Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thoughts On The 2016 Presidential Election

I tend not to write about politics very often because I don't usually see the point. When I do, it's certainly not to change anyone else's mind. I'm much more selfish. My reasons are 1) to sort through all the thoughts in my head 2) to serve as a time capsule that I can look back on in the future.

- - -

So here are we are once again.

The nation has to decide who they think will be a better president: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? The truth is, we don't really know. We think we have a good idea based on what we know about them already--we feel that we know who's better--but until it's happened we won't know.

But will we know after it's happened?

No. Not as a national consensus.

The average approval rating for all presidents is 53%.

In June 2016, Obama's approval rating was 53%.

But let's go deeper.
His approval rating by Democrats is 90%.
His approval rating by Independents is 46%.
His approval rating by Republicans is 10%.

You would think the status of the country is something that would have more consensus, either things are going pretty well or they aren't. But no, your opinion of the country right now is heavily, heavily based on what party you prefer.

- - -

The differences in the party's outlook is clear from the conventions. Republicans want to Make America Great Again, convinced that things must not be going very well. Democrats are making the argument that things are pretty good and we should keep things on course.

Today, Trump said Obama will go down as one of the worst presidents in history.

Obama has been ranked by historians twice so far, 15th in 2009 and 18th in 2015.

(In case you're curious, rankings while president for Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton held very steady. Rankings for Bush 43 dropped between 2005 and 2008 while still in office.)

I think the discrepancy between how both parties view Obama is telling. How can we as a nation judge presidencies that haven't happened yet, when we can't agree on where we're at right now? The answer is we can't. I expect future approval ratings to mirror the 90/10 party split no matter who is in power.

It's like if you have a group of vegetarians and a group of pepperoni lovers and you expect them to share one pizza. They want different things, so they're going to be unhappy unless they get what they want (ordered).

- - -

For me personally, I feel like the country is much better off now than it was in 2008. Even though the president doesn't control the economy like people think he does, the economy is in a much better place than the 2008 recession, helped by Obama's stimulus bill. We took out Osama bin Laden, gay marriage was legalized across the country, one step was taken toward Universal Healthcare, ended the Iraq war, made progress on climate change, unemployment is around 5%.

I don't think Obama is flawless or everything is perfect--gun violence is a problem across the board, and in particular, the killing of unarmed black people by police is dividing the country. And while the economy has rebounded, it's not as strong as it could be. I think it's difficult for the middle class to achieve the American dream--being able to find work, live in an affordable area with good schools, and be able to send children to college without the burden of student loans. We still don't have paid family leave, so two days after coming home from the hospital with my new baby I had to go back to work to be able to pay for the huge hospital bill for having a child.

But overall, I do think the United States is a great country with genuine freedoms, things are going pretty well and Obama has done a pretty good job.

I fully realize that a Republican could look at my list of successes and say that gay marriage was bad for the country, that Obamacare sucks, and the economy is either not very strong or the recovery is not due to Obama. See vegetarians receiving a pepperoni pizza.

- - -

If you look at my list of goals, of what's important to me, it becomes clear that I'm going to be voting generally for Democrats. I'll say right away, I don't love being tied to a particular party. Both parties have their share of problems and problem people, and it sounds more intellectually open to not have a strong party affiliation, and instead vote on particular candidates.

So why am I a Democrat?

I read the Republican Party's official 2016 platform, the GOP website and Donald Trump's Positions page.

Here are some of the biggest core values the Republicans seem to stand for: smaller government, marriage between a man and a woman, the Constitution as an enduring covenant not a flexible document, protecting guns, repealing Obamacare and building a wall between the United States and Mexico.

First of all, I'm not even joking when I say that seems to be a core value for Trump's positions--it's the first position listed on his page: "Pay For The Wall." You click on that and it doesn't even give a reason for why we need a wall. Mexico is not going to pay for a wall. If we raise the cost of Visas to enter the U.S., Mexico will just do the same thing to us, not pay for the wall. I can't believe I'm even wasting my breath talking about this stupid wall. It's in the top 5 dumbest ideas I've ever heard of and it's his lead policy position.

