Saturday, August 27, 2005

I Feel a Draft

In a pleasant respite from the truly important issues of the day, my fantasy football league held its annual draft today. Yes, a new NFL season is almost upon us, so it was time to put our teams together in anticipation of the September 8th opening game between Oakland and New England.

My fantasy team, known as the Grapevine Stompers, held the #3 overall pick in the draft. That was a bit of a disappointment, because I really wanted to be able to select either Peyton Manning or Daunte Culpepper with my first pick, but I knew they likely would go #1 and #2. When the #2 team hesitated at taking Culpepper after Manning went #1, I thought I might sneak in there and still get him. But, sure enough, the team owner selected Culpepper, leaving me with a bit of a difficult decision: should I take the next highest rated quarterback - Donovan McNabb - or the top rated running back - LaDainian Tomlinson? After mulling it over for a minute or two, I selected McNabb. The league I'm in awards one point per pass completion, so the quarterback position will be the highest point-getter on the roster. Thus, I decided that having McNabb in the fold would be the wisest choice.

The draft progressed at a rapid pace from that point on, through all fifteen rounds. By the end of the live draft, here's what the Grapevine Stompers looked like (by position):

QB Donovan McNabb, PHI
QB Jake Plummer, DEN
RB Deuce McAllister, NO
RB Tiki Barber, NYG
RB Clinton Portis, WAS
RB J.J. Arrington, ARI
WR Torry Holt, STL
WR Jerry Porter, OAK
WR Jimmy Smith, JAC
WR Derrick Mason, BAL
WR Keary Colbert, CAR
TE Jermaine Wiggins, MIN
TE Daniel Graham, NE
PK Mike Vanderjagt, IND
DEF Minnesota Vikings

All in all, I'm pleased with the team I drafted. Time will tell, of course, but hopefully this group can keep me in contention for the league title. There are still a few interesting rookies out there who were not drafted, including the Cleveland Browns' highly touted WR Braylon Edwards, so I'll have to keep an eye on them to see how much of an impact they may have during the early part of the season. That's just part of the fun of fantasy football.

Let the games begin!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Forecast: Partly Sunni to Mostly Cloudy

Perhaps the continual squabbling among the Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis over the new Iraq constitution will make the Bush administration - and the pollyanna neo-conservatives - realize that a united and democratic Iraq is far from a realistic goal. If they believe that hundreds of years of tribal warfare and cultural disagreement can be overcome in a couple of years or so, then they need to go back to school for some remedial history instruction.

It will be a minor miracle if the three ethnic groups are able to co-exist peacefully as one nation. There is far too much distrust and disagreement - not to mention hatred - for them to create and administer a functional government for any significant period of time. The only reason the country survived without civil war under Saddam Hussein was because he ruled with an iron fist, really about the only way to "manage" such inter-cultural animosity. Add in the fact that Hussein, a member of the Sunni secularist Baath party, exerted his power and control over the majority Shiites, and it's no wonder that the hate and distrust is palpable.

Kind of makes the ethnic discord in the United States look like squabbling 10-year-old Little Leaguers compared to the steroid-laden sluggers of Major League Baseball. The Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis are the professionals of ethnic discord.

Yet, somehow, our esteemed Republican leadership believes all of this can be solved with an election and a constitution, bringing everyone together in sweet harmony to live happily ever after. Cats and dogs living together. Then the alarm goes off - or was it a suicide bomb - and the dream implodes in the stifling heat and omnipresent dust of reality.

Get ready, America. Our troops will be in Iraq - or whatever becomes of it - for many, many years to come. While Saddam Hussein was a narcicistic megalomaniac - not to mention a brutal dictator in the terrifying mold of Josef Stalin - he was able to forcibly contain the powderkeg of inter-cultural hate in Iraq. Now that the bonds of this keg have been cut loose, it's anybody's guess how this volatile situation will unfold. Just be prepared for years - maybe decades - of troubling news from Mesopotamia. It's gonna get a whole lot worse before it ever gets better.

The storm clouds are gathering. The Bush administration's sunny forecast isn't looking so "Sunni" anymore.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Are You a Troop Supporter?

Apparently - at least according to the supporters of the Bush administration and its nefarious policies - one cannot support the troops AND want to bring them home. It simply cannot be that way. On the contrary, wanting to bring the troops home simply aids and abets the enemy. It undermines troop morale for U.S. citizens to want them to come home safely and unharmed. If you don't support the war, you're getting troops killed. You must support the war at all costs, regardless of ideology...or mere common sense.

