Monday, September 28, 2009

Outta Here

My backpack is loaded and my hiking boots are waterproofed. And much like the Allman Brothers once sang, I'm goin' to Carolina, won't be long 'til I am there.

I am leaving tonight and am going to disappear into the mountains for a spell. If you know me (or if you have read this blog for this post, or this one or this one) you know this is not the first time I have done such a thing.

Sometime next week -- probably closer to the end than the beginning -- I will blog again. Until then, enjoy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumn Equinox

Some thoughts about autumn on this, its first day:

I love stepping outside on that first morning that fall’s nip is in the air.

I love how changing leaves turn Appalachian mountainsides into fiery palettes of orange, red, and gold.

I love driving winding roads through those mountains, catching glimpse after glimpse of falling leaves as they twirl their way to the ground.

I love cold nights marked by the scent of campfire and the sound of wind in the trees.

I love watching my daughter skip through the pumpkin patch looking for the perfect one to bring home.

I love walking behind her as she trick-or-treats on Halloween night.

I love pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day, and how it sets the ideal tone to start the Christmas season.

I love watching flocks of birds land in Florida at the end of their migration, while others keep flying to points further south.

And last but not least, I love football, especially college games where the fans are loud and the bands are blaring…and most of all, where Auburn is winning and the fight song you keep hearing begins with the line: “War Eagle, fly down the field, ever to conquer, never to yield!”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Legendary Near Misses, Fair and Unfair

It’s time to take a break from political invective and write about something that is all fun and passion: college football.

Okay, I guess college football is political in some respects. And it is no stranger to invective. But whatever.

The first couple weeks of this season have been very intriguing. Here is a look back at the five best teams in history that did not take the national championship.

1. 2004 Auburn Tigers

They are the only team ever to finish 13-0. Including the Sugar Bowl, they won six games against ranked teams and two of those were against BCS qualifiers. They defeated prestigious foes in blowouts (34-10 over Tennessee) as well as last-minute nail-biters (10-9 over LSU). Two of their running backs got drafted in the top five picks of the NFL draft, and their quarterback finished with a 62.9 completion percentage. The Tigers’ curse was that the pollsters had them ranked near the bottom of the Top Twenty at the beginning of the season, and because the two teams ranked atop the preseason standings never lost, they were left out of the title game.

2. 1986 Miami Hurricanes

Part of me thinks this was the greatest team of all time, and another part of me thinks it is only the second best team on this list, and that is what makes college football so much fun. What made the ’86 Canes great was their mix of fearsome talent and unapologetic swagger, led by such future NFL stars as Michael Irvin, Jerome Brown, and Bennie Blades. Their 28-16 pasting of Oklahoma -- in a virtually unheard of regular season meeting of #1 vs. #2 -- brought about the end of the wishbone era. Unfortunately for the Canes, however, Heisman Trophy-winning QB Vinny Testaverde suffered brain cramps during the national title showdown in the Fiesta Bowl, and threw five interceptions…resulting in a loss to Penn State.

3. 1995 Ohio State Buckeyes

The ’95 Bucks returned Ohio State to a position of national prominence by barreling like a tsunami through a regular season filled with big games. They started with four straight victories against good non-conference competition, including a 19-point crushing of Notre Dame. Then they edged Penn State, and then they rolled through the rest of their schedule…until they met their Waterloo, which was playing arch rival Michigan on the road to close the season. They lost 31-23, and disheartened, went on to lose to Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl more than a month later. Three of their players were drafted in the first fifteen picks of the NFL draft.

4. 1994 Penn State Nittany Lions

Coach Joe Paterno was 67 years old and considered conventional and out of-date. But he opened up a pass-laden playbook that had QB Kerry Collins throwing the ball over the field. They finished the regular season undefeated, then cruised past Oregon in the Rose Bowl. But Nebraska also finished undefeated, after having started the season ranked higher…and because of that, Nebraska got the national crown while Penn State was relegated to “honorable loser” status, despite never losing.

5. 1993 Auburn Tigers

How can a team go undefeated in America’s toughest conference and not get a chance to play for the national championship? Well, that’s happened to Auburn twice. Before the 2004 team mentioned above, Auburn fielded another magical squad in 1993. Under first year coach Terry Bowden, they rolled through the season knocking off the likes of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, and they even won during a snowfall in Arkansas. The 38-35 victory over Florida ranks as one of the most exciting contests in the history of Jordan-Hare Stadium. But limited exposure -- previous NCAA sanctions resulted in this team being banned from TV and from bowl games -- caused them to finish #2 behind a one-loss Florida State squad.