Also, he only has 7 policy positions listed. 2 are about immigration. 1 is about repealing Obamacare, 1 is about protecting guns and 1 is about tax cuts which is a bunch of crap since every article shows how his tax plan benefits the wealthy not the middle class like he claims. The other 2 are about veteran's benefits and trade reform with China. For comparison, Hillary Clinton has policy positions on 37 issues on her page.

Okay, back to the GOP core issues. Smaller government is really their best idea. One I'm not opposed to in theory. But once you start looking at the budget in a chart like this, you have to start thinking about where to create a smaller government. We spend a lot on Medicare/Medicaid to provide healthcare to the elderly and poor. We spend a lot on Social Security because we owe it to the American workers who contributed from their paychecks all those years. We spend a lot on National Defense because we realize how important a strong military is. You've also got veteran's benefits, education and transportation in there. That's the bulk of it. So if you say you want a smaller government, you've got to make some cuts out of there. If you're going to focus on NASA or FEMA any of the smaller agencies that hardly get any money but still do important stuff, and not make any cuts to the behemoths out there, it's not going to make much of a difference.

GOP Core Issue #2 is "traditional marriage." Guys, I hate to break it to you, but that train has left the station. And it's got rainbow streamers on it.

#3: That the Constitution is not a flexible document. Again, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but having a process for amending it makes it flexible. I'm sure you'll claim that has a liberal bias though.

#4: Guns. Goddamn, you guys love your guns. A bit ironic from the pro-life party, but it is what it is. Pro-gun and anti-gun people are never going to agree. So I'll just say that I wish less Americans died because of gun violence and leave it at that.

#5: Obamacare. I know you don't like Obama so you're not going to like his health care plan because it's his, but I don't understand how you're so up in arms about providing affordable health care to more Americans. Health insurance is insanely expensive in this country. It eats my paycheck like crazy. But until we get a different system, people need health care.

#6: We're back to that stupid wall. I've already wasted enough time on that.

So yeah. I don't love the idea of being attached to a particular party, but I really can't get behind anything the Republican Party has to offer.

I do think it's hilarious that the on the GOP website, their first core value is "I believe that our country is exceptional" and Trump's slogan is "Make America Great Again" and continually defends the idea by saying things like "Our country does not feel 'great already' to the millions of wonderful people living in poverty, violence and despair." So which is it, GOP? Is our country exceptional or not great? Because you kind of have to pick one.

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Also, I hate how they use the term Family Values as some sort of secret code word to say that they are pro-life. Look, if you're pro-life, I get it, just say you're pro-life. But don't try to wrap it up with Family Values. I'm raising a family in America. The values that matter to me are the same that I mentioned earlier: affordable housing with good schools and affordable college. Other people may have different Family Values that are important to them, but I'm sure I'm not the only one concerned about my actual family and not telling someone else they can't have an abortion.

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So now I'm back where we started: Clinton vs Trump.

Look, I'm not as excited about Clinton as I was about Obama in 2008. She's not that likable. She's not as trustworthy. One of my biggest concerns is something that Trump, Sanders and Clinton all share: the youngest of the three is 68. I'm not saying older adults are terrible or anything, and of course experience and wisdom are invaluable, but these are modern times and I think it would be nice to have a leader that was more Elon Musk and less Al Davis.

So I totally get anyone not super jazzed about voting for Clinton. But damn, if she's not super qualified. In Obama's speech tonight, he recalled how she aggressively argued to take out bin Laden in the Situation Room. She's seen multiple presidencies from inside the White House.

Her issues align with my issues. Do I think she can actually make in-state public universities provide free tuition? No. But I'd love to be proved wrong! Can she actually make progress on gun violence? It's as tough as challenge as there is, but at least she wants to do something about it. I trust they she will appoint intelligent Supreme Court Justices that will preserve marriage equality and advance the progressive issues of the future.

