Tuesday, September 27, 2016

One Man, One Woman, One Vote

The fundamental concept pf American democracy is that everyone is equal at the ballot box - one man, one woman, one vote.  The two-party duopoly that runs this country interprets that phrase somewhat differently from the way it's supposed to be interpreted.
As far as the Republicans and the Democrats are concerned, every American has one vote, but that one vote can only be cast for either one man . . .
. . . or one woman.
At least ten percent of the electorate are having none of that.  That's why one out of ten us will either vote for another man . . . 
. . . or another woman.
Oh - was there a presidential debate last night?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Regarding the National Museum Of African American History And Culture

Let me say at this moment, right here and right now, that I support the National Museum Of African American History And Culture.  I truly believe that black Americans should have a museum to tell the story of their role in American history, and yes, the museum is not just for black Americans, it's for all Americans.  So let's get that straight.  I am not some dumb-ass honky who thinks there should not be a national black history museum.  I'll be sure to go and see it the next time I'm in Washington.
But the building . . .
I mean, it's so ugly!
I'm sorry!  It looks like a stack of in-and-out-boxes without the legs between them!  Or a stack of rusty lasagna trays!  What was the architect, the black architect Philip Freelon, thinking? A white architect, designing a building just like this for, say, a museum of Italian-American history - well, I did say it looked like a stack of rusty lasagna trays! - would be just as wrongheaded to come up with such a design! How many tourists, ten years from now or even ten weeks from now, will visit this museum, look at the exterior, and think it's scaffolding?  Well, until recently, it certainly complemented the Capitol.  
Freelon apparently sought to provide a contrast to the marble and granite buildings along Washington's National Mall.  Well, he undoubtedly succeeded.  But may I ask why we need a building to contrast the classical architecture of downtown Washington?  And why not have a black history museum that's yet another example of classical architecture?  Because the whole point of classical architecture or classical anything is that it stands the test of time! But a building like this . . . well, I'm going to stop there.
Except to say that I've seen worse-looking museums, none of which have anything to do with black history.  

Sunday, September 25, 2016

More Model Misbehavior

You may not have heard of Helen Selby.  But you've most likely seen her before.
Yes, she was the Asian-American spokesmodel for L'eggs pantyhose in the early 1980s.  A model and an actress, she was chosen for her ethnicity to promote L'eggs' "Sheer Elegance" line for the similarity of its feel to "silk from the Orient," a politically incorrect sales pitch today.
Now, you're probably wondering why I'm telling you about Helen Selby on my regular blog and not on my beautiful women picture blog.  Uh, yeah, that's the thing . . . I just discovered that she was one of the recipients of Bill Cosby's sexual advances.
"Oh, no," I gasped when I read about this online, "not Helen Selby too!"  But it's true.  In February 2015, Helen Selby - who has since gotten married and is now Helen Gumpel - told a group of reporters in Boston that, after playing a one-shot role on "The Cosby Show" in 1987, she was called back to the set of the sitcom and returned thinking that Cosby wanted to audition her again, presumably for another episode.  In fact, he wanted her to do an audition of a much different sort.  She was taken to Cosby’s dressing room, where Cosby handed her a drink and stood in front of her with his crotch in her face.
"I never thought of myself as a victim because I refused his advances," Mrs. Gumpel said of Cosby's obscene behavior. "But my career was a victim."
Fortunately, it was then Cosby's turn to see his career get victimized.  As soon as Mrs. Gumpel made those charges, Cosby was forced to cancel two successive appearances at a Boston theater.  He said it had nothing to do with Mrs. Gumpel's charges but instead was due to a winter storm expected to dump two feet of snow on the Boston area.  Oh, how convenient - but then, maybe Mother Nature isn't a Cosby fan.  In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who is a Cosby fan these days. 
As for the three charges of sexual assault against him from Andrea Constand that finally brought him before a magistrate this past December . . . well, here's where it stands.  A judge in Pennsylvania, where the Constand incident allegedly took place, ruled in May 2016 that the case can go to trial.  Cosby, free on $1 million bail, is to go on trial next June (June 2017); if convicted on all three charges, he could spend ten years in prison on all three charges concurrently or thirty years, ten for each charge, consecutively. (At 79 and reportedly blind as a result of a degenerative eye disease, Cosby may get a suspended sentence.)  Meanwhile, Cosby filed a motion to have his lawsuit against Beverly Johnson over her sexual-assault accusations dismissed so he could concentrate on his defense in the Constand case.
With so many women - 59, according to Wikipedia - having charged Cosby with rape and sexual assault, a prosecuting attorney would have to be ten times worse than Marcia Clark to fail to get a conviction in the Constand case. He's already been tried in the court of public opinion and found guilty; you can't find any of his old TV shows in syndication, you likely can't find any of his movies on video, and, assuming the recording industry still prints old comedy albums on CD, you're not going to find Cosby's comedy albums in a record store.  That's assuming you can find a record store, which is probably easier to find than anyone who believes that Cosby is innocent.  Apart from his wife or former "The Cosby Show" cast members, that is.  (Not to mention Kanye West as well.)  Meanwhile, at least fifteen of his 57 honorary degrees - including one from my alma mater, Drew University - have been rescinded.  His planned new sitcom for NBC was scrapped in November 2014, and the Creative Artists Agency dropped him as a client at about the same time.  It's as if he never existed.  
Bill Cosby is, in fact, what George Orwell described in "1984" as an "unperson."          

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Jill Stein: Why Can't Hillary Supporters Handle Her?

Ever since I started telling people I was planning to vote for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in November, I've gotten a lot of criticism for wanting to "waste" my vote on a minor-party candidate who can't win, and I've done my best to ignore that.  But as the polls have tightened between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Hillary supporters have gone ballistic with Dr. Stein and her supporters.  On her Medium page, film blogger and Hillary supporter Sasha Stone assailed Stein backers for preparing to give Dr. Stein enough votes to deprive Hillary of a victory and help Trump win the Presidency, and she dismissed them as being selfish and uncaring toward the well-being of the country and caring only - wait for it - about their coolness.  "The last thing you care about is what happens to anyone else," Stone wrote. "You don’t care about the environment. You don’t care about the future of the already endangered animals. You don’t care about the Supreme Court because all you really care about is yourself. Your coolness matters more than the welfare of others. You know that people pay attention to you when you say you’re voting for Jill Stein because it means you’re edgy and not a sheep and not a mainstreamer."
Someone needs to take an anger management course.
It isn't just scribes like Stone trying to gaslight Stein supporters.  Sean Colarossi, writing in PoliticusUSA.com, insists that the polls are so close that any vote for Dr. Stein would be irresponsible and put Trump in the White House.  Dan Savage has said that disaster will come to minority groups if the "pasty white Green Party supporters" vote for Dr. Stein and skew the results in Trump's favor. On his TV show "Real Time," Bill Maher said it was important to support Hillary to keep Trump from winning by default and told liberals to do what they've been told to do for thirty years - that is, put aside their pet causes and vote for Hillary because the country's future depends on it.  Actress Kerry Washington, appearing on Maher's show a few weeks later and sporting an oversized Hillary button, said we would be "voting against ourselves" by voting for a third-party candidate (though, to be fair, she did not mention Dr. Stein by name).  I have friends who are supporting Hillary and bashing Dr. Stein and her backers; one of them said on Facebook that Stein supporters are annoying and irrational.
Gee, why are all of these Hillary backers bashing, insulting, and smearing a nice lady like Dr. Stein - and her supporters?  Could it be, maybe, just maybe, that they know they're backing a fundamentally flawed candidate who represents the corrupt, bourgeois Democratic establishment and they're threatened by, of all things, a real liberal who appeals to progressive voters who, having repeatedly been thrown under the bus by the Democratic Party for decades, have had enough of establishment Democrats and aren't going to take their crap any more?


