Sometimes the voices in my head tell me to write blogs about ideas that seem to make sense to me but generate a lot of hate comments from those who don’t embrace change as I do. I’ve found that some people won’t even read a whole post, let alone try to understand it, before launching all the verbal missiles in their arsenal. Here are two of my blogs that did just that.
I wrote the first blog on DailyKos in 2006 when everybody was talking about Peak Oil. The idea was to realign the NFL Divisions so that teams in the same Division would be geographically close to each other, thus minimizing travel. Here is the idea with some minor edits. You can find it in its original form at https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2006/2/5/184670/-Football-and-Peak-Oil. Better yet, here’s a new version of the same idea by Danny Kelly at https://www.theringer.com/nfl/2017/8/18/16165712/how-to-fix-nfl-divisions.
I was just killing time, waiting for the 2006 Super Bowl to start, when I had the thought,
What would happen to football in the future if the scarcity and high cost of oil makes routine, long-distance travel an extravagant business expense?
Would the NFL realign their teams to, basing divisions on geography rather than traditional rivalries, to minimize travel and foster regional fan interest? Not likely. They just realigned a few years ago and did make some positive changes, like moving the Arizona Cardinals out of the NFC East. But, by and large, they kept the same structure based on the old NFL-AFL structure. Millennials don’t even remember what the AFL was.
How critical is this traditional NFL-AFL structure? Consider the history of today’s (this was originally written in 2006) Super Bowl teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers are representing the AFC. They were originally formed in the NFL in 1933 as the Pirates, and renamed the Steelers in 1941. When the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, they became part of the AFC Central Division. The Seattle Seahawks are representing the NFC. They played their first year, 1976, in the NFC West but then moved to the AFC West the following year. They moved back to the NFC West in 2002 when the NFL last realigned. So, both the Steelers and the Seahawks have been part of both the AFL/AFC and the NFL/NFC.
So what might a regionally-based NFL look like? Consider this realignment:
Let’s face it, this would never happen without some forcing issue, like a permanent global energy crisis. Putting Dallas, a traditional wining franchise, in the same division with perennial losers Phoenix and New Orleans, and the new franchise in Houston, would be pretty boring. But there might be benefits to such a regional alignment besides less travel, namely more regional identification with the fans. Think of the regional match-ups in the NFL Pro Bowl Game and the Super Bowl. It might be east versus west (like today) or north versus south, or maybe even … Red-State team versus Blue-State team. It could even change every year.
I wrote the second blog on Reddit in 2010 as my reaction to the NFL owners pushing for an 18-game season. I think of it again every preseason. Here is the idea with some minor edits. You can find it in its original form at https://old.reddit.com/r/nfl/comments/d50ui/what_if_the_season_was_divided_into_parts_and_ the/
I was drifting through the NFL (American) football preseason, watching meaningless games and hoping nobody gets hurt, and I had a thought. The owners want more real games that they can charge big ticket prices for. The fans want more competitive games, especially in the post-season. Nothing is worse than a Super Bowl blowout. The players want opportunities to play but not necessarily more games. So, here’s the idea.
What if the season were divided into parts, each having different player limits, and the games in each part had different point values for a win.
The current season looks something like this:
- Preseason Games 1-3: Games do not count. Teams can carry 80 players.
- Preseason Game 4: Game does not count. Teams can carry 65 players.
- Games 5-16: Each game has an equal value towards the standings. Teams can carry 53 players.
Here’s an example of what a five-part, weighted-points-for-a-win season might look like:
- (Former Preseason) Games 1-4: Each game counts one point for a win and zero point for a loss. Teams can carry 80 players.
- Games 5-8: Each game counts three points for a win. Teams can carry 70 players.
- Games 9-12: Each game counts five points for a win. Teams can carry 60 players.
- Games 13-16: Each game counts seven points for a win. Teams can carry 60 players.
- Games 17-20: Each game counts nine points for a win. Teams can carry 60 players.
In this system, a perfect season would amount to 100 points.
Here are some other changes. A player placed on Injured Reserve would still be ineligible to play for the rest of the season and would not be counted against the roster limit. However, a player designated as Injured would be ineligible to play for at least four consecutive games and would not be counted against the roster limit. This change would allow teams to bring back any injured player in the same year after the player is well enough to play. The game day roster would increase from 43 to 50 players with no third quarterback exemption. The Practice Squad would be eliminated. The bye week would be eliminated.
Teams with the greatest number of points in each Division would go to the playoffs. Divisions probably would not be decided until the end of season. In fact, a winless team can get to the playoffs if they win their last 8 games, so no team is out of contention until very late in the season. Teams probably won’t be able to rest players in the last week because playoff spots wouldn’t be decided. Using a point system, there would be less of a need for complicated tie breakers. The hottest teams at the end of the season would go into playoffs.
