Ask and I shall receive

I’m going to take just as much credit for this as I can.

On January 5, the Daily Times put my comment in the Grapevine section:

WHEN WILL NEW ROADS OPEN? While it’s nice to have those extra-wide sidewalks known as the Sharen Drive extension and the Northeast Collector Road nearby for my regular stroll, I’d prefer to be able to drive on them. Since they’re all complete with signage and light poles are up, are we simply waiting on the mayor and assorted politicians to schedule a ribbon-cutting?

In today’s Daily Times come this article. The beginning of the story notes:

SALISBURY — Like every good thing, phase two of the Northeast Collector Road took a long time and a lot of energy, Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman said Monday.

“Today is a great day,” she said.

Tilghman and city and county officials celebrated a blue ribbon-cutting ceremony on a windy afternoon just outside Emmanuel Wesleyan Church. (emphasis mine.)

Do I know politicians or what? That road sat basically ready for a week, the only work I saw done on it was pouring the concrete on a couple small traffic islands and that occurred last Friday. But they still haven’t turned on the street lights.

I do like the extra two minutes I get now going to/from work, and it’ll really be nice for trips to the pharmacy, library, and post office, which will be quite a bit shorter now.

They have one more stretch of the road to complete, when that’s done there will be a second route to the Centre of Salisbury mall. Expected completion time is the end of 2007. Of course, by that time I’ll probably not be living here in this part of town.

Hobnobbing

It’s not me that’s doing it, but fellow blogger Flip Pidot of “Suitably Flip” was part of the RNC Blogger Forum. Started today and runs through Wednesday. Very good stuff, so I thought I’d give him a plug and kudos.

Energy as a weapon

There were a couple articles I stumbled across in the last week that piqued my interest, and involve two countries who are or were among our biggest enemies. But both have some long-term ramifications for us and our Western allies.

The first article was about the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), more specifically a publicly traded subsidiary that wanted additional rights to purchase overseas assets and compete with its non-public parent company. While it sounds like just another international business deal gone sour, bear in mind that CNOOC was the company who offered over $18 billion to buy out Unocal and enter the United States gasoline market. (After heavy political opposition here, Chevron eventually bought Unocal.)If the deal had gone through though, all the Union 76 stations in the country (there weren’t many but they existed) would have been owned by a country who aims nuclear missiles at us.

Personally, I don’t see this stockholder revolt as much more than a temporary setback to the expansionist dreams of CNOOC, who already partners with Royal Dutch Shell on a $4 billion petrochemical project. A large reason that our oil prices have risen to previously unimagined heights is the continuing demand by China on supplies. Recently China supplanted Italy as the 6th-largest economy in the world, and I think within the decade they’ll pass the three largest Europeans (Great Britain, France, and Germany.) That would place them with us and Japan in the top 3.

Europe has trouble of a different sort to its east. With the Russian bear being a large natural gas supplier to these countries, a spat involving Russia and Ukraine over natural gas prices spilled over to affect Western countries. As of January 1st, Russia enacted a nearly fivefold increase in their price to supply Ukraine. The Ukrainians allegedly countered by siphoning natural gas off pipelines through their territory intended for points west like Hungary, Poland, and Serbia.

So, in the midst of winter, several European nations had a temporary natural gas supply shortage. With some of these countries being onetime Soviet satellites who are still in the early stages of democracy, it’s not out of the question that the Putin regime could certainly extract major concessions from these governments for them to maintain this energy link to their former masters. In the case of the Ukraine, their government has fallen out of favor with their Russian neighbors as they look to Westernize more. With the parliamentary elections in Ukraine occurring this coming spring, some saw this move as a play to prop up opponents of Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko. He defeated a Russian-backed contender in Ukraine’s 2004 election, a vote claimed by some to be tainted with fraud.

This is another reason that I think the U.S. should be heavily investing in finding their own energy supplies. Having these two incidents occur so close together timewise serves as a reminder that when our economy becomes too dependent on others, one hardly-noticed incident can grow to become a wrecking ball to our economy.

Instead of more regulation and red tape, the federal government needs to step aside and let our energy companies (at least the ones that remain ours) do their work to find energy sources within our borders. Are you listening, opponents of ANWR oil exploration?

New feature

Courtesy of Newsbusters.org, there should be a new daily “Gaggle” cartoon way down at the footer of my blog.

