Tuesday, April 29, 2014

NFL Draft Predictions

Forget players, here is a list of what the NFL teams need to draft this off season:

1. Houston Texans - Lowered Expectations, They went from Post Season contenders to worst record in the league in one year, come on people, give them a break.

2. Washington Redskins (Traded to STL) - The ability to not have their team name be brought up during the draft. Trading away this years first round pick was a good step in accomplishing this.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - They need to stop eeking out a win once a month, The team with net 50 fewer net points then the team with the worst record tells you that these guys just don't know how to get a #1 overall pick. This will be the 3rd straight year with a top 5 pick while never having the number 1 overall.

4. Cleveland Browns - For Lebron James to move back to Cleveland and give Browns fans something to cheer about.

5. Oakland Raiders - To have the team learn to change a tire, that way they all stop showing up for a blowout <snicker snicker>

6. Atlanta Falcons - To draft some guy with the last name Vick that will wear number 7. that way I can finally start wearing my Falcons jersey while walking my dog again.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - To see Janet Jackson's teet again, it seemed to work out pretty well for them the first time, and it's been pretty much downhill ever since.

8. Minnesota Vikings - A New Stadium, there is a new one coming up next year, so just trade away this pick and hold out until then. Any old un-drafted college stadium should do until then.

9. Buffalo Bills - They need Berman to stop insisting that they "Circle the wagons." They tried that, it doesn't work!

10. Detroit Lions - For someone to remind the franchise that there are games that occur after the regular season.

11. Tennessee Titans - To give Jake Locker some comedy lessons, the last time he shared something with his receivers, it went over their heads.

12. New York Giants - To start a residential lawn clean up service, that way they could pick up a yard.

13. St. Louis Rams - Develop a website, that way they could string three 'W''s together.

14. Chicago Bears - A new exercise bike for Cutler to use while his team has the ball.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Ditch the Slow and Old, get back to the Black and Gold.

16. Dallas Cowboys - The Owner needs to have a serious talk with the General Manager.

17. Baltimore Ravens - A home opener, they kind of got screwed last year.

18. New York Jets - To resign Tim Tebow and create a new offensive formation with Geno Smith in a wishbone with Micheal Vick and Tebow in the backfield. I call it the 'WHAT THE F#%&!!' formation.

19. Miami Dolphins - To get over their perfect season, we get it, 40 some odd years ago you were really good, so was ABBA, Grease, and Pong!

20. Arizona Cardinals - For the NFL to expand the playoffs to an additional 4 teams.

21. Green Bay Packers - Laser removal on Aaron Rodgers face.

22. Philadelphia Eagles - For Eagles fans to stop having their Superbowl dreams from being crushed when their mothers wake them in the morning. <snicker snicker>

23. Kansas City Chiefs - Change something? Are you kidding me? I've never seen Chiefs fans more ecstatic over their odds!

24. Cincinnati Bengals - To find a way around having to play such good teams in the playoffs.

25. San Diego Chargers - I've been saying 'A new coach' for years, but they got that last year, so I think they are good.

26. Indianapolis Colts (Traded to CLV) - For Denver to host a pregame tribute to Peyton Manning the week that they play the Broncos.

27. New Orleans Saints - A call to Pope Francis about finally getting some of these guys canonized. They are, after all, already Saints!

28. Carolina Panthers - To not fall under any sense of disillusionment that going 12-4 again will be easy. Just look at Houston and Atlanta.

29. New England Patriots - Somebody needs to locate Tom Brady's cell phone, he can't seem to find his receiver. <snicker snicker>

30. San Francisco 49ers - To sign Mark Sanchez as a back up... and a warning.

31. Denver Broncos - For the NFL to accept the fact that they are playing in a state that has a fully legal product that can be used to treat pain caused by glaucoma, nerve damage, and devastating Super Bowl defeats.

32. Seattle Seahawks - A massive endorsement deal with Skittles Candies.

Friday, April 25, 2014

I think Iran is Winning...

To paraphrase what happened the other day, the quote would read;

"Why didn't someone stop this!" 
                               -The only person who could have stopped this.

That is the brief synopsis of what happened when US Ambassador Samantha Powers took to Twitter to cry her outrage at the electing of the Islamic Republic of Iran and more than a dozen other repressive regimes to top committees charged with protecting women’s rights and overseeing the work of human rights organizations.

