Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh Canada, Great Job in Vancouver!

I've been meaning to write a post on the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, but have been distracted by domestic political developments as well as finding myself completely addicted to watching the broadcasts every night. While I did not make my goal to visit Vancouver over the weekend while these games were going on, I still enjoyed watching the games on television. Vancouver is one my favourite cities that I've visited. It is truly among the most beautiful cities in the world. It's Canada's equivalent to San Francisco or Sydney. I would not be surprised if Vancouver become the first city to host both a Winter and Summer Olympics...but that would be decades from now (Toronto desperately wants to host a Summer Olympics).

When these Winter games were just getting started, the local media reported on the increase in hotel reservations in Vancouver, WASHINGTON, which is just across the river from Portland, Oregon...and a six hour drive to the namesake city in Canada. The media loves to report about dumb Americans, as this only reminded me of a favourite media story during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when residents of New Mexico had wanted to buy tickets to the Summer Olympics but was told by ignorant ticketsellers in Atlanta that they had to buy tickets through their national office in Mexico City! In good spirit, New Mexico actually rented a "New Mexico House" to hold parties during the games in Atlanta, for the visiting residents of New Mexico.

I had mentioned to my supervisor this news item about Vancouver WA getting hotel reservations by Americans who thought the Olympics was being held here and said, "Vancouver WA will never host an Olympics!" My supervisor responded, "Never is a long time." She doesn't seem to understand that there are hundreds of cities in the world that will want to host the Olympics, but this event only happens every four years. There's no way an unremarkable city like Vancouver WA would impress the IOC to host an Olympics. Portland OR has a much better shot, but even that possibility is a long way off. There are plenty of other American cities that want to host the Olympics: Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis, Houston, Philadelphia, New York City, Washington DC. If that weren't enough, the U.S. has to compete with Canada and Mexico for hosting duties when North America gets its turn. Both Toronto, Canada and Guadalahara, Mexico want a future Summer Olympics, and the USA held the last one (Atlanta). North America has to compete with Europe and Asia for hosting turns. With South America getting their first Olympics in 2016, its unlikely that the North America will get one in 2020, especially when some in the IOC have indicated that they would like to see Africa host an Olympics sooner, rather than later. And we can't forget about Australia or New Zealand, where Perth or Auckland might make a bid in the 2020s (2024? 2028?).

So yes, I feel safe saying that Vancouver WA will never host an Olympic least in our lifetime. Or in several lifetimes. Vancouver BC has a better chance of winning a Summer Olympics than Vancouver WA. One city is very telegenic, the other is not.

These games opened with tragedy, as one luge athlete from the former Soviet republic of Georgia died on the day of the opening ceremonies during a trial run. There were also weather woes that caused problems for some skiing events. Overall, though, I would have to say that these are one of the best Olympics yet. I'm still partial to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. They had the best opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics and a great theme ("Light the Fire Within"). But Vancouver has a better backdrop of an impressive and beautiful city skyline, where the Mountains meet the Ocean. Like Portland, Vancouver is mild in the winter, where it rains, while the mountains receive the snowfall.

The medals are pretty unique and artistic. I still think the 1992 Albertville, France Winter Olympic medals are the best (they were crystal with gold, silver, or bronze edges). I can't remember what the Salt Lake City Olympic medals look like, but I did not like the 2006 Torino Olympic medals (it looked like a doughnut). I think the Summer Olympic medals are required to look the same in each Olympics (only the ribbon is specifically designed by the host city), but the Winter Olympics has more freedom in the actual design of the medals. This only gives the impression to some people that "the Winter Olympics is not a real Olympics" (as one co-worker had said). Oh, its real, alright. The ancient Greeks did not have winter sports to compete in, so of course the Summer Olympics is seen as more legitimate. Whatever.

The definite star of these Olympics is Apolo Anton Ohno. I amazingly have never watched short track speed skating until these Olympics. Each Olympics, I tend to find something new that captures my interest. In 2006, I really got into the snowboarding half-pipe, which I also watched this year. However, for 2010, short track speed skating captured my interest as watching it is a complete adrenaline rush! I can't believe I haven't been watching it since the 2002 Salt Lake games. Its fun to watch, especially with a masterful athlete like Ohno when he avoided several crashes by other speed skaters next to him. Its also interesting to learn that you can be disqualified if you touch another speed skater and they take a fall, but if they don't fall, you won't be penalized.

In interviews, one can see Ohno's charisma in action. The guy is simply that good. He oozes charisma that it makes you sick. Good for him, though! I think he's a good role model for youth. He is a perfect example of how having a positive attitude, even when you disagree with a referree's call (such as when he was disqualified from winning his eighth medal because the Canadian he touched in the final sprint to the finish fell down). He still exuded his charismatic charm. Not to get political or anything, but I think its great to see a guy with mixed Asian and Caucausian heritage receive all this attention and endorsement deals. He certainly fits in with Obama's multicultural America...the kind of America that Palin and her supporters dismiss as not being "the real America." Nope...Obama and Ohno represent the best of this multicultural America, where one's mixed race heritage does not matter. In fact, it could be viewed as an asset.

Above is a picture of Katherine Reutter, the female short track speed skater who won the Bronze in the Women's 1000 meters. She is by far the cutie of these games. I'm a fan of short track speed skating watching both the men's and women's competition. In fact, I'm really impressed by the strong dominance of the South Korean skating delegation in these Olympics. From short track speed skating to the women's figure skating, South Korea has finally arrived as a major force in international sports.

In fact, I was quite surprised to see the increased number of Asians in these Olympics, especially in women's figure skating. It wasn't long ago that Russians and East Europeans dominated the figure skating competition. Now, it seems like the sport has shifted east to Asia, with Korea, Japan, and China doing well, and Asian-Americans competing for USA (like Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan in the 1990s).

Another interesting thing I found with these Olympics is how having a child seems to have mellowed both speed skater Chad Hedrick and downhill skier Bode Miller. Both were kind of "the bad boys" of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. Hedrick had a public spat with teammate Shani Davis. This time around, having a wife and baby daughter seems to have mellowed him. Bode Miller was famous for being the man to beat in 2006 and wiping out in every event. His reputation for an all-or-nothing approach to skiing and hard partying after the skis come off did not help him much four years ago. This time, he accomplished what I call the perfect win: a complete set of gold, silver, and bronze medals. I wonder how many people accomplish that? To me, that's more impressive than winning all gold medals, because its not like one is trying to finish second or third. It just happens and you get all three, like a set!

The other noteworthy event is that while I'm not a big fan of figure skating, I was glad to see that the judges awarded Evan Lysachek the Gold medal over the Russian guy, who showed his lack of class by griping about his second-place finish and sneaking up to the Gold medal stand before being awarded his Silver medal. What a douchebag! With the next Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Evan told Bob Costas that he might not even go, fearing that it might not be safe for him to set foot in Russia because of this controversial win.

What is the Olympics without controversy, though? For every amazing and inspiring win, there are several disappointments. That's what I love about the Olympics. Its unpredictable. From the weather to the performances, you just don't know if someone is off their game or distracted or completely focused on the task at hand. To me, the Olympics is a great metaphor for life. Its also quite an example of living a spiritual life. Athletes often talk about "being in the zone", where you are completely focused in the present moment. Its hard to win if you're distracted by other things. Being in the present moment means you are doing what you are meant to be doing. There's a gold medal performance for staying "in the zone."

