Saturday, February 27, 2010

More Thoughts on the Olympics

There are two days left and the U.S.A. has a solid lead in the overall medal count -- 34 for us, 27 for Germany, 21 for Canada. However, we've slipped behind in the gold medal count. I would like to see us finish with the most golds, but even if we don't, I know we have nothing to complain about. This is by far our most successful Winter Games, and we have a good chance to break Germany's record for most medals in a single Winter Games.

It turns out my worries about how our hockey team would do against Finland were unfounded. Ringing up six goals in the first period is something I have not seen in years of watching hockey. Doing it against that good a team, and chasing a goalie like Kiprusoff out of the game barely ten minutes in, is something nobody could have expected.

Now we have a dream match for the gold medal game -- U.S.A. versus Canada tomorrow afternoon. What a way to close things out! We have already beaten Canada once during these Olympics, and my overly analytical side thinks it will be almost impossible to do it twice, considering the strength of their roster and the fact they will be playing on home ice. But I also know that our guys have the right skills and attitude to pull it off, and my patriotic side keeps thinking how poetically justified it would be for Team U.S.A. to win gold this year to mark the 50th Anniversary of The Forgotten Miracle.

More on hockey: How sweet is it that, in the four Olympics since professionals have been allowed to play, we and Canada are the only countries out of hockey's "big six" to make it to the gold medal game more than once? The United States is the world's greatest nation, but there's nothing wrong with continental pride.

And, even more on hockey (sort of): I love how Canada's Olympic officials flipped off the planet's hypocritical snoots who criticized how their women's hockey team reveled after winning gold. That is exactly how people from the free world should react. Too bad our own Olympic Committee has dropped the ball when it comes to such things.

And lastly, this: I am tired of hearing skiers moan about the conditions on the mountain. Your sport is skiing, after all. Dealing with bad conditions is an integral part of it, and those who can not do so don't deserve to win. I even heard some people acting disgruntled that the snow which fell this week was wet. You are in the Pacific Northwest, for God' sake, of course the snow there is not going to be dry Rocky Mountain powder.

Actually, this is last: Watch the games these last two days, root for America, and enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thoughts on the Olympics So Far

Since the U.S. is not traditionally strong in the Winter Games, watching our athletes do so good the last 10½ days -- for the second Winter Games in a row -- has been very satisfying. As of the moment I am typing this, we lead the overall medal count with 31 (ahead of Germany’s 26 and Norway’s 19) and are in a three-way tie for most gold medals (we, Germany, and Canada have eight apiece).

One of my favorite things about these Olympics has been watching our men’s hockey team assert itself as a true force. Heading into the semifinals, Team U.S.A. is the only one not to have lost a game. But I am getting very nervous about the way everyone is taking it for granted we will face Team Canada for the gold, while nobody is talking about the fact we have to get by Finland first. Last time I checked, the Finns are the defending silver medalists while we are defending nothing-ists, and their roster is chock full of NHL stars like Teemu Selanne and Miikka Kiprusoff. We have done very good, but are still a long way from winning a medal…and a long, long way from winning gold.

Speaking of hockey -- and how much work lies ahead for Team U.S.A. -- how about Team Canada last night? They didn’t just beat the Russians, they kicked the living shit out of them. If we face the Canadians again, I want to beat ’em again, but I took some continental pride in the way the way took the fight right to the Russians from the second Dan Boyle leveled Alexander Ovechkin. Kind of proved the old cliché that Europeans are into fancy skating while North Americans are into manly beat-downs.

And lastly, I have to say this because nobody else will: Apolo Anton Ohno is a bit overrated. I like him, and I do appreciate that he has won seven medals in his career, but I want to vomit when the eunuchs who now pass for sports journalists start getting gushy and calling him America’s “most decorated” Winter Olympian. He has won two gold medals in three Olympics. But Bonnie Bair won five golds in the same number of Olympics, and Eric Heiden won five golds in just one. Three other Americans participating this year -- Shaun White, Shani Davis, and Lindsey Vonn -- have appeared in fewer Olympics that Ohno but have already matched his number of golds, and two of those three (Davis and Vonn) also have non-golds on their resume.

There are a few more days to go. Let them be good, and may America’s success continue!

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Leader Like No Other

He is called The Father of Our Country. Everybody knows the image of his face that was memorialized on the dollar bill, and everybody knows he was America’s first president. Most people know he was a general in the Revolutionary War and that he led colonial troops to victory over the British. But beyond that, few people know anything about George Washington, so with today being his 278th birthday, here are a few facts.

Though Washington was not born poor, he was also not born into the elite like most people assume. He was 11 years old when his father died, and in his young adulthood he worked as a land surveyor.

Some 20 years before the Revolutionary War, Washington fought heroically for the British in the French and Indian War.

Based on his role as a brigadier general in the Monongahela Expedition of 1758, he is considered a major player in the founding of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Throughout the Revolutionary War his troops were greatly outnumbered and underequipped, and experienced defeat more often than triumph. But his intelligence, especially as manifested in his knack for trickery and espionage, led the way to ultimate victory. His crossing of the Delaware River is a classic example of him outwitting the enemy in the face of imminent disaster.

