I am over elites telling me what sucks. I was over it in 2005. Does anyone think that Stephen Colbert, Lin Manuel Miranda or Beyoncé lose any sleep over who controls the Federal government? No. We little people are the ones who lose sleep. Trump and Republicans are going to impose a Federal parental notification requirement for abortion. They will pass a Federal 20-week limit on abortion. They will roll back car emissions standards 30 years. They will try to kill off the food stamp program. They will cut funding to most cities (except maybe NYC, where Trump still has his stuff). They will launch a ground war somewhere in the middle east. They will kill the ACA. All together, they will make it more difficult than ever before for poor people to break out of poverty and despair. That has been their end game since 1980.
Most of us have gone on road trips, and not always as the drivers. Since 2011, my wife and I have gone on an ambitious annual road trip in the American West. We put about 4,000 miles on our New York City-based car per year. But on these Western road trips we don’t take the car we own but instead, we fly to our starting destination and put over 2,000 miles on a rental while meandering to our final destination. It took just one trip for us to get hooked on this.
This is a guide about next-level road tripping. This is the art of the remote road trip, well outside your home region. This isn’t about renting a camper, either (I might do that someday driving across Australia). This is about seeing your great country, where too many people fly over the best stuff it has. What would you want to see on an American road trip? Would you want to see cities and towns that look like your own, or would you want to see what Teddy Roosevelt once called “big things”? Wouldn’t you like to go big?
The American West has the attractions you didn’t know you wanted to see. From mountain ranges and canyons, to ghost towns and colorful Mexican cemeteries, to Indian reservations and native American tribes we should all educate ourselves about, to boneyards, and missile bases, to massive national parks and monuments that you and I own, the West has the goods. Look at this map of our national parks. If you live east of the Mississippi, how would you explore the great American West in any reasonable amount of time? You could join a tour group. But you love to drive. No, you are a driver.
There is a cool way to explore the West without a tour group or an RV. It can be expensive, but it's worth it. You can fly to one city, take a week driving to a final city, and fly home from there. That’s 7 days, over 1,000 miles (or 2,000), and many photos and memories. This is the one-way American West road trip.
A quick note about timing: Summer is the traditional time to do road trips but it is also when a whole lot of other people do them. Some of our incredible national parks and monuments have traffic jams during the summer. The best way to avoid this? Go after Labor Day. I want to present my guide for you Jalopers to get inspired to go out there to see your great nation. Every part of it has something interesting, but my example is the West, since that’s where you can clock the most miles and see the most diverse things in a week.
A big reason to do a one-way rental road trip is time. Like me, you probably can’t disappear from your day job for more than a week at a time. So you only have 8 nights away from home. A one-way road trip gives you the opportunity to cover a single region in a week. Renting a car one-way usually comes with a hefty fee. But we’re in a golden age of internet price research. Even some of the biggest rental companies reduce their one-way fees for certain locations with high inventory, like Las Vegas or Phoenix. Once you know your starting and ending airports, you can do reverse searches on flights and car rentals to help decide which travel direction will cost you the least (either in time or money).
Everyone needs at least one partner for a road trip. I have my wife, my “navigatrix.” I recommend you don’t go it alone. That’s reserved for people who seriously need time to themselves. But you, fellow driving enthusiast, you need a partner to navigate you and help you chose what to see each day and where to sleep each night. Which brings us to preparation, and some rules. A road trip is not a race. I consider myself a boring, safe driver. However, I have been warned about my speed by small town cops on two different trips. You’re not an endurance or cannonball driver, either. You need to take this slow. A typical road trip day goes like this: you wake up, find a place for coffee and breakfast, and then drive to the next site on your itinerary. You should have an idea of where you’re getting fuel, as well as lunch and dinner, and you know where you are resting your head after sundown.
