Archive for September, 2009

Dysfunctional Raiders Ban Gannon

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Rich GannonThe Raiders continue to make me laugh. This is from Bob Gretz’s blog:

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Raiders officials told CBS Sports they do not want Gannon to attend Saturday’s television production meetings in advance of Sunday’s Raiders-Broncos game. They cited his public criticism of the organization in recent years.

“Rich Gannon is not welcome here,” Raiders executive John Herrera told the Chronicle on Friday. “We told CBS we did not want him in our building, we did not want him to be part of our production meeting, and that’s where it sits.”

“He’s attacked us on a regular basis since becoming a member of the media,” Herrera said. “After affording him the opportunity to establish a career here, he has since gone on to attack us in a way that’s totally unacceptable.

“He seems to be a guy who can’t get over the fact that he played the worst Super Bowl game in the history of the game and he wants to blame everybody but himself. I guess it’s our fault he threw five interceptions.”

Read Bob’s full post here.

Zack Greinke Wins Cy Young

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Zack GrienkeIt’s not official. I just wanted to be the first with the headline. Kansas City Royals pitcher Zack Greinke is putting up the best numbers in the majors, and deserves to win the American League Cy Young Award this year. And just as impressive as his numbers is how Zack has handled himself this season. After battling a social anxiety disorder, Greinke seems to really have matured into a nice young man, comfortable with his role in life.

Here’s a quick look at just a few of his numbers as of today:

ERA: 2.08
Complete Game Shutouts: 3
Complete Games Pitched: 6
Strikeouts: 229

His record is 15-8, but that includes six games where he gave up either one or no runs, and ended the game with either a no decision or a loss. The Cy Young is supposed to go to the best pitcher. If Zack loses this award because he’s stuck on a horrible team in Kansas City, it will be a sports travesty.

Eagles Provide Opportunity

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

EaglesWhile I think it’s unlikely the Chiefs will travel to Philadelphia and pull off the upset, this should be an interesting and competitive game. If the Chiefs have an opportunity to steal a game on the road against a good opponent, this is it. Sometimes it’s not who you play, but when you play them. Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is unlikely to play with his broken ribs, so the inexperienced Kevin Kolb should get his second start of his career. The Eagles offensive line is hurt. Running back Brian Westbrook is nursing a sore ankle. Their typically dominating defense gave up 48 points to the Saints last weekend. And Sunday marks the 2009 debut of Michael Vick. Though I don’t expect to him play more than a handful of snaps, it will be interesting to see how the crowd responds, as well as the Eagles.

Chiefs Offense
The Chiefs offense moved the ball against Oakland, but they must find a way to put points on the board, avoid costly turnovers, and eliminate drive-killing penalties. It will be interesting to see how Matt Cassel continues to develop in his second game of the season. There was a lot to like in his performance last week. I liked his poise in the pocket, and his fire in the huddle. Larry Johnson ran tough. And Bobby Wade certainly played well at wide receiver given his limited time in Kansas City. I would liked to have seen them get Dwayne Bowe more involved in the offense. The play of the offensive line has been inconsistent. Hopefully as they continue to play together, they’ll become a more cohesive unit.

Chiefs Defense
Oakland came into Kansas City with a strong running game. The Chiefs defense shut it down. Their were holes in KC’s pass coverage, but JaMarcus Russell was unable to exploit them. Eagles quarterback Kolb will certainly find more success throwing to his receivers than Russell. Hopefully the Chiefs can get some pressure up front against the Eagles injured offensive line and rattle Kolb into some mistakes. The Eagles like to use the wildcat formation. Should be a good test for our defense.

Special Teams
The coverage units are improved, but our return units remain mediocre at best. We’ve got one of the best punters in the league, and I am gaining confidence in our rookie kicker Succop.

Prediction: Eagles 20, Chiefs 13

Dolphins Dominate and Lose

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

DolphinsAs a Chiefs fan it was hard to swallow that the Chiefs could dominate the Raiders in so many ways including time of possession yet come away with a loss. Imagine what Dolphins fans are going through this morning. Miami dominated time of possession holding the ball for more than 45 minutes on offense last night, and still lost to Indianapolis. It was the first time since the league started tracking time of possession that a team possessed the ball for less than 15 minutes on offense and still won the game.

