Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Your hair's on fire Texans fan, and that's OK

In prior weeks I've advised Texans fans to hold on, to breathe, to all come together and sing Kum-bai-yah while we all watched your team fall to pieces around you. Now, granted, I've also advised you that your talent wasn't near as good as you've been led to believe, that your coaching was below average and that your team's General Manager has done a horrible job managing the salary cap. Yes, things were bad, but it called for a dose of reality, not a case of the screaming meanies.

Reading the news this week on the heels of the Texans 17-16 loss to the Chiefs, I'd say the time for panic is now.

It's not because the team is 2-6. While I didn't think they'd be this bad I did have them at 3-5 right now (wins in the first 2 games, loss of 4 straight, win over the Chiefs) finishing 9-7 with a shot at the Wild Card. Clearly now, all of that has changed. With games remaining against New England, Denver and Indianapolis (twice) I'm feeling more of a 7-9 vibe in place of 9-7. I don't see any way the Texans can make the playoffs and I would argue that 6-10 (or worse) is more likely than a third consecutive playoff run. Still, that's not the reason that I would panic.

I'd panic because I see the Texans panicking shuffling roster spots around as Gary Kubiak did in his first few years in an attempt to shore-up depth and the bottom of the roster. Although they won't admit it, this is what teams who are rebuilding do. Not teams that are running face-forward into the rest of the season looking to make the tournament.

It's also a sign that the organization has lost faith in some of their current personnel. Which means (I would imagine) that they've lost, at least some, faith in the ability of Rick Smith to do a quality job going forward.

As I said earlier. Your hair's on fire Texans fan, and that's OK.

An election season primer for the blogosphere

We're hitting the period where political bloggers, of all stripes, become giddy with the anticipation of making that one (1) election post that's going to catapult them to the National Stage. Back when I was poli-blogging on a State and local level I thought this was grand. It was only a matter of time before the cognoscenti stumbled across my words of wisdom and wondered how in the world they didn't have me on the payroll. I also knew bloggers a lot smarter than I who bemoaned the same thing. This despite throwing support behind candidates at a way earlier stage than most, being some of the smartest, inside-baseball strategists I've met, and genuinely having the energy and drive to make that kind of job work.

Now, it's election season again and I'm sure there's going to be an entire new wave of political types who see themselves as the next Matthew Yglesias (Hopefully, minus the skewed world-view and free of the ignorance of how things actually work) or Joshua TreviƱo minus all of the "Malaysia mess. After 10 (ish) years of blogging on various platforms I'm here to tell you that it's probably not going to happen. Yes, you can probably put out better copy than most members of Texas' Lock-step Political Media (TLSPM) and yes, your take might be refreshing and honest and yet, you might even have some brilliant ideas for your party of choice. But none of this is going to lead to a career in politics. The fact is today's politics is all about connections and money. Despite some politicians possibly showing up to an event, inviting you to lunch or granting you an interview you really have none of these. The reason for this is simple: A politician is not going to pay you for something you're already doing for free.

However, because I've hit the "giving" portion of my blogging career I offer up the following types of blog-posts you don't want to write if you want to get noticed.

Early voting recaps: It seems that these pop up on a dozen or so blogs every year during early voting season. I understand, you've found yourself on the e-mail blast list for the local voting authority and you feel the need to broadcast this information out to your reader(s). Don't. For one, it's not necessary and second, the local media has already done it in a format that will be read by a lot more people. Secondly, unless you are conducting exit polling raw voting numbers don't say much. Of course, you can take a look at the turnout by polling station and try and determine whether or not the higher locations are favorable for one candidate or another, but this would forget that a lot of people early vote near where they work, not near where they live. Blog posts providing arm-chair analysis of early voting results scream amateur hour. This leads me to post-type #2 to avoid....

Electoral predictions: I understand the temptation here. For a while I was the uncrowned King of predicting elections. I soon realized however that there's really no benefit to this. For one, you're not a pollster, you probably haven't seen too many polls, and even if you have, no one really cares the opinion of "who's going to win" coming from someone sitting behind a keyboard merrily typing away.

Posts criticizing the endorsements of local media: For one, it give it a credibility it doesn't deserve and two, it gives it credibility it doesn't deserve.

Any post from a local organization titled "suggested blog post topic": Just. Don't.

Endorsements: This one might seem a little weird because you're thinking "I'm a blogger, I'm supposed to endorse." I would argue no, you're not. If anything it's OK to write something about an endorsement (although, I'll argue that, especially at the local level, endorsements mean zilch) especially if it's one that the local media has ignored. But issuing your own endorsement, during the primary especially, is bound to cause you to lose access if you're wrong. If you're a good enough blogger, and ideologically sound, people will probably already know your leanings on any race, unless you vote straight-ticket and then it doesn't matter anyway. I will allow for an exemption if you're crossing party lines in the general. In that case it would be a good idea to have a laundry-list of reasons why you're crossing over and lay them out logically and without resulting to ad-hominem attacks.

Posts with extensive block-quoting, poorly attributed from a media source and no value-add: Now, granted, this has worked well for some bloggers and it will continue to work because a.) it's easy and b.) people like having the media filtered for them. That said, it's also lazy, very lazy. If you're going to utilize the blockquote (and I do) then use it sparingly and make sure you're adding something to the original story.

Breathless reactions to the scandal of the day: Here's a truism for local politics: Unless someone is caught kicking dogs and slapping babies, the local scandal du jour is probably not going to move the election needle much in either direction. For example: I live in Houston, and lately there's been a lot of noise over the tax history of Mayoral candidate Ben Hall. Many have declared that "his candidacy is over" on the heels of this news. They're wrong, his candidacy was over long ago. Don't get sucked into that twaddle, leave it to the local news media that are desperate for ratings and page hits.

So, after all of this I'm sure you're asking "Well then, what the hell should I blog about?" Good question.

