The Great Tom Brady Resurrection of 2017

Wow.

Midway through the third quarter of yesterday’s Super Bowl LI, I turned to my wife and said, “This one’s in the bag.” The Falcons were up by 25 points (28-3), the Patriots had been looking like crotchety old men stumbling around an unfamiliar country, and, after all, no team in Super Bowl history had ever come back from a deficit of more than 10 points to win the game.

tom-bradyAnd then it happened. The Great Tom Brady Resurrection of 2017. In something like 23 minutes of clock time, he had led his Patriots to a 28-28 tie. Un-freaking-believable. Superlatives fail me.

Can there now be any doubt in anyone’s mind that Tom Brady is the greatest NFL quarterback of all time? It’s not just the numbers, either, though they are impressive. It’s the heart, the confidence, the sheer guts of the guy. A season that started with a four-game suspension as a result of one of the silliest controversies in pro sports history, ended with the Brady Bunch winning a Super Bowl that broke so many records it would take a longer column than this to list and explain them.

You can hate the NFL overtime rule (I do) and prefer the college game’s way of determining winners in tie games (I do), but you can’t take anything away from the Patriots.

kyle-shanahan-falconsOr, for that matter, from the Falcons and QB Matt Ryan and offensive-coordinator-soon-to-be-Niners-Head-Coach Kyle Shanahan. They put together an awesome game plan that had the New England D on its heels most of the evening. Ryan was near-perfect at reading the Patriots’ backfield and schemes. His accuracy was astonishing and his awareness of the field nothing short of superb. On any other field against any other team with any other QB, he’d have waltzed to victory.

But not this time. Not with the Great Superhero Quarterback of All Time calling signals for the other guys.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the result but I have to say: this was one of the best Super Bowls of all time.

(BTW, interesting betting sideline. The over/under for the game — which is a bet based on the total scoring output of both teams — was 56-½, an absurdly high number that certainly looked dead in the water in the third quarter. But the final total was 62 so those folks who took the over made out like bandits.)

Great game, Patriots! And, Mr. Brady, what more can be said about you?

Wow.

“One of the Most Bizarre Hirings in NFL History”: Niners Bring in Rookie GM

In what Matt Barbato of all22.com called, quite correctly, “one of the most bizarre hirings in NFL history,” the San Francisco 49ers just hired a former player with zero front office experience to be their new general manager.

This is almost a stunning to football fans in general and to Niners’ loyalists in particular as Trump’s upset of Hillary in November 2016.

New 49ers Rookie GM, John Lynch

New 49ers Rookie GM, John Lynch

ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier reported that former All-Pro linebacker John Lynch got the job at the urging of the presumptive (and apparently presumptuous) new, as-yet-unnamed head coach Kyle Shanahan.

As Barbato summarized the story: “Lynch woke up one day and thought it’d be a good idea if he became San Francisco’s GM, even though he has no front office experience. The FOX NFL commentator called a head coach who hasn’t been hired yet to pitch him the idea. Now, the nine-time Pro Bowl safety is the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.”

Yup.

New 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

New 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

The Niners had three veteran front-office people in their sights for the GM position, created at the end of the 2016 season, any of whom would have been a more intelligent, predictable, safe pick for the post. But from the beginning CEO Jed York (the guy really ought to be replaced but, of course, can’t be) had emphasized he was looking to fill those two positions with guys who were sympatico. So if Lynch (who has been publicly critical of Shanahan’s “arrogance” by the way, although in the next breath he said he’d “hire that buy in a minute”) pushed hard on Shanahan and the new head-coach-in-waiting-for-the-Super-Bowl-to-be-over pressured York, then there’s at least a glimmer of comprehension for the selection.

But that’s pushing it.

I was sort of hoping maybe York would give Lynch a short leash. Like a 90-day trial period? Wrong again! Just like the Donald, this series of surprises just keeps coming. The contract is for a nearly unprecedented six years! WTF?

This ought to be fun. A rebuilding period calls for front-office savvy which the Niners now lack in spades.

Yeesh.

Even Trump Can’t Destroy the Environment

Angry Donald Trump photoThe assault on the environment has begun in earnest. The effort to debunk and de-emphasize the global warming catastrophe looming just over the horizon is already moving into high gear.

A litany of all the steps Trump has already taken to reverse the minimal progress the U.S. has made on global warming during the eight years of the Obama administration would take up too much space. But here are some of the most disturbing highlights. In one week in office, he has:

  • named several cabinet nominees — including the centrally positioned Environmental Protection Agency — who are ostriches on the climate if not outright deniers;
  • overseen the removal from several government Web sites, including that of the White House, of any mention of global warming and climate change;
  • issued gag orders for the National Park Service and its employees to prevent them from talking about global warming’s impact;
  • signed executive orders resurrecting the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline projects, two of the largest environmental-disaster-in-waiting monuments to our ability to ignore truth at the expense of exorbitant corporate profits; and,
  • decreed that EPA studies will now be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by Trump’s team, some of whom are known climate deniers.

Trump, in short, is proving to be — as promised — his own climate disaster.