What an inspiring two weeks! Thank you, Vancouver, Canada! You did a great job! May you win the gold medal at the sport that matters most to you: Men's hockey. You deserve this win most of all. I'm definitely rooting for Canada over Team USA to win this medal. Not because I'm a traitor, but because I consider myself a fair-minded internationalist. This medal means more to Canada than the USA and would be the perfect end to a perfect Olympics. Go Canada!

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Pointless Debate with a Teabagger

On Wednesday, I put an innocent status update on my Facebook wall regarding my favourable impression of Republican Senator Scott Brown. I had no idea it would inspire such a back and forth debate with a church member, whose daughter led the Young Adult group I was a part of from 2007 through 2009. I've said in a previous post that its a good thing that this young lady and I were never attracted to one another, because her mother would be the "mother-in-law of my nightmares"! It should be noted that neither this lady nor I really know each other, but based on several debates we've had on various people's Facebook wall, I know enough about her views to say that she and I are not compatable at all. In fact, she's probably the most opposite from me as one could possibly get. It does not surprise me, as it fits what I had written in an earlier post this month where I listed the eight criteria that a person possesses which guarantees that the other person and I will not get along.

After I left work, after staying late to read my emails and Facebook, I discovered this morning that this lady had posted two comments...which I was going to respond to. When I went to respond, I noticed that she had deleted nearly all of her comments from my Facebook wall. No I have the email notification that Facebook sends me when someone posts something on my Facebook wall. So, this lady's comments will get the honourable distinction of being posted on my blog...where she cannot delete them!

I decided to post this debate on my blog mostly as an example of how frustrating it is to engage in any kind of meaningful and intelligent conversation with a person who calls herself a "teabagger." If she knew the *real* meaning of that word, I don't think she would be calling herself that. Anyhow, the point of this post is not to criticize this lady or make fun of her. She is the mother of a friend, after all. I'm posting this debate because I want people to see how a person in this teabag movement thinks and how they reason, and why I do not support this movement at all. For me, the issue boils down to dishonesty. Or self-deception. Teabaggers refuse to admit to their underlying motives or to acknowledge the source of their anger. And yes, they are ANGRY...but understandably so! They have every right to be angry...but in their blindness, they direct their anger on the person who was not responsible for the root cause of why they are angry. And that really pisses me off. I've thought about why it pisses me off and came to this analogy. Some might think its a bit too strong, but to understand the depth of their anger, its the only situation I can think of that compares.

Imagine, if you will, a person who got raped by someone whom she trusted, loved, respected, or even admired. The outrage of the act and the betrayal would induce a deep kind of anger in that person. Everyone would understand the victim's anger. However, also imagine that in this person's anger, instead of holding the one who raped her as the responsible party, she instead unleashed her righteous anger on a medical examiner or psychologist who is trying to help the person in the aftermath. This is misdirected anger. Its like blaming the dog because your wife left you for another man. To me, that's what a teabagger is. They are angry because their beloved George W. Bush betrayed them. He wasn't the Ronald Reagan he was promised to be. But they can't admit it, because of a deep-rooted ideological blindness to the conservative cause. So in their anger, they blame the guy who was elected to clean up the aftermath of the disaster. There's my analogy. Not a perfect one, but the only one I can think of that gets to the heart of their deep-rooted anger and their refusal to focus that anger on the person most responsible. I feel sorry for these people...because they are being misdirected by shrewd politicos who see an advantage in making the Democrat who had nothing to do with the economic collapse as the scapegoat. Meanwhile, the guilty party (the rapist) is still out there, getting away with his crime.

Here's the lengthy Facebook debate. The name of the lady in question has been edited out, because I don't want the issue to be her, as a person, but her views as representative of the larger movement.

My Facebook status update on Wednesday:

Today, Senator Scott Brown officially becomes my favourite Republican politician. So long, John McCain. It has been a long, interesting run (he was my favourite since 1996)...but Brown is the future of the Republican Party...and the future of America, too.


"no he isnt, they are calling him benedict brown and say he has lost his chance of running in the next election, he is a goner and not because he voted with the democrats, it because he lied to the people who put him in office. He told them he was against what he voted for. Im surprised that you support him nick when he blantantly lied to the voters. That shows his integrity and I wouldnt want him if I were you on the democrat side either. He obviously is a man that will lie to do anything to get what he wants. I would like to see our leaders have integrity and that is in any party."

Phil Smith
I agree with [teabagger]. Brown is a shrewd and not entirely articulate politician. The Republican hope is out there, but his/her name is unknown. And McCain is a joke - he has been since 2000. I supported him until the day he grovelled before religious windbags. The Palin thing was an outrageous example of his political cowardice and lack of ideological strength.

I agree with you Phil. We need polictians who are statesman and have a backbone, not people who have no desire to serve unselfishly their country. We have a few in congress both parties who are there for the sake of america, but most are with an agenda and have been bought or have an ideological mindset to destroy the constitution. Brown is done, Im telling you, he is long gone. Thank God, some people still care about integrity.

I don't think its any surprise that I disagree with you on this. Just because teabaggers are upset about Scott Brown's vote does not mean his career is over. That's childish politics is a strategic game played by professionals. Its like Chess, and make no mistake...Scott Brown is being GROOMED to become the next Republican president (in 2016). There is simply no other Republican out there at the moment who has the right mix of experience, personal narrative / biography, charisma, timing, telegenic family, and likability. Scott Brown is the IT Man of the moment.

"It is not "childish" thinking to expect the person yu vote for, no matter who they are, to do what they said they would do for the people who put them in office. And, that is how little you obviously know about the tea party people, I can tell by what you say in that statment that you only know what you have seen on liberal sites and what you have gleaned which most is untrue about tea baggers. Trust me, his career is over as far as republicans are concerned. Oh yeah, he might run, he might get a small following, but he will never get far. And BTW there is an upcoming republican hope for 2012, you have not heard of them yet, but you will within the next year. I still stick to the idea that if the person you voted for lied to his voters to get in office, there is no integrity in that person."

I find it amusing that people hold politicians to a higher standard than they often hold themselves or people around them (in their families or in the workplace). I've caught quite a few superiors in my various places of employment in lies that they said to my face. There have only been a small number of people I've met whose honesty and integrity have impressed me a great deal. Politics is a game of strategy and jockeying for positions of in a corporation or anywhere else.

That Scott Brown hoodwinked a bunch of ignorant teabaggers and now they are fuming mad only makes me laugh. Good for him! I find him to be a likable guy with a healthy sense of humour. Its about time the Republicans found a good guy like Brown to pin their hopes of another Presidential Administration on, because I was beginning to think the Democrats were going to have another 20 year run. Its not healthy to have a one party state. Both parties need to push each other to be the athletes in the Olympics do. Healthy competition is good. Having to choose between the party of incompetence and the party with no backbone is not good for the country.

Interesting that Teabaggers had no problem with Bush's lies in office. I guess his lies were okay because at least he didn't lie about sex, right? The Teabaggers are dishonest, themselves, so I have little respect for them. If they can't be honest about their true motives, they don't deserve any respect. The only thing to like about them is that they are a problem for the Republican Party, not the Democratic they will only hurt the party I dislike. 2012 is a lost cause. There is no Republican politician out there who can make every conservative Republican happy. I predict 2012 will be more like 1996, when the Republicans ran a sacrificial lamb so that their favoured candidate (that'd be GWB) could have enough tenure and gain enough support to win in 2000. Brown is following the same formula. His main goal is to get reelected in 2012, then run for president in 2016.