Washington became the nation’s first president after a unanimous vote of the electoral college in 1789. He was so revered that many wanted him to be king, and he probably would have kept getting re-elected for as long as he sought re-election. However, after finishing his second term he chose not to run again, because he thought that one man holding executive power for a long time ran counter to America’s founding principles and was not in America’s best interests. This was an unprecedented abdication of power at the time, and its vivid example served to solidify the founding and put America’s limited-government experiment on the right course.

Modern day America-bashers like to denigrate Washington’s stature by pointing out that he owned slaves. However, of the Founding Fathers who owned slaves, Washington was the only one to free them. His will accomplished that (upon his wife’s death) and established means by which they were provided for and given educations so they could become self-sufficient.

In the interest of getting information “straight from the horse’s mouth,” here are some of the things he wrote and said during his time on earth:

The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army…We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, ’till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all…

There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.

Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.

True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation.

I am embarked on a wide ocean, boundless in its prospects, and in which, perhaps, no safe harbor is to be found.

Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.

I look forward, with a kind of political faith, to scenes of national happiness, which have not heretofore been offered for the fruition of the most favored nations. The natural, political, and moral circumstances of our nascent empire justify the anticipation.

I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of one’s life, the foundation of happiness or misery.

’Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.

Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.

Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.

My manner of living is plain, a glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready, and such as will be content to partake of that are always welcome.

A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.

Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence.

Note: This post is almost identical to the one published last year, and other than updating the number of years that have passed since Washington's birth, none of the changes have anything to do with the facts.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


...I gazed up at a skyscape that looked like it came straight out of Lord of the Rings. Just where the pinkish hue of the lower sky gave way to cobalt blue above, three figures were laid out beside each other like a celestial ellipsis, each of them icy white and starkly visible. On the left was the start of a distant contrail being formed as I watched, while Venus shone brightly in the middle and a waxing crescent moon hung suspended on the right...The only sound was that of the dawn wind blowing softly. I again found myself feeling sorry for those who don’t realize that similar moments are waiting to be had by them, every day, if only they would take time to notice the vast Creation in which we exist. (January 2008)

I didn’t have my camera with me to capture the image that morning, but I will never forget how the sky looked. I was hiking in the Cypress Creek Preserve north of Tampa, and was so moved that I wrote the above passage into my still-unfinished book. Today, I am remembering that morning while trying to write this unconventional post.

If you’ve read enough of this blog, you know I love to travel. As I see it, travel is composed of two aspects. On the one hand, there is the physical act of leaving home and going somewhere else. On the other, there is the mindset of letting go of your daily worries and immersing yourself in the beauties and joys of wherever you are in the world. The latter aspect is more important, because without it, all the physical traveling you do will be wasted.

So what does the sky have to do with all this elementary psychobabble? Simply put, it offers an instant vacation of the mind that is available to all of us at all times. The sky is stunning to look at and awesome to behold, yet people rarely pay attention to it. Check out the view below, which I captured on my iphone camera while driving to work one morning. Noticing it made me feel positive and less rushed, and the feeling lasted all day.

No matter how old we are, we tend to get stuck in the child’s way of thinking “the sky is blue.” But in reality, the sky is sometimes orange, sometimes filled with leaden clouds the color of coal, and when it is overcast, it might be ashen gray or pearly white.

At night the sky is black, and out in the country, away from city lights, a blizzard of stars punctures that blackness with innumerable points of light. When the moon is bright, the night sky serves as a dark canvas. Images in the foreground stand out against it, as did this forest when I camped on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee:

Even when the sky is the “usual” pale blue we immediately think of, it is still beautiful. I took the next picture in Wyoming in 1989. At first it seems to be a portrait just of the Hayden Valley and the ridges beyond -- but it would be nothing without that expansive sky. The more I have looked at this picture over the years, the more I have come to think of it as a skyscape rather than a landscape, and the more I wish my 18-year-old self had noticed what stretched above me when I took it.

To illustrate how much the sky changes based on the amount of moisture, and the angle of the sun’s rays, and the direction you are facing, consider the next two photos. They were both taken in Hernando County, Florida, shortly after the sun dropped below the horizon. But the first was taken on an especially cloudy day looking west (i.e., in the direction of the sunset) while the second was on a day of average cloudiness looking east.

And do you notice how the second photo puts the lie to the notion that “sky blue” automatically means pale blue?

So again, where am I going with this? I just think that if people would take time to look up and appreciate the heavens, they would feel less stress no matter where they are or what they are doing. But instead, much like me in Wyoming, most people fail to appreciate the sky even when they are on vacation.