I’m sure I could link to it for free, but I’ll send the Media Research Center a small donation since that’s the parent of Newsbusters. And it’s generally a pretty funny cartoon!

A good link

My friend Drea found this and retyped it from the source (no link.) She offered it to me but I’ll let her have the reward of her hard work and simply link to it. So she gets the hat tip.

Hearing from the other side

I have a little help in the “Fair Share” battle.

In my recent post, “The battle is joined” I noted that one of the things on my “to do” list was to call both of my state delegates, Bennett Bozman and Norman Conway. Last Friday, I did so. While I still haven’t heard from Delegate Bozman or his office, I heard quickly from Delegate Conway. He was very polite and listened to the points and arguments I made to help convince him to vote in the right manner.

There were some points that Delegate Conway brought up that I found interesting. Chief among them is that he’s the head of the Appropriations Committee, so I suppose if anyone knows about the state’s budget he would be the guy to know. He told me that the state is facing what he termed a $160 million structural deficit. I looked this up on Maryland’s website and the Spending Affordability Committee report from 2005 does show structural deficits in “out” years (FY 2007 on.) (Note: this is a 105 page .pdf file.) That report shows FY 2007 as a $300 million deficit.

However, since the report came out there has been news of a $600 million surplus from this year’s budget. So I’m a little bit confused about whether these numbers the SAC came up with aren’t too pessimistic. Possibly the $160 million Conway spoke of includes an adjustment for this, but it’s hard to say.

Delegate Conway also cited Wal-Mart’s profitability from last year, noting that floor testimony stated the company made $10 billion and cost the state of Maryland $250 million in Medicare expenses because of gaps in Wal-Mart’s health insurance.

Let’s look at this in two different ways. Assume that both numbers Conway cited are correct. Maryland is almost a perfect “average” state in population, our roughly 5.5 million people is right around 1/50 of the nation’s total. So if every state decided to tax Wal-Mart in a similar way that Fair Share would, suddenly the $10 billion profit is a $2.5 billion loss. Then Wal-Mart would have to lay off workers and close stores, thus putting these people right back on the public dole.

Plus, I saw a report the other day that is cited on the “My feedback” page as I responded to a post on Duvafiles. That report showed that the typical low-wage employee is a $898 drain on the state’s Medicare system. That means it’s not just Wal-Mart – it’s K-Mart, Target, McDonald’s, Burger King, Best Buy – all those employers put a little drain on the system.

I will say one thing about Del. Conway – he did sound surprised about the union-sponsored radio commercials citing his stand on the issue, claiming he didn’t know about them until he heard one himself. And I’ll believe him. I did tell him that he is pursuing a solution in the correct arena, since Medicare truly should be a state issue rather than a federal one.

He does have a good, principled stand – I just happen to think it’s the wrong stand.

But the pro-Wal-Mart side has finally gotten some of their message out. I found this link right on the Sun’s website. Also, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce weighed in with an opinion that “Fair Share” violates portions of the federal ERISA Act.

So it’s going to be an interesting week to come.

Now, since I’m on the subject of health care, I have a bone to pick with the health care industry.

Why is it that I get a bill for $131 from my doctor, but when the health insurer pays the doctor, they give the doctor’s office $77? I understand that the doctor’s office has a good deal of overhead, but is it possible that having to deal with all the red tape creates the majority of it?

My doctor’s office has at least one person who handles solely billings and another person who handles referrals. They have nothing to do with patient care, but the doctor has to pay them and lease that little extra bit of space for them. There’s really something wrong with the health care industry.

And I can tell you right now, just based on experience and observation, that the WORST thing we can do is make it solely a government-run program like “HillaryCare” promised to be. I think something on the order of Medical Savings Accounts would be a good idea. I wouldn’t have to worry about having a chiropractor who is out-of-network. MSA’s also discourage needless trips to the emergency room, at least as I see it.

The more things in the health-care sphere that are directly controlled by the patient, the better the system works. And the less red tape there is (along with a serious tort reform measure to help curb the cost of liability insurance), the easier it is for a doctor to actually practice medicine rather than play defense.

2005 in review/2006 in preview

Tonight is the first time I’ve had a blog at the end of the year.