"In your superior liberal attitude of arrogancy nick you have bascially said you find honesty and intergrity not worth fighting for in politics. Interesting when you and the people who think like you were constantly yelling bush lied to us. If you think it is all jockeying for positions which it probably is, why are you only willing to speak out against the lies and hypocrisy when it is not your candidate in office? But when your candidate is in office, suddenly it is something else, just part of the game that we "ignorant " tea baggers dont understand. Im a tea bagger and I fully understand and maybe you need to stop listening to the lies about tea baggers that some goofy movie star says and get out and meet these people and have a conversation with them. "

You don't get it...when Clinton was caught in the Lewinsky scandal, I wanted him to resign. I thought John Edwards was a phony during his 2007 run for the presidency. I don't excuse lies, but there is a difference between campaign promises and an outright lie. Running for office, you can make all kinds of promises...because you don't know the reality of how Washington works. Then, when you get there, you find out that its a very clubby atmosphere with turfs you have to navigate. Its a GAME of strategy and ignorant people think its this simple process.Teabaggers crying that they were conned and lied to only make me laugh. Didn't they realize they were being snookered by the likes of Orly Taintz and her Kenyan birth certificate? Or that the movement is funded by the likes of Dick Armey and Tom DeLay? When liars are lied to, its crocodile tears. Good for them. They deserve what they get.

"again Im a tea bagger, and Im not dishonest and there are thousands like me. Again, you have gone back to bush, trying to turn this around, so Im going to use your own words, Nick (How ignorant and childish thinking of you nick to hold polititians to a higher standard of thinking!) How ignorant can you be?"

Its no surprise that we disagree on politics. We've debated many times on various peoples FB walls and its all the same. Our core philosophies about the role of government are diametrically opposed. We won't ever agree on this point...because you view government as an unnecessary evil thing that restricts our freedoms...while I have been blessed because of our government. I was born in a government hospital, I grew up as an Air Force dependent and got to live in many different parts of the country and other countries because of the government. I served in the Navy and got to live in Italy and on an aircraft carrier because of the government. I owe my college degree to the fact that I had the GI Bill and government loans. My dream career is to work for the Federal Government. The two best experiences of my life are because of the government: Navy Basic Training and White House internship.

So...forgive me if I have a low threshold of tolerance for people who make up the teabagger movement and their blindly ideological grievance campaign that refuses to take responsibility for their part in supporting an incompetent president who was the main person responsible for wrecking our economy through his disasterous economic and war policies. And their solution to this problem? Why...they want someone even more ignorant and with less experience than Bush to be our next president! No thanks. Just give us eight years of Obama, then we can have President Scott Brown for eight years. That, I can deal with.

"whatever nick, I dont agree with you. Again doesm't matter if they are running for office or in office, its time we held our elected officials to what they said they would do. IT should not be a game and for some out there it is not, that is why we have to really do our homework to make sure we put honest men with integrity in office. There are a few in Congress, but not enough. I say how childish thinking of yu no to expect higher standards for those you vote for whether they are running or in office already. Its time we elevated the status of morals and integrity in this country at every level while running for office or in office. AND I do understand what you are saying, it is YOU that do not get it. "

Nicholas don't get it because the biggest change we can do to fix our political system is banning money by making all campaigns publically financed. Until that changes, its unfair to condemn politicians for having to play the game as its currently operated. Teabaggers are against campaign finance reform. Go figure! To me, its an obviously rightwing campaign to make Obama's Administration a failure like George W. Bush's so that they can keep arguing the conservative standbys that tax cuts and less government is the solution, even though the proof is already out there. Forty years of a mostly majority conservative economic policy has not made our country the best in the world.

I also believe honesty begins within, and so many of the teabaggers are dishonest about their political views and who they voted for and when this movement began. If they can't be honest, they have no leg to stand on expecting a politician to be honest. At least a politician is playing a strategic game to jockey for position. I support candidates I like and I'm not quick to put the liar label on someone who doesn't live up to a campaign promise. Lying is more along the lines of: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" or "We know where the WMD are" or "Saddam was involved with 9/11".

"Well its funny nick,because you hate glenn beck so much and that is exactly what his show was about night before last, telling tea parties people who put brown in office its their fault and why. What do you know, yu might agree with him more than you think. As far as gov help, I too have received it and I dont want it to grow, cause the tax payers have to pay for it. And if you are against growth of the military and also for their benefitis, that makes no sense. So we do have many differnet understandings of gov. roll, but again goes back to your original statement which you are avoiding cause you know I hit a nerve in repeating what you said, and that is if you believe it is all a game before they get in office and that is okay, then you have no reason to gripe about any politician, because they should be held to standards high ones by us before and after, not just let them play a game and then in office its a different subject. Yeah they do that, but it should not be that way and we have a right to fight against that. "

We disagree...because I don't believe Scott Brown lied. He did the right thing in voting for the Jobs Bill and proved he's not a blind ideologue to the Republican Party. The reason why I mention Bush is because I have not forgotten that conservatives called me a traitor, a communist, and a terrorist because I did not accept his presidency and protested against his immoral war in Iraq. These teabaggers refuse to admit that they voted and supported his presidency to the very that dishonesty ruins any credibility they may have about any other issue. Until they demand that Bush pay for his incompetence and war crimes, the teabagger movement is nothing more than a grievance campaign about the 2008 election.

"show me your proof of what the teabaggers believe in nick, is this from liberal website or your own opinion, cause I have different statements than yours. Everything you have said I have not seen or heard on anything I read or listen to, so show me your facts. I know for a fact that the real teabagger movement is not a grievance campaign. Now if you are talking about some minor splinter nuts that are radical and gone off on their own like a lot of org. have people who do that, yeah I can agree, but we are talkign about the TRUE tea party one stemmed from the 914 project. That is what I am referring to and if that is what you are referring to, your statemetns are 100% wrong. That is all I have to say cause throwing out accusations without facts prove nothing. "

I'm talking about the people who showed up for the Tax Day protests last year, the 9/14 march on Washington, the disruptions of the health care town hall meetings all over the country last summer, and the Tea Party Convention in Nashville where Sarah Palin was the keynote speaker and used her handprompter to make her points. This group of people did not organize anything during the Bush administration. It was birthed right out of the Palin campaign rallies, organized and funded by Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, the Fox News Corporation and cheerled by Glenn Beck. You see what you want to see...but I see a lot of mispelled signs, a lot of white poor people who look like NASCAR types and Walmart shoppers and Bush voters. Not my social sphere at all.

"You see and hear what you want Nick. I know doctors, lawyers and good honset people in tea party movement and that is the majority of them. Most of the NASCAR types like you say are democrats. Remember the democratic party is the "party for poor people" Check the statistics. Now, again, I dont want your opinion or "observations" show me the facts you are talking about. where are the facts and proof? "

Its based on articles I've read and news reports. Portland is a liberal city, so there aren't any teabaggers in the city. The suburbs, perhaps, but I rarely venture outside of the downtown area.The Democratic party is the party that works for the working class and poor...but many of the NASCAR types were staunch Bush supporters and voters. I can tell you that there was no Teabaggers protesting when Bush ran up the deficits with his tax cuts and two wars that he financed on borrowed money from Chinese banks. The protests only happened in 2008, egged on by Sarah Palin and her claim to be an outside maverick who would change the system (when her record reveals that she's helped Alaska get more pork money than any other state).