I got hooked on faraway road trips the first time I did it. But like a lot of first times doing anything, it was the least planned, as we had no experience. We did it in early November, which is too late for a trip in the Southwest. And, we only gave ourselves 3 full days as we weren’t sure that this would be enjoyable. We ended up seeing too much in too short a time. Here’s the route we took on day 1:
On that single day, we drove from the Vegas strip, to the O’Callaghan-Tillman bridge observation deck, to the south rim of the Grand Canyon (the serious way to see it), and then through a corner of Navajo Nation to Flagstaff for dinner, and finally our hotel in (Take it Easy) Winslow, Arizona. That was nearly 450 miles in over 15 hours on the road. Oh, and we were met by thundersnow in Flagstaff.
On the following 2 cold days, we crammed in 5 more major attractions, including, amazingly, Monument Valley, before arriving late in Albuquerque for our last hotel stay and flight home. Along the way, we caught a glimpse of Shiprock, a beacon for future trips. Since then we have been far better paced. Here’s what you need do to become a pro at this:
- Find your flights and car combination. You can choose Midland (Texas), Salt Lake City, Denver, Albuquerque, Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, or smaller airports as start and end points. Play around with flight and car rental itineraries. Does it cost less to start or end the trip in one of your two cities? And with the car, skip the supplemental insurance from the rental company and buy a separate insurance policy.
- You can rent a good car. I’ve rented respectable Infinitis, Fords, Volkswagens, and Chevys on these trips. There are some decent, comfortable cars to rent. It just requires research and sometimes a little persistence at the counter. If you do a full week trip, you could be spending over 50 hours in those car seats, so keep that in mind. Lately any Ford Escape EcoBoost has won out for me. The seats are right and it’s pleasantly zippy.
- Plan your visits and stops. Research what you would like to see along your route. Then figure out your exact route so you can come up with a daily list of sites you want to visit. Start with National Parks and National Monuments, and then find things that interest you. It can be museums, cultural sites, cars, planes, or even joints featured on Guy Fieri’s TV show (I can’t be the only one who watches that). Note closing times of the places you want to visit. When is that Spaceport tour? What time does that restaurant open or close? What is the latest time you can get stamped at the park visitor’s center? Is that ghost town accessible year round, or only on certain days? Figure out with your navigator which stops are priority and what could be considered bonus objectives if you have time. You’re going to be keeping track of what you hit and what you can come back and visit on a future trip. And as you do this, plan out where you’ll sleep. Thanks to airbnb and VRBO, hotels and campgrounds are not the only options.
- The distance between your start and end airports is not as important as limiting how many miles you cover each day. 200-300 miles per day is ideal. You want to do all your sightseeing in daylight. We’ve done Las Vegas to Albuquerque, Albuquerque to Denver, Midland to Albuquerque, Minneapolis to Las Vegas, Midland to Phoenix, Tucson to San Diego, and we have Albuquerque to Austin at the end of this summer. In all my trips, my navigator and I have chosen the overnight stops, and using Google Maps (or your preferred map site), we plot an exact route and watch the daily mileage total carefully.
- Produce a travel binder. Remember Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women?” Well you are going to need a single binder full of trip information, in chronological order. Grab a binder and hole puncher (find a hole puncher where you work). Start with your flight reservations. Then your car and insurance documents. Print out your hotel reservations. Then for each day, you will insert printouts on where you’re going. Print out driving directions, as mobile phone coverage in the West is sparse. In fact, make sure you print out the address or GPS coordinates of every place you plan to visit. Also take a GPS device as a backup to your phone.
- Learn to like Wal-Mart. I know. That’s a tall order for a leftie New Yorker. But in some small towns, Wal-Mart is the only source for beverages and snacks. Buy a styrofoam cooler, put ice in it at your hotels, and you have a mobile fridge.
The rest is up to you. If you love to drive, you ought to try it. Take a week off to see this amazing country and maybe you too will get hooked. When you are ready for the next level, there’s Canada and Australia to explore. Then you’ll know three nations with ‘wild wests’ and near-empty roads to drive. Just don’t speed. Local and tribal police know when big city people are headed their way.
While not an enthusiast's platform by any means, it is finally time to say goodbye to GM’s crossovers built on the Theta platform. And what better, trendy way to kiss them goodbye then to offer murdered out editions? Yeah, all black everything, like it’s 2013! Early this year, the GMC Terrain got the “Nightfall” treatment, and now it is the Chevy Equinox’s turn with the “Midnight” edition, before the current platform bows out in 2017.