So in a vacuum, I'm content to vote for Clinton, even if she doesn't have the same appeal that Obama had. Besides, it's not like Obama and I ever got to hang out anyways.

But I don't know if you've noticed, but this election is not being held in a vacuum.

I really don't even want to talk about how unqualified Trump is for the office. He claims to be such a successful businessman who happens to have filed for bankruptcy six times. He's openly racist, sexist and mocks people with disabilities. People apparently like him because he "tells it like it is" and yet every other word out of his mouth is a lie.

If the GOP candidate were Kasich or Jeb, I would vote for Clinton but still be able to respect them and believe they are trying to do their best to improve America, even if I think they're making cheese pizza and I prefer pepperoni. But with Trump, I'm just scared. Without hyperbole, he could literally start a nuclear war.

So yeah, I know who I'm voting for this November.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Introducing the Chiefs Hit List

I debuted the Avalanche Hit List back in 2013. This feels like a tremendous oversight.

This list goes back to my childhood when I saw the Chiefs beat the Raiders and Eagles. I've also seen the Chiefs lose to the Chargers and Jaguars, for an all-time record of 5-2 at Arrowhead.

Edit: I saw the Chiefs beat the Raiders on December 8, 2016. My record at Arrowhead improved to 6-2 but I didn't get to cross off another team.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

My First Red Rocks Concert

I first heard about Red Rocks Amphitheater because of 311. They had played there in 1996, 1997, 2000. I don't remember exactly how this venue became important to me  (they didn't make a dvd or anything) but when I visited Colorado for the first time in 2004, I made a point of visiting Red Rocks. 

It's amazingly beautiful. I took Mark for a hike there in 2012. I've taken my mom, my kids, my in-laws. But I've only ever been there during the day when nothing's going on. Until yesterday. 

Last night I went to my first concert there: Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday. (In case you're keeping score that's my #2 and #41 favorite band as of 2014.)

I went with a work friend and we got there during one of the opening acts, Saosin. (We missed The Early November completely.) 

Before we knew it, Taking Back Sunday came out. They were really good. The singer swung his microphone around constantly, including around his neck and high into the air, never dropped it once.

And then Dashboard Confessional came on.

You could see that his face had aged, but his voice was as good as ever. It's a truly great, unique venue and one of the best concerts I've ever seen.

The standout performance for me was "The Best Deceptions." I'm hoping someone posts it to YouTube eventually.

My Favorite Part of Episode Four

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

MPG Math

So I recently got a new car and it tracks your average MPG in real-time. Because of this, every time I drive I treat it like a game to get better MPG. I thought it would be fun to see what that means practically.

I'm going to use some ballpark figures.
If I drive 12,000 miles a year, and gas is $2.50, what's the difference between getting 30 mpg and 35 mpg?

30 mpg = $1000 in gas money per year
35 mpg = $857 in gas money per year

That's a savings of $143 every year, reduction of 14.3%. Not too bad.

- - -

You get better mpg on uncongested roads vs stopping and starting all the time. So I wondered, it is cheaper to take a longer route with better mpg or a shorter route with worse mpg?

First up, let's compare a 20 mile route where you can get 30 mpg vs a 25 mile route you could get 35 mpg.

20/30 = $1.67 in gas
25/35 = $1.78 in gas

If your route is 20 miles and you're getting 30 mpg, and you know that you can get 35 mpg on a longer route, it only is cheaper if the longer route is less than 23 miles. But you're still putting more miles on your car. My take is it's generally best to take the shortest route and drive to get the best mpg you can.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

LeBron and Durant: NBA Decisions

Two years ago, LeBron had a choice. Having won two titles in Miami, he could have gone anywhere. I wrote about the attractiveness of returning to Cleveland. That worked out pretty well for him. He delivered a championship to the city that needed it most and produced the signature highlight of his career.