Of course, this list is just my opinion. Surely there are other teams -- the 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers and 1991 Florida State Seminoles, to name just two -- that also deserve consideration for it. Bring ’em on.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Medical Care: Part III

This is the third in a series of posts about American medical care and the government’s attempts to meddle in it. Posts about other topics may appear between them. The first two posts can be read here and here.

Wednesday September 9th came. And The Exalted One spoke. And as he spoke, he praised himself, and he lauded the medical care reforms he insists must be passed now -- now! -- even though they are not to take effect for four years. And everything he said was such rubbish that I feel like trotting out that old line about not wanting to dignify something by responding to it.

But when the things he says are so outlandish, not responding to them is difficult.

Barack Obama said the reforms will not add “a dime” to the federal deficit, even though every independent analysis you can find shows that claim to be false. (In my September 12th piece I mistakenly wrote that he said he won’t raise the deficit a “penny,” but at his inflationary pace, what’s the difference?)

He said the reforms will reduce costs -- even as they forbid actuarial pricing, and expand the items covered by insurance, and add millions more people to the rolls. I would be embarrassed to tell such an obvious whopper to a roomful of kindergartners, yet our president does not flinch while telling it to a nation full of adults.

The MSM roundly criticized Joe Wilson for yelling “you lie!” when Obama said that health care legislation would not cover illegal aliens. But Wilson was right. Language that might bar illegals from coverage does exist, but that language is not clear and it applies to only one part of the plan. The rest of the plan is silent on the issue, and when Republicans introduced language that would unambiguously bar illegals from coverage, Democrats voted it down.

Then there is Obama’s most fork-tongued fabrication of all: His lawyerly remark that the reform “will not require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.” Of course none of the proposed legislation says “you must cancel your current plan.” But like I mentioned in Part II, it does contain financial incentives for employers to cancel their group medical plans and dump their employees into the so-called public option. It should send shivers down every spine in America that Obama can be so brazenly dishonest about a topic that is so important and so personal to all of us.

Barack Obama insults the intelligence of the American people every time he opens his mouth. He does it so shamelessly that the only reasonable conclusion for the people to draw is that he looks down on them with sneering contempt. He should be ignored, for nothing he says ever proves true and his actions never match his words.

There are many things that can be done to positively affect the affordability and accessibility of medical care in America, but, by and large, those things involve limiting government and removing the handprints it has already left on our medical marketplace. In other words, those things represent the philosophical opposite of what Obama is trying to do. I intend to spend the next post in this series focusing on some of those things, since I have spent the first three making the point that neither Obama nor Obamacare are worthy of our trust.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

More et ceteras

I ended my last "et ceteras" post a bit prematurely, so here comes another to wrap it up. But first, since the anniversary of 9/11 passed without any specific comment on my blog, please allow me to refer you to my post from last year if you are interested.

You may not have heard that a New York Times reporter, who was covering the war in Afghanistan, was taken hostage by the Taliban a week ago and rescued by British commandos during an early morning raid on Wednesday. In the process, one of the commandos was killed. They deserve our deep gratitude and respect; however, the MSM has given the story very little attention, and the only response by some liberals has been to sit in their plush chairs and criticize the raid for being "bloody." But what else is new?

Some members of the sports media (which is every bit as dim-witted and politically correct as the news media) have piled onto Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor since he voiced support for Michael Vick's opportunity to have a second chance. They have criticized him for using the word "everyone" when he said this: "Not everybody is the perfect person in the world. Everyone does, kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me, I just feel that people need to give him a chance."...The media folk need to shut up. Pryor is 20 years old, was talking off the top of his head, is not used to having a nation of reporters twist his words, and he obviously did not mean that "everyone" is a murderer and thief. His basic point -- that Vick has been criticized more harshly than people who have done far worse, and that because he has served his time he should now have an opportunity to lead a productive life -- shows that he has a better grasp of the American ideal of justice than most reporters do.

And about my last "et ceteras" post, it mentioned that arrest warrants had been issued for 11 members of ACORN, for perpetrating voter fraud. Well, in each of the two days after I published that post, videos were released that showed ACORN members in two separate offices as they dealt with a man and woman. The man told them he was a pimp and intended to bring 14-year-old girls into the country to prostitute for him, and the woman told them that she was a prostitute. After hearing this, ACORN members counseled them on how to falsify tax returns and loan applications in order to receive benefits illegally; instructed the "pimp" to claim the underage prostitutes as dependents; offered a 67% discount to prepare the fraudulent returns for them; and advised them on how to keep a low profile because neighbors might "see stuff" and "call Fox."

