Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Down Upon the Suwannee

We made last weekend a long one by camping in northern Florida, within walking distance of the Suwannee River, from Thursday through Monday. The event was the Suwannee Springfest Music Festival, and while it was far from the first time Erika and I have attended such an event, it was the first time we chose to bring Sarah along. Fortunately, things went well.

The weather was cooperative despite some limited (and mostly nighttime) rains. Other than those times, the sky was clear and the temperatures were what spring is all about: 70’s during the day, 50’s at night. Monday morning, a pair of hawks flew not over, but through our campsite.

And naturally, the music was good. Robert Earl Keen, Texas’s alt-country master, belted out a spectacular Friday night set at a natural amphitheater. Leftover Salmon, my favorite jam band, did the same on Saturday night. Here is a particularly eccentric dude getting down in the amphitheater one afternoon:

Meanwhile, Scythian scorched stages several times with their energetic twist on Celtic and Gypsy tunes; Ruthie Foster and her quartet impressed with their blend of gospel, folk, and reggae; and bluegrass legend Peter Rowan made several appearances.

But what especially helped to make the weekend great were the people we encountered by accident. While we were setting up camp, a six-year-old named Caleb wandered over from a few sites away and started chatting up Sarah. When his mother Jenny came over a few minutes later, we learned that she is a fellow Auburn alum, and that several of her friends would be arriving later. Though they now reside in different places spreading all the way from Birmingham to Baltimore, their common denominator is Pelham, Alabama, where most of them went to high school.

We wound up spending much of the weekend with Jenny and her friends, and their amiable, down-to-earth attitude quickly reminded me of everything I miss about the state where I lived during my college years. Plus, it was a Godsend that most of them have kids, because Sarah was able to have fun with people her age by frolicking in hammocks and helping with their lemonade stand:

On Saturday we hiked a half-mile or so to an abandoned bridge that crosses the Suwannee. Fairly far below, the river’s tea-colored waters flowed swiftly between sand bluffs. The kids tossed sticks off the upstream side of the bridge, then ran to the downstream side and peeked over to watch them get carried away by the current.

It was a relaxing, low-key trip. Erika and I always enjoy our little jaunts, and it means so much that Sarah is able to take part in many of them, like she was this time. But this past weekend was also a much-needed balm in light of some very unwelcome news we have received on the medical front. I won’t bother you with the details, other than to say the news is not life-threatening -- I will simply say that events like Suwannee Springfest are good for the soul, and that next time we go, we hope to meet up again with our newfound Alabamian friends.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Worthy Efforts

For the next several days I will be out of town and intentionally avoiding the computer. Until my next post appears, I want to leave some worthy things on this blog, so here they are:

Revlon Run/Walk for Women

It doesn’t matter whether you are female or male, or whether it is yourself or a loved one who has fought any of the myriad women’s cancers. All of us have been or will be affected by these diseases, and as somebody who has spent years examining disability claims, I am familiar with their capriciousness -- breast cancer, for instance, is even more deadly for young women than for elderly ones.

On May 1st, Revlon will be holding its annual 5-kilometer Run/Walk for Women. Proceeds from this fundraiser go to medical research, in the hope of finding cures. Since it began 13 years ago, it has raised almost $60 million.

I went to high school with Candi Obrentz, who is participating along with her sister and mother. Their personal goal is to raise more than $5,000 in donations, to which end they have set up this page on Revlon’s web site. If you believe in the cause, I encourage you to go there and donate. If you want to personally run or walk in the event, go here.

Trail Therapy

I only met Steve Fugate one time, and it was at the funeral of his son, who was also named Steve. I had met his son a few times because he went to high school with my wife. Then, 11 years ago, he committed suicide while his father was off hiking the Appalachian Trail. People had to track down Mr. Fugate to deliver the news.

The raw, desperate emotions that filled the funeral home were excruciating, even for people like me who knew the deceased only peripherally, and knew his family not at all. I vividly recall watching the father’s bereavement and wondering if he could ever escape the personal hell into which he had been plunged. And as if things weren’t already bad, six years later his daughter Michele died of an accidental drug overdose.

