational and therefore sensational can hold a rally with less attendance but still be the “news” story of the day.

---------------------------------------------

Sure, The Nation is a left-leaning publication... but that doesn't mean what they are reporting here is not true.

And people can go ahead and cite as may Bernard Goldberg quotes as they want, and refer to things they see on websites like NewsBusters, and I will cite items such as these:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYlyb1Bx9Ic

http://www.faulkingtruth.com/Articles/OffTheRail/1015.html

http://mydd.com/users/paul-rosenberg/posts/liberal-media-myth-goes-scientific

Anybody out there know of any good sources for news? I have pretty given up on the mainstream media as a watchdog. It's now more like a corporate lapdog. RIP.

RichardDawkins.net