Kuntu

The way…

Tom Brady, Haloti Ngata, Dawan Landry

2011 NFL Season: Championship Week

And then there were four:

Baltimore Ravens (13-4) vs. New England Patriots (14-3). 3:00 pm ET. Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Give me the Ravens over the Patriots (-7.5). How much of the betting line is driven by the Patriots impressive win over the one-dimensional Denver Broncos? How much is driven by another underwhelming performance by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco? The Patriots are at home and have the better quarterback. They also have a defense that just might be coming together at the right time. The return of Patrick Chung (#25) to the lineup has inspired some confidence in New England that the back end just might hold up under duress. Who knows! The Patriots haven’t faced a team with a decent passing game since Week 12 (Philadelphia), and in that game, they surrendered 393 yards to Vince Young.

Conventional wisdom says the Ravens have to run the ball to win this game; that Ray Rice is their most reliable, consistent, and dynamic offensive player. The “smart money” says that Baltimore’s defense is beginning to show signs of age and strain; and, that they will be hard-pressed to defend the new tactical weapons in Brady’s arsenal (tight ends Gronkowski and Hernandez). Perhaps, this game will be decided by the battle between Patriots safeties Patrick Chung (and whomever else Belichick puts back there) and Joe Flacco. The Patriots tight ends have been tremendous all season long, but the Ravens tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are very talented and capable of exploiting mismatches all over the field.

The production of Gronkowski (90, 1327, 17) and Hernandez (79, 910, 7) during the 2011 season has been historic. Still, the more conventional and conservative Ravens had a productive duo. Hickson and Pitta combined for 94 catches, 1033 yards, and 12 touchdowns.  Gronkowski and New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham were the only single players to eclipse those numbers. So, the Ravens also bring a viable tight end duo to this contest.

Perhaps the single greatest advantage in this game goes to Tom Brady. However, in recent years, Brady has proven susceptible to pressure up the middle combined with press coverage on his slot receivers. This approach compels him to hold the ball longer, while in a collapsing pocket. He must wait for his excellent (but slower) tight ends to uncover against man or zone coverage, or he must buy time with his feet. The Ravens have a solid rotation of defensive tackles, including Haloti Ngata, who are capable of man-handling the Patriots interior lineman, pressuring Brady, deflecting passes, and defending the run. I believe the game will turn on the ability of these players to pressure Brady and slow down the Patriots offense.

The 2011 Ravens defense, in my estimation, is not as powerful as the 2008 version. Still, the Ravens have some options. I believe that Lardarius Webb (#21) may wind up facing Wes Welker in the slot. The Patriots have the option of featuring Welker or either of their tight ends. I’m not sure that Deion Branch or any of the other wide receivers are still capable of having a big game against the Ravens (#Ocho!!). Ed Reed is going to spend a major portion of the day dealing with Gronkowski and/or Hernandez. This will place a premium on Bernard Pollard’s ability to cover, make tackles, and deliver big hits.

The Patriots did not win any games this season against teams that finished the season with winning records. I’m not sure what difference that makes. The Patriots beat teams that had Super Bowl aspirations all season long: San Diego, the Jets, Philadelphia. Still, they have managed to lose to teams that used physicality to dominate the line of scrimmage: the Giants and Steelers, in particular.

I like the Ravens physicality in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Baltimore 31, New England 21.

Stats of interest:

Tom Brady’s 300-yard passing games vs. Baltimore: 0

Brady’s 3 touchdown games vs. Baltimore: 0

Games completing under 60% of passes: 3

New York Giants (11-7) vs. San Francisco 49ers  (14-3). 6:30 pm ET. San Francisco, California.

It’s pouring down rain in San Francisco. I like the Giants as much as any team in the league in bad weather. The last time these teams met, Frank Gore played a half, and Ahmad Bradshaw missed the entire contest. Bradshaw’s return to the lineup means a great deal for him and Eli Manning, but it also makes Brandon Jacobs more dangerous…and in bad weather, with a wet track, Jacobs’ change of pace may be just what it takes to finally power through that impenetrable San Francisco defense.

