Sunday, November 19, 2017

San Diego State's Rashaad Penny: The Best College Football Player In America In 2017

A few weeks ago, I wrote here that any sportswriter or other member of the Heisman Trophy voting committee that doesn’t select San Diego State University running back Rashaad Penny as a finalist for the prestigious award for college football's best player should have his or her voting priveledges taken away. 

But after watching last night's game, in which Penny finished with an astounding 429 all-purpose yards, allow me to amend that declaration a bit: Those of you who don't vote for Penny as a Heisman finalist should never be allowed to write about college football again!

Penny is easily one of the best three college football players in the nation in 2017. He deserves to be a Heisman finalist. If you've watched him play this year, you surely agree. It's indisputable at this point. 

San Diego State beat Nevada last night 42-23 in a game that will only confirm and expand the Aztecs’ postseason options. This will mark the eighth bowl game in the last eight years for San Diego State football. But the bigger story last night was the historic performance from Penny, who leads the nation in rushing and all-purpose yards. 

It was a game for the ages for Penny, who ran for 222 yards to bring his total to 1,824, putting him atop the nation's running backs. Stanford’s Bryce Love, a surefire Heisman finalist who Penny outplayed in San Diego State's win over #19 Stanford in September, is in second place with 1,723 yards.

In addition to running for 222 yards last night, Penny also returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown (it was the first punt return of his college career). Not long after that, Penny returned a kickoff 100 yards for another touchdown. The kickoff return for a TD is the seventh of his career, tying the college record. He had four touchdowns total. 

Nevada played well and was shooting for the upset, but Penny sealed the game for San Diego State. His 429 all-purpose yards broke the school record of 422 set 26 years ago by Marshall Faulk during his monster 386-yard rushing game against Pacific. 

I was at that game back in 1991. It was the greatest performance by a running back I'd ever seen in college football. Until last night.

Sports Illustrated college football writer Bruce Feldman wrote yesterday that the top five Heisman candidates in his book are Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, and four running backs: Stanford's Bryce Love, Penn State's Saquon Barkley, Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, and Auburn's Kerryon Johnson. 

Now Bruce, before you crack your knuckles and start typing me defensive reasons why I'm wrong and why Penny doesn't deserve to be a Heisman finalist, save it. The only argument you can really come back with when a player who isn't in a Power Five conference has these kind of historic numbers is that he hasn't done this against any legit competition.

But Penny demonstrably outplayed Bryce, who is your #2 candidate on the Heisman list, when San Diego State beat Stanford. Penny finished that game with 206 total yards on offense vs. Love’s 187 yards. Both are great athletes. Penny's just a little better.

Penny also had a remarkable game against Arizona State, another Power Five team that beat #5 Washington and #24 Oregon and is headed for a bowl game this year. Against the Sun Devils, in Tempe, Penny had 353 all-purpose yards, including 216 rushing on just 18 carries, 38 yards receiving and 99 yards on special teams.

The opponent does not matter. Penny dominates all comers. There is simply no sound argument left for Bruce or anyone else to justify leaving him on the outside looking in to the Heisman ceremony in New York City next month. 

Don't let this happen yet again, Heisman voters. You slighted Faulk, the college and NFL hall-of-famer who was easily the best football player in the nation when you gave the trophy instead to Gino Torreta, who quarterbacked a great Miami team but was in no way, shape or form a better football player than Faulk was that year or any year. 

You did it again last year to Donnell Pumphrey, the unstoppable and unbelievable San Diego State mighty might who broke the all-time college football rushing record last season and ran for more than 2,000 yards. He deserved to be a Heisman finalist, too.

But this time y'all are out of even bad excuses. Those of you who didn't vote for Pumphrey embarrassed yourselves, but if you make the even bigger blunder and leave Penny out, you will leave your credibility left hanging by a thread from your wrinkled Dockers.

If I sound pissed... bingo! Enough is enough is enough. I have great respect for sportswriters, generally, and often defend them when I'm in the company of those who have no clue how tough the gig really is. But when it comes to the Heisman vote, sportswriters, and especially ESPN analysts, have been displaying a regrettable amount of ignorance and bias for far too long.

Notice I’m not even saying Penny deserves to win the dang thing. He does, of course. I called him the best player in college football above because he is the best player in college football. But all I am saying here is that he deserves to be part of this ceremony. The Heisman finalists are supposed to include the best individual football players in the country. Penny is one of those. 

