Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Blame Game

I'd best begin with a confession. Upon waking to Donald Trump's victory speech my first reaction was to smirk and giggle. It wasn't shock. It wasn't fear. It was really happening. The United States of America had chosen a parasitic clown over the TPTB's(*) chosen one. Yes, America, and by extension, the rest of the world had gotten what they deserved; there could be no more appropriate personae to become 'the leader of the free world'.

I fell asleep last night with an inkling this was going to happen. Around 3am Central European time I made the call that the election wasn't going to be called any time soon and had better just get some sleep and see the results in the morning. I had just enough sense to hit the print screen with the tally in Florida until that point:

A 28 vote difference, click on it, with almost 8 million counted.

Predictably, upon switching over to Facebook after watching the Donald's speech, I was met with a slew of memes and status updates expressing utter incredulity. From the cliche Jean Luc Picard facepalm to the brilliant
Britain: Brexit was the stupidest, most self-destructive act a country could untertake
USA: Hold my drink.
A random sampling of status updates:
- As my lovely mother would say: "HORSESHIT".
- i think we may all be fucked- what is happening.... this isn't real.
- go home 2016. you're drunk.
- Don't even know what to post. This is truly depressing. Uneducated white male kills hope in one single night. Time to go eat nuts and gum.
- god help us all
- Sronald Sramp. Really?
- Sits in dark, nervously bouncing right leg up and down, scratching head, rubbing eyes, hoping I'm hallucinating with what I see as the results of this election 
- OMG. I feel sick.
The obvious question I have is how is everyone so surprised? Given that the times we live in afford us access to so much information, how could so many people be so wrong about the result? Obviously, the answer is in the question. It was precisely that information that not only made a Trump presidency an inevitability, but also ensured that the majority of the world woke up to the same WTF feeling. Like scared animals, most will lash out, but instead of asking what's the matter with handing more power to control the information narrative from Hollywood to our houses to our corporate overlords (ie. the ATT - Time/Warner merger), to poison us in order to provide us with pills (the Monsanto - Bayer merger), to dominate our bar tabs (SABMiller - AB InBev merger), and tell us what to think about it (FaceTwitAmazOogle), most will be asking what's the matter with Kansas.

Living here in Poland has given me a near-unique view. Not only do I keep abreast with news from across the Atlantic and the pulse of how people are reading it but I'm also granted insight into how the media lens of non-Americans is focused on world events. My first inkling that the world was in for a surprise came early on election day (3am EST in America) as both my writing classes were devoted to the US election. A quick straw poll of my students gave Clinton the presidency unanimously. Every. Single. Student. 

Now, you have to realize that nothing is unanimously agreed upon here in politics, in fact, there may be just as much polarization in Poland as in America. So the obvious follow-up question was how was it that they all shared the same opinion. The answers all had the same theme, Trump's a racist pig. And, I queried, how do you all know that? Where did you get your information? To a man (and woman), Facebook, a few youtube clips. A combination of memes, celebrity comments and debate song parodies. And Hillary, what did they know about her? Well, um, experience. She had lots of that. And health care, and children, won't anyone think of the children? So, I had to ask, what of their policies? What did the candidates propose to actually, you know, do as president? Beyond build a wall, nothing, crickets.

So, having been exposed to a non-stop barrage of anti-Trump propaganda interspersed with the odd reminder that Hillary Clinton is, in fact, a woman, and you know, it's time that America elects a woman, of course every one of my students woke up to a November surprise this morning. So, what about my Facebook wall? The majority of reactions came from the Americas, surely, living close to the source they should have been better prepared for the eventuality of a Trump victory. Um, yeah, er, I mean no. From what I can tell, most people were no better, and by better I mean in a more balanced way, informed than my Polish 22-year-old students. Just as these kids were caught off-guard by the election of a nationalistic whack job party here at home last October, Europe was stunned by an island kingdom choosing to push away from the continent this summer and the world was blown away by a pumpkin turning into a president after the clock struck midnight today, and we can all thank our self-imposed media bubbles for the deception.

Yes, another shock. Your media isn't unbiased. It isn't balanced. It isn't independent. It is owned and controlled by the same people that have been the beneficiaries of the current system, the one that Hillary Clinton represented. Is it any wonder that reading the Washington Post or the New York Times over the past couple of months must have been much akin to the experience of Soviet's had reading Pravda in the 1980s? Sure, Trump got lots of free publicity thanks to his misogyny/racism/ignorance, but it certainly wasn't flattering. Meanwhile, any Hillary howler was glossed over and attributed to either something those crazy conspiracy theorists say (Bengazi! e-mails! Clinton Foundation!) or, if not, then obviously the work of the Putin because you know, it's somehow alright that she delivered speeches to Goldman Sachs for millions in which she said the opposite of what she told the public, or that Clinton Foundation benefactors were richly rewarded by her state department so long as it's Russia's doing in informing us. Wikileaks is so much worse than quid pro quo. Let's face it climate change, a subject on which 97% of scientist agree, is given a more balanced treatment, with a denier on on one side and a scientist on the other in any on screen debate, than the candidates were given in this election.

