Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic et ceteras

A few days into the London Olympics, I should not have too many complaints about the results since the U.S. is tied for first in the overall medal count. But I can not lie: I wish we had more golds, not so much because we are second in that category but because at least one golden opportunity (no pun intended) was squandered when Ryan Lochte lost the sizeable lead his teammates handed him when he swam the anchor leg of the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay.

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The new rule in gymnastics -- which holds that no more than two gymnasts from a given country may advance to the medal round, even if that means lower-scoring, less-deserving gymnasts from other countries advance in their stead -- has already claimed a victim.

I hate to sound womanish by saying “my heart broke” watching Jordyn Weiber, arguably the best female gymnast on the planet, get denied her rightful place in the all-around individual final. But break it did. She has busted her ass all her life to win the all-around gold, and now is forced to watch twenty athletes she beat advance to the final while she does not, all because of the geographical location where she was born. This is w-r-o-n-g.

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On the other hand, Kim Rhode’s accomplishment yesterday is the kind of thing that truly captures the Olympics’ meritorious spirit. This is the fifth consecutive Olympics in which the shootist from California has medaled, and not only did she win a medal yesterday -- she won gold while setting a world record by gunning down 99 of the 100 clays that were flung across her field of vision. Hers is the kind of achievement that makes me get misty-eyed (sorry to sound womanish again) when I see her standing atop the podium while the flag rises and the “Star Spangled Banner” plays.

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For what it’s worth, for the first time in my life I watched an entire water polo match, and found it to be much more exciting that I ever would have expected. My love for hockey may have played a role, because every time the U.S. scored en route to its 8-7 win over Montenegro, I yelled “he scooores!” as if I was doing radio play-by-play for an NHL playoff game.

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I have always found Olympic opening ceremonies to be overdone and annoyingly sentimental, much like the Oscars, and I wish everyone would focus solely on sports as soon as the ceremony is over. But I feel compelled to comment on this year’s ceremony because when I went to a five-year-old’s birthday party on Saturday, all of my fellow adults kept talking about how much they hated it.

Well, here is what I liked: The fast-forward-style sequence that followed the River Thames from its headwaters to its passage through London…The arresting visual depiction of Britain’s agrarian era followed by its Industrial Revolution era…The nod to Britain’s tradition of children’s literature…The never-gets-old image of Paul McCartney playing “Hey Jude” while the crowd sings along...And the fact that homage was paid to the victims who were killed and maimed by Islamic terrorists in the attack that took place in London on July 7, 2005.

Here is what I did not like: The boy-girl-lost-smart-phone sequence that incongruously included the 1960’s through 1990’s in addition to the 2000’s. As Erika pointed out, it seemed very high schoolish…Plus, I am not pleased that NBC chose not to show the homage to the July 7th terror victims

And, lastly, here is what I found weird: The fawning salute to Britain’s national health care system. I understand there is a political side to the Olympics, and am not entirely opposed to that, but doesn’t it seem odd to glorify a system that ranks 16th out of the EU’s 20 nations when it comes to cancer survival rate? And that forces more than one-third of its patients who are in need of surgery to wait more than four months to have it?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More et ceteras

What a shame about Sally Ride passing away at the age of 61. I hadn’t even heard she was sick. Her achievements were made years after humans first escaped the atmosphere, and therefore did not match up to the exploits of space pioneers like John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, and Ed White -- but that does not diminish her status as a true national heroine. Most people could not name any other astronaut whose career began after the 1960’s.

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As expected, gun control advocates have exploited the Colorado movie theatre shooting by squealing that Americans’ constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms should be curtailed. It is sad that they politicize tragedies, but politicize is what they do, so I feel I have to rebut them by pointing out some facts.

Like the fact that many countries, such as Russia and South Africa, have much higher murder rates than America despite having much stricter gun laws…And the fact that many other countries, like Switzerland and Israel, have much lower murder rates than the U.S. despite having much more lenient gun laws…And the fact that many of the cities with the highest crime rates in America also have the strictest gun laws in America. Detroit, Chicago, D.C., L.A., and New Orleans come to mind.

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Cocaine is outlawed, but that does not stop it from being readily available. Outlawing guns will not result in criminals and madmen being unable to obtain them, but will result in law-abiding citizens not having them. Therefore, it will result in law-abiding citizens being sitting ducks.

I love that Ice-T gets it. Nobody would ever confuse him for a conservative, but I always respected him back in my high school and college days, back when I listened to rap. “Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say” always rang true to me and is probably worth a re-listen. I think I might have to go through my old cassette tapes…

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For another example of a pop culture icon saying something that might surprise you, go here and check out Elton John’s comments about the efforts of George W. Bush and other conservatives to address the AIDS epidemic in Africa. He is not the first celebrity to make this observation, as I recall Bono doing the same not long ago.

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I tried to let it go at first, but after seeing it again and again, I have to say something about the deplorable nature of Obama’s recent class warfare ad. You know, the one in which a litany of phrases, all making dark suggestions about Mitt Romney’s character, flash on the TV screen while he sings “America the Beautiful.” It is in the same league as the infamous “daisy girl ad” from 1964.

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More on the ad: Even assuming that its phrases about Romney are factually correct, so what? Despite what Obama & Co. want you to infer from the phrases they use, none of the actions those phrases depict are either immoral or illegal.