Local races underneath the radar of the MSM: Have a local school-board election coming up? That's a great idea. A local bond election that's flying under the radar? Easy pickings. Good political blogging, especially at the local level, takes a large amount of work. If you want to be successful you need to block out some time and attend meetings of political groups, especially candidate forums. There's bound to be something there that you key on which everyone else misses. Even if you do replicate the writings of others, at least the perspective will be unique right? (This last bit is invalid if you're a party blogger. We all know you share the same brain)

Candidate Interviews: Again, there are many bloggers doing this but there's a wide, wide gap in the blogosphere for good quality and questions from a different perspective. Get some quality recording equipment and start contacting campaign managers. Explain to them what you want to do (they'll probably ask for questions or topics in advance, I leave that up to you) and then lose some lunch time talking to candidates in your area. Whatever you do, ask good questions and record the answers faithfully. There's no need to add ellipses or Ed. Notes explaining whether or not you agree/disagree with the candidates position. Again, if you're ideologically sound your audience will know where you stand. Above all, be fair.

If you get the cross-tabs of a poll, research it, and find an error, run with it: The assumption that pollsters are either infallible or unbiased is one of the great mistakes in modern politics. A blog is a good place to point this out. If you're not familiar with the dynamics of polling it might be good to make friends with someone who is and run it by them before you submit.

When I put the brakes on political blogging I had a chance to go back and read a lot of the posts that I made. Looking back the biggest regrets that I have are doing more of the former, and less of the latter. Had I a better understanding, back then, of what the local political blogosphere could have been I definitely would have done the latter almost exclusively. As the political blog becomes more and more politicized and less and less relevant to the world I think the few successful bloggers are going to be the ones that successfully carve out a niche. Whatever your niche is, do it well and keep it focused. And whether or not you allow comments, keep them tightly moderated and on point as well. It's only going to give you a better product in the long-run.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

College Football Predictions (Week 8)

This is my off week.

Here are my leans though:

Okie St

And finally.....

Go Blue!!!  Blue 35 IU 27

That's my hope but I fear the Hoosier offense is going to give Blue fits.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Everything wrong with the Texans coverage by Houston's Rah! Rah! Sports Media in one paragraph.

If you pay attention to my Pinboard feed or follow me on Twitter then you know that I've long not been a fan of the coverage that the local sports media provides for Houston consumers. Often it's a mixture of poorly thought out opinion mixed with some nagging and an underlying sense that the people writing the stories just don't like their customer base all that much. These truths are most blatantly seen in the sports pages of ChronBlog, where the Three Stooges frequently hold court. Whether it's John "Moe" McClain openly trolling fans with his "pathetic" tweets and grouchy-old uncle nature, or Jerome "Curly" Solomon reverting to lecture mode, or even Randy "Larry" Harvey providing you local sports news from a New York or Los Angeles perspective you always get the feeling that they are at their most comfortable when they don't have to talk to you, but AT you.

Given that Texans "Sports" Radio 610 has the Texans radio contract I've come to not expect much from them in the way of meaningful analysis. And remember, it was one of theirs who first mis-reported the Matt Schaub/fans at his home incident leading me to wonder who fed that story to them, and why. As a follow up today, that same writer (Fred Davis) writes what I believe to be the perfect paragraph summarizing everything that's wrong with Houston reporting on the local sports teams.

A Case for Defense and a Win in Kansas City, Fred Davis, CBS Radio Houston
Now, a lot of folks are pointing out the fact the Chiefs defense is leading the lead in takeaways – +12 and sacks -31 – and are coming off a performance in which they sacked Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor 10 times. And he’s a mobile quarterback.

And sure, if you planned on having any QB, mobile or not, sit back in the pocked with a suspect offensive line and no legit weapons running or catching the ball, yeah, he’s going to get beat up.

Luckily for the Texans, they’re not the Raiders. See, lost in all this debacle of a four-game losing streak is this team still has good players. The defense still has guys that can get the job done, they’re just not. The offense still has guys that can get the job done, they’re just not. I’d like to think this team has coaches that can get the job done – and you guessed it – they’re just not.

Emphasis mine.

Thinking your team has superior talent/coaching/organization in comparison to the rest of the league is a folly made by many fans. In College Football we call them Pollyannas, people who always have an over-optimistic outlook despite facts to the contrary. It's not wrong to say that this Texans team has some talent. It does. But to say that they are markedly higher than the Raiders in terms of overall talent is laughable.

Make no mistake, the Texans best players are a step higher than the Raiders best. JJ Watt is one of the best, if not the best, defensive linemen in the game, Andre Johnson (even though he's declining) is still better than any receiver the Raiders can trot out every Sunday and Arian Foster is a better back than Darren McFadden however, if the latter could stay healthy I'd wager it was a much more even proposition.

As proof of case Fred Davis highlights the struggles of Terrelle Pryor last week against the Chiefs. The problem with this is, we haven't seen the Texans play the Chiefs as of yet and there's little reason to believe this untalented and deteriorating offensive line is going to fare much better against what is turning out to be one of the better defenses in the League. I would argue that the Raiders are only slightly behind the Texans in several areas, and possibly better off (mainly due to youth) in others.

Quarterback: Say what you will about Terrelle Pryor, he's at least showing development while MattSchaub/TJYates/CaseKeenum are really just carbon copies of the same guy. Yes, Yates has a better arm and Keenum is more mobile, but none of them are, now, considered to be a franchise quarterback. As a matter of fact, it's probable that the Raiders have found their QB of the future while the Texans are probably going to be getting theirs in next year's draft. Advantage: Raiders

Running Back: Arian Foster has been a serviceable NFL running back with flashes of greatness. Unfortunately, until last week, his production has been declining since its peak during the 10- 6 2011 season. Darren McFadden is a talented back who can't stay healthy. Ben Tate is a young backup (who will be leaving the team as a FA after this season) with a hard running style and a fumbling problem, Rashad Jennings is a veteran with speed. At fullback Marcel Reece is far superior to Jones Advantage: Texans

Wide Receiver: The Texans have a declining Andre Johnson, who is still a quality #1, an unproven Hopkins and....not much. The Raider's receivers are young, and have some talent but haven't proven anything as of yet. Advantage: Texans (but not by much)

Tight End: Even with the injury of Owen Daniels the Texans win here by default. The Raiders don't use the TE much because they're not that good. Advantage: Texans

