Sunday, June 8, 2014

et ceteras

Political commentary is coming, so I'll open with a topic that should be more uplifting: Music.

Two Fridays ago, Erika and I went to Zac Brown's concert here in Tampa. Perhaps I should say the Zac Brown Band's concert, but what's the point? When was the last time you heard someone talk about having seen the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Saville in London? But I digress.

From the first moment we heard a Zac Brown song not called "Chicken Fried," we put him on our bucket list because we could just tell that his skills are meant for jamming and genre-hopping. (Fyi, I have nothing against "Chicken Fried," but it was his first single and you need to hear more than one song before you can start evaluating somebody's talent).

Anyway, Brown and his bandmates more than met our expectations, blazing right out of the gate with a fiery rendition of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" and then delving into their own deep songbook. Before all was said and done they had flexed their eclectic muscles by covering Bob Marley's "One Love" (woven around their own "Where the Boat Leaves From"), Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" (woven around their own "Free"), and the Guns N' Roses tune "Patience."

When they came out for the encore, they tore through Metallica's "Enter Sandman" while wearing glow-in-the-dark skeleton costumes. Backup singer Clay Cook handled the lead vocals and they sounded so much like Metallica that I have no reason to ever think about attending a Metallica concert.

And did I mention that bluesman Keb Mo joined them onstage for a pair of wailers?

Put 'em on your bucket list if you haven't done so already.

If you think the NHL's powers-that-be busted their collective nut when the Stanley Cup Finals turned out to include teams from North America's two largest media markets, how do you think they're feeling now that the first two games have gone to overtime; included the most talked-about non-call since that time 15 years ago when Brett Hull lifted a puck past Dominik Hasek before leaving the crease; and featured a deliciously unlikely scenario in which tons of goals have been scored at the same time that strong defense and clutch goaltending is taking place?

From a business perspective this has turned out to be a very fortuitous postseason for the National Hockey League. The bad news is that it is (I suspect) all but over. The Rangers had two-goal leads in each of the first two games -- they even had three two-goal leads in Game Two -- yet still failed to win either game. That is not a good recipe for winning the Stanley Cup, especially when the Kings entered the finals having already erased more two-goal deficits than I have ever seen a team erase in a single postseason.

The Kings are deep; they never get nervous; and their confidence is so strong that it alone can win games they otherwise should lose. Yes, the series is going to NY tomorrow night and things can change on a dime, but I think this LA squad is too special to allow that to happen.

Don't stop!
After California Chrome came up short in his attempt to win the Triple Crown, his co-owner, Steve Coburn, pulled no punches in his withering criticisms of horse racing's entree rules and what he called "the coward's way out" -- that is, the strategy of some horse owners to hold their colts out of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, then enter them into the Belmont Stakes when they are (presumably) fresher than the others who have gone through the first two races before the last.

Some people probably think that Coburn's criticism is nothing but sour grapes, and his wife certainly looked like she wanted to crawl under a rock when he leaned into the microphone, wagged his finger, furrowed his brow beneath his cowboy hat, and let loose. But what he said seemed more true than false, and I am glad he felt no need to restrict himself from full use of his First Amendment rights. If only there were more Americans who weren't so sensitive about stepping on toes, we might get more accomplished these days -- and on top of that, I think we would wind up being more tolerant of differences in opinion.

Something about those "26.2" stickers that people like to slap on their cars makes me want to drag those people out of their cars and beat them to a pulp. I have very good friends, people I actually love, who put such stickers on their cars and I still can't hide my revulsion. Maybe it's because of this attitude.

But there is one person who can spangle her entire car with those stickers and my response will only be to salute and say I admire her. And if she can't afford to do so, I would be willing to pick up the cost and personally perform the labor.

Her name is Harriette Thompson and she recently completed the San Diego Marathon in just over seven hours. The thing is, she is 91 years old and her pace of 16:20 per mile sounds like it would be impressive for people who are her juniors by decades. Run on, Harriette!

Bergdahl, Part One
There are so many angles to take when criticizing the Bowe Bergdahl situation that it's hard to know where to start. So many spot-on criticisms have already been published that I tend to think there is little value in me chiming in.

Nonetheless, I feel compelled to comment when a presidential act is so noteworthy; and in this instance, I feel compelled not because I think am going to sway many minds but because I want my thoughts to be memorialized in real time -- so that many years from now my children can look back and read what I thought about things when they were actually happening.

In a word, I am against what Barack Obama did; i.e., against bringing Bergdahl home by submitting to the ransom demands of our enemies and allowing their all-star team of mass murderers to walk free and start murdering anew. However, I will withhold going into all my reasons until it is established whether or not Bergdahl is a deserter.

Bergdahl, Part Two
Nonetheless, I will not wait to opine about what the Bergdahl episode tells us of Obama's relationship with the truth (he's a pathological liar) and what it tells us about his opinion of we the people (he views us with contempt).

Though there are certain questions Obama would have to answer no matter how he spun this "personnel transfer," he could have made things more palatable if he had simply been honest.

He could have announced it while saying "I was going to release the prisoners anyway, but this way we got something in return."

He could have said: "We tried to extract more, but in the current situation, with the Taliban knowing that Guantanamo's closure is coming, all we were in position to get was Sgt. Bergdahl's release. And on top of that, we were able to get his release without acquiescing to the Taliban's demands for cash. In the final analysis, we believe the trade-off is worthy because (fill in the blank)."

He could have said: "American soldiers died trying to find Sgt. Bergdahl, and we felt we owe it to them, and to their loves ones' memories of them, to 'complete their mission' by returning Sgt. Bergdahl to America's embrace, where we might gain insight into what he heard and saw during his time with the Taliban."

But instead, Obama took a weak, embarrassing, one-pawn-for-five-queens transfer and tried to portray it as a victory -- never even considering the possibility that we the people might be smart enough to see through his mask.

With alarming amnesia, he took Susan Rice (she who is best known for lying about Benghazi on the Sunday shows in 2012) and returned her to the Sunday shows to lie again, by claiming that Bergdahl had served "with honor and distinction."

Obama did this without considering the possibility that the words "honor and distinction" have sacred, concrete meaning to our men and women in uniform. Therefore, he did it without considering the possibility that our men and women would smell the deceit and raise their voices in defense of principle.

And when he found himself caught in a backlash of his own making, Obama was simply not able to cut bait and own up. Instead he tried to make himself look more moral than thou by concocting a fantasy about having arranged the transfer out of concern for Sgt. Bergdahl's health.

In short, our president played us for fools and it didn't work. And when you think about it, is it we or he who looks the fool?

...enough is enough and I am signing off for now, though I will return soon. And yes, yes, I will soon continue the series I stated here about major problems in the American Criminal Justice System. Until then, au revoir!

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