As an NFL fan, it was a fun game to watch. Miami does a great job with their wildcat formations. And Peyton Manning made big plays with the game on the line. That’s why I love the NFL.

Should Have Watched the Royals

Monday, September 21st, 2009

After Sunday’s performance by the Chiefs, maybe I should have watched the Royals!

ChiefsChiefs
Pretty difficult to lose a game when you dominate in so many areas. Yet the Chiefs lost to the Raiders 13-10. The Chiefs more than doubled total yards of the Raiders, and dominated in time of possession. (See the box score here.) Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell was awful, completing only seven passes in 24 attempts for 109 yards. The Chiefs defense played well until their meltdown on the Raiders game winning drive in the fourth quarter.

Pioli and Haley have preached that they want a smart football team. On Sunday, the Chiefs were not very smart. They had nine penalties, two turnovers, and botched a scoring opportunity at the end of the first half because they had wasted their timeouts earlier in the game.

The Good News: The mistakes the Chiefs made are correctable. Their defense is playing better than expected. Bobby Wade appears to have been a nice pickup at wide receiver. And though showing a little rust, quarterback Matt Cassel played fairly well, completing 24 of 39 for 241 yards. The Chiefs got their ground game going, running for 173 yards.

The Bad News: The Chiefs need to win games when given the opportunity, because they will not get many opportunities this year like the Raiders at home.

Royals
And we’ve gotta give the Royals a little love while we’re here. Robinson Tejeda pitched another nice game yesterday as the Royals beat the White Sox 2-1. That means the Royals are winners of 10 of their last 13 games. They’ve had a pretty impressive September.

Health Care: The Public Option

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

The point of this post is not to directly debate the merits of the public option. But to understand better what the public option means for us. Many on the left would prefer a single payer, government run health care system. President Obama is on record for wanting a single payer system (before he ran for president). But the majority of Americans do not want a single payer, government run health care system. We don’t trust the government to run it well or efficiently. We’ve seen the huge amounts of money wasted in Medicare and Medicaid. We’ve seen the poor health care our veterans receive in VA hospitals. My opinion, and my fear, is that the “public option” in the current legislation is really a single payer system in waiting.

Competition
Politicians who support the public option say that it provides competition to the insurance companies, which they say is good for America. (However, they currently restrict how insurance companies compete with each other, but that can be discussed in another post.) Let’s take this out of the health care setting for a moment and provide an easy to follow analogy. Let’s say that in your hometown there are three stores that sell TVs. And the average price of a TV is $300.

TVWell for a store to make money and survive, they have to buy the TVs for less than they sell them for. So they buy a TV for $200, and sell it for $300. With three stores in your town, there is competition, which keeps prices competitive and keeps the store owners from charging $400 for a television. But even at $300, not everybody can afford a television.

The government decides that it is important for every American to own a TV. And they want to offer Americans a more affordable option. So the government opens a store in your hometown and sells the same TV for $200. They say this will increase competition, and allow all Americans to afford a television. And it will force the privately owned stores to lower their prices.

So what happens to the privately owned stores? How can they afford to compete with the government who does not need to make money on the TVs they sell? They may look for new ways to remain profitable and remain in business, but eventually most of them will stop selling TVs. Choices will become limited. And eventually, the only choice will be the government store.

But what happens next? Well the government realizes that it can’t sustain selling the TVs for $200 because there are other expenses involved in selling TVs. Not just the cost of the television. They go the manufacturer and say “We need to be able to buy that TV from you for $100 so we can sell it for $200 to cover more of our expenses.” The manufacturer has two options: sell TVs to the government store for less money, or stop selling TVs. Their only “customer” is now the government store. If they sell the TV for less money, do you really think they’ll continue to make the same quality of television? Not a chance. They can’t. They will begin using less expensive, and inferior components.

