Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Some thoughts on the University of Tennessee football Vols:

This year's offense has seesawed between mediocre and pathetic. During Satruday's debacle against Georgia, my seatmate and I figured that Tennessee has failed to score in 9 out of the 20 quarters of football it has played this season [I don't count that "last minute" touchdown referred to in the link's headline; we scored with no time left to make the score 27-14 -- it was meaningless]. While I have seen [very] poor Tennessee offenses before, never have I seen such poor performance after everyone, from the head coach down the line, told us how fabulous this team was going to be. It's no one player; it's a comprehensive offensive problem.

I refuse to believe it's the level of talent. Tennessee consistently recruits top classes. As a general assumption, it's fair to say that Tennessee's talent level rivals any other program in the NCAA.

If that is the case, then the reason for the poor play comes down to one of two things: either the outstanding prospects are simply and collectively not as good as everone thought, or those outstanding prospects are not being developed into the top college football players they could be. My vote, for several years, has been the latter.

Casey Clausen, who was a starter most of his Tennessee career, had stats almost as good as Peyton Manning's. Where's Casey these days? Graduate assistant for some SEC school. He never achieved the way Manning did because he wasn't developed as well as Manning. David Cutcliffe brought along Peyton, as wel as Eli, both successful college and NFL quarterbacks. Who developed Clausen? Randy Sanders.

In every year since 1999, the year Sanders became Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach, the Tennessee's offensive output has either gone down, or at the very least, has never reached the levels of previous teams, including the 1998 National Championship squad. While the defense under John Chavis has consistently excelled, the offense has sputtered, or fallen apart [see Florida game in 2002].

I was the first person to laud Sanders after his magnificent work in the 2004 campaign. He got two completely green quarterbacks ready to play, he got the third-stringer ready when both the first two went out with injuries, and he was able to construct an offensive line game after game, from a group that had been decimated with injuries. He should have been named the assistant coach of the year. Alas, it appears that Sanders's performance in 2004 was the exception to the rule.

Player preparation is weak. Offensive lineman are not opening holes or moving the pile to allow the running game to breathe. Receivers are dropping the ball more than I can remember in the last 16 years. The offense is consistently plagued with penalties that reflect a lack of coaching and a lack of discipline. As I said over and over again during last Saturday's game, "it's one step forward, two steps back."

The play-calling is adequate, but there are definitely times when the opposing defense has known what we're going to run, before our offense does. We are consistently told that we have a tremendously sophisticated playbook, but I seem to see the same 20 or so plays every game. If we've got it, why aren't we using it?

The bottom line is that, seven years after our shining National Championship, Tennessee football has become average. The players have lost that edge, that innate ability to do whatever is necessary to win the game that top rank teams have. Seven years ago, we would have roared back to beat Georgia, the way USC has been coming from behind to beat teams this season. Unfortunately, Tennessee is no longer in USC's league.

We need to shake things up in the Tennessee program. If that means making a change in Offensive Coordinator, so be it. I'm open to suggestions.
Comparing George W. Bush to Harry Truman is an insult to Truman.
Michael Brown and Harriet Miers have caused the spotlight to shine on the Bush Administration's remarkable track record of promoting unqualified Bush cronies to positions of power and responsibility. The New Republic lists top 15 of the Bush "Hackocracy." Just two examples:

No. 13. Claire Buchan, Chief of Staff, Department of Commerce: She used to be a White House Deputy Press Secretary, "a public affairs underling for the Treasury Department under former President Bush, a flack for the Republican National Committee, and (during the Clinton years) an image czar for the lawn care, extermination, and appliance repair company ServiceMaster. Some of Buchan's erstwhile colleagues in the White House press corps were left speechless when her new assignment was announced in February. One White House reporter who worked closely with Buchan for five years called her 'the most useless in a Bush universe of enforced uselessness. She took empty banality to a new low.'"

