What's All This Then?

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Well almost.

First things first. Let the word be spread from border to border and ocean to ocean - I have removed my name from the short list. Should I be asked, I will decline. I will not run and will not serve. I mean, I like Obama and I think he’ll be a fine president, but I’m too busy being a featured lottery player in two states to spend the next eight years keeping him on the straight and narrow.

So on to other matters of the moment.

Generally speaking, I am against the death penalty. I think it’s ridiculous to have a sentence of death we’re so reluctant to carry out - Texas notwithstanding - that those convicted of capital crimes languish in jail cells for up to twenty years before being put to death - by which time of course they are not the same people who committed the crimes. The cost of holding convicted murderers for years while their convictions and sentences are being appealed, far exceeds the cost of having them serve a life sentence, so there is an economic drawback to the death penalty. And then there’s always the possibility of someone being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. Enough such cases were unearthed in Illinois that the governor of that state - ironically now serving a jail sentence himself for corruption - put a moratorium on the death penalty which is still in place.

But there are exceptions to my reluctance to support the death sentence. I would be happy to see it imposed on anyone convicted of wanton cruelty to small children and animals. And I would advocate that the penalty be carried out no more than sixty days after sentence. O.K. I’m not totally serious - but I’m not totally kidding either. I’m brought to this subject by a news item I heard about some punk arrested for dragging a dog behind a pick-up truck. It sickened me when I did a search to see if this was an isolated incident and found that there are multiple cases of dogs and horses suffering these same kind of tortures at the hands of sub-humanoids. On top of dog fighting, cock fighting and other incredible cruelties. And these are only the ones that get caught committing their evil acts.

The penalties for animal cruelty don’t come close to the punishment that the perpetrators deserve. Some get off with a fine. Some get off without any punishment - depending on local beliefs and traditions. Michael Vick got 23 months for being part of a dog fighting ring. The judge obviously shared my feelings about this disgusting cruelty. He couldn’t sentence Vick to death - but 23 months was more than the 12 to 18 months that the prosecutors had recommended.

I know in some countries, cruelty to animals is no big deal- but this is the USA. Until she died, Cody was a member of my family - not a roast for Sunday dinner.

Animals and small children are the most vulnerable among us. They can’t defend themselves. Even a pit bull, once subdued, has no means of defense against any tortures an adult sub-humanoid wants to inflict. There is no lower form of criminal than those who would torture animals and small children. They do not deserve to live among us.

Now for something completely different.

The seeds for the US. Open tennis chanpionship have been announced. Thirty two players from the nations of the world are seeded. Rafael Nadal of Spain has knocked Switzerland’s Roger Federer off of his number one perch. They’re ranked one and two - Rafael and Roger. I’m not a tennis player and I don’t watch tennis -not at tennis venues and not on television. I’m sure it’s exciting to those watching in the stands but it’s never grabbed me as a spectator sport. Nonetheless I have some interest in who wins and who loses. As a British ex-patriot, I’m happy to see the kid from Scotland seeded number six. That’s Andy Murray. He’s beaten Federer at least once. But what brings me to comment on tennis is not who’s playing in the US Open. It’s who’s not playing!!

Of those thirty two seeds, there are six from Spain, five from France. four from Russia, three from Argentina, two each from the United States, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland - and one each from Scotland, Serbia, Chile and Italy. Does that strike you as odd? Do you sense anything missing that should be there - that once dominated this list - and I’m not speaking of the United States? If you said Australia - congratulations - and welcome fellow senior.

Sometimes you get to thinking that some things will never change. You live a few years and one day you shake your head and find it hard to believe that Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and Arthur Godfrey and Johnny Carson and so many others are all gone. You don’t understand the appeal of "reality" shows or how "rap" can be considered music or how rap "performers" can become millionaires. You don‘t have a Blackberry and you swear at kids engrossed in texting as they cross the street in front of your car. You try to hang on to the idea that there must be some things that won’t change - and more and more you become disillusioned. Nothing - but nothing stays the same. And so it is - sadly - with the sport I don’t watch.