Now say what you will about the blackout editions, the Theta platform is one of GM’s recent big successes, outside of truck sales. The Equinox, Terrain, and former, Mexican-made Saturn Ion/Chevy Captiva have been very reliable, quiet, and easy to drive family crossovers. Sometimes boring is good when it comes to a family vehicle. The Theta has been pretty solid and without drama.
Enthusiasts lament the loss of the North American Chevy Trailblazer, while Chevy sells a decent international version in the southern hemisphere. But a few have respected the Theta platform for its balance and the venerable 2.4L EcoTec motor, which remains a popular choice for Baja Bugs and Sandrails. In fact, I saw the American Captiva as a forbidden fruit, as it was sold only to GM fleet customers. I liked the Captiva so much I insisted on it at car rental counters for years. It was quieter and more efficient that any RAV4 or Edge at the time. And I think GM customers would agree, as the Equinox has solid sales numbers even as it enters the final months of production.
In keeping with the tradition of GM dealer order codes, if you want a Midnight Edition Equinox, you have to combine the LT trim with the Convenience Package. That is, if you really want one.
It seems even the GM faithful are weary of these blacked out cars. But doesn’t The General do it well with the Cadillac ATS Midnight Edition?
And how about Jeep’s Altitude edition of the Grand Cherokee? Is this trend dying a few years after it caught on? Do any of you still want a black grille and wheel set from the factory?
It's really as simple as this. Black people are to be POLICED, while the rest of us (white people) are to be "protected". Furthermore, the justice system that we have built and maintain is designed to put blacks into prisons and go easier on whites. It's just a fact.
For black men, the risks of living in this country are simply appalling. One wonders how, with an apparently straight face, politicians and pundits can continue to insist that, not only is the United States a democracy, but quite simply the greatest country on earth. The major news stories we have seen over the last two years are not aberrations, and speak volumes about the hypocrisy of our system. The disconnection between our stated constitutional rights, and the actual practice in hell holes like the New York City "correctional system" would be jaw dropping if not for the fact that there's nothing new about this story. Poor people, especially poor people of color, are, and always have been, treated as disposable problems, not equal citizens with unquestionable rights.
And the long history of our justice system treating black Americans differently has huge consequences. Some have taken decades to acknowledge, such as the phenomenon of missing black men. These are men who are off the streets of their last resident town because of imprisonment, or because they relocated to avoid arrest (for anything from traffic tickets, to unpaid child support, to more serious charges).
New York City has 118,000 missing black men.
Philadelphia has over 30,000 missing black men.
And then there's the lost sleep, depression, and the suicides. Kalief Browder was a teenager kept mainly n solitary confinement in Rikers for 3 years, over a petty robbery charge that was ultimately dismissed. After two previous suicide attempts, and a downward spiral into paranoia and post-traumatic stress, he took his own live last year.
No doubt this kid's years in solitary confinement was the cause of his extreme distress. I find it hard to even think of what must have been pure hell on earth. I cannot imagine the pain of his parents. What must it be like to be beaten up, over and over again? How can we Americans continue to bear what is being done to our children?
And another topic for another day: what about extrajudicial sites like Homan Square in Chicago? Do other US cities have black sites? It's like something out of the Dirty War in Argentina, except it is not reported, and designed to make black Americans disappear.
And while it will not be Chris Christie (who might be named as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal), it does appear that Christie's ideas on immigration will make it into the Trump policy on immigration. Trump doesn't have a mainstream, elected Republican to choose to be his VP. More likely, it will be someone in law enforcement or the Islamophobia industry. Let's see if this proves to be the case. We have less than 6 weeks to go before the traditional deadline for a VP pick.
A belated thank you to Yale University for this fabulous resource for historians of early twentieth century America. The photos are in incredibly good condition. Good on a University I normally dislike.
