Friday, July 29, 2011

et ceteras

Fair warning: This et ceteras is all about politics, one way or another.

The "Boehner plan" passed the House vote earlier this evening. Does it go far enough? Hell no. Is it better than nothing, since it stands up to Obama on taxes and contains authentic, albeit minuscule, spending cuts? Yes. Was it smart to pass it? We won't know until the chips fall somewhere down the line.

You know all that talk the MSM has engaged in, saying the federal government's credit rating might get downgraded if the debt ceiling did not get raised by next week? It was all a bunch of hooey. Moody's, for one, is on record saying there is no downgrade on the table in the near term. What will eventually cause a downgrade, however, is the government continuing to plunge into an abyss of debt while spending at levels so high they are obviously unsustainable...therefore, raising the debt ceiling in the manner Obama & Co. prefer would actually hasten the arrival of the downgrade. It would be nice for the MSM to point this out, but of course they never will.

Speaking of the MSM, it is disgraceful how they are handling the case of Congressman David Wu, a 56-year-old Democrat in his seventh term. There have recently been accusations leveled at him by the 18-year-old daughter of one of his donors, which prompted him to say he would resign after the debt ceiling situation gets resolved. And what are those accusations? I have seen/heard them mentioned on online news outlets, in print news outlets, and on the radio, and in every single mention he was said to have been accused of an "unwanted sexual encounter." One outlet noted that in addition to "unwanted," the "encounter" was "aggressive." The way I see it -- and I dare anyone to see it differently -- that means Wu has been accused of rape. Why won't the MSM just say it? You know that if such accusations were made against a Republican, they would be the lead story for weeks and the word "rape" would be trumpeted all over the place. But when the accused is a Democrat, the story gets buried on the bottom of page 8; the word "rape" gets placed in the Witness Protection Program; and female-defending feminists are suddenly nowhere to be found.

Still sticking with the MSM, here's a story they have been sure to avoid reporting altogether: Pew Research shows a tectonic movement of white voters under the age of 30. In 2008 members of that group identified themselves more as Democrats than as Republicans, by a margin of seven points. This year they identify more as Republicans, by a margin of eleven points. That is an 18-point swing in only three years. I do not recall seeing the likes of that in my lifetime, so don't let anyone tell you that Obama is unbeatable in 2012.

I think every time I have mentioned Canada on this blog it has been in the context of hockey, or of the 2010 Winter Olympics that were hosted there. For some reason it just occurred to me (literally, right now) that I should give our northerly neighbors props on their prime minister. Stephen Harper has cut taxes and created a pro-business environment that has allowed Canada to weather the recession better than any other major country on earth. And he played piano and sang "With a Little Help from My Friends" with Yo Yo Ma. And this week he honored military heroes by laying a wreath at Canada's Korean Veterans National Wall of Remembrance. Harper is a much better leader than Obama, and I wish that Canuck was a Yank.

And finally, an observation: In Obama's entire time as president, the only time I can remember him taking a specific policy position and being adamant about it is when he has said he wants to raise taxes. He left it up to the legislature to write "his" health care law and to negotiate the debt ceiling. He kept Bush's war policies in place, but never said anything about it. However, when the subject is taxes, Obama's eyes alight with fire; and he argues passionately in favor of raising them; and he deploys class warfare propaganda that would make Cold War Soviets proud. I rarely say this about people, but in the case of Barack Obama, I truly despise the man. There is not one thing about him that is worthy of respect.

Hopefully my next post will be more uplifting, like the one I wrote last Sunday.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Off To See The Wizard

It is somehow reassuring that today's children are just as familiar with The Wizard of Oz as prior generations were, even though it has been 72 years since the movie was released. I file it under the category of "The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same." And I file yesterday afternoon, when Sarah and I went to watch it on the big screen, under the category of "Great Daddy-Daughter Memories."

Downtown Tampa is home to one of America's best examples of a movie theater from Hollywood's golden age, back when they all had one auditorium and were often extravagant in their decor. Designed by John Eberson and opened in 1926, the Tampa Theater is bedecked with red upholstery and Greco-Roman statues, and its auditorium evokes a Mediterranean courtyard at dusk: The screen is surrounded by castle walls, while the ceiling is painted dark blue like the twilight sky, fitted with tiny lights reminiscent of stars.

I took advantage of my cell phone camera while we were there. Here is a view of the floor level, taken beneath the balcony after the movie was over and almost everyone had left:

Here is one taken from our seats in the balcony, when the organist was providing pre-show entertainment:

And here is another one taken from our seats, looking into the corner to give a sense of how high the walls go. To add to the perspective, keep in mind that we were sitting in the lower third of the balcony:

As part of its Summer Classics Series, the theater broke out Oz for matinee screenings this weekend. Sarah was fascinated with the opulence and I appreciated being able to watch a cinema classic while sitting inside a classic cinema. Even if you have seen a movie before, there is something different about seeing it on the big screen.

The event was touted as a singalong, and as you can tell from the following picture, the lyrics appeared on screen. I certainly didn't sing, nor did the bare majority of people in the audience, but quite a few did.