When I was a young fellow - and yes, those of you who are snickering as you read this - I was young once and I know who you are and where you live, so watch it - Australia dominated tennis. Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Roy Emerson, Ken Rosewall, Fred Stolle, Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong - the list goes on and on. Google ‘em if you’re too young to recognize any of these names. There was a time when tennis was as much Australia’s national game as cricket and there was no national or international tournament without a contingent of Australian stars. To look at a list of seeded players in a major tournament and see not a single player from Australia is something akin to sticker shock. The world’s number two player - who was number one until a few days ago - is from Switzerland. Where it snows!! On mountaintops.!!! And someone from CROATIA!! is seeded number fourteen in the 2008 US Open.

To me, it’s like the world turned upside down. I suppose it will keep changing. Who knows, maybe twenty or thirty years from now, Australian players will once again be sprinkled throughout the seeds in a future US Open - and fans will be scratching their heads and asking - where the heck are the Croatians? And I’d just love to be around for the chance to laugh my head off.

One last item - and I know my wife will wince as she reads this. Sorry honey. It’s about Michael Phelps. He may have set a record - but for my money, Mark Spitz’s record still stands. Spitz entered seven out of fifteen swimming events that were available to him in the 1972 Olympics and won them all, breaking the world record in each. Phelps entered eight out of seventeen and did the same thing. One more than Spitz.

But like any record that’s broken after the passage of decades, Phelps didn’t face the same conditions as Spitz. Spitz didn’t have the advantage of the fancy speedo swim suit that made it easier for Phelps to cut through the water. And he didn’t swim in a pool with two empty outer lanes that reduced turbulence. Michael Phelps is unquestionably the greatest swimmer of the current era - but Spitz was just as great in his time - and, swimming under more difficult conditions, set a mark for all who followed. The mark has been broken but the original record remains intact.

A lot of runners have won mile races in less than four minutes since May 6, 1954. They had better training, better diet regimens - even better shoes than runners had in 1954. But the record books will always list Roger Bannister as the one who broke the four minute barrier on 5/6/54 - when he ran a mile race in Oxford, England in three minutes, fifty nine point four seconds. It would take a running race enthusiast to name the current holder of the mile record - but many an average Joe who couldn’t name any running champion at any distance would be able to tell you who broke the four minute mile. Just as someone with zero interest in baseball could easily name Babe Ruth as a home run champion but might struggle to come up with the name of Barry Bonds.

There’s many a record that will stand no matter how many times it might be "broken." For my money. Mark Spitz stands side by side with Roger Bannister and Babe Ruth.

Monday, August 18, 2008

As casual visitors to this page have noticed, I have not been adding commentary on a daily basis. Not that there’s not been sufficiently interesting occurrences about which to comment. There’s been an overabundance of the usual nuttiness that passes for news. But this is not a blog devoted to any particular subject - for example politics - about which there are countless blogs each commenting regularly on the same political figures and events - so I do not feel any necessity to add my two cents to the same subjects on a daily basis.

I have other important things to take care of at the moment, so while I am not abandoning my blogging habit, I am reducing it to a manageable level until those other "important things" have been taken care of.

Meanwhile a brief comment on - what else - Politics!! I watched a part of the unbelievable merger of church and state as candidates McCain and Obama came to a church and submitted to questions from Rick Warren - the Christian minister of that church - on issues of interest to single issue voters known as evangelicals - people who believe that there really is a tooth fairy who substitutes a quarter for that baby tooth left under a pillow.

I can’t see how the combination of the setting and the question master isn’t an assault on the constitution - but both candidates seemed more than happy to be there - Obama in particular expressing his personal friendship with Pastor Warren. McCain may have done so also but if he did, I missed it. This sad affair typified the nonsensical depth to which presidential campaigns have sunk - candidates pandering to an audience who would choose their candidate based on his opposition to abortion and stem cell research and when he believes life begins. All of this plus a sincere assurance that they believe in God and that Christ is their personal savior.

Not that it matters to the sane among us, but McCain was the clear winner for the evangelical audience with his crisp "at conception" answer to when life begins and his assurance that his would be a "pro life presidency." I’m not sure what that means, but I would imagine the evangelicals take it as a promise to overturn Roe v Wade and send women into basements and bathrooms to abort an unwanted fetus - perhaps the result of rape or teenage foolishness. I guess no one remembered that Warren would have been among those that McCain once labeled "agents of intolerance."