What's that? You don't personally know anyone from Buchanon County, Virginia, home of Trump's staunchest supporters. Guess what? Most Brits that we're exposed to don't know anyone from Boston (the one in England), the area that voted Leave most vehemently. Nor do I know anyone from Siedlce, halfway between Warsaw and Belarus, the stronghold of the current Polish government, PiS. Well guess what? Many of these people haven't shared in the rewards of system over the past few decades and many of them vote. Neither you, me, nor the New York Times have any contact with what has increasingly become 'the other'. Americans no longer move to new towns for economic opportunity but to be near like-minded people, we work in fields where our colleagues all wear the uniform of the same team, and we watch the same TV series as the people we stay in touch with on Facebook. That's why the result probably blindsided you as badly as it did the New York Times; here's a graph charting the percentage chance of victory last night. Oops, they did it again:

If we live in a democracy then we need to expect that when the majority is receiving an ever diminishing slice of the economic pie, eventually they'll stand up and say no. When a broken system offers two bad choices, we shouldn't be surprised that the people make a bad choice. The previous PO government in Poland offered many people nothing. Even worse, the Brexit referendum itself should never have been held as there are other issues that the will of the people is being more egregiously contravened such as the privatization of the NHS, but Cameron believed he could use it to woo UKIP support. That's right, it was nothing but a political ploy. Well, that sure backfired, didn't it? Surprisingly, 52% took the opportunity to rid themselves of what they see, justifiably, as an undemocratic weight around their necks.

And America? Would I have voted for Donald Trump? Of course not. But I'd have never voted Clinton either. You mean a continuation of her husband's economic policies, you know, the ones that set the scene for the financial meltdown in 2008. Yes, it was every bit as much Bill's fault as George's thanks to his support for NAFTA (hello TPP!) or the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act, aka the Financial Services Modernization Act, aka, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, aka, allowing banks to run the economy. No thanks. So maybe we should have been sold on her foreign policy, you know, her vaunted experience as a senator and Secretary of State? Oh, you mean supporting a war hawk who voted for the war in Iraq, helped orchestrate the coup in Honduras, installed Victoria Nuland in Eastern Europe to help foment the putch in Ukraine and advocates a no-fly zone in Syria, the last two being nothing short of openly attempting to instigate a war against Russia?

Hmmm, with apologies to Donald Rumsfeld, I think I'll take the known-unknown over the known-known. Yes, Trump is a joke, but he's a damn good one played upon a world that deserves him. Yes, I admit my smirk is fading by the moment as I realize the Republicans now control the House, Senate and White House, the latter meaning there will soon be a right leaning Supreme Court. However, the Democratic Party, with the support of America's liberals, didn't need to conspire to nominate Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Bernie would've won this election in a landslide as it wasn't so much a bunch of racists voting for a pussy-grabbing business failure as it was a protest vote against the current system. Trump knew it, just watch his final ad. If you're angry today, don't blame Billy-Bob in North Carolina, instead take a look in the mirror and decide if perhaps you look a little like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (yike, I know).

*The Powers That Be

If you managed to get this far, you must have some time, so here, watch this:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Howling Fantods

It happens every year, such is the bane of a teacher, one who chooses to take full advantage of his three months holiday by doing as little as possible. With Septembers entrance and the idea of October becoming increasingly real come the howling fantods, a David Foster Wallace coined term for what the urban dictionary defines as 'a stage 4 case of the heebie jeebies'. The intense feeling of both fear and repulsion isn't necessarily generated by the students or actual teaching, but everything that comes with it: going to meetings (and sitting through hours of pablum in order to pick up the two or three crucial facts), preparing syllabuses (and the never ending discussion over whether it should be syllabi or syllabuses), preparing and grading exams and essays (and suffering the inevitable erosion in optimism every teacher has for a new batch of students abilities) , maintaining attendance lists and records of grades (and navigating the minefield of absence excuses and exceptions to the rules), opening and responding to the tsunami-like onslaught of emails (and resisting the incessant temptation to type what I really feel). In short, the bureaucracy.

Parallel to this, however, September also brings the promise of a new NFL season and the accompanying hopes and aspirations for both real and fantasy teams. Yet, even here one must be careful not to dwell too deeply as football is sad if you think about it too long. Then again, thinking about near anything to do with the state of humanity too long these days is a sure-fire avenue to abhorrence of the state of anything from pop culture to humanity's future, health care to warfare, ecology to theology, and robotics to politics. Alas, with a hat tip to Hunter S., ain't that the most fear and loathing inducing of them all; November is just around the corner meaning either Hillary Clinton (Shillary Clintoon) or Donald Trump (Drumpf) will become the most powerful person on the planet.

"Chill", you say, "after all, at worst, things have always looked this bleak from certain angles, at best, humanity is continuing its unstoppable march of progress, and really, much of the fear is a consequence of this progress as it's thanks to the abundance of information our shiny technology makes available that things look so desperate." Ahhh, young grasshopper, knowledge is not wisdom, information is not even knowledge, and, worse, what passes for information today is not even that as it is far more often mindless drivel designed to drive eyeballs to screens or shameless propaganda. Driven by biology, we seek ever greater data highs, mindlessly scrolling in search of the next hit while in bed, in the car, on the tram or sitting amidst friends and family. Instead of expanding our world, the result has been to shrink or simply limit the endless spectrum of possibilities which exist thereby driving us to the two most extremes: yes or no, black or white, good or evil, Coke or Pepsi, Republican or Democrat, Cuntservative or Libtard.

By reducing our thought processes to such binary thinking, this deluge of data makes it impossible to support one side on some issues and agree with another on different issues as the media landscape has adapted to satisfy our natural instinct to confirm our biases. The Manichaen worldview that results allows us to feel intelligent without understanding, and once we feel intelligent, we feel superior. Reflection is impossible in this reductionist landscape and we begin to rely on words such as "always" and "never" while ignoring the infinite nuances which exist and instead slip back to the way we saw the world as children. Simplicity's a virtue in a pop song or when a head coach instructs his players, but a dangerous weapon when spilling from the mouth of a demagogue.

Anyhoo, before I get too far ahead of myself, let's get back to the upcoming NFL season. As is tradition around here, we'll go through the league making predictions about how every team will do while giving all you fantasy football freaks a few players to target in your upcoming drafts using their ADP (average draft position) from Fantasy Football Calculator best on 12-team PPR leagues. Parallel to this, each division will be accompanied by one of the world's eight biggest problems. Tall task you say? Hut, hut, hut!