In the circumstances Mr. Fugate has faced, most men would become lost in psychological turmoil. Some would opt to take themselves out of this world, hoping to reunite with their children in the next. But instead, he chose to walk across America and familiarize himself with the virtues of its people and the beauty of its natural endowment. So far he has walked more than 21,000 miles through 48 states, carrying a sign over his head that reads “Love Life” and meeting countless people along the way. There is a documentary in the works, but at this time it is incomplete and underfunded.

To read more about him, go here. And go here if you want to read about (or donate towards) the documentary.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Medical Care: Part V

This is the fifth in a series of intermittent posts about American medical care and the government's attempts to meddle in it. The first four can be found in my archives from August, September, and November of 2009.

Given my prior posts, it would be logical to expect me to spend today ranting about the unseemly actions taken last night by 219 elected Democrats.

But there would be no point, because I knew it was going to happen. Only the hopelessly naïve could have expected anything else to be possible. So I will limit myself to commenting on two things about last night.

For one, I feel compelled to mention that in its present form, Obamacare breaks virtually every promise The Exalted One made to drum up support for it. He said it would drive insurance premiums down, yet it is sure to drive them up. He said the overall cost curve for health care would be driven down, yet it is inarguably driven up. He said Obamacare would lower the deficit, yet it will obviously increase it, and do so in dramatic fashion. And going all the way back to his presidential campaign, Obama said he would lower taxes for 95 percent of Americans, and that he would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 per year, yet both of those claims are now proved false.

And the other thing about last night? Well, I am remembering the days when Bush was president and Obama was a senator, and Bush was advocating for Social Security reform. When polls showed that the public did not agree with Bush on the issue, Obama publicly said that Bush should stop seeking reform because “the people have spoken.” But after Obama came to the Oval Office and started advocating for his vision of health care reform, and the people spoke not only in polls but also in elections to show their disagreement with him, he responded by thumbing his nose and imposing something the public manifestly does not want.

The above information speaks for itself.

I am angry, but I am not discouraged because I know last night was just one battle in a philosophical war that will last a long time. Many states are planning to fight Obamacare in the courts. November is coming and we have a chance to hit the Democrats with an electoral bloodbath like none they have ever seen. And because Obama & Co.’s radical impulses have made the difference between conservatism and liberalism so vivid, it is already easier to persuade the undecided than it was during the fuzzy days of Bill Clinton’s triangulation.

If you need to be bucked up, go here or here. We can win this war…and as long as we fight back with confidence, and don’t play into the Left’s hands by getting gloomy and despondent over last night’s vote, we will win it.

Addendum #1, 3/23/10. The more I've thought about it, the more I have to point this out: not only did every Republican representative vote against the bill, so did more than 13 percent of the Democrat representatives, and the percentage of Americans who oppose it is higher than the percentage of Americans who are Republicans. In other words, opposition to Obamacare is bipartisan, support of it is not.

Addendum #2, 3/23/10. As expected, 13 states jointly filed suit today, challenging the bill's constitutionality. You can read the suit here. More than 20 other states are said to be considering similar legal action.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Equinox

Some thoughts about spring on its first day:

I love how it is often warm and rarely humid.

I love that bright, shimmering shade of green that new leaves give to old trees.

I love how wildflowers turn ordinary roadsides into vivid profusions of color and life.

I love going swimming with my daughter again.

I love sitting outside in the afternoon and drinking a margarita beneath a cloudless blue sky.

I love spring training baseball.

And finally, I am riveted by the most intense pursuit in all of sports: the NHL playoffs.

Monday, March 15, 2010



On six different occasions since November 2008, I have written about my skepticism when it comes to global warming. In the fifth of those posts, I wrote about emails that were exchanged between scientists who had been hailed as global warming experts. The emails showed they were concealing evidence that was not supportive of global warming, and that they were discussing ways to thwart freedom of information laws. Since I published that post, it has come out that the MSM was previously aware of the scandal (and of other doubts regarding quality of data) but chose not to report it. To read about that, go here and here.

The Olympics

Last month I did a fair amount of flag-waving while writing about the Olympics, so I might as well offer some final thoughts. First, we Americans should be very proud of the results because we did much better than we ever have in a Winter Games. It was the first time we have finished with the most overall medals. However, after what I said about Apolo Anton Ohno, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that Canada should be considered the country that “won” the Olympics. The whole purpose of sports is to come in first (i.e., to win gold, not silver or bronze) and Canada won the most golds, including the all-important one in men’s hockey, despite having a population that is about 90 percent smaller than ours.