Dr. Stein has an ambitious agenda to put America back on the right track, with plans to get the country on a renewable-energy grid by 2030, guarantee health care to all, end police brutality and mass incarceration, advance rights for women and minorities, and end the Citizens United ruling. And Hillary . . . well, I'm not sure what Hillary wants to do, but she's made some mealy-mouthed comments about granting tax credits for the poor and expanding child care.  I also know she's supported an interventionist policy in the Middle East, she doesn't think we need to restore the Glass-Steagall Act to rein in big banks, she only came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal after Bernie Sanders did, and she's been supported by Monsanto.   And what I know most about Hillary is not what she is, but what she isn't.  She's not Donald Trump.
Not good enough.  Trump is a clown, a buffoon, and a bigot (though he does have a good singing voice!), but Hillary is going to have to do more than not be Trump if she wants to earn the votes and trust of the millions of liberals who backed Bernie Sanders for President and the dozen or so of us who backed Martin O'Malley for President.  I haven't heard Hillary offer any bold, ambitious plans that would make me vote for her in a heartbeat.  She can't.  She's too tied to a Democratic establishment in bed with Wall Street bankers and major corporations to offer another New Deal, which only serves to remind us that she'll only offer another raw deal.
Let's get a few things straight. Every time a Democrat has been elected President since the 1980s, we liberals have always expected a change for the better and have ended up getting business as usual.  We've seen Republicans unite to resist change and seen first  Bill Clinton and then Barack Obama try to work with the Republicans only to see the GOP take over one or both houses of Congress and reinstate right-wing supply-side economics.  If we get anything we support, it's usually in watered-down form, be it tax credits or a tweak of the health care "system."  More social programs?  Nah.  Democrats don't have time for that.  They're too busy pursuing neoliberalism, that lamebrained theory of trying to provide for the greater good through market "reform" and privatization.  
Maybe that's why the Democrats have been declining and falling lately. On President Obama's watch, they've lost the House, they're down to eighteen governorships and majority control of only 30 out of 99 state legislative chambers, they've lost the Senate, and Democratic "rising stars" now have brilliant futures behind them.  And after all that, the Democratic establishment, convinced that Hillary was their only hope of winning the 2016 presidential election, discouraged Hillary's potential opponents for the party's presidential nomination, punished those who actually ran, tried to stifle debate during the primaries and caucuses, and then used its muscle to discredit and demolish Bernie Sanders when he turned out to be far more for real than Martin O'Malley ended up being.  And now these same people who offended those of us who supported Sanders or O'Malley by tipping the scales for Hillary and running roughshod over us are demanding that we vote for Hillary, because if we don't and if we vote for Dr. Stein instead, Trump will win and destroy the Republic and it will be all our fault.  That's not the way to get us liberals on their side. Bullying us and threatening us only serves to remind us why we're so sick of the Democratic establishment.  Dr. Stein scares establishment Democrats because she is providing a place for progressives who should be in the Democratic Party but who no longer feel welcome there . . . or never felt welcome at all. That's why Hillary Clinton's backers are attacking Dr. Stein; she threatens them and their candidate more than Trump. 
Which is ironic, because Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential nominee, appears to be hurting Hillary more than Dr. Stein is.  Not only is Johnson far ahead of Dr. Stein in the polls, he's attracting moderate and conservative Republicans and independents repulsed by Trump who had considered voting for Hillary but are now giving Johnson a serious look.  Hillary's supporters can't say that liberals who should vote for her but vote for Dr. Stein help Trump, and they shouldn't say that she's losing these liberal voters to Dr. Stein . . . because Hillary never had them in the first place.  They either backed someone else in the primaries and caucuses or skipped them altogether.  


Another reason Dr. Stein scares Hillary backers is because, like Sanders, she's exposed neoliberalism as a crock and reminds the Democrats of their proud but forsaken New Deal/Great Society past.  But unlike Sanders, she can't be controlled.  Nor can anyone control Ajamu Baraka, Dr. Stein's vice presidential running mate, who acidly noted on a recent CNN appearance that Obama's failures as President aren't only because of Republican racism.  Baraka said that Obama had "an historic opportunity to transform this country," but did not live up to it.  "He allowed his commitment to neoliberal policies and a neoliberal world view," Baraka said, "to undermine the possibility of greatness." 
No, Sasha Stone, I am not selfish . . . and I am not cool.  Geez,  I still love Jethro Tull.  No, Sean Colarossi, I am not irresponsible.  Forgetful, maybe, like when I fail to take out the trash once in awhile, but not irresponsible.  And no, Kerry Washington, going third party and challenging the major-party duopoly is not voting against yourself; it's being true to yourself.  So why don't all of you Hillary backers leave us Stein supporters alone?  And the Democratic establishment has a lot of damn gall to force Hillary on us liberals and then try to scare us into voting for her because the alternative is Donald Trump.  The Democrats had an opportunity to nominate Bernie Sanders or Martin O'Malley and run on a real progressive agenda and rebuild the party for the future.  Instead, they've nominated a candidate who represents the failures of their recent past.  The Democrats didn't do themselves any favors by making history with the nomination of Hillary as their first female presidential candidate; in fact, they may have consigned themselves to the dustbin of history.   

Friday, September 23, 2016

Music Video Of the Week - September 23, 2016

"Badlands" by Bruce Springsteen (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Two-Door Cars Get the Coupe De Grace

When I was a toddler, my family's car was a 1968 Chevrolet "Chevy II" Nova.  Compact-sized for its day,  it was comfortable and practical enough when it was just for my parents and me, but when my sister was born, my mother and father decided that something bigger was in order.  So we all went to Reedman Chevrolet in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where we were living at the time - that dealership, now Reedman Toll, had such a huge showroom, it was like a permanent auto show - and before I knew it, we had a brand-new 1972 Chevrolet Concours station wagon.  The Chevelle-based wagon had more cargo space than the Nova, a longer wheelbase, and something I had been hoping for in our new car, as well as something any growing family needs - rear passenger doors.
The family Nova had been a two-door sedan.  My father had to push the front seat forward to let me into the back seat, though getting in was never an easy task. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I hated it. Now we had a new four-door station wagon and I could get into the back seat myself.  I remember thinking that when I grew up and had kids, my car would have rear passenger doors.
Ironically, I have only owned two-door cars.  Why?  Simple - I've never been married, and I've never sired children.  So a two-door car has always been perfect for a single guy like me.  I don't need rear passenger doors because I don't have any children who need easy access to the back seat.  In fact, I've rarely ferried rear-seat passengers in the five cars I've owned; I can count all of the people who ever rode in the back seat of my 2012 Volkswagen Golf, my current car, on zero fingers.  
So I was shocked, angry and mortified when I heard that Volkswagen is discontinuing the two-door Golf and GTI (below) in the U.S. beginning with the new 2017 model year.

Volkswagen is streamlining its U.S .lineup for 2017 to lower prices and simplify model variations.  The decision has nothing to do with the fallout from the diesel scandal, though that has in fact had a very negative impact on VW's U.S. sales for 2016 (and I'll talk more about that in another post).  The trend in the U.S is simply moving heavily in favor of four-door models.  Volkswagen of America's marketing boss, Hendrik Muth, said as much recently.  Hardly surprisingly, this decision is not going to sit well with Golf purists like myself.  I don't like it one bit.  I always thought that the two-door Golf looks sportier and cooler than its four-door counterpart.  And the Golf GTI, which was exclusively a two-door car when it originally debuted (the first European model is shown below), has always been more appealing to me in two-door form, because four-door GTIs, available in Europe since the eighties and in the United States since 2005, have always seemed to me like compromises for people - usually dads - who need the easy rear-seat access.