NFC East - Cowboys, 'Skins, Eagles, Giants and greed

This once mighty division has fallen on hard times. Gone are the days of the Triplets, the Hogs, the Helmet Catch, and, um, whatever glory the Eagles have ever enjoyed. Jaworski? Cunningham? Anyway, the division that has won the most Super Bowls since the 1970 merger (12) is now probably the worst in the league. I'm not calling the Cowboys this year after Romo broke his back (ok, a bone in his back) after breaking his collar bone twice last year. If the Dak Prescott Cowboys win 8, I'll be happy. Instead, it'll be the loathsome 'skins playing a single playoff game this year. The Giants vie for first but fade down the stretch while the Eagles will save the Cowboys from finishing last as last week they decided to sell their present for the future.

Yet it's Dallas that has the most lucrative fantasy gem. Maybe. I feel RB Ekekiel, aka Zeke, aka Eze Elliot, aka Easy E (at least that's how all the cool kids podcasters are calling him) will be a top 3 back, book it. Whether you draft him fourth (which I will be doing) or if he should come later in the RB1 run is a coin flip, but I'm betting on a full work load behind the best line in football is #4 worthy despite Romo's injury. Tony's broken back does knock Dez way down to the late 2nd round though and makes TE Jay Witten waiver wire fodder for half a year. Dak's only draftable in 2QB leagues. Today. The 'skins running game will be led by Matt Jones who I'm not drafting in his early 7th round range. Watch his shoulder and fumble-itis, making UFA Robert Kelley an interesting last round flyer. TE Jordan Reed is too expensive at the end of the 3rd thanks to his injury risk but QB Kirk Cousin is worth snagging in the 10th. Rookie phenom WR Josh Doctson had buzz but can't get on the field, I'd only take DeSean Jackson from their receiver corp at #83, he's damn quick and consistent when healthy and looks good.

Eli is always a safe late QB if you play the waiting game on the position. I'm kinda dreading being 3rd in any draft as you've gotta take OBJ, Odell Beckham Jr. but don't think he's gonna be worth the price. WR Sterling Sharpe is an expensive rookie at the top of the bottom of the seventh, I'm saving for another freshman, but Victor Cruz could be worth a dart if he comes back at 80% of his two-years-ago-self. Rashad Jennings played lights out to finish '15 after a disastrous 4-headed monster experiment in NY, I'd take a shot on him at #77. It's PPR, so think about Vereen at the end but leave the rookie Paul Perkins alone along with any Giants TEs. It's rookie QB Carson Wentz time now that Sam Bradford has been sold for picks but not for your team. TE Zach Ertz is more intriguing at his end of the 8th price thanks to the rookie dump off tendency provided he's healed. Leave WR Jordan Matthews alone at 65, stone hands or attention lapses, but I like both Ryan Mathews as a workhouse at the beginning of the 6th and sparkplug Darren Sproles at his bargain basement price.

Doubtless, a sharp-eyed rabblerouser will have noticed my not using the full name of the Washington Football Club. Their media programmed knee-jerk reaction would likely be to call me a libtard. Instead of using the name controversy to, well, throw names at each other, the team should have just given in to the logical end of the game and sold the rights. No more upset Native Americans, no more apoplectic people screaming about political correctness. Simply replaced by the American way. Profit at the expense of progress. For the owners at least as I'm sure it would net Daniel Snyder a few hundred million minimum. Could it be worth a billion? Seriously.

Snyder joined Cowboy owner Jerry Jones at the top of the worst owner list a couple years back in large part due to greed which has played its hand in destroying their franchises as it has in corrupting the so-called free market capitalist system. Once upon a time owners had a greater stake in what their workers created as both made a long-term commitment to wealth generation, wealth that wasn't quarterly profits but progress. The incentive today is skewed towards get yours while you can, all too often at the expense of others, which has resulted in the largest transfer of monetary wealth from the have nots and have somes to the haves in history over the past 35 years. With this comes the power to perpetuate and calcify the current social order into the future. Income elasticity falls to zero as the American Dream falls victim to the greed that birthed it The most instructive illustration of how much more of society's creation the rich are skimming is in this chart:

Yeah, that's the percentage of total income taken home by the richest 0.01% (one out of 10000 people). Notice their earning over six times the proportion they did in the 1970s. Oh, and thanks to the supposed efforts to solve the financial crisis (caused at least in part by this inequality) such as quantitative easing, inequality has dramatically worsened in the past few years. Oh, and wait until the robots take over, things will get worse fast, cause then the owners of capital won't have to pay anybody anything. Riddle me this Batman. How does an economic system driven by consumption survive when the consumers aren't able to, well, consume? Answer. It can't or, better, it does for a while, and then one day it doesn't.

NFC West - Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and nationalism

Just a few years back the west sent a division winner to the playoffs with a losing record and now has two Super Bowl contenders along with a now struggling team just 3 years removed from the big dance and a franchise in LA! I do hate the Shithawks, I mean Jesus Christ that self-righteous '12' thing the fans have, and did Russell Wilson instagram himself losing his virginity to some B star no one out of the US has heard of? But they'll hold off the Cardinals for the crown; Wilson's also a football freak and better than old man Carson Palmer. The Rams have another #1 pick falling flat, but they don't need Jared Goff to keep the 49ers in the basement of the division. San Francisco could be historically bad offensively while at least LA has RB Todd Gurley.