On April 1st, I went to the Blogspot website and started to create what I called “ttown’s right wing conspiracy.” There were a million voices in the blogosphere and I decided to create my own. It evolved into something that was my goal from the start – my own website. You’re looking at monoblogue, which is a labor of love for me. Lord knows it’s not profitable, but what first-time enterprise is? It’s a much less expensive hobby than golf, that’s for sure.

In one month, monoblogue has pissed off more leftists, moonbats, and so-called “progressives” (but I repeat myself) than any letter to the editor of mine ever did. And it’s a good thing! All of this is a lot of fun, particularly the “My feedback” page I have now. Ooooh, does that burn people up!

Yes, I thought to myself – why waste all this good writing and argument that not everyone will see? I can put it all in one place, plus as a bonus link to the blog in question so the reader can get the flavor of the post and others’ commentary on it. Sometimes I get my comeuppance, and many times those others who comment bring up things I didn’t think about and it’s a learning experience.

Now, I didn’t write on everything that happened in 2005. But there were many seminal events that bear looking back at as a reminder.

Around the world, Pope John Paul II died and was eventually replaced by Benedict XVI in somewhat of a surprise. Many thought the man known as Joseph Ratzinger was too old at 78 to be Pope.

While the tsunami that engulfed parts of Southeast Asia actually occurred in 2004, the impact and cleanup continued in 2005. A massive humanitarian effort dominated the first half of the year before thoughts of charity turned to domestic matters (see below.)

France had a summer of its discontent as Muslim youth rioted for weeks. Most of the catastrophe was in the property damage caused by the rioters, but there were fatalities and the world saw France take a black eye in some of its reaction to the strife.

Also, the UN saw its share of trouble as the “Oil-for-Food” scandal widened. Hundreds of businessmen and politicians in several nations had their reputations sullied by being named as beneficiaries of a scheme that served to enrich the deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

But a lot happened in America as well. The event that holds the biggest long-term impact was not a man-made one. Much like the 2004 tsunami, a twin punch from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devestated the Gulf region. It turned out to be a record hurricane season, as part of a multi-decade cycle that promises more of the same in the next decade or two. Even as I write, Tropical Storm Zeta is spinning in the Atlantic, a very rare late-season storm. It’s the 27th and last named storm of 2005.

The political world remains ruled by the War on Terror being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many heroes have fallen in this battle, but progress occurred as Iraqis and Afghans worked on electing representatives for new republics, the first of their kind in each nation. Debate was led by minority Democrats on whether the war was worthwhile and whether its means justified the ends. But a resolution for an immediate pullout of troops from Iraq was almost unanimously defeated in the House of Representatives.

Other political issues came to the forefront. Relief aid for the Gulf hurricanes became entangled in a new effort by fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party to not spend new money on emergency help, but offset other areas of the budget to pay for it. The “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska became a symbol for those fighting the pork in various spending bills.

Immigration reform surfaced late in the year as an issue as the problem of illegal immigration and its impact on homeland security was debated in Congress.

Left simmering in the background was a national divide over the War on Terror and the presidency itself. A vocal minority of people continued to protest the war and other actions taken by President Bush. They coalesced in the person of Cindy Sheehan, a mother who lost her son in Iraq. Leftists hailed her as a hero speaking out as she and a band of followers camped out in Crawford, Texas near President Bush’s home. On the right, she was derided as a misguided mother besmirching the memory of her son.

Closer to home, the big issue in Maryland was the fate of the “Fair Share Health Care Act”, better known as the Wal-Mart bill. Approved by the General Assembly in the spring, Governor Ehrlich vetoed it in a public ceremony in Princess Anne, where nearby a Wal-Mart distribution center was being proposed for a site along U.S. 13. This promised to bring over 700 good-paying jobs to the area and would immediately become the #2 employer in Somerset County.

While that debate continued, candidates began their 2006 campaigns. This coming year brings elections for the governor’s office and an open U.S. Senate seat, as incumbent Sen. Paul Sarbanes will not seek a sixth term.

And that’s one thing I’ll be following as the curtain is opened on 2006.

The year is going to start with a bang as the Maryland General Assembly begins its session. First on the agenda is attempting to override several of Governor Ehrlich’s vetoes, including “Fair Share”. It’s something I’ve already commented on, but the story continues to develop. In the pipeline is a post on a conversation I had with one of my delegates to the General Assembly.