"Yet again #Iran ran unopposed & was "elected" to Commission on Status of Women. Given record on women's & human rights, this is an outrage."
                -Samantha Powers via Twitter 4/24/2014

Her outrage is completely justified given Iran's long and checkered history in Woman's Rights, but who is Samantha powers upset at? I doubt too many people that follow her on Twitter would have had a say in the affairs of the UN. 

Well, it turns out, Samantha Powers had an opportunity to speak up, and did not.

There were 11 vacancies to fill on the CSW, and each of the five regional groups put forward “closed slates” – the same number of candidates as there were vacancies available for that group.

Even so, had just one member of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) objected to Iran’s candidacy, a secret ballot vote would then have been called. And had Iran not received the required minimum 28 votes, that would have allowed another member state from Iran's regional group, Asia, to step in as an alternative.

Yet neither the U.S. nor any other member of ECOSOC objected. Other democracies on the council include 13 European nations, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and India.

I don't know where the official scoreboard is being kept at, but I do believe the tally of Iranian victories in making the US look foolish (as easy as this administration seems to be making it) and garnering international credibility seems to be very much in their favor as of late. Let's check in on the recents events involving US Iranian Relations;

And now this story gives me a quick tally of Iran:2, US:-2. 

As you can see, it's less about what they are doing right and more about what we are doing that is wrong.

Casi-NO! What Is Cedar Rapids To Do Now?

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) rejected a proposed $174 million Cedar Rapids casino Thursday, saying it would hurt existing casinos.

Supporters of the Cedar Crossing Casino development have said it would give an economic boost to Cedar Rapids and the region. They also argued it would be a catalyst for development in an area ravaged by a 2008 flood, create jobs and generate millions for tax revenue and charities.

But representatives of casinos in Riverside, Dubuque, Meskwaki, and Waterloo fought the plan, saying it would take business away from them.

The five-member commission voted 4 to 1 against the new casino during a meeting in Council Bluffs, with more than 300 people attending, including the mayor and members of the Cedar Rapids council. There is no process to appeal the decision.

Mayor Corbett visibly upset over 4-1 vote 
against granting a new license 
The Cedar Rapids council was in visible shock and disappointment, though personally, I struggle to understand how and why. The criteria charged to the IRGC was simple, is there again to be had to the state. Not the city, not even the county, the impact for the state, and the vast majority study and evidence presented to the commission stated that most of the gain to the City of Cedar Rapids would come at the expense of surrounding, in state, casinos who have their own microcosms of economic well being to support.

It was a selfish venture for the City of Cedar Rapids, a point that was glaringly obvious when hearing Mayor Ron Corbett talk about the impact to other casinos after the latest studies showed the impact of existing casinos.

"The reality is the casinos in Eastern Iowa have taken a lot of money out of Cedar Rapids over the last five to seven years, and no one is talking about cannibalization in the reverse," Corbett said. "They’ve been cannibalizing the revenue out of Cedar Rapids and Linn County since they’ve been opened." -Mayor Corbett 2/26/2014

That is not the voice of someone who has the greater region's interest first and foremost, I do not fault the Mayor for wanting Cedar Rapids to have a larger slice of the proverbial pie, but an honest admission that a new casino would not dramatically increase the total pie size was the mission from the discussion. Indiscriminate openings of casinos is exactly the point of the IRGC, for better or worse, and trying to say that the commission failed to have the states best interest at heart is a dishonest argument.

Now that I have that mini-rant off my chest, the big question is, what is next for the City of Cedar Rapids. Specifically, what to do with these now vacant lots purchased by the city after the 2008 Flood on the North West side of downtown. The question has already been posed to members of the council in the wake of the IRGC decision not to grant a gaming license.

From the Cedar Rapids Gazette interviews;

---Council member Monica Vernon said the dust was still settling Friday, and she said the city still needed to determine if the casino idea “was completely over.”

Council member Pat Shey, said he could envision legislation that would permit a new casino with the stipulation that it be required to share revenue with an existing casino that suffers a loss of business because of the new competition.

