Saturday, November 28, 2009

Belated Happy Thanksgiving

1) It's been a few weeks since my last post, during which time Thanksgiving has come and gone. I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday, and that you were able to give thanks for all the blessings we have in this country. Yes, economic times are tough (more about that below), and dangers abound all over the world (more about those below, too), but honestly, would you trade places with residents of any other country on the planet right now?
2) It appears as though President Obama is going to make his official decision about the Administration's Afghanistan policy next week. If leaked reports are correct, he will recommend a "surge" of 34,000 U.S. troops. It took him too long to make the decision, but this IS the right choice and he deserves credit for making it. We can't bug out, and that leaves the only alternative as staying in there to win the war. There is more than a little bit of irony in this situation, however. All during the 2008 election campaign, Democrats ran by clamoring that we had focused on the "wrong war" (Iraq), and that if their candidate were elected, he would shift the focus to winning the war on which we should have focused. No sooner does President Obama take office than the inevitable happened, and Democrats started mumbling about "exit strategies" for Afghanistan, a euphemism for "How do we bail out without saying that we're bailing out?" President Obama better be ready for what's coming his way next week--the left in this country is NOT going to be happy. It wants us out of both Iraq and Afghanistan immediately, the consequences be damned.
3) Gotta love those those Iranian Mullahs. They have confiscated the Nobel Peace Prize of Dr. Shirin Ebadi, the lawyer who in 2003 received the prize for her championing of women's and human rights in Iran. Outside of a few bleats of international protest, the move has largely been met with silence. No condemnations from the U.N. Security Counsel or General Assembly (yeah, big shock there, I know). Nothing from the odious U.N. Human Rights Commission. The E.U. has also kept its tongue (wouldn't want to "offend" the Iranians when it loves to buy their oil, or when that might result in the jeopardizing of business contacts now, would it?). And this is the truly evil regime with which the Obama Administration "wants to engage". When a government does something like this, what possible "engagement" could you have with it?
4) There are rumblings out of Israel that a deal could soon be in the works between Israel and Hamas which would see longtime hostage Gilad Shalit traded back to Israel in exchange for one thousand Hamas terrorists. While I hate deals like this, I can certainly understand the motivation behind them. Shalit has been a hostage since June of 2006, and his long ordeal has become a neverending nightmare for Israelis. Unlike the Palestinians, Israel values human life, the despicable portrayals of it in the MSM notwithstanding. It won't rest until its soldiers come home, alive or dead. That is why it gave up truly evil "human beings" like Samir Kuntar in exchange for the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, and that is why it will eventually release terrorists who will certainly do their best to murder more Jews in order to obtain Gilad Shalit.
5) Another economic nightmare might be heading our way. Dubai World has indicated that it will not be able to meet its debt payments. The potential economic failure of the biggest corporation in the oil-rich state, had sent tremors throughout the world community which is rightfully concerned about this potential collapse starting another wave of corporate collapses. However, it seems as though those fears are fortunately misplaced, if for no other reason than the fact that the Dubai government could easily pay off the Dubai World's $60 BILLION debt without a second thought. The incredible irony of the situation? This might result in the strengthening of the devalued U.S. dollar, which had to this point apparently been heading for parity with the Mexican Peso.
6) It's neither political nor sports-related, but I have a confession to make. I am a gaming addict. Not video or computer games. BOARD games. There is one in particular that I absolutely love, a game called "Smallworld". It's fun, intellectually challenging, and better yet, it can be played by entire families. If you want to try something really different, but incredibly fun at the same time, give it a shot. Trust me on this one........
7) One football game I didn't get so see last weekend but would love to have watched was the Repus Bowl, matching 1-8 Detroit against 1-8 Cleveland. My thought that it would be like watching a car wreck--I wouldn't be able to turn away. Those who saw the game ended up seeing a phenomenally entertaining matchup, ultimately won 38-37 by the Lions. The resistible force ended up topping the movable object...........
8) This week's Top Five in College Football:
i) Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0, #1): It wasn't pretty yesterday against Auburn, and you could make a case that the Tide should have lost the game, but it didn't. Alabama did what winning teams do when they're struggling, which was to dig deeper and find a way to get the "W".
ii) Texas Longhorns (12-o, #2): I don't expect the Longhorns to have much trouble with the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big Twelve title game, and that's all that stands between Texas and a matchup with either Alabama or Florida.
iii) Florida Gators (11-0, #3): Florida will be 12-0 after it annihilates the Florida State Seminoles tonight. Then, it's off to the SEC title game, which is effectively a "play-in" game for the B(C)S title game.
iv) Cincinnati Bearcats (11-0, #4): Cincinnati still has one obstacle remaining to an undefeated season, a matchup with 9-2 Pittsburgh. The biggest challenge for the Bearcats might be to find a way to keep coach Brian Kelly, who is reported to be high on Notre Dame's wish list one the Fighting Irish get around to firing current coach Charlie Weis.
v) Boise State Broncos (12-0, #5): Pity the Broncos--they may very well not get into a BCS Bowl while a team they beat soundly, the Oregon Ducks, only needs to beat in-state rival Oregon State to go to the Rose Bowl.
Dropped out: No team.
9) The Top Five and Bottom Five in the NFL this week, with the team's record and last week's ranking in brackets:
Top Five
i) New Orleans Saints (10-0, #1): Monday night's game against the high-flying New England Patriots has all the promise of a 41-38 barnburner. Watch it turn out to be a 13-7 snoozefest.
ii) Indianapolis Colts (10-0, #2): The Colts are just three wins away from clinching their division, and four from clinching home field throughout the AFC playoffs.
iii) Minnesota Vikings (9-1, #3): Despite my desire for him to do so, Brett Favre has yet to fall on his face.
iv) San Diego Chargers (7-3, no ranking): That slow start is all but forgotten now, and the Chargers are playing as well as any team in the league.
v) New England Patriots (7-3, #4): The Pats lost an inexplicable game against the Colts, when Bill Bellichick went for a first down on fourth and two on his own 28 yard line with his team holding a 34-28 lead and just a few minutes left in the game. They failed, and it took Peyton Manning exactly four plays to get the Colts into the end zone. Final score, 35-34 for Indianapolis. But, that said, the Pats are still clicking offensively.
Dropped out: Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4, #5)
Bottom Five
i) Cleveland Browns (1-9, #2): See my comment on the game above. And, reports are that team coach Eric Mangini is among the most despised coaches in the NFL. Yup, that's quite the party they have going on in Cleveland.
ii) St. Louis Rams (1-9, #3): Even when healthy, they stank. Now, injuries are knocking out their starters.
iii) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-9, #4): Bring back the creamsicle uniforms--it's the only way they can win.
iv) Buffalo Bills (3-7, no ranking): Counterfeit Bills.
v) Detroit Lions (2-9, #1): Worry not, Lions fans. The coveted title of "worst team in the league" is still well within reach, and getting shellacqued 34-12 by the Packers on Thanksgiving Day is ample evidence of that fact.
Dropped out: Kansas City Chiefs (3-7, #5).
The Top Five and Bottom Five in the NHL this week, with the team's record and last ranking in brackets:
Top Five
i) San Jose Sharks (17-6-4, #1): The Sharks are as talented as ever, but we've seen great regular seasons out of them before.
ii) Chicago Black Hawks (16-6-2, no ranking): And now they have Marian Hossa back in the fold. We know he won't do anything in the playoffs, but he'll make an already offense even better.
iii) Calgary Flames (15-6-3, #3): They just shut out the suddenly struggling Red Wings in Detroit last night.
iv) New Jersey Devils (16-6-1, #5): Give the Devils their due, there is no more consistent a team in the NHL.
v) Washington Capitals (14-5-6, #2): The Caps have cooled off a little bit, but are still playing like an elite team.
Dropped out: Colorado Avalanche (14-8-4, #3)
Bottom Five
i) Carolina Hurricanes (5-15-5, #1): Three straight losses keep the 'Canes in last place.
ii) Toronto Maple Laughs (6-11-7, #3): The Maple Laughs have actually won two in a row.
iii) Minnesota Wild (9-12-3, #4): The Wild are an abysmal 2-9-2 on the road.
iv) Edmonton Oilers (10-12-4, no ranking): Like their division-mates in Minnesota, the Oilers are terrible on the road.
v) Montreal Canadiens (12-12-1, #5): The Hab-nots are just hanging until the team's best defenseman, Andrei Markov, hopefully returns in January.
Dropped out: Florida Panthers (10-10-4, #2)
11) The Top Five and the Bottom Five in the NBA this week, with the team's record and last ranking in brackets:
Top Five
i) Los Angeles Lakers (11-3, #1): And now they have Pau Gasol back.
ii) Phoenix Suns (13-3, #2): Running and gunning like they always do, but it's never proven to be a formula for success in the playoffs.
iii) Denver Nuggets (12-4, #5): The Nuggets are still unbeaten (7-0) at home.
iv) Atlanta Hawks (12-4, no ranking): The Hawks are a fun team to watch, and they're young, too. Too bad no one in Atlanta cares.
v) Dallas Mavericks (12-4, no ranking): Dirk Nowitzki just seems to get better with age.
Dropped out (Boston Celtics (12-4, #3), Miami Heat (9-6, #4)
Bottom Five
i) New Jersey Nets (0-16, #1): It goes from bad to worse for the Nets, who got crushed by a thoroughly-mediocre Sacramento Kings team last night.
ii) Minnesota Wild (1-15, #3): If not for the ineptitude of the Nets, the Wild would have a hammerlock on the "worst team in the league" title.
iii) New York Knicks (3-13, #2): Even the Knicks beat up on the Nets recently.
iv) Detroit Pistons (5-11, no ranking): Seven straight losses (and counting) for the misfiring Pistons.
v) Philadelphia 76ers (5-11, no ranking): Doesn't it say a lot that three of the worst teams in the league (and you could make a case that Toronto should be in this group, too) are in the same division?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's/Remembrance Day