The Giants have more versatility on offense. The 49ers have more depth on defense. But if the rain is going to affect the Giants pass rush, it’s also going to affect 263 pound Aldon Smith. I like Cruz, and Nicks, and Manningham more than I like Michael Crabtree and whomever else the 49ers have found to play opposite him. Vernon Davis is a phenomenal talent, but he is not a wholly unique talent. I like the Giants to live with his production and force someone else to beat them.

New York 27, San Francisco 17.

Life Begins in the Ice Box?

The American Anthropological Association put together a website intended to demonstrate the unity of the human family with respect to the question of race.  One of the segments of the website reads as follows:

Why do some people have light skin and others have dark skin? How do scientists explain the broad spectrum of human skin color around the globe?

Skin color, one of our most visible physical features, has long been used to divide people into racial categories. Anthropologist Nina Jablonski, Ph.D. theorizes that variations in human skin are adaptive traits that correlate closely to geography and the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, not race.

“Over the course of evolution, human ancestors became bigger and more active as they moved into hot, open environments in search of food and water. In these places, one big challenge was keeping cool. The adaptation they made was to increase the number of sweat glands on their skin while at the same time reducing the amount of their body hair,” explains Jablonski. With less hair, perspiration could evaporate more easily and cool the body more efficiently. “But this less-hairy skin was a problem because it was exposed to a very strong sun, especially in lands near the equator.” Strong sun exposure damages the body. “The solution was to evolve skin that was permanently dark so as to protect against the sun’s more damaging rays.”

Now that’s just bizarre.

francophone-africa

Libya: Minister Farrakhan’s Caution to Obama

Excerpted from The Final Call:

Libyan Oil Fields

When the western media began reporting on Libya, Feb. 15, it seemed as if it was a foregone conclusion that Col. Muammar Gadhafi would be ousted in the country he has led for over 42 years. Now, nearly a month later, he remains in power.

On Mar. 12, the Arab League agreed on asking the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, days earlier, the African Union voted against it.

Al-Arabiya reported March 14 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Paris to sit down with Foreign Ministers from Russian, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. A no-fly zone plan is reportedly being presented to NATO on Mar. 15, according to Secy. Clinton.

It is no secret that the Nation of Islam and Minister Farrakhan have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the Libyan leader for decades. The United States has long opposed Col. Gadhafi and attempted to force him out of office even bombing his country during the Reagan administration, Min. Farrakhan noted.

The Minister blasted President Obama and Secy. Clinton for their arrogance in meddling in another sovereign nation’s affairs and publicly recommending regime change.

Min. Farrakhan instructed Americans to look beneath the surface to see who stands to benefit from the unrest, and warned Pres. Obama to be careful of the words coming from advisors lobbying him to move in with military forces to depose Col. Gadhafi.

“Well, today our dear brother (Obama) has to be very, very careful in this decision that he and his Secretary of State, and [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy and [British] Prime Minister [David] Cameron and others are planning. They would love to go into Libya and kill Brother Gadhafi, and kill his children as they did with Saddam Hussein and his sons, Qusay and Uday. You must remember, dear people of America, that whenever government wants you to think and act in a certain way that would bring justification to an action that they are already planning to make, they must make the person that they hate a ‘boogey man,’ ” he said. Col. Gadhafi, who led a bloodless coup against a U.S. ally over 40 years ago, has seen constant negative publicity and was once called the “Mad Dog of the Middle East” by American leaders and analysts.

People unhappy with government are not solely in Libya, he pointed out. Many are unhappy with Mr. Obama, he said.

The U.S. government has a long history of deposing leaders of other nations in order to get natural resources, more specifically—oil, he continued, saying the imperialistic forces are not interested in saving those being killed, it is just a “noble motive to hide your (the U.S. government’s) wicked agenda!”