Council Member Poe said, “At this point, it’s hard to drive down there because we had the vision of the casino with a parking ramp almost ingrained in our mind, It’s very difficult to imagine what else can be there.”---

In short, the City has little intention on putting up a 'For Sale' sign unless they can have their say in the development of that area. A voice that, given the City has been gearing a larger part of City Hall staff and resources towards developmental services, the council appears eager to exercise.
Last minute lobbying in Council Bluffs on the eve of the vote
Going forward, let the same people who are criticizing the role of the IRGC for being a barrier against free enterprise for an industry that is deliberately regulated for the benefit of the greater community not stand in the way of anyone who has a legitimate business plan in that area. The city was a breath away from giving that land away for all but free for promises of supporting the west flood protection. Now that we have this wade of cash for said protection, any fair market offer for a parcel of land needs a fair consideration. The council has been very active in imprinting their vision into the landscape of downtown Cedar Rapids that if they continue to dictate the specifics of too many projects then they will have proven themselves to be no better then the IRGC, only that their reach would encompass all industry, not just the highly regulated gambling industry.

Hopefully, the irony of being upset with the IRGC, being the body that undercut the City's plans of developing that land in a particular way is not lost when they forbid people from purchasing up individual parcels from this now vacant land because the plan does not conform to the vision that the council has for that part of the City. Hopefully, a valid business opportunity is not nixed because of a far-fetched hope that a bustling gambling district is not "completely over". And, hopefully, the events of last week are not the scapegoat in the event that this grand rebuilding plan does not go according to, well, plan.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Bundy Ranch: Raising Cattle and Eyebrows

Eighty miles away from the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas Nevada, another ecological disaster has been brewing for decades, a disaster that threatens the very existence of a species, of desert tortoise.

This is just one of the hundreds of ways the events in Nevada are being interpreted.

If you haven’t been following the unfolding drama at the Bundy Ranch, you probably should take an interest. The escalating confrontation between irate residents from both Nevada and as far as New Hampshire, and the federal agents of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) still has the potential to take a very dangerous turn for the worse in the coming days as a quick and easily resolution to the tensions has not presented itself, as hundreds of militia members from states across the country have descended upon the area and make a stand with cattle rancher Cliven Bundy.

Before we delve too far into whether this 67-year-old Nevada rancher home will be the next Lexington,we need a little background on the situation. As I hinted at above, this saga has been ongoing for two decades and the issue at hand is whether or not Mr. Bundy can graze his 900 head of cattle on a particular section of public lands in Clark County. On top of not paying federal grazing fees for over 20 years, Cliven Bundy has recently been ordered to stop all together on environmental grounds to protect the desert tortoise, but he has stood his ground time and time again. As a result, the feds have now entered the area and are impounding his cattle. According to CNN, Between Saturday and Wednesday, BLM contracted wranglers impounded a total of 352 cattle.

The irony of our government that has in it's checkered history a time of forcing people off of reservations when it was politically expedient for them and set off nuclear weapons in the name of strengthening our geopolitical power now forbids a private citizen from using public lands for something as passe as cattle herding in the name of defending a specific type of tortoise not withstanding, what is the federal government doing wrong here? There are laws, Cliven Bundy is breaking the laws, what is the federal government, through the BLM, doing wrong here?

From here the speculation and reasoning seems to diverge more times then mandates change in the Affordable Care Act. Some people are arguing a states rights case in which the Federal government shouldn't have authority over something as mundane as how a bunch of acres thousands of miles away from Washington gets used. Others say it's a taxation issue, if the Bundy's simply payed their fees for using the land, there is no problem. Others yet an escalation issue in which sees the photo's of the Bundy family being attacked and tased under questionable circumstance.

I think there is one glaringly simple, obvious reason that this issue has been so invigorating to such a large group of people.

People do not like the government.

Perhaps it's as simple as they don't like being told what to do. Perhaps they are insulted by being treated (ironically) like cattle when attempting to exercise their first amendment rights. Perhaps they feel they are second class to a desert filled with tortoises. Perhaps they feel people's ancestral rights trump more recently formed agencies authority (though try explaining that to any number of American Indian tribes). Perhaps it's a story built up over the generations of seeing fellow ranchers moving away from their homes because cattle ranching has become such an unprofitable venture in the area, yet they see their own taxes and fees continue to rise under a premise of the 'greater good', while the overseeing representation is a world away.

This is where we enter the fascinating aspect of what is developing, were many people who are rising up in support of the Bundy family become less interested about what is wrong by the letter of the law, and rather by a much more fundamental notion of governmental overreach; remember, we are not talking about city, county, or even state enforcement. A brother agency to departments that spy on other nations, command fleets of ships, or researches breakthrough new medicines is in charge of herding cattle at gunpoint.

