Capital Chaos: Win, Lose or Draw

I keep saying don’t read the comments and yet, I keep reading them.

This time, a cranky Caps fan complained, “At this point is Kuzy ever going to improve at the dot? He’s been steadily terrible since he arrived in DC and shows no sign of improvement.”

To which I felt obligated to reply:

Faceoff w/l record have been shown time and again to have very little correlation to game w/l records. This is true when looking at both individual FO performance and team performance and when looking at it in the course of a single game as well as over an 82 game season.

That’s because the outcome of the draw is in isolation. The stat only tells you which player pushed the puck which direction. Did the draw winner’s team gain or lose possession with the draw? Did the team that gained possession post-draw produce a shot attempt from the ensuing play. Did the shot attempt become a shot on goal? Did the shot on goal produce a goal? You don’t know, the raw stat doesn’t tell you.

And, the stat treats all FO attempts equally. There’s no contextual breakdown. Is it at 5s, on the PK, on the PP, at 3s in OT? Is it in the neutral zone, the defensive zone, the offensive zone? Is the score tied, close? Is it early or late in the game? You don’t know, again, because the raw stat doesn’t tell you.

There’s so many unknowns about the circumstances of the draw and what actually happens with the puck that it is very difficult to predict using Face Offs what a win of a FO might produce. So, conventional wisdom is that the stat, by itself, might not hold a lot of meaning in terms of it’s predictive value.

However, the act of taking a faceoff in the reality of playing the actual game, certain FO attempts are more valuable to win than others. A defensive zone draw into a set clearing play during a penalty kill is more valuable than a neutral zone draw at evens. A draw trailing by one, late in a game, in the offensive zone, into a set scoring play is more valuable than the opening faceoff. A draw at 3s in OT is more important than a mid-game score during a blowout. And, so on.

In those singular moments, maybe a player’s propensity to win more often than not might make a difference. It’s why Jay Beagle was so valuable to the Caps because he was very, very good at situational draws. Would you rather someone who win’s 53+% of the time or someone who loses 53+% of the time? Of course you’d want the 53-plus winner in there whenever possible. Kuzy isn’t that go-to guy for those moments. And, that’s kind of the knock on him. He will be on the ice in big situations but cannot be relied on to take the draw with any efficiency. For better, or worse, that’s the reality of who he is right now – a sub-50% win rate. The problem with judging him solely on that is that we still don’t know much about the draws themselves to best judge if he’s really terrible when it counts or just bad at taking meaningless ones.

Overall, Kuzy’s first full season at center he posted 44.6%, which is essentially his career average to date for FO. This season, while it’s a far cry from being competitive he is at 47.2% on about 300 draws, which is up from last season’s abysmal 38.7%. Again, not saying by any stretch of the imagination he is good on the dot but this is an improvement, albeit slight, from where he was and good enough to fall within the top-100 in the league for FOs with over 300 attempts.

For context, Joe Thornton and Connor McDavid both have 47% win rates with similar draw numbers and Jack Eichel is taking almost 200 more draws is putting up a 47% win rate. Nathan MacKinnon and Jack Hughes have similar draw numbers and but worse win rates, both in the low 40s. And, the list goes on for sub-50% performance on top six forwards putting up at least 300 draws.

Even on the Caps, Backstrom is just a tick higher than Kuzy but still sub-50% this season coming in just barely over 49%. For the rest of the top-six the numbers are even worse for Vrana, Wilson and Oshie when they take draws while Ovi’s 100% rate is predicated on the fact he’s only taken a single one thus far. It’s a team-wide problem with only Eller over 50% while taking more than 300 while Steph and Dowd are both around 100 attempts at the 50% mark. Everyone else in the bottom six is just as inept as the top-six.

However, maybe you don’t always need him to be good at FO either. He has great vision on the ice, and a decent shot. So, maybe what you really want is someone else to win the draw and put it TO him so he can distribute the puck to a shooter or take the shot himself.

Unfortunately, the rest of the players he’s routinely on ice with are actually worse than he is taking the draw as noted above. And, even as we saw with having a speciality like Beagle, not every circumstance allows getting a FO expert onto the ice to take advantage of Kuzy’s post-FO capability to drive play.

So, what you’re left with is hoping that most of the draws Kuzy is forced to take are in low leverage situations and, maybe, although it’s not a comforting thought, that taking low leverage FOs is not exciting and therefor the losses aren’t about skill as much as about focus, it’s not meaningful so maybe he’s phoning them in more often. he wouldn’t be the first player to be thought to not be giving 100% in all aspects of the game throughout the entire game and season, but this isn’t actually what I’m accusing him of either.

I guess what I’m really getting at is generally FO% is about as useful as +/- in terms of being a stat. It’s just something to talk about at the water cooler because it’s a stat that’s almost as old as the game itself, particularly when he butchers that one really important FO and the result is a lost game.

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Scoring Wingers, Plus/Minus, and the tribulations of being Kovy

Never read the comments.

Never read the comments.

Never read, fuck, I read the cesspool of internet comments and I’m dumber for it. However, I do need to put some thoughts down.

