Sunday, November 19, 2017

For Packers, reality "bites"

Well, last week was last week. After the Chicago Bears gifted the Packers, Brett Hundley and his four turnovers helped to accomplish something the Packers have never done in the Aaron Rodgers era—laid a big fat goose egg in a game, in fact not in precisely 11 years when the Packers lost to New England 35-0 during Mike McCarthy’s first season as coach. In that game—also played in Green Bay—Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers combined for 9 of 27 passing for 105 yards (but surprisingly no interceptions).  Since then, not with Matt Flynn, not with Scott Tolzien, not even with Seneca Wallace did the Packers fail to score a point in a game. Still, for a while at least, the Packer defense kept the surprisingly inept Joe Flacco from taking advantage of numerous opportunities to put this game out-of-reach early.

But while this season’s Raven defense has not been as dominant as it has been in the past, apparently the game plan of forcing Hundley to adjust to the defense rather than vice-versa worked, which shouldn’t be too surprising given what that scouting report referred to as Hundley’s “internal clock” being a “mess,” among other things. Three interceptions, a lost fumble and six sacks were simply too much to overcome for the Packer defense; the only time the Packers threatened to score was in the first quarter, an effort that ended when Hundley threw his first interception in the end zone. End result: a 23-0 humiliation in front of the home ground.

Obviously Hundley is not Rodgers. How obvious? For Hundley to match Rodgers statistically this season, he will have to complete 32 of 35 for 448 yards, 11 touchdowns and somehow take back 4 interceptions next week against the Steelers. Such a performance is not “impossible,” just improbable, particular the interception part. I suspect that the freezing-level weather had something to do with Hundley’s play, and it isn’t going to get any better. In two weeks the Packers will be playing a presumably winless Browns team at Cleveland. Now that is going to be a more interesting game than it ought to be.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"It's Not The Gun, It's Not Mental Illness. It's Not Anything, It's Just Life, Unfortunately."

The heading of this post is not my personal opinion but that of a resident of the scene of this week’s mass shooting—Tiffany Rodgers, white female of Rancho Tehama, an unincorporated area in northern California. Being unincorporated, the now “just” 80 percent white community with little law enforcement presence has become a haven for “pot farms,” from which the shooter, Kevin Neal, made his living. Donald Trump, who failed to tweet “condolences” for the Hispanic victims of the Colorado shooting a few weeks ago, was roundly criticized for “mistaking” this latest shooting with the church shooting in Texas, obviously because there have been so many mass shootings since his election that he can keep track of them—and since the name of the community is Spanish, he probably thinks all of the victims were Hispanic too. He needn’t be the hypocrite and waste false personal sympathy on people he viscerally hates. By the way, although the Las Vegas shooting occurred during a country music festival, not all the victims were necessarily white; 12 of the 58 dead were Hispanic.

Before we examine the opening statement, I want to point out that some people have tried to inject gender politics in the fray. In the wake of continuing accusations of sexual misconduct of various real or dubious credibility that have now taken on the aspect of a vindictive political campaign (women are oh-so innocent?), USA Today has a story now, written by a woman (Alia Dastagir, who “specializes” in gender politics in the publication), entitled “Guns Don’t Kill People, Men and Boys Kill People.” The story is full of the usual feminist interpretations of the male psyche, which of course is typically self-serving, plus the usual mendacities. For example, the writer claims that when guns are in the hands of female super-beings in films, it is “intended” to “appeal” to men; yet we all know that this is meant to appease feminists and provide equal-opportunity “empowerment” images for women. Naturally, when the suspension of disbelief becomes too great, female critics are likely to accuse filmmakers of being “misogynistic,” rather than their own taste for vengeance being displayed too starkly.

Not “every man” is a potential violent killer, Dastagir admits, but “we can’t ignore that is part of the story.” But then again, there are other parts of the story that are conveniently hushed-up. All of these men have mothers (and not always at-home fathers), and we have to ask if it is “just life,” does their upbringing have anything to do with “life”? White men tend to attempt to “rationalize” their bigotries, while white female bigots tend to dispense with “logic” and go with their “gut.” This is something you frequently see at Trump rallies, where women—particularly older ones—accept whole hog the sleaziest, most outrageous racial stereotypes without question; they might not be acting out with guns, but they certainly are making no effort to “soften” the tendency to violent procilivities. Even “educated” white women hold beliefs that wilt under close scrutiny; at that southern college I attended, I remember in a classroom a very pallid, very “Nordic” type astonish everyone, for no reason that had anything to do with the class discussion, by blurting out that she wasn’t a “racist,” but she just would never marry a black man. But she was a just not a racist, she felt the need to repeat. Well, duh, but why needlessly open that can of worms when there was a chance that someone should have made it worse for her by requesting that she “explain” what she meant? There is a fine line between racism and beliefs based on race.