But I don't need a ten-day sales report to see how traditional coupes and two-door sedans have fallen out of favor in America.  While some manufacturers persist in offering two-door cars, including Volkswagen itself (hello? the Beetle?), many car companies have scaled back their choices of two-door models, if they haven't eliminated them altogether.  Remember those old mid-size "personal luxury" coupes like the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme?  That market is pretty much dead, just like Oldsmobile.  You could stand on a street corner for half an hour and see only a couple of two-door cars among the many sedans and SUVs passing by.   Even coupes have four doors now, including Volkswagens (the CC).
Oh yeah, the move away from two-door cars - including hatchbacks - isn't confined to the U.S.  Sales of two-door hatchbacks are also tanking in the Old Country, and the three French automakers - Peugeot, Renault, and Citroën - are pulling out of the market segment.  You know a quintessentially European car style is headed for extinction if the French automakers - who, remember, don't do business in the States these days - are abandoning it.  Ford has also been moving away from offering two-door hatchbacks in Europe, and the current Fiesta has only been available in four-door versions (hatchback and notchback) in the United States.  And the Asians?  Take note: My mother has a Honda Fit, and she could only get a four-door version.  It's not that Honda doesn't offer a two-door Fit in the United States.  It's that a two-door Fit doesn't exist and never has.
While two-door versions of the Golf and the GTI will continue to be available in Europe for awhile, their days in the home market may be numbered, as it appears that the next generation of the VW Polo - a car we Americans have never had the privilege of owning in any form - will be available only in four-door form.  Also, according to Left Lane News,  Rupert Stadler, the head of Audi, doesn't even seem to think two-door versions of the Polo-based A1 (not sold here, of course) and the Golf-based A3 (we only got the four-door versions), or even the two-door A3 convertible, are necessary. And by the way, Volkswagen canceled the two-door Jetta back in 1991.
As cars become more pragmatically designed, the negative-utopian vision of cars rendered dull and stodgy in the name of "safety" that Richard Foster predicted is his short story "A Nice Morning Drive" (which inspired the Rush song "Red Barchetta") appears to be coming true.  First two-door family cars disappear, then sports cars . . . we'll all be driving SUVs soon. But we still have cars like the Golf and the GTI, even if they're only available in the States now with the rear passenger doors we single guys equate with domesticity.  As for my 2012 two-door Golf, I'm going to hold onto it for as long as I can, before I have to get a four-door model.
And then I'll have to get married.
(Note:  Hatchbacks and station wagons are commonly referred to as three-door or five-door models, with the rear cargo door included in the count, but I referred to them here as two-door and four-door models for the sake of clarity, because whether with a hatch or with a trunk, all cars without rear passenger doors are affected by current sales trends.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

They Got Him

So it turns out that the bombings in New York City and in Seaside Park, New Jersey were related.  And they got the alleged bomber - Ahmad Khan Rahami, an afghan-born American citizen who has live most of his life in the United States - within two days. Nice work by the authorities.  Rahami will be tried, but the evidence is pretty much against him. 
It appears, though, that the politicians were wrong about the bombings from the get go, as they originally saw no connection between them and no connection of either one to Islamic extremism.  Meanwhile, there was a knife-wielding attacker in Minnesota who was also an Islamic extremist.  Both of these guys were caught, but symptoms more merely treated.  The illness of terrorism is still there.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Michael Moore's 'Where To Invade Next'

Michael Moore has decided that we Americans need a new foreign policy.  Rather than invade a country with our military and try to influence the people there only to lose the war, he's advocating that we invade countries with our open minds and take over their ideas.  Hence Where To Invade Next, Moore's most pointed documentary ever.  He "invades" various countries and takes back with him ideas for social programs, policies, and amenities that America is infamous for not having.  And if we do invade this way, as Moore demonstrates, this time we can win.

Moore travels to different nations to observe how they handles education, workers' rights, criminal justice, and other issues.  Although he admits that other countries have other problems like we do, he's not concerned with any of that; he prefers to pick the flowers rather than the weeds (his own phrase).  After watching Where To Invade Next, though, I was enraged to see how much of a field of crabgrass America is - and why we're not doing something about it by considering these better ideas that Moore found elsewhere.  Moore travels to Italy to find nationally mandated paid vacations and shows Italians more productive at their jobs and less stressed.  He goes to Finland and France to show how school students are respected; in Finland they're encouraged to learn through curiosity rather than through rote instruction, and in France they're served real food during lunch break - and in France's poorest communities as well.  From worker's rights in Germany, where a middle class still thrives, to free higher education in Slovenia, a country the size of New Jersey with one-fourth as many people, Moore shows more humane ways in which countries treat their citizens and how they can't imagine anyone being left to fend for themselves . . . as in the United States.
Some of Moore's discoveries are astonishing.  Norway's maximum-security prisons are laid out like country clubs with rehabilitation programs for even of its most dangerous murderers (who work freely with knives in the prison kitchen), and women's rights are constitutionally guaranteed in, of all places, Tunisia.  By the time he gets around to talking about how Iceland got out of the great financial crisis of 2008 by punishing errant bankers instead of bailing them out, you're left asking again and again and again: "Why can't we do this here??"   
The joke in Where To Invade Next is that many of these ideas actually did originate here.  Europeans may boast about having eliminated the death penalty while the U.S. government has not, but Moore notes that his home state of Michigan was the first English-speaking political entity to abolish capital punishment in the world - in 1846.  Workers' vacations, prison reform, some of the ideas the Finns used to make their children the best educated children in the world - all of those ideas were thought up in the United States but were either not implemented correctly (paid vacations are a privilege, not a right, in These States) or never implemented at all.  Moore makes no more than a passing reference to high-speed rail, but he could have also mentioned that magnetic levitation rail - the next big advancement in passenger trains - was invented in the United States but was never pursued here beyond some basic experiments.  (Why not?  Because the government apparently didn't want to fund any program that might produce a transportation system that would cut into the profits of auto companies or airlines.)  The biggest and best reason to watch this entertaining and enlightening movie is to see that Moore isn't invading anyone at all for their ingenuity; like Bob Dylan with rock and roll in Great Britain, Moore's taking a stand and bringing it all back home.
(Tellingly, Moore doesn't "invade" Great Britain for any ideas.  Perhaps that's appropriate; after nearly two decades of Conservative and centrist Labour rule, the British haven't given the world any new ideas, and, ironically, they're too busy trying to implement our bad ideas these days.)
This movie made me want to do something, and I hope more people see it and decide that they want to do something - anything - to, well, make America great again. But not through the two-party system.   Donald Trump may be correct in saying that America is no longer great, but he doesn't notice the real reasons for that and offers no real solutions; Hillary Clinton says that America never stopped being great, but she doesn't notice the low literacy rates and substandard infrastructure (among other things) that contradict her rebuttal to Trump's slogan.   Moore ends Where To Invade Next with a hopeful message that explains how Americans habituated to expecting no change have it in them to change something almost literally overnight (how? well, I don't want to spoil it for you), and if enough people do see this documentary, hope and change can be more than just a mantra.
Let's do more than just occupy a street in Lower Manhattan.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Bombs Aweigh . . .

I feel sick.
In Seaside Park, New Jersey yesterday, a pipe bomb went off in a trash can just before a five-kilometer run benefiting military families, forcing its cancellation.  Ironically, a delay in the start of the run, caused by a continuation of registrations for it, prevented from anyone running by it and getting hurt when it went off.
Later in the evening, another incendiary device exploded in New York City's Chelsea district, injuring 29 people.  In what can only be described as classic political double-talk, Mayor de Blasio,  insisted that it probably wasn't terrorism-related but said it was intentional.  (A second, unexploded, device was found later nearby.)  Both de Blasio New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that people shouldn't be deterred by the blast and go about their lives . . . and not give in to fear.  My mother already has.  She doesn't want me to go into the city for the forseeable future.
I feel sick . . ..       

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Occupy Wall Street: Five Years Later

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which sought to rein in the financial sector and restore economic fairness and justice to America.
Here's a list of the things the Occupy Wall Street movement has accomplished:




















































If you give me some time, I might be able to think of more. :-p  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Music Videos Of the Week - September 16, 2016

"Space Oddity" by David Bowie and "Mr. Spaceman: by the Byrds (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand-corner.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The "Voice" Of a Generation?