Offensive Line: The Texans have LT Duane Brown, the Raiders have LT Jared Veldheer. You haven't heard much from Veldheer but he's one of the League's best young LT's. The Raiders also have young LG Bergstrom and the talented Lucas Nix backing him up. Wade Smith for the Texans is a competent LG. At Center the Raiders have Stefan Wisniewski, who is one of the premier young Centers in the League, the Texans have Chris Meyers, who is serviceable, but undersized and getting long in the tooth. On the right side of the OL the Raiders take the advantage with former Texan Mike Brisel starting and the aforementioned Nix backing him up the Texans have the blah combo of Brandon and Cody White. At LT the Raiders have the clear advantage, with veteran Khalif Barnes and rookie Menalik Watson being far superior to the Texans mess of Derek Newton and Andrew Gardner. Advantage: Raiders

Defensive Line: The Raiders have a solid quartet of Lamarr Houston, Andre Carter, Vance Walker and Pat Sims although their depth is questionable at best. The Texans have the incredible JJ Watt and two guys, Earl Mitchell and Antonio Smith. They have almost zero depth at this position, although Jared Crick has shown some promise. Advantage: Texans (only because of Watt)

Linebackers: This area is a need for both teams, although the Raiders have good OLB's in their 4-3 in Kevin Burnett (very underrated) and Sio Moore (very talented). Nick Roach at Middle LB is just a fill in until they can find their long-term solution. The Texans have Brian Cushing, and a bunch of guys. Whitney Mercilus is talked up by the Rah! Rah! HSM but has yet to perform, Brooks Reed is a space filler, and Joe Mays was brought in because no one on the remaining roster is really an NFL caliber starter. Advantage: Raiders

Defensive Backs: DJ Hayden and Tracy Porter are a serviceable tandem as are Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. The back-ups are a push, nothing special. At safety Tyvon Branch and Charles Woodson are far superior to a declining Daniel Manning and a totally spent Ed Reed. Usamah Young and Brandian Ross are far superior in the backup roles to Shiloah Keo (who shouldn't be on an NFL two-deep at S and Eddie Pleasant. Advantage: Raiders

Special Teams: Quickly, Sea-Bass is better than Bullock, Lechler is better than Marquette. The Raiders(by default) have a better kick return and coverage team. Advantage: Raiders

My point here is, when you look at the talent across the board, the Texans are not head and shoulders above other teams whose records indicate they're at the same level. The holes in talent for this Texans team have been apparent since the end of the 2011 season. Each of the last two seasons the Texans have gotten worse, not better in terms of overall talent on their roster, there’s no escaping that fact. The right side of their offensive line is a shambles, the QB position needs to be revamped, and most of their good players (with the notable exception of JJ Watt) are either in decline (Manning, Joseph, Schaub, and Johnson) or inconsistent (Cushing who, if he continues to have a bad season, will have more bad [3] than good [2]). It's one thing to have optimism, but it's another thing to misrepresent the talent level of the team entirely. I understand that you're around these guys and crave access, but you still have a job to do and that job is accurately reporting the current state of the team to the fan base.

The fact is that GM Rick Smith has done a terrible job navigating the modern salary cap, has overpaid for positions where you don't need to overpay, has been hit-or-miss on draft day, and has made some questionable free agent decisions given a limited budget.

This is not to say that it’s wrong to suggest that the Texans can go into Arrowhead and win the game. But it’s dishonest to say that the Texans have some type of talent advantage over a team that just got manhandled by what is turning into one of the league’s best defenses. Can the Texans win? Yes, if they execute, stop turning the ball over and find some plays to replace the play-action and bootleg plays that are no longer working in their offense. Should they walk in there thinking that they’re going to out-talent the Chiefs? Uhh…No.

And that’s what’s wrong with the Rah! Rah! Houston Sports Media, for some reason they’re reporting on this team like it’s something it was, only briefly, in 2011 before Schaub went down: a Super Bowl contender. Until they prove otherwise it would be wise to question some of the talent decisions. That’s not going to happen in this town.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Yearning for Royalty, Angry when they don't get it.

This is not a post about how poor the Chron.columnists are when it comes to politics. I've stopped blogging on Houston goings-on here and will hold true to that promise. What you should take from this is the following: There are a lot of people who would be happy having the United States governed as a Monarchy by committee.

To whit.....

If Dewhurst had won, the Government would still be open. Peggy Fikac, ($$$)

(this is an article behind the fire-wall so I'm only going to pull a small quote and encourage you to go read the rest of the article yourself. I hope the Chron finds this fair, as I believe it is well-within the terms of "fair use".)

St. Mary's University political scientist Henry Flores had only a "maybe" when I asked him to play the No Cruz, No Shutdown game, but he declared himself "flabbergasted" at Cruz's actions.

"He's a junior senator ... I don't know in the history of the United States Senate where anybody has ever done anything quite like what he's done," Flores said.

The idea, in America, that we are what our title declares us to be runs counter to the very meritocracy to which we pretend to adhere. In short, people are not what they are labelled (Jr Senator) but instead are rated based on what they DO. In Cruz's case, agree or disagree with him, he has taken on a leadership position with the Right. It's the idea of the ruling class, now espoused by the media who are supposed to have an ingrained distrust of them, that leadership by our "betters" is given through title, not acheivement. In many areas of the Country (Houston and [increasingly] Texas being among them) it matters not what you know but who you know. Being a leader is lesss about leadership and more about networking. It should scare you that many people are publically expressing the belief that advancement for some is not possible, nor desireable, and that political power is acheived through longevity, not talent. Hang around long enough and Flores could name you King.

Even scarier? Flores, the Gentlemen suggesting that Cruz is acting outside of his station, is teaching the American system of governance to our youth.

See, I told you this wasn't about Fikac's horrendous column.

College Football Predictions (Week 7) The (ugly) Results

should really start putting some time into this, because I'm taking a whipping picking all of these upsets.

Last week saw a return to form, as I picked a few upsets and some favorites I thought were sure things.....then they weren't. To recap, I went a paltry 5-5 straight up and a horrible 4-6 ATS meaning that, if you bet against me, you did well (again). For the season that means I'm 64-25 SO and 40-47-1 ATS. Of course, these picks cost you exactly what you paid for them and what the heck are you doing taking betting advice from a 40 yr old, out-of-shape, accountant in the first place?