I ask myself what would happen if I stopped paying taxes, I would get cited, wages garnished, I may even get property repossessed, though I would no expect a small army of agents to come barreling down my street to escort a tow truck if the federal government felt the need to take my car as payment of back taxes. This issue is more complicated for a myriad of reasons, all of which don't seem to justify some of the images coming out of the news stories.

To me, the argument of who is right and who is wrong by law in this situation is the least interesting part of the story. Bundy is on the wrong side of the law, laws that he has no avenue to challenge against except by the very people that established these laws. He is not dissuaded when he looses these court battles because he knows he can not win this battle in a court. When a politician wants to change the law, they regularly take their argument to the people and campaign for change. Civility is called for as the debate takes place. I ask, what is so different in what Cliven Bundy is doing from his own front doorstep?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Don't Snoop, Just Ask

Back in March, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg was so upset about NSA mass surveillance that he phoned US President Obama to complain about it. He posted on his Facebook page that a secure internet is a strong internet.

Overlooking for a moment the number of lies the American people have been told concerning the security of the their online profile and data collection through numerous avenues, there is a much simpler method of utilizing all the the activity that is occurring in social media sites, such as Facebook, to the benefit of national defense. 

They could just ask....

Case and point, a story that has appeared on our local scene here in Iowa pertaining to the Cedar Valley Crimestoppers, a group that started using Facebook to gather tips, voluntarily, which has resulted in an increase in arrests. Scrolling through their page reveals things like pictures of people recently arrested, information on cold cases, and surveillance photos of people authorities need help identifying. They boast an impressive 100+ arrests based on tips received through this page. This is in Iowa, mind you.

This approach works, and the information gathered through this site is both pertinent and legally obtained. It's little more then using social media in place of police knocking on every door going "Did you see anything?". It's frequently used in cases where leads have been exhausted and the case has gone cold.

Did anyone at the national level ever try that? Starting a page or some forum for people to submit information pertinent to actual crimes, not just the ever present veiled threat, and have them offer information, you know, voluntarily? Rather then this gross infraction on the people's trust and privacy? Perhaps it's too late for that now, perhaps the hurt and betrayal go too deep that people are now just inherently skeptical of this government and the idea of working with them seems inevitable to back fire upon the well intentioned. This crazy perception that if you try to work with the system your attempt will ultimately fail.

In the words of Mr. Zuckerberg; "The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they're doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Congress Kicks the Can.... Progress?

For the 17th consecutive time, Congress has put aside their differences, stopped the bickering for a moment, joined hands and, in the spirit of unity, passed legislation to avoid a deep pay cut to doctors who see Medicare patients.

And if you haven't been keeping up to speed on the Affordable Care Act, (a.k.a. Obama-Care) numbers, there are now a lot of doctors who see medicare patients.

Without this inspiring act of procrastination by Congress, a 24 percent cut in the payments doctors receive from treating medicare enrollees would have taken effect starting this month, due to what almost everyone agrees is a flawed payment formula. Congress has been working at the speed of congress for over a decade to repeal this thing called the sustainable growth rate formula, or SGR, and eventually replace it with a system that would pay doctors based on how healthy they keep their patients.

Nobody likes it, penalizing doctors at a time when almost every aspect of being a physician demands higher costs and expenses. Efforts to undo those cuts have come to be known as the "doc fix." And finding the money to pay for each fix has become an annual headache for doctors, lawmakers and seniors as congress continually waits until the eleventh hour to finally agree to do.... nothing.

No rate changes, no acts to underwrite the 10 year, $180 billion cost, no changes to the formula, no incentives for doctors to base care on anything other then number of treatments, and no implementation of the rate changes that were designed to make the medicare system more solvent.

This is the definition of a do nothing congress, when they actually congratulate themselves on passing legislation that accomplishes absolutely no changes to the status quo. Lawmakers once again turned to the temporary delay, which has physician groups as furious as fans of a season ending cliff hanger, having to wait another year to learn their fate. Worse yet, there are several medical standards updates that keep getting delayed alongside the payment changes that have the industry left in a holding pattern. 

I congratulate our legislature on once again displaying new mind boggling ways of why the opposite of progress is congress.