1) Today is Veteran's Day, known as Remembrance Day in Canada. I hope that everyone took at least a minute today to thank a veteran, or acknowledge that the freedoms we all take for granted were won by the veterans in our military. Ladies and Gentlemen of the military, I honour and thank you for the service................
2) A little less than 20 hours ago, a horrifying chapter in the history of this country was brought a close when John Allan Muhammad, the infamous DC Sniper, was executed by the State of Virginia. When he and Lee Boyd Malvo (who was only 17 at the time) went on their rampage in the fall of 2002, they put an entire region on edge with their indiscriminate murders. People forget how much fear there was--Muhammad and Malvo ended up murdering 10 innocent victims, people whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I go back and forth on the death penalty. On one hand, I feel that there are crimes--such as this one--that merit the "ultimate" punishment. On the other, if I am to be true to my ideals, I should not be in favour of ANYONE being put to death. I really am torn about this issue..........
3) While I was on my blogging sabbatical, a major historical anniversary passed. In June, the world--minus China, of course--marked the 20th anniversary of the Tiannanmen Square massacre. We will never know how many innocent people were murdered that day by the People's Liberation Army, which was acting on orders from the malevolent leadership of the Communist Party, but it's a safe bet that it probably numbered in the thousands. Who can forget that one picture of a single, incredibly brave man, standing in front of the line of tanks? I often wonder what happened to him.................
4) Another historical anniversary passed just a few days ago, as Germans celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember watching the Wall come down in utter amazement. I was born in 1965, and it (along with the communist system that built it) seemed to be a permanent fixture in life. Then, in a matter of hours, it was gone, destroyed and consigned to memory and to the ash-heap of history. Today's college kids never lived in a world with the Berlin Wall, or the Cold War. Talk to them about the Soviet Union and you draw a blank stare. Kind of scary sometimes.................
5) Well, you didn't think that I'd ignore the Fort Hood shootings, did you? We learn more everyday, and what we're finding out is not exactly reassuring. The shooter, army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan, had contacted al Qaeda, or tried to, on several occasions. Authorities knew this and did nothing. There were signs everywhere that this was not a loyal soldier, yet the military sat on its hands. Most stunning to me was the comment by Army Chief of Staff George Casey, who made the following asinine comment: "And what happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here." Try telling that to the families of the 13 victims, General.
6) Gotta love the people running the University of Massachussets. They invited Raymond Luc Levasseur, a convicted terrorist, to speak at their school. Among Levasseur's victims was a Massachussets State Trooper. In any event, word got out about the speech and the public was understandably outraged. As a result, the invitation was quietly withdrawn. Then, the faculty got involved, and the Administration flip-flopped again, reinstating the invitation in the name of "academic freedom". Hmm............I wonder, would the faculty at the school have been so hot on "academic freedom" if, say, Ralph Reed had been invited to speak? No? How about Scott Roeder, who shot and killed abortion doctor George Tiller? Somehow, I doubt it...........
7) We're going broke. No, really, I mean we're going BROKE. The Pew Center has just published a study of the financial status of all 50 states, and it found that ten--among them New Jersey, where I live--are literally heading for economic disaster. Let's see, we in the Garden State are already the most heavily taxed people in the country, and yet, our government is also the most heavily-indebted. That's quite the combo. Everyone talks about California's well-publicized budget problems, but the Golden State has nothing on us! And, if you live in Florida, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, don't get too excited--you're right down there in the economic cesspool with us. Then again, if the national government can print money like it's going out of style (and then spend it even faster), why should the states be any different?
8) Finally, something enjoyable about which I can write. Sports. Here is the Top Five in College Football this week:
i) Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0, #1): The Tide needed some officiating help to beat LSU 24-15 last Saturday, but now the stage is set for a great clash between Alabama and Florida in the SEC title game.
ii) Texas Longhorns (9-0, #2): Texas' job is simple. Take care of business the rest of the way, against inferior opponents, and the Longhorns will play either Alabama or Florida for the national title.
iii) Florida Gators (9-0, #3): I will never, ever feel sorry for UF, but the Gators have to be the most maligned, undefeated national champion in recent years.
iv) Cincinnati Bearcats (9-0, #4): It would take a lot to get the Bearcats into the national title game, and they still have their toughest games to play (Pittsburgh is still on the schedule, as is West Virginia), but the Bearcats are still a very young team. Scary as it is to think, they're a year or two away from being their best.
v) Boise State Broncos (9-0, no ranking): Not TCU? No, because the Broncos have already proven that they can play with and beat the "big boys". They dominated Oregon, which dominated USC, a constant B(C)S title contender. Boise State belongs in a major bowl if it runs the table, which it should do.
Dropped out: Iowa Hawkeys (#5)
9) The Top Five and Bottom Five in the NFL this week, with the team's record and last week's ranking in brackets.
Top Five
i) New Orleans Saints (8-0, #1): The Aint's no more. New Orleans is undefeated at the midway point of the season for the first time in franchise history.
ii) Indianapolis Colts (8-0, #2): From the "Did You Know" department.......Did you know that the Colts have now won 16 consecutive regular season games?
iii) Minnesota Vikings (7-1, #3): A Minnesota-New Orleans NFC Conference Final would be a lot of fun, don't you think?
iv) New England Patriots (6-2, #5): Like a Swiss watch, the Pats just keep ticking. Looming ahead for them, a game in New Orleans against the Saints.
v) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2, no ranking): That 1-2 start is ancient history now. The Steelers won't give up that Super Bowl crown without a fight.
Dropped out: Denver Broncos (#4)
Bottom Five
i) Detroit Lions (1-7, #2): It took half a season, but the de-clawed Lions have finally resumed their rightful place as the worst team in the league.
ii) Cleveland Browns (1-7, #3): The Browns would have to improve just to be a joke.
iii) St. Louis Rams (1-7, #4): A perfectly balanced team. They can't score or stop anyone.
iv) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7, #1): Maybe bringing back the creamsicle unis was a GOOD idea!
v) Kansas City Chiefs (1-7, no ranking): A proud franchise is being disgraced by the dreck currently wearing the team's uniforms.
Dropped out: Oakland Raiders (#5)
10) The Top Five and Bottom Five in the NHL this week, with the team's record and last ranking in brackets:
Top Five
i) San Jose Sharks (13-4-2, #2): Everyone knows that the Sharks turn in great regular seasons. It's the playoffs that count, though.
ii) Washington Capitals (10-3-4, #5): Alexander Ovechkin is injured, but so far, the Caps haven't missed a beat.
iii) Colorado Avalanche (12-4-2, #3): They just keep winning. It's never pretty, but getting Ws is all that matters.
iv) Calgary Flames (11-4-1, no ranking): Jarome Iginla is red hot right now, and so is his team.
v) New Jersey Devils (11-4, no ranking): It doesn't matter who the coach is, or even who most of the players are. This team is a lock for 95+ points and a playoff spot every season.
Dropped out: Pittsburgh Penguins (#1. *A caveat--the team is ravaged by injuries right now, with the most disabling being that which knocked out Evgeni Malkin), Buffalo Sabres (#4)
Bottom Five
i) Carolina Hurricanes (2-11-3, #2): Coach Paul Maurice has to be wondering what's going on. The Hurricanes should NOT be this bad.
ii) Florida Panthers (5-9-1, #3): They have a horrible goals differential, which is usually indicative of a bad team.
iii) Toronto Maple Leafs (3-8-5, #1): The Leafs have (unfortunately) showed signs of life of late.
iv) Minnesota Wild (7-10, #4): You have to think that the team's discipline will pay off with some wins eventually.
v) Montreal Canadiens (8-10, no ranking): Am I unduly hard on them because they're "my" team? Maybe, but this is a shallow team with a bad defense.
Dropped out: Anaheim Ducks (#5)
11) The Top Five and Bottom Five in the NBA this week, with the team's record and last ranking in Brackets:
Top Five
i) Los Angeles Lakers (6-1, #2): Showtime is back, and Kobe Bryant is the master of ceremonies.
ii) Phoenix Suns (7-1, no ranking): Don't know how long the Suns will keep it up, but regardless, they're still the most fun team in the NBA to watch.
iii) Boston Celtics (7-1, #1): So long as Kevin Garnett stays healthy, the Celtics will be a threat to win the title.
iv) Miami Heat (6-1, no ranking): The Suns may be the most fun TEAM to watch, but in my mind, Dwayne Wade is the most PLAYER to watch.
v) Denver Nuggets (6-2, #3): Are playing well on the road in the early season, which is not usually this team's strong suit.
Dropped out: Orlando Magic (#4), San Antonio Spurs (#5)
Bottom Five
i) New Jersey Nets (0-7, #1): And tonight, they were down by nine in the first quarter at home to the mediocre Philadelphia 76ers.
ii) New York Knicks (1-7, #3): (Because my mother always taught me that if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all).
iii) Minnesota Timberwolves (1-7, #4): I wonder if they'd like to undo that Kevin Garnett trade right about now.
iv) Memphis Grizzlies (1-7, #5): Perpetually bad. The NBA's answer to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
v) Washington Wizards (2-6, no ranking): Let's see, the nation's capital has Capitals (good), Redskins (boring AND bad), the Nationals (awful), and the Wizards (bad). Yuck........
Dropped out: Los Angeles Clippers (#2--don't worry, like Arnold, they'll be back).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day

