Friday, November 02, 2007

 

Open Thread

What's on your mind?

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U.S. Politics Seen Through U.K. Eyes

The London Telegraph assess the American political scene by listing the top 100 liberals and 100 conservatives.

It's best to read the lists as they were released -- as a countdown (so start with 81-100 in both charts). The choices are interesting to say the least: Find out where Arnold Schwarzenegger ranks (and on what list)! See where David Petraeus ends up!

Sure to start much debate!

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Pigskin Pick'em - Week 8 Results AND Week 9 Picks AND Pats-Colts Preview

Who cares about last week when we have THE...SINGLE...MOST...IMPORTANT...GAME...OF...THE...SEASON...this weekend?

But for those of you who do care, congrats to bl! Here are last week's results:

bl - 10
David Stefanini - 9
EdMcGon - 8
J. Mark English - 8
FunkyPundit - 8
Snave - 8
Robert A. George - 6
Bill Barker - 5

Give a welcome to newcomer Snave. You have to appreciate someone who is willing to enter the weekly race without a chance of winning the YTD. Kudos!

Speaking of the YTD (with weekly wins in parentheses):

David Stefanini(2) - 72
EdMcGon(1) - 66
Robert A. George(1.5) - 63
J. Mark English(1) - 60
bl(2) - 54
Bill Barker - 45
FunkyPundit(0.5) - 41
SoloD - 28
Dave O'Leary - 21
Rigel - 17
Snave - 8
Mike - 8

For this week's picks, since we all only really care about one game, that's the only one I will comment on (this week, my picks are in green, with the exception of the last game):

San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons
Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills
Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings
Jacksonville Jaguars at New Orleans Saints
Washington Redskins at New York Jets
Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina Panthers at Tennessee Titans
Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns
Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts: The undisputed game of the week, possibly of the entire season. This one deserves a "Super Bowl" quality analysis:

Passing offense: The Pats are head and shoulders above everyone in the NFL. 73.6% completions, 8.65 yards/attempt, 303.8 yards/game, 30 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 8 sacks allowed, 133.2 pass rating.

The Colts have a great pass offense, but they don't match the Pats: 65.4% completions, 7.58 yards/attempt, 258.7 yards/game, 13 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 5 sacks allowed, 102.5 pass rating. EDGE: Patriots.

Rushing offense: For all the press generated by Tom Brady and the Pats passing game, their running game is no slouch, averaging 135.8 yards/game with a 4.2 average per attempt for 8 touchdowns.

However, the Colts have been slightly better: 140.3 yards/game with a 4.4 average per attempt for 12 touchdowns. EDGE: Colts.

Rushing defense: The statistics are a bit deceptive in this category, mostly because the Patriots have forced opponents to abandon the running game early (Pats: 87.0 rush yards/game allowed; Colts: 107.4 rush yards/game allowed). But look at what the Pats do to teams with decent running games (rush attempts/pass attempts, rushing yards allowed, rushing average, td's):

vs. Chargers (20/30, 52 yards, 2.6 avg., 0 td's): The Chargers rank 12th in the NFL in rushing yards/game.
vs. Cowboys (15/29, 97 yards, 6.5 avg., 0 td's): The Cowboys rank 9th in the NFL in rushing yards/game.
vs. Dolphins (30/37, 179 yards, 6.0 avg., 3 td's): The Dolphins rank 15th in the NFL in rushing yards/game.

On the surface, it would seem that if you run a balanced attack against the Patriots, you can actually beat their run defense. Actually, this is misleading because the Dolphins did most of their rushing damage in the 4th quarter when they were already down 42-7. The Dolphins gained 72 yards rushing and scored 2 rushing touchdowns in the 4th quarter of a game they had already lost. EDGE: Patriots.

Passing defense: This is where both of these teams really shine.

Patriots pass defense: 59.7% completion percentage, 5.09 yards/pass attempt, 181.5 yards/game, 10 td's, 11 interceptions.

Colts pass defense: 65.7% completion percentage, 4.79 yards/pass attempt, 165.4 yards/game, 5 td's, 9 interceptions.

The big difference: The Pats have 22 sacks vs. the Colts 12 sacks. EDGE: Patriots.

Special teams (returns): The Pats are averaging 29.2 yards per kickoff return with 2 touchdowns and 10.1 yards per punt return. The Colts are averaging 23.9 yards per kickoff return with no touchdowns and 9.0 yards per punt return. EDGE: Patriots.

Special teams (punting): Neither of these teams has had to punt very often this year. But when they do, the Pats get the better results with a net punt average of 36.7 yards vs. 32.0 yards for the Colts (worst in the NFL). EDGE: Patriots.

Special teams (kickers): Not a lot of difference between the two kickers in this game statistically, as both have only missed one field goal so far this year. However, Adam Vinatieri is a money in the bank clutch kicker. EDGE: Colts.

