Posted by: Dave | February 20, 2011

Wisconsin Democrats Exercising Tyranny of the Minority


       If what the Wisconsin senate is about to vote for in Wisconsin represents “an assault on organized labor” as the President surmises, than the actions of the twenty Wisconsin Democrats who are staying in a hotel in Illinois to prevent a senate vote, is nothing short of an assault on representative government. 

       The fourteen Wisconsin Democrats can not stomach the thought of their most generous constituency, the teacher’s union, losing an important vote, so they simply prevent the vote from ever happening by leaving the state all together, and holing up in a hotel in Illinois.  Meanwhile, the teacher’s union and their allies in the national democrat party stage huge rallies deploring the state’s governor, Scott Walker, for closing the budget deficit on the backs of the “children” and the teachers, hoping the young governor will become weak-kneed in the face of the national onslaught, and maybe raise taxes instead, which is what his predecessors did in the past.

      It  is not as if the Democrats do not have the opportunity to make their desires known.  The rules of all of the governing bodies of our fifty states ensure that the desires of the minority are known. They can make speeches in the Senate chamber, they can use parliamentary tactics such as filibustering to delay the vote, or they can attempt to load the bill up with poison pill amendments that make a “yes” vote more difficult.  They can also use the power of persuasion and politics to get some of their brethren on the other side of the aisle to change their minds. Most importantly, they can exercise the power their constituents entrusted them with and vote “no.” But nowhere in the rules of the Senate or the Wisconsin Constitution are these senators granted the power to prevent the democratic process from taking place.

     These senators are giving the voters of Wisconsin the middle finger.

     A crazy thing happened at the ballot box last November.  Wisconsin voters, who, in the past had trended Democrat, had a change of heart.  They voted in a young, energetic Republican for governor who said he was going to get the state’s fiscal mess in order, partially by taking on the powerful teacher’s union.  The voters also voted out Democrats in both houses, giving the Republicans decisive majorities in the assembly and senate, enabling the Republicans to hold a “trifecta” of power. The Democrats, by the way, had enjoyed their own trifecta prior to the November election.  Such a sweeping change of power was brought about because the voters were demanding a decisive change.

       So it is time for the fourteen Democrats to end their disregard for the will of the people, and return home to let the vote take place.  One thing they seem to have forgotten.  All election results are temporary.  Next election, it may be the Republicans that are thrown out on their ear.  I’m sure if that happens, they will demand that the Republicans play by the rules.

       Sometimes your team wins, and sometimes it loses, but you have to play the game.

Posted by: Dave | February 17, 2011

Thank God for Mississippi


     When I was a kid growing up in Alabama, we had a saying: “Thank God for Mississippi.”  The saying was popular because no matter how bad things were in Alabama, in Mississippi it was always worse.

       We would usually repeat the saying after reading about one of the many yardsticks that are used to compare states in measurements of progress, such as education, average salaries, or say, health.  In virtually every measurement taken during that time, Alabama always ranked near the bottom, except for, you guessed it: Mississippi.

       For instance: Number of high school graduates per capita: Alabama: 49th; Mississippi: 50th.  Number of homes with indoor plumbing: Alabama: 49th; Mississippi: 50th. Average number of teeth at age 40: Alabama 49th, Mississippi: 50th. You get the idea.  Without Mississippi, Alabamians would have no one to pick on.

      Now members of Mississippi’s Sons of the Confederacy want to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War by honoring General Nathan Bedford Forrest with a license plate. Forrest was a genius of a Confederate general, but he also has the unfortunate baggage of having made a fortune as a plantation owner and slave trader, and may have led a massacre of black union troops at Fort Willow. He is also notorious for playing a large role in the founding of the Ku Klux Klan. (I’m giving him the benefit of doubt about the massacre and the Klan.  Historians debate whether the massacre was actually a massacre,  and many believe he founded the Klan, but the Klan was secret, so nobody knows for sure.)

      So the State of Mississippi, which really is a genteel place despite the heat and humidity, is once again seeing its good name splashed across the front pages of newspapers and websites all across the nation and being linked to the civil war, and of course, racism and ignorance.

      Alabamians, of course, have their own embarrassment to deal with, that being the story of the Alabama fan that is so irate with Auburn beating the Tide and then (heaven forbid) winning the National Championship that he poisoned two venerable oak trees that have been symbols of Auburn pride and spirit for over 130 years.

     Where in this country can college football be so important that an angry fan would perform such an act of destruction and hate?  Well, Alabama, of course. Pretty embarrassing for the state.

    But not nearly as embarrassing as wanting to honor General Nathan Bedford Forrest with a state license plate.  Oh, and one more historical footnote: Nathan Bedford Forrest is from Tennessee.

    Well, you know what they say in Alabama:  “Thank God for Mississippi!”

Posted by: Dave | February 13, 2011

Monitoring the Fate of the Egyptian Coptic Christians


       An often overlooked concern in the overthrow of the Mubarak government is the fate of the Egyptian Coptic Christians, whose future hangs in the balance as the country establishes a new government.  