I couldn't help but notice the relentless promos for the latest season of the NBC talent show "The Voice" during the Olympics, nor could I help but notice that Miley Cyrus is a coach, which is sort of like having Sarah Palin as a judge for a high-school debate.
I need not say any more, except to add that the idea of a no-talent singer offering advice on a talent show is more proof of how American culture is dying.  As for the other coaches . . . okay, Alicia Keys deserves to be a judge, and so does Black Shelton, but with the possible exception of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, there's no real rocker among them.  And past seasons haven't included a straight rock singer as a coach, either.  Geez, even "American Idol" had Steven Tyler as a judge!
Okay, past advisors to the coaches have include rockers like John Fogerty and Joan Jett.  But the bottom line is that if your coach isn't a flat-out rocker, you probably ought not to compete if you want to sing like Jagger and not just move like him.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Ten Reasons Not To Sentimentally Eulogize Phyllis Schlafly

Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative activist from Missouri who campaigned against the Equal Rights Amendment and was a spokeswoman for many causes of the New Right, has been eulogized as a champion of the traditional  values and the liberty we Americans hold dear.  Don't you believe it.  I offer ten quotes from the evil spirit of St. Louis as a rebuttal to such nonsense.
"The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap."
"Many years ago Christian pioneers had to fight savage Indians. Today missionaries of these former cultures are being sent via the public schools to heathenize our children."
"After Big Media, U.S. colleges and universities are the biggest enemies of the values of red-state Americans."
"Birth on U.S. territory has never been an absolute claim to citizenship."
"Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions."
"The worst censors are those prohibiting criticism of the theory of evolution in the classroom."
"It's time to cut off visas for foreign baseball players and return our national pastime to Americans."
"Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions."
"The United States is a giant island of freedom, achievement, wealth and prosperity in a world hostile to our values."
And of course, my favorite:
"The atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God."
Even Paul Fussell, who wrote the essay "Thank God For the Atom Bomb," had to have been appalled by that last remark.
Who was the most enlightened spokeswomen for American values in the past half century?  Phyllis, it sure wasn't you. :-p  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

RIP Gene Wilder

He was a great comedic talent who could bring a unique spirit to any character he played.

Gene Wilder, who recently died of Alzheimer's disease at 83, skillfully walked a tightrope in playing Leo Bloom, the likeable but still rather devious accountant in Mel Brooks' 1968 movie The Producers,  and his goofy approach to the title role in 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (in which he more than held his own with masters of timing such as Jack Albertson and Roy Kinnear) ensured that he always would be Willy Wonka (sorry, Johnny Depp).   In the latter film, he perfected the message to children to be good and not do anything that could get them into trouble, and he gave Willy Wonka's psyche just the right amount of darkness.  But surprisingly, my favorite Wilder role was George Caldwell in Silver Streak, his first pairing with Richard Pryor, from 1976.  
A parody of thrillers set on passenger trains, Silver Streak concerned Wilder's character getting mixed up in murders over letters written by the great artist Rembrandt.  Wilder was everything in that role - childlike, straight-laced, a little crude - and he had some wonderful scenes with nothing more than clever lines and priceless misunderstandings (Trying to report a double murder to a local sheriff and bringing up Rembrandt, George confuses a local sheriff so much that the sheriff asks him to start over - "You can start with who shot Rembrandt!")   A guy like Wilder may have been the last person you'd pair with Richard Pryor - playing a petty thief who helps George out - but their chemistry here was so perfect, they went on to make three more movies, including the Sidney Poitier-directed Stir Crazy.
Wilder was indeed a unique talent. He will be missed.        

Friday, September 9, 2016

Music Video Of the Week - September 9, 2016

"Love Potion No. 9" by the Searchers  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Clearing the Air

The two biggest polluters on this planet we call ours, the United States and China, formally agreed to adopt the Paris Agreement negotiated in late 2015 to keep the increase in the average global temperature blow 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  The United States has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 28 percent below levels of emissions produced in 2005. The deal also hopes to provide $100 billion a year between 2016 and 2020 in financing to help developing countries meet their gas reduction goals.  As soon as the deal takes effect, nations that have ratified it have to wait for at least three years to leave it.
Unfortunately, climate-change denier Donald Trump is gaining in the presidential election polls and a presidential term is four years.  
Despite Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, despite the drought in California and some of the worst flooding in Louisiana in decades, despite the receding beaches in Miami, congressional Republicans still don't believe climate change is real and Trump is happy to please them by promising to commit the country to producing more coal.  President Obama knows this and has framed the deal as an executive agreement rather than as a treaty because he knew the Senate would never ratify it as a treaty.  But if the deal goes into effect before the year is out, that means a President Trump would be able to take the U.S. out of the deal by the end of 2019.  If you thought the United States was the skunk of the world under Ronald Reagan of George Walker Bush, wait'll the Donald takes over; you ain't seen nothing yet!
The one thing that gives me hope is that efforts to combat climate change are going full tilt boogie all over the world, including this country, as more energy producers are turning away from coal and more toward cleaner fuels like natural gas, as well as wind power.  Even if Trump gets into the White House, there's no stopping the tide of history.  And when the tide of the ocean floods his own properties, maybe then the Donald will come around.
On the other hand, maybe he'll eat the loss and build condos in a melted Greenland. :-O :-(              

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ranting and Railing

This is ridiculous . . ..
The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced that Amtrak, the national passenger railroad, will get $2.5 billion that will go to improvements on the Northeast Corridor line from Boston to Washington, improvements to various stations, a new maintenance facility, and 28 new Acela train sets the will increase passenger seating by 40 percent.  The Acela trains, Amtrak's so-called "high-speed" train sets, will go 160 miles an hour or faster after track improvements are made.
So what is ridiculous about this, aside from the fact that some European bullet trains go faster than two hundred miles an hour and also the fact that Acela trains rarely reach their top speed owing to track curves and similar issues?
The $2.5 billion funding is a loan.
That's right, a loan, not a subsidy.  Amtrak is actually expected to pay it back, as if it were a completely private company, like General Motors.
This is just another example of how the U.S. government is non-committed to developing rapid rail in America.  Rather than invest in high-speed rail and commit public money to it, as it does with aviation and highways, the federal government is letting Amtrak borrow money to get its Acela (Spanish for "bullet train lite") service up to second-rate.   It was President Obama's Transportation Department that approved this loan, with the support of Amtrak supporter Joe Biden, our Vice President.  What happens if we get in 2017 a pro-business, anti-big-government President who decides we can't afford to lend money that Amtrak might take more than awhile to pay back?
Worse yet, what happens if Trump is elected President?      
High-speed rail in America?  I'll believe it when I see it, and as for the improvements Amtrak is borrowing money for, that goes double. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Oh No, Not the Election Again!

Donald Trump seems to be gaining a modicum of traction is his presidential campaign.  Last week he defined his immigration platform in more detailed terms and not so much in the abstract, focusing more on illegal immigration and not so much on immigration in general. When he talks about the effect of illegal immigration on the native-born black and Hispanic populations, though, he doesn't sound concerned so much as he sounds like he's trying to downplay his inherent racial attitudes in his past . . . and present.  Trump's one brief shining moment - his meeting with Mexican President Enrique Enrique Peña Nieto, in which Trump himself appeared presidential - was completely undermined.  It was the Trumpster who did the undermining.  He said he hadn't discussed his proposed border wall with Peña Nieto, but the president of Mexico contradicted that statement, saying that the wall had come up and and also saying that Mexico would never pay for it. Thanks to a Twitter fight between the president of Mexico and the would-be President of the United States, Trump has gone back to being Trump.
But meanwhile . . . the FBI released notes of its interviews with Hillary Clinton over her e-mail server while she was at the State Department.  Hillary said she "could not recall any briefing or training by State related to the retention of federal records or handling classified information," and that she responded  39 times the she could not recall or remember when answering about process or the contents of specific e-mails.  The notes only seemed to enforce FBI Director James Comey's earlier conclusion that Hillary had been careless with her private e-mail account while at State.  Oh yeah, and she was untrained in department procedure on how to handle classified information.
I am so glad I'm going third party this year.
By the way, look for me to avoid talking about the election so much going into the fall campaign.  In fact, I will probably comment very little about it . . . mainly because everything that can be said about the Donald and the Hillary has already been said.  "But Steve," you're asking, "certainly you must have missed writing political commentary on your blog during the Olympics and your hiatus.  Certainly you must have second thoughts about your decision to comment less on politics from now until the election."  Actually, none whatsoever.  Once I found other things to write about and do online, I realized how happy I was not to comment on the 2016 election so much.  So I am going to refrain a lot from commenting on it, going forward.
"Surely you can't be serious," you say.
I am serious.  And don't call me Shirley.  
I also finished fixing all my labels on blog entries between February 2009 and April 2012.  You're welcome.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Rotting From Within