But back to that opening statement. The Sacramento Bee reported that Neal, who after an arrest for being in possession of an illegal weapon had been banned from owning guns back in January, somehow managed to manufacture his own AR-15 semi-automatic rifle from a “ghost gun” kit he purchased online. Tehama County assistant sheriff Phil Johnston noted that Neal’s neighborhood frequently complained about him shooting guns at all hours of the day, yet not only was it apparently not known by local law enforcement (or his neighbors, for that matter) that Neal wasn’t even supposed to have any guns to fire, he claimed that 

Even with calls from neighbors about Neal firing weapons in the past, deputies received little cooperation when they responded. We would receive calls that he was shooting. No deputies observed it. This is why they tried to do surveillance to catch him, and that’s all I can say about that. We tried to make contact with him using other avenues, but quite honestly the neighbors up there weren’t real forthcoming, either, and they also had firearms and frequently shot, also.

This at least in part “explains” Tiffany Rodgers disturbing acceptance of gun violence in America. Nobody “really” wants to talk about it or stop it. There will be those who seek to politicize or make it solely a gender issue to escape culpability as the writer in USA Today tried to do, but the truth remains that no one is “innocent” in all of this.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

For one game at least, McCarthy more alchemist than astrologer

Packers win! Packers win! Even a skeptic like me has to admit that Brett Hundley can have a good game, good enough not to throw it away when the Chicago Bears are so desperate to hand it over on a silver platter. The Bears had four three-and-outs in which they managed -10 yards of offense, and for just one measly yard on a ridiculous challenge they lost a tying touchdown, and then a 29-yard pass interference penalty followed by a 37-yard run for a touchdown by Ty Montgomery, and that is the way cookie crumbles. But what Hundley did do was impressive for him. For the second straight game he didn’t throw an interception, and threw the ball downfield a couple of times, and threw a slick pass on the run to Davante Adams that iced the game. After a missed field goal the Bears still had a chance to tie at the end of the game, the type of game that the Packers should have won handily if Aaron Rodgers were playing, instead of another adventure. But for at least one week, Mike McCarthy has avoided looking more like an astrologer than an alchemist in his appraisal of Hundley’s ability. Maybe there is something actually there after all. We might even be wearing rose-colored glasses after the Ravens and their 20th-ranked defense comes to town. Hell, who knows, we might even be “shocked” if the Packers win in Pittsburgh in two weeks. After that game, everything suddenly looks suddenly “winnable.” Let the Hundley love-fest begin in earnest. It might even be for real.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Culture "war" is not about "culture" but white racial identity

The media styled the recent Virginia governor’s race as a “culture war,” insofar as how Donald Trump defines it, and naturally plays the race card to the hilt. The morning of the election, he tweeted “EdWGillespie will totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA. MS-13 and crime will be gone.” And then “Ralph Northam will allow crime to be rampant in Virginia. He’s weak on crime, weak on our GREAT VETS. Anti-Second Amendment and has been horrible n Virginia economy.” A Gillespie campaign ad again made an effort to tie Northam with the MS-13 gang and “sanctuary cities” for “violent” Hispanic “criminals.” 

All this racist nonsense from the master of “fake news” was to stoke the fear of whites by defining Hispanic “culture” as one of criminality and violence (recall during the campaign that he only suggested that “some” immigrants from Mexico were not violent rapists). Yet even the MS-13 gang stereotyping suffers from the usual fallacies; violent, yes, but they are small in number compared to “homegrown” gangs, and like all such affiliations their victims tend not to be white people at all, but members of other gangs; most white people are still victimized by members of their own race—they just act “indignant” if they are the victim of someone other than another white person. It was also pointed out that there are no “sanctuary cities” in Virginia; furthermore, unlike Trump and his alleged “bone spur,” Northam did his duty and served in the military. 