“When George W. Bush was president, he said they wanted regime change in Iran, in (North) Korea regime change—how do you get regime change America? How do you do that? Congress, the Congress of the United States, voted to spend $150 million to replace the government in Iran that America doesn’t like, so they send their agents in to work among the dissatisfied. So when they had this election, and the people in Iran rose up, they have legitimate grievances, all right—but stimulated from the outside,” Minister Farrakhan continued. “Well, what about Libya? How much money is being spent to arm the so-called rebels? They’re dissatisfied! Well, what is their dissatisfaction about? Do they (Libyans) have jobs? Yes. Do they have food? Yes. Has Gadhafi used the oil money to build Libya? Yes. Did Gadhafi use oil money and discover water under the Sahara Desert, and brought that water to the surface; and brought water from Benghazi all the way to the border almost of Tunisia? Did he impose farming in the desert so that they could feed their own people? Yes. Are there billions of dollars that he’s spending building homes, building apartments for his people? Yes. So something is under this!” said Min. Farrakhan.

“Is it that you’re (U.S. officials) so concerned over the blood that is being shed in Libya, when you looked the other way when the Israeli Defense Force was bombing the innocent people of Gaza, unarmed men, women and children? … You looked the other way when the Israeli Defense Force went into Lebanon thinking that they were going to have an easy victory, then you had to come out with your tail between your legs?”

Min. Farrakhan said Col. Gadhafi has been investing money in Africa, enjoys international friendship, and should not be killed simply because he is not America’s friend.

“Now, I want to warn you, in the Name of Allah, that this is more complex than what you think! Go into Libya if you want to. The Libyans do not want foreign occupation on their land. And when you make that kind of move, if you’re not careful, you’ll unite the Libyan people against you!”

Inside America members of the Branch Davidian religious sect were killed in 1993 in Waco, Texas, by federal law enforcement, while men, women and children of the MOVE organization were killed when police bombed their home during a 1985 standoff in Philadelphia, he said. Current American outrage is nothing but hypocrisy, the Minister said.

To President Obama, Minister Farrakhan delivered a pointed warning: “Don’t let these wicked demons move you in a direction that will absolutely ruin your future with your people in Africa and throughout the world. They don’t like the way you handled (former Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak! They don’t like the way you’re handling the situation in the Arab world! So I would advise you to be careful—and move with wisdom and skill.

And then, Min. Farrakhan offered Pres. Obama some divine advice.

“Why don’t you organize a group of respected Americans, and ask for a meeting with Gadhafi? You can’t order him to step down, and get out—who the hell do you think you are, that you can talk to a man that built a country over 42 years, and ask him step down and get out? Can anybody ask you? Well, well there’s a lot, now, [that are] going to ask you to step out of the White House, because they don’t want a Black face in the White House,” said Min. Farrakhan.

“Be careful, brother, how you handle this situation because it is coming to America! It has already started. Look in Wisconsin! Look in Ohio! Look at what’s going on in your country! And remember your words because the American people are rising against their own government: It’s not Muslims; it’s not Black people! It’s White militias that are angry with their government, and they are well armed. Are you going to tell them—‘Put your arms down, and let’s talk it over peacefully?’ I hope so. But if not, America will be bathed in blood, not because Farrakhan said so, but because the dissatisfaction in America has reached the boiling point. Be careful how you manipulate the dissatisfaction in Libya and other parts of the Muslim world,” he warned.

Here are some other maps that illuminate the intentions of the United States and Western nations like France, the U.K., Belgium and the firms whose interests they serve.

Map 2

Map 3

Political Subdivision Map of Africa

The people who hired Barack Obama to administer the executive apparatus of the United States government have obvious intentions in Africa and in energy-rich nations.  Some may mistaken his hesitancy to establish a no-fly zone as an act of empathy with the current regime.  Far from it.