I’m not a Illya Kovalchuk fan by any stretch of the imagination. While he was a dynamic scoring winger who was a thorn in the Capitals side during his time with Thrashers his time in the league was always mired in controversy. Despite being given the Trashers Captaincy in 2008–09 he refused to sign an extension to the team and was leveraged into a trade, ultimately hurting the Trashers. Then, with the New Jersey Devils he attempted to sign a salary cap circumventing contract that had to be nullified by the league but which still resulted in a controversial cap crushing contract with the Devils. Part way through that contract he prematurely retired from the NHL leaving the team with a litany of penalties and lack for forward scoring depth which ended up tanking the teams success going forward. He played several years in the KHL before coming back to the LA Kings on a fairly lucrative deal which is again causing controversy because of the structure of the no trade/no movement clauses and his refusal to entertain offers by other teams. In every case Kovy isn’t the sole problem as there’s culpability to the team management as well, but controversy does seem to follow him.

That being said, the career numbers don’t lie, he was a very good goal scorer and point generator, particularly in his youth where he snagged a Richard Rocket and Kharlamov Trophy as well as being a three-time All Star. As a Russian player he’s generally only behind ultra-elite names like Ovechkin, Bure and Federov for many of his career accomplishments, including:

436 All Situations Goals #70 All Time
0.486 Goals Per Game #486
283 Event strength Goals #84 All time
143 Power Play Goals T59 All Time
61 Game Winning Goals T85 All Time
352.4 All Situations Goals Created #108 All Time
423 All Situations Assists #238 All Time
0.472 Assists Per Game T200 All time
859 All Situations Points #132 All time
0.958 Points Per Game #79 all time
over 897 Games Played

While none of this is necessarily Hall of Fame worth it’s still pretty impressive overall.

His numbers this season aren’t good, but they aren’t necessarily bad either considering his often-cloudy middle-six usage on a generally terrible LA Kings Team
3 Goals, 7th on Kings
6 Assists, 4th on Kings
9 Points, 5th on Kings
35 Shots, 8th on Team

What really stood out though to comments about an article regarding the plight of the Kings and Kovy’s No Trade Clause was the plus/minus number. It’s -10 for the season, leading the team.

But, what relevance does the single season stat even mean on a team with only five guys with positive numbers to begin with? There’s fourteen regulars in the Kings’ lineup that feature a negative plus-minus and a couple of more who are barely even on a team that’s give up 67 goals, second most behind the Wings, while only scoring 46 resulting in being tied for third fewest.

Right now that -10 is in the bottom third of the league, tied with the likes of James Neal, Eric Staal and Kaapo Kakko among some name recognition forwards (and better than former Jersey teammate Zach Parise) but what’s more blue-liners who have the responsibility of limiting shots against have a worse negative plus-minus including some big name Dmen like Brent Burns, Matt Dumba, Justin Braun and John Klingberg.

Plus/Minus is the difference in goals scored for minus goals scored against while a given players is on ice at even strength.

By that definition the four other players also on ice influence both the offense and defensive output and the goalie also plays a role in the defense. Therefore, any given individual’s plus-minus can be affected by the quality of the rest of the unit on the ice.

Furthermore, it doesn’t take into account contributions on Special Teams and other unbalanced play.

Finally, it is based on goals scored which is a low-event metric metric that’s highly random and thus of little statistical value. So while goals are great for deciding the outcome of games, they don’t always translate well to analyzing or modeling individual performance and is part of the reason why much of individual analysis has moved to looking at shot attempts (corsi) as a base metric for both offense and defensive analysis and modeling.

The argument usually put forth is that a negative goal differential in plus-minus represents a player who is not good at defense. It’s a leap of faith, however, based on how the stat is tabulated and can be just as influenced by poor goal tending, poor team defense, poor team offense, poor player usage, coaching schemes, and so on.

I’m not defending Kovy.

But, he has never been known for his 2-way play or defensive acumen. Then again, he’s always been utilized as a top-six scoring winger throughout his career. Atlanta constructed its entire attack around Kovy’s ability. The Devils who previously were known for playing the Trap defensive scheme almost exclusively designed their top-line around a more offensive approach upon acquiring Kovy. So it isn’t as if he is being expected to play defensive like a blue-liner would, or like a Center would, or even like a winger who is being employed in a 1-3-1 or 1-2-2 trap-or-lock scheme. Kovy was being asked to be high risk-high reward as a forward because of his ability to score goals. Think about it, for every shot Kovy as to drop back and block in the defensive zone it’s a shot he is not taking in the offensive zone, and if you’re not shooting you’re not scoring.

There are four other guys plus a goalie who should be able to handle the bulk of the defensive responsibility in order to leverage the talent of a scoring forward, be that Kovy or, for example Dino Ciccarelli scored 600 goals as a winger and had a -4 career, or Patrick Marleau is still considered a pretty good 2-way winger, scored 550 goals so far and is holding a negative career differential. Even Ron Francis, also 500 goal scorer, possessed a negative career but was considered a pretty good defensive forward. Dale Hawerchuk, Johnny Bucyk and Pat Verbeek all broke 500 goals as forward but ended their careers negative players while Mark Recchi barely managed to come out even.

Part of this is likely Xenophobic. European players are treated different that North Americans, particularly compared to Canadians, and of that Russians are held to a different standard still.

The same disparagement was levied against Alexander Ovechkin during the season his plus-minus dropped into the -30s. In 2013-2014 didn’t help that the the Caps had four players in double digit negatives including three in their top-six forwards and one of their top pair defensemen, or that of the thirty-six skaters they employed throughout the season sixteen of the regulars in total were negative, or that they had a four goalie carousel, and so on. Yet, Ovechkin for his part that season led the team with 51 goals en route to a Richard Rocket as the leading goal scorer in the league and was tied for team lead with 79 points. He faced a similar critique very early on in his career during the 2006-2007 season when he posted a -19 despite leading the team in goals with 46, in assists with 46 and in total points with 92 on a team with ten regulars posting double digit negatives and a few more who barely missed the double digit mark complicated by a goalie tandem that struggled to maintain a .900 combined average.