No. 3: Rear Admiral Cristina Beato, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human Services: In June 2004, Cristina Beato admitted to her hometown newspaper that she hadn't paid much attention to the details of her resumé. That's too bad, because those silly little details seem to have stalled her confirmation for assistant secretary for health for over two years now. Beato said she earned a master's of public health in occupational medicine from the University of Wisconsin (but the university doesn't even offer that degree). She claimed to be "one of the principal leaders who revolutionized medical education in American universities by implementing the Problem Based learning curriculum" (but the curriculum was developed while Beato was still a medical student). She listed "medical attaché" to the American Embassy in Turkey as a job she held in 1986 (but that position didn't exist until 1995). She also boasted that she had "established" the University of New Mexico's occupational health clinic (but the clinic existed before she was hired, and there was even another medical director before her). For her part, Beato has offered a simple explanation: English is her third language, after French and her native Spanish, and sometimes the language barrier is just too much to handle. How does one say "pants on fire" in Spanish?

And that's just two on the list. Sheesh.

I guess I don't mind being loyal to one's friends and getting them positions in the government. Most administrations have done it. But at least let them be qualified for the job. As it stands, it is an insult to the taxpayer who pays their salary, the department that is saddled with apparent incompetents, as well as the government employees who work with and under these hacks.

Anyone who wants to talk about "good government" and "government waste" should start by looking at the hackocracy.

Monday, October 10, 2005

This Harriet Miers thing has me alternately guffawing at Republicans practicing political cannibalism, and depressed over what it appears to mean.

Most of the establishment "Reagan" Republicans, have, without so much as a by your leave, roundly attacked and decried the Administration. OK; that's fun. But why are they doing it to "their" president? Because he's "their" president only so long as he does their bidding. Message to W:toe the line or face the consequences.

If I am right, it supports what I have been saying since 2000: George W. Bush is and has been nothing more than a placeholder for the Republican establishment, a figurehead who was put up for the job because he had a name and he was pretty and they had no one else at the time who was any better. Right wing pundits seem to confirm this theory, because just as soon as he does something not "cleared" with them, they vomit vitriol against him that is extraordinary. Unbelieveably, they've got me feeling sorry for Bush, and I consider the guy a political dunderhead!

The larger issue of what this "eat your young" exercise reflects is the true agenda of the Republican party, and especially its right wing. They want to pack the courts [including the Supreme Court] with right wing ideologues who will redraw our country in their image. Want a picture of their image of the U.S.? Just ask Ann Coulter -- Democrats are traitors. It's the ultimate crushing of dissent.

The dirty little secret about the judicial debate is that it is not between "strict constructionism" and "judicial activism." For over 200 years, it has been elementary that we must have independent judges who "say what the law is." We must have judges who will be the ultimate arbiters on what our statutes and our Constitution means, in light of the 21st century that we live in.

The conservatives want the Supreme Court to be activist, too. They just want it to judicially legislate to suit their image of our country and for their interests. They want the Court to abolish the right to choose. They want the Court to curtail or abolish privacy rights. They want the Court to do away with the rights of the accused. They want the Court to "say what the law is," but in the way they want it to be.

The conservatives and right wingers have firm control over two branches of our government. Even a cursory listen to a Pat Buchanan type makes it obvious that they want the fight with Democrats over control over the third and last branch -- the Judiciary. Because they think they can win.

This free-for-all is about getting and keeping power, nothing more or less. The right wingers think they've got the votes to ram a conservative ideologue down the Senate's collecive throat. Bush sidestepped the fight. The zealots are livid that their figurehead didn't do their bidding.

What's got all us middle-of-the-roaders so worried is the adage that "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." I don't trust the Republicans to be good stewards of our nation, based not only on their positions and philosophy, but also on their track record in the White House since 2001 and in Congress since 1995. If the Republicans in general -- and increasingly, that means the right wing fundamentalists -- gain control of all organs of government, I truly fear for us.