1) It's Election Day here in the Garden State. The choices: i) The incumbent Governor, Jon Corzine, who near as I can tell has done nothing for four years other than instruct his limo driver to speed while he (Corzine) wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Oh, he also raised our already ridiculously high taxes. ii) Chris Christie, the Republican who despite being a strong candidate is in a tough battle because his campaign manager has run the electoral equivalent of a prevent defense since early in the second quarter. iii) Chris Daggett, the former Republican who is running as an independent but whose policies seems suspiciously similar to those of the incumbent. The polls are all over the place. Some have Corzine in the lead, some have Christie ahead, and Daggett is pulling in anywhere from (depending on which poll you choose to accept) 6% to 14% of the vote. In short, it's a classic case of "too close to call". I have a bad feeling that Governor Corzine will win re-election, as the Democratic vote-generating machine in Camden, Hackensack, Paterson, Jersey City, etc., is really pushing its organizers to get out the vote, and because Daggett will siphon off enough votes from Christie to make sure that we get four more years of even higher taxes and a "Do as I say, not as I do" Governor..........

2) I was on my blogging sabbatical when this anniversary came and went, but in early September, the world marked the 70th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, signalling the informal start of World War II in Europe (I use the word informal because I personally think that the Spanish Civil War was the "real" start of the War). As a military history buff, I've always found it fascinating that the Poles, who were fighting with cavalry and outdated military equipment, lasted three weeks before succumbing to the Germans invading from the west and the Russians who invaded from the east. That's just about as long as the French (whose military equipment was technologically the equal of the Germans) lasted when the Wehrmacht roared across the Low Countries and into northern France in 1940. History is full of "would have, could have, should have" moments. What would have happened had the French stood their ground when the Germans re-militarized the Ruhr Valley? What would have happened had Neville Chamberlain not cravenly given up Czechoslovakia? What would have happened had France and Great Britain responded to the "back door" invitations for an alliance with the Soviet Union, instead of rebuffing them and allowing the Soviets to ally with Germany instead? How many millions of lives would have been saved had any of these events occurred?

3) I have to admit, I'm more than a little amused at the anger of the left over the supposedly harsh treatment received by President Obama on Fox News. The hypocrisy is stunning, given the vitriol directed at President Bush on CNN and MSNBC during his Administration (he's been out of office for nearly a year, and they STILL heap abuse on him). Keith Olbermann still goes in a virtual apoplectic rage at the mere mention of President Bush's name, but hey, that's okay, because he's a Republican, and Republicans are fundamentally evil, right? Sorry, but what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. While I am no fan of "anger politics", those on the left in this country shouldn't profess to be stunned when the anger and outright hostility they directed at Bush 43 for eight years now comes back at them and a Democratic President. And, don't give me the "It's racist!" argument. Bull. That's just a cheap and intellectually dishonest way of attempting to silence debate and legitimate criticism of the President's policies. Are there some opponents of President Obama who are racist? Of course, but to tar and feather all of those who are critical of him with that broad brush is both unfair and ignorant.

4) While we navel gaze here in the U.S. (and to the extent that we pay attention to events outside our borders, we're focused on Afghanistan), there are worrisome developments in Europe and Asia, and I don't mean in the Middle East or Iraq or North Korea (though things aren't good in any of those places either). I'm speaking of Turkey, which is steadily and increasingly rapidly pulling away from the West and aligning itself with the Islamist theocracies and autocracies of the Middle East. Lest we forget, Turkey is a NATO member, and up until the last few years, was a secular Muslim state with a very good relationship with Israel, a true anomaly in that region. Over the past few years, relations between Israel and Turkey have cooled dramatically, to the point where Turkey refused to allow Israeli participation in a recently-scheduled NATO air drill, a drill in which Israel had participated regularly over the last few years. As well, Turkey's relations with both Syria and Iran have warmed incredibly (then again, given President Obama's friendly gestures to both of those countries, should I be so surprised?). When you combine these signs with a growing Islamic influence in Turkish public life, people in the west should be more concerned than they are.

5) The Evil Empire (a/k/a the New York Yankees) leads the World Series three games to two as the Series heads back to the Big Apple for Game Six tomorrow night. I don't think that we'll see a Game Seven--the Yankees are extremely difficult to beat in their glorified Little League park, and as well as Pedro Martinez pitched in Game Two, I have a lot of doubt that he can do that two straight games against the Evil Empire's formidable lineup. The Phillies have already taken two more games than I thought that the would win, because I just couldn't (and still can't) see the Phillies' pitchers holding down the Yankees enough to allow Philadelphia's bats to get going, last night's 8-6 win notwithstanding. So, I would not be surprised at all to see the Yankees win World Series title #27, nauseating as it is to for me to contemplate.

6) The "Top Five" in College Football this week, with the record and last ranking in brackets:
i) Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0, #1): They haven't lost and don't deserve to drop.
ii) Texas Longhorns (8-0, #2): The Longhorns have a clear path to the B(C)S title game.
iii) Florida Gators (8-0, #3): Either Florida or Alabama will lose in the SEC title game. My money's on the Tide to get revenge for its defeat at the Gators' hands last year.
iv) Cincinnati Bearcats (8-0, #4): I still think that the Bearcats will get picked off somewhere along the way. I'm just not sure by who.
v) Iowa Hawkeys (9-0, #5): This team is the Harry Houdini of college football, with one magical escape after another. Yeah, they said the same thing about Ohio State in 2002, but that season ended with a national title for the Buckeyes. Could the same be true for Iowa in 2009?
Dropped out: No team.

