Archive for News/Current Events

Tragedy In Tucson

Posted in News/Current Events, Politics, Rants with tags , , , , , on January 8, 2011 by thelasthonestman

The saddest news today came out of Tucson, Arizona where Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona the target of an assassination attempt while speaking to a crowd in front of a Safeway grocery store.  The forty year-old Giffords was seriously wounded by the gunman, remaining in critical condition as of late Saturday night, while six others — including federal judge John Roll and a nine year-old girl — were killed and nineteen innocents victims were wounded senselessly.

The suspect — whose cowardice makes him unworthy of my referring to him by any other name than “the lunatic” — was subdued by two members of the crowd after his attack (both who are quiet heroes on this day), though officials are investigating the possibility of his being aided by a 2nd individual.

This is a terrible event, and everyone’s prayers should be for a speedy recovery for all of those who survived this monster’s acts.  The bigger question that will be asked in the next few days by those in the media, and by normal people everywhere, will be “Why?”

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people already speculating about motives and reasons, well before all of the facts are known.  Early suggestions were that the suspect was a right-wing radical, possibly upset at Gifford’s support of the Health Care Act or stem cell research.  However, there have been later reports from people who knew the suspect that he was  “left wing, quite liberal, and oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy” — pretty much the exact opposite.  Indeed, Giffords record placed her firmly in what could be described as the political middle — she’s considered a Blue dog Democrat who doesn’t vote lock-step with her party, and she voted against Nancy Pelosi in the recent House election for Minority Leader.

Assassination attempts of elected officials don’t happen with regularity in this country like they do in some others — other than a failed attempt on Missouri Governor Jay Nixon back in September of last year, I believe you have to go back to the attempt on President Reagan’s life by John Hinkley in 1981 to find the last time an elected official this highly ranking targeted.  My hope is that what we saw today doesn’t represent the beginning of an ominous trend.

We ALL need look no further than this

It’s true that we live in one of the more divisive times in our country’s history, and that a lack of civility in political debates has reached an all-time low, both by elected officials and the people who support them.  I understand the anger — I’m often angry and frustrated myself by the actions of those who’ve been put in charge of our nation’s future, particularly those (and there are many) who are sacrificing our nation’s future for their own political gain.

But this a reminder to those who begin pointing fingers in the next few days as to who to blame — we all are, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, for refusing to respect the views of others that may differ from ours, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them.  It’s all our fault for demonizing our political opponents instead of trying to understand, and then to work with them.   And if that’s a lesson that isn’t learned soon, the tragedy of today — God help us all — might sadly be repeated again in the future.  It’s up to all of us to improve the discourse, stop the infighting, and start working together.  We owe it to ourselves and our country.  We owe it to people like Gabrielle Giffords.

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Weekend Quickies

Posted in College Basketball, College Football, Comic Books, Entertainment, Movies, News/Current Events, Personal, Sports, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2010 by thelasthonestman

It’s a hit-and-run update this weekend (but thankfully not like the hit-and-run my wife suffered earlier in the week), as my personal schedule gets a little tighter — though I’m not going to complain about the reason.  I’m one of the lucky ones out there, as I’ve just picked up some supplemental income in the form of a new job.  That makes me one of the fortunate ones in a country where unemployment is now sitting at just under 10% and where unemployment is at a seven-month high — even as we’re smack dab in the middle of what’s supposed to be the biggest retail time of the year.

The Economy will be fine! We're going to recover any day now! Nothing to see here! Nothing to see!

It’s not just retailers shedding jobs, however — industry, financial institutions, and the government are all cutting their workforce — which makes some of the people making claims that we’re entering a recovery look about as clueless as the late Leslie Nielsen telling us there’s “nothing to see here.”  We’re a long way from getting to where we want to economically, and so long as our Congress continues to work in their own self-interests (and the self-interests of the people supporting their re-election bids) and we continue to ignore the problems that aren’t going away — the deficit, a loss of our manufacturing base, and the lack of creating new technologies to spur new industries, just for starters — then we’re going to continue heading in the wrong direction.