You see what you want to see, because that's your movement, not mine. I have nothing in common with the teabaggers. I just see an angry group of poor white folks who can't get over the fact that we have a black president. I'm all about multiculturalism and internationalism, so that's why we will probably never see eye to eye on anything. Our life experiences are about as opposite as you can get between two people. You're part of this movement, and I'll be on the opposing side, supporting the politicians I like and admire, with a realistic expectation rather than the childish all or nothing approach and feigned indignation that "he lied!" Politics is complicated nuance best left for the professionals. Amateurs can play the home game.

"You know nothing about my life experiences, NOTHING, you might be surpised to know that I grew up dirt poor with an outhouse and lived in a shack for the first 7 years of my life and then graduated to a better shack with indoor plumbing. I had parents that never graduated junior high school but had a ton of wisdom in life experiences. I have 6 brothers and sisters and we all have excelled in life because of my parents faith in God and their ambition to have a better life for their kids. Im a republican because I have found that democratic big gov. traps you. Have you ever been on welfare and get child support nick and they take it from you to pay back the gov. Just one of the lovely gov. programs we have out there. I think big gov is awful and throughout my life it has hurt my situation more than help it. I believe in states rights and small fed gov involvement in our lives. IT sounds good when you have never been truly poor to say they help the poor, but you need to look into more of what their help does to people in the long run. There are life experiences i have had that would blow you out of the water, and yes they are way different from yours, let me tell you. Lets just agree to disagree, get back with me in about 20 years. "

"Nick, Im sorry that I got into it with you. Im a very easy to forgive person who has very strong opinions as do you and others. I want to say that although we are totally different like you said, I do value your opinion even when I disagree with it as you are a fellow American and thank God we still live in a country where we can give our opinions and not be thrown in jail for them. We come from differnet backgrounds and are differnet ages and that forms some of our opinions. I still hope you are coming to [daughter's] ordination as I would welcome you as my brother in christ and we better leave our opinions at the door if you do, or [daughter] will lock us in the closet and forget about us!

Friends still?

It was quite the heated exchange...but because of our shared church heritage and my respect for her daughter, its nothing for her to apologize for or to reaffirm that we're still friends. I won't delete her from my Facebook friends list, because nothing she said in that debate crossed the line. Some of you may read that and see that it did get personal, but for me, I can tolerate some heated exchanges so long as it doesn't resort to a level of dirty that violates my core values of friendship, which happened a year ago with another church member friend when she used personal information I had shared with her a decade ago in her attempt to win an argument about our political differences. That, I won't tolerate. Someone calling me ignorant, naive, clueless, a dick, an asshole, a jerk, or whatever really doesn't bother me as much because I know I am not some of those things while I am self-aware than I can be some of those other things.

My biggest frustration with the teabaggers, and those who get their news exclusively from the Fox propaganda network, and who are admitted fans of Glenn Beck is that they don't realize that they are being manipulated by hidden strings. They don't see the big picture. They react to whatever outrage the right-wing personalities bring up on their shows. An example of this is when I heard a bunch of teabaggers rage about "cap and trade." When has "cap and trade" ever come up in anyone's conversation, naturally? Its a complex issue that politicos are aware about and debate, but to hear someone who couldn't tell you who the Prime Minister of Canada is but can go on and on about why "cap and trade" is bad for our country is just a big sign that they are simply parroting what they heard on Fox, Rush, Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly and the rest of the rightwing echo chamber.

This teabagger thinks I don't know what the movement is about, because she's part of this movement and has met like-minded individuals who share her views about government, economics, and policies. I know from personal experience that most people take things at face value. They don't look under the carpet to see what slimy creatures are lurking below. These are facts (not opinions) about the Teabagger movement: It began around Tax Day 2009, which was heavily promoted by the Fox corporation and Glenn Beck. The people who showed up at these staged events around the country did in fact have a lot of signs with mispelled words and anti-Obama pictures, statements, etc. This movement is mostly made up of lower middle class white people, most likely remnants of the Sarah Palin campaign rallies in the fall of 2008. Also a fact, the movement is organized and funded by corporations, with leaders like Dick Armey and Tom DeLay operating behind the scenes, like some kind of Wizard of Oz. These are undeniable facts...and when you know the track record of Armey and DeLay, there's no question what their motives are. It has nothing to do with changing our economic system and everything to do with making convenient scapegoats in order to salvage a movement that badly mismanaged our country for the first eight years of this century.

Its funny that a teabagger will insist upon honesty in a politician while being in complete denial of the biggest elephant in the room. The teabagger movement is the most dishonest thing I've seen in our domestic politics since Bush's push for war against Iraq in 2002 and 2003. If the teabaggers are serious about wanting to change our economic and political system, they need to stop their lovefest of the queen of ignorance, and support campaign finance reform to ban corporate and lobbyist money from politics forever. They also need to stop shopping at chainstores and support locally owned businesses. The concentration of wealth into the hands of the few execs of multinational corporations is something that we common people can fight to change together. But, they aren't interested in all that. They just want Obama out of office by any means necessary (thus why I love that cartoon above, which perfectly illustrates the true motive behind this movement).

The teabagger said to talk to her in 20 years, as though she thinks I don't have enough life experience to judge what is best for myself. I majored in political science at a conservative university. Most of my friends are moderate to liberal, open minded, and community focused. I don't think I have a friend who loves corporate capitalism as the ideal form for society. As I said entire life has been better than most people BECAUSE of the United States Government. Interesting enough, since 2000, I have not had much interaction with the federal government and my life has not been as good. I've worked in a few corporations and non-profits that act like corporations, and I can tell you from personal experience, I much prefer working for the government. Its still my career objective.

That this lady thinks I'm still too young to know what's best for me is absurd. She's about the same age as my parents, but my parents lean Democratic. Our political preferences are probably "hard-wired" into our system, so I don't see my view changing all that much. It would take decades of Bush-like corruption in our government to turn me off from our government. And final point...when most of the politicians I admire are Democrats, it makes sense to be part of this great political party. My only wish is for her to understand that there are some evil people with nefarious designs on our country who are using the justified grievances and anger of these teabaggers for their own purposes. Its a shame that so many sheep are being fooled by the wolves in sheep's clothing. Don't they ever listen to Jesus' most important warning: "By their fruits ye shall know them"?

It doesn't take a genius to see that the teabagger movement is bad for our country. The Chinese and Russians are probably loving the ongoing political divide our country has been in since 1992. As Lincoln said, "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Wanting President Obama to fail because his success would make the Republicans and the Bush years look bad is unpatriotic and petty. They had their chance to make our country the envy of the world, but failed. Hold the proper people accountable and let the person we elected clean up the mess. We'll see where our country is in 2012 and have a meaningful debate about success or failure. Until then, these teabaggers should get therapy to analyze their misplaced anger. Our country is not going to get better if they want to scapegoat the person who is actually trying to get our country back on track.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Opening Shot in the Republican Civil War

The opening shot in the coming Republican Civil War has been fired against the bow of the good ship USS Scott Brown. Senator Brown's decision to vote for the Jobs Bill, leading several other Republicans to break ranks and refusing to filibuster yet another Democratic initiative, has angered teabaggers and Glenn Beck. The irony is that this Jobs Bill contains tax cut incentives for companies to hire more workers. Tax cuts. Republicans. What's the problem? bad. Republicans aren't interested in putting America first. Its all about towing the party line to make Obama's presidency a failure, like their beloved King George W. And this from a party that loves to accuse liberals of being "unpatriotic" for not supporting their disasterous war policies.