     The Copts make up an estimated 10% of Egyptian population.  Their heritage predates the Arab invasion and occupation of Egypt in the 7th Century.  The Copts are mostly members of Orthodox denominations, but also include some protestant churches.  “Copt” refers to the early Egyptian language.

       Throughout Egypt’s modern history, the Copts have suffered from varying degrees of persecution or tolerance, depending on who was in charge. The Mubarak government provided limited protection to the Copts, who have been the subject of a recent increase in violent attacks.  On  January 7, 2010, the day the Copts celebrate Christmas, a Muslim gunman attacked a congregation departing church, killing 7 people and wounding 10 others. On New Year’s Day of this year, 23 Copts were killed in the Egyptian City of Alexandria as they attended a midnight prayer service .  Other instances include the burning of homes and businesses and random violent attacks against persons.  Justification for these attacks is usually an alleged transgression against the Muslim community by a member of the Coptic Christians such as a rape, or the conversion of a Muslim to Christianity.  Prosecution for these crimes is inconsistent.  Government officials generally blame foreigners for the attacks.

        Prior to the fall of the Mubarak government, thousands of Copts had taken to the streets in protest of the recent attacks and the lack of government protection. Some of these demonstrations had turned violent, with the Egyptian police firing rubber bullets and tear gas to dissipate the protestors.  The Copts may indeed be cheering, along with other Egyptians, at the fall of Mr. Mubarak and the potential for a representative government.   However, the future of Egypt is uncertain and is even more so for the Copts, who will suffer if not protected from radical elements.              

     It is anyone’s guess what will replace the Mubarak regime. We can hope for a representative government and a powerful leader that will protect the Coptic population. 

     Anything less than that almost certainly guarantees that the Copts will face greater persecution.  Indeed, if the extremists win power, the very existence of the Coptic population may be in peril.

Posted by: Dave | December 14, 2010

A Mule and a Goat and a Field of Friendly Strife


     Long ago there was a game. 

      It was a pure game played by men for nothing more than pride.  A game played by men that had no hopes of being rich and famous because of how well they played it.  But it was a game, nevertheless,  that for the months and weeks leading up to it possessed their every thought and those of their supporters.  For months, every imagination was  focused on the desire to win because losing was unthinkable. And when the game finally arrived it was played to the exhaustion of every fiber of muscle and sinew in those good men’s bodies.   But  at the end of the contest, even though one side lost and the other won, all of the participants and all of the partisans would wish each other well, understanding that there is a tomorrow and that it would be good, even if the unthinkable happened and their team lost.

     That game is still played.

     The annual Army- Navy football tradition brings together two of our most respected national institutions onto a field of friendly strife that is all about pride and bragging rights and little else, except for maybe which academy’s plebes get a liberty pass for the weekend.

     This is what college football was always supposed to be.  

     When you watch an Army-Navy football game, you are observing the grand ideal of the true student athlete. Military academy athletes are superior athletes, but by comparison are generally a few pounds lighter and a half a step slower than most of their major college competitors.  Although most are not major college recruits, they certainly could have played at the college level and in a less restraining environment.  But they chose to endure the rigors of the military academy environment.   Instead of Rush Week, they endure Plebe Summer.  Instead of taking a reduced academic load and the option to graduate in five years, they must graduate in four years, unlike other college athletes.  And the academies don’t offer “Recreation” as a field of study.  So when Army and Navy take the field, the supporters witness true student-athletes, with nothing more than the game on the line.

      The contest begins with the two sides duking it out in the pregame festivities. Because the event is so important to the psyche of each institution, the academies bus in their entire student body, who then parade onto the field to the admiration of relatives and alumni.  The festivities continue with each service’s skydiving team dropping in carrying flags and banners announcing their service’s superiority. Finally, the teams enter the field.  Army is overwatched by AH-64 Apache helicopters, while Navy enters under the protection of  F-18 Hornets.      

       Fans at an Army-Navy game display a reverence for the event and the respective services that is unrivaled at other sporting events. Veterans wear campaign insignia on their hats and jackets. Unit patches are everywhere.  Alumni and spouses display their year of graduation.  Everyone claims an attachment to a service-a reason to be a part of the event.   There is a feeling of warmth and camaraderie garnered from a history of common goals, regardless of which service one belonged to.  During the game, the jumbo tron displays humorous videos of each side digging at each other.  All share in the humor.  It seems that each side is cheering for their team, but not against the other.  

         This year, as it has the previous eight years, Navy won the game.  And once again, as they have for the 110 years the game has been played, both sides faced their student body, and sang each other’s alma mater.  Army departed the field a little quickly, as the losing team normally does, and Navy hung around to enjoy the cheers of their student section. Once again, it was the Navy Plebes who were granted weekend liberty.

      Nine years of losses to the Navy Goat must hang in the throat of the Army Mule like an eternal ration of mildewed hay.   But even the mule will live to see tomorrow, and he can take comfort in the hope that the God of the Pointy Sphere will one day smile upon the Hudson River loyalists and permit them once again to taste sweet victory at the hands of the goat.  