Okay, Hillary Clinton is running ahead of Donald Trump in most polls, and those of us who believe the Clintons have outstayed their welcome likely won't be able to stop their desired restoration.  But just remember this; even if  Hillary does win in November, that is not going to fix the problems of the Democratic Party!  The Democrats will still have a minority of governorships and state legislative chambers, they'll still be a minority in the House, and they may not even win the Senate this year if enough voters decide that Hillary, if elected President, is too untrustworthy to be given a Democratic majority in either house of Congress.  And whoever becomes the permanent chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2017 will have his or her work cut out for him or her by having to undo the work of his or her two predecessors, Tim Kaine (who lost the House and several governorships to the Republicans in the 2010 midterms) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who lost the Senate to the Republicans in the 2014 midterms).  Kaine is the Democratic vice presidential nominee; Wasserman Schultz is a Hillary stooge who has assumed an honorary leadership position in the Clinton campaign and was just renominated to run for another U.S. House term in her district over an opponent who supported Bernie Sanders.  Not good.
The problem remains an inability to cultivate plausible candidates for down-ballot offices.  One example of this is Kentucky, where, after Democrats abandoned their fifty-state strategy, Democratic "rising stars" were handily defeated and humbled into irrelevance.  Jack Conway famously lost his U.S. Senate bid to Rand Paul in 2010 but was tagged by a Chris Matthews as a Democrat to watch.  After Conway's loss in Kentucky gubernatorial election of 2015, Democrats stopped watching; he withdrew from politics and returned to private law practice after having served as the state's attorney general.  And no one wants to talk about the future of Allison Lundergan Grimes, who challenged Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for his seat in 2014 only for McConnell to emerge as the winner and still champ . . . and Majority Leader.  Now that Rand Paul is facing what should be an easy re-election victory over a different opponent (I could look up his name again, but it's not important), we don't hear much about Democratic prospects in Republican states or a fifty-state strategy.  Republican prospects in Democratic states?  Don't count out Scott Walker for a third term as governor of Wisconsin in 2018.
Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, once a Democratic rising star himself but long since laughed out of the limelight when he tried to run for President, has long complained about Democratic inattention to down-ballot races and has been touted as a possible Democratic National Committee chairman.  However, neither the committee itself nor the Clintons themselves have taken such a proposal seriously, which is why no one else does.  O'Malley loves the Democratic Party and wants to save it, but the same people who doomed his political career to irrelevance have already doomed the party to the same. They let it rot from within, and while the party's prospects look good on the surface, its collapse is only one presidential election defeat away, whether it be in 2016 or 2020.  Perhaps concerned Democrats like O'Malley should stop worrying about what's best for the party and start thinking about what's best for the country . . . and form a new party.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Music Video Of the Week - September 2, 2016

"Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" by the Temptations (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Lyin' Ryan

Now that I'm back - and, given the possibility of Tropical Storm Hermine affecting New Jersey this Labor Day weekend, I might not be back for long but hopefully won't be away for even longer -  I have to tend to unfinished business.  And no one is done with the spectacularly dumb Ryan Lochte just yet.


The Olympic swimmer has suffered some well-deserved fallout for getting drunk and vandalizing a gasoline station in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics and trying to cover it up by lying about it and saying he was robbed.  Four companies Lochte has had endorsement deals with have dropped him, and United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun, who is eager to have his organization join the Olympic movement in spirit as well as in name, is having a thorough investigation conducted, with the promise of disciplinary action.  I've heard it said that Lochte acted like he could get away with characterizing Brazil as a lawless place (a so-called lawless place that just convicted and removed its president from office, because no one is above the law in Brazil),  because of a sense of white male privilege, but it's clear that Lochte's privilege, if he ever had any, has just been revoked.
So why is he appearing on ABC's celebrity contest show "Dancing With the Stars?"
That's the latest about Lochte.  And I'm dead serious.  Before you write this off as just an appearance on a cheesy reality show, bear in mind that "Dancing With the Stars," with its emphasis on glamour, class, and sophistication - you need all of those if you're going to dance - is the favorite reality show of everyone who hates reality shows.  It's the Cadillac of the genre.  Ryan Lochte obviously doesn't deserve to be on a show like this.  He belongs on a celebrity reality show in which he gets locked up with bikers, professional circus clowns, or, better yet, other celebrities . . . preferably those with lesser reputations than his own.
No matter.  Although he's vowed to work his way back to competitive swimming, and even though he hopes to make it to the 2020 Tokyo Games - when he's 35 - the odds are against him.  So far,  Lochte has found no supporters for his redemption . . . save one.  Olympic swimming champion and TV swimming commentator Rowdy Gaines has come to his defense, explaining that Lochte is "really good guy," and added that while what Lochte did was "amazingly stupid," he hopes that America is a "where something like this can be forgiven . . ..  A lot of people have done a lot worse. It doesn't make it right, it just makes it forgivable."
Well, if we're going to forgive Ryan Lochte, let's start forgiving athletes of color for similar behavior, otherwise we don't forgive Lochte.  And football player Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem?  He has nothing to apologize for.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Olympics: My Greatest Hits, Part Three

With the 2016 Rio Olympics behind me, I look back at some of my more interesting comments about the previous summer Olympiad in London, as well as about the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics:
"I just finished watching the men's canoe double live, in which two British pairs won the gold and silver medals. After one of the canoers apparently fell into the water at the bottom of the artificial rapids, the other canoers and their coaches all jumped in. It looked like a cross between an evangelical baptism and a Monty Python sketch."  ("We have the Foreign Secretary, who has just returned from the bitter fighting in the Gulf of Oman. He's going to tell us about . . . canoeing!") - London, 2012
"If you've seen the rowing races at the London Olympics, you probably have wondered who those guys riding on bicycles along the water's edge are. They're the coaches of the rowers, calling out to them on what to do and how to do it as they follow them . . .. So . . . why don't the coaches get cycling medals? Come on! They deserve medals! Some of those coaches have actually crashed while looking after their rowers. One coach from Canada actually ended up in the bushes - twice . . .. If there's a cyclist in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed, then . . . it's just the head coach for the Dutch team." :-D - London, 2012
"[Katie] Ledecky not only unexpectedly defeated [British swimmer Rebecca] Adlington for the gold [in the women's 800-meter freestyle swim race], she broke [Janet] Evans's U.S. record as well .  . .. Prince William and the Dutchess of Cambridge were there, having thought they'd see Adlington win another gold for Britain. At the end of the race, Adlington swam over to [Ledecky] and said to her, 'Amazing!', which I believe is British English for 'What the f--- just happened?'" - London, 2012
"While American women's teams are going for the gold at the London Olympics, the [U.S.] men's teams lucky to make it there are sucking, except for the basketball team . . .. Come on, you Y-chromosomed wusses. Get your damn acts together. It's not that you were beaten by girls. You were beaten by Croatians. I want a men's team to root for in a gold medal game, and you have me on the verge of rooting for Bulgaria in volleyball." - London, 2012 
"I saw Paul McCartney and some people around him in the stands at the London Olympic stadium singing a chorus of 'All You Need Is Love,' the original recording of which begins with a sampling of 'La Marseillaise,' the French national anthem. I got to thinking . . . did a Frenchman win a gold medal in something at the time, and did someone get confused when the medal ceremony was held and the music started playing?" - London, 2012
"Shaun White had to drop out of the [slopestyle snowboarding] event owing a wrist injury. But's that not what caught my attention. What's up with White's new short haircut? Is the king of winter sport attitude going James Hetfield on us?" :-D - Sochi, 2014 
"The New York area has another big winter storm bearing down on it for Thursday. It's so warm in Sochi, it's too bad they couldn't have Olympic skiing here [in the New York area] this year. In fact, I know the perfect slopes for skiing in my area - all the shoveled, piled-up snow along alongside my driveway!" - Sochi, 2014
"Why is BMW designing American bobsleds? We have the athletic talent for this sport, but we don't have the engineering prowess to build our own sled? We have to go to Munich for that?" - Sochi, 2014
The Russian men's hockey team lost on home ice to Finland, 3-1, in the Winter Olympics tournament. Somehow, all of the medals Russia has won at Sochi are irrelevant. I guess this is Finland's revenge for the Winter War? Because this loss certainly has the explosive power of a Molotov cocktail." - Sochi, 2014
"A tip of the hat to all the figure skaters who made daring choices in their music selections. Prince? Pink Floyd's 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond?' An orchestrated version of 'Bohemian Rhapsody?' Mama mia, mama mia! Okay, in a hip-hop world, these choices might seem conservative, but not in the very conservative world of figure skating. And choosing Floyd or Queen music from 1975 would have definitely denied Dorothy Hamill a gold medal in 1976." - Sochi, 2014
What?  Nothing funny about synchronized swimming?  Well, I did have a post about it from August 2012, but I couldn't quote from it without taking it out of context.  So feel free - please - to go to it here.
Oh yeah, and this: In my original post about Katie Ledecky defeating Rebecca Adlington for the gold medal in the women's 800-meter freestyle swim race, I concluded by saying, "Look for Katie Ledecky in 2016."  Called it! :-D
Time to put out the flame for now . . .      