To be honest, I pick games because I think it's fun. If nothing else this reminds me that I don't know much about sports betting, which keeps me away from the actual sports books which saves me money. Still, on my trip to Vegas I'll still lay down a little, just less than I thought I would considering how much trouble I'm having getting a read on teams.

Now, as usual, here are your take-aways from the week that was:

1 - Texas Oh Texas. - Remember what I said last week about a team coming in too confident to a rivalry game? I'm unsure what happened to OU's offense, but they made UT-Austin's sub-par defensive unit look like world beaters.

2 - UGA limping - I really thought Georgia would have enough to beat Mizzou. That said I probably, like many, underrated this year's version of the Tigers based on what I saw last year. Too bad for them that Franklin is now out of the season. I would imagine they had designs on the SEC championship game with him. Still, the Tigers are a good team.

3 - The fallacy of early rankings - Stanford? Oh Stanford? This is what I mean when I say 1st half of the season rankings are, for the most part, ridiculous.

4 - Rice, 3-0 in C-USA - I told you they were good enough to make a run at the conference title.

5 - Houston, 5-0 - However, I'll be honest here, after the off-season mess I didn't see this coming.

6 - Manziel the Magnificent - Whether or not you think his skill-set will translate to the NFL (I don't) there's no denying that Johnny Football is an amazing college QB. Now, if the Aggies only had a defense.

7 - 'Bama back to looking like 'Bama - It was only a matter of time before that team started jelling.

8 - The Big Twen is terrible this year - Baylor is (arguably) the best team and they didn't look good against a horrible K-State team.

9 - Is this the year Clemson doesn't trip over itself? - They've been on danger alert, but next week's game against Florida St is going to be HUGE

And finally......

10 - Dammit Blue! - Brady Hoke is 100% to blame for the Penn State loss. If you play not to lose you won't win. Hoke had them playing not to lose. Hopefully the team learns from this and gets better. That said, I'm not a believer in the ability of Devin Gardner to play championship football.

Top 5: (as of now)

1. Alabama - Still the best until beaten.
2. Oregon - Did nothing to lose their position
3. Clemson - Next week is huge.
4. Florida St. - Ditto.
5. Ohio St. - By default.

Bottom 5:

1. Eastern Michigan. - Ron English is the worst coach in America.
2. Akron - The Terry Bowden project is a failure.
3. Florida Atlantic - Remember when they had hope for the future?
4. Florida International - Ditto.
5. Southern Miss - Never should have fired Jeff Bower.

Big game next week: Clemson/Florida St.

Off the radar: UCLA at Stanford.

Way off the radar: USC at Notre Dame

Texans Fan: Sit Down, breathe, relax, let's take stock of this situation.

On the heels of Sunday's 38-13 shellacking by the Rams Texans' fans can be forgiving for feeling a little put-upon right about now. This team, hyped by Houston's Rah! Rah! Sports media as a Super Bowl contender at the beginning of the year has failed to live up to many fans expectations and offensive play, particularly at the quarterback position, has been abysmal. Add to that the fact that Matt Schaub's injury has led to a outpouring of scorn from both Texans players, local and National media are portraying them as the worst people in the world....ever, and you might be forgiven for feeling that you've been handed a crap sandwich and been asked to eat it with a smile.

Instead of dumping on the whole for the actions of the few (unlike the Chron staffers, I don't have any hate for normal Houstonians or (seemingly) a charge to insult them at every turn) let's take a minute and look at the Texans team, and the media coverage surrounding it, holistically. Here are the facts. This team has never been either as good as the local media has portrayed them or as bad as they seem right now. What they are, have been, is mediocre, a fringe playoff team that took advantage of some downturns and beneficial scheduling to seem better than they are.

1 - 2012 was Fool's Gold. - We all remember 11-1. The joy and optimism that was in the air before the reality check that was the New England Patriots? The problem is that the Texans ran up that record against fairly easy opposition. Yes, they beat Baltimore and Indianapolis in that run, but that was before Baltimore figured out that Cam Cameron doesn't belong as an NFL coordinator and before Andrew Luck really got it going at the end of the year. Had the Texans played Denver at any other time than when they did, the result would have been different. The fact is, any 'elite' team that the Texans played in 2012 beat the dog mess out of them.

2 - The "best" team was probably fielded in 2011 - That was the year the Texans finished 10-6 and might have made the AFC Championship game until Schaub got hurt. Now the problem, or one of the problems, is that post-injury Schaub is a statue of a QB, the offensive line has been gutted, and the defensive backfield isn't anywhere near what it was back then. Rick Smith has been horrible managing the salary cap and the team has diminished greatly since this high-point.

3 - This year's Texans are what we've seen - It's time to put away the hype and hyperbole surrounding Ed Reed, the offensive line and Bulls on Parade. This Texans team is flawed, and it doesn't appear that the coaching staff has any answers how to fix it. Ed Reed is a shell of his former self, the Texans overpaid for damaged goods. The offensive line has an entire right side that shouldn't be starting in the NFL. And the defense has one player (JJ Watt) who's playing up to expectations.

4 - The good(sorta) news, the schedule gets (somewhat) easier from here - When I picked the Texans to go 9-7 this year in a work pool (making the playoffs as a wildcard) I predicted, at this point in the schedule, that they would be 2-4. Unfortunately, I also predicted the upcoming Kansas City game would be a win so that's problematic. As a matter of fact, looking forward I only see 5 wins remaining. You can't assume a win over Indianapolis under any scenario right now, New England is strong, and it's possible that Denver might beat you worse than they beat Jacksonville considering they'll take the Texans more seriously. 7-9 could be the ceiling for this team. However, 4-5 losses in a row doesn't seem to be in the offering so there's that.

5 - This year's team has reverted to the mean - I realize that this post has been a lot of gloom-and-doom and for that I apologize but it's the truth. However, part of coming to grips with the situation is having a clear understanding of it. You're not getting that clear picture from the local media, who are continuing to insist that this team is loaded with talent and is just underperforming. It's high time the Texans fan base took a breath and started looking at the situation as it is, not as you're being told it is by a group of media who don't like you all that much in the first place.