7) The NFL "Top Five" and "Bottom Five" this week, with the record and last ranking in brackets:
Top Five
i) New Orleans Saints (7-0, #1): The Saints are marching over every team they play, even when Drew Brees is not his normal, lethal self. All eyes are on their meeting with the Patriots in two weeks.
ii) Indianapolis (7-0, #5): Hardly impressed against a mediocre San Francisco 49ers team, but how often does Peyton Manning go an entire game without a touchdown pass? That won't happen again this season.
iii) Minnesota Vikings (7-1, #3): I still keep waiting for Brett Favre to remember that he's 40 years old. So far, no dice.
iv) Denver Broncos (6-1, #2): Got smoked 30-6 in Baltimore this past weekend, but the Broncos were due for a loss and it was a must-win game for the Ravens. I'm willing to give Denver a pass on this one.
v) New England Patriots (5-2, no ranking): Tom Brady looks like he's rounding into form. If so, watch out, rest of the NFL..............
Dropped out: New York Giants (#4)
Bottom Five
i) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7, #3): And this coming weekend, they break out their old "creamsicle" uniforms. I guess that they really want to reinforce that image that they stink.
ii) Detroit Lions (1-6, #5): They the St. Louis home. 'Nuff said.
iii) Cleveland Browns (1-7, #4): Cleveland's starting QB is Derek Anderson, who was the 35th-rated starting QB in the NFL last I checked. Remember, there are 32 teams in the NFL.
iv) St. Louis Rams (1-7, #2): Hope that the Rams enjoyed that win in Motown. They may not win another game.
v) Oakland (2-6, #5): The Raiders have been outscored 201 to 78 so far this season. Brutal.......... Dropped out: Tennessee Titans (#1), Washington Redskins (#5

8) The "Top Five" and "Bottom Five" in the NHL this week, with the record and last ranking in Brackets:
Top Five
i) Pittsburgh Penguins (11-3, #1): Interestingly, the Penguins are a perfect 6-0 on the road and a rather pedestrian 5-3 at home.
ii) San Jose Sharks (10-4-1, #2): I hate it that Dan Heatley is on a great team.
iii) Colorado Avalanche (10-3-2, #3): Colorado is still playing well. The longer it does so, the more the young team will gain confidence.
iv) Buffalo Sabres (8-2-1, no ranking): Buffalo is fast and skilled.
v) Washington Capitals (8-2-4, #5): Any team with Alexander Ovechkin will always be dangerous.
Dropped out: New York Rangers (#4)
Bottom Five
i) Toronto Maple Leafs (1-7-4, #1): Toronto is playing slightly better of late, but it is still losing games.
ii) Carolina Hurricanes (2-8-3, no ranking): This is too good a team to be playing this badly. Or is it?
iii) Florida Panthers (4-7-1, no ranking): Playing more like tabby cats so far this season.
iv) Minnesota Wild (5-9, #2): Did Jacques Lemaire really mean that much to the team?
v) Anaheim Ducks (4-6-2, no ranking): Fowl so far this season (ha ha).
Dropped out: New York Islanders (#3), Montreal Canadiens (#4), Nashville Predators (#5)

9) The Initial "Top Five" and "Bottom Five" in the NBA this season:
Top Five
i) Boston Celtics (4-0): Already own a win in Cleveland to start the season.
ii) Los Angeles Lakers (2-1): I see the Lakers back in the Finals, but against who?
iii) Denver Nuggets (3-0): Improved considerably without Allen Iverson.
iv) Orlando Magic (3-0): Dwight Howard is already a monster, and he's still getting better.
v) San Antonio Spurs (2-1): I can't write off any team with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Bottom Five
i) New Jersey Nets (0-4): They should rename this team the Bricklayers.
ii) Los Angeles Clippers (1-4): And #1 overall pick Blake Griffin is out until January at least.
iii) New York Knicks (1-4): It'll take years to clean up Isiah Thomas' mess.
iv) Minnesota Timberwolves (1-3): It's a good thing that the Vikings are doing so well, because it allows Twin Cities residents to ignore the Wild and T-Wolves.
v) Memphis Grizzlies (1-3): Will this team EVER be good?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Are we really 2/3 of the way through October?

We must be, because the calendar wouldn't lie to me, would it? So, on with this week's entry.

1) A hybrid sports/politics post. Rush Limbaugh was part of a group that was bidding to buy the St. Louis Rams franchise. Once word of this got out, it went "viral". The NFLPA organized a campaign against him. Several players openly commented that they wouldn't play for the Rams, and would advise friends against doing so.............all because of a series of comments that Limbaugh allegedly made, but which in reality were never said. Full disclosure here: I'm NOT a Limbaugh fan, and I don't listen to his show. That said, Limbaugh was effectively blackballed without doing anything. Ultimately, Dave Checketts, the front man for the group of which Limbaugh was a member, ultimately turfed out the radio show host. What struck me most about the whole situation was the blatant double-standard that was applied to Limbaugh. Is he occasionally controversial? Sure, but that's never stopped anyone from buying a professional sports franchise in the past. If the investors were, instead of Limbaugh, the race-baiting Reverend Al Sharpton or the the Reverend Jesse "Hymietown" Jackson, would the MSM have said a single negative word about them? Or, would it have piously opined how this was a positive step for the league. Methinks it would have been the latter, not the former.

2) It's an outdated story, but since I was in my "blogging hiatus", I never talked about the death of Michael Jackson. For anyone of my generation (mid-40s), Michael Jackson was THE seminal music figure of our youth, regardless of whether you liked his music or not. Particularly from 1983 to 1985, he was as dominant as a pop culture could be. Girls swooned over him. Yet, despite all that, I can't get out of my mind what we saw out of him in the 1990s--the accused pedophile who had to pay off one of his accusers, the wacko who (allegedly) slept in a hyperbaric chamber and who had all sorts of animals roaming his palatial estate, etc. In the end, I think that he was a pathetic, sad character. He may have made millions of dollars and had the world at his feet, but you couldn't have paid me enough money to get me to trade places with him.

3) So, President Obama vowed to "hit the reset button" on this country's relations with other countries around the world. I'll give him credit, he's done just that. Despite advocating a "freedom and human rights" agenda when he was running for office, he's shunned the Dalai Lama (wouldn't want to antagonize the despotic Chinese government, would we?), embarrassed the Czech and Polish governments by abruptly cancelling the missile shield plans (so that he could extricate concessions that never came from a dismissive Russian government), alienated Israel (by demanding that it make concessions to the Palestinians while literally asking for nothing from the Palestinians in return), aggravated the French with his dithering over Iran (it's a sad day when the French have a more muscular foreign policy than we do), ignored India (the only possible regional counterweight to China), allowed North Korea to launch missiles without even saying a word, joined the United Nations Human Rights Commission (which has as it's "raison d'etre" the vilification of Israel), ignored the ongoing genocide in Sudan, stayed largely silent when the protesters in Iran were protesting the fraudulent election results there, and most recently, blown off the celebrations commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (thereby insulting the Germans and giving lie to his claim that he supports human rights, given that the fall of the Berlin Wall was arguably one of the greatest symbols of the advancement of human rights in the 20th Century). All in all, his foreign policy--to the extent that he has one--has been a complete joke.

3) One of the latest news stories that's NOT really a news story is the "Balloon Boy" case. Last week, a boy named Falcone Heene allegedly was carried away in a balloon, causing a frantic police search and even the temporary closure of the Denver International Airport. Well, it turns out that parents Arthur and Mayumi Heene cooked up the whole story. Now, they are being investigated by the police and are likely facing criminal charges. To me, the bigger story is who these people are. The Heenes were "reality tv stars" from the show "Wife Swap", and apparently thought that this little plan of theirs would get them another reality show. Readers of this blog know of my loathing of "reality shows", and this story is the ultimate example of how these shows can on occasion become dangerous. They are at best mindless and at worst corrupting. It's frightening to me that they have such high viewership.

4) The Philadelphia Phillies are one game away from going back to the World Series for a second straight season after last night's thrilling 5-4, bottom of the ninth comeback win against the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fireballing closer, Jonathan Broxton. In a way, the Phillies are the "anti-Eagles"; in other words, they're a team filled with heart and determination. They're never out of any game. And as an aside, the play-by-play of last night' game showed me why Vin Scully is still the best announcer in Baseball. After he called Jimmy Rollins' game-winning hit, he didn't say anything. He just let the crowd, which was absolutely roaring, take it away. Sometimes, the art of being a great baseball announcer is knowing when not to say anything. Vin Scully proved last night that he still knows his job. In the American League, the Angels had a walkoff win of their own over the Evil Empire, a/k/a the New York Yankees. Still, I think that that's just a minor speed bump for the Yankees on their way to World Series title #27, much as it appalls me to write that. Los Angeles just doesn't have the lineup that New York does (no team does, for that matter), and even its normally stellar defense has deserted it in this series. It won't be a sweep, but I still expect New York to advance to the World Series in five or six games.

5) My first "Top 5s" (and "Bottom 5s, for the pros) of the year.

College Football:
1) Alabama (7-0): This is the best team I have seen so far this year. Balanced offensively, and they just pound teams on defense.
2) Texas (6-0): The Longhorns weren't necessarily impressive against the Oklahoma Sooners this past weekend, but they got the job done and should cruise to the Big Twelve title game.
3) Cincinnati Bearcats (6-0): The Bearcats impressed in their win over a very tough South Florida team.
4) Florida Gators (6-0): That's right, I have the Gators ranked fourth! Based on performance, they don't deserve to be ranked any higher. They have one impressive win, and that's it.
5) Iowa Hawkeyes (7-0): They won't run the table, but the Hawkeyes look like the class of the Big Ten.