Because of Senator Scott Brown's decision (he does, after all, represent the voters of Massachusetts and faces reelection in 2012, which is necessary for him to win if he has any hopes of becoming president in 2016), teabaggers are already in an uproar and have swamped his Facebook wall with cries of treason and betrayal, egged on by Glenn Beck, who gloated on his show "I told you so!" Beck never trusted Brown, especially after the election night victory when an excited and unguarded Brown proudly announced that his daughters were "available!" A lot of people freaked out about that comment, but I thought it was just something Brown blurted out without thinking, caught off guard by the euphoria of his unexpected win. To me, it showed a guy who is clearly proud of his daughters and that he's not a scripted politician. From stories I've read, his daughters seem to think of him as a cool dad (with some dorky moments). Parents often embarrass their children. Its a natural fact of life. At least Scott Brown has a sense of humour about it.

Beck said a few weeks ago that he thinks Brown is the type who will end up with a dead intern on his hands. A comment like that is stupid and reckless. Its an obvious reference to Democratic Congressman Gary Condit, whose career ended because of outrage over the missing intern Chandra Levy in 2001-2002. Later news reports indicated that Levy was a victim of a random killer who targeted women in the D.C. area. Condit was only guilty of having a sexual affair with her while she was alive and he was married. But Beck in his batshit crazy teabaggery is going to smear a freshman Senator who might be the best chance the Republicans have for winning the White House in 2016? I think its the jealousy talking. Beck wishes that he had Brown's qualities.

What's more interesting about this story is how quickly the teabaggers have become disappointed with a Senator they helped elect. This is more evidence that the teabaggers have the intellectual capacity of a child. Its always "all or nothing!" No compromises, ever! Despite the teabaggers being in the minority (most Americans want affordable health care, are able to live in a multicultural country, and realize that Bush was a complete disaster for our country in every way imaginable), they want to impose their warped value system on the rest of us. I know that some Beck and Palin fans on Facebook love to claim that this movement existed during the Bush years, but that is a LIE. During the Bush years, these teabaggers were loyal sheep who accused anyone who protested against Bush as being treasonous communists and terrorists. The teabag movement officially began last year around Tax Day (the Ides of April) and were made up of the same group of people who swarmed to Sarah Palin rallies during the Fall 2008 campaign. They didn't give a shit about the deficit when their beloved Bush passed through two tax cuts (in 2001 and 2003) and launched two expensive wars on borrowed money. The only people who protested then were progressives, who were accused of being unpatriotic. I know, because I was one of those who protested in marches.

The inability of teabaggers to be honest about their motives and prior history (blind to Bush's disasterous economic policies, but hyper-critical of Obama's economic stimulus plan) makes it difficult to take them seriously. They lack credibility. If they want credibility, there is something that they can do. My suggestion would be for the teabaggers to organize a citizen's arrest of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and deliver them to the Hague to face a War Crimes Tribunal. By showing that they hold the actual people responsible for the state of our economy would go a long way in supporting their movement against the corporate bailouts. Until they do something to show that they aren't loyal Bush sheeple, they have no grounds of credibility to stand on. To me, teabaggers are nothing more than bitter white folks who feel left behind in a multicultural country that has a black president.

Senator Scott Brown's decision to support the Jobs Bill is the first bold move I have been interested to see if he had the courage to make. On Tuesday night, I had read an interesting article on Brown from The New York Times. It confirmed my initial impression of him...he's a very likable and charismatic guy. Most importantly, he's not an ideologue. The Republicans I got along best in the Navy, in college, and on my internship program were all Republicans who were pragmatic and not ideologues. I guess that's because I'm a pragmatic person, myself. I don't believe in "all or nothing" standards of purity that both the extremists on the right and left demand of their politicians. In fact, I've fought against firebrand liberals like Congresswoman Cynthic McKinney and Dennis Kucinich (and their blind supporters) because I detected a phony devotion to a cause, with an insistence on no compromises.

Politicians aren't priests. In a nation of 300 million citizens, its ludicrous to think that a tiny minority on either side can impose their will on the moderate majority. Yes, I am a Democrat and a pretty loyal one at that. However, had I lived in Massachusetts, I probably would have voted for Scott Brown in January's special election. It would have been a vote for his future in a party that desperately needs a moderate, charismatic, experienced, and likable leader. I don't know why the teabagger faction is so insistent about wanting the most unappealing candidates to run their party (Palin, Beck, and Rush?).

In The New York Times article, one star-struck lady was quoted as saying that she wanted a President Mitt Romney and Vice President Scott Brown with the condition that they select Sarah Palin as Secretary of State. Oh my God, what a ditz! Seriously! And her reasoning was that those three would be so good looking that no one else could touch them! Oh, yeah...that's the ticket. A shallow vote because you like looking at them, never mind that it doesn't make logical sense. In fact, this lady's comment only revealled how ignorant she was. Its forbidden by the U.S. Constitution to have a President and Vice President from the same state, so a Romney-Brown ticket would be out (unless Romney decided to move to Michigan and make that his new residence). And Sarah Palin as Secretary of State?!? Is she fucking serious? We would be the laughing stock of the entire world. Foreign leaders would likely play pranks on her because she's so ignorant about the world. There is no way she would pass a Senate hearing, anyway, to be approved for such a lofty position. That's the mindset of a teabagger for you. Dumb as a rock.

In another article I read, George Lakoff explained why Democrats lose at the messaging game in public sphere. Republicans are masterful at propaganda because they know how to appeal to a person's "lizard brain" (the part of the brain that responds to emotions like fear). The Democrats argue from a point of logic and facts, ignoring the role emotions play in why a person behaves a certain way or supports a certain policy, even if such policy is actually harmful to the person. Its a losing battle. We've see this entirely too much during the Bush era, when war against Iraq was pushed without the kind of debate that Clinton's war in Kosovo received in public. Bush and his administration officials pounded home the same message: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud!" America had to ACT NOW!!!, like those late-night ads on TV for shitty products. Scaring the American public with the spectre of nuclear war worked during the Cold War era, and it worked again in the Bush years. No amount of logical arguments and facts could sway a fearful populace.

The real meat of the article, though, is that Lakoff claims what I have suspected since the Clinton years. Republicans and conservatives care more about the conservative agenda than they do about America. That's the reason why they are obstructing President Obama's agenda, even when Obama is using ideas proposed by Republican politicians (tax cuts! tort reform! more money to troops!). The Republicans cannot afford to see a successful Obama presidency, especially in light of the disaster that was Bush. For President Bush to be book-ended by two successful Democratic presidencies might be the end of their party's electoral success. So, they will do anything in their power to bring down the Democratic president. Clinton's sex problem only helped their cause, but so far, Obama doesn't seem to have any Achilles heel for them to exploit (thus their ongoing obsession with the phony Kenyan birth certificate). Had John Edwards become our president, his sex scandal would have killed his administration at the start, as Republicans and the media would have no qualms repeating their moral outrage of 1998. Because of the higher standard Democrats are held to on moral grounds, I am one Democrat who believes that any Democratic politician who wants to be president better behave, because that's one ammunition they don't need to give to the party of hypocrites.

Honestly, I wish the cultural wars would end. I'm tired of hearing the phony moral outrage by hypocrites who look the other way when members of their party indulges in some bad behaviour. People are supposed to keep their own party members in line. Democrats tend to be better at that than Republicans. John Edwards has zero chance of getting elected to any future office (thought he might have a better chance if he runs as a Republican since they love their adulterous politicians!). Will John Ensign of Nevada ever be elected out of office for wrecking the marriage of his political aide?