Solutions? Well, for one, the Texans could stick with the status quo, draft a QB in next year's draft to groom as Schaub's replacement. This would mean keeping an even keel and trusting in Kubiak & Smith to fix what they've broken. Given Bob McNair's disposition this would have to be the favorite in the clubhouse. Were I the Texans owner however I think I'd be tempted to end this experiment sooner rather than later. Should the Texans lose the Kansas City game (and have a record of 2-5) I'd fire Kubiak, replace him with Wade Phillips on an interim basis and begin the search for my next head coach now. I'd also fire Rick Smith, who's done a terrible job managing the salary cap, and replace him with someone who has a working relationship with the coach of my dreams. Who would I look to long term? Bill Cowher for one, John Gruden, possibly even Nick Saban (who we all know is eyeing the NFL next, NOT the UT-Austin job). One thing I would NOT do is let Kubiak and Co. anywhere near the decision making process for the next Texans QB. They've already whiffed on that twice, I see no reason to give them another cut.

One thing to remember, all is not lost long-term. Look at Indianapolis and Kansas City as proof of that. In today's NFL there are several examples of teams turning from losers to winners in one or two seasons. Every year (this is Charile Pallilo's favorite stat) there is a team that rebounds from 6-10 or worse to go 10-6 or better. The Texans haven't done this because Kubiak and Co. are too conservative, too risk-averse. For the Texans to get where they (and their fans) want to be they need to start taking some risks.

The sooner the better, because time has run out on this version of the team.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

College Football Predictions (Week 7)

I'm not touching the Louisville/Rutgers but I'm watching it.

Arizona @ USC(-5.5)  Ariz 24 USC 17 - I like Ed Orgeron, but he's inherited a mess.

Missouri @ Georgia(-7.5) Mizzou 14 UGA 27 - Now Mizzou sees how good they aren't. This despite UGA battling a bevy of injuries.

Indiana @ Mich St(-9) IU 35 MST 24 - As a Michigan fan, I rarely bet Little Brother. That won't change here, but I'm rooting for the Hoosiers to kick the crap out of them.

Memphis @ Houston(-9.5) Mem 24 UH 42 - Is this the week I finally get one right for the Cougars? We'll see, it's the first week I'm giving them credit. O'Korn is the difference methinks.

Oklahoma(-13.5) @ Texas (In Dallas) OU 27 UT-Aus 24 - Any time I see people so confident of a blowout in this game I can never see it happening. OU wins, but UT-Austin play hard. Mack Brown claps a lot.

South Carolina(-5) @ Arkansas SC 24 Ark 17 - Arkansas is better, SC is even better than that.

Florida @ LSU(-7) FLA 10 LSU 35 - Not close.

Baylor(-17.5) @ Kansas State  Bay 56 KSU 17 - The Wildcats are hanging their hats on the hope that Baylor is different on the road.  Uh-oh.

Oregon(-14) @ Washington  Ore 63 WU 24 -This is a trendy upset special among some prognosticators, I just don't see it. The Huskies are better but Oregon is just too good.

And Finally......

Michigan(-2.5) @ Penn State - BigBlue 38 Penn St 13 - I'm scared of this game, but I think Penn St is about at the same level as Minnesota. Michigan handled Minnesota.  I'm hoping for the same here.

This is a good, not great, week of College Football Match-ups, too many obvious games or games that looked good at the beginning of the season but aren't looking so great now.  Still, it's College Football in the beginning of Fall.

Good Luck. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

There's no waste in the Federal Government (And other fairy tales)

While conducting research on my inaugural BlogHouston post concerning L'Affaire d'Schaub I happened to stumble upon this story of interest.

Shutdown means no new craft beers from craft brewers. Carrie Antlfinger & Todd Richmond, AP via

Mike Brenner is trying to open a craft brewery in Milwaukee by December. His application to include a tasting room is now on hold, as are his plans to file paperwork for four labels over the next few weeks. He expects to lose about $8,000 for every month his opening is delayed. "My dream, this is six years in the making, is to open this brewery," Brenner said. "I've been working so hard, and I find all these great investors. And now I can't get started because people are fighting over this or that in Washington. ... This is something people don't mess around with. Even in a bad economy, people drink beer." The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, is a little-known arm of the Treasury Department. The agency will continue to process taxes from existing permit holders, but applications for anything new are in limbo

So, let's get this straight. We have a branch of the Federal Government who has among it's responsibilities offering permits for labels and bottle sizes. (The story goes on to say that a company cannot get a permit for an existing beer to be bottled in 22oz bottles instead of the 12oz ones.)

Is this really something the Federal Government should be worried about? Or is it just another example of excessive, heavy-handed regulation that doesn't promote business or safety, but generates revenue for the Fed's and ensures that they get their cut ahead of time?

An examination of one chron.commenters "defense" in the comments speaks volumes:
UseYerNoodle 10:12 AM on October 9, 2013

It sounds that way to a lot of people who have no clue what the food industry is like when regulation is inadequate.

So, according to UseYerNoodle, calls for removing this regulation are akin to calls to a return to conditions found in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. I'm sorry, but if your defense centers on a logical fallacy it's not a defense at all. If Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, then slippery-slope arguments are the last refuge of the Statist.

This just goes to show that the biggest fear of large government types in this shutdown is that a large amount of people come to realize how little they need all of this government in their lives.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

College Football Predictions (Week 6) - The Results

"Ninety percent of this game is half-mental." - Yogi Berra.

And hey, 90% of picking college football is 1/2 skill. The other half is luck.

At this point, I'd just like to get to 50%. It's a number I creeped closer to ATS last week going 6-4, which leaves me at 36-41-1 for the season. If you've been following the "bet the opposite of what this idiot picks" strategy, I'm sorry, you lost last week. Straight up I had a great week going 10-0, which puts me at a respectable 59-20 for the year. As always, here are my takeaways from College football Week 6:

1. Oh UT-Austin. Even I didn't think they were THAT bad. I would imagine that Mack Brown is "retired" by the end of the year and UT-Austin will learn just how far it has fallen off the National radar when Saban says "Thanks....but no thanks".

2. The "trendy" pick right now is to pick OU big. But I was unimpressed with the Fighting Stoops' blah win over a not very good TCU team. I think OU will win, but I've never seen a team this confident in a blowout actually get one.