If we would just remember to glance up and ponder it every day, we would get more good vibes and life itself might start to feel like a vacation. Call me crazy, but that’s what I believe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

et ceteras

Everybody I know above the age of 7 or 8 knows the word corps is pronounced “core.” Even if some of them haven’t heard the word corpsman, they would know it is pronounced “core-man” when they saw it print, especially when used in a military context. But the same is not true for the allegedly brilliant Barack Obama. During the National Prayer Breakfast last week, he pronounced it “corpse-man” -- twice! And the MSM said nothing about it. Do you think they would have stayed mum had it been a Republican that misspoke so badly? (You can watch it here.)

Until last week, Washington, D.C. had experienced just 12 individual snowfalls of more than a foot deep in 140 years, but now it has seen two such storms in several days’ time. The city’s record for most snow in a season -- which had stood for 111 years -- has already been broken with winter only a little more than half over, and the same thing is happening in many other places throughout America. Here in Florida, record cold waters are killing record numbers of snook and manatee, and Tampa recently went 10 straight days without the daytime high reaching 60 degrees (the previous record was 7 days and had stood since 1956). Global warming, anyone?

As you know, many in the MSM have their knickers in a twit over the Prius recall. On the one hand, I think Toyota is being unfairly attacked and I automatically sympathize with them. They spent decades earning their reputation as the world’s most dependable automaker, and should not have that reputation sullied because of a defect they are proactively fixing. But on the other hand, I find it somewhat amusing that the Prius -- the one vehicle Toyota produces to allow liberals to project their greener-than-thou delusions while driving down the road -- is their only PR blemish.

And lastly, a personal note. I got up from the computer last Saturday and sat down on the couch, where Sarah was watching a DVR’d movie from The Disney Channel. She moved over and grabbed my arm, then draped it around her and snuggled against my side, and we watched the rest of the movie together. That was a silent act that spoke volumes about priorities, and I will be sure to remember it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rising Tide

Over the years, a big source of irritation for us conservatives has been the way the Republican Party establishment falls for the idea that it must run "moderate" candidates in order to win elections.

We point out that when conservatives run on conservative principles, they win. We point out that the folks who most loudly peddle the "Republicans must run moderates" idea are enemies of the Republican Party, and therefore any "advice" they offer is not intended to help it. Yet over the last several years the Republican establishment has ignored us -- and, voila!, it was over those years that the party withered and fell from power.

But now the tide is turning.

For quite some time, Florida Governor Charlie Crist has been held up as the kind of moderate who could save the GOP. Blessed with a perennial tan, an ability to seem busy while doing very little, and a gift for sounding smart despite saying almost nothing of substance, he is a consummate politician -- one who can make himself sound conservative by uttering phrases like "fiscally conservative" and "responsible spending," even as he appeases liberals by signing up for anti-global warming crusades and obediently suckling from the federal teat.

The problem for Crist is that the more time he has spent in the governor's mansion, the more obvious his charade has become, and the citizens of my home state have caught on.

When he announced that he would run for the U.S. Senate, everybody in the national press, and almost everybody in the Florida press, assumed he was a shoo-in. With a history of well-heeled support, he possessed campaign funds too vast to count. He was the incumbent governor, whereas Marco Rubio, his challenger for the Republican nomination, was a former member of the state House of Representatives who was unknown outside his district. Crist came from a connected family whose successes go back generations, whereas Rubio was the son of immigrants. Less than nine months ago, polls showed Crist ahead by 46 points.

Then came summer, when the full force of Obama's liberalism became evident and the grass roots caught fire. People grew wary of the way Crist canoodled with Obama. They realized that his environmentalist fetishes are likely to lead to the kind of job-killing policies that would obliterate any good that might otherwise come from his on-again, off-again fiscal restraint. Suddenly, Crist's pubic feuds with insurers looked less like concern for citizens, and more like a populist ploy played from left of center.

Rubio offered a contrast by embracing limited government and doing so without apology. Whereas Crist's heroes from political history are murky, Rubio openly admires the ascent of Ronald Reagan, which dethroned the moderate wing of the GOP as personified by Gerry Ford.

People responded. A full month before summer ended, the 46-point gap between Rubio and Crist had narrowed to less than 30. Rubio continued to chip away steadily and surely, and shortly before Christmas, polls showed the race to be a tie.

Then came the political earthquake of January, when Massachusetts elected Scott Brown; i.e., when one of the most solidly Democrat states in America placed a Republican in the same Senate seat that for the prior 47 years had been held by one of the most solidly liberal Democrats in history. No other political event in my adulthood has so vividly illustrated the public's opinion of the federal government.

Now, in this first week of February, two separate polls show Rubio not only leading Crist, but leading him by double digits. And even more ominously for liberals, both of them lead the likely Democrat nominee by double digits. This shows that no matter what, Floridians don't want a Democrat; and given a choice between a conservative Republican and moderate Republican, they want the conservative. And don't forget that Florida is a crucial swing state that voted for Obama in 2008. (If you want to read about the polls I just mentioned, you can do so here, here and here.)

There is a long way to go between now and the primary, and even longer between now and the general election, but the tide has turned against liberalism, and it is lifting conservatism as it rises. Let's hope the Republican establishment understands what is happening and does not allow this opportunity to go to waste.