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2) It's an outdated story, but since I was in my "blogging hiatus", I never talked about the death of Michael Jackson.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!