Todd's the stud here but just by a hair as a case could be made to take Cardinal RB David Johnson ahead of him. Regardless of the order, it's Easy E, DJ and Gurley as the top 3 RBs ahead of All Day and Lamar in my mind. Both Thomas Rawls and Carlos Hyde carry high risk for 4th rounders, the former hasn't played in preseason following surgery after his gruesome season ending ankle injury last year and the latter suffered the dreaded concussion in the Niners second preseason game. At one point this preseason, the Cardinals WR trio of Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown were going back-to-back-to back in the 5th round, the former two still are and might be too pricey but take advantage of Brown's concussion (that's a bit off, no?) and grab him at his mid-7th round sale price. James Baldwin is too expensive thanks to all those TDs last year, expect regression, but 2nd year speedster Tyler Lockett is worth a 7th round prick if John Brown's gone, especially if you're league counts return yards and TDs. Don't touch any of the 49ers or Rams wide-outs, ok, a case could be made for Tavon Austin in the 10th, but don't buy the Torrey Smith hype as the QB situation in San Francisco is a clusterfuck. I'm not buying the other QBs here either as both Wilson and Palmer are overpriced for different reasons and you never take Case Keenum. Tight ends come to this division to die (Jimmy Graham please stand up).

Speaking of standing up, you might have heard 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick stood up by sitting down during the national anthem the other day. Seriously, in a jingoistic ritual that would mystify most foreign observers, the Star Spangled Banner is played before every game, with people doffing their hats and singing the lyrics while tears stream down their face. You might have seen it during a Super Bowl or something. Anyway, believing they are the freest people in the world, Americans are completely oblivious to the propagandistic and conformity inducing effects such ritualized behaviors have, um, I mean little kids pledge allegiance to a classroom flag every day. So, for the first time in awhile, a professional athlete has put his endorsement deals in danger (ok, granted, his flagging abilities has lowered his earning potential, we're not talking about Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Casius Clay/Mohammed Ali level here) to lodge his protest that the country isn't living up to its bargain. In response, this is the vitriol that millions are exposed to in order to maintain the deflect, divide and maintain the status quo:

Of course this tactic isn't unique to America unfortunately as a decade of economic crisis, a 15-year-old-turning-perpetual or perhaps civilizational, Huntingtonian war and ensuing refugee crisis are stewing together to produce a nasty nationalistic edge in much of the world. The near year old government of Poland, where I've been living for almost a decade, has succeeded in transforming the country using the same crap. Here, we've got an unelected dictator (ok Jaroslaw Kaczynski does have a seat in the Sejm, the parliament), who blames the Russians for killing his twin brother, the Germans for spreading gender ideology (really, they think gender's a 'disease' akin to homosexuality here), and refugees for having parasites. Besides destroying the constitutional court, media independence and privacy, so far the biggest thing they've done is try to push the percentage of baby strollers used by parents to carry actual babies above that used to haul cans and bottles by bums. I think its hoped that giving families 500 zloty (about $150) per month for every child after the first will solve the demographic problem so they won't be forced to allow immigrants in as most other countries do to plug the looming pension gap. Strangely enough, the drumbeat to war against Russia isn't only being played in Poland where they're taunting Putin with a new missile shield courtesy of America, which makes Trump the safer choice over Hillary but he'll have to lose because supposedly he's a racist and she's not. Or something.

NFC North - Vikings, Packers, Bears, Lions and corporate welfare

The black and blue division features the most storied team in the league, a Saturday Night Live skit, AP also known as AD and a toothless Panthera leo. The first, the Green Bay Packers should regain the division crown provided RB Eddie Lacy keeps his weight under 250 lbs and WR Jordy Nelson is 90% of his pre-ACL tear self to help QB Aaron Rogers recapture his 2014 form. The gruesome, non-contact, season ending injury to Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater during practice forced the team to mortgage the future to bring in Sam Bradford. Not sold on the move but he's an upgrade on Shaun Hill and should put them in the wildcard hunt. The Lions lost Megatron (WR Calvin Johnson) to retirement but picked up WR Marvin Jones to pick up the slack in offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter's (the best name in football) scheme. If anyone can topple the Packers, it'll be the Lions if they play like they did in the 2nd half of last season when they went 6-2. The Bears need too many things to go right to really challenge: QB Smokin' Jay Cutler needs to care, WR Alshon Jeffery needs to stay healthy, 2nd year WR Kevin White needs to learn to run routes and RB Jeremy Langford needs to channel his inner Matt Forte.

On the fantasy side, I believe Langford is undervalued in the 4th and Lacy will be worth his ADP in the 2nd while I'd take AP if he dropped to me at the tail end of the 1st but still don't trust Ameer Abdullah, though he could be a league changer if he breaks out as a bellcow 7th round pick. At WR, Alshon Jeffery is too much injury risk for my blood at 23rd. Don't draft Kevin White. Could be Marvin Jones or Golden Tate being the 1A or 1B, that's why they're near back to back at the front of the 6th and worth it. Or Jordy Nelson, or even Randall Cobb for that matter if the aforementioned ACL frees him up to be his #2 self. Jordy's a little high at 18 but I'm buying Cobb in the middle of the 3rd. All the Vikings receivers took too big a hit for me to buy. The breakout TE could very well be former Ram fan tormentor Jared Cook catching balls in Green Bay. From Aaron Rogers. Who is too rich for my blood; if I want a reasonably priced QB in this division it would be Stafford who you can nab in the 11th. It's a tempting strategy to wait on him, but watch who your opponents have drafted, you may have to reach to the 10th for him if say someone like Taylor goes before you pick.