Pavel Bure was similarly critiqued for his 1996-1997 season posting a -14 while putting up 23 goals, 35 assists for 55 points in Vancouver for a team that featured several other double-digit negative players. He faced it again in 2001-2002 with the Florida Panthers where he posted a -14 against 22 goal, 27 assist, team leading 49 point campaign alongside ten other players who reached double digit negatives.

Sergei Fedorov took heat for his defense as well and this was despite having a pretty solid plus-minus during his entire tenure with Detroit.

So, it’s no surprise that Kovalchuk, also a Russian who defected to the Russian KHL, continues to get dinged for his defense by detractors. His career -152 though is part of the reason why he takes so much flack. Then again, the Thrashers only qualified for the playoffs once during his tenure and even that Southeast Division title saw the team post a modest +1 differential with eleven players posting personal negatives while a handful of others barely broke even. And, those previously stalwart Devils Teams? They qualified only during two of the four seasons he played and for the 2011-2012 Stanely Cup appearance, that team featured sixteen regulars with personal negatives and squeaked into the playoffs on the strength of Kovy’s Shootout Prowess where he set single season records for Shootout Goals Scored and Game Deciding Shoot Out Goals. Although he was chastised for his negative plus-minus, his 8 Shoot Out Wins was the difference for the Devils even making the Playoffs to begin with.

In this context players such as Kovy are obviously doing much more than what their plus-minus is accounting for. That doesn’t mean the Kings should not be benching Kovy at this point. His production is below what his contract would normally dictate should be expected and his No Trade Clause essentially means they are stuck with him unless they can leverage him into accepting a trade. But, his plus-minus in isolation is by no means a reflection of his contributions as a player. There’s a lot of historical circumstance to his numbers and he’s playing on a terrible team, once again, in LA.

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Ovi Watch: 1233

Oh Captain, my captain, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capital’s 3 point night captured 22 points on the season tied with Nathan MacKinnon for #6 so far, 2 goals captured 13 on the season tied with Auston Matthews & Leon Draisaitl for #2 so far and the result was the Great 8 moving up the All Time lists yet again:

+3 All Situations Points, 1233 Total, moved into a tie #39 with Sidney Crosby, passing Phil Housley to enter the All Time Top 40, seven shy for sole possession of #38 passing Peter Stastny.

+1 Even Strength Goa, 415, moved into a tie #13 with Jarome Iginla, four shy of sole possession of #12 passing Luc Robitaille

+1 Power Play Goal, 252, remains #4 all time and four shy of sole possession of #3 passing Teemu Selanne

+2 All Situations Goals, 671, remains #12 all time and fourteen shy of sole possession of #11 passing Teemu Selanne

+1 Assist, 562, moved into a tie #112 with Joe Nieuwendyk, two shy of sole possession of #110 pasing Craig Janney and Cliff Ronning

+1 Multigoal Game, 136, moved into sole possession of #7 all time passing Mike Gartner and four multigoal games shy of sole possession of #6 passing Marcel Dionne

+1 Multipoint Game, 349, remains #34 all time and six multipoint games shy of sole possession of #32 passing Jean Ratelle and Gilbert Perreault

+8 Shots, 5318, remains #4 all time and 46 shots shy of sole possession of #3 passing Marcel Dionne

+1 Game Played, 1101, moved into a tie #191 with Pit Martin

A couple of other Washington Capital Milestones reached last night as well

On the Nicklas Backstrom Points Total, that assist moved him into sole possession of #119 all time regular season points, passing not only Peter Forsberg for 7th All Time as a Swede but also Owen Nolan on the All Time list. +6 points ties former Cap Peter Bondra’s career total 892 at #117 all time, +22 points ties former Cap Scott Stevens’ career total of 908 at #112 all time with like 66 or so more points needed to crack the Top-100 all time (dependent on a couple of active guys in front of him).

On John Carlson’s three point night tying him with Connor McDavid, he’s still climbing the record books for a blue liner:

+3 All Situations Points, 429, jumped Victor Hedman for sole possession of #95 All Time among Dmen, reaching the total in a handful fewer games so far. +6 to tie former Cap Sylvain Cote #89 among Dmen at with 435, +11 to tie fellow American Dman Mike O’Connell with 440 points at #87 among Dmen and +34 to tie fellowing American Dman & former Cap Al Iafrate with 463 at #79 among Dmen and #12 among US Dmen.

+2 Assists, 331 total, jumped into a tie with Victor Hedman and Mark Giordano at #95 while getting there in fewer games, also passing Jay Bouwmeester’s current total in fewer games along the way. +1 to tie fellow American Jeff Norton, +4 to tie Mike O’Connell at #89 among Dmen and #14 among US Dmen, +13 to tie former Cap Mike Green’s current output of 344 at #84.

+1 All Situations Goal, 98 total, two goals shy of both the 100 goal milestone and a stop in the top-100 all time goal scoring for Dmen. After that, 7 to tie fellow American Dman Mike O’Connell with 105 at #85 among Dmen and #11 among US Dmen.