Once the General Assembly session is out of the way, the election season will get going in earnest. At the moment, Governor Ehrlich will be facing off against either Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan or Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley for the governor’s seat. No Republican has won re-election to the governor’s chair in Maryland since 1954. Governor Ehrlich also needs to find a running mate as Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat opened up by the retirement of Sen. Sarbanes. On the Democrat side, a crowded field is led by U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin and former NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume. Maryland hasn’t had a Republican U.S. Senator since 1987.

On the federal level, Congress will start out the year with two pressing issues. One for the Senate is the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court for the seat vacated by the retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The other issue for both House and Senate approval is the fate of the PATRIOT Act, enacted in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Many of the provisions in the act were to expire a few short hours from now, but a compromise grudgingly accepted by all extends the deadline to early February.

Later on will begin the 2006 campaign season for control of the U.S. House and Senate. Democrats are hopeful to gain control in both bodies to thwart progress on Bush initiatives. They’ve already proven themselves as masters of obstruction being in the minority.

Of course, at any time events in the world could take precedence to domestic issues. While squabbles in the Middle East are not unknown, a number of other trouble spots loom large: the Korean peninsula, the Taiwan Straits, unrest in Indonesia, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, or sub-Saharan Africa, and even unresolved tensions in Europe could seize national headlines. Natural disasters are common but unpredictable.

There are a couple things I’m going to leave behind in 2005.

First and foremost, the 2004 election. Bush won. Quit bitching. The conspiracy theories are just that, theories. A bipartisan slate of electoral authorities in all 50 states certified the results. And that continues to me; yes, the state of Washington’s 2004 results were awfully fishy, but nobody’s in jail (at least yet) for fixing that election. I can think all I want the Democrats stole that one but I have no proof, and I’m not going to seek it out.

Secondly, I’m not going to be such a nice guy to those who would defame my friends and people I believe are of good character. It’s time to call bullshit what it is.

It seems to me in reading a LOT of blogs on a regular basis (I have over 20 on my Favorites bloglist, and I’ll come across a batch of others through links off those) that arguments by those on the left sink to namecalling and personal attacks a lot more quickly than those who argue from the right. (This is in general, I know the lefties can point out examples of namecalling by people on my side. But you get the point, shut up and read on.)

I am 41 years old. I have seen a lot in my time, I grew up with Walter Cronkite tallying up the body count in Viet Nam. When I was 4 years old, Neil Armstrong took that one small step for man. I saw President Nixon resign in disgrace, and recall the outcry when he was pardoned by President Ford. The gas lines in the 70’s were a rude shock, when I grew up gas was 35 cents a gallon and Sam (the owner of the gas station) would come out, clean the windshield, and check the oil and battery.

The first election I really took an interest in as far as paying a bit of attention was the 1976 election between Ford and Carter. At the time, it seemed like Jimmy Carter would be a good change from all the scandal of the years preceding, so I hoped he’d win. Well, he did. Then we got real hard times and hostages in Iran.

The next election was 1980. While Jimmy Carter did whip Ted Kennedy’s ass, he had no chance against Ronald Reagan. I recall the sea change in attitude among a lot of people. Sure the Hollywood types were afraid of that cowboy pushing the nuclear button, but most regular people welcomed a man who wasn’t timid or afraid to lead. He had an agenda and he made it happen. My first Presidential vote was cast to re-elect Ronald Reagan in 1984.

If I were to boil down the last few paragraphs into a short sentence or two, it would be thus: I have seen how the world works in my lifetime. Countries that value freedom for their citizens tend to prosper, while countries that subject their citizens to a range of ideas from outright tyranny to communism to socialism don’t tend to have a long shelf life, or their citizens lag behind the free world.

To me, conservatives and libertarians value freedom most. So I’m among them. So-called “progressives” and leftists value elitism and the domination of the few over the masses. And those who blindly follow their siren song find that they’re almost always not among the elites who have their own set of rules.

I’m not going to look backward like those who are upset over certain events of a few years ago. I’m going to take those events and place them in my memories to make sure that the ones I want to continue to happen do so and that, as we go forward into a bright future, we don’t doom ourselves to repeat events that shouldn’t be.

Odds and year ends

It’s all about the Benjamins for the Democrats and their cronies in Maryland.