The United States’ stalling tactics compelled other European nations to step forward, again, in their economic interests.  The US, then, has the “moral luxury” of following rather than explicitly leading.  In the end, the French, the British and the Belgians cannot hope to forestall the advances of the US.

That work will fall to the Libyan people — and it is unclear whether or not that work will continue as it has with Col. Muammar Gadafi at the helm.

The Art of Negotiating

Whether you’re in Cairo, Capetown or California haggling over the state budget, the art of negotiating is a valuable asset to have in your personal portfolio.  Here are some tips to step your game up:

From Inc. Magazine: (click the link for the entire list)

Every entrepreneur spends some time haggling, whether it is with customers, suppliers, investors, or would-be employees. Most business owners are street smart, and seem to naturally perform well in negotiations. You probably have a trick or two—some magic phrases to say, perhaps—that can help you gain the upperhand. But, often, the moment you get into trouble in a negotiation is when something careless just slips out. If you are new to negotiation, or feel it is an area where you can improve, check out these tips on precisely what not to say.

1. The word “between.” It often feels reasonable—and therefore like progress—to throw out a range. With a customer, that may mean saying “I can do this for between $10,000 and $15,000.” With a potential hire, you could be tempted to say, “You can start between April 1 and April 15.” But that word between tends to be tantamount to a concession, and any shrewd negotiator with whom you deal will swiftly zero-in on the cheaper price or the later deadline. In other words, you will find that by saying the word between you will automatically have conceded ground without extracting anything in return.

5. “Fuck you.” The savviest negotiators take nothing personally; they are impervious to criticism and impossible to fluster. And because they seem unmoved by the whole situation and unimpressed with the stakes involved, they have a way of unnerving less-experienced counterparts. This can be an effective weapon when used against entrepreneurs, because entrepreneurs tend to take every aspect of their businesses very personally. Entrepreneurs often style themselves as frank, no-nonsense individuals, and they can at times have thin skin. But whenever you negotiate, remember that it pays to stay calm, to never show that a absurdly low counter-offer or an annoying stalling tactic has upset you. Use your equanimity to unnerve the person who is negotiating with you. And if he or she becomes angry or peeved, don’t take the bait to strike back. Just take heart: You’ve grabbed the emotional advantage in the situation. Now go close that deal.

Be cool, baby.  Be cool.

Matt Cassel Under Seige

2010 NFL Season: Wildcard Weekend Preview

First things first:  What happened in the AFC West?  The San Diego (not so Super) Chargers finished the 2010 season with a 9-7 record.  The Chargers led the entire NFL in offense and defense, but missed the playoffs.  San Diego finished 2nd in the division to the Kansas City Chiefs.  If that wasn’t strange enough, the Oakland Raiders beat every team in the AFC West twice this season, but finished in third place with an 8-8 record.  Today, they wrapped up Week 17 with a resounding road win at the new Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.  The Raiders won 31-10 and completed their sweep of the playoff bound Chiefs.

Matt Cassel Under Seige

Oakland Trounces Playoff Bound Kansas City, 31-10

The Raiders were the ONLY team in the NFL to sweep all division games this season.  Oakland became the first team since the merger to sweep a division and miss the post-season.  The Chargers could not have been better statistically on either side of the ball.  Oakland and San Diego will have a lot to think about in the off-season.  The Raiders’ focus, according to reports, is replacing Coach Tom Cable and establishing consistency at the quarterback position:

Perhaps part of the problem has been Cable’s wavering on the Raiders’ starting quarterback. After starting the season with Jason Campbell at the helm, Cable switched to Bruce Gradkowski when Campbell struggled. After Gradkowski separated his shoulder, Cable turned back to Campbell but insisted Gradkowski was still the starter. While Campbell was under center during the Raiders’ three-game midseason win streak, Cable fluctuated between both quarterbacks throughout the second half of the year until Gradkowski reinjured his shoulder and was placed on injured reserve.

Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is rumored to be taking the same job down in Gainesville at the University of Florida.  What does this for next week’s contest vs. the Baltimore Ravens?  (more…)

Afghanistan: America’s Trillion Dollar Payback

From the Associated Press:

U.S. geologists have discovered vast mineral wealth in Afghanistan, possibly amounting to $1 trillion, President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman said Monday.

Waheed Omar told reporters the findings were made by the U.S. Geological Survey under contract to the Afghan government.

“The result of the survey … has shown that Afghanistan has mineral resources worth $1 trillion,” Omar said. “This is not an overall survey of all minerals in Afghanistan. Whatever has been found in this survey is worth $1 trillion.”

Omar refused to provide details, referring reporters to the Ministry of Mines. An official at the ministry refused to discuss the survey, saying details would be released at a news conference later this week.

A 2007 report by the USGS said most of the data on Afghanistan’s mineral resources was produced between the early 1950s and 1985 but much was hidden and protected by Afghan scientists “during the intermittent conflict over the next two decades.”

The New York Times reported the $1 trillion figure in Monday’s edition and quoted senior American officials as saying untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan are far beyond any previously known reserves and were enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself.

No lithium, no Matrix.

Better yet: no lithium, no di-lithium.  No dilithium, no dilithium crystals.   And you know we need those to get to Warp Factor 6 for this mineral extraction enterprise.  Well, at least it all makes sense now.  And here I was thinking they were fighting over who got to put the rocks into which pile.  Silly me.

The new practice of corporate/financial war in America looks like this:

The report in the Times said the USGS began aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using data that had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Promising results led to a more sophisticated study the next year.

Then last year, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq arrived in Afghanistan and closely analyzed the geologists’ findings. U.S. mining experts were brought in to validate the survey’s conclusions, and top U.S. and Afghan officials were briefed.

I’ve always thought that the US and “Soviets” (er, Russians) kissed and made up many moons ago…long before it was popular to tell the rest of the high school class that they were dating.  When your data becomes my data, we’re better than bosom buddies.  It means, I’m definitely gettin’ some.  I can see why Vladimir and the girls wouldn’t want that all over the school yard, but I’ll be damned if the secret isn’t out now.

You know the Chinese aren’t getting any of that good Russian stuff…you know — data.  Kiss me you fool.

Lakers Choke on Red’s Cigar and Get Trampled in Game 4 Stampede

At the beginning of this series, I talked about 2 things — and 2 things only — the heart of the Lakers front line and the health of Andrew Bynum. Without making too much a single win (like Lakers Nation after Game 1), I will say that the trends are beginning to favor the Celtics.

Boston’s mix of experience, passion and physical strength is beginning to pay huge dividends. Without Bynum, I do not expect the Lakers to reverse the points in the paint statistic — and that means they’ll need Ray Allen to shoot 0-13 again. The question of heart seems, to me, to be an open question for the Lakers. Throughout this entire series, Derek Fisher (the only Laker who is consistently a + (statistically) in every game) is the only one who has distinguished himiself by stepping in front of charging Celtics players….the only one. Not Odom, not Kobe (sliding to get into the way or out of the way at the last instant), not Gasol, not Brown or Walton or Farmar…just Fisher. That’s a problem.

Paul Pierce is a walking turnover. Ron Artest needs to get in his hip pocket and take the ball away without fouling him. Kobe needs to stop turning the ball over. Phil needs to play Farmer and Brown for longer stretches early so that Fisher can play longer stretches late. With that said, I picked Boston because I knew THIS game was going to happen…that gritty, nasty, want-to game…and I knew who would win that game. LA won the pretty game. That was for the media and the hoes. Nice job. They won Ray’s abysmal game. Nice job.  If Rasheed closed out Game 3 instead of Allen, the Celtics probably win that game, too.