One thing about that championship: He was clearly the MVP and was without question amazing. And yet if he does everything exactly the same, but Curry and Thompson make one more three each, then LeBron's story is completely different. No parade in Cleveland. The Warriors set the record for wins in a year + title. They are a dynasty in the making. And people talk about LeBron's poor record in the finals. And that's if LeBron does everything the same. I wrote about this before...when Brady's Patriots went 18-1. Brady led the Pats down the field for a potential game-winning touchdown. And then he's on the sideline for the helmet catch and the moment the Giants win the game. The line between winning and losing a championship is sometimes razor thin, and sometimes has nothing to do with the players that we give the credit/blame to. 

The round before Cleveland wins a title, the Thunder were up 3-1 on the Warriors. 

In Game 6, the Thunder led the whole game and were 3 minutes away from closing out the Warriors in OKC. 
In Game 7, the Thunder come out strong and again lead big before the Warriors come back to win. 

If the Thunder win either of those games, they're in the Finals. Could they beat the Cavs? Yeah, it's a tossup. If they win a title, does Durant and Westbrook re-up in OKC? If they don't win, Durant still might leave, but does he go to the Warriors? Yeah, I guess they'd still be a 73-win team and a great fit, but it might seem funny to go to the team you just beat. Hard to say exactly. But now it's clear that Westbrook isn't sticking with OKC. So the Thunder could let another star walk for nothing or they could try and trade him this year, attempt to get 80 cents on the dollar for him. They are basically in a rebuild now, and they were 3 minutes away from a Finals appearance, potentially a Finals win and locking up their future. 

So now we get to Durant's decision. 

He was drafted by Seattle in 2007 and signed a 4-year contract. 
In 2010, at age 21, he chose to stay in OKC, signing a 5-year extension, ensuring he'd be on the Thunder through 2016. 

Now he's 27 and again has a choice to make. Every team in the league wanted to give him the most money possible to play for them. It's a good position to be in. 

There's all kinds of reasons to pick a place to work/live. I moved across the country to a place where I had no friends because I just wanted to be in Colorado. And I don't regret it at all. I love it here. 

So obviously it's wherever he want's to go, he's earned that choice. But if I was his friend, I'll think about what makes the most sense to me. 

What matters most is winning titles. 

It's not as simple though as going to the best team in this moment, which is obviously Golden State. It's about going to the team that will give you the most chances over the next 6ish years, when you're still in your prime. 

To get the most money, you have to sign a 1+1 deal, opt-out and then sign a new deal when the cap is even bigger. But if you go to the Warriors in 2016 and then go to the T-Wolves once their stars are ready and then to the 76ers when their picks are in their prime, just chasing the current best team, then you really look like a moocher. 

So I think you have to imagine that you're going to be with this next team for a bit, even though you're signing a short-term deal for financial reasons. With that in mind, I thought Boston made a lot of sense. They've got some decent players, plus a slew of draft picks and they're in the East which is still going to be weak for a while longer. 

It's definitely a better story for your legacy to be the Superstar that wins in Boston than joining a 73-win team. 

But here's the thing about LeBron's return to Cleveland that made for an incredible story: he already had two rings. And the first is the hardest to get. 

Durant still has many great seasons ahead of him, but he doesn't want to be Malone, Iverson, or Barkley, great players that never won titles. So I can definitely see the appeal in joining a team with a great coach, a play style that fits your own, and by the way, an amazing group of players that can make everyone more efficient. It's definitely the best choice to try and win a title in 2017. 

Does it carry a risk, if the Warriors only win 60 games and are the #2 seed in the West, that people decide acquiring Durant was a mistake? Eh....not really. His game is really built for their offense and defense, so it would be shitty for anyone to criticize adding him no matter how many wins they get. 

So if you're Durant, it's a good move. And if you're the Warriors, it's a dream come true. If you're a Warriors fan, it's beyond belief. 

And yet, there's plenty of people who are ragging on him for picking the Warriors, because they're too good.

And I get that on an emotional level. It sucks for fans of other teams. And even though any team could win, the Warriors are now 2-3 favorites. In a 30-team league, you'd have to put up $150 to win $100. Right now you'd only have to put up 3 bucks on the Thunder to win $100.