Who cares if Romney has put money in a Swiss bank account? It is his money and he can do with it as he sees fit. Who the hell is Barack Obama to tell anyone else how to spend the fruits of their labor? If I ever have millions, I absolutely will put some of them in a Swiss bank, because Swiss banks, unlike American banks of late, have a strong track record of protecting their customers’ funds and respecting their privacy.

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And finally, here is one more thing about the ad: It does not say one thing about why Obama deserves a second term, nor does it say what he plans to do to help our economy or fortify our national defenses. All it does is sling mud, thus revealing Obama’s true nature.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

et ceteras

How can anyone need more evidence to see that the bloated non-meritocracy of America’s public sector can not be sustained? In the past few weeks, three major cities and one ritzy ski town have filed bankruptcy, and the word on the street is that another not-insignificant municipality (Compton, CA) is about to do the same.

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Speaking of the above, I am reminded of something my brother-in-law has been saying for some time: The police and firemen are next on the chopping block, and this time around, the public that pays their salaries and benefits will no longer be sympathetic to their pleas.

He has been proved right by the bankruptcy of Scranton, PA, in which the city’s mayor cut the pay of every city employee, including his own, to minimum wage. This means that teenagers working at McDonald’s are now making the same amount as the police chief, beat cops, fire marshal, firefighters, etc., and I have not heard a peep of public outcry.

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Histrionic types have long been predicting that America is headed for a race war or class war. I hope no such “war” ever happens in our country, but if one does, I believe it will be the private sector versus the public sector after the former has finally had enough!

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I was young when Ronald Reagan took office in the midst of a serious recession and laid out his vision for America. But I remember those years vividly. I remember how he championed entrepreneurism and free enterprise. I remember how people responded to his encouragement of those things, and how the nation benefited from that response.

I remember how Reagan always told of a bright future and never spoke ill of fellow Americans. His political adversaries were referred to as “our liberal friends,” without a hint of insincerity, even when he poked fun at them.

Contrast that to the spiteful, belittling, mocking persona of Barack Obama, which has been evident for years but was especially evident in his “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen” speech. When a nation’s leader talks that way, the nation stands no chance of pulling out of a recession because those with the talent and means to start new enterprises will not be stupid enough to stick their necks out. They will sit on the sidelines until the leader is gone (who wouldn’t?) and it is not them who will be harmed, but the un- or under-employed they otherwise would have hired.

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Speaking of Obama’s “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen” speech, am I the only one who picked up on how laughably false he was when he said “government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet”?

Technically, it is true that “government research” created ARAPNET, which was later broadened to become the Internet we know today. However, ARAPNET was created by the military -- the one and only part of government that Obama despises rather than loves, and the one and only part of government whose funding he wants to cut! Plus, ARAPNET was not developed “so that all the companies could make money off” it, but so the military could quickly and fluidly respond to an attack by launching nuclear missiles to bomb enemy nations “into the stone age,” as the old saying went.

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In case you didn’t hear, for the first time in history the average Canadian household is now wealthier than the average American household. And it is not only wealthier, but wealthier by an average of $40,000. I can not help but notice this has occurred a mere handful of years after Canada began implementing conservative policies under the administration of Stephen Harper, and a mere handful of years after the U.S. began implementing liberal policies under the administration of Barack Obama. Keep in mind that, comparatively speaking, Canada has been liberal for most of its existence while the U.S. has been conservative. Isn’t it telling how quickly conservatism defeats liberalism when implemented side by side?

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Lastly, and by far most importantly, let us all send prayers to the victims, and victims’ family members, of the Colorado movie theatre shooting…

Saturday, July 14, 2012

God's Country

Before I get back to commenting on current events -- of which there are many -- I want to post some pictures from our trip to North Carolina during the week of Independence Day.

The town of Franklin was patriotically spangled:

In Asheville, we took an afternoon bus tour that was informative and uproariously funny. That night at the home of our friend Allison, the moon gave a spectral glare through the branches above her back deck:

Away from towns and cities, Sarah and I went lake swimming:

And as always, the mountains turned up beautiful views in all kinds of light:

I captured the following shot of the Stecoah Valley at the foot of the Cheoah Range. Even with the power lines, this has always been one of my favorite views in all of Appalachia:

Finally, we hiked a small (1½ miles one-way) portion of the Lakeshore Trail, an underappreciated path that travels for 34 miles through a remote section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, above the northern shore of Fontana Lake. Parts of the trail track the route that used to be followed by State Road 288, back before the park was established in the 1930’s. Evidence of this turns up along the way, in the form of several abandoned Depression-era automobiles. This one made for a nice photo both in color and black and white:

It was Parker’s first trip to the mountains and we can’t wait for the ones that lie ahead! To top it off, here is a photo of us surrounded by a classic Eastern hardwood forest:

If you get a chance to visit the Southern Appalachians, by all means go!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Back to life

Nothing puts a topper on your family vacation like realizing that while you were gone, somebody used your own blog to post publicly viewable allegations about you that are completely wrong and meant to harm. If you did not read those comments, I welcome you to do so by going here and scrolling down.

The "somebody" who left them is my father's ex-wife. I have not seen her in 14 years and she obviously knows nothing about my circumstances. I will not waste any more of this blog's time and space by writing about her, other than to reiterate that her accusations against me are entirely incorrect, and to say that her portrayal of my father's character is repulsively inaccurate.

Within the next week, I will post pictures of the places we went during our trip that ended late last night. The mountains were pretty and it was a fabulous trip in spite of the oppressive heat, and I can not wait to share!