      Like the goat, the players will live to see another day, and for the graduates, it will be a day without football.  But unlike many of their major college contemporaries, football isn’t the end of the line, and what they did on the field will not be their greatest accomplishment.  Both the athletes and the students will go on to weightier endeavors.  Those who opposed each other on the field may one day work together in a common endeavor. Some, like one former Army offensive lineman, may even lose limbs in battle.  Others may die.    

      So with  futures and legacies that are equal parts bright or perilous, it isn’t hard to understand why the players and fans can meet and do battle on the field, and then depart as kinsmen in support of a greater duty.

     Maybe this is why the Army Navy game is indeed a great game, but it is only a game.

      In the beginning, this is what the game was all about.

Posted by: Dave | December 2, 2010

The New Obama Doctrine to Protect our Secrets


              The Obama Administration missed an opportunity prevent our state secrets from being splashed all over the world in WIkileaks, but also to make a bold statement that this behavior that will not be tolerated in the future.

              Julian Assuange advertised that he had a treasure trove of state secrets and that he was going to release them to the world on November 28th.

              So we watched, while the world pulled back the covers on our state and defense department pillow talk, and now we are left to deal with the damage.  Only after the information was available to for several days, did someone (presumably the United States) attack and shut down the site. 

             A decisive cyber pre-emptive strike would have prevented the release of the documents, and the subsequent red faces over what the world learned about our secret conversations.

              We have the means to do so, and the justification.  Release of classified material is damaging to our national security and reputation.  Our enemies are using new means to attack and discredit us, and we must adapt to their tactics.

                I propose a new doctrine, which could be called the Obama Doctrine, that states that any individual who announces such a release of classified material on the internet will have the full weight of our cyberwarfare capabilities levied against them.

                Take away the ability to announce the release of the material, and the notoriety is lost, as well as the viral spread of our national secrets. No mention of punishment of the individual is required, simply that we will take steps to prevent the release of the material.   The United States does not have to stand by helplessly and watch the skirt get lifted on our secrets.

                The Wikileaks incident is simply another front for what is now referred to as asymmetric warfare, which must be fought on all fronts.

Posted by: Dave | December 2, 2010

Just shut up and follow the rules


             The recent decisions by the TSA to require passengers to be subjected to full body scanners or searched through embarrassing pat downs causes both the TSA agent and the traveler to partake in an activity that they both know is pointless.

                But neither party can do anything about it. 

                TSA officials developed these standards on the justifiable fear that a terrorist may use new materials to hide explosive devices in their underwear, and that the consequences of missing one terrorist with ambitious destructive aims would be an unconscionable disaster.  No one would want to bear the burden of letting the disasterous consequences of another airborne terrorist attack, so it is entirely understandable that new procedures should be implemented.  But does it have to be this draconian?

                Many parallels for this dilemma exist, such as with our school administrators, who, in an attempt to protect students from a Columbine-style massacre at their schools, enforce zero tolerance rules preventing guns, images of guns or knives at their school.  These steps not only included rightfully enforcing already existing rules against bringing weapons to school, but also resulted in disciplinary behavior for such innocuous behavior as drawing a picture of a gun, or bringing a toy soldier to class.  Many students, who otherwise exhibited no other traits associated with harming another student, have been severely disciplined for innocuous behavior that fell into the new zero tolerance policies of the recent decades.

            The application of faceless rules, without the use of common sense, enables the executor to act without thought because, above all else, their job is to enforce the rules “for our own good.”  The principle who suspends a child for bringing in a toy soldier is simply enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy for guns and weapons; the TSA agent who conducts a pat down search on an 80 year old woman is simply following the rules. But like field artillery, blanket rules tend to leave a lot of messy collateral damage.

            In both cases, we have taken away the opportunity forsomeone with authority to use their common sense. 

            You can’t complain to a rule, only about it. People are held accountable, but not rules. Rules are made  with the best of intentions; therefore they must be followed without thought.

           We may not be able to identify everyone who may commit one of these horrific acts, but we know who will not do them.  We know it isn’t the grandmother, or the child, or the war vet. The ability to use good judgment could prevent a lot of embarrassing activity, just as it would save some kids from unnecessary punishment.

So how about a little good judgment?


Nick, showing off his handiwork in our new shower

 

          During a recent bathroom renovation project that could have served as a feature story on HGTV’s “In Over Your Head,” I learned a lot from Nick the Tile Guy, who came to my rescue.  Nick has a story that he will gladly share while he expertly cuts and measures tile. His story is one of loss, renewal, and inspiration.  

               Nick was born in South Africa and spent the summers of his youth in Zimbabwe on his grandfather’s 12,000 acre farm.    “ The farm was located near the famous Victoria Falls.  It included a natural spring that guaranteed abundant game year round,” he said. ” Tourists came from all  over the world.  The farm had  chalets with thatched roofs and swimming pools.  We had large kitchens and cooked for the tourists, and we would lead hunting safaris.  Zimbabwe was a beautiful country, ”  he remembers.  “Meanwhile, my father did missionary work in villages all over the country.  We built hospitals and schools and helped the villagers.”  He was home schooled for much of his life.  Nick’s family eventually left South Africa and moved to Zimbabwe, living in Goramonzi  (about 45 min from the capital of Harare) where he finished the seventh grade.    