— Speaking of the deficit, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that while people being polled these days are in favor or cutting the deficit, viewing it (correctly) as a major problem our country is facing — they largely want the deficit to be slashed while not touching the programs that are important to them.  Well, of course.  It’s that kind of narrow thinking — and a belief of entitlement that our parents and grandparents never had, but that current generations have come to embrace — that’s led us into the quagmire we’re in now.  And unless everyone is prepared to ante up in the form of sacrificing something, then the problem won’t ever get fixed — until as a nation we find ourselves truly looking into the abyss (cue ominous music).

— I saw a large uptick in the traffic here over the last week, and a large part of it were people being drawn to the site searching for Jimmy Valvano-related items.  Jimmy V Week just ended, and for those of you who somehow aren’t familiar with the story, The Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded by ESPN and the late coach Jimmy Valvano.  Over it’s over 18 years, the foundation has raised over $100 million for cancer research.  I wrote a piece about it last year around this time that included Valvano’s inspirational speech from the 1993 ESPY awards — yow owe it to yourself to listen to it if you’ve never heard it (and even if you already have).  Click here for the piece.

"Someday, the Heisman Trophy Club will just pretend I never got this."

— As we head into the weekend and the announcement of the Heisman Trophy winner on Saturday, my friend Steven pointed me over to direction of the Heisman Trophy Winners list at the official Heisman Trophy website — for a good chuckle (and once you’ve finished marveling at the days when players from Army, Yale, and Princeton could actually win he award) scan to end of the list and to the winners of this past decade.  See anyone missing?

While we’re at it, maybe we can take bets on whether or not Cam Newton will be conspicuously absent from the list as well in another five or six years.  If I had to guess, Vegas has that result off the board.

— And finally, the trailer for the new movie from Marvel Studios — Thor (based on the comic book hero of the same name) debuts today (at 6:00 PT).  All I can say is that, if the footage I saw that was leaked a few months ago is any indication, Marvel is hitting it out of the park again so far as their adaptations go.  With the Captain America and Avengers movies forthcoming, it’s a great time to be a comic book fan!

As soon as the trailer is available, I’ll try to get it up here — so check back later tonight!

— With that, I hope everyone has a great weekend — and I’ll see you back here next week.

RIP, Leslie Nielsen

Posted in Entertainment, Movies, News/Current Events with tags , , , , on December 1, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Lost in the commotion of the beginning of the week was the sad news that one of my favorite comedic actors, Lesxlie Nielsen, had passed away at the age of 84 due to complications from pneumonia.

My first introduction to Nielsen was in the classic spoof film, Airplane!.  What made the film even funnier at the time — and an element that I didn’t get on the first viewing as a kid — was the hilarious playing-against-type performances by Nielsen and other actors known for their serious roles, such as Robert Stack, Peter Graves, and Lloyd Bridges.  Nielsen re-invented his career with his brilliant performance as Dr. Rumack, and he would take his straight man role to even greater heights as the bumbling Lt. Frank Drebin in the trilogy of Naked Gun movies.

A heartfelt thanks to Nielsen for all of the laughs he provided us.  And for your enjoyment, some clips — including the rarely-seen Police Squad! television series, on which The Naked Gun films were based.

Quick Thoughts For A New Week

Posted in News/Current Events, NFL Football, Politics, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Being too busy to post on a daily basis — or even sometimes a weekly basis — makes it a pain to keep tabs with so many of the things going on around the world that I’d like to comment on when they’re still fresh on everyone’s mind.  But it is what it is.  That just means, instead of in-depth commentary from yours truly on any given subject, you’re left with more of the Cliff’s Notes version of what I think in its place.  But that’s better than nothing, right?  Right?  Nah — don’t answer that …

brad— In today’s news, Brad Childress is gone as the Minnesota Vikings head coach.  Like the firing of Wade Phillips a couple of weeks ago, this move seemed long overdue.  While it comes too late to save the Vikings’ season — frankly, even if it had been made weeks ago, Minnesota would still be headed for a seat on their couch come playoff time — replacing Childress with Leslie Frazier is a step in the right direction for the franchise.