Call this one a prospective follow-up. My previous post discussed how the facts are suggesting that George W. Bush is more likely to be proved right about Iraq than his critics. Although I made it abundantly clear I was taking about the success of our mission and not our reasons for going into Iraq in the first place, I now feel obliged to remark about the latter because of comments that have been made about my post (one made on this blog, and a few made elsewhere). Ideally, I will write that post by the end of this month, but because I have higher priorities, I will more likely do it in April.

Medical Care

Between August and November of last year I wrote four separate pieces about “American medical care and the government’s attempts to meddle in it,” and needless to say, the gist was that I was against Obamacare. I am still against it in all its constantly shifting forms, but have not written anything else about it for the simple reason that an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with me.

Yes, Obama and the Democrat leadership have made it clear that they intend to damn the people’s will and ram Obamacare through regardless, perhaps as soon as this week. But the political machinations involved are changing so quickly and being covered so well by others that I haven’t commented about them, simply because I know I would be a step behind.

In the interest of being informative, however, I recommend this piece from National Review Online if you feel uninformed about the current machinations. And for a refresher on why Obamacare is a bad idea, check out this one by James Capretta and this one from Investor's Business Daily.

And on a final and lighter note, Wednesday is St. Patrick’s Day, so indulge your inner Irishness -- real or imagined -- by eating and drinking and being merry.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Vindication Emerges

Given its vast goals, it may be years before we know whether our military campaign in Iraq results in ultimate success or ultimate failure. But since the surge, the writing which has appeared on the proverbial wall suggests that liberals -- not George W. Bush -- are the ones whose assessments have been wrong.

From the moment the Iraq campaign was hinted at, an overwhelming majority of liberals opposed it, and many of them did so with a stridence that bordered on anti-America hostility. As the clock continued to tick, their stridence frequently crossed the line and became actual anti-America hostility, and later, when the surge was announced, just about every liberal on the planet derided it.

However, the surge succeeded so spectacularly that no one could plausibly claim otherwise, and in its wake many on the left opted to stay mum. Others did manage to admit (grudgingly) that it was a success -- but you might not have noticed, because they immediately shifted gears by offering up loud soliloquies proclaiming that its success would be fleeting and that the overall campaign was doomed to fail.

But in the meantime, American troops have begun to peaceably withdraw, and despite their departure, levels of sectarian violence in Iraq have remained well below pre-surge levels. This week Iraq held a national election (which was not its first since Saddam was toppled) and voter participation exceeded 50 percent despite worries that violence would be ramped up to scare people away from the polls.

In other words, Iraq has become the Muslim World’s first functioning democracy -- which was one of Bush’s explicit and primary goals for the campaign.

It is worth noting how Barack Obama has behaved when it comes to Iraq. Back when he was a U.S. Senator he referred to the campaign as “dumb,” and he said this about the surge: “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence. In fact, I think it will do the reverse. Then, after the surge succeeded, Senator Obama tried to justify his earlier stance by saying “the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated.” (emphases mine)

Later, as president, he rhapsodized about how “we have brought our troops home” while failing to acknowledge that the withdrawal dates were scheduled by Bush in the Status of Forces Agreement. Talk about lying by omission to get credit for something you had nothing to do with!

This paints a picture of our president that is, to put it politely, not flattering. He starts by trotting out the tired tactic of avoiding debate by simply calling Republican ideas “dumb” -- which makes him look like a petulant child. And when his forecast for how the surge would end is proved wrong (which would be understandable as an honest mistake) he responds by claiming that “nobody” held an opposing view, despite the fact that many of his opponents did hold one. And finally, he tries to appropriate the credit for work that was done by an opponent he has spent years demeaning.

Like I said earlier, the ultimate outcome of our involvement in Iraq will not be known for some time. There are sound reasons both to agree and disagree with Bush’s strategy, and rehashing them is a topic for another post. But it is definitely worth noting that as the facts come in, they are making it look like the oft-belittled Bush will be vindicated by history -- and that they are making it look like the naysayers of the left will, as in so many other instances, be proved wrong.