            But seeds of unrest had been sewn decades before Nick’s idyllic childhood.   Rhodesia, as the country was called until 1979, had been locked in conflict as it struggled to throw off the yoke of British colonialism.   After decades of fighting, the country gained its independence in 1979, and was later renamed Zimbabwe.  Robert Mugabe, a hero of the wars for independence, was elected president in 1980.     

            Initially, the country became the African success story of the 1980’s with a vibrant economy and functioning schools and hospitals.  But during the 1990’s, in an effort to maintain power, Mugabe took measures that strangled the country’s economy and destroyed its social structure.        

            Because of its colonial history, most of the land in Zimbabwe was owned by white landowners. Blacks did not have the resources to purchase the land, which was generally held in extremely large tracts.  In order to gain favor and votes, Mugabe promised black war veterans the land, and later simply allowed them to take it from the white landowners.      

            In 1993, war veterans seized Nick’s family farm.  They destroyed everything, including the outbuildings. They burned the beautiful chalets with the thatched roofs.  “Our pride and joy was taken from us,” says Nick. But it was worse for others.  Thugs burned the owner of the neighboring farm to death, and his wife was beaten to death with a metal chair.  The deaths were celebrated, and no one punished the perpetrators.  Nick’s father knew they had to leave.     

          Nick isn’t sure of the details of how his family landed here in Tidewater Virginia, except that they were sponsored by Bethel Temple Church in Hampton.    “God got us here, and I’m not sure how,” is all he will say.      

            His family moved into student housing at Regent University.  His father attended Regent with the goal of earning a Masters Degree in Communications and continuing his ministerial work.  His mother was a secretary for Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcast Network.  “My parents tell me that we were really poor, but I didn’t know it.  We lived on credit cards and the kindness of others.  We had borrowed furniture in our apartment,” he says. “But amazing things happened here. People were kind, and they would walk up to my Dad and give him cash.”      

            Meanwhile Zimbabwe continued to disintegrate.  The war veterans that took over the land had no farming or organizational skills. Agricultural and economic production ceased. Out of control hyperinflation set in.  The Zimbabwe Dollar is so worthless that the government printed a one hundred trillion dollar bill.  In  2007, the inflation rate was 66,212%.  According to Nick, “mechanics used their pocket change as washers by drilling holes in the middle of coins.”  Civil law also collapsed, and bands of thugs roamed the countryside committing atrocities.        

Zimbabwe One Hundred Trillion Dollar Note (from Wikipedia)

 

              Back in the United States, Nick’s family’s situation improved enough for them to move into a house.  Nick’s father laid some tile, and decided he was pretty good at it. Soon, he became a free-lance tiler, running his business from the trunk of his car.  Nick’s family now owns Versatile, a thriving kitchen and bathroom renovation business in York County, which is how I met Nick when I got in over my head with my bathroom project.     

            Nick graduated high school in 2005, and spends his time tiling and surfing.  His family returns to Zimbabwe every year to continue their ministry of building hospitals and schools and teaching the locals how to operate them.  Nick’s father runs the Touching People of Africa ministry, which is linked on this page.      

          Although Nick is sad to see what has happened to Zimbabwe, he doesn’t blame the people-he blames their president.     

          “The people of Zimbabwe are beautiful and kind, but the president gave the war veterans the opportunity to take something that wasn’t theirs,” he says. 

Posted by: Dave | September 19, 2010

Sarah Palin, Cheerleader for the Home Team


        The common thread in the upset victories in the Republican primaries this season was undoubtedly Sarah Palin.  Ms. Palin endorsed four winning candidates on Tuesday, including Sean Duffy in Wisconsin, Michael Grimm in New York,  Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, and the most shocking, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. Her earlier wins include Joe Miller of Alaska, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and Nikki Halley in South Carolina.  

        Ms. Palin’s star power and common person appeal energizes the base unlike any other personality active in the conservative movement.  Her appearance at a pre-game pep rally gets passive fans off the seats and cheering, and for the political base, gets the fence sitters to the polling booth.  

      The challenge for Ms. Palin and the Republican Party is that she has the same effect on the opposing team.  Ms. Palin galvanizes the opposition as well, and her endorsement has the likely effect of motivating what is now a dispirited democratic constituency to turn out in droves against any candidate identified with her or her message.  

      Pollsters had predicted a republican route on November 2nd, and that may still be the case.  But the game still has to be played, and a partial consequence of  Ms. Palin’s efforts are that the Republicans are taking the field with a passionate but inexperienced roster of candidates who may constantly be on the defensive due to rookie mistakes and a mainstream media that clearly supports the other side. No better example of that exists than Ms. Palin, who took a Warren Sapp-like smack down from perky Katy Couric in those now infamous interviews.  

      So now the Republicans are taking the field with a team that, in some cases, has Ms. Palin as head cheerleader.  One can be assured that her image will be prominent in the opposition’s pep rallies, as she gets the visiting team fired up as well.  This  may cause what nobody on the conservative side wants, and that’s an embarrassing loss on Homecoming Day.