Coaching: Three Super Bowl wins for Belichick. One Super Bowl win for Dungy. However, the Colts have won the last three times they have played. EDGE: none.

My prediction: Patriots win 35-17. Defense and special teams win big games, and the Patriots carry the edge there.

Pigskin Pick'em Rules:
1. Pick the straight-up winners of all this weeks NFL games (excluding any Thursday games). Picks will be accepted in the comments section of the following websites:
Politics and Pigskins, Ragged Thots, and American Legends. All picks must be posted by 1 pm Eastern Time on Sunday (otherwise known as "The Barker Rule"), or by the kickoff of the first NFL Saturday game on weeks when that happens.
2. The winner gets...bragging rights! (you weren't expecting money, were you?)
3. And new for this year: I will be keeping a running tally for the season, so the person who gets the most picks correct for the whole season, including the playoffs, gets...even BIGGER bragging rights! (and still no money)

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

 

Hillary's Worst Enemy...


...is not who you'd think.

It's not the easy answer of "herself" or "Bill."

It's certainly not Barack Obama or any of the other Democrats. For that matter, it's not even GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani or the rest of the Republican field.

No, it is starting to look like Sen. Clinton's biggest obstacle -- indeed, the biggest wild card in Democratic fortunes in '08 -- is NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

The governor has had perhaps the most disastrous first year of any chief executive in recent memory (certainly of anyone who won office with 70 percent of the vote. It started with a scandal that only impacted him -- the so-called "Troopergate" or "Choppergate" dirt tricks scandal. It involved the use of State Police allegedly to enact a political smear against Spitzer's legislative foe, Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.


Four months into the story,
one probe has raised as many questions as it answered, another semi-exonerated him using less-than-diligent investigatory methods -- and two more are ongoing.

However,
the damage has been done: Nearly 60 percent of NYers don't think he's been honest in discussing the scandal and 70 percent want him to testify publically. Those sort of numbers, of course, can carry over into the public policy sphere.

Which is exactly what has happened with respect to Spitzer's plan -- announced a little more than a month ago -- to permit illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses. Spitzer claimed that illegals are already in the state and that giving them licenses would ultimately make the streets safer by allowing the immigrants to drive the roads legally and give them access to insurance.A normal politician, facing a political scandal like Troopergate, would have tried to change the subject by swiveling to embrace an issue that has clear support of a large segment of the public. Spitzer did the exact opposite, producing 72 percent opposition to his plan -- in a state with a 5-3 Democrat over Republican registration. The pro-immigrant last three mayors of New York City (Bloomberg, Giuliani and Ed Koch) all oppose it -- which earned them a piece of Spitzer's already-infamous disdain.

Worse, Spitzer has now managed to elevate what should be a completely moribund state GOP. The Troopergate fiasco managed to turn the aforementioned Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno -- ethically challenged and under FBI investigation himself -- into a victim of a political attack. The driver's license fiasco has turned the somewhat third-rate pol Assembly Leader Jim Tedisco into a
principled leader of the opposition. In addition to the national security implications, Tedisco has also tied Spitzer's plan to the enhanced opportunity for voter fraud that it creates.

Meanwhile, CNN's immigration reform diva Lou Dobbs has made Spitzer's handling of the driver's license issue a national controversey
with nightly updates. He had Bruno on the program earlier this week.

To buy more time, Spitzer cut a deal last weekend with the Department of Homeland Security. He agreed to create, over the course of the next year, to make a three-tiered driver's license: One for full-fledged citizens that could also be used as a national ID-equivalent for travel and other such purposes; another for green-card holders; and another "drive-only" document that illegals could use, but would not serve as identification for travel or other official government forms.

This "compromise", not surprisingly, satisfied no one: Those opposed to giving licenses to illegals still hated it. Immigrants rights groups felt that Spitzer was selling them out -- and Spitzer's supporters felt that he had blind-sided them. Worse, by punting on the issue, until next year, Spitzer has placed it right into the middle of the election year.

At the state level, this is bad enough: Democrats had high hopes of getting control of the state Senate (they already have an overwhelming majority in the Assembly); they only need to get three seats. With what was looking like a very favorable year for Democrats nationally -- and with the strong possibility that a New York Democrat would be heading the presidential ticket, things looked very good.

Eliot Spitzer has now turned that completely upside down.

Democrats statewide are forced to defend a policy that is just indefensible politically. And, as Hillary Rodham Clinton discovered, the issue has metastasized to attack her in a way that no shots from either fellow Democrats or Republicans had managed to do so far. While she has managed to finesse her votes on Iran and Iraq, the non-answers she gave on the driver's license issue at the last debate just didn't wash. Instead, they ended up drawing attention to her evasiveness on other issues. She has been so cautious in every other area of her campaign, that she should have seen it coming, but didn't -- perhaps because it was coming from what should be considered a "friendly" source. And it may prove particularly damaging given that it makes her vulnerable to, as luck would have it, a presidential opponent running from the same state -- and on an explicitly national-security focused agenda.