It’ll be interesting to see if Frazier is able to put his stamp on the team or not — and the best way he could do that would be to sit Brett Favre in favor of Tavaris Jackson.  Jackson isn’t anything special, but Favre’s imitation of a turnover machine is absolutely killing the team, and the offense’s over-reliance on Favre’s arm — particularly in the red zone — has been a problem all season.  The best weapon the Vikings have is Adrian Peterson, yet Childress underutilized him all year.  Of course, that decision-making is why he’s unemployed today.

— Speaking of soon-to-be-unemployed head coaches, I was calling for Texans head coach Gary Kubiak to get the axe last year around this time — but he was brought back instead thanks to a meaningless late-season rally last year that left Houston back at .500 on the season.  And not surprisingly, here the Texans are again: 4-6 and pretty much out of the playoff hunt — again.   I have a feeling that even if Houston can put up a late-season winning streak to get back to .500 once more, this time Kubiak won’t be so lucky.

— While we’re on the subject of comebacks, in the news this past week was the stunning declaration from AP that Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, looks to emerge victorious in her election campaign as a write-in candidate against Joe Miller, who previously beat her in the Republican primary.  Murkowski’s apparent victory would make her the first candidate to win a write-in campaign for the Senate since Strom Thurmond in South Carolina in 1954. But Miller and his supporters are not going away quietly, as despite the apparently clear voice of the Alaskan people, the Tea Party candidate has vowed to keep fighting, getting an injunction today in court to halt the election certification.

It’s an embarrassment to Miller, the Tea Party, and the Republican Party that though the result seems pretty clear, they’ll attempt anything in order to reverse the election outcome, such as attempting to disqualify votes for Murkowski due to misspellings of her name by one letter, or votes that reversed her name (Murkowski, Lisa) in the wrote-in space.  I’m wondering how many of Miller’s supporters supported Al Gore’s recount efforts in Florida back in 2000?  I’m guessing none.  The people of Alaska have spoken, and it’s been that they want no part of Miller as their senator.  Miller and his supporters — including Sarah Palin — should take the hint.

— Hopefully, I’ll be a little bit more active here again soon — free time permitting of course.  With the holiday season approaching rapidly, I hope everyone reading this stays safe and enjoys themselves this week and beyond.

Prepare For Things To Get Messy For Big Ben

Posted in News/Current Events, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , on March 11, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Will this be the cover of the 2010 Steelers Media Guide?

So now Big Ben is claiming, in so many words, that “he did not have sex with that woman” (or something along those lines) — the said woman being his accuser in the currently-unfolding sexual assault complaint that Roethlesberger finds himself embroiled in.  However, he does admit to having “sexual contact” with his accuser — at least according to this report by MSNBC.  That’s a nice way of looking at it — by chance, is he getting advice from former President Clinton these days on how to distinguish between sex acts?

All kidding aside, this sordid tale is going to end up as a major black eye for not only Roethlisberger, but for the Steelers and the NFL as well, before it’s all over.  Look, we all know that the average professional athlete sees women throwing themselves at them on a regular basis.  We all know that random sex is pretty much a case of “where and when do you want it?” situation with those athletes as well.  But that doesn’t mean that we want to know all about it and have the private lives of our athletes turned into a version of a “Letters to Penthouse” column either.

You want a great example of a celebrity keeping their private life just that? Look no further than Derek Jeter.

Even if you want to give the benefit of the doubt to Roethlisberger at this point, it’s hard to be anything but extremely critical of his seeming immaturity.  If the stories filtering out about his behavior on the bar circuit are to believed, the Steelers quarterback looks to be living his life with motto of  “I get older, they stay the same age.”   Hitting on coeds in a small-town college bar isn’t anything you’d hear of Derek Jeter doing, is it?  Or showing up in photos half-baked by alcohol?  Jeter lived the bachelor life for a long time, with a veritable all-star lineup of famous beauties coming in and out of his world, and the embarrassing photos and stories we’ve seen of Roethlisberger’s behavior in the last year were something you never saw from someone like the Yankees’ shortstop.  I’m not begrudging Big Ben to fight for his right to party, but a little discretion and common sense deifintely seems to be lacking on his part.