Obama, struggling with the question of when life begins, said that it was "beyond his pay scale" to know the answer with certainty. As usual, most of his answers - no matter what the question - were to some degree "nuanced." Some may view that approach as lacking conviction. Others, me among them, view it as someone who does not see the world in terms of black and white - no pun intended - and who thinks as he speaks. Above all , after eight years of cowboy, shoot from the hip governance - we need a thoughtful man in the White House. I think that description can be applied to Obama more so than McCain..

I have heard pundits say that the election could hinge on the number of evangelical votes a candidate can attract and it seems that McCain is clearly ahead. One can only hope that there are enough evangelicals who discovered early in life that there was no tooth fairy - and even though they continue to cling to other kinds of supernatural beliefs, are practical enough to recognize knee jerk political pandering and answers designed strictly to win their vote - and will give a fair hearing to the candidate who doesn’t give those answers but sees all sides of an issue and tries to do what is best for the most people.

At least it was a relief to see McCain appear without a grinning Joe Lieberman at his side. I don’t know about you dear reader, but whenever I see these two together in what has become their standard pose, I think of Edgar Bergen and Mortimer Snerd. And if that doesn’t mean anything to you younger readers - Google it. Maybe you’ll get the point. And maybe a few more evangelicals than might be expected will get the point too. And maybe - if the God they believe in has a sense of humor - the maverick will choose Indirepublocrat Lieberman to be his running mate - assuring their defeat in November.

Monday, August 11, 2008

My wife’s been off for a week - so I’ve been absent from the blogosphere and doing my best to ignore the utter nonsense that the so called news media offers as "news’ - particularly with the continuing flow of garbage emanating from the McCain camp. I’m sure there have been countless bloggers ranting about McCain and taking him to task for some of his more outrageous performances, so any comments I may have added here won’t be missed. But since my off week has been a week of "The Two Senators", one currently serving and one retired, making utter fools of themselves - some comments from what’s all this then are called for. In fact, my blog title has never been more relevant.

I’m not one who believes that 72 is "old" or that 72 is too advanced an age for anyone to become president. But if you’ve been watching John McCain as I have over the past few months, I think you’ll agree that he looks more and more like a doddering, grumpy old man. His nonsensical remarks are piling up - one upon another in rapid succession, making it harder and harder to believe that the man is actually running for president. Last week he was telling the assembled group at the Sturgis Bike Rally in South Dakota that all we need to do to bring gas prices down is to start drilling off shore - an event that would be years away if it ever gets final stamp of approval. Even T.Boone Pickens, he of bankrolling Swiftboaters infamy, says that we can’t drill our way out of our energy troubles. But the bikers applauded that bit of nonsense anyway, so an emboldened* McCain offered his wife as a contestant in the Miss Buffalo Chip beauty contest - his handlers having neglected to advise him that it was a topless and sometime bottomless contest. Or maybe they did advise him and he either forgot or was caught up in the moment and was serious about exposing his wife that way.

By the way, "Buffalo Chip" is a euphemism for "Bison Shit." Way to go John!!

* word borrowed from GWB.

Then there was the new television ad declaring that we’re worse off than we were four years ago. Maybe someone on the inside of the Republican camp is an Obama mole and pushed this one just to expose McCain as a world class flip flopper - or maybe they just don’t believe the Obama camp has transcripts and videos of everything McCain said during the Republican primaries. Such as the January 30, 2008 debate when the following exchange took place between CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Senator McCain:
COOPER: Senator McCain, are Americans better off than they were eight years ago?

MCCAIN: I think you could argue that Americans overall are better off, because we have had a pretty good prosperous time, with low unemployment and low inflation and a lot of good things have happened. A lot of jobs have been created. But let's have some straight talk. Things are tough right now. Americans are uncertain about this housing crisis. Americans are uncertain about the economy, as we see the stock market bounce up and down, but more importantly, the economy particularly in some parts of the country, state of Michigan, Governor Romney and I campaigned, not to my success, I might add, and other parts of the country are probably better off. But I think what we're trying to do to fix this economy is important. We've got to address the housing, subprime housing problem. We need to, obviously, have this package go through the Congress as quickly as possible. We need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which I voted for twice to do so. I think we need to eliminate the alternate minimum tax that sits out there and challenges 25 million American families.