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Christmas is at war with All Other Holidays

It’s that time again. We’re not even one day past the Christian Allhallowtide season including the high holy day of All Saints for Catholics and secular American holiday of Halloween and already the tidings of discomfort and disdain are upon us as Christmas time has come.

Don’t tell the American Conservatives though. They are too busy bullshitting themselves into believing the War on Christmas is here. Lest they forget that there’s an actual Wikipedia entry titled “Christmas Creep” documenting some of the earliest appearances of holiday faire in retail. The foundation of Christmas’ influence bleeding into other holidays probably has its roots in printed catalogs and circulars being distributed in mid-November to allow for delivery before the Christmas holiday. These broadening appeal of these wishbooks along with retailer’s desires to elongate the selling season resulted in the formalization of the post-Thanksgiving long weekend as a retail destination in the early 1900s and the eventual moving the the Thanksgiving date by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939.

Retailers continue to expand their sphere of influence over the coming decades. The most extreme example probably started with Crazy Eddie’s Christmas in July electronics sales, but it spread to retailers big and small to move past Thanksgiving into early November, then October, then September and eventually into August where it is quite possible to find Christmas Gift and related decorating merchandise deals alongside Back to School Specials.

For a holiday that is supposedly being minimized by so-called secular society according to American Conservatives it seems to have appropriated quite a bit of the calendar for itself. No longer is the Christmas Season constrained by the Western Liturgical rites of Advent leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, it’s overtaken nearly every spiritual holiday in the latter half of the calendar. Not that most Christians really agree between all the different denominations on how and when to celebrate what to begin with. But, of those holy days that could be celebrated it is not as if there’s any real consistency in how they are actually attended.

Take, for example, the Roman Catholic celebration of Allhallowtide and the high holy day of All Saints as well as the companion days of All Hallows Eve and All Souls Day. Masses are poorly attended according to most Catholic diocese. And, despite Catholics making up more than 20% of the total US population and having an influence on popular culture in the celebration of feast days like St. Patrick, St Valentine, etc, there’s virtually no representation of All Saints outside of Church despite it’s liturgical importance being greater than that of other saints feast days. What’s more, it is possible to visit Churches that themselves have skipped straight into displays of evergreens as early as the Allhallowtide. Nevermind that The Assumption of Mary, Holy Cross Day, the Feast of Christ the King, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, as well as St. Andrew’s Day and St. Nicholas’ Day all occur before Advent and yet are often treated merely as afterthoughts in the onslaught of Christmas preparation.

But, it’s not just Christian holidays that suffer from the Creep of Christmas in the United States. It’s also American Cultural holidays at the Federal and State levels that have no religious criteria associated with them at all that Christmas encroaches on. Labor Day, which is more often celebrated as the finality of summer vacations than it is a remembrance of the sacrifices of the American Labor Movement, is now the unofficial beginning to the secular incarnation of the Christmas season within American Capitalism filled with advertising alluding to discounts on early Christmas wishes. Veteran’s Day already offers discounts on appliances, mattresses, clothes and cars supposedly in honor of those who served, but also includes toys, jewelry and other Christmas gift giving. Although Patriot’s Day still is humbled by it’s September Eleventh roots for most, there were already a few retailers who tried to borrow the solemnness to sell a few extra Christmas gifts, while Election Day has it’s occasional specials designed to take advantage of the extra few hours one might be afforded to vote to also spend some money. Granted, the Day of Infamy hasn’t become a national retail day, it might be because there’s a large part of the population that has since forgotten the Pearl Harbor attacks being so overwhelmed by other Capitalistic Rituals those sacrifices aren’t worth getting a few dollars off off.

And then there’s the fictitious retail holiday where Christmas Creep really began. Post-Thanksgiving shopping has become immortalized in movies like Miracle on 34th Street where the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s usurping of the American Thanksgiving festivities occurred in an effort to make a quick buck by leveraging the coming of Santa Clause to beckon Christmas Gift purchases. What began as an expansion of the holiday season post-Thanksgiving on the fictitious “holiday” invention Black Friday has seen the door buster scenario encroach on Thanksgiving Day itself forcing a once hallowed holiday to usurped by Christmas Capitalism as well as the entirety of the weekend become enveloped. Then, the following Monday became widely known as the digital incarnation of the Friday Capitalism known as Cyber Monday which then bled into a Cyber Week’s worth of Christmas Sales. This year, the pre-sale solicitation and digital early bird specials exist beginning a full week before Thanksgiving itself.

Sadly, that’s not even getting into the modern incarnation which now finds companies like Amazon promoting days of their choosing, Prime Days beginning in around 2015, for select sales meant to play into the Capitalistic Christmas idea in the pre-Thanksgiving shopping mindset and competitors attempting to create anti-days to these fictitious holidays promoting buying Christmas gifts for those on your list and for yourself in such ways a supporting local retailers, independent artists and more.