But it’s important for those of us who are focused on the global warming problem to keep one thing in mind: the rest of the world is, broadly speaking, more concerned about the immediate impact of global warming than is the United States. This is true both at the level of the population and at the level of government. Just because the United States has a brief memory lapse and forgets the importance of the issue, doesn’t mean the problem just runs amok. Other nations — notably China, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK (if May doesn’t screw it up) and in fact most of the EU as well as Australia and New Zealand — will step into the leadership vacuum created by our temporary amnesia. Then, when we finally rid ourselves of this aberration and right the ship, we’ll see how it feels to be a second-rate nation playing catch-up with a world that has moved beyond us. And perhaps that loss of innocence, of that belief in America as the great power and leader in the world, of the claim of American Exceptionalism which has never been more than a patriotic slogan, is just what is needed to further the cause of world peace.

And, as a bit of an aside, it’s not going to be all that easy for Trump to reverse the progress we’ve made on global warming. Many, many American businesses have already recognized the significance of the issue and have made major investments in clean energy technologies, weaning themselves off fossil fuels, and building new infrastructure for a green future. They are going to push back against a man who appears at least to listen to other successful businessmen more than any other audience other than Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump. He’s going to get an earful on global warming on his own golf courses.

 

What Did We Expect?

More and more pundits are pointing it out. In his first week in office, Trump has given us pretty much exactly what he warned us he would.

Why do we keep assuming the best from this guy? Maybe it’s the incurable optimism that is such an essential part of being American. Maybe it’s the old “any port in a storm” thinking. Or maybe it’s our blindness.

Whatever is at work here, it doesn’t. Work, that is.

When Trump announced his candidacy, we all said, “What a joke. He won’t last a month in real campaigning.”

Then when it became obvious he would be one of the last candidates standing, we made excuses for him. “He’s got to be a vicious attack dog to get the nomination. He’ll temper himself once he’s the nominee.”

He got the nomination and things, if anything, got worse. So we said, “Even if he wins (which clearly ain’t gonna happen), he’ll have to temper himself. After all, the office makes the man, not vice versa.”

Now he’s the “leader” of the free world and “president” of the United States. Has he shown the first glimmer of tempering? Nope.

Brace yourself, my friends. Trumplethinskin (I love that word!) is going to be giving us the same petty behaviors, ill-considered policies and narrow-mindedness he’s shown us from the start. For however long this reign of error lasts, we’re stuck with it.

Resist!

 

Carl Sagan’s Prescient Quotation Foreshadows Trumpian Ignorance

Carl Sagan PhotoI ran across this quotation from Carl Sagan this morning. Given some of the Donald’s recent executive actions and many of his Cabinet nominations, I felt it was appropriate to share with you.

Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. -Carl Sagan, astronomer and author (1934-1996)

 

More Fragmentation in the Progressive Ranks

I’ve written recently here about my hope that the Progressive movement in the U.S. would begin to coalesce around a single leader or small group of leaders to unite behind the important causes of a day when a right-wing demagogue of the first rank has just been handed the nuclear codes.

Now along comes yet another Progressive claiming to be the uniter who can bring all the Progressives together under one umbrella. This time its Cenk Uygur, the Internet TV commentator who is quite popular among the same constituencies who found their Presidential candidate of choice in the person of one Bernie Sanders.

Uygur has announced that he is stepping forward to head up an organization he calls Justice Democrats. Uygur, host of the Young Turks show, said the new group plans to launch primary attacks against Democrats who have abandoned Progressive causes and stances. He cited specifically, by way of example, Sen. Corey Booker of NJ.

So add one more splinter to the rapidly disintegrating Progressive movement in the  United States. And we’ll wonder in 2018 and 2020 why we don’t make the gains we expect. It will be because we are not like the Republicans, united as a solid front. If the Tea Party movement didn’t teach us anything, it should have taught us that.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad to see this resurgence of interest in Progressive causes. I just wish it could be integrated and focused so that it could leverage resources instead of competing for them.

 

Beware Dropbox! A Cautionary Tale

I have just been forced to undergo one of the most time-consuming, frustrating and anger-producing experiences with technology of my long career in the field and I feel an obligation to warn you of two things:

First, stay away from Dropbox. The services they provide in terms of an offsite storage location for important and shared files is quite good but their “customer service” is crap. In fact, it’s non-existent. Their Web site contains no obvious way to contact the company…and I spent more than an hour trying to find it. No phone number. No email address. No physical location.

Finally, I found a trouble ticket submission page. I filled out the form describing my problem (a billing issue in which they are continuing to bill me months after I cancelled a service) and submitted it. Several hours later I received an email saying, in effect, “Buzz off, buddy. We’ve designed the greatest self-serve customer service experience ever. Go use it.” Which, of course, I already had, without success.

Second, do not sign up for recurring payments on anything. As it turns out — and if I’d thought about it, I’d have realized this sooner — once you sign up for one of these payments, only the vendor can stop the billing. Your bank cannot help you because the vendor has your credit card information. So even if your bank would tell them to stop charging your account, there’s no way to enforce it. And most banks won’t even do that; after all, the vendors are generating a lot more revenue for them than you are.