There is an unusual irony at play here: It's said that governors usually have an advantage over senators when running for president -- because they are already "chief executives" and are seen as being decisive; senators, conversely, cast so many votes that they are vulnerable to defending all of them -- and are often seen as "supporting characters" rather than leaders. However, as Michael Dukakis discovered, governors can also be vulnerable to attacks on their policy decisions (Willie Horton) and record (Boston Bay, the "Massachusetts Miracle," etc.).

But here in New York, how stunning would it be if the Hillary Clinton Express might be derailed, not by votes from the senator herself, but by a loose-cannon governor's policy vehicle that got stalled on the tracks?

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

 

Losing Allies

The following letter was forwarded from an old college friend of mine: Jed was Republican long before I ever was. Indeed, every day on our dorm floor sophomore year began with Wall St. reports blaring out of Jed's room. He was also the biggest hawk (particularly when it came to Israel) as I had ever met at the time.

Considering he sent copies to the White House, New York Times and The Economist (the latter for good reason, as the letter will indicate), I don't think Jed will mind my sharing this.

From: Jed Arkin [mailto:XXXX@XXXX.com]

Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 11:24 AM
To: 'comments@whitehouse.gov'; 'vice_president@whitehouse.gov'; 'amctelaviv@state.gov'Cc: 'letters@nytimes.com'; 'letters@economist.com'
Subject: Trickle Down Security

Dear President Bush:

I am an American citizen based in Tel Aviv. I had an appointment yesterday at the US Consulate in Tel Aviv to replace a lost passport for my 12 year old son. When we appeared at the appointed time, the guard outside the embassy wouldn’t let us enter because of several articles we carried with us: an Economist magazine, a man’s wallet, containing nothing but currency and the usual driver’s license and credit cards, and several blank pieces of paper for my child to draw on while we waited. The guard sent us back to our car (4 separate times – we’re slow learners) to dispose of these questionable articles.

Once inside, we sat for over two hours after the scheduled time of our appointment, waiting to be called. I stared at the blank walls for a while, then over the course of an hour, found myself, against my nature, transformed into a political activist.

Now I should say that for the last 25 years, I’ve been a steadfast Republican. I’ve bristled at the mounting American discontent at your Administration, been skeptical of the reported abuses in Guantanamo, turned a blind eye to supposed incompetence in Iraq, and endured cheerfully the increasingly intrusive, and far-fetched security measures at airports. But when my government tells me that I have to sit for two hours without a magazine on security grounds, I can no longer buy into the comforting story that our leaders know what they are doing.

The guard outside the embassy told us that the no-magazine policy wasn’t up to him – the procedures were determined by the managers within. Inside, I asked about the policy, and the woman behind the bullet-proof glass shrugged and said that they inside had nothing to do with security.

At some point during my two hour wait, the frustration bubbled over, and I did the only thing within my limited power as a citizen – I started talking, talking politically, with the 50 other Americans who had been called for an appointment at the same time that I had, and who had been sent back to their cars (or sent home, in some cases) to leave behind an increasingly preposterous basket of “suspicious” everyday objects.

Your Administration seems to have lost sight of the simple truth that treating people badly – treating their time or basic freedoms as unimportant -- can actually lead to more terrorism in the world. Among the ad-hoc group of newly-politicized Americans gathered in the drab waiting room at the consulate, the question was brought front and center: if your Administration could permit this kind of treatment of ordinary American citizens in broad daylight, what must you permit against “suspect” foreigners, isolated, helpless and denied Habeas Corpus, caught up in our expanding dragnet abroad? To a man, Democrats and Republicans, we understood yesterday that you and your Administration do not know what you are doing. And with this, we all came to the same sad (to me) conclusion: the time has come to vote the Republicans out of office.

Jed Arkin


(Jed makes a very good side point. Assuming that this is a close election, the votes of Americans living abroad may be a factor. Having frustrated U.S. voters overseas is not a good thing for t he GOP).

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Monday, October 29, 2007

 

Yanks For The Memories

Any fleeting sense of triumphalism I might that my Mattingly post appears to have had the desired result, is gone with the crushing realization that the New York Yankees may be in for some several frustrating years. The team's most successful manager of the last half-century is gone; the hated Red Sox have won their second World Series in four years (with a great mix of young talent and -- and their best player has decided to opt out of his contract.

Knowing A-Rod, he'll probably try to sign with the Sox. Of course, given that each team he's joined has arguably gotten worse, that may be a preferred development for the Yankees.

Still, with the Boss in ailing health, his sons seemingly behind the Torre putsch and the leadership of the team becoming a Hydra-headed monster, the beginning of the 21st century is looking a lot like the start of the 20th: Boston ascendant and New York struggling to find an identity.

UPDATE: The Yankees officially make an offer to Joe Girardi. The "curse" seems to have been avoided.

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