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.