Friday, August 26, 2016

Music Video Of the Week - August 26, 2016

"The Girl From Ipanema" by Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hiatus Time!

I'm worn out from my Olympic commentary, as always, though I didn't go all out like I did during the 2012  London Games.  Except for a new Music Video Of the Week this coming Friday, I won't post here again until August 31 at the earliest.  Besides, I have yet another project to finish to bring this blog up to speed.
Here's the thing.  While I said I was not going to add labels to all the posts that I never did label, I had to go back to the posts I did label between February 2009, when I first started using labels, and April 2012, when I stopped.  I stopped because, in April 2012,  Blogger.com redesigned its site, and as a result it could no longer support Internet Explorer 8, my preferred Internet browser at the time. So I had to download Google Chrome, a browser that, non-coincidentally, Google-owned Blogger.com could support.  Part of the redesign of Blogger.com included a requirement to separate labels with commas rather than separate them with quotation marks, as I'd been doing.  But in using commas, I found that the labels were being automatically posted in alphabetical order, which isn't always necessarily the order I placed them in or wanted them in.  As I thus had no control over the order of my labels, I decided not to post labels any more.  But my friend Clarisel said I should, in order to draw more eyes to my blog.  So I resumed using labels this month.
But here's the problem; the labels I had separated with quotation marks between February 2009 and April 2012 were not automatically separated by commas after Blogger.com made the change from separation by quotation marks.  So, a blog post with, say, ten labels before that change suddenly had one long, run-on label instead.  Does that mean I have to separate the old labels with commas myself?  You got it, pal!
So that's what I'll be doing between now and when I get back, and maybe some time after.  I hope to have this all done before Labor Day.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Flying Out of Rio

Well, another summer Olympiad has come and gone, and now it's time to bid adeus, goodbye, and all that other stuff, as we put Rio de Janeiro behind us.  And, as is my custom, I'd like to acknowledge everyone who got me interested enough in the Games to comment about it here.
I'd like to thank Allyson Felix, Clayton Murphy, Emma Coburn, and Jenny Simpson for their achievements in track and field, Simone Manuel for her breakthrough in the pool, Simone Biles for her gymnastic achievements, and Simone de Beauvoir for writing feminist literature that had to have inspired Title IX.
Special thanks also go to Nathan Adrian and Ryan Murphy for their feats in swimming, as well as to Maya Dirado and Lilly King for theirs, and all the U.S. swim relay teams, as well as thanks to all the other victorious athletes that I don't know from Adam or Eve who made these Games enjoyable.
No thanks to Ryan Lochte for his inexplicable and dubious achievement outside the pool.
(Oh, yeah, regarding my ladyfriend who was hot for Ryan Lochte . . . yeah, she got over him . . . before the bathroom incident. )
Gymnastics coach Martha Karloyi is following her husband Bela into retirement after having built the women's gymnastics program in These States from nothing into much more than something.  Thanks for the memories, guys, and thank you especially, Bela, for your unbridled enthusiasm for women's sports.  Shane Tusup can't hold a candle to you.
And thanks to Shane Tusup, Katinka Hosszú's husband, for his own wild enthusiasm.  I haven't seen anything like that in the Olympic bleachers since Michelle Kwan's dad! :-D And thank you, Katinka Hosszú, for being totally responsible for your swimming medals.
Special thanks to the Danish men's handball team for enlivening - and unexpectedly winning - the men's team-handball gold-medal game against France. You guys rock!
Thanks also to the commentators who covered these Olympics, especially Rebecca Lowe for that cool, British accent.  No thanks to Dan Hicks for demonstrating to me why media critics don't like him very much.
As always, I thank Mary Carillo and Tom Brokaw for their reports about Brazilian culture, especially Mary Carillo's report on the woman who inspired "The Girl From Ipanema." I also give credit, however begrudgingly, to figure skaters Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir for their own Brazilian travelogue segments.  Lipinski has never been a favorite athlete of mine, because she's so full of herself, but she did a good job.  So did Johnny Weir - but please, Johnny, please get yourself a fashion consultant!
Thanks also to models Gisele Bündchen, Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio for being a part of these Games, be it in the opening ceremony or through paling around with Ryan Seacrest, but how come no one invited those two other Brazilian beauties from the modeling world, Gisele Zelauy and my favorite Brazilian model, Dalma Collado, to join in? It's not because they're over forty, is it?
Paulo Pimenta is a Facebook friend of mine from Brazil, and I connected with him through the models I have befriended on social media.  He's been enjoying the Rio Games up close and personal. Thanks to my social-media connections, I have also connected on Facebook with . . . Gisele Zelauy. I dedicate my commentary on the Rio Games to them. :-)
There weren't that many memorable television commercials related to the Olympics, but there was one good one - a Reese's peanut butter cup ad showing winter Olympian Lindsey Vonn (a skier) trying her hand at non-winter sports with great difficulty. I'd like thank her for making such an entertaining commercial.  Lindsey, you are so adorable in that ad - and you totally got this! :-D
And thanks to the late Maya Angelou for reading her poetry in commercials for iPhone and the University of Phoenix.  Yes, that was sarcasm.  Whose stupid idea was it to play the recorded voice of a dead woman reading her own poetry in commercials, anyway, especially for an online diploma mill?  Not cool.
And a special thank you to Usain Bolt - I'm gonna miss you, man! - as well as very special thanks to Michael Phelps . . . 
 . . . for going out on top like no athlete ever has gone out or ever will.
And most of all, thanks to Katie Ledecky for her monumental accomplishments in the pool.  
 
This is Katie Ledecky with the great Janet Evans, who more or less passed her distance swimming crown to Katie.
Isn't she cute?
I don't mean Katie Ledecky. :-D
And speaking of Janet Evans . . . well, I saved my most important gratitude for last.  Although Evans has not competed in the Olympics since 1996, I found it impossible to comment on this summer Olympiad, or the previous one, without mentioning her at least once.  Which leads me to draw the obvious conclusion:  When it comes to writing about the Summer Olympics, she is, for better or for worse, my muse.  How could she not be?  Evans, as Hannah Storm told her in 1996, set the standard for what it means to be an Olympian in and out of competition, and her standard remains.  Why else would Evans appear on a Wheaties box only now, in 2016?  So, in addition to wishing her a happy birthday in advance (she turns 45 next Sunday), I'd like to thank her for the inspiration to blog about the Olympics, now and for all time.
Although she may find some of my comments a little too cynical . . .
And so we look with 2020 vision to the next Summer Olympics.  Gee, Mom, I want to go . . . straight back to Tokyo . . . :-D

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Triple Trouble?

Jamaican Usain Bolt accomplished a major feat by winning the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter race, and the 4x100-meter relay in the Rio Games.  See, these were the third consecutive times he won each of those races in the Olympics, which is why the press is calling this feat the triple-triple. But that symmetrical record may be in jeopardy; it suddenly turns out that a fellow Jamaican on the gold-medal-winning 4x100 tram in Beijing in 2008 may have been on steroids at the time.  If it turns out to be true, Bolt, who was not on steroids and never has been, could lose that relay medal from 2008?
And this is only coming out now?  Sure took long enough . . . and the timing couldn't be more suspect.  I certainly hope it isn't true.
Incidentally, something similar happened to Michael Johnson in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics.  The esteemed American sprinter ran on the U.S. men's 4x400-meter relay team and helped the team win the gold medal. Then it came out that there was doping involved.  As far as I can make out, Johnson was the only one on that team who wasn't on steroids.  Needless to say, the team was disqualified, and Johnson had to suffer the indignity of being embarrassed because of the cheating of others.
And speaking of the 4x400, both the American men's and women's teams  - the women's team featuring Allyson Felix - won.  Felix now has six Olympic gold medals, more than any American woman in track and field history.  Congratulations also to Matthew Centrowitz for winning the men's 1500-meter race.

