Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Diggins It

Cross-country skier Jessie Diggins was best known to Comcast viewers in commercials for the Internet service provider, showing everyone in her hometown of Afton, Minnesota, a town supposedly out in the middle of nowhere (it's actually just east of St. Paul) waking up in the middle of the night to see her compete in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.  Now everyone knows who she is; she's the American who, with partner Kikkan Randall, won the Olympic gold medal in the women’s team sprint freestyle in PyeongChang, the first cross-country gold medal for the U.S. since Bill Koch (pronounced "coke") won his in 1976.
Ladies and gentlemen, cross-country Olympic champion (and Comcast spokeswoman) Jessica Diggins!
I dig! :-)
And here's Kikkan Randall.
Nice hair. :-D
Talk about Olympic highlights! :-D 

Lindsey Bronze

The women's downhill ski race at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics is over, and Lindsey Vonn has won . . . the bronze medal. 
She finished behind her friend Sofia Goggia of Italy, who became the first woman from her country to win this event, and to win the downhill, and she was expected to take silver until Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway - Norway again! - came in second.
Lindsey Vonn was very emotional about it, and she knows she'd done the best she could, but she also knows that this will be her last Winter Olympiad.
She's not done yet.  She and Mikaela Shiffrin will both be competing in the women's super giant slalom.  I managed to see the downhill race, but I might have to miss the Super G.  Other commitments, you understand . . .

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Miscellaneous Winter Olympic Musings 2018

Gimme a C!
You may have noticed that I changed the spelling of the South Korean city hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics from "Pyeongchang" to "PyeongChang."  I capitalized the C when I saw that the South Koreans had done the same.  Apparently the locals in PyeongChang did so when their town got confused with Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.  I heard an anecdotal story about how a Kenyan on his way to PyeongChang in 2014 for a conference ended up in Pyongyang instead.  Not fun for him, I hear.
Be that as it may, Pyeongchang - which had changed its name from Pyongchang by adding an "e" in 2000 in an earlier effort to avoid confusion with Kim Jong Un's hometown - decided to capitalize the "C," although most sportswriters haven't reciprocated and have continued to use a lowercase "c."  Me, I chose to respect the Koreans' wishes.  I tried using the new spelling, with the capital C, in my tags, but Blogger.com kept changing it back to the old one.   I had to check all of the posts I used the tag on and change them all to conform the tag to the new spelling . . . and I inadvertently reverted one of posts (my January 24 post about inter-Korean dialogue because of the Winter Games) to an unpublished draft in the process.  For those of you who may have been looking for it, there's your explanation.  Of course I republished it. 
Anyway, the competition.  Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, gold medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the silver medals at the 2014 Sochi Games, won the title again last night, and even though ice dancing is a subjective sport, based on judging and not who crosses the line first, it is more fact than opinion to say that they earned the gold medal over everyone else.  I saw it myself.  Maya and Alex Shibutani, the so-called Shib Sibs, came in third for the bronze. The Shibutani siblings are probably the most popular American brother-sister act in figure skating since the Carruthers siblings at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics . . . and maybe even the most popular brother-sister act of all since the Carpenters.    
Despite the Russians, the U.S. men's hockey team made it to the quarterfinals after beating Slovakia in a rematch, 5-1.  They may, however, have to face the official non-official team from Russia again.  And even thought the U.S. women's team has been more successful against their Russian counterparts than the U.S men's team has been against their Russian counterparts . . . I still say that neither Russian hockey team should be in PyeongChang at all.
And thene there's skiing sweetheart Lindsey Kildow Vonn . . . 
. . . currently appearing in a Bounty commercial showing her in a house built on a slant to play on her living life on a slope . . . 
. . . in one of the slinkiest ski outfits I've ever seen! :-D 
Just remember, when the Summer Olympics are on, one of my ladyfriends enjoys checking out the posteriors on male divers, so please hold your comments about how misogynistic I am.  
Anyway, Madame Vonn skis for gold in the downhill in South Korea Wednesday morning . . . which is tonight in the U.S., and so it will be broadcast live tonight.  It's too bad I won't get to see it - I have to go out tonight for a standing commitment.
Oh well, I missed Mary Lou Retton's perfect ten in 1984, as well as other legendary Olympic moments, so this is nothing new for me.
But I hope Lindsey Vonn wins tonight.  Because if she does, she'll be invited to the White House, and she's already made it clear that she will refuse the invitation because Trump nauseates her.  Breitbart News is already rooting against her for it.   So go ,Lindsey, go! :-) 
A gold medal would be a real quick-picker-upper for her. :-)

Doped Curling and Tied Bobsledding

The Olympic Athletes from Russia, competing ostensibly for themselves and not their country, are allowed to be at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics because they were drug-free and, we are told, shouldn't be penalized for the sins of their fellow countrymen. Well, dig this: Alexander Krushelnitsky, one of those "Olympic Athletes from Russia" and the winner of a bronze medal in his sport, is believed to be doping after having failed a drug test.
Krushelnitsky is a curler.
A curler?  What, curlers are taking steroids?  What sort of a performance-enhancing drug do you need to scrub ice with a broom?
Then again, the Beatles were probably smoking pot when they were curling with those fiendish thingies in the Austrian Alps. 
Krushelnitsky won his medal with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova, in the mixed-doubles competition.  So I guess she is under suspicion as well.
Note to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach: Next time you ban a country from competing, be it for steroids, apartheid, or, say, withdrawing from a climate-change accord - no exceptions!  No one's going to learn to behave if you leave in loopholes only a Washington lobbyist could love!    
Meanwhile, an update on the two-man bobsled competition:  The Germans won a gold medal, but not the Germans you're thinking of, and the ones who won weren't the only winners.  Let me explain.  The victorious German team was not that of Christian Poser and Nico Walther, the guys who crashed into first place after the second of four runs, but in fact it was that of their countrymen Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis with a time of 3 minutes, 16.86 seconds.  And the Canadian team of Justin Kripps and Alexander Kopacz came right after them with a time of . . . 3 minutes, 16.86 seconds.
That's right, a tie, and it came twenty years after a Canadian team tied with an Italian team for the gold medal at the Nagano Winter Games for the same event.  These are the only two times Canada has won two-man bobsled gold.
In the event of a tie for first place, there is no silver medal; both first-place finishers get gold, the silver medal on reserve apparently dipped in the first-place color.  I'd give the silver to the third-place finisher and bronze to the fourth-place finisher, but hey, I don't make the rules.
Oh yeah, Latvian bobsledders Oskars Melbardis and Janis Strenga came in five one-hundredths of a second behind the winners for the bronze, the closest three-sled finish in this event in Olympic history.  The legacy of the great Janis Kipurs lives on. :-)  (Poser and Walther were fifth; the American team of Justin Olsen and Evan Weinstock finished fourteenth.)
On to the four-man event . . .

Monday, February 19, 2018

Havard Degree

I've never taken the saying "You don't win silver, you lose gold" seriously, but in this case I'm willing to make an exception.
At PyeongChang in the men's 500-meter speed skating race, South Korea's Cha Min Kyu tied the Olympic record of 34.42 seconds and led the pack with only three pairs of racers to go.
One of the six remaining racers, Norway's Havard Lorentzen (below), won the gold from Cha by coming in at one one-hundredth of a second sooner, setting the new Olympic record and becoming the first Norwegian man to win this event since 1948. 
Ironically, bronze medalist Gao Tingyu of China had earlier set the record for the track at the arena, at 34.65 seconds.
Norway currently leads in the medal standings at PyeongChang, with 28 medals - 11 gold, 9 silver, 8 bronze.  The United States is in sixth place in the medal count, with 10 medals - 5 gold, 3 silver 2 bronze.  Respectable, but disappointing for many.
Now I get it!  Now I know why Trump wants more immigrants from Norway!  He wants to get immigrants who can build up our Winter Olympics team!  Hey, I have an idea - why not admit Norway as the fifty-first state?  No, better yet, an equal merger - they get to take over the national government and we not only get rid of Trump and Congress, we get their (Norway's) health-care system and public education system!  And together we clean up at the 2022 Winter Olympics!  Everyone's a winner! 
I'm not sure King Harald V would want to become king of America, though . . .     