I’ll start with the lighter stuff as we pass Christmas and begin the last lap of “the holidays.” Of course, TV will still have all the Christmas-theme commercials through New Year’s Day.

News item: Leading this season’s greetings (Baltimore Sun, December 20, 2005)

The slug line says a lot: Without using public funds, Ehrlich sends the most holiday cards among U.S. governors. While I wasn’t on the card list myself, it is amazing that Governor Ehrlich sends out 40,000 cards. My simple math tells me that 8 of every 1,000 Maryland residents gets a card from the governor. May not seem like much but honestly, how many of you know the governor of your state that well?

Best thing is that unlike previous administrations (according to the Sun article), these cards are paid for through private donations and not out of the public till. What the Sun doesn’t tell you (but I will) is that the last four administrations in Maryland were all Democrats. But I’m sure the Democrats complain about somebody buying influence by paying for the Governor’s Christmas cards and placing a little bit lighter burden on the taxpayers.

News item: Spend surplus on new schools, advocates say (Baltimore Sun, December 23, 2005)

Speaking of a burden on the taxpayers, here is this story as I see it. Instead of lessening the property tax burden on those who have chosen to invest in the state, the Democrats want to spend even more money on building schools. Their lackeys at Progressive Maryland claim that 35% of the people surveyed want to build new schools, while only 20% or so want a tax cut. What I’d like to know (and I haven’t been able to locate the survey online to answer this) is whether this question was asked after they were asked if they agreed with the statement, “Maryland’s schools are overcrowded, many are dilapidated, and too many students are forced to learn in temporary trailer classrooms. We should use most of the surplus to build and repair schools.” Obviously that’s a leading question, so you get 75% of the people saying yes.

The order of questioning is important, particularly if they asked this one after the school one: “(Do you agree with the statement) Tax-and-spend liberal Democrats in Annapolis have been overspending for years. Now that there is finally a budget surplus, lawmakers should give taxpayers long overdue tax relief.” People aren’t going to want to appear greedy after saying they were in favor of building more schools (because it’s for the children, you know.) So that only had a 55% agreement. (56% if you count me.)

There is at least a $600 million surplus. If the Sun figures are correct, Ehrlich could completely erase this year’s state portion of the property tax burden on everyone (13.2 cents per $100 of assessed value) and still have some money left over. That would put $528 million back into the hands of property owners and still leave a small surplus. Obviously the Democrats would rail about “tax cuts for the rich.” But money would return to the state with additional sales tax revenue and just maybe a few thousand new jobs created.

I don’t want to come off as saying that new schools are unnecessary after a period of time. But, honestly, is a Taj Mahal-like school building really more conducive to learning than a good teacher? All a primary school for 300 kids in 6 grades really needs are 12-14 classrooms (which includes 2 for special ed), a gym, a media center, rooms for a science lab, art, and music, office space for a few staff, and a cafeteria. That and be well-designed for expansion. I honestly believe that no primary school should be larger than about 450 kids.

The other thing I’d like to know is whether any new school construction would have a provision to save taxpayers money by waiving the (so-called) “prevailing wage” requirements. Ohio did this with their school building program.

And of course, every other advocacy group wants a cut of this rapidly-shrinking surplus. A group called Advocates for Children and Youth wanted $400 million for schools PLUS $375 million for other social programs.

But you can’t pay big money for schools without getting the teachers’ union seeking a piece of the pie, to wit:

News item: Support builds for better pensions (an AP story in the Daily Times, December 26, 2005)

The teachers’ union wants another $480 million a year for their pensions, although they would generously share about 1/3 of that for other state employees. They whine about the measly pensions that Maryland teachers get, and in raw numbers they are right: it’s about half of Pennsylvania’s average and roughly 50% less than the averages in Delaware and Virginia. An average Free State teacher’s pension is only 36% of their salary, which is tied for the bottom with Hawaii’s average.

But, and this is a big but, Maryland teachers contribute just 2% of their pay toward their pensions. (Hawaii contributes none, but it’s a far smaller state.) While the teachers are willing to kick in another 3% of their pay, they also want to change the multiplier rate to a retroactive 2 percent – an increase of almost half over the current 1.4%.