Go East, Young Athlete

With the 2016 Rio Olympics coming to a close soon, attention shifts east . . . far east.

The next three Olympiads, winter and summer, take place in eastern Asia, and in all three countries Americans once commonly referred to as the Orient - Korea, Japan and China, in that chronological order.   The 2018 Winter Olympics take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which is too small to be seen on this map but is about 110 miles east of Seoul.  It's already a ski resort town, so that makes sense.  The 2020 Olympics are to be held in Tokyo, which last hosted the Olympics in 1964.  I guess Tokyo is overdue for a repeat, but there's still the problem of the Fukushima nuclear power plant site being just up the coast. But given that the alternatives were Madrid and Istanbul - Spain has been mired in a big recession, and there was the proximity of Istanbul to Syria at a time when it was becoming apparent that the Syrian civil war wasn't going to end any time soon - it still made sense.
But Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics so soon after it hosted the 2008 Summer Games?  
You know, the Chinese have a lot of damn gall wanting to host another Olympiad in the same city only fourteen years after hosting the first one.  They couldn't wait awhile and give someone else a chance?  I know, I know, Innsbruck, Austria hosted the Winter Games twice within twelve years - 1964 and 1976 - but it hosted the 1976 Winter Games in an emergency after the residents of the original city of choice - Denver - said no to the bonds necessary to make the Winter Olympics happen.  And, of course, the Americans hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta a mere twelve years after Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Games. That shouldn't have happened either, something then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch acknowledged with great subtlety once the Atlanta Games ended, refusing to call them the greatest Games ever at the closing ceremony, as had been his custom at previous Summer Games closing ceremonies.  (Atlanta is Los Angeles with more cars and fewer health nuts.)  So why go back to Beijing so soon?
Oh yeah, another thing.  Winter Olympic cities tend to be smaller places, since the Winter Games have fewer countries and fewer athletes. Winter Olympiads tend to be, in comparison to the regular ones, cozy and intimate, like a comfortable ski lodge. Beijing, home to 21.7 million people, is not a cozy or intimate city. Unlike Pyeongchang, it's not hard to find on a map.
As it turns out, the logistics and the cost of staging even the Winter Games have gotten so out of hand that, when it was time to decide on a site for the 2022 Winter Olympics, there was only one other bid - from Almaty, Kazakhstan, a city whose biggest claim to fame is being the place Stalin banished Trotsky to before Trotsky made his way to Mexico.  So why not Almaty?  It would have been the first city in a former Soviet republic other than Russia to host an Olympiad, winter or summer, and it would have continued the streak of Olympiads in Asia - central Asia, yes, but still Asia.  Why not Almaty (population, 1.7 million people, twenty million fewer than Beijing), indeed?
Was it because of Borat
Aside from Beijing, though, I have no problem with the next Olympiads being held in three consecutive Asian cities.  After all, back in the 1920s, five consecutive winter and summer Olympiads were held in European cities, and no one had a problem with that.
Except maybe the Chinese and the Japanese . . .

Keeping (and Losing) Track

As exciting as it was to see Ashton Eaton win the decathlon at the Olympics for the second time in a row, Usain Bolt's follow-up victories in the men's 200-meter race and the 4x100-meter relay, winning three gold medals in the Rio Olympics and nine overall, were amazing.  The man from D'yer Mak'er is now one of the most successful Olympic track  stars of all time.  He's retiring after this.  Pity.
Meanwhile, in the women's 4x100-meter relay, the U.S. team won a stunning gold-medal victory in the outer lane after having to do a do-over to qualify when a Brazilian runner interfered with Allyson Felix (the U.S. women had to run by themselves against the clock in the do-over).  The team - Felix, Tianna Bartoletta (who, before she got married, was Tianna Madison, the name you might remember her by), English Gardner (speaking of names, the most memorable name since Krystal Ball), and  Tori Bowie - poured it on in the final and won in stunning fashion.
Their male counterparts, incidentally, lost just as stunningly.  They were never going to win over a Jamaican (a D'yer Mak'in?) team anchored by Usian Bolt, but they were able to do well enough to settle for bronze.  Then the roof caved in; it turned out that leadoff runner Mike Rodgers handed the baton off to Justin Gatlin outside the space allotted on the track, causing them to be disqualified.  This is the second consecutive Olympiad in which the American men's 4x100-meter relay team has been disqualified from the event final and the ninth time overall it's had a disqualification or baton screw-up in World Championships or Olympic competition since 1995. (The team didn't make the final at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing because they dropped the baton in . . . a qualifier.)
Girls rule, boys drool?  In the 4x100-meter track relay race, the boys don't just drool, they slobber like St. Bernards.  Last night on the PBS Newshour, Christine Brennan, noting that the American women win a sizable majority of gold medals - 61 percent - for Team USA, said that, because of Title IX (you know what that is, I won't repeat it), we should get used to that.  But that 61-39 ratio is not just the result of more American women wining.  It's also the result of more American men . . . losing.  Because American men aren't losing to women in the Olympics, of course.  Indeed, some of these guys are defeating themselves.  
While I'm here, I need to drool a bit about my typos from my previous post about Allyson Felix and other track competitors.  I referred to 40-meter and 300-meter races;  they were, respectively, 400-meter and 3000-meter races, the 90 percent reductions the results of missing zeroes.  The original errors were corrected. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lots and Lots of Olympic News!

We're getting very near the end of the Rio Olympics, so let me see how much news I can mention here:
The U.S. women's water polo team defended their 2012 Olympic championship and won the first back-to-back gold medals in history.  They beat Italy, who had better luck in men's volleyball (see below).
Helen Maroulis became the first woman to win a gold medal in wrestling, defeating a favorite, Japan's Saori Yoshida.
The U.S. men's volleyball team was on the verge of being eliminated from playing for the gold medal game by the Italians, then came back to . . . almost win the match.  They came back against the Italians and held them back for as long as they could, though, in the end, the Italians won the match.  but they didn't win easily.  Italy - whose men's volleyball team has a Russian ethnic on it - will p[lay Russia or Brazil for the gold medal.  The Americans still have a chance of wining the bronze.  At least I don't have to root for Bulgaria this time.
Oh, and here's something I just found out about Katie Ledecky: she's the first American woman to win the 200-meter, 400-meter, and 800-meter freestyle swimming races in the Olympics since Debbie Meyer in 1968. Meyer is a native Marylander too.
Back in a flash with more splash and dash.

Lochte Mess

Ryan Lochte apologized for his statements about the non-robbery - actually an altercation over vandalism that he and other swimmers caused at a gas station - that took place Sunday, but he never admitted to lying, which only seemed to leave him in a deeper hole. It's also an embarrassment for us Americans, as we are trying to to put the "ugly American tourist" stereotype behind us.
This is worse than the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, where members of the U.S. men's hockey team - a team entirely staffed with professionals - trashed their rooms at the Olympic village after losing a key game in the Olympic tournament and ending up in sixth place, because the hockey team never attempted to blame anyone else for their behavior (though they downplayed the damage they did), and the United States Olympic Committee was more swift and effective in handling the situation than it could have been with Lochte, given the initially murky circumstances in his case. 
(Aside:  The 1998 Winter Olympics were the first winter Olympiad to feature women's ice hockey; the U.S. won the gold medal that event.  Before 1998 it was believed that men play ice hockey and women don't; as it turned out then, in the U.S., at least, the opposite was true.) 
All right, let's move on.  There are still some surprises left in track and field in Rio, and as I write this, the U.S. and Italy  are in an intense men's volleyball semifinal match.  These Games are going to end with a bang.        