Posted by: Dave | September 10, 2010

An Unhealthy Affliction Gets Worse


            For most of my life I have dealt with an affliction that has caused me continued social rejection, embarrassment, and at times, isolation from other members of society.  I have wandered through this desert of life, knowing only a few others that suffered from the malady.

I suffer from being a rabid Jacksonville State University Gamecock fan.  My loyalty and emotional attachment to my alma mater is hard to explain, and even more difficult to act upon, since my career has taken me a long way from the little school in Northeast Alabama, and I currently reside nearly 1,000 miles away in Virginia.

It has been a lonely and misunderstood journey.  Most people, when they see my Jacksonville State Gamecock hat that I constantly wear, think it represents a school in Florida, or a school in Jackson, Mississippi, or even a school in South Carolina. My “problem” as my wife has referred to it, has caused me to behave in strange ways, like painting my body at the Homecoming games I attend annually, (I associate with similarly afflicted friends….we spell GO GAMECOCKS…its really cool) or inappropriately repeating  obscene cheers associated with our school mascot in refined social gatherings.  I have caused my wife and children great embarrassment.

Last Saturday I knew my affliction was going to be treated with a hot lance to the gut, or liberated through a religious epiphany as my relatives and I crowded around a television in southern Maryland as freshman quarterback Coty Blanchard took the snap from center to attempt a two point conversion in double overtime last Saturday against The University of Mississippi in Oxford. A lot was riding on that play, not just for me, but for the university.

When I attended JSU it was regarded as one of the best small colleges in the southeast, predominantly for its low cost and small classes.  Additionally, “The Friendliest Campus in the South” fielded outstanding athletic teams at the Division II level.  We dominated our in-state rivals of Troy State and University of North Alabama, and our athletic arenas were frequently filled with rabid students and fans.  We had a lot to cheer about back in the day, including Division II national championships in, football baseball, and basketball.

But in the 1990’s when the school decided to move its athletic programs up to the next level, Division 1AA, as it was then called, the “Fighting Gamecocks” couldn’t duplicate their earlier success.  Financial constraints, a lack of close rivalries, and changing demographics reduced the JSU’s ability to compete consistently at the higher level.  

 Through the 1990s and early 2000s, the school experienced mediocre successes on the field and courts, except for brief flashes in the pan by the women’s softball team, students and alumni had little to cheer for.  Fans stayed away in droves, and most students went home for the weekend instead of sitting in an empty stadium. 

Then the Trustees took a risky and bold move.  In 2008, after two decades of mediocrity at the Division 1AA Level, the Board voted to spend approximately $50 million to expand the football stadium to 24,000 seats, enabling the Gamecocks to graduate to the nation’s largest arena, the Bowl Championship Series, which will probably occur in 2012 or 2013.  Bloggers and editors criticized the decision as wasteful and arrogant.  Professors penned letters of protest to newspapers. Some students protested. 

It got worse.  The decision coincided with the economic collapse.  The school had planned on funding the expansion with naming rights and the sale of luxury suites, most of which fell far below expectations.  Furthermore, in 2009, the football team was banned from postseason play due to poor academic performance, and costs for the stadium expansion exceeded expectations due to a sink hole developing under the new construction.  During my last visit for Homecoming of 2009, I had a hard time being optimistic as I stared at the mostly empty stadium, with the sunken area taped off, and a losing score on the scoreboard.

But there were glimmers of hope.  The team teased my affliction by playing respectably against Georgia Tech and actually led Florida State until 40 seconds left in the game, only to agonizingly lose at the end.

The team was recognized for outstanding academic performance at the conclusion of 2009, and the stadium expansion gave rise to a strong recruiting season for 2010.The table was set for an upset last Saturday against Ole Miss.  

My family was visiting relatives in Southern Maryland last Saturday, and I found myself in a sports information vacuum. I was relegated to checking the score as it crawled across the bottom of the television.

When I saw that the Gamecocks fell behind 31-10 at halftime as planned, I conceded defeat and my wife and I went for a bike ride.

Upon my return, I the score was 31-26.  The Cocks were making a comeback.  I became uncontrollable, running around the house trying to figure out how to either watch or listen to the game.  I finally called my brother, who lives in Birmingham and therefore had access to the local network that was televising the game.  He understands my affliction, and proceeded to give me a very descriptive play by play narration. As the Gamecocks tied the game sending it into overtime, my excitement gained the attention of the rest of the family members, who huddled around the cell phone for the play by play. Of course, minutes later, we could watch the Gamecocks on television as ESPN cut to the regional network to show the overtime live on national TV.  It was then that I saw the young true freshman, Coty Blanchard, the multisport standout that turned down a pro baseball contract to play football for the same team his father had played for decades earlier.  When Blanchard fired the guided missile into the end zone on 4th and 15 from the 35 to move within one point in the second overtime, I lost all pretense of being a polite house guest, throwing myself on the floor in unbridled delirium and performing what my brother-in-law later described as a “dying cockroach.”

The disappointments of the last two decades of sports wasteland could be wiped out with a successful two point conversion in Oxford Mississippi.  When a Football Championship Subdivision team defeats a Football Bowl Subdivision team, the shot is heard around the country.  Blanchard took the snap and executed a shuffle pass to seal the victory.  The entire house launched into uncontrolled bedlam in the living room. 