Of course, we may be looking at something far more serious than a frat boy trapped in an adult quarterback’s body.  Roethisberger’s story of this latest dust-up already smells fishy, and (again according to MSNBC) the Steelers’ star is not consenting to another police interview, nor is he willing to provide a DNA sample to investigators (as of yet).  The adage is “innocent until proven guilty”, but the other adage “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” also applies — and in Big Ben’s case, there’s been a whole lot of smoke in the past year.

The interesting thing to me at this point is the lack of comment from the NFL on the matter.  Commissioner Roger Goodell may find himself quickly on the hot seat to discipline Roethlisberger at some point as the situation unfolds, even if the case doesn’t go to trial — even if Roethlisberger is never charged by police.  The Steelers QB is cultivating an image — fair or not — right now of a wealthy athlete who thinks the rules of society don’t apply to him, particularly when it comes to how he treats the opposite sex.  One isolated incident wouldn’t cause this shift of perception — but the disturbing pattern of events that have followed Roethlisberger over the last twelve months (starting with the rape accusation against him by the former Lake Tahoe employee last year) have many people believing that he is a serial offender and already proclaiming him guilty.  Guilty of what?  There’s a segment of the public that isn’t going to wait to find out what.

And considering the hard line that Goodell has taken with other NFL players during his tenure as commissioner, at some point, he’s going to have to address the issue with Roethlisberger — and hand out some sort of punishment — or he’ll be facing some uncomfortable questions about the fairness of the NFL’s conduct policy — and whether or not it’s truly handed out indiscriminately.  With the exception of Jacksonville receiver Matt Jones, all of the players who have been subject to suspensions have been African-American.  Except for current Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (who at the time of his suspension, had already pleaded guilty to federal charges of dog fighting), none of those who’ve been suspended had anywhere near the name recognition of Roethlisberger, nor were they high-profile players at the game’s most visible position.  In addition, none were faced with accusations as serious as Roethlisberger has faced.

Goodell will have to do something at some point, particularly if more ugly details emerge about this latest incident.  Even if he didn’t commit a crime, Roethlisberger is certainly engaging in conduct that has the potential to embarrass and damage the league’s carefully-crafted image — nothing in the NFL policy states that a player has to be convicted in a court of law first in order to face punishment — and if the NFL chooses to turn its head and wait for the mess to simply go away, they’re going to be rightly accused of utilizing a double standard for their “star” players — as well as a double standard when it comes to white athletes behavior aside of that of black ones.    Both would be potential quagmires that I would guess Goodell wants no part of wading through.  If he doesn’t speak up soon, he may find out though that he doesn’t have a choice.

Some People Need A Refresher Course On The Term “Hero”

Posted in News/Current Events, Rants with tags , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by thelasthonestman

In the aftermath of Joseph Stack’s suicide attack into the IRS building in Austin last week, it’s not surprising to see fringe elements of the population celebrating the actions of a clearly disturbed individual; that type of radical, divisive reaction is exactly why groups in the anti-government survivalist movement or the white supremacists, for example (who have already taken to calling Stack a “hero” for what his terrorist act last Thursday) are exactly that:  “fringe elements” of society.

But what’s more surprising — and disturbing — is than any others might be falling in line with that line of thinking.  But there are some, unfortunately, who are.  Stack’s daughter — not surprisingly — called her father a “hero” during a “Good Morning America” interview after the incident, though she has since backtracked on that statement in public interviews.  A Facebook page started in Stack’s honors shortly afterward had added over 2,000 members (though in the grand scheme of things, that number is proportionally almost nothing compared to our overall population).  What’s most concerning to me is the number of people I’ve seen say — whether in print, in person, or on the air — that “what Stack did was wrong … but …”

No, no, no.  There is no “but”.  What Stack did was a violent, unnecessary, and cowardly act that has no defense, and no excuse.  It doesn’t matter if anything he said or believed is or was true, and it doesn’t matter if anything that happened to him along the way was unjustified or not — there’s a right way to go about things, and attempted murder of other innocent people isn’t one of them.