Music Video Of the Week - August 19, 2016

"Do It Again" by the Kinks (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Swimmers Behaving Badly

Okay, let me see if I have this fast-changing story straight . . .
Ryan Lochte and three other swimmers - Jimmy Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz - were riding in a taxi and were allegedly robbed at gunpoint by thieves pretending to be police officers, forcing them out of the car and demanding their wallets.  Lochte said he dared one of them to use his gun and then got down on the ground.
Then Lochte changed details in his story while his teammates said that he never pulled a Dirty Harry-type moment, and he doubled down on his insistence that they were robbed . . . when in fact they were stopping at a service station after having gotten drunk and vandalized a bathroom.  The fake police officer was actually a real security officer who gave them a hard time because they were . . . giving him a hard time. 
Then ol' Ryan bailed on his teammates and went home, leaving Feigen, Conger and Bentz to take the rap and tell authorities . . . the truth. Which was caught on a security camera.
I think the dye in Lochte's hair seeped into his brain.
Lochte's behavior - inexcusable for a man of his age and position - is going to go down as one of the most brazen display of immaturity by an American swimmer that I can remember.
Which brings me back to the subject of Janet Evans.  I sort of remember, twenty years ago in Atlanta, that Evans was dismissed for her immaturity.  She was ridiculed for what she did after she was eliminated from the final in he 400-meter freestyle by a fraction of a second.  She . . . cried.
What?  You mean an athlete on the verge of becoming the first American woman to win a fifth individual Olympic gold medal in swimming got unexpectedly eliminated from the final of the only one of two races she was competing in at Atlanta in which she was a favorite - and she actually got upset because she was eliminated by a microscopic margin?  After all the training she went through to make history, she was, upon failing to do so, actually . . .  tearful?  Oh, I'm shocked! 
And when that bomb in Centennial Olympic Park went off before her eyes, she was reportedly criticized for her reaction.  She . . . cursed.  No kidding!  Like, what was she supposed to do, say something like, "It is terribly unfortunate that a bomb went off and could have killed me if it had been any closer?" 
Evans wasn't being immature, she was being human.  Michael Phelps, incidentally, may have been immature when  he drank and did drugs, but he showed his humanity when he came clean and got clean.  Lochte was not only being immature, he was being . . . dumb.     

Yet More 2016 Miscellaneous Olympic Musings

You take your victories where you find them . . ..
Much has been made of the U.S. women's gymnastics team at the 2016 Olympics, and deservedly so, but their male counterparts haven't been doing as well.  But while teh girls ruled, the boys didn't exactly drool; the men's team's Danell Leyva, known for his lucky towel, had luck on the bars.  He won silver medals in both the horizontal and parallel bars.  Glad to see he didn't throw in the towel. :-)
Also, track runner Jenny Simpson won a bronze in the 1500-meter race - the first medal for an American woman in the so-called metric mile.  (Evan Jager won the silver in the men's 3000-meter steeplechase - and the two athletes raced with an elastic hair band they shared between them. Apparently it brought the two of them good luck.
Okay, now that the American women dominate in regular gymnastics, they have to work on rhythmic gymnastics - floor exercises with balls and streamers.  The Russians own that sport!  (But the Russians don't own track and field anymore; as noted here, sixty-seven Russian track and field atheltes - 67 was the final count - were banned from competing in Rio due to doping. How many Russian track and field athletes were able to compete?  Only one - long jumper Darya Klishina.)
And if American women can run the metric mile in the Olympics, certainly American women can swim the metric mile in the Olympics.  They've set records in the 1500-meter freestyle swim elsewhere.  Come on, IOC, show some gumption! Add the women's 1500-meter freestyle swim already!
Get rid of synchronized swimming to fit in, if you have to.  (Okay, I couldn't resist . . .)
And would you believe that Kerri Walsh-Jennings and April Ross got knocked out of gold medal contention in beach volleyball?  It actually shouldn't have surprised anyone; the Brazilian pair who beat them were more favored due to their standings.  Well, you can't win 'em all . . . but the dynamic American duo did win the bronze against another Brazilian pair! :-D

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sync Or Swim

You  may have noticed that at no point up to now in my commentary on the 2016 Olympics have I tried to make fun of synchronized swimming.  Nothing about the silly balletic moves, no cracks about the competitors' gelled hair or sparkling outfits, no more than a passing mention of their smiling.  I could try to convince you that this is because I have learned to respect anyone who participates in athletic endeavors that I could never excel in or even attempt, but after all the comments I made about the U.S. men's soccer team, I don't think you'll buy that.  I decided not to make any jokes about synchronized swimming this time because I've already ridiculed it enough in commentary during Olympiads past.
However, I do want to say this to any young woman who is contemplating the possibility of participating in this female-only sport:  If you do, you'll be subject to ridicule from cynics more cruel than I am, you'll risk freezing your face with all that smiling, and your lungs will burn up while trying to hold your breath under water.
Also, you'll never appear on a Wheaties box.
Unlike one female swimmer I could mention. ;-)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Taking a Dive

Allyson Felix, already the most decorated female American Olympic athlete in track and field, was a moment away from a fifth career gold medal in the women's 400-meter race.  She lost it when Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas suddenly leaped out over the finish line and crossed it first by landing on it.
Miller apparently forgot that she was a track runner and not a diver.  
This was so unfair. Felix was in gold medal position; she should have won.  Miller made a last-minute move that was so underhanded, I stopped working on an freelance article for a moment just to go on Facebook and complain about it.  Even more people, I understand, complained about it on Twitter.
There's just one thing; what Miller did was legal.
Yes!  Apparently, Olympic track runners can hurl themselves over the line, provided they don't impede their competitors. And yes, Americans have done this too; David Neville won the bronze medal in the men's 400-meter race at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.  Well, that wasn't fair, either, so don't accuse me of Yankee imperialism by making the case for Felix.  I heard she was tearful over the result - oh, great, now the press will call her a sore loser - and I, quite frankly, don't blame her for being upset.    
But at least she won the silver medal.
Some more good news: American Clayton Murphy won the bronze in the men's 800-meter race, while American Emma Coburn won the bronze in the women's 3000-meter (three-kilometer) steeplechase, the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in a steeplechase event. 

Okay, Let's Track It!

And now to Olympic track and field. 
We start with . . . the man! 
Okay, I'm not Jamaican, I don't know anyone of Jamaican origin, and I've never been to Jamaica, but I was rooting for Mr. Usain Bolt of D'yer Mak'er in the men's 100-meter dash to pick up his third straight gold medal in that event.  A single hectometer (a hundred meters; I love using that measurement, you understand) transformed Mr. Bolt from a great athlete to the most monumental track star of our time.  And he still has the 200-meter trace and the 4x100-meter relay ahead of him.  Alas, this will likely be his last Olympiad.
Meanwhile, Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa (below) set a new world record Sunday night in the men's 400 meters at the 2016 Olympics.  The previous world record was held by the great Michael Johnson, which Johnson set at the 1999 World Championships in Seville.  Some context: Van Niekerk set a record at 43.03 seconds, beating Johnson's record of 43.18, a huge difference.
Of course, van Niekerk's new world record is also the Olympic record, and Johnson had been the previous Olympic record holder in the 400-meter race as well, setting it at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta with a time of 43.49.  Van Niekerk is 24 years old.
Oh yes, the heptathlon. Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium (above) won it, beating out Jessica Ennis - who has since gotten married and his now Jessica Ennis-Hill - by a score of 6810 to 6775.  Ennis-Hill took silver, of course, with Canada's Brianne Theisen-Eaton won the bronze with 6653 points.
Yes, Theisen-Eaton is married to American decathlon champion Ashton Eaton.  Yes, he was rooting for her.  Yes, some Americans were upset about him rooting for a foreigner (sort of like how I was rooting for Usain Bolt the other night), even though the foreigner in question was his wife.  So they wanted him to root against her and for a fellow American?  Well, an American Olympic heptathlon champion this year was a long shot; the highest ranking American, Barbara Nwaba, finished in twelfth place.  But still, Eaton rooted for his better half, so that makes him a traitor.  Yeah, he should be put in front of a firing squad.
You know, I'm getting sick and tired of dealing with stupid people . . ..