The win couldn’t have come at a better time.  The opening ceremonies for the new stadium are scheduled for this Saturday. On-line orders for tickets crashed the server, and the athletic department opened the ticket window on Labor Day to meet the demand.  Hundreds of students welcomed the team home from Oxford.

Instead of being cured, my affliction has entered a new level, much like a gambling addict that won the long shot. People recognize my hat now, and they know the school isn’t located in Florida.  Newspapers all over the country trumpeted the last minute victory, and it was replayed over and over on ESPN.

But there is hope.  There’s a support group, and they meet on Saturdays in the fall…

Posted by: Dave | August 30, 2010

Restoring America


Participants at Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor event on Saturday witnessed a rare occurrence in American History that few commentators or government leaders have bothered to recognize.

Glenn Beck motivated his followers to travel cross-country and stand in the hot August sun for an event unlike any on the mall in recent memory. Previous gatherings of such magnitude were normally brought on by great injustices and galvanized with anger, such as the civil rights demonstrations or Vietnam War protests.  

But Beck’s gathering was different.  Not a protest or a demonstration, but nothing more than an event, and an event in which he even discouraged carrying signs. The gathering was designed to do no more than to bring people together in the hope of restoring America to the greatness it once represented to its citizens and to the rest of the world.  Only inspirational speakers and those associated with veterans, survivors, clergy, and Beck himself took the stage.  Even the music was understated, and largely gospel in nature with a strong hint of African American influence.  The crowd was subdued, and anything but angry or boisterous.

This is hardly the type of affair that one would expect to motivate the hundreds of thousands to organize bus caravans from across the country and endure the inconveniences and discomfort associated with a such a gathering. These events are not for the weak of heart.  Most attendees drove long distances, experienced a wait of over an hour to board the metro to be transported downtown, and then endured the claustrophobia of extremely overcrowded metro cars.  Upon arriving at the mall, many were greeted by angry protestors calling them racists. Because the crowd was so large, some never got a view of the stage, and those that did stood shoulder to shoulder in the direct sun, with no ability to move around, or even sit in place.  Calls for medical attention were common as some attendees fainted. Although porta-johns were numerous and well placed, they came nowhere near meeting the needs of the crowd.  Departing the area was no better, and the claustrophobic metro ride home was made more memorable since everyone had been in the hot sun all day.  

Beck’s message, and that of his speakers, was anything but controversial.  Who can disagree with an admonition to let your children see you praying, or to give money to your church or charity, or for the encouragement that you-yes, you standing in the crowd, can be a positive force for change in America.  Among the activities of the day were three awards for outstanding citizens that represented the best examples of Faith, Hope and Charity.  It was more unifying than polarizing, and more like a revival than a rally.  People came from thousands of miles, not to be angry, but to celebrate the strong fabric of American life.

But the overwhelming tone of the message was one of a need to restore traditional American values, beginning at home, and preventing our society and our country from becoming unrecognizable and a form in which it was never intended to be.  

It is a message that is not worthy of many elites in Washington and New York, who cannot acknowledge that there is intelligence outside of their city limits or the party bosses.

So what should the response be of government officials or political commentators?  President Obama said he ignored the gathering.  The majority of the commentary on Sunday and Monday was highly critical and without any serious analysis of what was said or why such a huge crowd attended.

This is a huge mistake.  Mainstream Americans showed on Saturday that they do not accept what the elites are telling them.

Those who believe they know better need to listen, or they may find themselves stepping aside for someone who will.

Posted by: Dave | May 28, 2010

It’s All About Us


As the Baby Boomer generation begins our gradual slide into retirement, it will be interesting to see how our children reflect upon our accomplishments, especially in contrast to the generation of our parents, who mostly comprised what Tom Brokaw famously referred to as The Greatest Generation.  It was a title that stuck, and for good reason. Their accomplishments are noteworthy in a historical context, when simple survival, either through the dust bowl, the depression, or from enemy bullets, defined success.  After turning back tyranny on two fronts, they came home to build families and businesses. Many were successful beyond their wildest dreams.  They were mostly unified in their vision of a strong America, and possessed an optimism buoyed by success and security.           

The Greatest Generation then spawned The Baby Boomers.  We “Boomers,” are a statistical bubble.  A “frog in the snake” created when tens of thousands of service men returned home, got married, and established families in an environment of prosperity and promise.  Most succeeded in providing for their families what they were lacking in their early years.

History notes that our generation had different objectives than our parents.  In some cases we set out to be everything our parents weren’t: more focused on our country’s internal flaws of inequality, intolerance, environmental negligence, and in the beginning, an unpopular war. We made our first marks not with battlefield bravery, but through our protests on the National Mall, in town squares, and on college campuses. 

Most historians also agree that we were more self-indulgent, and more demanding.  We have been rarely motivated by duty or simple patriotism.  During the seventies, we were referred to as the “Me Generation.”