Pai Creamed

Although a virtual lack of media attention on the Internet neutrality issue these days would have you believe that the Internet deregulation sought and won by Federal Commutations Commission  (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai is a done deal, pushback against Pai is gaining steam . . . even within the FCC itself.   And not just for the FCC's repeal of the neutrality regulation.
It seems that Uncle Charlie's own inspector general is looking into Pai's dealings with Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a conservative media company that owns several local TV stations across the country - many of which are network affiliates, meaning that Sinclair stations in numerous markets can pre-empt any national network program they do not like in favor of, say, a locally produced cooking show.  Or a documentary against single-payer health insurance. According to the New York Times, Pai may have had improper contacts with Sinclair before he became FCC chairman and may have committed improper acts to facilitate Sinclair's takeover of Chicago-based Tribune Media, which owns the Chicago Tribune and several television stations across the country.
FreePress.net reports that Sinclair, already the largest owner of TV stations in the United States, had a close relationship with Donald Trump throughout the 2016 campaign and that that Trump even brokered a deal for favorable news coverage from the company's various newscasts. "Since his appointment as FCC chairman," FreePress.net says, "Pai has worked overtime to clear the decks for Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune: He’s reduced the agency’s longstanding media-ownership limits and overturned rules that required broadcasters to maintain physical studios wherever they broadcast."
Tribune media, by the way, owns WPIX-TV, broadcasting on Channel 11, in New York.  If Sinclair gets its hands on this station, Yankees home baseball games may be the only New  York-based programming you see on it.  
Meanwhile, thanks to the efforts of Senator Susan Collins of Maine - a Republican - fifty senators have endorsing a resolution that would reverse the FCC's repeal of Net neutrality; if one more senator signs on, and it will pass in that chamber.  Momentum to reverse the repeal is gaining in the House, and even though Trump could easily ignore or block the repeal, the growing hostility against Pai cannot be denied.
And as if that weren't enough, New Jersey's new governor, Phil Murphy, just signed an executive order that requires Internet service providers doing business in New Jersey to recognize Net neutrality principles in order to do business with the state government.  New Jersey also became the twenty-second state to join a lawsuit against the repeal, making News Jersey the third state that requires Internet service providers "adhere to the principles of net neutrality" if they want a contract to do business with the state. 
I'm pleased to report that I have had no Web site access issues with my Internet service provider.  Access to my e-mail, on the other hand, has been a different story - its e-mail server keeps going down.  Maybe I should make my Yahoo e-mail account my primary one . . . 
Okay, I guess I can go back to the Winter Olympics now . . .  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Crash Years

Imagine being in the lead in the Winter Olympic two-man bobsled competition.  Imagine almost making it to the finish line after the second run, practically inches - or, in the case of the Olympics, centimeters - away from the end.  Then you crash, and you blow it.
Well, Christian Poser and Nico Walther of Germany did all of that . . . except for the "blowing it" part.  Just as they neared the finish line in PyeongChang, their sled turned over and made its way to the end of the track on its side, its runnings protruding into the air.  Poser and Walther still made it over the line in first place.    
They're actually the ones to beat for a gold medal.
Also in competition are teams from Canada and - of course - Latvia, home of the great Janis Kipurs (you knew I was going to bring that name up eventually).  The Americans?  Not so much, but their problems may be more psychological than athletic.  Steven Holcomb, the American champion bobsledder who won a gold medal in the four-man competition at the 2010 Winter Games, died in May 2017 of a combination of alcohol and opioids, and his death still seems to have an effect on the team; the NBC commentators have even suggested a mental block holding back the U.S. competitors.  Kudos to the Americans for continuing and carrying on.  It wouldn't be a cliché to say that Holcomb would have wanted it that way, but even if it is, clichés aren't the same as lies. 

Russian Interference

The United States men's hockey team lost big time at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to the Olympic Athletes from Russia team, 4-0.  What was galling about this game is not that the Americans lost to a Russian team.  What was galling is that they lost to a team that should not even be there.
Sportswriters are inevitably blaming this defeat on the National Hockey League for not letting its players take a couple of weeks off to participate in the Winter Olympics and forcing national teams to rely on college students and minor-leaguers, which decimated the American and Canadian teams more than it did the Russian team, and even though veterans of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team may disagree, there is probably some truth to this, as the Russian team was able to find enough players from a major professional league in Russia itself.  But that's hardly the whole story.  The anti-doping ban on the Russian Olympic team made exceptions for athletes who don't have any record of cheating with steroids, and while I expected female figure skaters to dodge the ban, I never thought that there would be so many Olympic athletes from Russia who technically aren't competing for their country still being able to compete in Winter Olympic events.  Nor did I suspect that there would be an opportunity for enough Russians to compete in a team sport like ice hockey.  Both sexes.  As I see it, the International Olympic Committee's exemption on the ban against Russia that allows drug-free Russian athletes to supposedly compete for themselves and not for their country is comparable to a man who gives up buying and eating baked goods for Lent - cake, pie, muffins - but making exceptions for cake, pie and muffins he doesn't have to pay for . . . and being married to a pastry chef who takes home some of her work.   
I'll come right out and say it: The ban on the Russians is a joke.  The mere presence of a men's hockey team from Russia at these Games, even if it doesn't compete under their red, white and blue flag, is courtesy of a big loophole that one of the Flying Wallendas could have jumped through.  Heck, there are so many "Olympic Athletes from Russia" in PyeongChang that the Russians might as well have sent an official team there.  Look . . . a ban is a ban.  No Russians should mean no Russians.  Sometimes the innocent have to pay for the crimes of the guilty.  Life isn't fair, and it shouldn't be any fairer to today's Russian athletes than it was to  the Soviet-era Russian athletes who had to stay home during the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics . . . or the American athletes who had to stay home during the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics.  (Why didn't the International Olympic Committee allow would-be 1980 U.S. Olympic team members compete as "Olympic Athletes from America" in Moscow then? They didn't want the boycott.  Jimmy Carter did.)      
Oh yeah, I ought to tell you about that 4-0 hockey game, which got so violent as Russian and American players were devolving into fistfights with each other.  The Russians were especially aggressive, getting away with a lot of crap that the referees didn't seem to think was worthy of penalties.  There's no doubt a lot of animosity between the Americans and Russians, thanks to this election-interference issue, and this game was certainly reflective of it - and a black eye for Donald Trump, who all but promised the return of détente with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign.  But that doesn't justify all of this unnecessary roughness.  Back in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, which took place after the Soviet invasion of Hungary, Hungarian and Soviet athletes went at each other, and a riot almost started when a Hungarian water polo player got cut badly over his eye during the U.S.S.R.-Hungary game.  The problem of Russian bots smearing Hillary Clinton isn't as serious as a full-scale military invasion in which people die. 
But again . . . the Russians shouldn't be competing at PyeongChang in the first place.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Medal Drought

If not for the real problems affecting our country (relax, I'll get to the Mueller indictments later), overpaid television commentators would be talking about the United States' current fifth-place showing in the Winter Olympics medal count as a national crisis comparable to expensive gasoline.  The athletes from Nordic and Slavic countries keep winning all of the skiing medals - wow, big surprise! 
Actually, there was a big surprise - Ester Ledecká of the Czech Republic won the women's Super G slalom, dethroning leader Anna Vieth of Austria and preventing a sweep of the Teutonic Alpine countries (Tina Weirather of Lichtenstein, once a favorite in this race, had to settle for bronze, and Switzerland's Lara Gut had to settle for fourth place.  Ledecká shocked everyone, including herself, by taking the gold by one one-hundredth of a second . . . on skis borrowed from Mikeala Shiffrin.  It was a "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment for NBC, which had already declared Vieth the winner and had to break into coverage of another event to report that Ledecká had won.
Lindsey Vonn, another favorite in the women's Super G, came in sixth after a solid run that was compromised by a mistake toward the finish line.  Meanwhile, Nathan Chen, despite a strong comeback in his second performance in men's figure skating, didn't come close to a medal of any color.  (The winner?  Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan.)   All disappointing, yes.  But a national tragedy?  No.  So, if you're taking these losses in skiing, including the women's cross-country, as seriously as our withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, lighten up.  Especially if you're part of the overwhelming majority of Americans who only pay attention to skiing when the Winter Olympics are on - or dismiss men's figure skating as to effeminate.  
Maybe this medal drought is Trump Karma.
Want to make America great again in the Winter Olympics?  Encourage your kids to take part in winter sports.    