NFL Top Five and Bottom Five
Top Five
1) New Orleans Saints (5-0): The Saints have a dynamic offense. If the defense can just be adequate, as it has been this season, this team will be awfully tough to beat.
2) Denver Broncos (6-0): Did ANYONE see this coming? The Broncos are giving up an average of 11 points a game, and even Kyle Orton has looked adequate.
3) Minnesota Vikings (6-0): Adrian Peterson is, well, Adrian Peterson, and the defense is always tough. If Brett Favre can keep doing his thing, the Vikes could be poised for a very deep playoff run.
4) New York Giants (5-1): Yeah, they got spanked by the Saints, but I still see the Giants as the team to beat in the NFC.
5) Indianapolis Colts (5-0): Honestly, I think that Peyton Manning is under appreciated. He will go down as the best quarterback of our generation, and maybe the best of all time.
Bottom Five
1) Tennessee Titans (0-6): 59-0! How does a professional football team lose a game 59-0, as the Titans did against the Patriots last Sunday?! That's disgraceful.
2) St. Louis Rams (0-6): Maybe the NFL did Rush Limbaugh a favour when it balked at him buying a piece of this collection of dreck.
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6): Next up for the Succaneers? The suddenly-clicking New England Patriots, this coming weekend in London. Can you say "BLOWOUT"? I sure can..........
4) Cleveland Browns (1-5): They'd have to improve just to be regressing.
5) TIE, Kansas City Chiefs (1-5), Washington Redskins (2-4), Detroit Lions (1-5), Oakland Raiders (2-4). I don't recall a year where there were this many truly awful teams.

NHL Top Five and Bottom Five
Top Five
1) Pittsburgh Penguins (7-1): The defending Stanley Cup champions are off to a great start.
2) San Jose Sharks (5-3-1): We all know that the Sharks are talented, but can they do it in the playoffs? And, as an aside, it nauseates me as a hockey fan see Dany Heatley succeed anywhere.
3) Colorado Avalanche (6-1-1): Like their NFL city-mates, the Avalanche have come out of nowhere with their hot start. Will it last? Probably not, but at least there is hope for the future in Denver.
4) New York Rangers (7-2): Until getting thrashed 7-3 by the Sharks last night, the Rangers were white hot.
5) Washington Capitals (4-2-2): The Caps have Alexander Ovechkin, the most dynamic player in the league. What else do they need?
Bottom Five
1) Toronto Maple Leafs (0-6-1): I know that Brian Burke is a great GM, seeing as he built a Cup-winner in Anaheim, but Maple Laughs fans cannot be happy with what he put together for them so far in Toronto.
2) Minnesota Wild (1-6): Even the Wild's hallmark of great defensive play hasn't been there so far this year.
3) New York Islanders (0-3-3): When you John Tavares on the ice for the team, you can see the future, and it isn't as dismal as the present.
4) Montreal Canadiens (2-5): Five straight losses, and their best defenseman, Andrei Markov, is out until at least February with a leg injury. It's going to be a LONG season in Montreal.........
5) Nashville Predators (2-4-1): They've scored 10 goals in 7 games. That's pathetic.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's been a LONG Time........

...........since February 18 of this year, to be specific. How can I explain my absence? It's kind of hard to do so, other than to say "Life got in the way". Like so many others, I am dealing with the fallout of our ailing economy (and where's that recovery that the New York Times keeps hyping? It's not in the legal field, I can tell you that much), and frankly, my main concern has been on keeping my job, rather than on the blog. And, what with the four kids, the three dogs, what can I say--life got in the way.

So, where to begin? So much to discuss.............

1) The economy: It sucks, both in a macro and a micro sense. I alluded to this above. The MSM keeps reporting that things have improved, but I'd like to know where. Companies are still shedding jobs. The dollar keeps tanking (more on that below). The stock markets have come back a long way from their bottom earlier this year, but are still over 4,000 points from their peaks in October 0f 2007. All in all, not good. I suppose that at some point things do have to pick up, but the government's spending itself (and us by extension) isn't helping matters any. And, lest anyone think that this is all on President Obama, that is not the case. This began when Bush 43 was still in the White House, and the size of our national debt and the annual budget deficits is well beyond numbers that ordinary people can comprehend. This can and will ultimately lead to that dreaded curse of the President Peanut Farmer years, "Stagflation". When it does, look out Democrats. There's only so long that you can blame the Republicans, who haven't controlled the Senate since 2006 and the House since the last election. At some point, people WILL hold you responsible for this mess.

2) Afghanistan: President Obama campaigned on a slogan of getting us out Iraq and committing us "full time" to the war in Afghanistan. Leaving aside for the moment my thoughts on Iraq, I had no problem with getting the army the resources it needs to fight properly in Afghanistan. The problem is, the President's base, which is somewhere to the left of Karl Marx, never supported the Afghan War any more than it supported the Iraq War (or any war, for that matter). The left doesn't believe in war, period, and now the President is trapped between his flowery rhetoric and the desire of that left wing base to get us out of Afghanistan. It's a conundrum for him and one that is not easily solved.

3) The Nobel Peace Prize: Someone needs to explain to me why President Obama received it. Keep in mind, the nominations were due 12 days after he was inaugurated. So, in those 12 days, what exactly did he do to merit receiving it? In fact, in the almost nine months that have passed since he took office, what has he done? Iraq: We're still there. Aghanistan: Ditto. The Middle East: things are more bleak than ever (more about THAT below). Iran: Heading full steam towards nuclear armament. North Korea: Already a nuclear power, and just tested out some new missiles last week. I could go on and on, but the Nobel Peace Prize has always been an award based on achievement. I may disagree with the awards received by President Peanut Farmer and former Veep Al Gore, but at least they had accomplished SOMETHING. One argument I've heard is that Obama's award was based on the "changed sentiment towards America" around the world. Really? We've alienated Eastern Europe with our cancellation of the missile shield plans. We've ticked off the Chinese with our insane monetary policy. We've even antagonized the French, who now have have a more muscular foreign policy than we do. So, ultimately, who have we made happy? A bunch of Norwegians. Yeah, that's change we can believe in..............

4) The Dollar: The last I checked, it was heading for parity with Monopoly money. The "weak dollar" policy started under the Bush 43 Administration, and the Obama Administration hasn't done anything to change it. I hated it then, and I hate it now. The value of a currency is a reflection of the confidence other countries have in your economy and your country in general. The dollar's collapse is a clear indication that no one has any faith in the currency. That ought to worry everyone. Worse yet, the sheer amount of money in circulation will only make it that much harder to dig the dollar out of this hole..........if that can ever be done.

5) Iran: It WILL become a nuclear power, if not in 2010 than shortly thereafter. So, what have all those negotiations done for us? Nada. They gave Iran time and it laughed in our faces. There's no other way to describe what we're doing as anything other than appeasement, but history has always shown that appeasement does not work. The Iranian Mullahs are a bunch of apocalyptic loons and their front man is an anti-Semitic, terrorist thug. How can anyone seriously believe that you can negotiate with these people? It truly boggles my mind..........

6) Health Care: I hate this whole issue. I really do. While I am not supportive of the President's plan, I don't get as worked up about it as others do. I grew up in Canada, with socialized medicine, and in terms of what I would call "day to day" care, it was fine. Honestly. HOWEVER, when it came to dealing with specialists, there were wait periods, not only for visits and treatment. Those are waits that we here in he U.S. do not have to endure. Both systems have their virtues, but I think that on balance, our system works better.

7) Israel: Apparently, the one country that merits the ire of the Obama Administration is Israel. Not Iran, not the Palestinians, not North Korea, not Russia. Just Israel. That is why relations between the United States and Israel are as cold as they have been since the Eisenhower Administration, and are likely to grow even worse. Israel is facing an existential threat in Iran, one that the West in general seems to not be taking seriously at all, and yet all that concerns the United States is those horrible "settlements" in the West Bank. Let me ask a rhetorical question: Israel is 20% Arab, and if it were to expel those Arabs, there would be a hue and cry the world over. Yet, it is pretty much accepted that any future Palestinian state would HAVE to be Judenrein. Why? Why is the standard so different? And, then we have the Goldstone Report, which was commissioned by that noted friend of Israel, the United Nations Human Rights Commission, to examine Israel's "conduct" during the Gaza War last December and January. It found that Israel had basically committed one giant war crime from the beginning of the war until the end. In order to arrive at this conclusion, it basically accepted unequivocally every single contention made by the Palestinians while at the same time rejecting all of Israel's arguments. The Report will now be taken up by the U.N. Security Council. Given the dramatic cool-down of American-Israeli relations, does anyone out there think that anything positive will come of this? Yeah, me neither..............