Meanwhile, a Latino political group paid for their own television spot, featuring a Confederate-flag waving Gillespie supporter trying to run down a group of immigrant children, no doubt a reminder of what had happened in Charlottesville. It is hard to say exactly what impact this had on the vote itself, but it does appear that the white “America First” crowd was “upset” that anyone should so harshly judge their motivations; one should note that it seems “acceptable” to apply all manner of ugly racist stereotypes onto Hispanics without being called out on it; I recall an incident at a work location that a white person was telling “jokes” about “Mexicans” in front of a group white and black co-workers; I alone spoke out about the racism of his “jokes,” and his response was that “nobody else thinks that they are  racist.” I retorted that I thought they were racist, after which fear that I might speak to a supervisor shut him up. It is interesting to note that Hispanics (in the media or even on the street) apparently have no right to respond with a narrative that is not merely told about them—one that includes the Thornton shooting, that despite all the evidence no one wants to admit that it was hate crime targeting Hispanics.  

Instead of facing the dark place within themselves, those more tuned into Trump could be expected to respond to his white “America First” message (undermined recently by his lapdog antics with China and Putin during his Asian trip), and many of them had the audacity to be “insulted” by the accusation of overt racial hostility in the Latino ad. Still, many voters were apparently equally disgusted with the racism that Trump and then Gillespie injected into the campaign; one voter who decided on Northam bemusingly professed not to “realize” that Northam was a member of the MS-13 gang, and exit polls suggested that many college-educated suburbanites were off-put by Trump’s attempt to put them on his sewer-level. 

After Northam’s victory, Trump proclaimed that it was due to the fact that Gillespie had not “fully” embraced his race-baiting tactics, which again was not true; the reality was that Trump’s “intervention” turned-off more voters than it “turn-on.” Still, it was a close call, and one can find examples in everyday life how close it can be; the other day I encountered an office-type white female walking in the opposite direction and who “smiled” at me in that self-conscious way, yet in almost the same instant her hand gravitated to her handbag to check if it was “still there.” Which action was her more “genuine” response? We only need to observe Trump’s ever changing responses to the Charlottesville incident to know the answer to that.

You’d be amazed by how much “interest” my presence in the building excites—and it’s not necessarily from security and the building management. They usually spring into “action” after getting a call from some bigoted employee offended by the sight of me, who is certain I don’t “belong” there. I always wear what could be termed “office casual” attire; I have been told that if I wore clothing more suitable to a lowly position, there would be less confusion and hostility about my “place,” just to "confirm" their own in their conceit. Is this a racist construct? Only those wallowing in their own mendacity can doubt it.
While the election may be over the “culture war” continues, although behind the scenes not exactly in the way that bigots and nativists like Trump, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan who believe that Hispanics are out to “destroy America” think. Most Hispanics are not “white” in the Anglo sense of the word, but have varying degrees of indigenous people ancestry—which ironically makes them more “American” than either whites or blacks in this part of world. Nevertheless those who tend to believe so do so for another ironic reason—that they feel more culturally attuned to white America, which is a fair assumption to make since Spanish culture is  European in origin just as the “Anglo” culture is, just with a different “flavor.” Apparently not pleasing to certain people; I observed that the "taco day" that an insurance company in the building I work in was not exactly the "cultural exchange" and effort to show racial harmony it purported to be; everyone was eager to bring a piece of the puzzle, but hardly anyone was willing to "partake." It appeared to me that about 90 percent of the food was thrown out; even the people who brought it were unwilling to take it home with them and be forced to eat it themselves. What hypocrisy.

Thus the so-called “culture war” seems dependent more on white racial identity rather than actual cultural assimilation. I recall that when I was attending a college located in a former Confederate state, I was listening to favorite hit songs from the 70s collected on a cassette tape, and a blonde-haired student sneered “That isn’t your music.” He meant, of course, that “my people” didn’t create this music, whoever “my people” were. Of course you could say the same thing about people who are not black who “enjoy” rap and hip-hop music—especially since most white kids typically do not derive from the “culture” from which such music is spawned. The reality is that culture is not the “property” of any particular group of people, but to the individual who lives by it.

One other curious item in regard to “cultural racism” is how it is on display in “subtle” ways by women of color. I recall encountering during my itinerant temp days a black female who tried to “doll” up her looks as Caucasian as possible, pick out a summer job white kid who looked like he was from a “nice” family and college material, and cling to him like a wet rag; it made me sick to see that. I could tell the target was uncomfortable with it (I suspected he probably had a blonde Barbie Doll girlfriend already). That attempt apparently failed, because the next time I saw her at another job site she was attempting even more desperately to seduce another young white male of “good” stock. 