COOPER: It sounds like that we're not better off is what you're saying.

MCCAIN: Pardon me?

COOPER: It sounds like you're saying we're not better off.

MCCAIN: I think we are better off overall if you look at the entire eight-year period, when you look at the millions of jobs that have been created, the improvement in the economy, et cetera.
Even in January he was contradicting himself - and accomplishing that feat in a matter of minutes.

A second way to go John.

But I have to reserve my harsher words for the other John. Mr. "Two America’s" - fighting for the middle class John Edwards. Sometimes known as Horny John. Let me say first that I have nothing but contempt for the National Enquirer. The mainstream media is having a field day with the story that this bottom feeding excuse for a newspaper broke. Their "reporters" must have really felt proud of themselves as they poked their heads up out of hotel toilets and sniffed through mail slots. Maybe this was a story while the primaries were ongoing and Edwards had some chance, however slim, of becoming the Democratic presidential candidate. And for sure it would be a story if he was on the short,short list to be picked as VP. But the primaries were over, Edwards was unlikely to run for political office again - so what was the point of forcing Edwards into confessing other than to increase circulation? It’s a private - not a public issue. In the days of JFK reporters knew that and respected Kennedy’s privacy - but apparently there’s no such self restraint in this enlightened era. So no kudos to the Enquirer. But no sympathy to Edwards either.

I would be inclined to be sympathetic towards Edwards if he wasn’t handling his admission in such a contrived, phony way. Can you believe this man? He made a "mistake?" No one but him was responsible? Right. Two of his aids absolutely did not strip off all his clothing and force him to hop into bed with Ms Hunter. And she had no responsibility either. Because he was running for president he became egotistical and narcissistic and so thought he could get away with anything?? What total crap. He was horny. She was available and willing. Maybe he wasn’t getting what he needed at home. In any event, he got laid. He enjoyed it. He continued to get laid until the Enquirer got wind of it and reporters started asking questions at which time he quit.

quad erat demonstrandum.

O.K. Maybe it’s hard for anyone caught with their pants down to say it exactly that way - but at least say something the average man could empathize with. "We were working close together. We both felt an attraction and gave in to the emotion of the moment - and before we knew it we were involved in an affair. It was strictly sexual. There was no thought of leaving my wife who I love dearly -and I plan to spend the rest of my life proving that to her." End of statement.

But then Edwards is a politician - or used to be. I guess once you learn the verbiage and cadence of politicospeak, it’s hard to break the habit.

Way to go John number two!!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Someone in the Obama camp needs to wake up and smell the vitriol before their candidate gets smeared with too much dirt to wipe off before voters go to the polls. The McCain campaign isn’t waiting to settle into the gutter. They’ve dug beneath it to find a launch pad for a new and improved series of SWIFTBOAT attacks.

Ordinary folks like you and me are too busy to investigate all of the anti-American activities of Barack Hussein Obama, so it’s been up to the McCain campaign to let us know that Obama would cheerfully lose a war in order to win an election - that he is personally responsible for high gas prices - that he’s against off shore drilling which would reduce the price of gas to 99 cents a gallon by a week from Sunday - that he wouldn’t visit wounded troops in Germany because the press couldn’t come along - that he would raise taxes if elected - and that he’s nothing more than a rock star and about as vacuous as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

It’s all well and good for Obama to laugh this nonsense off and observe, quite correctly, that McCain is doing nothing but attacking him and saying nothing about what his own camp represents and what he would propose on a variety of vital issues facing the nation. And it doesn’t really help to say that these ads are silly. Even people from the Republican party are saying that. And while there’s a possibility that these ridiculous ads will backfire - as they should in a rational world - we have to remember that attack ads have always worked - and unless they are nipped in the bud, there’s no reason for anyone to have confidence in them not working this time. These ads are not aimed at you and me. They don’t expect to influence people with at least average intelligence. They already have a pretty good idea of who won’t vote for Obama. Republicans who always vote Republican, no matter who the candidate is - think of Alan Keyes who picked up 28% of the vote in losing to Obama in the 2004 U.S. Senate election. Those who will never vote for a black man - an unknown number but one that may be key in certain states. And independently minded voters who genuinely feel that Obama hasn’t paid his dues and are more comfortable with the devil they think they know.