What’s more, this still is focused solely on Christmas creating havoc over the forth quarter holiday schedule from the point of view that American Conservatives typically identify with. Outside of their narrow-minded limited sphere of influence here are the holidays that are celebrated in each month. In December alone non-Christian rituals that have cultural and religious significance include Yule, Mōdraniht, Malkh, Yalda and other European Winter Solstice Celebrations; Saturnalia, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti and other Western Polytheism Celebrations; Krampusnacht, Koliada and other Winter Giving Celebrations; Chanukah; Festivus; Pancha Ganapati; Bodhi Day; Dongzhi; Kwanzaa and others many of which predate the modern American Conservative interpretation of what the so-called Christmas season is but are part of December’s rich holiday lineage. Christmas’ usurping push into thieving November celebrations includes undercutting the likes of Diwali, Dia de los muertos and others while October includes Christmas stealing the focus from Indigenous People’s Day, Samhain, Kartik Purnima, Simchat Torah, Navratri, Gandhi Jayanti and let’s not forget that Christmas’ chaotic influence now usurps the likes of in Anant Chaturdashi and Ganesha Chaturthi; Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot; Mabon and other Equinox festivities and other culturally relevant holidays in September as well.

Then again, Christmas’ major traditions are all about cultural appropriation, in many cases through the raping, pillaging and genocide instilled by many historical forms of Christianity in order to forcefully assimilate non-Christians to the Church.

It is not, in fact, a Christmas Tree, for example. That bastardization of post-Victorian American Capitalism has its roots in a number of polytheistic uses of evergreens during the time between equinoxes, particularly during the darkness of the winter solstice. Northern Europeans including Norse Vikings, Saxons, Celts and Gauls among others were said to have use evergreen boughs, among other uses of plants in general, to provide a combination of homes for wildlife during the winter months and provide a hopeful greenery instilling a visual warmth till the spring thaws. The were often decorated by berries and other fruits of the harvest as well as seeds representing the preparing for the spring rebirth, jewelry and other spoils of war in celebration of the success and sacrifice of the year; the bones and skins remaining from harvest kills; as well as other trinkets to ward off evil spirits and welcome light and the readiness for the coming spring. The use of evergreens during the winter solstice timeframe can further be found referenced in Hebrew scriptures and pre-Christian Roman Empire as it relates to Christian appropriation. However, the use of evergreens is near universal and includes references to conifers and other year-round greenery as a part of the winter experience common in Chinese literature during the high dynasty periods, as part of the Mongolian Empire, in North American in a number of indigenous cultures, ancient Egyptian and throughout North Africa and into the region beyond the Black Sea. So, referring to that decorated fir in your parlor corner as a holiday tree is, in fact, historically accurate since the ritual predates the invention of Christianity itself. We take for granted the celebration of public tree displays but they are a relatively modern affair begun on the South Lawn of the White House (first done 1923) Rockafeller Center (1931), the the Macy’s Great Tree in Atlanta (1948), etc. They were vestiges from German immigrants during the post-war 1800s derived from traditions that date back to Colonial days when it is said Hessian Mercenaries began the North American tradition of tree celebrations during the Revolutionary War. The commercialism of trees really began post-WWII and was even given critical treatment in the now infamous Charles Schultz television special for the Peanuts in the 1960s.

It is not, in fact, a Christmas gift. The act of gift giving existed as part of a number of influential celebrations occurring in-and-around the timing of the winter solstice such that the practice was usurped by latter incarnations of Christianity in order to ingrate Christian beliefs to societies it was attempting to evangelicize in.

It is not, in fact, a Christmas card. The act of providing holiday greetings around winter celebrations including through song, etched leaves, scribed parchments and more which were derived from the larger celebration of holidays overall. Greeting Cards as we know them today are most often dated to Victorian era love letters while the first Christmas card is believed to be from 1843 by Sir Henry Cole who would latter create the popular Penny Post line of Cards. By the early 1900s the custom spread throughout Europe and to the US through Irish and German immigrants and eventually led to the creation of Hallmark Cards in 1915, John C. Hall and two of his brothers. Hallmark’s innovations in both card design and marketing during post-WWII economic expansion made card giving as ubiquitous as gift giving.

It is not, in fact, a Christmas Flower either. Winter blooming flowers played a role in cultures throughout the world from celebrating their apparent defiance of nature itself. The use of Snowdrops, English Primrose, Hellebore and others are common to find a part of Solstice celebrations because of their winter blooms and continue to find their way into modern Christmas decorations despite their antiquated roots in polytheistic European celebrations. The poinsettia’s use for Christmas has it’s roots in a 16th-century Mexician folklore leveraging the Aztec flower and was popularized by Franscian Friars beginning in the mid 17th-century. It received its common name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant to the US in 1825 but reached its apex in Christmas imagery thanks to Albert Ecke in the early 1900s through a combination of innovative cultivation and distribution techniques and some savvy marketing. By the post-war 1960s Christmas flowers of all sorts became part of the ever expanding home decore market and now includes the influences of Southern Europeans especially Italians, Iberians especially Spanish and Latin American immigrants who brought their own floral customs with them during their integration into American Culture.

So, if you’re going to be a bigoted, narrow minded, douche of a Conservative this holiday season whimpering ignorantly about some made up War on Christmas it might be best to remember many, if not most, of your most cherished so-called Christmas traditions were outright stolen from someone else and what you’re really experiencing is the process of other cultures de-appropriating what Christian Christmas has stolen from them over the years while at the same time admitting that the Christian version of Christmas long ago became a disfigured corporate conglomerate of Capitalistic American greed.

While some American Conservatives might want to push a kind of poinsettia colored glasses, evergreen candle scented, candy cane mint flavored latte tasing version of the outlandish Victorian fiction derived from the likes of Washington Irving’s “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent;” and Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicholas;” and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol;” and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “The First Christmas in New England,” among others, the reality is Christmas as a Christian holiday has always been a cultural appropriation nightmare combined with American Secular Christmas concept being a cultural melting pot of diverse concepts and ideas of how to celebrate the winter months from all over the world.