3. The PAC12 is, without a doubt, the 2nd best conference in all the land. Oregon and Stanford might be two of the better teams in the league and UCLA is for real.

4. That #SECMYTH is a 'thing' shows how little some people know about football outside of their conference. Using head-to-head matchups, typically in SEC road games, to try and determine conference strength is silly. 7 straight championships. Until someone tops that there's no discussion.

5. The 'best' college football betting rule is this: Fade #20-#25 if they're on the road. (Hat tip to Willie G for that one.)

6. Louisville might have a top 5 team, but by the end of the year, against the pathetic American Athletic Conference, we might not get a chance to find out.

7. Speaking of the Amway, this conference is going to be terrible next year. If UH can't thrive against that, with a new stadium etc. then they should possibly reconsider their focus.

8. Red River Shootout Rivalry tickets can be had on the secondary market for face value. Think about that and then say a prayer for the Big XII Twen.

9. I think Jerry Kill is a good man, and a hell of a football coach, but it might be time to consider shutting it down. If not for his sake then for that of his family.

And finally......

10. Yes, they beat Minnesota, but this Michigan team is still giving me the creeping horrors every time Gardner drops back to pass.

Next week should be the first week that rankings mean anything, but here's my (current) top 5:

1. Alabama - Until they get beat, they're the champions.
2. Oregon - Could this be the year we see the best offense vs. the best team?
3. Stanford - Possibly the only team with a realistic chance to beat the Ducks.
4. Clemson - Until they pull a head-scratcher and lose to someone out of the blue.
5. Ohio St - Yes, the trendy pick is FSU, but I think the Buckeyes are a little bit better.

Bottom Feeders: (In no particular order)

1. Eastern Michigan - How does Ron English (11-42 since taking over in 2009) still have a job?
2. Southern Miss - Think this team is regretting the decision to force out Jeff Bower?
3. Idaho - The Vandals are horrible, just horrible.
4. New Mexico State - This is a team with little talent, and no resources ($$$) to lure it to town.
5. Georgia State - They are winless against FCS teams this year, nevermind not being competitive against the FBS.

Look out below: If UT-Austin DOES lose badly to OU.........

Low-Tech reasons for not going high-tech

There's been some small amount of discussion, and possible rejoicing, over what appears to be an inevitable FAA decision to allow airline passengers to keep their "qualified electronic devices" powered up during take-off and landing. The reason for this is that the available science appears to not interfere with the aviatronics of modern airlines.

As you might imagine, this has many of an iApple fanboi persuasion giggling with glee. It also has the media doing a self-congratulatory victory lap because the instigator of all this change was a journalist. In reading Monday's TechBoob column on the subject however I was struck by something that seems (to me) to be important, but that our technical betters are missing.

From the story....

If the FAA Changes its electronics, you can thank a reporter. Dwight Silverman, TechBlog,

It was 2011, and I was engrossed in an e-book on my Kindle and kept reading as I boarded a plane heading back to San Francisco. My head down, I bumped into the plane door, then into a passenger. I finally buckled in, continuing to read. Then, just a few pages from the end of the book, I heard it. “Please power down your electronic devices for takeoff.”

The above passage was actually quoted by Dwight from the original piece: Flyers still must turn off devices but it's not clear why. Nick Bilton, NY Times.

Reading Mr. Bilton's account I was struck by two things:

1. Given Mr. Bilton's seemingly unawareness of his surroundings, how much trouble would he cause in the case of a disaster?

2. What a self-absorbed prick.

I understand that there could be no technological restrictions to allowing passengers to use certain electronic devices, all of the available science appears to true this out. My concern is that, by allowing people to continue to be nose-down in their ebooks, or listening to music, could pose a large risk to those trying to exit quickly, or follow flight crew directions, when things go wrong.

It's the exact same principle behind putting up your tray table and bringing your seat to an upright position. This isn't done to ensure you're paying attention, it's done to ensure everyone has an unobstructed exit if need be. I'll give you that only around 5% of the plane is listening to the safety video (I typically tune out after Smiling Jeff gives his pep-talk) but how much are people going to listen to anything if they're bumping into doors and other passengers?

We live in an age of constant connection, where we are 'on call' with our smart phones and social media almost 24/7. Is it so bad to be asked to power them down for 20 minutes while the plane takes off and lands?

Asked another way: Do we now care so little about others that we're unwilling to put that book we're reading (or song we're listening to) on the back burner for a bit so that we can act responsibly in the case of something going wrong?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

College Football Predictions (Week 6)

As the air begins (in parts of the country) to cool and the leaves begin to turn that can only mean one thing: Conference play is about to ramp up full bore.

1. Texas @ Iowa St - UT 31 ISU 7 - I've been hard on the Longhorns this year, but ISU is terrible.

2. UCLA(-6) @ Utah - UCLA 42 Utes 14 - Outside of the shellacking they're sure to take from Oregon, I'm high on the Bruins this year.

3. Maryland @ Florida State(-16) - UM 14 FST 56 - The 'Noles have too much speed for the Turtle to handle

4. Michigan St(-1) @ Iowa - MST 24 IU 7 - I still have the theory that the Hawkeyes are not very good

5. Clemson(-14) @ Syracuse - Clem 42 Syr 7 - They might Clemson a game once this year, but not against this team

6. Rice @ Tulsa(-1) - Rice 27 Tulsa 24 - I picked Rice to win C-USA, they need this game to get there

7. Georgia(-10.5) @ Tennessee - UGA 35 UT 14 - UGA looked really good against LSU. I think they handle the Vols

8. Oregon(-39) @ Colorado - Oregon 77 Colorado 7 -Not only do I think the Ducks roll, but I think the Over (o/u 70) is a safe bet as well.

9.Texas Christian @ Oklahoma(-10) - TCU 10 OU 45 - What has TCU done this year to convince you they can be competitive against OU?

And finally......

10. Minnesota @ Michigan(-19) - Minn 20 Mich 23 - Despite being a Michigan fan, I can't see any reason to think Blue is going to run away with any game this year.

Good luck.

Given a chance to shine, our crumbling media (and government) continues to burnout.

Day three, of the 27% apocalypse and already there are signs that the media is leaving the reservation of the sane.