You Can't Please Anybody

The school shooting in Florida this past week - on February 14, 89 years to the day after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago, which only goes to show you how mass shootings in this country are nothing new - have politicians demanding that something be done about gun control.  Martin O'Malley has been demanding that something be done for years.
I'm not going to comment on the Parkland shootings per se because I can't say any more about school shootings that I haven't already said.  But I would like to look at O'Malley's position on guns, if only to remind voters that we could have had a President who would have addressed the issues.  O'Malley promoted in the 2016 presidential campaign a plan to expand safeguards to all gun purchases, require a background check for every individual gun purchase, require fingerprint-based licenses for transfers and purchases, and mandate safety training and waiting periods for gun purchases. He also advocated an assault weapons ban (which he pushed through as governor of Maryland), a program for the government to work with gun manufacturers to stop the illegal trafficking of firearms, and stronger incentives for law enforcement to  uphold such measures.
It's this stand on firearms that has made O'Malley Public Enemy Number One with the National Rifle Association.
You'd think O'Malley would get plaudits for his gun policy from his fellow Democrats.  Well, he probably would - if he could only get past questions about his public-safety record as mayor of Baltimore. 
Jayne Miller of Baltimore TV station WBAL-TV has reported that two members the Baltimore Police Department's  Gun Trace Task Force, who were supposed to get illegal guns off the street, would steal money and drugs from drug dealers targeted by the force.   They were convicted on charges of racketeering and robbery.  Although this corruption has been going on since O'Malley left the mayor's office in Baltimore to become governor of Maryland in 2007, and although the Baltimore police were already one of the most corrupt police departments in urban America before O'Malley became mayor in 1999, this story simply gives O'Malley's critics more opportunities to go after his criminal-justice record - and how his failure to reform the Baltimore Police Department has led to the lawlessness in the city that disproportionally affects people of color.  
In other words, the NRA hates him, but the people whom O'Malley should have as allies don't think too much of him either.
Again, Martin O'Malley has devoted his life of public service to making his city and his state as safe and as free of violence as possible, but he was only able to do so much as mayor of Baltimore and than as governor of Maryland.  He pursued his policies in the interest of the greater good, but some problems, especially in urban America, can't be solved in a single year or even in a single tenure of office.  And while he did what he thought was right when it came to public safety, knowing that his policies weren't going to be popular with everyone, he was somehow unable to satisfy anyone. 
Martin O'Malley knows what to do about gun violence, but if he were President today, he couldn't do it alone . . . which is pretty much what he is now.  So why do I continue to support him for President in 2020 when not too many people seem to be interested in the idea?  I think of O'Malley as someone who's ahead of his time, and I'm hoping that by the 2020 presidential campaign, his time will catch up with him.   

Friday, February 16, 2018

Downs and Ups

Slovenia, Slovakia . . . 
Tomato, tomahto.
Ha ha!  At the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the U.S. men's ice hockey team had a rotten tomato of a game against Slovenia, but the guys redeemed themselves in a game against another small country once part of a Communist federation, Slovakia. The U.S. beat the Slovaks 2-1, putting themselves back in the hunt for a medal.  Now they have to face the Olympic Athletes from Russia team.
This could be tough . . .
But not as tough as the break that Mikaela Shiffrin got when she skied the women's slalom, her specialty event.  Though this is the event that she is must famous and was most favored for, she finished a disappointing fourth.
Well, even Crosby, Stills and Nash sang a flat harmony every now and then.
And then there was figure skater Nathan Chen . . . 
Oh dear . . . 
At least he was able to advance.  

Music Video Of the Week - February 16, 2018

"Nancy (With the Laughing Face)" by the Cooper Nelson Quartet  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.) 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Down, Down, Down

I'm watching Winter Olympic team luge as I type this, but I want to talk about skiing.
The high winds in the Korean mountains subsided enough yesterday to allow skiing competition , and while the women's regular slalom is still yet to be held, the giant slalom went without a hitch.  Mikaela Shiffrin (below) won the gold.
Unfortunately. I missed it.  I tuned in too late for her first run, and her second run didn't take place until after I went to bed.  But I did see the men's downhill (Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won), and I saw it live.  NBC has had the luck of being able to broadcast early-afternoon events live during evening prime time in North America, the time difference between the U.S. East Coast and Korea being fourteen hours.  I've found myself not rooting for any one skier or any one country in any particular ski event.  Because ultimately, you see one skier go down the hill, then another . . . then another . . . then another . . . down . . . down . . . down.
And in the slalom, it's down, curve, down, curve, down, curve . . . but then you have the super giant slalom, or Super G, which down , curve. down, curve . . . Good Lord MAMA! - Jesus Christ and General Jackson!  - Uncle Albert and Admiral Halsey! - down, cure, down. :-D
Ha ha, you get the idea.   

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Red Face-off and White Washing

American men are behaving badly at the Winter Olympics again.  Including Shaun White.
First, to get it out of the way, the U.S .men's ice hockey team.  Ahead 2-0 over Slovenia, the Americans suddenly collapsed and lost 3-2.  After the American women beat out the Olympic Athletes from Russia team in a shutout (5-0), the men shut down. Which prompted all of those silly Americans chanting "We're number one!" to shut up.  (At least one of the current White House residents, I'm sure, was secretly pleased.)  
As if seeing our guys live up to the tradition of American national men's teams choking weren't bad enough, we now learn that Shaun White is yet another celebrity involved in a sexual harassment case.  White has his own rock band, appropriately titled Bad Things, with a female drummer that has since left the band after White did . . . bad things.  To her.  It was since been reported that he texted her pictures of  private parts, and he has also been accused of having shown her hardcore porn, forcing her to drink vodka, trying to make her change her look to appear sexier, and making her smell something, uh, personal.  After his gold-medal victory in these PyeongChang Winter Games (the one hundredth gold-medal victory for the U.S. in the Winter Games' 94-year history), White, who settled with the woman out of court, admitted to the first charge but not the others, dismissing the rest as "gossip."  White sounds like a guy who's addicted to cocaine, crystal meth, and tobacco and only admits to smoking.
White has since apologized for his poor choice of words ("gossip?") and how he handled the story when it came to the fore; the case, for the record, was settled out of court.  He admits to being in a dark place at the time of his fourth-place halfpipe showing at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, leading to his bad behavior.  But the truth is that White has always been in a dark place of sorts.  No one in snowboarding likes him because of his swagger and self-importance. "To so many who saw the text messages, read the allegations," Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wrote about White's magnificent comeback on the halfpipe course this week after his Sochi disappointment, "the notion of redemption was nothing more than a canard to distract from a far uglier story."
I'm not going to equate the U.S. men's ice hockey team's misdemeanor of sucking to White's high crimes.  But to see both stories at the same time has certainly caused a pang of rue for anyone who expected our guys at the Winter Olympics to be shining examples of American manhood in the Age of Trump.  Uh, fellas, could I see you in my office?     

