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.
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)
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:
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)
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:
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)
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).