Many “Americanized” Hispanic women are much the same, hoping to achieve bought social status (I wonder what they have to “sell”); in the 2006 film Ask the Dust based on the John Fante novel, the would-be Italian-American novelist is told by a Mexican woman with whom he has a turbulent relationship with that she would prefer to marry the Anglo man whose surname is ironically “White,” rather than someone whose name (Bandini) is barely “better” than her own; her one goal in life was to “improve” her social status by marrying “white.” All of this is a racist “statement” because it implies an acceptance of racist stereotypes, especially that held against their men; one might recall Lorena Bobbitt, a Hispanic woman from Ecuador who married her “dream” white man. Some of us remember the media circus surrounding how that ended.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

No need for Packer fans to panic, just sit back and "enjoy" the train wreck

Even after an extra week of trying to “get it right,” for three quarters all Packer fans could surmise is that instead of seeing improvement in the quarterback play, for the third straight week Brett Hundley appeared to continue to devolve. Completing 16 of 25 passes sounds OK, but just 97 yards passing does not. In the fourth quarter the Packers mixed-in a little no huddle offense, and Hundley completed 10 of 13 for 148 yards which eventually led to two touchdowns, which at least made for a more “respectable” 30-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, who were powered by Matthew Stafford’s passing clinic, the kind that you see real quarterbacks on their game do. 

Hundley finished 26 of 38 passing for 245 yards and no interceptions, but no touchdown passes either. The final numbers may look like an improvement, except on the scoreboard. Last time the Packers lost by 9; this time it was by thirteen and it should have been a whole lot worse as the Lions left at least 11 points on the field and the Packers were fortunate to even score their two late touchdowns. A closer look at Hundley’s final numbers show that their first touchdown drive was powered by Randall Cobb’s catch-and-run play, racing 40 yards through arm tackles after a short pass over the middle. Without that play, the way Hundley was running the offense we might have seen a third failed fourth down play. After the Lions took a 30-10 lead with 1:42 left in the game, McCarthy brought out the second and third-string receivers (Williams, Kendricks and Allison), and the Lions basically laid back, and it still took an unnecessary-to-call pass interference penalty on the last play to give the Packers one last crack at a touchdown from the Lions one-yard line, which they managed to do even though it had no other point but to make Hundley feel better. 

Take away Cobb’s heroics and the final pointless drive, Hundley threw for 136 yards on 32 pass attempts and three measly points of offense. That is not the improvement we were led to “expect” two weeks ago, although frankly I wasn’t expecting any “improvement,” just more of the same. Of course, the smart guys and the pundits will misconstrue the fourth quarter, just like people here in Seattle always whine after a too late burst of offense why that “stupid” offensive coordinator didn’t do this or that earlier in the game (usually having to do with the no-huddle offense), but there are reasons for not doing those things the entire game, like becoming predictable, or like what Chip Kelly tried to do in Philadelphia, when if that “quick strike” offensive scheme doesn’t work, you end-up wearing out your own defense. 

What we learned from this game is the same thing we learned before. After more than two years in the “system,” Hundley simply has not learned it, and likely cannot. He can’t process at the line, he plays poorly under pressure, and he has poor accuracy throwing the ball further than five yards past the line of scrimmage, among other things. His apologists say that McCarthy must tailor the offense to suit Hundley, but he has not even shown the kind of game-breaking ability that Russell Wilson has often demonstrated even with a bad offensive line, or even as Colin Kaepernick showed almost immediately in leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl (not that I’m suggesting anything here, just stating the facts). 

Coming up, the Packers will play the Bears, Ravens, Steelers, Buccaneers and the Browns. With Rodgers, the Packers almost certainly would have won at least 4 of 5; with Hundley, all of these games will be an adventure. This next game against the Bears, with their own quarterback of uncertain quality, may be the point in which it will be clear that McCarthy should never have allowed himself to be boxed-in by politics; it should always have been to allow Hundley some playing time to evaluate his progress, and if need be to play Joe Callahan in spots to see what he can do. But McCarthy has foolishly painted himself into a corner with his unquestioning support of Hundley, as if Hundley’s “confidence” will melt like a snowflake in the desert if he is benched. But what about the team’s confidence in Hundley? Or is the team just taking a paycheck for a lost season—particularly if the team comes out of this stretch with one or fewer victories— while awaiting the return of Rodgers?