The Vikings will host their first game in brand spanking new, aptly named US Bank Stadium. Perfect name for the welfare teat suckling pair, the NFL and banks. We'll never compute how much world wide public debt was taken on just for the last crisis on behalf of the banks. US citizens took on about $30 trillion for the bailouts alone. A crisis which was mostly caused by income inequality which has since gotten worse thank to the bank saving bailouts and quantitative easing. Meanwhile, the Vikings are the latest in a line of public coffer looters as the land of 10,000 lakes is at least an extra half billion deeper in debt thanks to owner Zygi Wilf doing what the system is designed to do. Take money from the bottom and funnel it up. Did you know that not only did the Rams leave St. Louis for Los Angeles but they also left the city over $100 million in debt to repay for the stadium they had to build the Rams the previous time he threatened to move the team to LA? Oh, the Vikings get the 2018 Super Bowl, which may earn the city money, but only those who own the means to make it, ie. the owner class. Bread and Circuses for the masses to distract them from noticing that their taxes subsidize Walmart's ability to pay workers less than survival wages, pay tens of billions of Wall Streets bonuses, pay Big Oil tens of billions in subsidies (almost $500 billion a year worldwide), pay hundreds of billions to Big Pharma so they can charge patients hundreds for a single pill, and pay the MIC trillions to wage wars in their name.

NFC South - Falcons, Saints, Bucs and Panthers and oil and plastic

Seven months removed from their near Cinderella run to the championship the Panthers should be the strongest team in their division once again as they return much the same team, minus CB Josh Norman but plus WR Kelvin Benjamin. It never pays to pick the Buccaneers, but I'll peg them at two here as Lovie Smith isn't anywhere near them this year. One should never underestimate a Drew Brees led team but the Saints Super Bowl window closes a little more this year while they languish in 3rd and the Falcons bring up the rear.

Real life and fantasy talent abound in this division starting at QB, except for Matt Ryan who seems to have completely lost the plot. Nevertheless, Cam Newton at 35, Drew Brees at 63, and Jameis Winston at 128 are all draftable, but I like them in reverse order for biggest bang for the buck. Julio Jones has to depend on Ryan to get him the ball but he's still worth a top three pick while Mohamed Sanu across from him over from the Bengals looks good and a bargain at the end of the 11th. Buc WR Mike Evans is the other stud here and should benefit from improved QB play and so-called 'positive TD regression' making me want him more than Dez, putting him in the top 10 WRs. Heads up, fellow Buc Vincent Jackson doesn't look finished, I like him at #126. The Panthers somehow got by with WR Ted Ginn last year but both Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess will be the guys; although, I couldn't pull the trigger on Kelvin at the beginning of the fourth, Devin's a deal in the ninth. The Saints WR suffer from diffusion as Brees spreads it out so much making Brandin Cooks and rookie Michael Thomas too pricey at #25 and #119, but Willie Snead's on my radar if he falls to the end of the eighth. At TE, Greg Olsen is always solid but too high at the start of the 5th, stay away the Bucs, don't get suckered into buying Austin Sefarian Jenkins potential, ditto the Falcons as I don't even know their TE, but watch Coby Fleener in the TE happy Saints offense; I'm buying at #76.

My wife had plastic at number one in terms of the scariest thing facing us these days. Can't blame her, people spend a buck on piece of junk that will be used once and then stick around about 1000 years. If you don't know what microbeads are, check it out, messed up. And oil? What woe can't be pinned on it? Climate change? War? Yet, governments such as the US subsidize its production far more than renewable energy. How messed up it that? Paying companies to use up crud that is killing us instead of promoting self-reliance. Never mind that July was the hottest month ever recorded, or that it was the 15th consecutive monthly record, enough people have been convinced that there's no way that human activity could have any hand in changing the climate by their tardification source of choice, be it religious based, media based or simply economics based. That last one is the cudgel many try to use to bash the otherwise rational into submission: why try to save ourselves from extinction by curbing and cutting reliance on fossil fuels when doing so will cause us all to go broke; which of course means we'll starve to death. I'm sure this one even works on the people of Baton Rough, latest victims of a once in a thousand year climate event that I'm sure had nothing to do with anthropogenic climate change. Don't worry, they've got nothing on the people of Alberta still living in denial about what happened in Fort McMurray where at least they got to make a few bucks before what they were doing caused the place to burn to the ground.

AFC East - Dolphins, Patriots, Bills, Jets and privilege and racism

Oh my god I hate this division. The Patriots have won it seven years in a row and 13 of the last 15, and not even sidelining QB Tom Brady for the first four games (yes, Deflategate is still a thing in a world stuck on repeat) will take the title away from them. I mean who's gonna beat them here? The Jets? You mean the team that missed the playoffs thanks to three consecutive drive killing interceptions in the last game of the year? The Dolphins? Really? You think Arian Foster is going to save a team that couldn't figure out how to use Lamar Miller? The Bills? Rex Ryan's Bills? You do know he brought in his brother Rob to run the defense, right? Bills fans seem to really hate tables. I prefer ignoring this division all together, screw you Patriots, go ahead and win a division that no one cares about.

You know what, maybe you should just ignore this division in fantasy too. Except maybe TE Rob Gronkowski. A lot's been made of the shrinking gap between Gronk and the rest of the TEs, but I'm not buying it. Take Gronk in the middle of the 2nd or ignore the position until much later. The Pats 2nd TE, Martellus Bennett is the only other draftable TE here. I hate Jordan Cameron and do the Jets even have one? Whether you pick QB Tom Brady depends on your draft and bench space; if you choose to take him in the 6th, you'll need to pick up someone like Tyrod Taylor at 119, or one of the Ryans, Fitzpatrick at 160 or Tannehill at 164 in the last couple rounds. Leave them all and target Derek Carr or Matthew Stafford thanks to their first four game opponents. LeSean McCoy is attractive as an RB1 in the late second as is Matt Forte in the mid-fourth but I can't stomach either Arian Foster or Jay Ajayi from the Dolphins or any of the Patriot running backs. The best WR in the division is 32 years old so I'd have trouble taking Brandon Marshall at the end of the 1st round. Jarvis Landry is a PPR machine and makes a great WR2 if he slides to you in the 3rd. If you're confident that Sammy Watkins has relearned how to run, he was a monster at the end of last year and would make a good consolation if someone scoops Laundry on you but I'm not taking 4-game-Bradyless-post broken foot Julian Edelman in the same round. Yes, Eric Decker is worth his fourth round slot, but I never take his boringness, I'm not down on DeVante Parker at 103 but might take a shot on teamate Kenny Stills with my last positional pick in the 13th. The other flyers are Pats WRs Chris Hogan and rookie Malcolm Mitchell, but they'll be available on waivers.