LA still has superior talent, but without Bynum, I know they don’t have superior confidence. The only two Lakers who are unbreakable in that regard are Kobe and Fisher…the rest are Plastic Men whose confidence wobbles and bends from basket to basket.  How much can Lamar Odom and Gasol call on their recollections of beating Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu last year?  It can’t be much comfort with “Big Baby” banging on your head.  Not so in Boston — and that may define this series more than the great and unquestioned talent of the men in purple and gold.

Lakers Smoke Red’s Cigar and Feed on Fish in Game 3

Great game for Derek Fisher!!  Nice bound back by Kevin Garnett.  Perilous fall into the abyss by Ray Allen.

I don’t have much to say about this game except this:

  • Doc Rivers should have gone to Rasheed Wallace in the 3rd and 4th quarters when the offense bogged down.  The announcers talked about the lack of spacing on the court.  Tony Allen, Rondo and Perkins played some big minutes together but contributed to this dilemma due to their limited shooting range.  Ray Allen’s ineffectiveness only compounded the problem.
    • A lineup of Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and Paul Pierce or whomever allows the Celtics to expand the floor on offense and clamp down defensively on the Lakers length.  Pau Gasol, for all of his success, has not and will not dominate Rasheed Wallace when they are going head-to-head.
    • This lineup also allows Kevin Garnett to “rest” while covering Ron Artest.  Perkins works on Andrew Bynum (or vice versa), but can expect help from Garnett.  Pierce guards Kobe and Rondo can focus on Fisher instead of trying to help out all over the court.
  • The Celtics offense works best when the floor is open and players are not over-penetrating.  That Ray Allen and Paul Pierce played so poorly, and that this game was still in the balance until very late, says a great deal about both of these teams.
  • At some point, the vastly superior talent of the Lakers has to show its face — doesn’t it?

A Day, A Month, A Legacy: Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Black History Month begins, not as a gift because it was not granted, but as an affirmation of all that is becoming and as a reflection of all that has been.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Check this out:

Noted as the “Father of Black History,” Woodson actually served as the Supervisor of Schools in the Philippines. He describes some of his experiences in the Philippines, as similar tactics of “educating” Filipinos were used on African Americans. After his role in the Philippines, he wrote the book “The Miseducation fo the Negro” and inaugurated Black History Month (which started as Black History Week). Here is an excerpt of a bit of his biography from the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia:

“Woodson described a similar phenomenon in the Philippines where U. S. teachers trained at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Chicago, failed repeatedly in their efforts to teach Filipino children, all because they did not take into account the alienating materials of instruction…It was pointless to concentrate “On the story of how George Washington always told the truth,” he continued, for teaching Filipino children to read from books based solely on American myths and heroes would never prove successful. Woodson readily complicated these positions by suggesting that no “people should ignore the record of the progress of other races … We say, hold on to the real facts of history as they are, but complete such knowledge by studying also the history of races and nations which have been purposely ignored.””

Bill Withers: Words to Live By

Grandma’s hands:

Grandma’s hands
Clapped in church on Sunday morning
Grandma’s hands
Played a tambourine so well
Grandma’s hands
Used to issue out a warning
She’d say, “Billy don’t you run so fast
Might fall on a piece of glass
“Might be snakes there in that grass”
Grandma’s hands

Grandma’s hands
Soothed a local unwed mother
Grandma’s hands
Used to ache sometimes and swell
Grandma’s hands
Used to lift her face and tell her,
“Baby, Grandma understands
That you really love that man
Put yourself in Jesus hands”
Grandma’s hands

Grandma’s hands
Used to hand me piece of candy
Grandma’s hands
Picked me up each time I fell
Grandma’s hands
Boy, they really came in handy
She’d say, “Matty don’ you whip that boy
What you want to spank him for?
He didn’ drop no apple core”
But I don’t have Grandma anymore

If I get to Heaven I’ll look for
Grandma’s hands