A system where superstars are spread out is more interesting as a general sports fan. Imagine if the 30 best players in the league were mandated to be on different teams. It would really feel like LeBron's Cavs vs Curry's Warriors vs Klay's Kings vs Durant's Celtics vs Westbrook's Thunder. And we'd get to see which star came out on top and it would prove to us that say LeBron was the best player of his generation because him + role players beat Curry + role players. 

But that's now what we have. We have a system that is heavily, heavily about building the best team, not just seeing who gets lucky enough to draft the best player. And the Warriors have done the best job of building the best team on paper. Just like the Seahawks built a Championship team because they had a Pro Bowl QB on a rookie deal, the Warriors are underpaying Curry and able to build around him. It's unfair to expect that Durant should pick a shittier team for the sake of sports fans interests.

I certainly want to create the best ads that I can and win the most awards that I can. Shouldn't I be expected to go to the agency that gives me that best opportunity? Well...yes. But also maybe. The most famous agency in the country is Wieden + Kennedy in Portland. They do amazing work like this ad for Coca-Cola. But if I worked for them, I would be a little fish in a big pond. If I work my way up at a smaller agency achieving success on a smaller scale, I could be a decent sized-fish in a small pond. 

Of course, I'm not in an industry where you're only measured by winning championships. I'm also not Kevin Durant, so I'm not sure how helpful that analogy is. But that commercial is pretty nifty.

Ultimately, this is the best example of: Don't hate the player, hate the game. The system we have allows for this. If you don't like it, hate the system. 

So five paragraphs up, I used a hypothetical example of the 30 best players on 30 different teams. Obviously that's ridiculous. But what if there was some sort of solution to super teams?

Right now, you hear the term max contract a lot. The simple version is that players are generally allowed to earn 25% or 30% of the cap, depending on how long they've been in the league. 

But what if a team was only allowed to have one "Tier One" contract of say 35%. Then allowed to have a Tier Two contract of 25%. And all other contracts must be under 20%. The point isn't the exact numbers, but the idea that you couldn't make a big three of players that all get paid 25%--if you want to keep Curry and Durant for their next contract one's gotta take a pay cut, or ideally they would both want the 35% and go to separate teams. 

Regardless of all of this, good for Durant. I think the Warriors offense will certainly be fun to watch. 

- - -

I have a bonus LeBron theory that I've never shared. 

So LeBron plays 7 seasons in Cleveland. (When I think about those days I think about this game that I saw in a NYC bar. Just incredible.) His last season there, the 2009-2010 Cavs, here were the players besides LeBron leading the team in minutes:
Mo Williams
Anthony Parker
Anderson Varejeo
J.J. Hickson
Delonte West

That team is DOGSHIT! That team was the #1 seed in the East!

Even with the best player in the world, their odds of winning a title in the next 6 years were not great. With LeBron, they weren't getting high draft picks. So they were acquiring players like a 37-year-old Shaq to try and get over the hump. It wasn't working. 

So here's my theory. The best way for LeBron to deliver a Championship to Cleveland was by leaving. 

I'm not saying that LeBron consciously knew this or planned this. And he could never say it because of the implication. But I think it's true. 

In 2011 without LeBron they went from the #1 seed to 19-63. They earned the #4 pick in the lottery. And they went into rebuild mode, trading Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Baron Davis and the Clippers first round pick. The Cavs had a 19% chance of winning the lottery with their own pick and a 3% chance of winning it with the Clippers pick. They won it with the Clippers pick and used it to get Kyrie at #1. Their own pick was now #4 so they used that to draft Tristan Thompson. 

Amazingly the rebuilding Cavs would draft #1 again in 2013 and 2014. Those picks were used on Bennett and Wiggins and would be traded to get Kevin Love. 

And even with that incredible and lucky rebuild effort, the 2016 Cavs barely won the title because there was a Golden State juggernaut. 

So no, I don't think LeBron could have willed his way to a title in Cleveland without those picks. Which means taking his talents to South Beach was the best thing he ever did for the Cavaliers.

I Never Click The Right One