Queen Elizabeth II turns 90 today, as the longest reign in British history continues. The British monarchy, an expensive anachronism, only functions when it's both entertaining and satisfyingly ridiculous. Everyone gets the joke, and knows it's ultimately on them. Still, without it, the poor Brits would probably feel lost. As I've pointed out to my students many times, they've lost an empire, but haven't found a role. And so the monarchy will have to fill the great public void left by the awful Tories and the irrelevant Labour party. Good luck to Albion!
Imagine you are Hyundai-Kia, and you want to jump into the plug-In hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) game. What's the most cost effective way to do it? Make a plug-in hybrid version of the Sonata? That's doable, but that's one existing model. They could try to re-develop the Elantra platform.
But no. Hyundai did the most logical thing and developed a whole new platform that can accommodate both gasoline and electric powertrains. That platform has just given us four new models for 2017: the Hyundai IONIQ hybrid, the IONIQ plug-in hybrid, the IONIQ EV, and the Kia Niro. I have mentioned that Hyundai has been watching Volkswagen in the last 10 years, and once again, Hyundai has done something I would expect from Wolfsburg, and that is logical platform development and sharing.
Let's take a moment to look under the hood of two of those cars, the IONIQ hybrid and the Kia Niro, as those models will be the hot sellers. Under that contemporary plastic cover is a small, 205-pound, 1.6 liter Hyundai Kappa III gasoline motor, and next to it, a 6-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT). In between the two is a 32 kilowatt (43HP) electric motor. Pretty fancy considering the gearbox is not a CVT. Oh, and there's no separate battery for the starter motor. One car, one lithium-ion battery pack.
Hyundai promises smoother activation of the electric supplement and smoother shifting. And with reportedly unnoticeable regenerative braking, Hyundai swears that the vehicles will not suffer from the rubber band acceleration, coasting and overall jerkiness of the Toyota Prius, their main rival.
I am a firm believer in front wheel drive for young drivers. I also believe in it for warm climates (like, two thirds of the US nowadays). When it is engineered for sporty performance, you get cars like the Volkswagen GTI, Acura Integra, Volvo S40, and more than a few French cars. When it is engineered for economy runs, we get impressive hatchbacks like the 1985 Honda Civic CRX HF and the current Ford Fiesta FSE. But we also get vehicles that are not fun to drive (most people will say Prius, but there are worse).
Hyundai is looking to make high economy cars fun by retaining gearboxes and rear multi-link suspensions.
The non-luxury compact crossover segment in the USA is hotter than ever. For years, the segment has been dominated by the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4 (the best selling car in Massachusetts, apparently), and the Ford Escape. While the top three best sellers have been stable, the battle in the remaining ten spots has been no less important, with the monthly winners bringing in much needed profits for their parent corporations. The CX-5 has become the best selling vehicle for Mazda. The Nissan Rogue, a rather soft vehicle in look and feel (soft suspension, soft CVT transmission, really soft steering, soft seats), has been a huge hit for Nissan. The Subaru Forester is now big enough to belong in this segment. The GMC Terrain and Mini Countryman are sleepers. The Fiat 500L is adorable, but too slow, and not long for this world. Jeep has a new vehicle coming to this segment in 2017. The Volkswagen Tiguan is poised to re-enter the segment at a more reasonable price. And then we have the Korean siblings, the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage.
Looking back to around 2001, these two little SUVs represented the bottom of the American automotive barrel. The Kia Sportage was a badly designed vehicle based on the Mazda Bongo, and was recalled twice for a little problem of having a rear wheel fall off now and then. The exterior panels and interior parts didn't seem to match. The parts didn't seem to belong to the same vehicle. The rear hatches were rickety to say the least. The quality was simply not there. The Tucson fared a little better, with a dated design, but with an old, yet reliable Elantra powertrain. By 2010, the Tucson had gotten a new platform and new engineering from Hyundai's offices in Germany. And now, both the Tucson and Sportage enter new generations for 2016 that bring new levels of quality and design to both brands. These are daily drivers, to be sure. But they deserve a serious look for those who want to avoid the top three sellers and get a lot of car for their money. Well-equipped and with all wheel drive, either can be had for a little over $30,000.