To that I say: BULLSHIT!

Did President Bush support the troops by saying, "Bring it on!", to the insurgents?

Did Donald Rumsfeld support the troops by neglecting to plan adequately for necessary troop levels?

Did the Pentagon support the troops by sending them into battle with insufficient armor for their sitting duck vehicles?

Did the Bush administration support the troops by reducing benefits to those wounded in action and to vets returning home from war?

Did the administration support the troops by allowing and encouraging them to violate the Geneva Conventions, thereby enhancing the animosity towards them and increasing the probability that captured U.S. troops will be subjected to inhumane treatment and torture?

This administration CLEARLY has shown a blatant and consistent disregard for our troops. They have, as I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, chosen to sacrifice a precious gift - namely, our volunteer soldiers - for no good reason by sending them to fight an unnecessary war. They let the troops down. They let America down. They let the world down.

Do I want the troops to stay in Iraq and continue to be mowed down by car bomb after car bomb after car bomb? No. I want them to come home safely. That is called SUPPORTING THE TROOPS. And every additional soldier who continues to die in this war is being sold down the river by its own government. Of course, this shouldn't be a surprise to any of us, given what the administration is willing to do to its own covert agents. But that's another story.

Support the troops. Bring them home. That's the bottom line.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Intelligent Design...GOP Style

Found this Washington Post comic at The People's Republic of Seabrook, one of my newfound favorite blogs. Kind of says it all, I think.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Osama bin Robertson

You know, if Osama bin Laden had come out of hiding long enough to call for the killing of President Bush, it would be considered an intolerable, imminent terrorist threat upon the United States of America. The threat level would be raised, extra law enforcement would be dispatched and secret service agents would be more copious than fireants on a nursing home patient.

So, based on the measured and thoughtful Christian sentiments coming from Pat Robertson's mouth yesterday regarding the President of Venezuela, what are we to think? Did Robertson call for healing? For prayer? For diplomatic dialogue between nations? Not exactly.

No, Pat "Christian Coalition" Robertson said that Venezuelan President Hugo Sanchez should be...ASSASSINATED!

Now there's a downright Christian belief for you. Is it any wonder that the religious right is so supportive of the Iraq War? They've got this numbskull leading them.

Who said all terrorists are Muslim extremists? Looks like we've got our share of Christian extremist terrorists, as well. If only THEY'D flee to the caves of Tora Bora, too. Ahhhh, one can hope...or pray!

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Evolution of Dubya

It's the missing link! One look at this and there's no way anyone could possibly support the "theory" of intelligent design. The resemblance is uncanny, isn't it?

I guess Bonzo really DID go to college. And then he became our 43rd President.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Insanity Continues...

There goes George "Dubya" Bush again, trying to claim that the war in Iraq is keeping Americans safe in the world. He contends that the troops know that they're "fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere (huh?) to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy."

Well, I knew about Afghanistan and Iraq, but "elsewhere"? Where else are they fighting? Is there another war going on that we don't know about it? Or is this mere forshadowing of the Bush administration's next, inevitable folly?

Plus, I thought the troops were fighting to liberate the Iraqi people. Oh, wait. That was LAST WEEK'S raison du jour. What will it be next week? I can't wait to find out!

We've also learned that the Army now is making plans for keeping 100,000 or more troops in Iraq through 2009. That's FOUR MORE YEARS! Kind of reminiscent of the chilling chant we heard from Bush supporters last summer at the Republican National Convention. The American people are paying the price for those election results, but now it looks like our courageous volunteer soldiers will continue to pay - in many cases - the ultimate price for years to come. And for what? For nothing.

What must we do to get an exit strategy outlined and implemented? This insane misadventure in Iraq will continue to drag on and on and on with the current leadership in place. And at what cost? Who's paying for this? We are! Both in terms of dollars and, more importantly, lives. The insanity has got to stop!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Shooting Down Lawsuits

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Senate passed a bill which shields firearm manufacturers from lawsuits brought by shooting victims. ABC's Nightline covered this topic in depth last night. While I had heard about the bill's passing in late July, I didn't pay much attention to it at the time. Of course, that was right in the midst of the Rove-Plame brouhaha and the Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court. It kind of slipped under the radar a bit.