I'm surprised that the honeymoon is now over between the teabaggers and Senator Scott Brown. Don't they realize that he represents the citizens of Massachusetts, first and foremost? Teabaggers are mostly conservative Red-staters from the South and Midwest, so what right do they have to impose their views and will on the enlightened people of Massachusetts? When I visited Massachusetts in 2002, the liberalism was obvious in the people I talked to and in the prevalence of Unitarian-Universalist churches everywhere you looked. Senator Brown is no dummy. If he wants to be the next president of the United States, he has to win reelection in liberal Massachusetts in 2012.

More important than that, though...isn't it high time that the Republican party nominate a moderate politician who has broad appeal to the majority of the country? As a political enthusiast with liberal Democratic views, I admit that Senator Scott Brown has the right mix of qualities to be an inspiring, effective, and respectable president someday. I hope he plays his cards right and continues to vote on principle, rather than party. As yesterday's post predicts, in 2016, we have the potential to have a Titanic election between two telegenic men with interesting biographies and leadership experience. Wouldn't it be nice, for once, for people to say they are having trouble deciding on voting for the greater of two goods (rather than the lesser of two evils)? With Scott Brown's vote for the Jobs Bill, he officially becomes my favourite Republican politician, replacing Senator John McCain, who held that distinction since 1996. It is my hope that Brown will continue to show his true leadership ability by supporting initiatives that improve America (rather than the fortunes of his party). I probably won't agree on every issue, but that's the thing with likable people with a moral core. You don't have to always agree to get along or support someone. Just be reasonable, rational, and ignore the ideology of the extremists. The Republican Party has a Brown if you hope to win the White House again, or support someone like Palin, who will lead the party to further ruin. The choice is yours: rationality or insanity. You can't have both.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2016: O'Malley versus Brown

One of the things I like doing is predicting who will run for president down the line. I finally came up with a match I'd like to 2016. I even mentioned it on someone's Facebook page, to their surprise, because we don't even know who plans to run in 2012. I think 2012 is pretty much a lost cause for Republicans, though conservatives seem to be thinking that Obama is destined to be a one term president like Jimmy Carter. I know that they like to think that, but the circumstances are much different. For one thing, Ronald Reagan had challenged President Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination. He was a darling of the right who found greater support in 1980. A lot of his success was tied up in the hostage crisis, which some books had later revealed that he had made secret deals to trade weapons for hostages if the Iranians would hold on to the hostages until President Carter was out of office. I consider that to be a treasonable offense, but what can we do? It happened, and neither Reagan nor Papa Bush paid for their crime.

For 2012, the Republican Party is in pathetic shape. Its a party without a leader. In 1980, the Republicans had Reagan, Bush, and Dole all vying for the presidency, and they all got to run for president. Republicans were a different breed back then. Both Reagan and Bush knew to keep "the crazies" locked in the basement. Who did they consider "the crazies"? Why...none other than the neo-conservatives, which Baby Bush allowed free reign during his administration, to disasterous results. Because of the complete disaster of the second Bush regime, the Republican Party is fractured and unable or unwilling to unite behind a candidate.

A recent straw poll of conservatives revealed that Texas Congressman Ron Paul won by more than 30%. Mitt Romney, who won the straw poll last year, was second with 22%. Palin was third, with 7%. Its interesting to look at the numbers, because last year, Palin finished second in the same straw poll of candidates that conservatives wanted to see as president in 2012. Last year, she received 11% and after another year of her craziness on display, her support dropped! Granted, a straw poll is essentially meaningless. What we can take away from it is the knowledge that conservatives are desperate for a leader and the only one they seem to be rallying behind is Ron Paul, who's the Dennis Kucinich of the Republican Party. Both Paul and Kucinich attracted the same 1 or 2 % of the vote in their respective party's primaries. Both tend to be "purists" whose appeal lies mainly in the most extreme elements of each party. There was even talk of a Ron Paul / Dennis Kucinich third party ticket. The irony is that I actually liked Ron Paul a lot better than Dennis Kucinich. Some of their view points overlap, but I find Kucinich to be a phony piece of shit. To be fair, my impression of him was sealed when he yelled at me while I was an intern in Gore's office simply because I did not know who he was when he called on the phone.

I personally think that President Obama doesn't have much to worry about in 2012...other than the economy and jobs. That should be his main focus for the next two years. However, the Republicans have a long line of unappealing candidates. Seriously, who could mount a respectable bid? Every single one has major liabilities that underwhelms a core constituency. Mitt Romney is the likely nominee, but his Mormon religion and previous moderate record as governor of the liberal state of Massachusetts has turned off evangelicals, who don't trust him. Newt Gingrich has an unlikeable personality, a hypocritical and adulterous past, and he changed his religion to Catholicism. Charlie Crist has all those gay rumours floating about. Jeb Bush has his brother to thank for wrecking the family name. Bobby Jindal is probably too ethnic for a predominately white party. Mark Sanford killed his chances by leaving his wife for an Argentine lover. John Ensign gave up his political ambitions for an affair with his staffer's wife. Rick Santorum has an embarrassing "Google-search" problem with his last name (thanks to sex columnist Dan Savage, who turned the former senator's last name into a dirty definition). Mike Huckabee is not liked by the faction that controls the money in the Republican Party.

Seriously...who can the Republicans run that spells a winner? I know that some die hards still think Palin has a chance, but she truly is damaged goods. There are many of the moneyed elite within the GOP that will do her campaign in, because she's an unpredictable and dangerous person that no one in their right minds would trust with the nuclear code. The fact that she quit without offering a good reason her elected governor's position mid-way through the first term is an automatic deal-breaker. Her cult followers can't see how that disqualifies her...but it doesn't work in the real world. Have you heard of a person who quit a job after a couple of years and then expect to become the CEO a few years after quitting? Didn't think so.

If that's not enough to convince you that Palin's chances are less than a snowball's chance in hell, then consider history. The Vice Presidential candidate on a losing ticket almost never wins the party's nomination the next time. And on the rare occasion that they do (Mondale in 1984; Dole in 1996), they go down in defeat. Take a look: 2004 -- John Edwards; 2000 -- Joseph Lieberman; 1996 -- Jack Kemp; 1992 -- Dan Quayle; 1988 -- Lloyd Bentsen; 1984 -- Geraldine Ferarro; 1980 -- Walter Mondale; 1976 -- Bob Dole; 1972 -- first Thomas Eagleton, then Sargent Shriver. Catch my drift? Not a single president among that losing bunch. And Palinistas think their beloved Quitter Queen has the wherewithal to defy history?

So, forget Palin. Even Glenn Beck dismissed her in one of my favourite dismissals of Palin. After being told that Palin thought he might make a good Vice President to her President, Beck showed his true sexist attitudes by laughing it off and saying: "Why is that woman still talking? I'm not in the kitchen!" He made it quite clear that such a ticket would be reversed, as he would never play second fiddle to a woman. I think that attitude is common among most Republican men. Palin was nothing more than a flesh and blood Viagra pill. The idea that she would be entrusted with any kind of power is ridiculous. Republicans may be incompetent, but they ain't stupid.

With all those options out for 2012, that leaves only the latest sensation, Senator Scott Brown. However, it does not make logical sense for him to run for another political office one year after winning the late Senator Ted Kennedy's seat in Congress. Besides, he has to run for reelection to the Senate seat in 2012, anyway. I believe that Scott Brown is definitely being groomed to become the next Republican president and 2016 is the best year to run. The GOP will most likely do what they did in 1996, when Bob Dole was finally given his chance to run for president, with most knowing that he would not win. Who will be the sacrificial lamb in 2012? It very well could be Sarah Palin, just to shut up her base when she goes down to a disasterous defeat like Barry Goldwater in 1964.