8) Sports: i) It's not a huge issue, but is anyone else out there as appalled by some of those "retro" uniforms we have seen in the NFL this season as I am? Earlier this season, we had the Seattle Seahawks wearing bright green unis that made them look like a bunch of key lime pies. This past weekend, the Denver Broncos wore canary yellow and black unis that made people with good vision envy the blind. Maybe the NFL will sell some extra jerseys, maybe not, but to me, these things are simply hideous.

ii) My Miami Hurricanes are apparently back! After as tough an opening four games as I have ever seen a team play (at Florida State, at home to Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech, at home to Oklahoma), the Canes emerged 3-1. Before the season, I thought that they could realistically go 0-4, and that 2-2 would be as good as it could possibly get for the team, but the young players, and in particular QB Jacory Harris, are growing up quickly. The team is now 4-1, ranked in the Top Ten, and as well as it has played this season, is probably still a year away from its best.

iii) Back to the NFL: Has anyone seen a year where there have been this many bad teams? Cleveland is 1-4, and this past weekend, its quarterback, Derek Anderson, went 2 for 17 for 23 yards.......and the Browns STILL won, beating the equally hapless and hopeless Buffalo Bills 6-3. The Bills are also 1-4. And, scary as it may seem, these aren't the worst teams out there. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-5. Ditto the Kansas City Chiefs. The Rams are also winless and the Washington Redskins have one win, which was over the Rams. The Oakland Raiders are an atrocious 1-4, with their single win coming over Kansas City. And even though the Detroit Lions FINALLY won a game (perspective check: it was over Washington), they're still 1-4. The combined record of those teams: 5-35.

iv) The NHL season has started, and my Habs are off to a sputtering 2-3 start, including a blowout 7-1 loss in Vancouver. I wasn't optimistic about the team even before the season began, as last year's collapse, which resulted in a blowout four-game sweep by the Boston Bruins in the first found of the playoffs, resulted in a gutting of the team. Somehow, after all was said and done, the Canadiens managed to get smaller and even less tough. Worse yet, their best defenseman, Andrei Markov, is injured and out until at least February. It's going to be a lousy season in Habs-land.....................

v) The Baseball playoffs are well underway. Three of the Division Series' resulted in sweeps (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over my Boston Red Sox, Evil Empire New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers over the St. Louis Cardinals), and the other one only went four games (Philadelphia Phillies over the Colorado Rockies). Honestly, I don't seen anything that will prevent the Evil Empire from capturing World Series title number 27. Yeah, I know that the Angels have in the past given the Yankees problems, but this New York team is an offensive machine that just can't be stopped. It's nauseating, but the Angels, Phillies and Dodgers are simply battling for the right to call themselves the second-best team in Baseball. Even more depressing, you can be sure that the Evil Empire will use the billions of dollars at its disposal to sign even more free agents this coming off-season. As I said, depressing.........

That's it for my first blog entry in nine months. I'll try not go as long before the next one!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hump Day Thoughts

1) I will start off with some poetry (no, it's NOT good poetry, so you're forewarned) about my gutless weasel Habs. Without further ado, some Habs Haikus:

The Habs are a joke
Kovy quit quite long ago
No parade this year.

Plekanec floats by
Nowhere near the boards he goes
He has zero heart.

Price can be sieve-like
Halak is not much better
They let in long shots.

Carbo seems confused
Outcoached, he is constantly
Losing continues.

Schneider is so old
A high price for him they paid
They still will not win.

Habs wasted my time
Bitter about them, I still am
The team lacks courage.

2) These days there are any number of stories that transcend the sports world and cross over into what is generally considered to be "mainstream news". One of those stories involves A-Rod and the use of steroids (more about that below). Another is the barring by Dubai from its WTA-sanctioned tournament of Israeli tennis star (she is in the Top 20, amazingly enough) Shahar Peer from the tournament for no other reason other than the fact that she is Israeli. I am gratified by the reaction of the WTA and ATP, both of which have said that they will review Dubai's right to host WTA- and ATP-sanctioned events, and by the Tennis Channel's decision to not broadcast the tournament (as well as by the Wall Street Journal Europe's decision to pull out as a tournament sponsor), but I am more than a little disappointed by the fact that not one of her fellow pros, as far as I know, have said a word in her defense. Not one has said "If she doesn't play, I'm not playing". Tennis players in general have a reputation for being spoiled, self-indulgent and myopic. Of course, there are always exceptions, but the lack of response by any other tennis pro to this action on the part of Dubai certainly feeds into that stereotype.

3) I can't bring myself to look at the stock market today, which is rapidly closing in on a 50% loss in value since it peaked in October of 2007. That's my retirement, your retirement, and everyone's future income being washed away in a sea of bad business news, earnings reports, government red ink and general financial malaise. It took the stock market close to 6 1/2 years to recover from its losses after it peaked in April of 2000, but I think that the road back this time will be much longer.....if we even manage to get all the way back. The fundamentals of our economy are so weak at this point, and we are so heavily indebted as a society that we won't be out of debt for generations.

4) It's a story that has finally crossed over from the so-called "right wing blogosphere" and into the main media. Muzzammil Hassan, who founded a television station in his home of Buffalo which sought to show Americans that Muslims aren't different from them, beheaded his estranged wife, Aasiya, and though police seem to be suggesting that this is "just a case of domestic violence gone bad", it certainly appears to me that it is yet another "Honour Killing". What has struck me, however, has been the reaction of Women's rights groups, or should I say, the complete non-reaction. The head of the local chapter of NOW made it clear how abhorrent she thought that this act was, and more power to her for doing so. However, where is the national chapter? Is it too busy commenting on the activities of rappers? You never hear a thing out of NOW whenever one of these horrific killings takes place. Nothing. If NOW truly is the advocate of Women's rights that it claims to be, it will not ignore this ongoing story.

5) So, Iran has now launched a drone which can reach Israel. At the same time, the Iranian nuclear program is steaming ahead. The Iranian regime continues to propagate Holocaust denial and threats of Israeli's extinction. think that maybe, JUST MAYBE, there might be a small link between these three things? Only those in the West seem to not think so.

6) As I mentioned above, one of the sports stories that has become a news story is Alex Rodriguez "confessing" to using steroids while he was with the Texas Rangers. As far as I'm concerned, his numbers are now as bogus as those of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, etc., etc. There is another factor at play here, too, which is that 103 other players tested positive. Why was only A-Rod's name leaked? In the interests of "fairness", we really should see who the other 103 players are. Admit it, any Baseball fan is curious, regardless of whether or not they believe that steroid use taints the numbers of the player who used them or not.

7) I've already expressed my disgust with the Habs above. There is another team that is following a similar pattern, and that is the New York Rangers. New York got off to an incredible start, but over the last month or so, it has been awful. Really, when you think about it, the Canadiens and Rangers are mirror images of each other. They're both a collection of tin men, devoid of any heart.

8) One of the strangest stories to cross my radar over the last week is that of the transgender woman in Ohio who exercised her 73-year old husband to death. I'm not exaggerating here. A jury convicted this "woman" of Reckless Homicide and she will serve at least one year in jail. Frankly, if the reports I have heard are true (he died of a heart attack in the swimming pool and had attempted on numerous occasions to either grab the side of the pool and to get out, but she kept kicking his hands off the side of the ledges), then one year is way too little time in jail.

Monday, February 9, 2009

It's been a while

Blogging has been light of late as I take care of issues at work and at home. Sorry about that. Here are some random thoughts about what has been rattling through my pea-sized brain over the last few weeks.

1) That "cease fire" in Gaza has really worked out well for Israel, hasn't it? Only one side has ceased firing (that would be Israel), while rockets and mortars still get launched regularly from Israel. Gilad Shalit is still a hostage, and the public opprobrium against the Jewish state has if anything increased--we now have the spectacle of possible "war crimes" trials starting in Spain against Israeli leaders and officials. Funny how no one on the left seems very concerned about what Hamas did (and is continuing to do). Well, something will change in the next few days, if only because Israel is about to hold an election. Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party currently holds a slim lead, but Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party is rapidly closing the gap. Given Olmert's miserable leadership over the last 3+ years, I have to wonder what Israelis are thinking, but maybe this is more a commentary on the opposition that he is facing.