I admit that I hate the Pats for no other reason than the aura of entitlement that seems to surround them. This privilege inevitably results in them doing all kinds of crap they think they're allowed to do because of who they are and even if they get caught, the price they'll have to pay makes the penalty worth it, kind of like, say, the way banks behave. Cheat, win a title, pay a fine. Cheat, make billions, pay a few million. Same goes for the oil companies, ditto the insurance business, etc... It's gotten to the point where not only do the corporations and super wealthy feel entitled to special treatment but the public expects it as well. Yet, deep down, the majority doesn't accept it and are in need of someone to give a voice to their grievances, someone not afraid to speak their mind even if it upsets a few apple carts.

Here's what I love. This nouveau alt-right constantly claim to being held hostage by political correctness; the libtard thought police is limiting their rights. Yet, the mere mention that support for the Trumps, Brexits, La Pens or Kaczynskis of the world is at least in part a product of racism is somehow taboo despite it being indisputably true. First, look at some of the supporters, be they KKK members in the US or ONR supporters in Poland, regardless of whether or not they are the majority, they represent a significant slice and they are racists, not just the silent kind, but the truly evil kind. Second, listen to their words; gone are the halcyon days of subtle dog whistle calls to violence and replaced with the overtly racist Trump calling Mexican immigrants drug dealers, criminals and rapists or Kaczynski claiming refugees carry "parasites and protozoa" or other Polish politicians calling them "human trash". Thanks to dialogue's impossibility in today's polarized political reality, simply stating these things automatically gets you labelled as an enemy of the state, or citizens of "the worst sort". The inevitable outcome of such talk is the violence against minorities we see spiking around the world. It's a wonder the very people inciting the hatred by denouncing foreigners can even act surprised when emigrants from their own country are murdered abroad. Maybe this is how the world was caught off guard by Hitler.

AFC West - Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders and war

Well, this is weird. You win the Super Bowl with the worst quarterback in the league who will be remembered by many as the greatest in history capping off a run of five straight division titles only to come into the next year without a QB. I'm picking the Broncos to tumble to third as both the Chiefs and Raiders leapfrog them leaving the Chargers to languish in the basement. The Chiefs finished last year with a ten game winning streak and will ride the return of RB Jamaal Charles and Justin Houston to the division crown. The Raiders are stacked with young talent and earn a wildcard birth while Denver adjusts downward to the most-Manning era and the Chargers give up the most points in the league. Fear not, Oakland will come out losers as that prick Mark Davis figures out a way to get Las Vegas to pay for a new stadium for the Raiders next year.

Oakland has the shiniest fantasy toys: RB Latavius Murray might be too high at the end of the 3rd with rookie DeAndre Washington (worth his #133) lurking, but Amari Cooper should dominate his second year justifying his #20 position, and fellow WR Michael Crabtree and QB Derek Carr are steals at #81 and #106. There might not be any draftable TEs in Oakland, but the Chargers have one of the greatest looking to break the TE TD record - Antonio Gates is worth every penny of the 102 spot. WR Keenan Allen was on his way to a record season before a freaky kidney laceration, he could be a bargain even at #14 as is 2nd year RB Melvin Gordon and PPR god Danny Woodhead; draft them happily at 51 and 56. With his team trailing all the time, QB Philip Rivers should be good value at the tail end of the 8th round. The Chiefs might win the division but their offense is boring, I mean their QB won't even be drafted. Sure Jeremy Maclin showed that KC WRs can actually score TDs but he's just a tad overpriced at the beginning of the 4th. There's too much risk in the backfield as Jamaal Charles comes back from his 2nd ACL and turns 30 just after Christmas at the 2/3 turn, but scoop up his backup Spencer Ware in the 8th or 9th. TE Travis Kelce should provide just enough return to justify a 6th round pick. In Denver, I always avoid running backs, will stay away from the QBs, would take WRs Demaryius Thomas in the late 3rd and Emmanuel Sanders in the 7th and am more than intrigued by their TE Virgil Green who you should be able to pick up for free off waivers.

Never mind the clusterfuck that is Syriqistan, the chicken hawks have their sites set on a bigger conflict: Russia. Bored with siphoning off wealth from the productive economy, arming opposing sides of conflicts, scattering arms around the world and fudging the books to the tune of $6.5 trillion in a single year, and eager to justify spending over $1.5 trillion dollars on a plane that doesn't work, it's clear that the military industrial complex is intent on pushing us into a conflict with armageddon-like consequences. Step one, foment a faux revolution in Ukraine. Step two, continue to flaunt promises to not expand into Eastern Europe by continuing to do so by building a missile shield in Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic (but say it's to protect the west from Iran!) while embarking on a trillion dollar nuclear arsenal upgrade, Step three, pound the public with a deluge of evil empire, Putin is bad, faux hacking stories. Step four, put a war hawk in the Oval Office. Sit back and wait for the fireworks:

AFC North - Steelers, Ravens, Browns, Bengals, and the failure of experts

Ah, the AFC North home to a franchise that honestly believes they can do no wrong despite being even more evil than most, another better known as the Bungles, one that should be the Colts, and, um, the Shit Stains. Seriously, the Stillers, er, Steelers are led by Rapey McGreyPenis and are rumored to have the best offense, like, totally ever, but since they can't get everyone on the field at the same time due to suspensions, we'll never know. Meanwhile, the Bengals proved last January that it is actually scientifically impossible for them to win a playoff game no matter how much better they are than their opponent. Despite winning two Super Bowl victories since Art Modell magically created the Ravens, they'll never be a real team. And Cleveland, well, what can you say? They'll always be the Browns. The Bengals will win the division again only to lose their first playoff game, the Stillers will field enough players to fight for a wildcard, the Ravens will win more games than last years dismal five but only manage third yet will hold off the resurgent, yes, resurgent Browns who nevertheless stay in the cellar.