Pictured above (and at the top) is Governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland, who I am predicting will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. I make this prediction with the belief that Hillary Clinton, at 68, will either not run or not be the nominee. I know that many feminists will probably hate seeing yet another delay for a viable female candidate to become president, but I simply don't see any truly impressive female Democratic politicians out there yet (besides Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, or Dianne Feinstein, who are all approaching retirement age).

Our presidents usually come from four places: Governor, Senator, General, or Vice President. The preference seems to be on governors, for obvious reasons. They are the executives of their respective states, so its a promotion from a smaller scale position into a larger one. When looking at potential future candidates for the presidency, it is important to look at who all the governors are.

I first saw Martin O'Malley on The News Hour on PBS a few weeks ago. He was interviewed about the snow emergency that hit the Mid-Atlantic. There was something about him that conveyed authority, charisma, and expertise. Yes, he did look presidential, as well. So, I was curious and did a Google search on him and was impressed by what I found. He was elected Mayor of Baltimore in 1999 and served until he won the Governor's race in 2006. He is credited with helping to turn Baltimore around. He married a lady from a politically connected family. He appeared as a cameo in the film Ladder 49, which was set in Baltimore. He's also Irish-Catholic who performs in his own rock band. How cool is that?

I thought it was quite telling when former Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (RFK's eldest daughter) could not win the 2002 Governor's race in heavily Catholic and heavily Democratic Maryland. Well, it took another Irish-Catholic to win that office. Reading his Wikipedia entry as well as some articles on line only convinces me that he is a likely presidential candidate in the near future. His terms as Mayor and Governor are the kind of experience that might do well for the presidency. But unlike Palin's experience, Baltimore is a large city compared to the hamlet of Wasilla, and he shows no sign of quitting his governor's office. No one serious about wanting to be president would even think of quitting his elected office mid-term.

He is on a recent cover of Governing magazine, which features the most notable public officials of 2009. Esquire and Time magazines have also featured him during his tenure as mayor of Baltimore as an up-and-coming politician to watch. Dang...I knew I shouldn't have moved away from the D.C. area in 2000. At the time, I had thought of working on Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's planned run for Governor in 2002. Who knows where that might have led? I also like Virginia's Senator James Webb, who won in 2006. So many interesting politicians in that part of the country.

If there is any potential drawback, O'Malley has been subject to Internet rumours about infidelity, which both he and his wife have denied and the culprit for the rumours appears to have originated with a staff member of the previous governor, a Republican. It seems like this has become the norm, though. A telegenic and charismatic politician is probably going to have infidelity rumours, because the reality is that there are women out there who are drawn to the power and prestige of a politician. Political groupies, if you will. Hopefully, these rumours are nothing more than some Republican guy's jealousy.

Martin O'Malley as the Democratic nominee for president in 2016 would give Republican Senator Scott Brown a serious run for his money. Brown, himself, would likely face similar inquiries and investigations into his fidelity to his wife. Apparently, Glenn Beck doesn't trust him and thinks there might be bimbos hiding in his closet somewhere. When I heard that, I was shocked, but it sounded to me like Beck might have been jealous. I don't think its any newsflash to make the observation that people prefer a president who doesn't look like Nixon or Kissinger. We're in an age of 24/7 visual images and have to see the president on our TV and computer screens for four to eight years. Its wrong to vote based on a candidate's appearance, because that's pretty shallow, but I believe that Americans want someone with the complete package of experience, compelling narrative, telegenic family, charisma, and matinee idol looks. In fact, I surmised in 2008 that while Governor Bill Richardson had the best resume of any candidate running for president, he lacked the face Americans wanted to see every day. Had he looked like George Clooney, we would be calling Richardson our President today. That's just the way life is in the television era. Its a big reason why Kennedy beat Nixon in 1960. In the televised debate, Nixon had a 5 o'clock shadow and just looked like a crook while Kennedy shined like a movie star.

It will be interesting to see if there is any substance to Scott Brown, or if he intends to be an obstructionist for his whole time in the Senate as he undergoes the "presidential grooming process." won't be long before he's proclaimed as "the next Ronald Reagan." Whether that comparison is true or not, just saying it seems to win the approval of conservatives as they search for the next saviour of their party to bring America back to the innocence of "morning in America."

While some might think I'm making this prediction way too early, I feel comfortable in predicting that 2016 will see a titanic battle between the two telegenic men who want to be president: Senator Scott Brown for the Republicans versus Governor Martin O'Malley for the Democrats. May the best man win. (Psst...Governor O'Malley...if you're looking for a loyal political aide, pick me! I'd love to help you win the nomination and the presidency. My heritage is Irish and I'm supposedly related to Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland, who signed the Declaration of Independence. I would make an excellent and loyal aide who will definitely keep the political groupies at a safe distance away from you!).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Cheetah Is Not Out of the Woods Yet

Last week, the Cheetah finally broke his silence with a televised press conference, where he read a statement expressing his sorrow at getting, I mean, a public apology for his failings as a role model. Its amazing to reflect that his fall from grace happened Thanksgiving weekend. It actually feels a lot longer. The joke at the time was that Tiger crashed into a tree and all these bimbos fell out. Who knew that one mysterious late night car accident could be the crack that unleashed a torrent of salacious revelations? Another joke making the rounds was that Tiger changed his name to Cheetah. I liked that one. Cheetah Woods!

What's more surprising is the amount of cynicism some have expressed regarding Woods' public apology. Some have questioned the suspicious timing, others have questioned his motives. One look at the conference and you can see how uncomfortable Tiger looked during the whole thing. His mother was sitting right in front of him. You just know that he would rather be anywhere else than where he was. Also, to all the cynics out there, how often have you heard any major sports star give such a difficult public apology? Not just to his wife, children, mother, friends, and corporate sponsors...but to the parents of every child who looked up to him as a role model. To me, this public apology took major guts. Its far better that he gave one than not give one.

Since the scandal broke last year, besides hearing all the jokes and the drip-drip-drip of the latest confession by one of his paramours, there have been reports that he checked himself into a clinic in Mississippi that treats "sex addiction." I've read a few articles that question whether "sex addiction" could actually be considered an "addiction." I know that it seems to inspire a lot of giggles and jokes, but what is addiction? People can be addicted to alcohol, drugs, video games, porn, or abusive why not sex? An addiction means that the person cannot control his or her compulsions, to the point where the obsessive behaviour disrupts one's life and even career. President Clinton probably has a sex addiction. So did actor David Duchovny (starring in a show like Californication should have clued in his wife that he had a problem!). Its no laughing matter. If Tiger feels like his sexual compulsions got out of control, why snicker at his decision to check himself into a clinic to treat his addiction?

In the aftermath of Woods' public apology, I've also read comments by people online and on Facebook that they just want Woods to return to golf. They don't care about the details of the scandal and are ready to put it behind us. Whoa...not so fast! Haven't these people seen the excellent golf film Tin Cup? You can't play your best game if you have too many distractions going on in your head. The head game is even more important than the golf game. Right now, Tiger Woods' only obligation is to win his head in, figuring out what his reckless behaviour was all about. According to basic psychology, sex was not the underlying reason. His reckless behaviour is rooted much deeper than that. Sex was merely an itch that he scratched. He needs to learn the root cause of the itch. I think its quite obvious what the root cause of the itch is. Too bad our country is not interested in curing the itch.