On the Slopes

Shaun White proved why he is the Michael Phelps of snowboarding, having come back from a shaky second run in the men's halfpipe at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to nail it in third.  It was touch and go there, and the snow on the course proved to be as hard as ice - it was too much for some of the competitors - but White came through like the champion he is, winning his third career gold medal.
Meanwhile, in skiing . . . Will the women's slalom ever be held?  Will any of the skiing competitions that have already started even finish?  Bad weather on the course has prevented Mikaela Shiffrin, the young skier with the stellar ability and the spell-checker-unfriendly name, has just had her PyeongChang on the women's slalom debut delayed for the second time because of it.  I haven't seen Winter Olympic skiing be delayed by bad weather this much since Sarajevo in 1984.  At least NBC can shift to figure skating; back in 1984, ABC had to settle for commentary and music from John Denver to fill the time.
And Bosnian turnip carts.
Wow - a country-folk-pop singer who hadn't had a hit in three years . . . and adventures in pushcart vending on the streets of Sarajevo!  Oh, the drama! 
And people wonder why ABC lost coverage of the Olympics . . .
Though it's been a long time since I've seen a Bosnian turnip cart.
With the weather in the mountains of South Korea being what it is, the Winter Olympic organizers might have to give up the ski competition for Lent.
There are in fact a lot of Catholics in South Korea . . ..

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Russians Did What?

The "Olympic Athletes from Russia" team, the Russian non-Russian team at the Winter Olympics, did send ice hockey teams to PyeongChang?
You mean that, despite the doping ban on the Russians, sent full-fledged ice hockey teams competing under the Olympic flag?
Right.  First Costas is gone, now this . . . I can't keep up with this drama-mama at the Olympics anymore . . .   
Oh yeah, the Russian women's team lost to the Americans, 5-0.

Kim and White

I'm not talking about an architectural firm.

Chloe Kim won the gold medal in the women's snowboarding halfpipe competition at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics with flying colors and by just flying.  I definitely noticed that her ability to surf the snow far exceeded the competition. She was swifter, higher and stronger, just like the Olympic credo.  It was a special moment for her, not just to win a gold medal at seventeen years of age, but to win it on the snow and soil of her parents' homeland. (That's right, another child of immigrants - are you listening, Tom Cotton?)      
Of course, on the men's side, there's still Shaun White. :-)
Most snowboarders perform the same, and it's hard to tell one from the other watching it on TV.  Not Shaun White.  You know it's him from how he files in the air. And after a disappointing run in Sochi in 2014, White distinguished himself in the qualifying runs, handling the course as if he were already going for the gold medal.  And he's 31.
Chloe Kim and Shaun White are not part of American snowboarding. They are American snowboarding.  They're pretty much global snowboarding too.  The other halfpipe competitors in both the men's and women's competition are just imitators.
Those halfpipe imitations put me on the blink. ;-) 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mirai and Mike

Figure skater Mirai Nagasu landed a triple axel in the 2018 Winter Olympic team-mixed skating event.  She's only the third woman, appropriately enough, to do so at the Winter Games. 
Why am I making a big deal over a Japanese figure skater?
Because she's not Japanese, you stupid Trump supporters.  She's an American.  An American of Japanese descent, yes, but an American just the same - she was born and raised in California.  Her parents are from Japan - they're immigrants.  And Martin O'Malley and I will be the first Irish Catholics to point this out for you.
Here's something else we'll point out for you.  She's the first American woman to land a triple axel at the Winter Olympics.  
Now, to my complaint about NBC's coverage of the PyeongChang Winter Games.  Who's this Mike Tirico upstart? 
Dammit, where's Costas?
I mean, seriously?  Bob Costas said no to the prime-time hosting gig?  Look, I can take change.  I can accept the fact that Alberto Tomba retired from skiing.  Ditto Julia Mancuso, the woman who's come closest to being my Winter Olympics crush (I had a thing for Kristi Yamaguchi until I found out she was a Republican).  And even though it took me forever to accept that Jim McKay had to retire from covering the Olympics, I moved on.  But Costas stepping aside now?  No, it's too soon.  I mean, come on - nobody does it like Costas! 
No wonder NBC's Olympic ratings are off.
Meanwhile, British sportscaster Rebecca Lowe is handling the daytime coverage for NBC.  That's going to offend the Trump voters.
Skiing just started after weather delays.  Expect at least one crash that will be played over and over and over for several days after.      

Nancy With the Running Mouth

So, Nancy Pelosi went on the floor of the House of Representatives last week to press for the House to do something about the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the budget deal and used her status as House Democratic Leader to talk for a little while.  Well, maybe eight hours . . .  eight hours and seven minutes, to be exact. 
Yes, Nancy Pelosi talked for as long as people work in one day, earning her pay.  And I'm not going to ask for equal time by writing commentary on it that takes as long to read.  I am going to say this, though:  What Pelosi did was a stunt to show how vital and relevant she is.  It did nothing to ensure that DACA would be included in the budget deal (and did nothing to help the Democrat in the 2018 house elections).  House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Pelosi's 487-minute speech, the longest House speech ever, was impressive, but not impressive enough to include in the budget bill a provision on DACA that Trump won't support.  Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer belatedly realized this, which is why he agreed to a budget deal in the Senate that didn't include DACA after engineering a shutdown over DACA that only helped the Republicans in the polls.  People want DACA to be settled - but they also want the government to keep functioning while it gets settled.
Look.  The current DACA program expires on March 5.  Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has uncharacteristically made good on a promise and plans to open debate on DACA on the Senate floor this week.  Speaker Ryan has to start debate on DACA in the House soon.  Otherwise, deportations of young people to countries they're too young to remember living in start on March 6.  No one, not even Trump, wants that to happen.  Something has to give, and that would be the case even if Pelosi had not gone on and on and on and on in the well of the House.     
No, Nancy Pelosi did this to discourage Democrats form getting rid of here, not to encourage Democrats or Republicans to get DACA taken care of.  And she did this to discourage Ryan from getting too comfortable with the idea of being in a position of House leadership.
Not Paul.  Tim
Right, I gotta get back to the Winter Olympics . . .

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Kramer Versus . . .

. . . no one else.
Sven Kramer (pronounced CROM-mer) of the Netherlands just won the men's 5,000-meter speed-skating race at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.  He has won more Olympic medals than any other male speed skater (sorry, Eric Heiden) and he's won the 5,000-meter Olympic race for the third consecutive time.
And who is second.  There is no second.
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands was in attendance at the race, and he was ecstatic to see Kramer's victory.
It's good to be king.
I meant Sven Kramer. :-)

And To the Winter Olympics . . .

Finally - 2018 Winter Olympic commentary! 
Red Gerard (his first name is short for "Redmond") won the first gold medal of the 2018 Winter Games for the United States in slope-style snowboarding.  The 17-year-old Coloradan had a few tense moments in the liter twists and turned of his sport, but he managed to hold on and win an upset despite the heavy competition - much of which wiped out.     
I'm still having trouble telling the difference between ice dancing and pairs figure skating, but in the former event, there's no mistaking Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir for anyone else.  Virtue - who is definitely going to be on my beautiful-women picture blog when I return to focusing on athletes there - and Moir rocked, figuratively with their dance moves and literally with their choice of music - a medley of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For the Devil," a Latin instrumental version of "Hotel California," and Santana's cover of "Oye Como Va."  Hear how it goes - this pair is going to go gold like Red.
Speaking of the Reds, the North Koreans were at the Winter Olympics to take part with their southern brethren in the Games, and not just against each other.  The North and South Korean female ice hockey players are competing side by side.   And they got shut out side be side, losing to Switzerland.  But the big loser in the thawing of relations between the two Korean governments may be the United States; while representatives from Pyongyang and Seoul were talking and making nice - and South Korean President Moon Jae-in was being invited to go to Pyongyang for further talks to warm relations and cool tensions - Mike Pence, the Vice President of the United States, was being belligerent and rude toward North Koreans and also South Koreans by refusing to acknowledge the Olympic diplomacy going on around him.  More proof that the rest of the world has given up on Americans to do the right thing even if they have exhausted all of the alternatives.
But at least we're not the Russians, who have been banned from sending a national team because of doping.  Russians without a history of doping who are competing are competing as themselves, not as representatives of a country, which likely means that the only Russians you'll see at these Games are figure skaters.
Yevgenia Medvedeva is hot. ;-)
It's safe to assume that all of the Russian surnames at these Games will have the feminizing "a" at the end, yes . . .  
One more controversy about the Winter Olympics' location has also been settled.  It's spelled "PyeongChang," not "Pyeongchang" - the "C" is capitalized.
I hope that has cleared up any misunderstanding.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Off The Rails