Fantasy gold awaits the aggressive claim staker here particularly at WR from surefire #1 Antonio Brown and slightly overpriced #5 AJ Green to the ultimate risk/reward choices of Josh Gordon and Steve Smith Sr. An early 5th round pick seems to steep for Flash as he's suspended the first four games and all it takes is one more toke for him to find himself out of the league while for some reason I'll gamble the last pick of the 12th on a 37-year-old returning from a double ruptured achilles. In between, Kamar Aiken at 115, Mohamed Sanu (142), and rookies Corey Coleman (127) and Tyler Boyd (143) are all reasonably priced, Terrell Pryor at 174 and Mike Wallace in the previous slot are great for larger league players. At QB, Big Ben takes too much punishment to stay intact all year while RGIII knee will fold at some point but they could be paired with someone like undrafted Joe Flacco. The Red Rifle's (Andy Dalton) 137 seems like a bargain to me. Want a high-upside RB at a discount price? Well, here's La'Veon Bell who you can get at #12 because he's suspended the first three games, after which he could be the highest point getter in the league. Grab him, but you'll need an extra roster spot for his replacement DeAngelo Williams and you'll need to grab him before #68. I'll always take pass catching Giovanni Bernard at #60 over bulldozer Jeremy Hill at #50 but vice-versa in Cleveland as Isaiah Crowell's 112 is more appealing than Duke Johnson's 70. Skip the mess that is the Ravens backfield. Tremendous value in descending order at TE: Jesse James (undrafted, so free), Gary Barnidge (79), Tyler Eifert (116, cheap as dirt but will miss a few games meaning you'll need to draft another TE). Again, I'm passing on the Ravens carousel here.

Despite the best efforts of think tanks, media pundits and sages to convince us that the likes of Drumpf and Brexit are merely the by-product of stupid people voting against their self-interests, they are, in fact, in large part the product of years of poisoning the well of public dialogue, decades of a quid pro quo relationship among the so-called cognoscenti, the traditional media and the ruling class. Once upon a time much of research done was carried out in universities and laboratories that were for the most part publicly funded. However, as neoliberal policies were implemented, shrinking tax revenue, particularly from the rich and corporations, strangling funding to public institutions, such as NASA and universities, and deregulating everything from the financial industry to the labor market, the majority of research came to depend on private financing. Not only did this make once autonomous institutions dependent on corporate sponsorship but it also gave rise to the rapid expansion of influence wielded by so-called think tanks. You know, those benevolent sounding places that provide the majority of panelists on TV debates and commentary in newspaper articles such as the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, RAND, and the Center for American Progress.

The world's a complicated place so clearly we need experts in fields requiring years or decades of study to provide guidance. Yet, it doesn't take a genius to figure out the fatal flaw here, but at least one, Upton Sinclair, put it into words, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!". In football, as in much of the capitalist model, this arrangement often works. Taking the example of the NFL draft, the owner, unless he's Jerry Jones, might have the final say in draft choices, but he relies on a myriad of scouts (experts) to give him advice as s/he is unable to keep track of all the variables that factor into each decision, much like the average voter in the voting booth. Those who give advice that results in positive outcomes, say, suggesting a seventh round draft choice who turns out to become a three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, earn increased trust in the future while those who recommended taking JaMarcus Russell with the #1 pick overall lose the confidence of the owner or their job as there is a direct line of accountability  between the scout and owner.

Now, think of that aforementioned average citizen. (S)he has been assured by a leading economist/military adviser/university academic that the policies included in the platform of the Republicrat party benefit him/her. Now, 30+ years later, after faithfully marking an X next to that party's candidate every couple of years, s/he is no better, or even worse, off than s/he was 30+ years ago. S/he can't fire the experts who led her astray, and in fact many of those very experts are now in higher positions. Why? For the simple reason that the advice wasn't intended to benefit the voter but instead those who paid for the advice in the first place. What? An economist arguing in favor of NAFTA then and TTIP today? A four-star general advocating war in Iraq yesterday and somewhere else tomorrow? A geologist producing a report paid for by Haliburton which claims there's no earthquake risk of fracking in Oklahoma? No wonder we have lunatics running around claiming vaccines cause autism, 9/11 was an inside job and the world is run by the Bildebergs. It's surprising more people don't.

Examples abound, from the seemingly benign to the unequivocally asinine to the, um, well, those with the effects of strychnine. Obamacare, drones, and free trade all sound good to both those selling the idea and the ADD-suffering electorate. After all, who could be against increasing the number of people with access to health care, reducing the number of soldiers coming home in flag-draped coffins and expanding job-producing trade? Alas, the assurances of Grima Wormtongue couldn't do a better job of keeping the promises of such spells intact in the mind of the populace while doing the exact opposite. The scam of Obamacare was to sell the idea of moving toward healthcare coverage for everyone while disguising its primary purpose, to extend the healthcare market of the for-profit private insurance industry. Its inevitable failure is inscribed in its fundamental contradiction: providing affordable quality healthcare on the condition of satisfying the profit prerogative of capitalist corporations. Regardless of what the Atlantic tries to convince you, health care is a right, not a business. What better way to win the war on terror than blowing up bad guys by remote control? A doubly effective message combining the vision of technological progress while inoculating the TV news consuming public from the horrors of Vietnam-style numbers of returning body bags. So long as no one notices the terrorists don't hate us for our freedoms but for blowing up their hospitals and wedding parties. Finally, loosing trade from the constraints of bureaucracy is the image most think of thanks to the 'free' of free trade. Well, the experts forget to tell you about the non-free part where corporations use cheap labor to pad their executive compensation packages instead of paying middle-class wages to workers at home and gives those same corporation the power to overturn national laws if they interfere with profits through secret tribunals known as Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS).