While I am loath to support much that comes out of the NRA, I think the basis for this legislation is reasonable. Why should gun manufacturers be held accountable for what happens with their legally-manufactured product once it leaves the factory? The fact is, guns are made to be shot. And handguns, in particular, are made to be shot at people. That's just reality. So, if a gun is stolen from a lawfully-entitled gun owner and used to murder someone, should the manufacturer of that handgun be held liable for damages? I don't see how any reasonable person can argue that it should be held liable under those circumstances.

That said, I am concerned that the legislation goes too far to shield firearm manufacturers from legitimate claims of negligence. An example of this would be a pallet of handguns that is improperly secured by the manufacturer and then stolen. Suppose a handgun from that stolen pallet is used to commit a murder. In this case, I think there's a legitimate case for charges of negligence on the part of the manufacturer if it can be proven that the manufacturer was at fault in the theft of the firearms. I think that's potentially a legitimate case of negligence.

Another example would be if a firearm kills someone due to faulty mechanical operation of the weapon - a product defect, if you will. In the event that a product defect is suspected to have inadvertently caused the death of someone, I think that should consititute legitimate grounds for legal action against the manufacturer.

In both of these examples, the rule of case law in front of a judge/jury should prevail. Let the legal system determine if the manufacturer is at fault. But where no reasonable fault or negligence can be uncovered - that is, a standard shooting with no unusual circumstances involved - then I do believe that firearm manufacturers should not be held liable for the actions of an individual operating the gun. In cases such as these, the individual should be held accountable, not the manufacturer.

I'm not quite sure how far-reaching this legislation is in terms of providing complete immunity to firearm manufacturers. I would hope that it doesn't preclude legitimate claims of negligence. That would be a travesty. It also could provide manufacturers with a false sense of security if they believe that quality assurance becomes less important without the possibility of legal recourse against defective products that kill or maim. Sometimes the mere threat of legal action can inspire production scrutiny that can minimize or prevent product defects. Putting firearms that jam during combat into U.S. troops' hands would be an enormous problem. Perhaps that's a risk the NRA and the U.S. Senate are willing to take. I think that's unfortunate.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Can OLN Help Rescue NHL?

As a long-time, ardent hockey fan, I'm looking forward to the return of the NHL after a year's absence caused by the owner's lockout of the players. A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place, new rules designed to open up the game are set to be enacted and - hopefully - a rejuvenated group of players is preparing to launch an exciting return to the ice.

What the new NHL won't have is its longstanding television contract with ESPN. Instead, the NHL will be moving its cable/satellite network affiliation over to the relatively unknown OLN, formerly called the Outdoor Life Network. Best known, I suppose, for carrying Lance Armstrong's pursuit of Tour de France immortality, OLN and its parent company - ComCast - are trying to develop a sports network that eventually may compete with the likes of ESPN.

ESPN had the right to match OLN's offer to the NHL, but they declined to do so yesterday. Essentially, it came down to the NHL either taking less money from ESPN to get greater exposure or taking the better financial offer on a less prominent network. The NHL took the money. Only time will tell if they made the right decision. Over fifteen years ago, the NHL elected to take more money from SportsChannel instead of sticking with ESPN. In the process, the NHL cut its cable viewership by about 80%, since very few cable systems carried SportsChannel. Good short-term decision to grab the bucks; bad long-term decision because the sport virtually disappeared from many fans' televisions for several years.

ESPN had tired of the NHL's dismal TV ratings in recent years. In fact, re-runs of poker matches from Vegas were getting higher ratings than professional hockey. So ESPN decided it didn't need the NHL any more. Ultimately, it may benefit the NHL to have a fledgling broadcast partner that is eager to showcase the sport as its crown jewel. If they also focus on presenting the league in high definition, something that will improve the viewing experience for a lightning fast sport played with a relatively tiny black puck, then the NHL may once again join the other major pro sports leagues in terms of fan interest and television viewership. Again, time will tell.

While the long lockout left me a bit wary and skeptical of the NHL's return, I have begun to regenerate my interest and excitement for the sport. I just renewed my season tickets for the Dallas Stars this afternoon. It won't be long before the puck drops on a new season and on a league looking for a spark. Hopefully the new OLN agreement will help to ignite that spark.

Game On!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Republicans Criticize War Effort

What?! Republicans have begun to criticize the Iraq War? Are they finally seeing through the folly that this administration has unleashed on its own troops?