John Judis, of the progressive publication The New Republic, has already declared this to be One of the worst crisis in American HISTORY - Apparently Mr. Judis has forgotten about the market crash that led to the great depression, the assassination of Lincoln/Kennedy and several other "crisis" that would make a 27% temporary government shutdown look like the historical nothing it is destined to be.

Suddenly the New York Times Editorial Board are Fiscal hawks worried, as much as they can, about deficits and expenditures. Forgive me for thinking they are crying crocodile tears into the chasm of federal debt that they've advocated all along.

And if the USA Today editorial board was Really worried about America's image, they'd have shuttered their ed-board long ago. This ignores the fact that they've fallen for the great, modern fallacy of portraying your political opposites as worse than they really are through demonization. While I don't believe the people writing this are "domestic terrorists", I do think many of them are daft as a bat. (Your opinion on this largely depends on your party affiliation.)

To be fair, it's a little difficult to totally blame the MSM when they're faced with political leadership of this (low) quality. "We're in trouble" ranking up there with "living in a van, down by the river" as the bottom of motivational leadership. The accepted (by NBC) idea that the man who said he "didn't have to concede anything to the GOP" has "bent over backwards" to work with them is doublespeak to a level that would impress even George Orwell.

In Texas, the Apple Dumpling Gang continues to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that anything more complicated than puff editorials are beyond their logical reach. Use of a dictionary might help them with the concept of "irreparable" but one doubts it.

There was a bracing bit of honesty from The Las Vegas Review-Journal who are smart enough to realize that the 27% apocalypse is being managed to damage the average American citizen to at least the level of sequestration. They could have gone further to declare the age of government as public servant over, but they didn't.

I will though.

200 Plus years after a plucky band of under-equipped Revolutionary forces fought the armies of King George III to a standstill, thus making the British decide that surrender and retreat was a more prudent option, the United States has replaced the rule of one regime for the rule of another. No longer does our government view us as the heartbeat of the country, they have taken over that role. Instead of public servants they now view themselves as the public overlords. They are the ruling class who know best what it is we want and need in life and they have no problem telling us or showing us on a daily basis.

Do not think, for a minute, that this change is limited to the Democrats. Listen to Speaker Boehner or, in Texas, to supposed "conservative" State Senator Dan Patrick talk about how they need to "fix" something for the normal, work-a-day, average citizen. The message seemingly being that we're too slow and witless to handle the issue ourselves. To distract us from what they are doing they snow us in under a mound of supposed partisanship. They convince us that the "other side" is trying to do what they are already doing. In truth the only difference is that the winners and losers are different depending on which side makes the policy.

This shutdown is necessary because it's a case where a dedicated group of idealists are making a stand. You might not agree with their ideals (in which case you might not agree with them taking an obstructionist tack) but you should, at least, respect their right (granted in the Constitution) to make a stand. Because if we, as a country, decide that it's wrong for a few dedicated true-believers to stand in the breach against immense political pressure, then we might as well just roll up the sidewalks of freedom and relegate ourselves to a high-tax, high-regulatory state where income mobility is low, and the government decides which groups, and which industries, have a right to exist and thrive.

If this sounds good to you it's only because your particular industry has not been targeted as of yet.

There was a time that the media opinion would have fallen squarely on the side of the dissidents. They might not have agreed with their beliefs, but they would have applauded the determination and gumption to make a stand. Not any longer. As a matter of fact, it hasn't been that way for a while. That's a bigger problem than anything else going on right now.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

2014 Election: The Texas Tribune fires, and misses on the Texas Governor's race.

It's very easy to look at today's Texas Tribune story on the Texas Lyceum poll concerning the upcoming (supposed) race for Texas Governor and walk away thinking: "Hey, this abortion Barbie* Wendy Davis lady has a chance."

Certainly, that is the tack taken by Jay Root and the editors at John Thornton's expirement in advocacy journalism. It also seems to be the view of one Cal Jillison, who has never met a poll marginally favorable to a liberal candidate that he didn't like.

Poll: Abbott leads Davis by 8 points. Jay Root, Texas Tribune
Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said he found the gender gap “intriguing.” Given the fact that white Texans make up two-thirds of the electorate and routinely give 70 percent or more of their votes to Republicans, Davis needs to peel off white suburban women from Abbott if she has any hope of winning. He said Democrats in the last several elections have generally lost statewide races by 12 to 16 percentage points in Texas, so she’s ahead of the game at this point.

Jillison does go on to say that the number of undecided voters "is a problem" but doesn't really capture the issues with reading too much into these results.

For one, it's way early to be paying too much attention to the Governor's race. Results, right now, are nothing more than confirmation of partisan identity. If you were to tell me that the Republicans have an 8-10% structural advantage in Texas I would tend to agree. That is pretty much all this poll confirms.

Second, the undecided number is huge (50% of responders) What this doesn't mean is that 50% of the people don't know for whom they will vote for Texas Governor. I would argue that, in many cases, poll respondents have little desire to give an answer this early in the race, lest they appear to be partisan tools incapable of individual thought. In recent races, the "swing vote" in Texas hasn't been anywhere near 50%. To think that, because of one filibuster supporting an issue that a majority of Texans oppose, Davis has somehow flipped the script in this race is pretty presumptuous. At this point, if anything, I think these results are positive for the Abbott campaign and disturbing for the Davis gang.

Finally, the reason the Davis camp should be worried is that, currently, she has very little statewide name ID. For as much fawning media coverage that she received by the Tribune and other TLSPM outlets Davis still has the problem that most Texans don't care. Texas' largest major city daily is only subscribed to by less than 10% of the population in its Metro area. For all of the page-hits that the Trib likes to tout, the reality is they are the epitome of an Austin-centric, inside-baseball newspaper site. Outside of my circle of politically active friends, I've not come across one person who even knows the Trib exists.

The important thing to note is that this article was not intended to be a primer on the upcoming race for Texas Governor, it was intended to be a fundraiser for the Wendy Davis campaign....

“How does Davis break even with Abbott among the 50 percent who don’t know, when he’s got $22 million and she’s got $1 million?” Jillson said. “The odds are pretty long.”

The message is pretty clear.