By the way, the Democrats have given ACORN a role in tabulating next year's census -- the results of which will have an enormous influence on political power because they will be used to draw congressional districts and apportion electoral votes.

So until next time...remain vigilant and wary.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

et ceteras

No, I have not abandoned the series about medical care that I started last month. But Obama is speaking about that topic tonight, and before writing my next installment I will wait until I have had time to analyze whatever he says. And there are plenty of other things happening that also deserve comment.

On August 4th I wrote a piece that mentioned the plight of Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, a female journalist from Sudan who was arrested for wearing pants and sentenced to 40 lashes with a whip. Two days ago a judge upheld her convinction, but replaced the 40-lash sentence with a $200 fine. True to her convictions, al-Hussein 1) refused to pay the fine, on the grounds that she had done nothing wrong, and 2) opted for the resulting jail sentence as a way to draw attention to the fact that Islamic law is used to oppress women. She is a true champion of human rights in an era filled with charlatans. It is appalling that our media has all but ignored her story.

Arrest warrants were issued today for 11 members of ACORN, for perpetrating voter fraud in Florida. ACORN was paying them to register voters, and they obtained voter registraion cards under fictitious names and under the names of people who were already registered. Over the past two years ACORN members have also been charged with voter fraud in Washington and Pennsylvania. Needless to say, ACORN is a left wing organization.

And I'm signing off early, because I just heard The Exalted One utter absolute bullshit while giving his speech, and now I am angry. He said Obamacare won't add a single penny to the deficit, when everybody who knows anything is aware that it is estimated to add billions of dollars over just the next decade. And then he said that "tax cuts for the wealthy" during the Bush years were "unfunded," when it is widely known that government revenue and the wealthy's share of taxes increased during the Bush years.

We are dealing with the most dishonest president in all of our history, one who makes Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton look like patron saints of verity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Life, Again

Last October our second child died in Erika’s womb. My grandfather died two days later, on Sarah’s fourth birthday. At his funeral we talked about how his arrival in Heaven made him the first family member lucky enough to meet our child.

Barely ten months have passed since that tumultuous weekend, and now we are experiencing a kind of déjà vu. The child we lost last year was conceived after three years of trying everything under the sun and eventually resorting to in vitro fertilization. After the miscarriage, we returned to trying the old fashioned way, but that failed again and again, so we started up another round of in vitro in late July. My sperm successfully fertilized Erika’s eggs, and on August 10th our embryos (three of them) were transferred into her uterus. Home testing showed she was pregnant on the 16th, and office testing confirmed it on the 21st. We were elated. But then a follow-up test on the 25th brought the crushing news that this child has also passed.

Part of me wants to write about the feeling of helplessness that comes from all this.

Another part of me wants to write about how thankful we are to have Sarah.

Part of me wants to write about how we now have an even greater appreciation for the miracle of life, having experienced first-hand how many things must go precisely right just to conceive, and how many more must go precisely right to carry a child to term.

But another part of me seethes with anger over the knowledge that while we do everything right, countless crack whores seem to get pregnant at the drop of a hat.

There is no way to put any of this into words. The feelings are a tangle of contradictions that ebb and flow erratically, and there is no way to make sense of them -- which presents a problem, because for me, putting things in a way that makes sense is the whole purpose of writing.

All I know is that as much as I want to have another child for its own sake -- and to experience anew the thrills of seeing that first smile, watching that first crawl, hearing that first word -- the most important reason I have for wanting another one is so that Sarah will not be an only child. I have a brother and sister, and can not image having been the only non-adult in the household as the years of childhood peeled away. The very thought feels lonely. I think of how horrendous it would be for Sarah if something were to happen to me and Erika, leaving her all alone with no sibling on whom to lean or with whom to share memories of us late at night.

I have no doubt that the universe is the work of a Creator, and no doubt that there is a plan behind this material plain on which we live. I am also certain that each of us has a role to play towards fulfilling that plan, and that we are responsible for finding our role and playing it. The certainty does not, however, make the task any easier.

Tomorrow morning we return to the doctor’s office, bearing questions. And wondering whether that is the right place to seek the answers...