So the ridiculous ads are aimed at the rest of the electorate - those who are influenced by the last ad they saw - those whose minds can be changed from day to day - those who show up in tracking polls that change from day to day. The polls confirm that there are people who can be influenced by ads and by changing events. They could be the key voters in swing states - and to respond to the series of attack ads that are unfolding , the Obama camp has to get down close to the ground - not where the McCain gang of Rovian acolytes are wallowing in the mud, but down to earth level. Obama needs to eschew his natural tendency to respond professorially to the most scurrilous accusations hurled at him by McCain and respond as any ordinary person would. When you’re virtually called a traitor who would rather lose a war than an election, it needs a little stronger response than to say the accusation was "unfortunate." There needs to be words that everyone can understand. Disgusting. Outrageous. Gutter politics. Beyond the pale. It needs to be said by Obama and by as many surrogates as can be mustered. Kerry, Biden, Dodd , Clark- and the Clintons - Hillary and Bill. Let their outraged responses be plastered all over the evening news.

It would of course be easy to create a series of attack ads against McCain - and there would be no need to lie or to impugn his character or his abilities directly. All that would be needed would be readily available film of McCain making pronouncements on a variety of issues, juxtaposing those pronouncements, issue by issue, with film of him adopting the opposite position!! From taxes to torture!! That could run by itself or it could include a collection of his gaffes since he won the Republican nomination - or even before if the Obama people wanted to be mean.

I think the Obama people could cut the legs out from under a phony issue that unfortunately appears to have legs - and that is the business of approving off shore drilling in coastal areas where the oil companies don’t already have leases. It seems that voters are buying into the nonsense that this would have some effect on the high price of gas and that Obama’s sensible position on this issue is, as the McCain nonsensical ad implies - responsible for high gas prices. I don’t know if you can get any sillier than that but I don’t doubt that the McCain people will keep on trying.

Obama - and many others - have pointed out the obvious idiocy of this particular McCain campaign ploy - that oil companies already have leases for millions of acres, including millions of off shore acres where no drilling has taken place - so giving them more isn’t going to suddenly change the dynamic and bring oil prices down any faster than the recent - and no doubt temporary - few cents reduction at the pump. But since the disingenuous ploy seems to be working - Obama needs to trivialize it by saying something along the lines of -
"Senator McCain keeps insisting that granting the oil companies more off shore leases will reduce our dependency on foreign oil and bring gas prices down. The oil companies already have leases for millions of acres - off shore and inland - but Senator McCain says that’s not enough and if we give them more right now - oil prices will come down. O.K. - I’ll go along with his miraculous solution for all our oil and gas prices. Let the oil companies have whatever leases they want - subject to the approval of the states involved. If the states say they’d be happy to let the oil companies have more leases and one day an array of rigs off their coasts - I say good luck to the states and the oil companies - and I’ll be waiting in line at the gas station for my what -four dollars a gallon gas - three and a half dollars a gallon - three dollars - maybe two? But if the states say no - let’s all stop talking nonsense and get on with the business of creating an energy policy for the future - and by the way, one created in the open - not behind closed doors.
But I think the best response to any and all of McCain’s attack ads - all bearing the Rovian imprimatur, would be to call attention to a smear campaign that was used by the George W Bush people to defeat McCain in the 2000 South Carolina Primary. I won’t bother to suggest the visuals I’m sure the Obama campaign has talented people or can hire talented people to come up with compelling pictures. But the voice over should be something along the lines of
"John McCain did not father a black baby out of wedlock despite that allegation used against him in the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary by the George W Bush campaign. It was a dirty Karl Rove smear tactic and it was a lie. Now eight years later, Rove advises Senator McCain’s campaign, his campaign manager is someone who worked with Karl Rove for the Bush 2004 reelection campaign - and now his television ads are attacking Barack Obama with the same sort of smears and lies. It is difficult to understand how someone who had been so maligned by these kinds of tactics would hire an acolyte of the person responsible for them to help him attack Barack Obama in the same dirty way. The attacks on Barack Obama are lies. They are shameful. John McCain should be ashamed of them . Do not believe them.
Have a nice weekend.