There were other examples of audience participation that, um, you just wouldn't get at home. Every time the Wicked Witch appeared (or Miss Gultch, her Kansas incarnation) large numbers of people hissed at her. And they applauded when she melted and whenever Toto made an escape.

Yes, some people came in costume, and not all of them were kids. One trio of folks who -- well, I will just say they probably got the senior's discount -- dressed up like the Lollipop Guild.

Yesterday was far from Sarah's first time watching The Wizard of Oz, but it was the first time she realized it was all a dream. She has already asked to go again next summer.

I can't believe that with all the pictures I took, I failed to take any of us. I (or Erika) will make up for that next time, but for now I leave you with the photo that turned out to be yesterday's coolest by far. I was taking one of the Scarecrow on screen and apparently my shutter snapped just as the next frame, of Dorothy, was coming round -- because you can see both their images on the screen, with hers fainter:

Note: "Movie palace" (or "picture palace" in the U.K.) was the name given to the style of theaters designed by Eberson and other cinema architects of his time. For a list of 150 of his creations, most of which are now closed and not all of which were in the U.S., go here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

More et ceteras

Last week I vented about Obama's deficit spending. Although I don't think what I wrote requires any elaboration, I am still going to offer some by pointing out the piddling nature of the $2 billion he says he is willing to consider cutting from federal spending next year. $2 billion may sound like a lot -- until you realize it is precisely what the government borrows every 10 hours. In other words, The Exalted One is willing to consider (not commit to, mind you, but consider) cutting less than fifteen hundredths of one percent of the amount the government borrows. And keep in mind, the reason it borrows is to pay for ventures it can not fund from the greater than $4 trillion it collects in taxes and fees. Yet Obama expects us to believe he is serious about getting deficit spending under control. We are not fools, Mr. President.

I don't know what is more surprising: That Catholic University of America has co-ed dorms, or that someone is suing the school because it plans to phase them out and go back to single-sex dorms. What I do know is that the lawsuit, which was filed by a professor from another school, is a perfect example of an academic gone absurd...Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to live in a co-ed dorm when I was 19 -- but going to court to force other people to subsidize anyone's living arrangement is w-r-o-n-g.

Every now and then you see a story about a consumer boycott backfiring, with the target of the boycott seeing its economic fortune rise rather than fall. And if you are like me, those stories always make you smile. So here is a new one for your reading pleasure.

Earlier tonight I turned on Spike TV and watched "1,000 Ways to Die" for the first time. This may not say much for my maturity, but I became instantly hooked. As I type this, our TV remains tuned to Spike, whence four more episodes of that show have since aired. I don't plan on turning it off until I go to bed. Yes, I might need help.

And lastly, I feel compelled to mention that I just loaded Homer's Odyssey onto my Kindle and am eager to read it. I remember reading select passages from it when I was in eighth grade (that was in Ms. Ravas's English class, just in case anyone stumbles onto this blog who happens to have been wandering the halls of dearly departed Riviera Middle School back in the mid-1980's)...Anyway, I remember being captivated by the adventure of it all, by the notion of a war-weary man having to travel across miles of danger-ridden wilderness to make it back home. Yes, there were all those trappings of Greek mythology, but to me it was an adventure yarn pure and simple, and the mythology only served to heighten the adventure...Over the past weekend I read Sarah bedtime stories from a Disney book, and one of those stories was "Hercules" -- which got us to talking about Greek gods and legends, which sparked my memories of those Odyssey excerpts, and it was mere minutes before I decided to revisit the tome and read the whole thing. I already know how it appealed to my 13-year-old heart; now I am interested to see how it will appeal to my 40-year-old heart.

Note: The inimitable Mark Steyn is the source from which I learned that $2 billion is what the government borrows every 10 hours. Based on that, I myself did the math to come up with the "less than fifteen hundredths of one percent" figure.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

et ceteras

In this et ceteras I will get the unpleasant topic -- politics -- out of the way first. My thoughts today center around President Obama's handling of the so-called "talks" about raising the federal debt ceiling. Specifically, they center around how deplorable and disgusting (and frankly, how third-world-dictatorish) his handling has been.

To recap, under Obama's watch the federal government has operated at larger deficits than it did under all previous administrations combined. Then Obama appointed a commission to come up with ways to help get deficit spending under control. Then he ignored every single option that commission recommended. And he submitted a budget for this year which was so horrible that the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected it unanimously. And yet, he has the audacity to accuse Republicans of not being responsible.

To get him elected, Obama was portrayed as something new and unprecedented. But in truth, he is an automaton leftist who has spent his life peddling rubbish from Marx's 163-year-old Communist Manifesto. Fortunately, for everyone but blind ideologues, Obama's jig is now up because it is obvious to see through his untruths. His central problem is that he considers his runaway, unconstitutional spending to be good, so any attempt he makes to seem serious about reining it in comes off as laughably insincere. In other words, it comes off as what it is: A bald-faced lie.