*Kidding on the abortion Barbie stuff, calm down Democrats.


My plan was not to comment on the government shut-down. I'm, of course, sorry for those workers who have been furloughed and hope, for their sake, that cooler heads prevail sooner rather than later. I'm also sorry for people who still think the media has any knowledge of what it is they are reporting on.

As easy as it might be to say that "we've been failed by our politicians" (we haven't) it's much easier for a group of rich, white liberals to sit down at their keyboards and bang out some tripe that's been force fed to them about how our system of democracy is somehow being threatened.(It's not)

The fact is, I rarely read either Andrew Sullivan or Thomas Friedman any longer and neither should you. Certainly they have the right to say whatever it is they want to say, just as we have a right to ignore it. They go on the opinion scrap-heap alongside such deep thinkers as Donna Brazile who has little reason for her political being now that Al Gore's not around to teach how to be more manly.

The point is, I'm fine if you're on the left and feel a insatiable need to blame the Republicans, at least that's based on a healthy dose of honest partisanship. I don't agree with you (listening to Obama talk about not having to "give up anything" and then going into a corner to throw a 2 year old fit is certainly not helping the case, neither is Harry Reid) but I respect your right to view things through partisan shades should you so desire.

I also am not a fan of the Democrats are 100% to blame argument. That they share some of the blame, when they decided to pass the Affordable Care Act on a party-line vote they all but insured this was going to happen, the Republicans did decide that this was the point to draw a line in the sand. Obama arguing about ideologies is ridiculous on its face. This entire debate is about ideologies, asking one party to give up theirs is childish, immature and reveals a lack of leadership ability in our current chief executive.

If anything, I like the ideas of William Kristol who advises the Republicans to not panic, and calmly state their case. If you truly believe that the ACA is a horrible bill (it is) then you should feel strongly enough to be able to articulate why. For this reason I would advise the Republicans to find another point man besides Speaker Boehner. There are plenty of Tea Party Republican congressmen who could do a much better job.

The biggest problem in all of this is the media, not just anti-intellectuals like Friedman and Sullivan, but a media who has decided that civics is unimportant and that the mechanisms of governance that have powered the US through thick and thin are somehow faulty right when they're needed most. You would do yourself a favor to read more of writers like C.W. Cooke and less of blowhards like Sullivan. Only then will you realize that there is a reason we have the system of governance that we do, and that what we're currently witnessing is the way things are supposed to work.

Locally, in Texas, I sadly cannot provide you with any such example of clear thinking. Sure, you have the Apple Dumpling Gang who not only cannot shoot straight but who also don't understand the cognitive dissonance under which they are weighted. It's one thing to praise State Sen. Wendy Davis and chastise Sen. Ted Cruz for doing what is, politically speaking, the exact same thing but it's another to waste two editorials and a Nick Anderson cartoon so poorly conceived that he had to label the thing, berating a man who is doing exactly what he said he would do in his campaign. You might not agree with either Cruz or Davis, but to draw distinctions between their actions is solely a policy decision and not something based on action. If you, like Davis, have come to the decision that abortion should be available, on-demand, with no restrictions, then you (Texas Lock-Step Political Media) have decided that she was correct to filibuster. If you, unlike Cruz, see no fiscal damage as the result of the ACA being enacted then you (Texas Lock-Step Political Media) have decided that Cruz was incorrect to filibuster. That the TLSPM is incapable of intellectual honesty regarding this has everything to do with why they are so bad, and why the Democratic Party political operatives behind the Texas Tribune rightly concluded that their brand of advocacy journalism would not be revealed in a State whose current main-stream media is so poor.

After all of that let me conclude with this. What concerns me the most about the 27% Apocalypse is that it is being used by those who don't like our Democratic system to launch attacks against it. I blame a lot of this on the lack of good civics education in public schools. Since the 1960's victory of the radical left over civics curriculum, we've lost a generation of citizens who understand how and why our system of government works. Noble concepts such as the separation of powers and the right of Congress to go against the President have been lost in favor of emotional pleas to help those who supposedly "cannot help themselves". We've lost, as a country, our focus on what it is that made us great. We've lost the understanding of the social contract, the fact that, in America, you are allowed to try and fail just as you are allowed to try and succeed. We've mistaken equality of opportunity with equality of outcome. We've also taken our eye off the ball of government at all levels. This has resulted in the election of those with enough savvy to understand how to gain personal wealth at the expense of the populace. While we weren't watching our system of government was sold to the highest bidder (usually large corporations) and we've become so lazy as to determine that the only way to stop this is to freeze them out of the political process. Campaign Finance Reform is a solution that only works for a lazy electorate. For an engaged, active citizenry it wouldn't be needed at all.

Sadly, America is not engaged. We're asleep at the wheel while both parties sell our interests away to both corporations and special interest groups. All we seem to be doing in response is throwing our hands up and surrendering. For as much trouble as we give them, at least the French put up a fight.

In America, we've devolved to a point that a "fight" is considered an attack on our system of governance.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

College Football Predictions (Week 5): The Results.

One of those odd weeks where you wouldn't have done well either betting with me or betting against me (which, this season, has been the better tack) as I went 6-4 SO and 4-5-1 ATS (Ohio State pushed at 7). I have much more fun picking spreads because it's much, MUCH harder than just picking winners straight up, even if it makes me look bad.

Enough of that, let's bring back some take-a-ways from this last weekend of College Football:

1. Oregon is good. Possibly #1 team in all the land good.

2. Alabama's not that bad either. Perhaps this is the year we get them vs. the Ducks?

3. Welcome back to the National conversation Oklahoma. It appears you are the only class in the Big Twen.

4. Oof. Connecticuit. At this point I'm wondering if Big Blue should even be ranked? A good win over Minnesota would help.

5. Ah Okie State. Just Ah.

6. The Houston Cougars are playing much, much better with O'Korn at QB.

7. Whoever made that schedule for LSU needs to be fired. Brutal for Tiger fans.

8. Washington is pretty good. Their game against Oregon could be a barn-burner.

9. UT-Austin is still a dumpster fire.

And finally.....

10. Lane Kiffen fired? Couldn't have happened to a better guy.

On to next week and some pretty good matchups.