Here's what U.S. Representative Tom Delay had to say:

"You can support the troops but not the President."

And here's what Fox News "personality" Sean Hannity had to say:

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life."

Huh? Did they really say that? Are the right wing blowhards finally coming to their collective senses on Iraq? Has Cindy Sheehan's courageous attempt to meet with President Bush finally turned the tide on support for the war?

Well, not exactly. On Air America today, Randi Rhodes read these comments and others that many Republican leaders were making..........several years ago after President Bill Clinton committed U.S. troops to Bosnia. These comments also appeared last week on DailyKos. Needless to say, the hypocrisy is striking if not surprising.

Not long ago, many will remember, the Republican Party platform decried far-flung military engagements and sought to bring U.S. forces closer to home. Clearly, they have abandoned that mantra, supposedly in the name of terrorism. Of course, the Iraq conflict had nothing to do with terrorism. But I digress...

Nice to see that the Hypocrite Party...I mean...the Republican Party is standing by its ideals. They're so full of crap!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Troops Sold Down the River

I just caught The Daily Show from last night and saw the segment about Cindy Sheehan. Of course, all of the right wing pundits from Fox News are calling her a nut case and a shill for the left, etc., etc.

Personally I think it's a shame that more parents of troops killed in Iraq are not doing the same thing. For crying out loud, she lost her son in a war that had no business being fought...a war that has had so many justifications for it that I've lost count. Our government is entrusted with a precious gift, namely all of the men and women who are willing to VOLUNTEER not only their time and effort BUT THEIR LIVES to serve and protect their beloved country. And what does this administration do? It sells them down the river. Actually, it has sold them down two rivers: the Tigris AND the Euphrates. It has sacrificed the good will and integrity of our armed forces for a boondoggle war. How many Cindy Sheehans, on behalf of the Casey Sheehans who are no longer around to offer their points of view, does it take before people understand that we've all been sold a bill of goods by the Bush administration? They have failed the troops.

Cindy Sheehan should be seen as a hero who is willing to put her name and integrity on the line so that no other families have to endure what she has endured. Not for the "noble cause" that Bush and company continue to spout. There is nothing noble about it at all. It's a sham, and in the process a precious commodity - our volunteer armed forces - has been sacrificed. How very sad.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lefty Takes Another One

Nice to see Phil Mickelson pick up his second career major tournament victory with a final putt win over Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington this morning at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. "Lefty" is still a long way back of Tiger Woods' ten majors (not to mention Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors), but he's beginning to pick up some steam by winning two of the last eight major tournaments. The next few years could see Woods and Mickelson as frequent combatants for these coveted titles. That's good for the game of golf, and even better for the television networks and sponsors.

Next up...the 2006 Masters.

This Modern World does

This Modern World at has a timely take on the torture...I mean...COMFORT issue.

Ya just gotta despise those "terror-loving liberal elitists!" In fact, I believe a retired U.S. Air Force General recently blamed these "shrill leftists" for the lack of terrorist attacks in the United States. Who do they think they are, anyway!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Little PhotoShop of Horrors

So, apparently General Richard B. Myers, among others in the Pentagon and the Bush Administration, believes that the release of additional photos depicting the attrocities at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq will invite the wrath of Muslim extemists. As if their current wrath is not wrath enough.

I find it interesting that Myers believes the photos will flame the extremists' (nee terrorists') propaganda machine. But is it really propaganda if it's true? Perhaps. But, quite honestly, we as Americans need to come completely clean on this issue if we hope to retain any shred of credibility in the world. Out of one side of our collective mouth we espouse the long-held tenets of freedom and democracy. Then, as we've seen through the Abu Ghraib prism, we seem to act in a way that defiles the very notion of freedom and human rights, not to mention human decency. It appears that humane treatment of others is our mantra only when it serves our purposes. That, my friends, is called hypocrisy. And don't think for a minute that the rest of the world doesn't view this hypocrisy with absolute scorn. As well they should.

Is it the right thing to do to release the most graphicly horrific of the Abu Ghraib photos? Will it serve to increase the danger level for U.S. forces in Iraq? Or, will it shed new light on the origin of the orders to carry out such brutality? Perhaps the answer to all of these questions is YES. The aftermath may be ugly, but if we as a nation believe that the photos depict the proper way to treat others in this world, then perhaps we have it coming.