The United States Postal Service
I’ve seen many who criticize government run health care make comparisons to the United States Postal Service. But they’re making the wrong analogy. Yes, the post office loses money, which means that it is partially supported by tax dollars. But it doesn’t lose money necessarily because the government is incapable of running the USPS efficiently. It loses money because that’s what the government WANTS it to do. For the USPS to be self-sufficient, it would require raising prices, and limiting service. Two things the government does not want to do. The government would prefer to subsidize the post office through our tax dollars than they would to make the system profitable. Or even self-sustaining. Since they’re not willing to make the decisions required to make the post office profitable, there is no incentive to make it efficient either.

Back to Health Care
So here are my biggest concerns with the public option:

1. It will eliminate competition (the insurance companies).

2. It will decrease the quality of care as they force doctors and hospitals to accept less money for services rendered.

3. It will have to further limit the availability of care.

4. The government will have no intention of making the system self-sustaining, which means it will likely cost the tax payers a lot of money. And like Medicare and Medicaid, it will waste billions and billions of tax payer dollars.

We need health care reform in this country. And we need it badly. But it does not need to contain a public option to fix our problems.

Health Care Reform is Needed

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Dr. ObamaAfter writing a few weeks ago that there are differences of opinion on potential cost savings associated with preventative medicine, I received some comments that I must be against health care reform. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been an advocate of health care reform since the ’90s when I first became interested in politics and social issues.

As those who know me would expect, I have several opinions on health care reform. Too many to put in one post. So for this post, I’d like to provide a little background perspective. I have been exposed to the user side of health care from a few different perspectives.

A Broke Musician
In the late ’80s and early ’90s I was a full-time musician making very little money. My parents were going through their own financial problems. My dad had lost everything in the crash of ’87. My mom had mismanaged her money badly, and was close to losing the farm. Literally. Upon realizing that if anything happened to me it would become a financial burden on them, I went out and got health insurance and life insurance. I certainly didn’t have any spare money at that point in my life, but my parents had been through enough, and I had no intention of adding to their problems because I had been too irresponsible to pay for my own insurance.

A Young Entrepreneur
In ’93 I became business partners with Billy Pilgrim. He had started a small graphic design business called PilgrimPage. I thought I could help. Much like our days in music, we were making very little money. But we were used to that. During the first couple of years, the company paid for our health insurance, and not much else. I was working nights running sound for bands at local bars for money to live on.

To the Booth
As PilgrimPage continued to struggle financially, and I continued to struggle financially, I took a job as a tollbooth collector for the Kansas Turnpike Authority in ’96, basically working nights and weekends so that I could continue to work at PilgrimPage during the days. The turnpike provides great health insurance, and I was able to drop my personal policy. The coverage covered me and my family. Very nice.

PilgrimPage Takes Off
Or so it seemed at the time. After years of struggling, PilgrimPage was finally developing a nice client base. By 2000 it really seemed we were in position to take off. I cut my hours at the turnpike to part-time, which means I lost my “free” health insurance. My wife was pregnant (a pre-existing condition) so I had no choice but to continue my turnpike health care insurance through COBRA at a cost of about $650 per month. Yikes.

The Recession of 2001
As quickly as PilgrimPage began taking off in the late ’90s, it began slumping in 2001. We were hitting the recession, and our biggest clients were all packing it in. Money was tight, and I was regretting leaving my full-time position at the turnpike. During this time we launched our promotional products website Absorbent, Ink., and it was really Absorbent, Ink. that provided our financial salvation. And my next exposure to the problems with health care.

A Growing Business
Throughout this decade, Absorbent, Ink. achieved amazing growth. In 2003 we had a staff of five. By 2008 we had a staff of 45. Having witnessed what a lack of health coverage can do to a person or family, Billy and I had always wanted to offer health insurance for our staff. But it’s really expensive. When we were finally able to afford a group policy, I think we were more excited than the staff.

Exposure to health insurance from the business side was definitely a new experience. I had seen increasing premiums as a consumer, but these increases are really magnified when you’re a small business owner. We were seeing yearly increases in premiums from 15-25%. And quickly we were exposed to flaws in the system. Here are just a couple of them:

1. In Kansas, when you have a group health coverage policy, you must offer the policy to every employee who averages 30 or more hours per week. And the employer must pay at least 50% of the coverage. This is fine, but what about those who work less than 30? We had a number of employees who worked only 20 hours per week. Why could we not offer our coverage to these employees if they were willing to pay 100% of the coverage? Don’t ask me.