As you may know, our fourth child (the second to make it to term) recently came into the "outside world." With me being 40 and Erika being 39, Parker is probably the last child we will ever have, and I am being sure to relish every aspect of these days. I am savoring that "newborn smell" when I hold him close to my face, and appreciating what it feels like to cradle such a small human being in my arms.

I am thinking about how much Parker looks like Sarah did at the ripe old age of 21 days, and I am proudly impressed with how well Sarah has adapted to her new role as big sister. Yes, she brags about her brother and shows him off to others...but more than that, she voluntarily helps out and she acts more mature than she did just a few weeks ago. She no longer complains about things that would have made her unhinged before. But then again, she looks so much older, and is so much taller, and she uses grown-up phrases when she speaks. Oh God, how the sands of time rush so swiftly through our fingers...

I have kept in touch with a few of my friends from my glory days at Auburn University. In 2005, Erika and I attended the wedding of one of those friends, whose name I will not share because I don't know if she wants it shared. Anyway, her husband has a heart condition which has been dragging him through the "valley of the shadows" over the last year. He has been hospitalized for more than two consecutive months. Late last week, they received the dark news that unless he received a heart transplant, his time on Earth was measured in days, not even weeks. And as you may have guessed, hearts are not easily or quickly come by to begin with...especially ones that are a match.

Over the weekend, two hearts came available but he missed out on both. Then, yesterday evening, with the clock ticking, they received word that an apparently compatible heart was available. He was prepped for surgery while the surgical team traveled by helicopter to inspect the heart and determine whether it was fit. It was, and the surgery took place in the wee hours this morning. There is a long road still ahead and he is not out of the woods yet, given how long and complicated it can be to recover from transplant surgery, but right now everything is looking good.

The faithful of you out there will appreciate this aspect of the story, and I trust that my old Auburn buddy doesn't mind that I'm sharing it about her husband. He made a promise to God that on the day he learned of getting a new heart, he would read whichever psalm coincides with the number of days he had been hospitalized. The day he learned of the heart was his 69th consecutive day in the hospital, so he read Psalm 69. I had never read it before (and honestly, I probably never would have) but when I heard that story I cracked open The Book and read it and man, did it ever make the hair stand up on my arms.

It is important to remember that there is tragedy in the midst of this triumph. Somewhere, some family lost a loved one who can never be replaced...and that family, in addition to their loved one, was generous enough -- moral enough -- to give up a part of the deceased to ensure that another may live. Tonight I pray for the peace of that family and for the soul of that loved one, about whom the only things I know are that he was my age and he died in an ATV accident. If you are his relative and happen to be reading this, God bless you.

But what did I mean when I used the word "epiphany" to describe this segment of this post? Well, up until today I have not been an organ donor. After today, that will no longer be the case.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mankind's Greatest Hour

This weekend, as we fire up our grills and crack open our beers, let us remember why we even have a July 4th holiday: to commemorate the greatest act of shared, selfless courage the world has ever seen.

Everybody should know that Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence. Most people know the names of a handful of the 56 men who signed it, such as John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, and of course Jefferson himself. But few people seem to realize that when those men signed their names, they were committing what was considered an act of treason against the British crown, punishable by death. Those men were property owners who were successful in their lives and businesses. Their lives were comfortable and they stood to lose everything by signing the Declaration -- yet they chose to sign it anyway, because they knew that casting off the crown and forming a new government based on individual liberty was the right thing to do, not only for their own descendents but for all of humanity. And here is what happened to some of those men after they signed the Declaration:

Five of them became prisoners of war.

Nearly one-sixth of them died before the war ended.

British forces burned, and/or looted, the homes and properties of nearly one-third of them.

When the British did that to the property of William Floyd, he and his family fled and spent the next seven years living as refugees without income. His wife died two years before the war ended.

After being forced into the wilderness by British forces, John Hart struggled to make his way home. When he finally got there, he found that his wife was dead and his 13 children were missing. He died without ever seeing them again.

Richard Stockton was dragged from his bed and sent to prison while his property was ravaged. From the day of his release from prison until the day he died, he had to rely on charity from others to feed his family.

Francis Lewis’s wife was imprisoned and beaten. Meanwhile, his wealth was plundered. His last years were spent as a widower living in poverty.

Thomas Nelson Jr.’s home was captured and occupied by British General Cornwallis, who used it as what we would now call an operations center. Therefore, Nelson ordered his troops to destroy his own home with cannon fire during the Battle of Yorktown. To assist in funding the war, he used his own credit to borrow 2 million dollars, which today would equal more than 25 billion dollars. Repaying that debt bankrupted him, and when he died he was buried in an unmarked grave.

It is a safe bet that fewer than one percent of our citizens have ever heard of these people, much less know anything about the devastating sacrifices they made so that future generations could have the freedom necessary to build the kind of upwardly-mobile, always-progressing society we now take for granted.

The Founding Fathers bequeathed us a wonderful gift called America, and we owe it to our children to make sure we don’t allow that gift to be destroyed. We should never hear the words “Fourth of July” without feeling a skip in our heart and a tear in our eye.

Much thanks to Jeff Jacoby, Paul Harvey, and all the others who have written and spoken about the fates of the signers, to keep their story alive.