Amtrak has had two major incidents since the chartered train carrying Republican members of Congress to their annual retreat crashed with a garbage truck in Virginia.  First, an Amtrak train collided with a freight train in South Carolina, killing two Amtrak employees and injuring a hundred passengers.  Now, this past Tuesday,  an Acela train - an Acela train - malfunctioned when two passenger cars separated while the train was traveling 124 miles an hour through Maryland.  None of the 52 passengers (the paltry number of passengers indicates how few people are wiling to take their lives into their hands on Amtrak these days) were injured.
And to think that trains in Germany, Italy and Japan, the defeated nations of World War II - not to mention trains in France, which was the only major country on the winning side of World War II to surrender - go faster than the Acela without having an incident like this!   
Now that's separation anxiety! :-O
People walk through this inter-car connection, you know.  Fortunately, not this time. 
I'm going to have a hard time rooting for Team USA in the Winter Olympics when I know they're representing a country that can't make the trains run period, let alone on time.  How is it that Elon Musk can send a car into space (and he did that because???) but we can't send a bullet train from Washington to Boston in one piece?  
I remember when I cheered wildly when Martin O'Malley told Rachel Maddow in a 2016 Democratic presidential forum that were were capable of building high-speed rail and sending a manned mission to Mars.  It seems that he was wrong, and that we're not capable of doing either.  
Maybe we can send a Tesla to Mars . . ..

Trump's Olympian Disasters

With the Winter Olympics in South Korea underway, I was hoping to spend lots of time commenting on that and not so much on Trump.  But it seems that this White House can't stop creating disasters that are so Olympian themselves in terms of awfulness and size - we're talking Sgt. Pepper movie / Heaven's Gate proportions here, folks - that the Games threaten to be overshadowed. Even the Winter Olympiad itself has been sucked into the Trump vortex; Vice President Mike Pence refused to interact with North Korean guests at the opening ceremony in PyeongChang and showed no interest in inter-Korean dialogue going on there, rattling the saber against North Korea and making These States look more like a dumb brute of a nation than it already does.
And then there's Trump himself.  He's done too much in the past couple of days for me to comment on at length, and maybe even in passing, but here we go.  He just lost two White House aides who were forced to leave due to charges of spousal abuse, and he singled out one of those aides, Rob Porter, by saying he wished him luck in the future and thanking him for doing a great job.  Former Vice President Joe Biden said that Trump had no right to excuse Porter for such transgressions just because he was good at his job.
Trump even took Porter's side, saying that his denials of the accusations against him should be taken into account and that the rights of the accused should always be considered.  As the media have pointed out repeatedly, whenever it comes to domestic violence, Trump always sides with the accused men, calling for due process and saying they're innocent until proven guilty, but never takes the side of or even acknowledges the women making the accusations.  Of course, when Trump makes an accusation against someone, say, a woman - say, Hillary Clinton - she doesn't get due process?
Oh, right, Trump knows his accusations are true because he's a stable genius.
He may not be a stable genius, but he sure is an evil genius.  One week after releasing a politically charged Republican memo from the House Intelligence Committee on the FBI and the Russia investigation and angering the FBI, which wanted to keep the GOP memo confidential, Trump suddenly decided that he likes confidentiality and refused to release the Democratic rebuttal memo, citing sensitive information that shouldn't be divulged.  And he announced his decision on a Friday night, when no one would notice, Winter Olympics or not.  This blocking of the Democratic memo after the release of the Republican memo is the equivalent of giving a presidential candidate extra time in a primary debate and cutting off a rival candidate who seeks to offer a counterpoint.  But then, as a Martin O'Malley supporter, I've seen that firsthand.
It all boils down to one simple fact: Trump defends the accused when they're on his team, but not when they're on the opposite team.  If the accused are on his side, they're victims of politics.  If the accused are on the opposite side, they're being political.  And as for the idea that Rob Porter may be innocent of the charges against him . . . well, yes, I suppose that some men accused of rape or domestic violence are innocent, like Gary Dotson, the Illinois man accused of raping a woman who spent time in prison for it before DNA evidence proved that the accusation was a hoax.  But such examples are few and very far between, and even if you accept the idea that men accused of abusing their wives and girlfriends deserve due process . . . they can't all be innocent! Trump defends every man accused of domestic violence - even Rob Porter, despite the photographic evidence against him!  
Given all of these examples of Trump justice, it's no wonder that Rachel Brand, the third highest-ranking member of the Justice Department and a lifelong, loyal Republican, resigned.     
Oh yeah, the budget deal was approved while all of this was going on.  More on that some other time. 
As for the Winter Olympics, well, the opening ceremony was mostly a bore, but when South Korean figure skater Yuna Kim skated onto the pedestal to take the torch from two Korean female hockey players from opposite sides of the DMZ and light the cauldron, that's when it got interesting.  Because the best entertainment and celebrations of Korean culture came after the lighting of the cauldron.  Though, I agree it was moving when the North Korean and South Korean athletes entered the stadium as one Korean contingent in the parade of nations.  But please, please, no more terrible covers of John Lennon's "Imagine" at these things!  If John Lennon were alive today, even he would be sick of it.
Anyway, thanks to Trump and his ongoing dismantling of the American political system, no one cared about the Winter Olympic opening ceremony, and that's a shame.  It's going to take athletic performances that are beyond Olympian at these Winter Games to distract us from the Distracter-In-Chief.  Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, Nathan Chen, Mikaela Shiffrin - I'm countin' on ya! :-O

Friday, February 9, 2018

Music Video Of the Week - February 9, 2018

"Skating Away On the Thin Ice of the New Day" by Jethro Tull  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.) 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Paul and Paul

Hey, Paul!
Am I referring to Mr. Paul of the Senate or Mr. Ryan. Speaker of the House?  Both, actually.  The Senate worked out a bipartisan deal to keep the government running, spending more money on the military and on vital domestic programs, but the Kentucky senator doesn't want to commit the government to more spending (and so is blocking a Senate vote on the deal), and the Speaker can't muster the votes for it in the House.  And even if he could, Democrats don't want to vote on anything that doesn't fix the DACA immigration issue.
"Yes, I want a strong national defense," Rand Paul wrote on his Twitter account.  "I believe it's actually the most important thing the federal government does. But you have to ask yourself whether a $20 trillion debt makes us a stronger country or a weaker country."
I have to ask myself whether another shutdown - which will happen less than fifteen minutes after I post this - will make us weaker.   
Oh well, at least the Democrats won't be blamed for a shutdown this time.  Not that they had any power to stop it.
Nancy Pelosi's floor stunt?  I'll get to that . . ..
I'm glad the Winter Olympics are starting.  I'll get to talk about that instead.

Like Death

Trump said something about the Democratic response to his State of the Union address that I actually agree with.  No, not the part about them being treasonous, or  the part about them being un-American.  It was the part when he said their response - where they sat on their hands and looked forlorn as he spoke and as Republicans cheered - was "like death."
It was like death.  That's because the Democratic Party is once again dying.  They ended the holidays on the verge of a huge wave in the midterms that would sweep them back into the majority in the House and possibly the Senate. They go into Mardi Gras as the clueless, spineless bench-warmers they've always been.  The Democrats have offered neither a strong rebuttal to the Trump tax law nor an alternative tax program that can appeal to middle-class and working-class voters. So, while the Koch brothers - who are planning to pour millions of dollars in to the 2018 midterms - are making a fortune off the new tax law (on top of the fortune they already have), ordinary people who are only getting a few hundred dollars from the tax system think it's wonderful and are applauding the GOP.  Support for the tax law has almost doubled in the polls.         
And the Democrats - especially Chuck Schumer - thought they could appeal to voters by shutting down the government over an issue like immigration, which they could have used as leverage against Trump while still keeping the government open?  Come on, do you think President Martin O'Malley would have let that happen?
The Democrats can't even come up with a unifying message; while Joe Kennedy III was offering up that lame promise of a "better deal" in an otherwise well-received response to Trump's State of the Union, three other Democrats - and Bernie Sanders - offered up rebuttals based on different perspectives, revealing just how faction ridden the party is.  
The recent volatility in the stock market has caused Trump some embarrassment and has made him look bad after bragging about the record highs of late, but he's hardly been humbled.  And as long as he keeps the investors and Republican donors happy, the GOP will happily tolerate his worst excesses.  Democrats don't tolerate him, but they won't win back either house of Congress in November by saying what they won't do; they have to let people know what they will do.  It's too bad that no one as had a clue of what the Democratic agenda for all of this entire century.  The Democrats should be glad it's only 2018.       