Thus, there is no “War on Christmas” as much as there is a cultural reckoning between rectifying the historical oppression by Christians to those whom they sought to convert and the American spirit that has chosen as a so-called cultural melting pot to continually incorporate that which is convenient from its immigrant and minority groups into the greater identity of the country’s cultural lexicon.

After all, American Christmas traditions themselves have changed quite a bit over the last 100 years and continue to redefine themselves today in light of changing sociocultural demographics and the continued push by corporate America to monetize the holiday in pure Capitalistic fashion. So long as some version of Christmas is literally inhaling every possible tradition around it that it can there will not be a War on Christmas so much as there is a War by Christmas on every holiday that dates surround it.

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Mixtape: the Most Evil Albums Ever, Monster Pumpkin Heaviness Allhallowtide edition

Completing the final installment of All Time Evil for MPH noise radio’s annual #MonsterPumpkinHeaviness.

When I first set out to produce this year’s episode I originally intended it to be a simple one-off, “hey, here’s the most evil metal records, you got some fucking Slayer and Black Sabbath, a little black metal, some really gorish death, and a few throw ins on the doom side, that’s two hours of evil”

Yeah, that’s not what happened at all. As it turns out the darkest music genre this side of Hell’s Gates has a lot of really evil shit. No, seriously.

This actually became quite the project researching beyond the cliches and digging through my own terabyte’s worth of archives to unearth some of the most evil stuff I could find. Sure, Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Enslaved, Darkthrone, Bathory were gimmies as were Death, Suffocation, Carcass, Cryptopsy, Bloodbath and others. But, then there’s understanding how to string together Merciful Fate, Iron Maiden and Iced Earth with Fit For An Autopsy, Whitechapel and Thy Art is Murder with High On Fire, Eyehategod, and Neurosis with Disembodied, Earth Crisis and Blood Has Been Shed, with Candlemass, My Dying Bridge and Saint Vitus. Yeah, that’s a treatise on evil and we’ve not even begun.

The triptych of evil revolves around the idea that these records have to sound evil, it needs to bring chills to your spine sonically, has to be lyrically evil, where the lyrical themes leave you staring into the abyss of evil and has to look the part of evil in a way that would leave Tipper Gore and the PRMC cowering in a corner. This isn’t music for the faint of mind, body or soul.

Fight me on my choices. No, seriously. I can defend everything that made the final cut. And, I’m sure a lot of suggestions are sitting on the cutting room floor. Bloodied and battered those tracks awaiting their resurrection for another episode fanning the flames of hellish enlightenment. Perhaps you can baptize them in fire by reminding me how evil they really are.

So, tune in this weekend for the third and final installment of #MonsterPumpkinHeaviness’s ultimate evil triptych and maybe if I get really inspired I’ll write up the background of every song choice on the blog — hey maybe the most evil ever is a book. “Dear Lucifer, what I really want for The Great Pumpkin Day is…” would definitely piss a few people off and probably sell a few copies to boot… KAOS Radio Austin @KAOSATXofficial Sunday evenings @MPHnoise anytime

Blessed Samhain to you,
the doormouse, dmf

Week 3

Type O Negative “Everything Dies” World Coming Down

My Dying Bride “a Sea to Suffer in” the Angel and the Dark River
Saint Vitus “Let the End Begin” Die Healing
Candlemass “Black Stone Weilder” Epicus Doomicus Metallicus

Thy Art is Murder “Eternal Suffering” Human Target (2019) 
Fit for an Autopsy “Digging Shallow Graves” Hell on Earth
Veil of Maya “the Black Funeral March” All Things Set Aside
Impending Doom “Storming the Gates of Hell” the Serpent Servant 
Aborted “Underneath Rorulent Soil” Slaughter & Apparatus 
Napalm Death “Beyond the Pale” Apex Predator 

Disemboded “7 Stitches” Heretic 
Earth Crisis “Gomorrah’s Season Ends” GSE 
Fortheloveof “Silent Isolation” Feasting on the Will of Humanity (cue 0:15)
Silence the Epilogue “Live in Fame that Died”   STE    
WAITC “Empty Decade, Saturnism” Split 
Blood Has Been Shed “Greetings from the Gallows” Spirals

At the Gates “a Labrynth of Tombs” With the Pantheons Blind (2019)
Bathory “Enter the Eternal Fire” Enter the Sign of the Black Mark
Arch Enemy “Black Earth” Stigmata 
Opeth “Demon of the Fall” My Arms Your Herse (cue :06)

Gomorrah “Of Ghosts and the Grave” Gomorrah (2019)

week 2

White Zombie “creature of the wheel” astro creep: 2000

High on fire “devolution” blessed black wings
crowbar “wrath of time be judgement” broken glass
entombed “When in Sodom” Seprent Saints (cue :26 end 5:16)
Eyehategod “zero nowhere” dopestick
Neurosis “eye” Through Silver and Blood

Dimmu Borgir “Progenies of The Great Apocalypse” Death Cult Armageddon (cue :04 end 3:35) 
Cradle of Filth “the Twisted Nails of Faith” Cruelty and the Beast (cue :15)
the Devils of Loudun “Guise of the Deceiver” Entering Oblivion
Xerath “Enemy Incited Armageddon” II (loooooong ending)
Behemoth “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” the Satanist 