Hyundai has a controlling stake in Kia, and the similarities between the two vehicles is apparent. The Tucson is in its fourth generation, and the Sportage is in its third, but I now see them synchronized with each other. I'm fairly sure they ride on the same Hyundai Elantra platform. The both have rear, independent multi-link suspension (are you listening, Honda?). They both have a 1.6 liter, turbocharged, direct-injected aluminum Hyundai Gamma motor under the hood (for premium AWD trims). That motor is mated to Hyundai's noisy but effective 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). In fact, that motor and DCT is coming to the Elantra as well. Both now offer Android Auto and Apple Car play interfaces for their entertainment head units. Both offer heated leather seats, LED exterior lighting, and a motorized rear hatch. And both offer digitally-set cruise controls and a host of driver safety aids, both standard and optional.
A note about that 7-speed gearbox. Hyundai's new DCT seems inspired by Volkswagen's excellent use of the technology. The reviews are in, the consensus is that Hyundai's DCT is better than any CVT. However, it is slow to shift, and so, it is not much fun. There is a slight hesitation to get moving from a stop, as is the case with most DCTs. And when the driver parks the car, or takes it out of Park, the gearbox sometimes makes a ratcheting or clicking sound. Hyundai even produced a video explaining how this behavior is normal.
So the difference is obviously design. Hyundai is taking a more conservative, luxury car path, as it wants it's cars to compliment its rebooted Genesis brand of luxury sedans and possible coupes. Kia prefers to be different, with it's happy, big mouth grilles and sportier interiors. Indeed the biggest differences are inside, where Hyundai has taken a conservative approach to vent shapes and soft-touch materials, and Kia is going for the younger buyer, with a sportier flat-bottom steering wheel busier (and glossier) center stack.
Both vehicles feature four (four!) thumb toggle controls on the steering wheel. Two on the left side for audio controls, and two on the right for cruise control settings. Because more is more, right?
Automakers have finally figured out where customers want USB ports and 3.5mm audio ports to live - behind the shifter.
And then aside from the steering wheel shape, the question is, how do you want your center stack to look? Do you like he Hyundai's soft touch materials that simulate a more expensive car, or is the Kia's piano black gloss bearable?
These cars are not going to go from 0-60 in under 8 seconds. But they are important. How important? Well, for Kia, the Sportage has taken over as their best selling vehicle worldwide. The longer it remains hot, the better Kia will be able to produce more cool family movers like it, and grow as a respected brand. In 20 years, Kia has gone from a brand you can never trust, to the "Hyundai for people with bad credit," to the more interesting and edgy division of Hyundai.
I am yet to test drive either, but I hope to this year or next. I do think that with both vehicles, the Sport or EX trim is the one to get. Hyundai offers a stripped-down version of the Sport called the Eco. But considering that it only manages to match the Sport's 25 miles per gallon, there is no clear advantage. So if you can afford the heated seats of either the Tucson Sport or Sportage EX, go for it.
GE is coming to The Hub. And Governor Charlie Baker will probably find a way for taxpayers to pay for it.
General Electric's Boston roots are an old story. I drove through the Fenway when this news broke, on the way to the Museum of Fine Arts. Upper Boylston Street continues to transform. There are new condos going up everywhere. The old town is unrecognizable. If GE does move to Boston, the old capital city will have taken another giant step toward Manhattanization.
It's well known that, as a group, comedians are the most intelligent performers in show business. But, they're also, easily, the most difficult, most abusive, and most unpleasant people in their private lives. Comedy only occasionally masks their insecurities, neuroses and inner demons. The list of first rank comedians who were extraordinarily unpleasant people is nearly endless. Bill Murray joins a long a distinguished line.
Not sure if it is really worth $42,000. But the 2015 gasoline V6 Touareg brings the features. It has a lot of suspension travel for a production crossover. Big springs. It is the quietest car I've ever driven. The 8-speed transmission is impressive. And the seats were near Volvo-comfortable.