Some years, Heisman voters make a reasonable argument when Division One players have amazing stats but haven't played against strong competition. But I will say it one more time: two of Penny’s finest games this season were against Power Five teams. He's great no matter who he is playing.
Heisman voters, please stop shaming the award with your myopic, clueless votes. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Man in the Wilderness: Congressman Walter Jones, the Only House Republican in Deep-Red State to Vote Against House Tax Plan

Rep. Walter Jones, lonely voice of reason and decency
Walter Jones must feel like a man in the wilderness. Jones, a North Carolina Republican in the House of Representatives, has a storied history of speaking his mind, regardless of the consequences. But this week, he really went out on a limb. Jones is the only member of his party from a deep-red state to vote against the current House version of the $1.5 trillion tax bill.
It was a brave move. But also a smart one. Why? Because this tax bill will hurt so many of his constituents. When all is said and done, if this absurd tax bill, or its equally preposterous counterpart bill in the Senate, reaches President Trump's desk, many of Jones' supporters will take a major hit. And probably so will you.
Jones, who's been in Congress since 1994, is someone I have long admired. A moderate, he is a truly decent and independent man. You want examples? For more than a decade, he has been quietly writing personal letters of respect and condolence to the families of thousands of men and women who have lost their lives fighting in the nation's post-9/11 wars. He says he does it because he deeply regrets voting in 2002 to authorize the U.S. to invade Iraq.
As I reported in the International Business Times a few years ago, Jones was one of the few voices in Congress who relentlessly demanded that the government release the redacted pages of the Joint Intelligence Committee 9/11 Inquiry report regarding the Saudi Arabian government's alleged involvement in the terrorist attack.
And once again Jones has been a singular voice with this tax "cut," which he voted against in large part because it eliminates the tax deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses, which, seemingly unbeknownst to his GOP colleagues, is a very scary proposition for millions of suffering Americans. "There are a lot of seniors in my district, and this is life and death for them," Jones said this week.
Middle Class Hit Hard
So, there you go. A rare moment of clarity and decency among House Republicans these days. The so-called tax "cuts" in both the House and the Senate are the biggest scams for wealthy Americans and multi-national corporations Congress has ever attempted to pull on this country. They will greatly harm the economy, and millions of Americans.
The House bill would raise taxes on millions of middle-class families, punish the elderly, eliminate jobs, increase health insurance premiums, encourage American companies to take their jobs to other countries, which of course President Trump has done his entire career, and explode the debt.
In the House bill, people making less than $30,000 a year would actually pay $4 billion more in taxes, while people who make over $200,000 would pay $90 billion less.
And as Jones noted, the bill would kill a deduction that allows millions of American families of disabled children and elderly people to write off large medical expenses. The deduction is currently allowed if medical expenses exceed 10 percent of a taxpayer's adjusted gross income. About 9 million taxpayers reportedly deducted about $87 billion in medical expenses for the 2015 tax year, according to the IRS.
Few Republicans have had the courage to speak out about this ridiculous idea to repeal the medical-expense tax break. Rep. Greg Walden, the Oregon Republican who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, told the Chicago Tribune this week that some of his constituents who live in senior care facilities could in fact be harmed if the deduction is taken away.
But when asked what he plans to do about it, his answer was vague and bizarre. "I think it's one we have to continue to massage a bit," he said. "There's a lot of things out there and there's maybe going to be an opportunity to adjust some of them."
Cancer Patients Threatened
Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has warned that the House tax cut proposal, which passed narrowly on Thursday (13 Republicans opposed it), would cut $25 billion from Medicare spending next year. The reduction would come in the form of automatic sequester cuts designed to prevent the federal government from running out of money.
Oncologists nationwide are very concerned about this. The Republican's plan to slash Medicare would trigger sequester cuts that would drive more independent cancer clinics out of business and reduce cancer patient access to care.
“Policymakers in Washington should note that blunt budget-cutting gimmicks like the sequester cut backfire. They have terrible unintended consequences and do more harm than good for patients and taxpayers,” the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) said in a statement.
As OncLive reported today, the coalition of independent oncology practices stated that the most recent Medicare sequester cut, five years ago, resulted in the closure of nearly 100 oncology practices—many consisting of multiple clinic locations—and caused another 130 to merge with hospitals in order to survive.
Under the House bill, which was not supported by a single Democrat, corporations can benefit by taking their jobs out of the United States. Companies will have the option of paying the new 20 percent corporate rate the GOP is proposing, or move to a low-tax country and pay just 9 percent to that nation and nothing to the United States. Yes, nothing.
Senate Bill Might Be Even Worse
Not to be outdone, the Senate's version of this so-called tax cut, which will be voted on next week, may be even more harmful to working Americans. In this bill, taxpayers who make between $50,000 and $75,000 would pay $3.9 billion more in taxes per year after the individual cuts expire in 2026, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), while wealthy families who benefit more from the corporate tax cuts would continue to get a tax break after the individual cuts expire.
The JCT said the Senate bill will raise taxes on low-income Americans beginning in 2021, and that taxpayers earning less than $40,000 would see their tax bills go up in the second half of the next decade. The CBO also said that the Senate's tax plan could trigger huge cuts to Medicare and other programs in order to meet budget deficit rules.
The Senate bill will repeal the individual mandate in Obamacare, which will increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 13 million, according to the CBO, and raise insurance premiums by about 10 percent for millions of middle-class families and by over $1,000 per year for millions of seniors.
Senate Majority turtle Mitch McConnell admits he added the elimination of the individual mandate to the bill to help pay for permanent corporate tax rate cuts.
Both of these tax bills are frauds. Scams. But don't take my word for it. Read up on them. See for yourself. Walter Jones did. And he should win some sort of medal for it.