I actually participated in Ohio’s system for a very short time, back in 1991 when I taught one section of AutoCAD for one semester at Owens College (about 12 hours a week.) It seems to me that I had a lot more than 2% taken out, even then. I recall my rebate being over $100 when I dropped out of the system shortly after leaving Owens, but my salary there was a low four figures.

I’d be curious to know what TB thinks about this one.

News item: Democrats target Ehrlich vetoes (Baltimore Sun, December 11, 2005)

In a nutshell, here is the Democrats’ idiocy Governor Ehrlich properly vetoed:

1. The “Fair Share Health Care” bill, aka the Wal-Mart bill. Bad legislation to target one successful (and non-union) business. The proponents speak of “fairness” but forget that it works both ways.

2. A bill allowing voters to cast their ballots up to a week before Election Day. Can you say electoral fraud? Sure you can. I don’t buy the higher turnout argument because now it’s fairly easy to get an absentee ballot. If I can make time to vote because it’s that important to me, others can sacrifice as well.

3. Increasing the state minimum wage $1 to $6.15 per hour. So, when the inevitable uptick in the unemployment rate comes of this, I’ll bet the Democrats blame Gov. Ehrlich for messing up the economy instead of their support of this artificial wage increase that squeezes business.

4. A juvenile justice bill that simply seems to create more red tape and regulation.

5. A bill that allows same-sex partners to make medical decisions for each other. Just another step toward legalizing gay marriage. But the Ehrlich administration claims they’re seeking a compromise, which means that he only gives away 3/4 of the store instead of 100%. Much like most other liberal programs, get the camel’s nose in the tent and pretty soon you have a humped roommate.

It’s going to be very interesting in Annapolis about two weeks hence. That’s going to really kick off the 2006 campaign. Ironically, Governor Ehrlich will be at a fundraising disadvantage for the 90 days of the legislative session as he cannot raise money during that period, while his Democrat opponents can. But he does have the advantage of a late primary (Maryland’s primary is in mid-September) so both Martin O’Malley and Doug Duncan can beat each other up all summer – unless the powers that be in the Democrat party convince one to drop out, or the Democrats game the election cycle and move the primary back to June.

But the Democrats would NEVER change the rules in the middle of the game, would they?

The final week

Well, once again I’ll be glued to the TV next weekend. It’s really nice to have Monday off 2 weeks in a row because the Sunday night games are relevant to the playoff picture.

It all starts next Saturday night with the late game:

New York Giants (10-5) at Oakland Raiders (4-11), 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN)

The Giants can win the NFC East with a win, but they did get some help from the Ravens tonight. By beating Minnesota, Baltimore knocked the Vikings out of the playoff picture and allowed the Giants to back into a spot despite losing to Washington yesterday.

At the moment, the Giants are the #4 seed in the NFC. They could finish anywhere from #3 to #6 depending on results of theirs and other games.

To be a #3 seed, the Giants must win and Tampa Bay must lose to New Orleans. If that happens and Carolina wins their finale over Atlanta, the Giants must hope that enough of their beaten opponents win to carry the “strength of victory” tiebreaker. Currently the Giants’ defeated opponents have 3 more victories between them than Carolina’s defeated opponents do.

If the Giants simply defeat Oakland, or if Philadelphia beats Washington, New York is assured no worse than a #4 seed and a home game next week.

If the Giants lose to Oakland and do not win the NFC East, their seeding is determined by the NFC South contests. If both Carolina and Tampa Bay win, the Giants would finish as the #6 seed. If one wins and the other loses (or both lose), the Giants most likely finish #5. That would depend on how Tampa Bay’s defeated opponents do, since both teams would stand with both their conference record and common opponent record in a tie.

Carolina Panthers (10-5) at Atlanta Falcons (8-7), 1 p.m. Sunday (FOX)

Carolina needs to win and hope Tampa Bay loses to win the NFC South title. They currently could get the #3 seed if they win and both Tampa Bay and the Giants lose. Even if they don’t win the NFC South title, a win would give them a playoff berth as the #5 seed.

If Carolina loses they could miss the playoffs entirely if both the Dallas Cowboys and Washington emerge with wins.

Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-6), 1 p.m. Sunday (CBS)

Cincinnati needs to win to hold on to the #3 seed in the AFC, or else they need New England to lose to either the New York Jets tomorrow night or Miami Dolphins next Sunday.