It has a great blend of luxury and sport. The electric power steering is programmed to feel heavy, like a luxury car. But a direct injected 280HP motor made it feel lighter than it is. It is smaller than its cousin, the Audi Q7.
The big surprise was the off-road mode, as Andrew Collins over at Jalopnik described after he played with the diesel version. It has automatic downhill decent control, which downshifts and brakes automatically to guide you down dirt trails. It was a master of dirt roads. I think we did nearly 100 miles on "primitive roads" into canyons, washes, and forests near the Mexican border.
In 796 miles driven, I averaged a mediocre 23.9MPG on a mix of 87 and 89 octane. A 20 gallon fuel tank meant that I could have comfortably gone 500 miles in between gas pumps. $2.00 gasoline was also a nice plus in the American southwest.
An outstanding car. It competes against Range Rover, in terms of suspension. But it is overpriced as simply a paved roads family mover.
I loved how quiet and smooth it was. The third generation should arrive in the summer of 2016.
So many spy programs, so little time. Let's recap the NSA spy program news for 2015, thanks to The Intercept.
Ryan Gallagher: How the NSA hacks mobile phone networks worldwide in Auroragold.
Glenn Greenwald: Comparing Chelsea Manning to Hillary Clinton.
The NSA released some documents about how the FBI oversaw some elements of their spying programs. The information was quietly released just before Christmas, 2014.
Morgan Marquis-Boire, Glenn Greenwald and Micah Lee: How the NSA's XKEYSCORE program works. This is the big piece to read, folks.
Glenn Greenwald: Journalists continue to be against transparency. Amazingly so.
Which brings us to the whistelblowers themselves. We're reaching the point in the Obama administration in which some whistleblowers who were convicted are now being released from Federal prison. More on that in 2016, I'm sure.
[I tried writing this post on October 5, and I failed to delay it being published before it was ready. And while Newcastle's situation has improved somewhat as of October 18, I am leaving this up. Unprofessional, sure. But this isn't a professional blog.]
I regret not posting any opinions about what was the most exciting transfer window for Newcastle United since the summer of 2012. But now I can offer a more accurate prediction of where Newcastle will end up next June: one league down, in the SkyBet Championship. Newcastle are doomed this season.
Before I give my take on the 2014-15 campaign and the objectives for 2015-16, you should read Phil's post over at I Wish I Was A Geordie. When he published his piece, I realized that he summed up over half the points I wanted to make here, and he did a better job than I would anyway. My opinion here is still that of a Yank supporter trying to criticize and analyze the club objectively, except I will try not to repeat Phil. So here goes.
In the 2013-14 season, Newcastle were saved by a leased striker, Loic Remy. He scored 14 goals while on loan. Without him, they wouldn't have the goals required to earn their 49 points and finish in a remarkable (and undeserved) 10th place. They were also helped, at times, by the likes of Davide Santon, Yojan Cabaye, Mathieu Debuchy, and Moussa Sissoko. It was also a season brought serious trust and reliability issues for their captain, Fabricio Coloccini, and an astonishing season for the other central defender, Mike Williamson. With both Taylors injured at various times, Williamson was the unlikeliest of heroes in the backfield. The club had an over-performing defender, a prolific striker, and some inconsistent, but overall good players on the wings. That earned safety and the chance for the club to make significant improvements in-between campaigns.
However, the club instead chose to blow that chance, in favor of enhancing its profit margin. There was no summer shopping spree. Instead of setting the stage to give Alan Pardew a clear chance to fix his tactical mistakes, the club undermined Pardew through the unnecessary hiring of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football. This would be the first of two similar blown chances in a short period of time (the second would come just 6 months later when manager Alan Pardew resigned). In the summer of 2014, the club needed to buy one or two central midfielders. They needed to at least consider getting a defensive midfielder to replace the injury-prone Chiek Tiote. They needed a first-team quality striker. Of those three requirements (and surely there were more), they only completed the last one - the signing of Siem De Jong. That would have helped if he wasn't injured so often. So the team relied on it's other striker signed in the summer of 2014, Ayoze Perez.