Because I couldn’t reach anyone at Dropbox to request they stop dinging my card, I had to close the card and have a new one issued. Which is already resulting in messages from the places where I have my card on file for convenience (and not for recurring payments) crowding my email inbox. Each of these requires me to go to the vendor site and update payment information. But that’s only after I get the new card, which in the ordinary course of business apparently takes the bank 7-10 days (which is ludicrously indefensible). So I agreed to pay an additional $25 to expedite delivery of the card (which is what the bank claims FedEx charges but I doubt that).

So, bottom line. Avoid Dropbox like the plague. Avoid recurring payment arrangements lest you find yourself spending gobs of time undoing them when one of them decides to defraud you.

 

Kudos to Trump for Yanking US Out of TPP

On his third day in office, Donald Trump has managed to make me and  lot of other progressives happy by cancelling America’s signature to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This trade agreement took all eight years of the Obama presidency to get finalized. But ultimately, it was a bad deal on a number of levels.

Traditionally, Republicans favor such trade agreements while Democrats resist them. But the last two international trade agreements we’ve entered into were both negotiated and signed into law by Democrats — Bill Clinton on the infamous North American Free Trade Agreement and Obama on the TPP.

I had been publicly opposed to TPP almost from the beginning. While the vast majority of the agreement’s contents were not disclosed to the public, what we did know of it rankled me. The provisions on intellectual property — a subject that is near and dear to my heart — were egregious and threatened the sovereignty of the United States at a fairly fundamental level. The fact that it was negotiated completely in secret with only a few top business execs in the room made the whole thing reek of crony capitalism.

So I’m glad Trump pulled us out of TPP. He’s done a number of other things I disagreed with — some of them vehemently — but on this one, I think he got it right.

Whither the Greens and Me?

In the just-concluded election, I cast my vote for Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein and was quite vocal about it. And, no, I didn’t help elect Trump: I live in California where our electoral votes were never in doubt for the Democratic Party’s well-worn candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Now the election is over and I’m considering what, if any, role I want to or should play on the American political scene going forward.

I have concluded that I am not going to continue with the Green Party, at least not as an active supporter and participant. That decision has little or nothing to do with how the party conducted its campaign or with any specific outcome. It has everything to do with my new vision of hope for the progressive cause in America and with my desire to remain flexible and independent until that scene sorts itself out.

I won’t do anything precipitous; I don’t need to worry about my party affiliation until the next election in 2018. But I have cut off contributions to and volunteering for any specific party-supporting activities in the meanwhile. Instead, I choose to spend the little time I’m willing to devote to politics these days to the progressive movement in the broader sense.

progressivismThe stunning election of a right-wing demagogue to lead a nation that has traditionally stood for diversity and democracy seems to be having an unintended positive side effect: a coalescence and re-energizing of the progressive base. Today, a progressive interested in the broad agenda can pick from several national movements to support. There’s MoveOn.org, which is practically venerable at this point, and which claims 7 million members. There’s Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution, which staggered out of the starting gate with internal disputes about leadership but which has the most clearly articulated progressive “platform” with more than 20 planks. And there’s Organizing for Action, the successor to outgoing President Barack Obama’s Obama for America campaign group. OFA claims 5 million supporters and counting.

Then there’s Keith Olbermann’s loosely defined movement which he dubs “The Resistance”. (If you’re not watching his regular vidcasts sponsored by GQ, you owe it to yourself at least to sample them over at YouTube.

Here’s the problem. Unless these various attempts at creating an umbrella group over the Progressive Movement come together to share resources (mailing lists, information sources, donors, organizing expertise and more), conservatives will continue to win the day electorally despite their demonstrably minority position among voters.

So where does this leave the Green Party?

Given that it is a political party, and despite its clearly progressive platform and agenda, its primary focus is not on carrying out that agenda directly, but rather on getting candidates elected. Frankly, I’ve reached a place where I don’t care what political label a candidate chooses to adopt; the question is whether he or she is progressive. In recent years, that has meant they were either Democrats or Greens or Socialists. But if that weird anomaly called a “Progressive Republican” were to appear on the landscape, I would unhesitatingly vote for that candidate.

I have essentially become a one-issue voter. Facing the existential crisis of global warming, it seems to me that focusing on other no doubt incredibly important subjects like income inequality, social injustice, criminal justice reform, and big money in politics is for all practical purposes futile. If we fail to solve the global warming catastrophe looming on the horizon, all of these other issues will fade into oblivion, along with the human race.

Given that reality, and my general disposition to be broadly progressive in my views, it seems too narrow for me to identify with any political party. Unless something drastic changes between now and the 2018 election, I will register as Independent. I will continue to monitor both the Green Party and the Democratic Party to see how progressive their agendas and platforms become — particularly on the subject of the climate — then determine at an appropriate point whether to register for one of those parties or remain independent.

This is an odd place for me to find myself. A lifelong Democrat, it was difficult for me last year to register with a different party and to vote for that party’s candidate for president. But then, these are odd times in our nation’s history.