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Farewell Frelinghuysen

One of the most storied political dynasties in American history is on its way out.
Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican representing New Jersey's Eleventh U.S.  House district, has decided to retire following his current term of office, his twelfth.  Frelinghuysen is the scion of the most famous political family in New Jersey, which goes back to the days of the American Revolution.  Frederick Frelinghuysen began this family's long and incredible run; the four-times-great-grandfather of Rodney, he fought in the Revolution, helped write New Jersey's first state constitution, and represented the state in the U.S. Senate.  Rodney's three-times-great uncle, Theodore Frelinghuysen,  was a college president (of New York University and of Rutgers), a U.S. Senator, and Henry Clay's vice presidential running mate in the 1844 presidential campaign; a religious man, Theodore advocated better treatment of the Indians and opposed President against removal of the tribes of the Southeast to Oklahoma.  His adopted son Fredrick Theodore - Rodney's great-great-grandfather - was also a U.S. Senator in the 1870s and served as U.S. Secretary of State under President Chester Arthur in the early 1880s.  (A fourth Frelinghuysen, Joseph, represented New Jersey in the Senate from 1917 to 1923.)  Rodney's father, Peter Frelinghuysen, Jr., served as the U.S. Representative from New Jersey's Fifth U.S. House district from 1953 to 1975, which at the time included much of the part of New Jersey now in the Eleventh District.  So to see Rodney, whose mother was of the Procter family of Procter and Gamble fame, step down is such a big deal, you'd think a lot of people with as sense of history would miss him.
Unfortunately, the only sense of history people have in the New Jersey Eleventh U.S. House district - which happens to be my district - is Rodney's own.  Although he is the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, a lot of people - myself included - will be glad to see him go.  A moderate, his positions have shifted rightward in response to the rise of Republican conservatism in general and the rise of Donald Trump in particular.  Although he can be counted on to support Amtrak or something like that, he's also supported repealing the health care law and opposed sanctuary cities for immigrants.  He only voted against the tax reform bill after having supported amendments to it because he knew New Jerseyans opposed it and was assured that his "no" vote would not derail its passage.  He hasn't held a live town hall in ages, preferring to hold town halls by teleconferences, encouraging protesters to demonstrate en masse outside his district office once a week.  Representing a moderate suburban district anchored in Morris County, New Jersey that has considerable Trump base - a district that also includes more liberal communities in neighboring Essex County - Frelinghuysen has tried to stake out positions that appeal to old-school Republicans while simultaneously appeasing Trump voters and giving token attention to the concerns of Democratic voters gerrymandered into the district.  His three-part balancing act has satisfied no one, and his chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee has not brought any more money to the district, given proposed budget cuts and continuing resolutions in place of any real budget.
Faced with reality, Frelinghuysen, once a favorite for re-election in 2018, has chosen to leave the House, undoubtedly afraid of losing or, worse, the possibility of being only the ranking minority member of a House run by Democrats had he run and won.  That he would give up such a powerful position only speaks volumes of just how big the Democratic wave will be in November 2018.  The likely Democratic nominee for the seat, Mikie Sherrill, is a lawyer and former federal prosecutor who served in the Navy as a helicopter pilot.  While it's only a matter of time before the Republicans turn her assets into liabilities, she looks to be the likely winner of the November general election, her nomination in June all but inevitable. 
Frelinghuysen tried to serve both his district and Trump while trying to back away from both at the same time.  He ended up painting himself into a corner.  I have no sympathy from him.  Like most Republicans, he had to choose between standing up to Trump or risk being primaried.  Now he isn't even going to face the voters.  But then, when was the last time he even did so in a town hall meeting?  

Monday, February 5, 2018

Out Of Balance

Larry Nassar was recently convicted of sexually abusing female gymnasts he was supposed to be treating for injuries and sentenced to 175 years in prison.  That's roughly one year for every girl he abused, and I'm not saying that to be funny.  :-O
Heads are rolling at Michigan State University, where Nassar was an associate professor and participated in the USA Gymnastics program.  Nassar's head almost rolled itself when the father of one of his victims lunged at him in court during a sentencing for yet another sex-abuse crime.  Much to people's collective chagrin, the father was restrained.
After hearing stories of psychological abuse by coaches in women's gymnastics involving athletes who are younger than eighteen years of age, and after hearing the Nassar story, I've come to the following conclusions.
Women's gymnastics should be for women, not girls.  And the coaches and doctors in women's gymnastics should also be women.   

Sunday, February 4, 2018

They Chose Not To

The Republican majority on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee could have opted to refrain from making incendiary charges against the FBI in the midst of the Russia investigation investigating Russian interference in our election, which could possibly implicate Donald Trump in collusion with Putin.  They chose not to.   
House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who wrote the Republican majority's memo charging abuse of power by the FBI and the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and bias based on using a dossier prepared in part for the Democratic National Committee by a British intelligence expert named Christopher Steele, could have kept the document classified even when the rest of the committee's Republican members wanted to release it.  He also could have acknowledged that the surveillance court's actions emanated from that start of an investigation of Trump ally Carter Page and the Russian contacts he allegedly made after Page left the Trump campaign.  He chose not to. 
The Democratic minority wrote a rebuttal that Nunes could havedeclassified simultaneously in the interest of balance.  But Nunes chose not to.
The Democrats could leak their memo. They will likely choose not to.
The media could explain all this in layman's terms so that schmucks like I, schlubs who are completely clueless about intelligence issues, can put it in proper context.  They chose not to.  (I was watching CNN as I wrote this; I still can't figure it out.)      
Trump could have avoided a possible constitutional crisis by refusing to let the memo go through.  He chose not to.
The Republican Party is so much in disarray over all of this, but meanwhile, the Democrats can't get their act together either.  As all this was going on, Trump gave his first State of the Union address, and Democrats could have ensured that Representative Joseph Kennedy III's official Democratic response was the only Democratic response.  The Democrats chose not to; there were four other responses, including one from non-Democrat Bernie Sanders.  Representative Kennedy could have decided to eschew the party's lame "Better Deal" slogan in his remarks.  He chose not to. 
The Democratic Party could nominated someone for President who could have defeated Trump and allowed America to avoid all of this . . . 
  . . . but it chose not to.
"Can I get thirty seconds?"

Saturday, February 3, 2018

There's Something About a Train That's Tragic

An Amtrak train on its way to West Virginia collided with a commercial motor vehicle this past Wednesday.
It was a chartered train carrying congressional Republicans and their families.  It collided with . . . a garbage truck near Charlottesville, Virginia.
So let me see if I have this straight . . . Republicans, the very people who make it their life's work to cut if not zero out altogether funding for intercity passenger rail and kill passenger-rail modernization programs the second they get the opportunity to do so, are involved in an accident on a train that they themselves chartered, and the accident occurs in proximity to, of all places, the city where white supremacists demonstrated and caused mayhem back in August 2017.
And they'll probably use this accident as an excuse to get rid of Amtrak completely.
Nothing makes sense anymore . . .. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Music Video Of the Week - February 2, 2018

"Words" by the Bee Gees  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Martin O'Malley as "Tootsie?"