Kansas City may hold the largest contingent of Detroit Lions fans outside the state of Michigan next week since the Chiefs must win and the Lions must beat the Pittsburgh Steelers for Kansas City to sneak into the playoffs as the #6 seed – possibly setting up a rematch in Cincinnati. If I were running the FOX station in KC, I’d be putting the Detroit-Pittsburgh game on.

Late edit: According to nfl.com, a win by San Diego against Denver on Saturday would also eliminate the Chiefs.

Detroit Lions (5-10) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5), 1 p.m. Sunday (FOX)

For Pittsburgh, it’s very simple. Win and they’re in as the #6 seed in the AFC. Lose and they need help from the Cincinnati Bengals. But it’s possible this game becomes irrelevant if San Diego wins Saturday afternoon. (see above.)

Miami Dolphins (8-7) at New England Patriots (most likely 10-5 after tomorrow night’s game), 1 p.m. Sunday (CBS)

If New England chokes against the hapless 3-11 Jets, they deserve the #4 seed. This only becomes relevant as a game if they beat the Jets, otherwise New England is locked in as the #4 seed. Either way, I’m sure CBS is drooling over the possible matchups for the Patriots against either the Steelers in the first round or the Colts in the second round. The Steelers matchup only occurs if the Patriots win out and Kansas City wins over Cincinnati, while the Steelers knock off Detroit.

New Orleans Saints (3-12) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5), 1 p.m. Sunday (FOX)

If Tampa Bay wins, they are set as the #3 seed in the NFC race, as they will be NFC South champions and win the tiebreaker over the Giants on the basis of conference record.

A loss could possibly eliminate them, but it would be highly unlikely as they defeated Washington earlier this season and Dallas would have to win on strength of victory where they are 4 wins behind Tampa Bay. Basically all three NFC East leaders and Tampa Bay would have to finish 10-6.

Washington Redskins (9-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-9), 4:15 p.m. Sunday (FOX)

If the Redskins win, they’re in. If they win and the Giants lose, they’ll win the NFC East. But because Tampa Bay beat the Redskins earlier this year, there’s no way Washington could be higher than a #4 seed.

If the Redskins lose, they’ll become huge St. Louis Rams fans because they’ll need the Rams to beat Dallas later that night in order to make the playoffs.

St. Louis Rams (5-10) at Dallas Cowboys (9-6), 8:30 p.m. Sunday (ESPN)

The final game of the regular season is only meaningful if Philadelphia wins earlier over Washington – otherwise they are both playing for pride.

So there’s 7 teams in each conference vying for 6 playoff spots. At the moment, their order is:

AFC:

1. Indianapolis Colts (have won AFC South with a 13-2 record)
2. Denver Broncos (have won AFC West with a 12-3 record)

Both of those teams will get a bye through the opening round.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (have won AFC North with a 11-4 record)
4. New England Patriots (have won AFC East with a current 9-5 10-5 record)
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (have locked up a wild card with a 11-4 record, 2nd in the AFC South)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (currently have a 10-5 record, 2nd in the AFC North)

On the outside but still alive:

7. Kansas City Chiefs (currently have a 9-6 record, 2nd in the AFC West)

If the playoffs were held by the current standings, Indianapolis and Denver would get byes, Jacksonville would play at New England, and Pittsburgh would play at Cincinnati. I think this is the way things will shake out anyway after next week.

NFC:

1. Seattle Seahawks (have won NFC West with a 13-2 record)
2. Chicago Bears (have won NFC North with a 11-4 record)

Both of those teams will get a bye through the opening round.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (lead NFC Sourth with a 10-5 record)
4. New York Giants (lead NFC East with a 10-5 record)
5. Carolina Panthers (currently have a 10-5 record, 2nd in the NFC South)
6. Washington Redskins (currently have a 9-6 record, 2nd in the NFC East)

On the outside but still alive:

7. Dallas Cowboys (currently have a 9-6 record, 3rd in the NFC East)

If the playoffs were held by the current standings, Seattle and Chicago would get byes, Carolina would travel to New Jersey to play the Giants, and Washington would be at Tampa Bay. Again, I think this is the way things will work out next week. But the team with the toughest game to me is Carolina, so it could be 3 NFC East teams in the playoffs.

Another interesting guessing game to me is who plays at what time and which day. The TV networks split the first-round coverage three ways. ABC gets the two Saturday games and FOX and CBS take care of Sunday’s. I’m not sure who picks the games covered, but I think FOX and CBS get their preferred games.