And we thought that it was bad over here?

2) It's old news now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl title eight days ago with a 27-23 come-from-behind win over the Arizona Cardinals. After a fairly dull first three quarters of the game (with the notable exception of James Harrison's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown to end the first half), the fourth quarter featured 23 points, two lead changes and Ben Roethlisberger stamping his name among the great Super Bowl quarterbacks with a defining 88-yard touchdown drive that rivaled any done by Montana, Elway or the other NFL greats.

Here are some interesting Super Bowl Facts: The Cowboys and 49ers have five apiece. The Patriots, Raiders, Packers, Giants and Redskins each have three. That means that a total of eight franchises have won 31 of the 43 Super Bowls played, leaving the other 24 franchises to share the other 12 titles. When you add in Miami's two titles and Denver's pair, that means that the other 22 franchises have combined to win eight titles.

3) The Montreal Canadiens of 2008-2009 are officially the "Hab-Nots". As readers of this blog, I am a die-hard Montreal Canadiens fan. I grew up in Montreal, and being a Habs fan is in my blood. But, this year's team is as dislikeable as any team in recent memory, because it is wildly inconsistent and, more importantly, the players as a group seem to not even care if they win or lose. Right now, the Canadiens are lollygagging in fifth place in the conference, playing well below their potential, and not even within shouting distance of the first place Boston Bruins. In fact, even making the playoffs is lock for this collection of underachieving stiffs. In a year which had so much in the way of expectation, compounded with it being the 100th anniversary of the team, that is simply unacceptable. There will be blood in the streets of Montreal (figuratively speaking, of course) if that happens.........

4) The Iranians have for the first time launched a satellite into orbit. Yes, yes, I know that this is no ICBM, and that the technology used to launch is closer to that which the Russians used to launch Sputnik into space 52 years ago, but the fact that they did it is worrisome to say the least. I know that it won't make a bit of difference to the Obama Administration in its rush to "engage" with the Mullahs who run the Islamic theocracy, but this is a warning shot across our bow, and it is especially troubling--or, it should be, anyway--to Israeli leaders. Iran is not launching satellites and pursuing nuclear technology because it has nothing else to do. There is an end-game for the Iranians, and that end game will, if the Iranians have their way, involve a direct military confrontation with Israel and then the United States. Like it or not, Israel is the canary in the coal mine here, and the Iranians are going to gauge how we will react to its actions by how we respond to what it does vis-a-vis Israel.

5) There are reports out that New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids (A-Roid?) in 2003, when he was still with the Texas Rangers, leading a friend to e-mail this to me:


It goes from the position to the player and how they are linked to steroid use:

Gary Matthews Jr.
Mitchell Report
Pudge Rodriguez
Teammate allegation
Alex Rodriguez
Media report
Juan Gonzalez
Teammate allegation
Rafael Palmeiro
Tested positive
Ken Caminiti
David Segui
Randy Velarde
Mitchell Report
Chad Allen
Mitchell Report

A-Rod of course is the biggest "fish" to be linked to steroid use since Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. He is also the most prominent player on the most prominent franchise in the sport. I guess that if you needed another reason to cheer against the Yankees, here it is.

6) Being an Obama government appointee doesn't mean never having to say you're sorry. What it does apparently mean is that you don't have to pay your taxes (those same taxes that Vice-President Biden told us it is patriotic for us to pay--I guess that Tim Geithner, Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer aren't very patriotic). The MSM has reported on the story, which has led Daschle and Killefer to withdraw their names from consideration. However, the inevitable tone of the reports has been to complain about Republican opposition to confirming these individuals. You can be sure that if this had been a Republican President seeking to name his/her government officials, this would have been Page One, above-the-fold headlines in virtually every newspaper in the country for days on end. MSNBC would probably have devoted at least one specific show to the story every day...........

7) On Saturday, January 31, I took the oldest BHG child to his first ever Hockey game in Montreal for his tenth birthday. I have to say, even as ticked off as I am at the team this season, there is no sporting environment--none whatsoever--which equals watching a Montreal Canadiens game live in Montreal. The Canadiens won the game 4-3 over the Los Angeles Kings by scoring two goals in the final two minutes of the game. He now has a memory that will hopefully last him a lifetime, and the best thing about it is, so do I................

8) The Australian Open tends to be the least regarded of Tennis' four "Majors", but I always try to watch at least some of it. On the men's side, Rafael Nadal stamped himself as the clear #1 in the world with an impressive five-set victory over Roger Federer. Last year, we witnessed Nadal take two of the four Majors, including the monumental five-set win over Federer at Wimbledon in what many are already calling the greatest tennis match ever. Down Under, they went five sets again, and Nadal emerged victorious one more time. He now has a 5-2 record against Federer in the Majors, and he has proven to be Federer's superior on clay (where he never loses. Period.), grass and hardcourt. He also has six Major titles, and even assuming that Federer does as expected break Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles (he's only one away), one has to wonder how long that record will last anyway. Nadal is still in his early twenties, and his best tennis may still be ahead of him.

On the women's side, we saw what happens when Serena Williams is serious about playing tennis. When she is, she wins Majors. Nobody else on the women's side can play with her when she is focused. She now has 10 Major titles, and while I don't think that she'll catch Steffie Graf's record of 19, she may come close.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama

It is official; Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States a few minutes after noon today. The Bush Administration is no more. I thought that President Obama's Inauguration Speech was masterful. To use a baseball cliche, he "hit a home run". Now, we will see if his actions match up with his soaring rhetoric.

I may dismay or anger some of my fellow conservatives, but I'm going to give him a chance, a chance that the left in this country NEVER gave President George W. Bush. Even now, now that President Bush is an "ex-President", the left's hatred for him endures, and if anything, is intensifying. I'm on Facebook and have about 260 "Facebook friends". A fair number of those people are on the left politically, and as I scroll through their status updates, I can't help but be struck by how mean-spirited and even vicious their comments are. Certainly, they are entitled to be gleeful that their candidate won the Presidency, but can't they exhibit SOME graciousness?

I know, I know, this is something that the left never showed during the eight years of the Bush 43 Administration--hey, for all you morons who kept screaming that "Bush is a fascist", blah, blah, blah, how do you explain that your candidate is now the President? And to those who loudly and insistently proclaim that President George W. Bush is "the worst President ever", I would only remind you that one James Earl Carter held the Presidency from 1977-1981. The angry comments about President Bush show historical ignorance that is simply unforgivable. As far left as my late mother was politically, she was a Nazi refugee, and she would have told the left in this country what REAL fascism was like.

In any event, and to come full circle, I truly do wish President Obama success. It's what would be best for all of us, like it or not. Time will tell over the next four years what kind of President he will be..................

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day, 2009

Some random brain droppings on a holiday Monday (for some, not me, unfortunately)........

1) This is kind of a double-witching hour day. First of all, today is Martin Luther King Day, so I wish the best to those who are off today and have ability to observe the holiday. And, 24 hours from now, the nation will witness the inauguration of the first African-American (or biracial, if you prefer) President. Regardless of whether you voted for the man or not, it is an historic occasion. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. I didn't voted for Obama. I don't like his proposed policies. I think that he will be the most anti-Israel President this country has seen since Eisenhower in the 1950s (yes, even more than Bush 41). That said, it is in ALL of our best interests' if he succeeds and is a good President. I hope that he does well and that my worst expectations of him are not met.