Certainly, I think I can speak for most Americans by saying that the acts depicted in the photos - which I, of course, have not seen - are vile and intolerable. No human being should be treated in such a manner...ever. I also don't believe for a second that the actions were merely those of misguided, lower level soldiers who were improperly trained. Sooner or later, it must be apparent that these actions were encouraged by senior level military intelligence officers and Pentagon officials. They are the ones who must be held accountable. And they must be held accountable by every proud American who KNOWS that people should not be treated like that. A government that condones or encourages such actions shames all of us. That's not America. At least, that's not my America.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Was 9/11 Part of the Plan for War?

I've long believed that the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001, may have been clandestinely linked to certain elements within the U.S. government. The devastating attacks, combined with the neo-conservative movement's need for a justification to go to war in Iraq, seemed to create an awfully CONVENIENT collision of fateful events. Without such an attack on U.S. soil, there's no way that U.S. public opinion EVER would have supported sending 100,000+ troops to the Middle East to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein and engage in what amounts to nation-building. Absolutely no way. The neo-conservatives who wanted to pursue this course of action needed another Pearl Harbor. And they got it. But did they know in advance that they were going to get it? Did they somehow ASSIST in getting it? I have a hunch that there may be something to this.

While the proverbial "smoking gun" remains to be found (indeed, it may never be found, assuming it even existed in the first place), the latest story about the 9/11 hijackers and who in the government knew what appears to offer some very intriguing possibilities.

By the sound of it, a little-known task force within the Pentagon's military intelligence unit may have known about Mohammed Atta and three other eventual 9/11 hijackers, as well as their alleged links to al Qaeda, long before the horrible airborne attacks were unleashed. In fact, it appears that this information was known more than a YEAR in advance of 9/11/01. But for some unknown reason, certain powers-that-be within the Pentagon put the kibosh on releasing this information to law enforcement authorities, namely the FBI.

It will be interesting to see this story unfold. Perhaps it will go nowhere. Or, perhaps this initial nugget merely scratches the surface of what's to come. While I tend not to get overly worked up by unfounded conspiracy theories, the Bush administration's desire to wage war in Iraq pre-dated the 9/11 attacks. And neo-conservatives within and with longtime ties to the Pentagon - including our esteemed Vice President Dick Cheney (former Secretary of Defense under Bush I) - long have advocated proactive military action in the Middle East in order to assert U.S. domination of the region. Could these neo-conservative elements have "greased the skids" and encouraged - or funded - the vicious attacks that inspired the U.S. to go to war?

Stay tuned. This could get interesting. Very interesting, indeed.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Use Native American Mascots for Positive Influence

Regarding the native American mascot issue, I think many in the native American community are taking the wrong approach. Certainly, I agree that the more pejorative terms such as "Redskins" and "Redmen" as well as the goofy caricatures should be retired for good. These do belittle and demean native Americans. (Actually, I kind of think they serve to demean all of us, but I digress.)

However, I do believe that the more honorable names and tribal designations have a lot of value - and could provide native Americans with a wonderful opportunity to keep their tribes top-of-mind among many Americans. In fact, why don't they work WITH the universities and teams to use their names to educate others about native American history and issues? If we simply eliminate their tribal references from our everyday life, which is exactly what would happen, then they cease to have relevance at all. That would be terrible.

Especially with the colleges and universities, it's a perfect opportunity to promote education, scholarship and charitable giving to benefit the native American population. Certainly, universities such as Florida State and Utah have taken the time and effort to engage and gain the support of the Seminole and Ute tribes, respectively. Others should do the same. If not for these universities' nicknames, would most of us have any awareness of the Seminole or Ute tribes? Probably not.

Although I am not a native American, one would think that they would not want to completely wipe out virtually any daily reference to their tribes. They should use it as an opportunity to PROMOTE rather than hide their vast, rich heritage.

As a side note, I went to a high school in California whose nickname was - alternately - the Scots, the Highlanders or the Clan (with a C, you'll note). The mascot was a Scottish bagpiper. As a first-generation American of Scottish descent, I wasn't humiliated or ashamed of the association. On the contrary, I took pride in it and viewed it as a celebration of my heritage, not a derision of it. Hopefully, native Americans can do the same with nicknames and mascots that portray their heritage in a positive light.

That's my two cents on the issue, anyway.