2. As a small business, your premiums are dictated by the profile of your staff. Early on our staff was very young. Younger males are the cheapest to insure. And having young males on your staff keep your insurance premiums down. As Absorbent, Ink. grew and we were able to afford to pay higher salaries, we were able to attract a more experienced (older) staff. With this comes a change in our profile, and increases in premiums. If you have 20 people in your profile, and you shift your profile by replacing three male employees in their 20s with three employees who are 20-30 years older, the rates for the entire group increase significantly.

Fixing Health Care
These are only two of the many problems that need to be addressed in health care reform. Businesses should be allowed to offer premiums to part-time employees. And small businesses need to be able to pool together to get better rates and better protection to changing premiums. Hopefully over the next few weeks I’ll find the time to write a bit more.

Raider Week 2009

Friday, September 18th, 2009

RaidersWell it’s Raider Week in Kansas City as our Chiefs get ready to face the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. I’ve been surprised at the amount of good pub the Raiders have received after losing to the Chargers last weekend. The close score was a clearer indication that the Chargers are not a good football team, than it was that the Raiders have improved.

In 2008, the Raiders had the 10th best rushing offense in the league. Against the Chargers last week, the Raiders ran for148 yards.

In 2008, the Raiders had the 32nd ranked passing attack. That’s dead last among all 32 NFL teams. Against the Chargers, JaMarcus Russell went 12 of 30 for 208 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs.

Ultimately the Raiders, as they always do, make just enough mistakes to lose a game. They have untimely turnovers. And stupid penalties. Same old Raiders.

There are no gimmees for the Chiefs. And the Chiefs have no reason to be overly confident. But the Chiefs are at home. Matt Cassel should return. And the Chiefs showed last week that they’ll play tough football.

Prediction: Chiefs 24, Raiders 19

Ex-Chiefs Out of Work

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

ChiefsHeard an interesting tidbit yesterday. Was listening to an interview with Chiefs’ general manager Scott Pioli. He said that the Chiefs have released 30 players who were on the roster at the end of 2008, and only two of them are now with other NFL teams. And that includes Tony Gonzalez.

Wow. That’s 28 players who were good enough to play for the Chiefs and nobody else! Now a few of those guys will still end up getting jobs like safety Bernard Pollard. The Chiefs also sustained a ton of injuries last year, and were forced to continue to add available players to their roster. That’s not completely their fault. But it says a lot about the talent level of this team last year when these guys can’t get jobs with other teams.

Raiders Threaten Seymour

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Tom CableWhenever I think I need a little comedy, I just read the latest news from the Raiders. For those who missed it, earlier this week the Raiders traded their first round pick in the 2011 draft to the New England Patriots for standout defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Seymour is 29 and headed into the last year of his contract. One of the things the Pats have always done well is knowing when not to overpay for aging players. And Seymour will demand a significant contract next year when he becomes a free agent. Getting a future first round pick for him now, especially if the Pats have already decided that they don’t want to retain him, is a great deal for them.

So what’s the problem? Well Seymour has failed to show up in Oakland since the trade.

The Raiders have continued to tow the company line of “Richard Seymour wants to be a Raider and he’ll be here soon”. But the latest news is that the Raiders have delivered a letter to Seymour threatening him with a year’s suspension if he doesn’t report soon. Read more here.

Here’s my favorite line from the story: Raiders coach Tom Cable said he had no knowledge of a letter being sent but does not see Seymour’s absence as being a distraction for his team heading into the opener.

Really? No knowledge of a letter? Not a distraction? Here’s a comment from one of their players:

“We come in hoping to see him here and then we’re promptly disappointed,” Raiders All Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said.

It says a lot about the state of a franchise when they trade a first round draft pick for a player, and the player refuses to show up and play. Makes me laugh. Thank you Oakland.