AFC South - Colts, Texans, Titans, Jaguars, and terrorism

After years of having the division as a playground, the Colts stumbled to an 8-8 record as the Texans advanced to the playoffs. If Indy's offensive line finds away to stop QB Andrew Luck from being pummelled play after play they should find their way back to the top, but it's not a gimme. And I don't think it's the Texans who will challenge them but the Jaguars who after a decade of irrelevance finally, at least on paper, have what it take to take the division. Houston battles into December but fall short while the Titans, though slightly improved from last year, remain in the cellar.

I'm all in on former Dolphin, now Texan RB Lamar Miller as I picked him up both in my 10 team PPR snake draft and 20 team auction (yes, 20 teams!). Couldn't say no at the price, 12th pick and $45 respectively so I say he's worth his current #11 ADP. Teammate Nuk Hopkins is a bit overpriced at #6 as the rookie pairing of Will Fuller and Braxton Miller syphon away a few of his targets. Will's worth a shot at #128. I like the Jag players over the Colts, of the WR Allens, I'd buy Robinson at #10 but maybe not Hurns at #67. Both RBs are interesting too, taking either Chris Ivory at #87 or TJ Yeldon at #91 while TE Julius Thomas is intriguing at #98 and QB Blake Bortles could make the leap to elite so grab him at the end of the 7th. Did you notice Luck wasn't Luck even before getting shut down for the year suffering from a half dozen ailments that would each incapacitate us mortals? I'm not in on him at #59 nor WR TY Hilton at #29 but would take Donte Moncrief in the fourth and TE Dwayne Allen, without Coby Fleener around, in the 11th. Don't take Frank Gore regardless of how many yards the stats say he somehow wound up with last year. I can't help liking all the Titans but the RBs may be going too high. I know they paid a lot to bring him DeMarco Murray, but he was awful last year in Philadelphia and the rookie Derrick Henry will vulture some TDs making them both overbought at #41 and #72 respectively. They'll be a run first team, but QB Marcus Mariota (141), TE Delanie Walker (66) and new WRs Rishard Mathews (152) from the Dolphins and rookie Tajae Sharpe (113) are worth taking at their ADPs.

How else to segue into terrorism beyond saying it's simply unbelievable that we could take something so obviously complex that it would drive someone to kill themselves and others, and try to fit it into a neat narrative. No, it's messier than that, so I'll try:

The problem isn't that they hate us for our freedoms.
The problem is that we sell arms to Saudi Arabia so they can bomb the shit out of Yemeni hospitals and wedding parties.
The problem isn't that Obama is a secret Muslim.
The problem is that he sits atop a mostly-secret, lacking in any oversight extra-judicial program to kill military-aged Muslim males with drones which also happens to hit the occasional wedding party.
The problem isn't that Obama and Hillary founded ISIS.
The problem is the US produces and sells over half of the world's arms, loses over half of the of the guns they ship to war zones, metastasizing a U.S. imperium that’s often supporting both sides of the conflict, arming the world and widening the so-called "War on Terror".
The problem is not Muslims infiltrating the west and forcing us to wear burkinis.
The problem is blowback from western colonization from Algeria to Iraq and America’s War on Terror catalyzing an unprecedented global humanitarian nightmare while the media ignored the damning conclusions of the U.K.’s Chilcot Report and the troubling details of the long-anticipated "28 Pages" on Saudi involvement in 9/11.

And that's before I even get started on Palestine.

The Long and the Short of it

For the most part I've lost the taste for making predictions, but I always make an exception for football. The NFC should come down to the usual suspects, the Shithawks, Cardinals, Packers and Panthers so I'll stick my neck out and say the Cardinals advance to the dance. A lot needs to happen but most importantly Carson Palmer needs to stay healthy, the rest should take care of itself. In the AFC I'm looking for a new team to finally rise above the Pats and Broncos. The Kansas City Chiefs, yes, the red tomato, Andy Reid-led Chiefs make it to their first Super Bowl since IV in 1970 when they beat the Minnesota Vikings. That's as far as I'll go today.

Try to enjoy your football while you can as it may not be around much longer. Much as the present system's internal contradictions will bring about it's collapse or revolution, a game whose object is to hurl one's body with as much force as possible at another isn't long for this world. Concussions, the culture of violence along with the feeling of impunity it engenders in those who play all argue for its termination. Add to that the looting of public coffers, the deep rooted sexism, and even the horrible diet of those attending games and its hard to argue against pulling the plug. Ah, but the fact that it helps the rich get richer while the rest of us suffer thanks to both football and the major problems in the world tell me both will continue as long as we allow them to. This November, when faced with a choice between the two most hated candidates in history, one will still win as the majority are still convinced there's no other way. Funny how people gloss over the fact that when voting for the lesser of two evils you are still voting for evil.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

L - As in Super Bowl L

Yeah, it's L, I don't care what the NFL says. Super Bowl L and that's what I'm going to call it! Anyway, no time for a long post unfortunately, instead, you get a podcast. Yep, and for all of you you tl:dr types in the past who are instead tl:dl (too long didn't listen?), I'm looking to extend my unblemished Super Bowl blogging predictions record and taking the Panthers straight up and against the spread as they should beat the Broncos by about a touchdown, maybe 23-17. Enjoy!