Whitechaple “When a Demon Defiles a Witch” the Valley (2019)
Despised Icon “beast” Beast
Skinless “Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead” ttwhtd (cue.:12 )
All shall perish “the true beast” the price of existence
The Red Chord “open eyed beast on attack” prey for eyes

Destruction “Born to Perish” BTP  (2019)
Kreator “reconquoring the throne” violent revolution  
Feared “Worldeater” Rejects 
Skeletonwitch “the Skullsplitter” at one with the shadows 
The crown “1999 Revolution 666”  Hell is Here
Possessed “Seven Churches” SC
Testament “demonic refusal” demonic (cue :25)

Week 1

Black Sabbath “Black Sabbath” Black Sabbath (cue :37)
 
Savatage “Legions” Hall of the Mountain KingMercyful Fate “Evil” Melissa   
Iron Maiden “the Evil that Men Do” Seventh Son
Iced Earth “Pure Evil” Days of Purgatory 
Tourniquet “Sinister Scherzo” Gazing at Medusa

Legion of the Damned “Warhouds of Hades” the Shadow Realm (2019)
the Black Dahlia Murder “to a Breathless Oblivion” Nocturnal 
Bloodbath “Year of the Cadaver Race” Nightmares Made Flesh  
Grave “Bloodfest” Fiendish Regression 
Demilich “Vanishing of Emptiness” Emptiness 

Darkthrone “I Muffle Your Inner Choir” Old Star (2019) 
Emperor “Curse You All Men” IX Equilibrium (cue :04)  
Enslaved “the Beacon” Axioma Ethica Odini
Izegrim “the Evil Within” the Ferryman’s End 

Death “Evil Dead” Screaming Bloody Gore Slayer “Hell Awaits” Hell Awaits (cue 1:05)   
Suffocation “Effigy of the Forgotten” DOTF
Carcass “Exhume to Consume” Symphonies of SicknessCryptopsy “Born Headless” Blasphemy Made Flesh

Paradise Lost “Pity the Sadness” 

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Ovi Watch: 669

Tonight’s four point game for Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin was truly a Russian Machine type of Great 8 moment.
All Situations Regular Season Goals (hockey reference stats)
+ 1 to tie Luc Robitaille for #12 All Time with 668
+ 2 for sole possession of 12th with 669 and 15 goals behind Teemu Selanne to tie for #11
ACCOMPLISHED
Multi Goal Regular Season Game (nhl stats)
+ 1 to Tie Mike Gartner for #7 All time with 135
ACCOMPLISHED
All Situations Regular Season Assists (hockey reference stats)
+ 1 to tie Alexander Mogilny #115 All time with 559
+ 2 to tie Bobby Hull and potentially Eric Staal for #113 All time with 560
ACCOMPLISHED
All Situations Regular Season Points (hockey reference stats)
+ 4 to tie Norm Ullman for #41 All Time with 1229
ACCOMPLISHED
Regular Season Games Played (hockey reference stats)
+ 1 to tie Jay Wells for #193 all time with 1098
ACCOMPLISHED
Yeah, that’s pretty badass and in addition to the win, I’d say that’s a pretty awesome night.

So, what else is upcoming for the Great 8 to reach milestone wise you might ask? Good question:
In the coming week, Ovi can potentially reach the following milestones taking into account a power play goal, an even strength goal, a game winning goal, all part of a multi goal night, two assists as apart of a multi assists night, four points as part of a multi assists night and a game played:
Even Strength Regular Season Goal (hockey reference stats)
+ 1 to tie Jarome Iginla for #14 All Time with 415
+ 4 to tie Luc Robitaille for #13 All Time with 418
Power Play Regular Season Goal (hockey reference stats)
+ 4 to tie Teemu Selanne for #3 All Time with 255
+ 5 for sole possession of 3rd and 10 power play goals behind Brett Hull to tie #2
Game Winning Regular Season Goals (hockey reference stats)
+ 1 to tie Brendan Shanahan for #6 All Time with 109
+ 2 to tie Teemu Selanne and Brett Hull for #4 All Time with 110
Multi Goal Regular Season Game (nhl stats)
+ 1 for sole possession of 7th and 4 multi goal games behind Marcel Dionne to tie #6
Hat Tricks Regular Season (hockey reference stats )
+1 for sole possession of 10th place (passing Jarri Kuri)
+2 to tie Cy Dennehy for #9
All Situations Regular Season Assists (hockey reference stats)
+ 1 to tie Joe Mullen for #112 All Time with 561
+ 2 to tie Joe Nieuwendyk for #111 All time with 562
+ 3 to tie Cliff Ronning and Craig Janney for #109 with 563
Multi Assist Regular Season Game (nhl stats)
+ 1 to Tie Cliff Ronning for #65 All time with 106
+ 2 to tie John Tonelli, Daniel Sedin, Mike Ribeiro, Sergei Gonchar, Scott Niedermayer and Dave Babych for #59 all time with 107
All Situations Regular Season Points (hockey reference stats)
+ 3 to tie Phil Housley for current #39 with 1232 (dependent on Crosby who currently sits at #40 with 1230 points)
Regular Season Games Played (hockey reference stats)
+ 1 to tie Neal Broten and Mike Ricci for #191 with 1099
+ 2 for sole possession of #191 with 1100 and one game behind Pit Martin for 190th
I might have missed something but it seems like every game from here on out for a while there’s going to be a milestone to potentially be hit.