2) The Israeli offensive in Gaza seems to be winding down, and let's see if Israel met its goals:
i) Goal #1: Stopping the rocket and missile attacks. Goal NOT met. Rockets are still falling on Israel, and Israel's unilateral decision to just stop its offensive. Hamas can claim that Israel accomplished nothing except to "kill civilians" (more about that below).
ii) Goal #2: Recover Gilad Shalit. He's still a prisoner. Goal NOT met.
iii) Win the PR War: Israel is being accused by such "unbiased" observers as Human Rights Watch of using phosphorous weapons on human targets (a charge refuted by the International Red Cross, hardly a friend of Israel). Israel has once again been accused of using "Disproportionate Force" (a bogus charge, but one that resonates with the left, which feels that Israel should not be permitted to defend itself anyway). Goal NOT met.
iv) Eliminate Hamas' leadership: Goal PARTIALLY met. Even the most partisan supporter of Hamas has to admit that Hamas took a punishing blow. But, even the most ardent supporter of Israel has to admit that it was anything but a fatal blow. Ismail Haniyeh still lives. Khlaled al Meshaal still lives. While Israel took out several of Hamas' leaders, the main ones are still around.
v) Avoid "Civilian Casualties": The MSM is full of reports of dead children, dead civilians, but let's look at this realistically. The death toll on the Palestinian side after the three week offensive by Israel is between (by most counts) 1000 and 1500, of who many are Hamas terrorists, and this despite the overwhelming military superiority of the IDF and Hamas' clear strategy of launching missiles, rockets and mortars from civilian areas such as schools, hospitals, and houses. What was Israel to do, not respond (lefties out there, don't bother to respond. I already know what your answer is)? So, surprisingly, I'm going to say: Goal MET.
vi) Restore Israel's deterrence factor. In order to this, Israel needed to make Hamas understand that the price to be paid for launching rockets at Israel was too high. It didn't come remotely close to doing that. Goal NOT met.
vii) Be able to declare "victory" and avoid a repeat of the Lebanon War in 2006: As indicated above, missiles were still being launched at Israel at least as of yesterday, and Hamas will certainly keep working on missiles that will eventually be able to reach Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel needed to be able to achieve its goals, and I might give it credit on this had Israel just once actually told the world what those goals were. It didn't, and in a quirky war in which Hamas can declare victory merely by not losing, the public's read on what happened is going to be that Israel did not win. Goal NOT met.
So, the long and the short of this war is that while Israel fought differently than it did against Hezbollah in 2006, the end result is exactly the same, in my opinion. Israel did not restore the deterrence effect it lost back in the 1990s, and now the world sees a weakened and leaderless country which is ripe for the plucking. The way this war is ending, with Israel just doing the military equivalent of taking its ball and going home, can lead to no other impression (at least on my part).

3) The collective moaning in my area over yesterday's 32-25 loss by the Philadelphia Eagles in Arizona to the Cardinals (the Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl?????) is just beginning. After watching the game, it is pretty clear to me that the Cardinals were the better team yesterday. They were better prepared, especially in the first half, when the Cardinals raced out to a 24-6 halftime lead. The team showed some character in coming back to take a 25-24 lead, but when the chips were down and the defense needed to make a stop, it didn't. It gave up an 80-yard drive that took up half the fourth quarter. It had already blown a timeout earlier in the half (more of those same idiotic clock management issues that have plagued this team for years). So, with the team down by seven points, with a little less than three minutes left in the game, two timeouts (plus the two-minute warning) left, the ball was placed in the hands of the franchise quarterback, Donovan McNabb. He came up small--his passes were erratic and while the team got a couple of first downs, the drive stalled at midfield and the game was lost. Philadelphia has now played in five of the last eight NFC title games, and it has lost four of those games, with only the loss to the Rams in 2001 coming to a team that was arguably better than it.

4) In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers showed the world how to get a job done. Their defense was fearsome and fearless, and they were deserving winners, 23-14, over the up-and-coming Baltimore Ravens. I don't think that the Pittsburgh can be stopped at this point, and in two weeks, the Steelers will collect their record sixth Super Bowl title. I don't even think that the game will be close. I can see a final score of 27-6, or something like that. As good as he is, Larry Fitzgerald will not get open against the Steelers' secondary the way he did yesterday against that of the Eagles. Kurt Warner will get snowed under by the Pittsburgh defensive line. The game has the potential to get ugly early, and the only chance I give Arizona is if it manages to generate some turnovers on defense.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's January

I hate January, which is by far my least favourite month of the year. The days are short and cold, it seems to go FOREVER, etc., etc. That said, at least it's one step closer to summer. With that complaint out of the way, here are some random thoughts for a cold Saturday morning:

1) Israel is continuing its military operations in Gaza, the U.N. Security Council's (UNSC) demand for an immediate halt to the attack notwithstanding. There are a couple of things worth mentioning here. First, the feckless behaviour of the United States in failing to veto the UNSC resolution was pathetic, but not entirely surprising. We have seen the State Department's Arabist influence over the Bush 43 Administration's foreign policy grow by the day, and now, as we approach the last 10 days of its life, President Bush appears to have finally capitulated entirely to the wishes of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to be more "balanced" (in other words, more pro-Arab). So, Israel is now truly alone. Second, Israel can't afford to stop right now. After the debacle in Lebanon in 2006, Israel MUST be seen in the Arab world as being the unquestioned winner of this conflict. The bigger question is, how does it achieve that? Obviously, zero missile/rocket/mortar launches out of Gaza would be the best case scenario, but I don't know if that's doable. The thing is, if it doesn't you will eventually see a situation where there are similar attacks out of the West Bank. That's not a question of "if", but "when". The bottom line? I don't know how Israel wins....................

2) On a similar theme, the reverberations from the Israeli operations in Gaza have been felt all over the world, whether it's protesters in Fort Lauderdale screaming "Jews to the ovens" (isn't THAT a nice sentiment?) or an Italian trade union calling for the boycott of all Jewish-owned businesses to the desecration of cemeteries across the continent and attacks on Jews in Denmark, France, the U.K., Holland, etc. (nothing like a Middle East war to get the Europeans to show their true, anti-Semitic selves). We here in the U.S. and Canada are fortunate in that we have been largely insulated from the more violent elements of the anti-Israel movement, but it's only a matter of time before similar events occur here.

3) So the University of Florida Gators are the "undisputed" national champions in NCAA Division I football after their methodical 24-14 win over Oklahoma in the BCS title game. Can we just permanently ban Oklahoma and Ohio State from the national championship game (unless they play each other)? You KNOW that if one of these two teams shows up, the team they are playing is guaranteed to win. And here's another thought: I would not have voted UF number one. My vote, if I had one, would have gone to Utah, the only undefeated team in major college football. Utah soundly beat Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl, in a stadium that was about 70-75% pro-Alabama. In fact, it never trailed in the game. As you will all recall, Florida was losing to Alabama going into the fourth quarter of the SEC title game before coming back to win 31-20. And, I don't know if Florida would have beaten USC. After watching the Rose Bowl, I don't think that there is a more skilled, faster team out there than the Men of Troy.

4) Round One of the NFL playoffs is done, and here comes Round Two. Without further ado, here is how I see the games shaking out:
i) Arizona at Carolina: The Cardinals are trying to play the "we get no respect" card, but there's a reason why they get so little respect--they don't deserve any. The Panthers will punch them in the mouth, and while the Cardinals will score their points, it won't be anywhere near enough. Carolina 38, Arizona 21.
ii) Philadelphia at NY Giants: I think that the final score of this game will be 23-17. I'm just not sure who will have the 23 and who will have the 17. I'm leaning toward the G-men, who I think want to make a statement after Philadelphia beat them in Week 13.
iii) Baltimore at Tennessee: The will be an old-fashioned slugfest. I see the Ravens playing just a little bit better than the Titans and escaping with a 17-16 win.
iv) San Diego at Pittsburgh: Arguably the most intriguing game of the weekend. The Chargers barely scraped into the playoffs at 8-8 (but they were red hot down the stretch, winning their final four games of the regular season and then edging Indianapolis in Round One of the playoffs) while Pittsburgh comes into the playoffs a bit banged up, though it did have the bye week last week. The Chargers don't have a great history in cold weather games, and it will be very cold in Steeltown this weekend. Steelers 23, Chargers 13.

5) We are almost at the All-Star break in Hockey, and here are my thoughts on the season so far:

i) San Jose is the best team in the west, for now. I'm still not sold on the Sharks in the playoffs, and Detroit is just as good as it was last year. That would be one heck of a playoff series.
ii) The Winter Classic at Wrigley Field was great. Seeing the players skate around with the famous Wrigley Field scoreboard in the background was just amazing, and viewers agreed. The NHL actually got measurable ratings on NBC for the game.
iii) The Boston Bruins are for real. I read an article that compared them to the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes team that won the Stanley Cup, and it was a very good analogy. Everybody kept waiting for those Hurricanes to fall on their faces, and they didn't. Similar predictions are being made about this year's Boston team. I don't know if the Bruins will have enough to beat either Detroit or San Jose in the Stanley Cup Finals, but I do think that Boston will get there, barring injuries.
iv) Is it possible for a team as hyped as the Montreal Canadiens to fly under the radar? Montreal is in the midst of its 100th anniversary celebration (word of advice to all hockey fans: go out and buy the DVD collection of the 10 best games in Canadiens' history: It's well worth the investment), and it has amassed an impressive point total, but because of the stellar play by Boston, it has been largely ignored. If Boston does cool off, it could be in for a dogfight atop the division.
v) Sidney Crosby is incredibly talented, but I don't know of a bigger crybaby in the sport. It is very easy to cheer against him, given his petulance and whining every time a call is not made in his favour. I wish that Mario Lemieux would sit him down and tell him how to behave properly.