We attacked The Greatest Generation’s view of societal mores that had clear boundaries of acceptable behavior. We became more inclusive and understanding, but also created a “no blush” generation that interpreted poor decisions as accepted lifestyle choices, where the worst sin was being “judgmental.”  We replaced Bob Hope and Red Skelton, who could deliver long monologues without ever saying an off-color line, with humorists that bring every scatological joke imaginable from the locker room to the living room.  Traditional, family oriented television programs were usurped by entertainment that glamorized self-indulgent lifestyles that were neither realistic nor tenable. It became popular to emphasize family flaws in our entertainment. Any assertion that a traditional marriage was better for raising children was met with howls of criticism from the cultural elite. Our family structure is barely recognizable in many quarters, with divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates that are twice that of our parents.  We pretend it is ok so as not to be “judgmental.” In short, we became more liberated but less stable, and consequently more dependent upon government than our parents. 

We have also been at war within, a hyphenated menagerie of placard-wielding activists, many of whom identified ourselves as something other than Americans first, but still ready to take to the streets and fight over a multitude of issues. We have agreed on little, from the definition of marriage to whether or not English should be our official language. Even the brief unity that enveloped the country after 9/11 quickly dissipated with much criticism focused on our government and our way of life, as if we deserved it.

The Greatest Generation grew up in cities with safe neighborhoods.   Many of our Baby Boomer parents roller skated on city sidewalks and played in the city parks.  They walked to their neighborhood schools and delivered newspapers on bicycles.  Today, most of our cities have become urban cesspools.  Detroit, once a shining city that provided jobs for tens of thousands, is now an urban cesspool with city blocks that are being bulldozed in hopes of developing urban farmland.

No better metaphor for the Baby Boomers may exist than Bill Clinton, who was handed, by his Greatest Generation predecessors, a world, for the first time in fifty years, not threatened by the Cold War.  But as he oversaw a period of great economic prosperity and national security, his behavior was marred by self-indulgent personal transgressions that may be his enduring legacy.

So the Boomers replaced patriotism with activism, but to what end?

We had some victories, but we also made some messes, and that may be what we are remembered for.

Our greatest mess may be our sense of entitlement and the accompanying debt that we are leaving our children.  The problem will grow as the trickle of babyboomer retirees becomes a torrent over the next decade.

How fitting it may be then, that the table has been set for one great last protest.  But this one will be focused not at the institutions of our parents, but at our own children…a massive angry gray crowd filling the streets, all unified for once in agreement that we deserve the entitlements that we voted for ourselves-not only our social security, but our “right” to free prescription drugs, and now healthcare.  And we will probably win…due to our low birth rates, we outnumber our children. 

So if one of us has spawned the GenXer’s version of  Tom Brokaw, don’t be surprised if the tone of our definitive epitaph is more resentful instead of awestruck. A more cynical study may be in order, with a more appropriate title, such as “The Baby Boomers:  “It Was All About Us.”

But why worry now?  The crisis is years away.  For some, the motor home is packed and the medicine cabinet has ample supplies of Cialis. 

Margaritaville is just around the next bend in the road.

Posted by: Dave | April 22, 2010

Who Let That Lion Have Its Way With My Bald Eagle?


The College of William and Mary, one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, announced last week that it had selected the “Griffin” as the new mascot for its athletic teams.  The Griffin is a mythical creature of yore, half bald eagle and half lion, and according to Terry Driscoll on the university’s web site,

“Its arrival brings William & Mary a mascot that unites strength and intelligence, recalls our royal origins and speaks to our deep roots in American history. With the body of a British lion and the head of an American bald eagle, this mythical creature commands attention. It is an inspiring figure, not least of all for its glorious green & gold feathers.”

William and Mary’s original nickname, the Indians, was phased out in the 1980’s and replaced with the less objectionable “Tribe.”  In 2006, the NCAA ruled that the college could keep the nickname of Tribe, but had to eliminate the green and gold feathers, as being offensive to Native Americans.  The college also had a history of Native American related mascots, including an Indian pony and Colonel Ebirt (Tribe spelled backwards.)

Hence, a search for an appropriate (politically correct) mascot and logo ensued, with the final result being the selection of the Griffin.

But isn’t it ironic that the NCAA considers feathers together with the word “Tribe” to be offensive to Native Americans, but we can take the bald eagle, one of the most revered symbols of the strength and freedom of our nation, mate it with a lion, adorn it with green and gold feathers, and call it “inspiring?” And won’t the bald eagle be relegated to ridicule as a mascot, prancing on the sidelines of the football field and basketball court? Sensitivity to using an American symbol wasn’t that important.

Just like the Griffin, which was chosen to inspire the William and Mary faithful, I suspect that long ago the choice of “Indians” and later the “Tribe” had the same intent. Schools chose mascots as objects of inspiration. This is one reason why legions of Fighting Irish,  Mountaineers, Cowboys, Sooners, Miners, Volunteers, Dukes, Rebels and Cavaliers, to name a few, haven’t stormed the gates of football and basketball arenas claiming compensation for the slights created by reducing their heritage to a nickname or historically inaccurate mascot.

Some references, I will concede, were blatantly offensive, and should have been changed.  The nicknames of Savages, and Redmen, hardly evoke respect.