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Oh that pesky Social Security Meme

So, you think you’ve been paying into Social Security since you were 16 and now your benefits are going to be taken away from you by a bunch of politicians who don’t care about you.

Interesting.

Let’s see how much you actually know about social security.

Democratic Party President and self-identifying Progressive Liberal Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal included the Social Security Act of 1935, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1396. The federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program took effect in 1937 when the first beneficiary cards were distributed, the first collection of funds occurred and the first outlay payment was made of 17c to Ernest Ackerman under the original taxation and distribution rules. The first annualized payment didn’t occur until 1940 in which Ida May Fuller received 22.54$ based on a scale of contributions into the fund.

In 1950, the Democratic Party led by Texas Conservative Sam Rayburn in the House of Representatives and the somewhat leaderless Senate (due to former Democratic Party leader and self-avowed Conservative Scott Lucas losing his seat) passed a series of bills signed into law by moderate Democratic Party President Harry S. Truman who marshaled benefits increases and cost of living adjustments (COLAs) made at irregular intervals, and taxation collection changes by leveraging support by the original New Deal coalition.

Flemming v. Nestor, 363 U.S. 603 (1960) the Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 1104 of the 1935 Social Security Act. The Court ruled that there is no contractual right to receive Social Security payments. Payments due under Social Security are not “property” rights and are not protected by the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The decision was a part of Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson’s court, the last Chief Justice appointed by the Democratic Party and the first in what continues an over 60-year span of Conservative leaning Chief Justices, resided over the decision at a time when the Court was dominated by Conservative Justice Felix Frankfurter’s majority penned opinions. Loosely interpreted, the decision does not guarantee payouts by the SSA and provides the government a fairly wide berth the ability to determine eligibility.

The Social Security Act was amended from to encompass a number of programs beyond OASDI, including the payroll tax supported Health Insurance for Aged and Disabled (HIAD), or colloquially known as Medicare, which was defined in Social Security Amendments of 1965 by adding Title XIX to the Social Security Act of 1935. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was introduced as part of SSA in 1997. SSA eligibility can also impact Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) support as well as being influenced by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-325, ADAAA), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Title I and more.

The 1972 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is fully federalized and assigned to Social Security Administration. The change was signed into law by Conservative Republican Richard Nixon after passing the the Democratic Party led House under self-described moderate, cold-war liberal, Carl Albert and Democratic Party led Senate under Michael Joseph Mansfield, a moderate conservative. Title 16 went into effect in 1974 officially replacing the original joint-funded and administered federal-state adult assistance programs.

Money collected into SSI is through Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). The effective tax rate regresses, or decreases, as income increases beyond the compensation limit or wage base limit amount. Workers and employers pay for Social Security via FICA at a combined rate of 12.4% as established in 1990 that is split equally between employer and employee. The maximum contribution is capped as the Social Security Wage Base and goes up each year based on average national wages as reported via the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and benchmarked against the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U). As of 2017 an employee contribution was capped at $127,200 of gross compensation, resulting in a maximum Social Security tax for 2017 of $7,886.40 while employers are also responsible for a fixed withholdings cap as well.

FICA tax revenue goes towards funding the United States government’s Social Security two trusts. First, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund, which holds in trust special interest-bearing federal government securities bought with surplus OASI payroll tax revenues. The second, smaller fund is the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund, which holds in trust more of the special interest-bearing federal government securities, bought with surplus DI payroll tax revenues.

These trusts are legally earmarked, meaning they are solely legislatively designated, to fund the programs administered by the Social Security Administration and function as a pay-go system, meaning that taxpayer payments into the system are used toward payouts to current recipients. “Unlike a typical (private) pension plan, the Social Security Trust Fund does not hold any marketable assets to secure workers’ paid-in contributions. Instead, it holds non-negotiable United States Treasury bonds and U.S. securities backed “by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government”. The trust funds have been invested primarily in non-marketable Treasury debt, first, because the Social Security Act prohibits “prefunding” by investment in equities or corporate bonds and, second, because of a general desire to avoid large swings in the Treasuries market that would otherwise result if Social Security invested large sums of payroll tax receipts in marketable government bonds or redeemed these marketable government bonds to pay benefits.”

According to Pub.L. 101–508, title XIII, Sec. 13301(a), Nov. 5, 1990, 104 Stat. 1388-623 SSA Trust Funds are separate entities from the primary Federal Budget, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the receipts and disbursements of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund shall not be counted as new budget authority, outlays, receipts, or deficit or surplus for purposes of – (1) the budget of the United States Government as submitted by the President, (2) the congressional budget, or(3) the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.”

However, SSA budgetary surplus can be used by the Federal Government for non-Social Security purposes, similarly to a no-interest loan, temporarily creating debt obligations by the Federal Government’s General Budget to the Social Security Administration Trust (and thus program recipients). This is, in part, a result of the Democratic Party, cold-war liberal, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Administration’s regulatory changes in 1968 which enabled SSA Funds to appear, for accounting purposes, as “on-budget” and was effectively signed off by Democratic Party leadership: cold-war moderate John W. McCormack in the House of Representatives, and moderate conservative Michael Joseph Mansfield in the Senate, while overseeing overseeing the the Senate majority during budget appropriations. It remained this way until 1990 when they were taken “off-budget” through a series of non-legislative regulatory maneuvering during conservative Republican George Bush’s Administration.

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