Rain is bittersweet. It helps the garden grow but you can’t go out and pull weeds.
You convert your entire back yard into a garden.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
“The Times They Are A-Changin’”
by Bob Dylan, 1964
America is in turmoil for a lot of reasons – weather and natural disasters, economics and income inequality, crime and violence, and many more. But add to that, in every instance, there is a political component contributing to the madness. Debates over climate change, taxes and trickle-down economics, and gun control have fractionated the nation. Who we are as a country is no longer defined by the character and achievements of America’s people; it is the behaviors, proclamations, and policies of our politicians that dominate the news. Politics is a hydra, eliminate one head and two more appear, and voting the snakes out of office is time consuming and frustrating. We the people are unwittingly complicit. Most of us acquiesce to the two-party system. It’s all we’ve ever known. But the two-party system is in trouble … and should be.
The Representation Paradox
Since FDR, most people have identified with the Democratic Party. The Democrats also held the most political power until 1985. After a decade of flux, Republicans achieved parity in the number of political offices they held, even though more people still identified with the Democrats. That’s the representation paradox. As it is said, Republicans know how to win elections but can’t govern; Democrats know how to govern but can’t win elections.
Fareed Zakaria of CNN has claimed that “When you tally up their representation in Congress, state legislatures and governorships, the Democrats almost have their lowest representation in about 100 years” (6/10/2018). His assertion was verified by Politifact.
But those changes don’t coincide with Americans preferences for a political party. Preferences for the Democratic Party dropped almost ten percent from the mid-1980s until now.
The data in the second graph came from surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Gallup organization. Since 2004, Gallup has conducted surveys of thousands of Americans at least every month. The surveys ask: in politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an independent? Independents were also asked: As of today, do you lean more to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party? These results are actually different from official election registrations, which are controlled by individual States, and may be more reliable because of factors like closed primaries and political gaming.
Democrats currently make up around 30% of Gallop survey respondents. Democratic-Leaning Independents make up another 17% of respondents. Together, they represent about 47% of Americans.
These estimates fluctuate over time. The thin lines in the following graph show the variability in the monthly Gallup surveys. The smoother black lines are 2-year moving averages that show short-term trends. The percentage of survey respondents who identify themselves as Democrats appears to be decreasing in favor of Independents.
Fivethirtyeight suggests the changes may be attributable to diverse young urban populations whose more liberal attitudes are not well supported by traditional Democratic politicians.
Republicans currently make up around 27% of survey respondents. Republican-Leaning Independents make up another 15% of respondents. Together, they represent about 42% of Americans, still less than the Democrats’ 47%. And while the percentage of self-identified Republicans appears to be decreasing, the percentage of Republican-leaning independents appears to be increasing, so there is an equilibrium.
Solid Independents (Independents who do not lean toward either Democratic or Republican Parties) make up around 9% of respondents. Democratic-Leaning Independents make up around 17% of respondents. Republican-Leaning Independents make up around 15% of respondents. Together, they represent about 41% of Americans. Independents are the largest group that survey respondents identify themselves as and have the greatest growth, but because of the two-party system, hold the least political power.
There are a number of reasons that have been cited for the changes in party preferences. Americans may be turned off by the partisan wars in Washington, they don’t identify with either the Democratic or the Republican party, they don’t want to be labeled, or they feel that being independent is the “Spirit of America.” Also, ybeing an Independent means being undecided.
Long-Term Trends in Party Preferences
Since 2004, more Americans have called themselves Independents (41%) than either of the two major parties, Democrats (30%) or Republicans (27%). The percentage of all Independents is only slightly less than the percentages of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents (42%), and only about 5% less than the percentages of Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents (46%).
2004 to 2018
|Republican and Republican-Leaning||
|Democrat and Democratic-Leaning||
Furthermore, over the fourteen-year period, the trend in Americans considering themselves to be Independents is increasing, while the trend in Americans considering themselves to be Republicans is flat, and the trend in Americans considering themselves to be Democrats is decreasing.
These preferences for one party or another don’t correlate perfectly with actual votes because of the two-party system. Most voters don’t consider independent candidates to be viable and some independent parties are not even listed on ballots and have to be written in.
“The increase in Independent voters demonstrates that a polarized two-party system no longer represents the majority of Americans, who are demanding an alternative to a system with such extreme divisions. … While an Independent voter may still have to choose between a Democrat and Republican in the end, the rise in independent voters signals a much-needed change in our traditional two-party system. Future candidates will need to expand their political views, and drop the exhausted party line, if they want to attract the support of the Independent voter.” Krosbie Carter. 2012. Why Many Americans Are Registering As Independents, Instead of GOP or Democrat.