The summer of 2013 was similar. Thee were signings. But it wasn't like Pardew's first summer, when Cabaye, Obertan, Santon, and Marveaux were signed. A summer without strong signings can lead to a thin, demoralized squad when the injuries and losses pile up. Then the relegation battle begins.
How did such a big club get here for the third season in a row? And why do I think they cannot save themselves from relegation in this third drop to the bottom? Well simply put, they should have been relegated last season, and a new manager, a new system, and new signings are all too late to save Newcastle. Steve McClaren will try to keep his club calm, but the 10 wins needed to secure safety are not coming. Goals are not coming. And this team seems doomed to concede the first goal in nearly every match.
And even when this team does score the first goal (improbable first goals to boot), they still fail to win.
This post was written on October 5th, and at the time, Newcastle's next 6 games looked winnable, on paper. Well, so were 3 of their first 8 legaue games this season. For this reason, I am calling it: Newcastle are going to be relegated. Relegation would be devistating. It would set the club back 5 years, financially. It would mean at least another 10 years without Europe tournaments. I know how bad it would be. But a part of me knows that Newcastle would deserve it. Relegation would make the owner hold on to the team longer, but it would force players out who need to go (Tioté, Sissoko, Coloccini).
Only in retrospect, after 3 years, do we know how the club got here, even though it has been happening before our eyes since the winter of 2013. Who or what is to blame? It isn't the owner. It was never the mangers after Sir Bobby Robson. It was and is the failed transfer policy. That shouldn't be a surprise, because we heard that three-word phrase as early as the summer of 2013. Couple that with a failed summer transfer strategy, and you have a disaster. I will try to explain.
This past Summer, Newcastle signed 5 players at the cost of £52.6 Million before salaries. Of those, 3 are proving themselves to be capable of playing and succeeding in the Premier League. The rest are development players with Premier League salaries and needing at least a year to get up to Premier League fitness and strength. And still, the team needs new central defenders and a true defensive midfielder.
Manager Steve McLaren has acknowledged this. He has been upfront that he doesn't see a roster full of players he needs until February 2017. But we fans are convinced that he isn't choosing the new players. We don't think any Newcastle manager since Allerdyce has been involved in player scouting and recruitment. That work is done by chief scout, Graham Carr.
What has Newcastle done under Carr? It has "bought for value." The team has brought in promising mainland European talent, who have ended up in a few, fairly predicable scenarios. Some have proven to be capable of succeeding in the Premier League, which eventually attracts a profitable bid from a bigger club. Some players become unhappy, and see their time at Newcastle as an audition to play for a more famous club. That would be okay if they were engaged and played hard in every appearance (that's you, Moussa Sissoko). Then there are the flops. The Ben Arfas. The Marveauxs. The Cabellas. The Thauvins?
When a team brings in flops, and the best guys are sold, you are left with a second-tier team in a top-tier league. If the new arrivals don't start producing - if service to the strikers doesn't improve - and if Wjindulum and Mitrovic don't increase their goal rate, this team is going down.
As this Guardian opinion piece by Susan Campbell illustrates, Americans already operate under austerity. "One hand tied behind our back," is our baseline. Some of the hardships and sacrifices Greece is being forced to accept have been commonplace in the US for over 40 years.
And what's so frustrating is that millions of Americans believe the "if you work hard enough" fairyland talk. It certainly doesn't help that we are generally such an ill-informed public. Even when some are enlightened enough to more or less understand, the resentment factor kicks in from the "we are paying for them" crowd. The fact that WE could easily become THEM doesn't register.
This is a story as old as the real estate game. In New York, especially, money doesn't just talk, it fairly screams. The working and middle classes in this country have been, to coin a phrase, reamed, steamed and cleaned for decades. Maybe, just maybe, there are tiny, hopeful signs that they're getting good and sick of it.
It all sounds very familiar to Americans, who have had two Red Scares, and now a 15 year long "Terrorism Spasm". In each instance, 1917-1920, 1949-1954, and since 2001, our defenders of the republic have demanded an unraveling of Constitutional safeguards in order to protect us, and preserve "freedom". And they say irony is dead.