I’m in no way a defender of our government’s behavior in these troubling times.  And I’m sure no one hates seeing the amount of money that gets taken out of a paycheck for taxes more than I do.  But such are the realities of the world we live in, and there’s a way to address the wrongs of our country and our world — but it’s not by killing yourself and trying to kill others to make a statement.  There’s a place to make a statement — and it’s at the ballot box in November.  We all have our chance to make a difference — and that’s by holding our elected officials to higher standards that we should expect them to have, but which have been missing in our elected officials for far too long.  Hold them accountable to actually do their jobs — to work with one another in the best interests of the populations they serve, rather than working for themselves and the special interests and donors that backed them at the expense of their constituents.  That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Math teacher David Benke with police after tackling a gunman during a school shooting

And for all of the people who are using the word “hero” to describe Stack?  Look around you — because not only are you butchering the language by your misrepresentation of the word, but in the process, you’re missing some real-life heroes elsewhere along the way that deserve you accolades a whole lot more.  Like math teacher David Benke, for example.   Benke  is being described as a hero today because he actually did something heroic — he tackled a gunman at Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton, Colorado yesterday afternoon, risking his own life but saving who knows how many others in the process.  Only two students were wounded in the attack, but if not for Benke’s bravery — and that of a second, unnamed teacher who helped to pin the gunman to the ground until help could arrive — the carnage at the school could have been far worse.

Benke risked his life to save people, Stack forfeited his own to try and kill them.  If you can’t tell the difference between the two, then you’ll never understand what the word “hero” actually means.

Wrapping Up The Week That Was

Posted in News/Current Events, Personal, Sports, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Between my battle with the flu and my longer-than-expected look back at the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson fight from 1990, there wasn’t a lot of time this week for much else — but that’s what Fridays are for, right?

— My thoughts this week will be brief, as I have a wake to attend to tonight and the funeral tomorrow of one of my uncles who passed away yesterday.   This uncle was the husband of my aunt who had passed away almost a year ago exactly (I talked about it then here and here), and he’s going to be missed greatly by us all.

I’ve attended far too many funerals lately — such is the case when you’re one of the younger members of a very large family — and as I usually do at these times, I question my own place in the world and wonder about my own mortality.  As always, the lesson for me is to live every day as if it’s my last and with no regrets — and hope I make the world a little better place at the end of that day than it was when it started.  My late uncle certainly did that, and we were all better for having had him in our lives as a result.

— The big news story from yesterday was the suicide attack of  Texas man Joseph Stack,  in which he flew a small plane into the Echelon building in Austin, home to almost 200 IRS employees.  Stark had apparently had problems with the IRS over the years, and the attack — which so far has taken only the life of Stack himself — appears to have been directed at them.

Obviously, no matter what Stack’s problems might have been — whether real or imagined — his course of action was reprehensible.  I noticed that his rambling “manifesto” — a six-page letter detailing all of his grievances — was being posted in its entirety on a number of news web sites, including MSN’s, as of yesterday.  My question is a simple one — why?  Even if there’s a kernel of truth in anything he said, why would any news organization give a platform to a terrorist (and that’s exactly what Stack’s action makes him)?  In doing so, all these news organizations are doing is adding fuel to the fire of the next person to try something similar, comfortable they will be in the knowledge that a violent act at innocents will result in their “message” gaining a widespread, national audience.  Better for such messages to be tossed into the fire where they belong instead.

— Today’s other big news was the press conference by Tiger Woods — and if someone can tell me what the point was supposed to be behind it, I’d sure like to know.  Woods doesn’t owe anyone an apology for his actions — except for his wife and family — and maybe his sponsors.  His behavior was certainly reprehensible enough, but he didn’t say anything today that anyone in the public eye needed to hear — or that surprised anyone in the slightest (if he had come out today and said instead, “Screw it — I’m rich and famous and plan on getting as much tail as I can in the future” — then it would have been noteworthy).

Today’s press conference — with no questions allowed — was a sham and little more than a carefully, crafted public statement.  The only thing that might have been of interest to the sporting world would have been if Woods had announced a upcoming return to the Tour.  Instead we got a whole lot of nothing — and a waste of time for anyone who bothered watching.

— That’s it for my abbreviated take — I’ll be back on Monday.  Enjoy the upcoming weekend.