Given these trends, a wise Democratic candidate-for-office will not forget their largest constituency – Independents. Don’t expect a blue wave if you denigrate independent voters by saying they were the reason Donald Trump was elected in 2016. Slogans like Vote Blue No Matter Who carry no weight with Independents. Mudslinging alienates everyone. If you want to capture the minds of Independents, and they do vote more with their brains than their hearts, tell them specifically what you will do (caveat: if you win back Congress) to improve the country.
The conclusion of the story is that Independents are on the rise, Republicans are going nowhere, and Democrats are in decline. If Democrats want to reverse their loss of political power, they must change. Barack Obama brought change, only not as much as many of his supporters hoped for. Still, he is remembered as a great President. But Hillary Clinton was not the additional change Americans wanted. Trump promised anti-change, a return to a Spartan American state that never existed, and he has delivered in ways his supporters never imagined. Now we must look for change again, perhaps the progressive change many Independents support.
As Bob Dylan said:
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’
“The Times They Are A-Changin’”
by Bob Dylan, 1964
I wrote this blog for Stats with Cats four years ago and I thought Random TerraBytes might be a better place for it.
Collaboration means different things to different people. Many experts describe collaboration as people working together to solve a problem or achieve a common goal. In contrast, many people in business use collaboration to refer to any meeting of minds between individuals, whether the purpose is to deliberate plans or solutions to problems, negotiate differences, administrate work assignments, and just communicate information. Collaboration used to just be called teamwork but the addition of three syllables adds more gravitas.
The simplest model of collaboration is one-way communication, in which information is conveyed from a leader or other knowledgeable source to other individuals. Often, this model is manifest as a supervisor relating news or other information to subordinates. Information transfer is one-way, from source to recipient, and the information is not contingent on anything the recipient does or says. Some people don’t consider communication to be…
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I wrote this in anticipation of the April 22, 2017 March for Science. It turns out there are quite a few protest songs being written about the Trump Administration. It reminds me of the 1960s, and those politicians weren’t nearly so bad.
Hello science our good friend
We’ve come to visit you again
Because your breakthroughs help us all survive
And give us things to lift our lives
Your benefits that we all share together
We need what’s found by science
In verdant hills we walked and saw
Habitats with life galore
‘Neath the clear blue sky a scent of fir
Gentle breezes hum like a kitten’s purr
Then we came upon a factory’s discharge pipe
It isn’t right
We need the shield of science
And in the clear dark night we saw
Ten thousand stars and maybe more
We wonder if we’re all alone
And if we’ll explore the vast unknown
And figure how we all came to be right here
We all care
About what’s found by science
Cruel it is we all can know
When health fails and cancers grow
Chemicals replaced ancient spells
Now stem cells repair damaged cells
But the treatments don’t always bring a cure
That’s why we need more science
And the climate experts said
Using the data they had read
That their studies gave a warning
That the Earth’s climate was warming
They all agreed the signs were there to see
Written on the planet’s land
In nature’s hand
And appearing as the face of science
Food stamps make life a little more livable for many people. Here are some facts about SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participants.
Nearly two-thirds percent of SNAP participants were children, elderly, or had disabilities. 44% of participants were under age 18, 10% were age 60 or older, and 10% were disabled nonelderly adults. Just over half of SNAP households contained only one person.
In 1989, nearly 42% of all SNAP households received cash welfare benefits and less than 20% had earnings. In 2014, only 6% received cash welfare, while 31% had earnings. The average gross income for all SNAP households was $759 per month. Only 16 percent had gross income above the poverty line. The percentage of SNAP households with zero net income rose more than two-fold, from 18% in 1989 to 41% in 2014.
The average monthly benefit received by SNAP households was $253. Less than 10% of SNAP households received cash welfare benefits. Nearly 25% of SNAP households received Social Security, and 20% received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits given to the aged and disabled. When SNAP benefits are added to gross income, 10% of SNAP households move above the poverty line
Compared to non-SNAP purchasers, SNAP users bought more prepared foods, snacks, meat, poultry, and seafood, and less dairy, fruits, vegetables, and beans. The most notable difference is that SNAP users bought a much higher percentage of baby food than non-SNAP purchasers. These patterns are shown in the following graphs.
SNAP purchases were categorized to simplify understanding. Prepared Foods include jams, jellies, preserves and other sweets, desserts, condiments and seasoning, and soups. Dairy includes milk, eggs, high fat dairy/cheese, and other dairy products. Snacks include salty snacks, candy, nuts, and seeds. Grains include bread and crackers, rice, flour and prepared flour mixes, cereal, pasta, cornmeal, and other cereal products. Drinks include bottled water, juices, coffee, and tea.