It was two years ago today that Martin O'Malley ended his campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, having failed in the Iowa caucuses and having been laughed out of the race by a Democratic Party that wouldn't acknowledge him.  Today, O'Malley is looking toward a possible 2020 run, but he's taken even less seriously now than before, and the party is so insistent on nominating another woman to run for President, it would rather nominate Oprah than O'Malley.  (And she's decided not to run - more on that later.)  The only recourse for him would be to go away, come back disguised as a woman, and run for President under the name of Malia Martin.
I can see it now - a retelling of the 1982 movie Tootsie, which starred Dustin Hoffman.  The scene here, which I completely ripped off from the movie, is a political consulting office in Baltimore.  Martin O'Malley confronts his consultant - George Fields, played by the late Sydney Pollack - after another career setback . . .
*
MARTIN:  Is George in?
MARGARET THE SECRETARY:  Yes, he is . . . Now, wait a minute. You can't just go in there!  Martin, he's tied up right now.  I swear! 
GEORGE:  Tom, I . . . (seeing Martin in his office)  Hang on, Martin, will you wait outside? I'm talking to someone inside the Beltway. 
MARTIN:  We're inside a beltway, too, George, Baltimore is inside a beltway too. 
GEORGE:  Oh, boy.  Tom, are you . . . God!   Look what you . . . Margaret? Get him back. I cut myself off.  What is it, Martin?
MARTIN:  Kirsten Gillibrand is doing "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell tonight for an interview about immigration, and you promised to help me get on that program.  You told me I'd get a booking for that for tonight, you said you could recommend me.  Aren't you my political consultant?
GEORGE:  Lawrence's producer wants a name. 
MARTIN:  Kirsten Gillibrand is a name? Martin O'Malley is a name, when you want a Democrat to make fun of like he's some Tea Party jerk.
GEORGE:  Wait, wait, wait!
MARTIN:  You always do this to me. 
GEORGE:  Wait . . . 
MARTIN:  I don't want to keep going on Fox News to play the liberal who's always wrong, George . . .
GEORGE:  Yes.  That was a rotten thing for me to say.  Let me start again . . . and try to understand, Martin.  Kirsten Gillibrand is a rising star in the Democratic Party.  Millions of people see her on cable news every day.  She's known. 
MARTIN:  And that makes her an authority on DACA?  I'm more versed on that issue than she is . . . what, now she's going to be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee and lose to Donald Trump? 
GEORGE: Martin . . .
MARTIN:  They're circling the wagons around her?  I warned the DNC not to circle wagons around anyone . . . I played that part in Minneapolis.
GEORGE:  Look, Martin, the Democratic Party is seriously considering running another woman for President, and Kirsten Gillibrand looks like a winner.  I'm sorry if you haven't noticed, but this is politics, and people are in this business to win elections.
MARTIN:  I'm in politics to win elections too, George, I've been helping Democrats running for office all over the country, and I am in politics to win elections!
GEORGE:  Really?  Anthony Brown for your successor as governor of Maryland?  John Fetterman for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania?  Archie Parnell for U.S. House in South Carolina?
MARTIN:  Now wait a minute, I campaigned hard for Archie, I made a lot of friends down in South Carolina, I established a lot of contacts, I got great press from the local newspapers.  Not that that's why I did it.
GEORGE:  Oh, no, God forbid you should lose your standing as a cult failure.
MARTIN:  You think I'm a failure, George?  'Cause if you want to come right out and say it . . .
GEORGE:  Uhh, uhh, uhh, I will not get sucked into this conversation.  I will not.
MARTIN:  Look, you know I told you I just might run for President again, I sent you my platform draft, it had a great infrastructure plank, did you go over it?
GEORGE:  Where do you come off sending me a draft of your platform for a presidential campaign?  I'm not your mother.  I don't approve platforms for you to run for President on.  I'm a consultant, I'm supposed to help politicians promote themselves, and that's what I do.
MARTIN:  Help politicians promote themselves?  Who told you that, the consultant fairy?
GEORGE (chuckling):  Martin . . .
MARTIN:  I just wanted your opinion, I could be terrific with that platform.
GEORGE:  Nobody's going to touch that infrastructure plank, it's a non-starter.
MARTIN:   Why?
GEORGE:  Because nobody cares about a transcontinental high-speed passenger rail line.
MARTIN:  But that could be a major economic catalyst!
GEORGE:  Who gives a sh--?  None of the bigwigs in the Democratic establishment are going to push for a bullet train that goes from one end of the country to the other!  They can afford to go to France to ride the same thing.
MARTIN:  I don't want to argue about it.  I just wanted your opinion, alright?  Look, I think it's a great platform, I think high-speed rail is a winner, and I want to run for President again in 2020, and I'll do any event in Iowa you can recommend, I don't care.  I'll speak at League of Women Voters meetings, I'll speak at Rotarian dinners, I'll hold forums in small-town libraries, I'll do anything!
GEORGE:  Martin . . . Martin . . . I can't recommend any of that.
MARTIN:  Why not?
GEORGE:  Because no one will support you.
MARTIN:  Aw, come on!  I bust my ass to win a campaign!  You know that!
GEORGE:  Yes.  And you bust everybody else's ass in the process!  John Dickerson has to moderate a ninety-minute presidential debate on CBS with thirty minutes of commercials, do you think he has time to argue whether all-payer health insurance is better than single-payer, or single-payer is better than no-payer, or no-payer is better than no-fault?
MARTIN:  Aw, you can't be serious, man, that was over two years ago, and Dickerson's an idiot!
GEORGE:  They can't all be idiots, Martin.  You annoy everybody!  You kept pestering David Muir and Martha Raddatz so much at the ABC debate for more time, you came across as a spoiled brat!  You annoyed Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell so much at the NBC debate asking for thirty seconds all the time, I'm surprised Bernie Sanders didn't tell you to shut up!  And for every moderator who has to keep you in line, there are two pundits and five party leaders cheering on the moderator!  You've got one of the worst reputations in the Democratic Party, Martin.  Nobody will support you.
MARTIN:  Are you saying that nobody in Iowa is willing to caucus for me?
GEORGE:  Oh, no.  I'd go farther than that.  Nobody in New Hampshire wants to vote for you either.  I can't even recommend a Netroots convention for you anymore, the last one you did, with Bernie, you almost incited a riot when a Black Lives Matter group showed up because you said that all lives matter.
MARTIN:  Yes.  All lives do matter.
GEORGE:  It was a Black Lives Matter group!  They were there to discuss black lives!
MARTIN:  And of course black lives matter to me, George!  I was mayor of this town - 65 percent black - and every black person mattered to me, that's why I tried to make this city better for them, and I also tried to make it better for the other 35 percent!  And when I became governor, every Marylander mattered to me, from the Allegheny foothills to the Atlantic Coast, from the Mason-Dixon Line to Worcester County, all up and down the Chesapeake!  The farmer, the worker, the bay fisherman!  I supported immigrants!  I supported LGBT rights!  I gave more money to education!  I taxed water runoff to help the environment!  I built more mass transit!  I pushed a damn all-payer health care system that knocked the pundits off their asses!  
GEORGE:  I'm trying to stay calm here . . . Martin, you are a great politician, and you've been a wonderful public servant.
MARTIN:   Thank you.
GEORGE:  But you're just not electable anymore.  Do what Huckabee did.  Get yourself a talk show.
MARTIN (turning to leave):  Okay, thanks. I'm gonna run for President, and I'm gonna win the nomination, and I'm gonna carry enough states to get to 270.
GEORGE:  Martin . . . you're not going to carry one single precinct!  No one will support you.
MARTIN:  Oh, yeah?
*
You know the rest.
Now, after reading this, you might think it's unfair for O'Malley to be overlooked and laughed at again, and cast aside simply because he has a Y chromosome.  Yeah, well, that's why I wrote this parody.  I only hope that Murray Schisgal (who wrote the screenplay for Tootsie with the late Larry Gelbart) will forgive me for this.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Back OFF the Dock!

This is incredible.