But in the wave of fear of offending a vocal constituency, other less offensive nicknames and mascots have been lost. We now no longer have  William and Mary’s Tribe and feathers, but Stanford has also replaced its Indians with homage to a color: “cardinal” and countless other universities and schools eliminated their Native American nicknames, such as Braves and Warriors, replacing them with admiration for politically correct animals, weather phenomenon, and birds.

By the way, how do you cheer for a color?        

(The Florida State Seminoles and a few other schools get to keep their names due to support from local tribes.)

So in the end, what has been accomplished?  William and Mary has now “honored” the American Bald Eagle by using part of it as a mascot, and no one takes offense.  And we are somehow being respectful to the Native Americans by eliminating almost all references to them, no matter how innocuous. Now based on their own request, they are longer mentioned, but bypassed, and possibly, forgotten.   

The Griffin really doesn’t offend me, but it does evoke fear. You see, I hope to have grandchildren, and one day I can imagine myself taking my grandchild to a William and Mary football game, and as I exhort the little urchin to do their best so that maybe they will be accepted at such an esteemed university, the innocent lad or lassie will see the Griffin cavorting on the sidelines and turn to me with innocent eyes and ask, “Gee, grandpa, where do Griffins come from?

Sources for this article include William and Mary’s website, which has a history of  their mascots, and Wikipedia, which has an extensive collection of articles and background information on the subject, including a list of sports teams and mascots derived from indigenous peoples.

Posted by: Dave | March 31, 2010

Here Comes the Pizza Tax!


Along with so many new overreaching powers of the federal government that come with the new Health Care Reform Act, we will now have a federal sales tax on the usage of indoor tanning beds.  For the first time in our history, the federal government has enacted a sales tax on a retail transaction.  But this is only the beginning. The sales tax and its cousin, the Value Added Tax (VAT), have long been desired by liberals as a way to fund our government’s voracious appetite for money.   

Now that the federal government has a sales tax, the only discussion remaining on the table is what will be taxed and for how much. And now that we are all our brother’s keeper under the new health care plan, any activity deemed as unhealthy by the government can be taxed as a means of protecting us from ourselves, and more importantly, an excuse for raising money. 

We’ve seen this with state sin taxes on cigarettes and alcohol.  States first began taxing cigarettes and then suing tobacco companies because of dangers associated with their product.  The excuse was rising health care costs associated with smoking.  However, the money, ostensibly raised for the purpose of health care, was squandered on other projects, so the states still face a continued requirement for more funds.  Of course, this will be true of the new health care bill and the pittance raised by taxing the use of outdoor tanning beds.  Protecting us from ourselves is one of the reasons the tax was justified.  The congress was originally considering taxing Botox treatments, but apparently the plastic surgery lobby has more say than the tanning bed industry.  Just listen to the rationale of The American Academy of Dermatology, which strongly opposed the Botox, but applauded the inclusion of the tanning tax as a replacement because of the significant health risks associated with indoor tanning. According to the Academy, indoor tanning before the age of 35 is linked to a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, which has also become more common in young females. Meanwhile, nearly 30 million Americans hit the tanning beds each year and about 2.3 million of these people are teenagers. An indoor tanning tax will therefore “serve as a signal from the federal government to young people that indoor tanning is dangerous and should be avoided,” said Dr. William James, president of the Academy.

Right, Dr. James, and every kid that buys a pack of cigarettes uses the same rationale.

“In addition, because the United States currently spends about $1.8 billion on treating skin cancers each year and $300 million on melanoma alone, the tax will significantly reduce the future costs of treating skin cancers,” Dr. James said.  (And continue to allow dermatologists to apply Botox without raising their prices.)

Of course, if the beds are so dangerous, there are other ways to address their usage, such as requiring labels on the beds explaining the danger, and banning their use by minors.  The good doctor testified on behalf of these measures on the 25th of March before the Food and Drug Administration.  No steps, however, are apparently as effective as raising taxes.

Of course, the revenue stream will not be adequate to fund the new health care entitlement, so more funds will be required.  Because we will all be our brother’s keeper under the new health care plan, any number of new sales taxes on targeted items can be created in order to save money and protect us from ourselves.   The camel’s nose is under the tent, and soon the entire herd will be having dinner with us. 

Our first lady has chosen childhood obesity as her noble cause during her husband’s presidency.  We all know that too much sugar contributes to obesity.  Adding a 10% federal tax to high sugar content items will be an easy sell to the public: it will reduce consumption of sugar, while raising money for health care.  The money will be “earmarked” for obesity-related health care costs. (And spread the health care burden, since fat people who consume a lot of sugar probably don’t frequent the tanning salons.)

But of course, there still won’t be enough money (there never is) so soon we will be facing taxes on other foods deemed unhealthy by the government, who is the arbiter of all truth and wisdom.  Soon we may have federal sales taxes on beef, bacon, white bread…the opportunities to demonize certain foods as an excuse to raise money are endless.

You better enjoy your pizza now, the price is going up soon.

References used in this article include the Puget Sound Business Journal, Wikipedia, and CNN.com

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