So let’s say the matchups above are the ones that occur. Here’s my prediction of the TV schedule.

Saturday (January 7th):
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 4:30 p.m. (ABC)
Washington at Tampa Bay, 8:00 p.m. (ABC)

Sunday (January 8th):
Carolina at New York Giants, 4:30 p.m. (FOX)
Jacksonville at New England, 8:00 p.m. (CBS)

I’d like that schedule if it panned out. I especially hope that they do play the late Sunday games, so I can watch bowling beforehand!

There was another thing that happened today on account of the games played. Those results almost locked up the 2006 schedules for my two favorite teams, the Lions and the Browns. There’s only one question left for each schedule.

Lions 2006 opponents will be:

Home: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, San Francisco, Seattle, Buffalo, Miami, and Atlanta.
Away: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Arizona, St. Louis, New England, New York Jets, and the 3rd place NFC East team (currently Dallas but possibly Washington).

I predict right now that the Thanksgiving game will be Miami at Detroit. The other turkey day game will be Washington at Dallas.

Browns 2006 opponents will be:

Home: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Denver, Kansas City, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and most likely the New York Jets (unless the Jets win both their remaining games, then the Browns would host Buffalo in 2006.)
Away: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Oakland, San Diego, Atlanta, Carolina, and Houston.

The great thing about Baltimore winning tonight is that it knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs (since I hate the Viqueens) and it assured Cleveland of getting the “easier” fourth place schedule even if they kick the shit out of the Ravens next week (which I hope they do.)

Of course, Green Bay losing earlier tonight did the opposite for the Lions – instead of easier games against New Orleans and Philadelphia, the Lions will get two teams who will finish at .500 or better this year in Atlanta and the NFC East team.

But right now the combined record of Detroit’s opponents for next season is 113-127. The teams of the NFC North get a big advantage playing full slates against two weak divisions (NFC West and AFC East) next season.

Cleveland’s opponents combined are 124-116. This is mainly because the AFC North draws two tough divisions for most of its games (AFC West and NFC South.) So all four teams are in the same boat, but it may hurt them if the Browns are in the playoff hunt next season.

It will be interesting to see what happens next week. Hopefully things will work out best for teams I want to get into the playoffs.

I’ll update this tonight as needed if New England runs into trouble with the Jets.

Merry Christmas to all!

This is a greeting for a Merry Christmas and a shout out to those who I’d like to thank.

First, Merry Christmas to those who created WordPress and the people at midPhase who serve as my server. Without them monoblogue is still a germ of an idea in my head.

A Merry Christmas to all of you who have read my blog. There may not be a whole lot of you but Rome wasn’t built in a day, either. Having started one month ago, you can consider yourselves as trendsetters.

To my blogging friends I extend my Christmas wishes:

Dawn at WriteWingBlog…thanks for being among the first to find me and for your help. Hope things continue to improve with your family.

Flip at Suitably Flip…for a startup blog this year you’ve come a long way! Keep up the good work!

Timmer at Righting America…Soldier, you continue to fight the good fight. While it may not always seem that way, we’re winning.

Dan at The Crallspace…while we’re generally at loggerheads with each other, you’re becoming a more noble warrior for your cause. The next couple years will be an interesting battle.

TB at Tidy Bowl Begins…I really appreciate your insights and point of view. May that new diploma of yours serve as the key to your dreams in life.

Drea at Fina’ Drea…All the best to you and Travis. Hopefully I’ll be getting some special news from you soon.

I know I’m forgetting some of you bloggers out there who I’ve enjoyed reading, particularly those who I don’t know personally (yet!) I wish you a Merry Christmas as well.

Now it’s time for the folks in “real life” to have their due:

A Merry Christmas to all those I work with – Keith, Lee, Steve, Jen, Trish, Randy, Jeremy, Tim, Bob, Eric, George, Bill, Dave, Korey, Joe…and a Happy Hanukkah to Mike.

To my friends Judy and Kristine…you both deserve a wonderful Christmas.

For the Swartz clan: you may not read this, but Merry Christmas to you Mom, Dad, LJ, and Tom!

And finally for my daughter Danielle: May you get all your Christmas wishes to come true. luvya!