Mere hours after I posted about Robert Menendez being re-tried by the Justice Department on eleven of eighteen bribery, conspiracy and fraud counts against him, the government has now reversed course and decided not to re-try him at all.  So I guess he's off the hook? 
Not quite.  Menendez still has a stigma of corruption to his name,  he till has to carry all of the baggage associated with it, and Republicans smell blood.  They're ready to produce a winning candidate to oppose the New Jersey Democratic senator's re-election bid in November.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from New Jersey, 2018!  
Funky dung remergence! :-D

Back In the Dock

I didn't watch Donald Trump's State of the Union speech last night.  I'm actually more preoccupied with another political disaster.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is going to be re-tried on eleven of the eighteen charges of bribery, conspiracy and fraud filed against him.  The judge in the Menendez case, William Walls, acquitted him on the other seven, but the Justice Department is forging ahead with trying Menendez again on the remaining charges after a mistrial in the previous trial - a trial I almost got on as a juror. 
Now, you think that New Jersey Democrats would treat Menendez like kryptonite and be eager to  nominate someone else to run for his seat in November, seeing that control of the Senate hangs very much in balance.  But no, the state party is rallying around him, as Tom Moran reports in the New Jersey Star-Ledger.  (I don't know Governor Murphy's stand on the issue.)  Menendez has vowed to fight against the charges and for re-election, and the New Jersey Democratic Party - legendarily known as the most crooked state party east of Chicago - is circling the wagons around him.  Just like when the Democratic National Committee circled the wagons around Hillary Clinton when she decided she wanted to run for President (that decision was made on January 21, 2001 - don't kid yourself!)  The difference?  There's nothing Hillary did that, despite Michael Flynn's protests to the contrary, would have caused her to be locked up.
But the corruptions against Menendez could lend him in the slammer if the re-trial leads to a conviction.  As Moran noted, the prospect of Menendez being tried and found guilty during the election campaign season would force the Democrats to have to replace him on the ballot, but they'd have to do that before the middle of September.  Even if he isn't found guilty, he'll have to spend as much time in the media spotlight as a defendant as he will as a candidate.  In that environment, the Republicans - who haven't elected a U.S. Senator from New Jersey since 1972 (to give you an idea how far back that was, it was the year of the Eagles' debut record, the premiere of the TV series version of "M*A*S*H," and the opening of the movie The Godfather) - could run a cow against Menendez and defeat him.
A fellow named Michael Starr Hopkins is planning to run against Menendez in the June 6 U.S. Senate Democratic primary.  If there's any grass-roots group out there willing to back Hopkins, I hope it does.  Look, maybe Menendez is innocent.  Maybe he didn't do anything wrong.  Maybe a second jury will agree with that supposition.  It doesn't matter; he's damaged goods.  This seat is too important for Democratas to put at risk.
But if there's one thing we know about the Democrats, they only take risks when they shouldn't. :-O
After everything I've just said here, I doubt that Judge Walls will be summoning me to the courthouse again.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Grammys 2018 - The Aftermath

Out of this world!
Bruno Mars won six Grammy Awards this past Sunday night, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year (both for "That's What I Like"),  and yes, for Album Of the Year (24K Magic), infuriating rap fans who thought that a rap album should have won the top prize.  Screw 'em.  While rapper Kendrick Lamar did win five Grammys overall, and while rock's increasing irrelevance was highlighted by the failure of rock artists to be even nominated for the big awards (at least it has its own category), Mars' wins prove that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, while misguided in acknowledging rap as music, is not completely insane.  Though I am not a fan of Mars, I will say that he is a musical talent to be reckoned with.  He arranges his songs with real musical instruments, he actually sings the words, and his performances are high-spirited affairs in the tradition of James Brown and Michael Jackson.  Equally as important, his songs can withstand being pared down to a vocal accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and a harmonica.  Chris Hillman, formerly of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, once said that, as a rock musician who started out in folk, he knew the value of a well-written song; when he got out there on coffeehouse stages with just an acoustic guitar and his own voice, he knew the material had to be good because there was no band or choreography to hide behind.  Bruno Mars's songs, with the electric music and the dance moves taken away, can stand up to a solo acoustic arrangement.  I'd love to hear someone cover "Locked Out of Heaven" with just an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, and a voice - with some good ol' fashioned foot-stomping!
A lot of folks weren't happy with the injection of politics into this year's Grammy ceremonies, I'm led to understand.  Several recording artists spoke out against sexual harassment and for the child-immigrants currently under the DACA program.  But the political segment that got everyone's attention was a filmed skit in which Grammy ceremony host James Corden auditions celebrities to read from Michael Wolff's Trump book "Fire and Fury" for the audio version that would qualify for the 2019 Grammy for the best spoken-word album . . . and Hillary Clinton makes a surprise appearance as one of the auditioners.  Corden tells her she has the gig.  Responding to the skit, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley wrote on Twitter, "I have always loved the Grammys but to have artists read the' Fire and Fury' book killed it. Don’t ruin great music with trash. Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it."
So, I assume that Nikki Haley doesn't like Crosby, Stills and Nash?  Solo John Lennon?  Early Bob Dylan?   Peter, Paul and Mary?  Every other folk singer that's ever been?  Good grief, how far back do you want to go?  Pete Seeger was singing political songs in the 1940s. 
And, Ambassador Haley, apart from Bruno Mars, there was no great music to "ruin."  What's so great about hip-hop?  Heck, I would argue that there was more trash at the Grammys than great music. 
Be that as it may, Hillary Clinton's cameo was wildly cheered by the live Grammy audience, confirming her status as the most beloved and respected person in the Democratic Party.  Which beings me to the subject of Martin O'Malley, perhaps the least beloved and respected person in the Democratic Party.  O'Malley wasn't invited to the Grammys - indeed, he's the kind of guy that the bouncer would have tossed out head first - and he demonstrated the reason why the week before, when he made his own surprise appearance at Ryan's Daughter, an Irish pub in his hometown of Baltimore.  He stopped by with his guitar and played and sang a set of Irish folk songs and American folk-rock tunes.  In other words, the very sort of music that  - like O'Malley with Democratic primary voters in 2016 - fell out of favor with record buyers decades ago.  (A picture of O'Malley in the bar is below, taken from a smartphone video;  I apologize for the poor quality of the image.)  As if symbolizing the plight of white guys in the twenty-first century - they're not wanted in either pop music or the Democratic Party these days - weren't enough, O'Malley (below) performed songs that could symbolize his own political career, like Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" and Don McLean's "American Pie."  "The Boxer" is about a city boy who can't make it on his own, and "American Pie" chronicles a rise and fall.  Now if he had only included Steve Goodman's "City Of New Orleans" - the song about the decline of passenger rail in America that was covered by Arlo Guthrie in 1972 - the symbolism would have been perfect.  To add insult to injury, Ryan's Daughter is no longer in business; O'Malley dropped by to be a part of its last weekend of operation.  Again, how symbolic.
Except that O'Malley's fellow barflies happily sang along to every song he performed, and at the end,  someone yelled out, "O'Malley 2020!"  So, there is an audience for good music and a constituency for good presidential candidates.  They can't get good music from the record business so much these days, but O'Malley - who could probably play and sing "Locked Out of Heaven" or "Just the Way You Are" (the Bruno Mars song, not the Billy Joel song) with aplomb - can give them a good presidential campaign, one that can lead him right to the White House.  The Democratic Party might try to stop him like it did in 2016 - mainly because Democrats fear that, if he's elected President, he'll offend the hip-hop generation by inviting the Chieftains to play at his inaugural gala ("No, not that corny Irish crap!"), or worse, being his own headliner - but this time we ain't gonna let them.  Some people might call those of us who like folk and folk-rock music nerds.  I call us Martin O'Malley's base.  We're there, and we're square.  Get used to us.
Oh yeah, someone at the Grammys suggested that Carter run for President in 2020.  Not Jimmy - Shawn.  You know, Beyoncé's husband?  Can anyone explain to me how Shawn Carter and Kanye West are taken more seriously as presidential candidates - and as musicians - than Martin O'Malley?  This country needs an enema.
You can find the video of O'Malley's appearance at Ryan's Daughter here