I heard a commentator on TV last week say that whenever Tiger Woods plays a golf tournament, the viewership doubles, which means millions and millions of dollars. There's no doubt that Tiger Woods is a gigantic cash cow to many corporate sponsors. He's a cash cow in the same way that Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Lindsay Lohan were / are cash cows. These personalities make millions of dollars for corporations and the leeches who depend upon their millions. All of those people I named have also had their own moments where they fell from grace, some harder than others. Does anyone see a pattern here?

None of these cash cows are allowed to be their true selves. They are caricatures. Blank canvas. Millions of fans are emotionally invested in them and keep them in a neat little box. When the fall happens, its like an act of rebellion. A rebellion from their "wholesome" public image. Their shadow selves decide to break out of the box and show us their true selves, which horrifies a public so used to the sanitized image. Sometimes, they never fully repair their image. Others are blessed with successful comebacks. But a successful comeback often depends on returning to the same role the public expects of them. They'll never live in true freedom to be who they feel they really are. That's sad. There's a certain amount of risk involved in being a real, authentic being. There's no risk at all being the cash cow to corporate leeches. Sure, you get rich. But the best question ever asked is from the Bible: "For what doth it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?"

So please, people...get over your Tiger Woods fix and let him have however long it takes to be his authentic self again. Tiger Woods doesn't exist to make you feel awe in his golf swing. You shouldn't be sitting on your fat lazy asses watching him play golf in order to feel better about your life. Get yourself out to a driving range and hit a few balls yourself. Develop your own swing and stop living vicariously through someone else. Tiger Woods does not exist to entertain you or to make you feel better about yourself. Let the man have the privacy he needs to find the soul he lost when he sold it to Nike. Let golf go back to what it was originally invented for: to give a bunch of old white men a reason to get out of the house during retirement so that they don't drive their wives crazy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Music Video Monday: Olympic Special

For this week's music video selection, I'm going with two, in honour of the 21st Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The first one is from French-Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion, who sang a beautiful theme song, "The Power of the Dream" at the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. This song was not a "official theme song" of the Atlanta Olympics, though. However, it was quite popular and played frequently during that awesome summer when the world finally came to Atlanta, Georgia. I still get chills listening to this song, and I don't even like Celine Dion very much.

The second music video is from Gloria Estefan, a Cuban-American, who was tasked with the "official theme song" to the 1996 Olympic Games: "Reach", which I don't think is nearly as good as "The Power of the Dream" or even Whitney Houston's theme for the 1988 Summer Olympic Games, "One Moment in Time." I have "Reach" on a CD single, which features remixes of the song and the faster tempo version of "Reach" is actually much better. However, I do love Gloria Estefan, even though her music got way too mellow with age. Her "Conga" and "The Rhythm is Gonna Get You" are still fantastic body movers on any dance floor. She's also quite beautiful and another reason why I love my ladies racially diverse. I think its interesting that the organizers of the Atlanta Olympic Games chose a French-Canadian and a Cuban-American to sing theme songs for the opening and closing ceremonies, rather than go with something a little more urban and local (like TLC). It shows that they were thinking of a global audience for radio airplay.

Only one more week to enjoy these Vancouver Olympics...and I'm still dreaming of trying to find a ride up there for at least a day trip on the final weekend. Its something I'd like to experience for myself, even if I don't see any events. I just like the energy of people from around the world coming together in the spirit of goodwill. The Olympics in 1996 was a great thing for Atlanta, even though Atlanta wasn't such a great host for the Olympics (see my post on August 8, 2008 for more about this). Atlanta was never the same after the Olympics finished. Vancouver, however, is a world-class city with or without these games.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Who's Really Acting Retarded?

The Quitter Queen has once again found herself in another episode where her credibility has been shot to hell as she elevates a non-issue into a personal attack on her family. She just can't seem to, least when it comes to perceiving people's comments or jokes as a personal attack. Will she ever learn? Not likely, I think, because she's probably retarded!

There. I said it. The dreaded "r" word, which is the equivalent of the "n" word or the "c" word when it comes to people who are "mentally challenged" (or developmentally disabled). Originally, there was nothing offensive about the word "retarded." It comes from the French, in which "retard" means "slow." The word sounds even better in French, because they don't pronounce the "d" at the end, so it sounds like: "ruh-TAHR." I suppose years of derogatory name calling incidents by bullies have stigmatized the word to the point where it brings up painful memories in people who are mentally challenged. My brother is one who has been called that term by other people. But he has also been known to make jokes about people who are even more mentally challenged than he is. I was always shocked to hear him make such jokes, but my brother just likes making people laugh.

I will confess that I have also been known to use the word "retarded" in comments like, "That's so retarded!" I've also used the word "gay" in the same way ("That's so gay!"). In my usage, both "retarded" and "gay" are synonyms for "stupid." It does not mean that I think mentally challenged people or homosexuals are stupid. Just that those words sound way funnier than saying "That's so stupid!" Since adulthood, I do not make fun of people for conditions that they are born with or cannot change. However, I think it is perfectly fine to make fun of people for their behaviour, so that's why Sarah Palin is my favourite object of scorn and derision. She is so fun to make fun of because her willful ignorance, her shallow vapidness, and her self-importance all invite such ridicule. The latest back and forth on the issue of the word "retarded" is the latest episode worthy of our scorn.

It started a few weeks ago when Sarah Palin made a Facebook comment about an old item that was reported in the news. President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had called some Democratic strategy "fucking retarded" in a closed meeting. Someone leaked those comments to the media and Emanuel issued an apology and invited Timothy Shriver to a meeting at the White House. Timothy Shriver's mother, of course, is Eunice, one of the Senator Ted Kennedy's sisters. She had founded the Special Olympics, which Timothy is the current president of. This "sensitivity training" is ridiculous, because Emanuel used "retarded" the same way I and most guys use the term. He did not call a mentally challenged person "retarded."

But leave it to Palin to make this all about her Down Syndrome baby. Just like last summer, when she accused President Obama of wanting to set up "death panels" to kill her grandmother and Down Syndrome baby, Palin made Emanuel's comments all about her son. She ranted about the insensitivity and cruelty behind those words. Yet, she remained silent when darling of the right Rush Limbaugh used the word "retard" more than forty times during one of his shows. Not only that, he called the special meeting between Rahm Emanuel and Timothy Shriver "the Retard Summit." Did Palin protest or criticize Rush? Hell, no! What kind of conservative lap bitch would she be if she dared single out Rush for criticism? She knows her audience and her audience won't tolerate any smack talk about their god, Rush. Instead, Palin said that Rush's use of the word "retard" was clearly "satire." Satire?

What is satire? Satire is a device used, particularly by writers and comedians about people in power. Its meant to point out inconsistencies and dishonesty for scorn and ridicule. Most of all, satire is a highly intelligent form of humour, because people have to know the truth behind the joke. An example of excellent satire is Tina Fey's characterizations of Sarah Palin in 2008, particularly the single phrase that summed up Palin in a nutshell: "I can see Russia from my house!" Rush Limbaugh calling the meeting between the president of the Special Olympics organization and the White House Chief of Staff "the Retard Summit" is not a form of satire. It is another example of Rush's bullying. Make no mistake...Rush is the biggest defender of the corporate elite and he generally makes fun of the people who don't have power. His favourite scapegoats include women, minorities, the handicapped, foreigners. When has he ever made a joke about a conservative white man? He sticks to his own tribe. He's a bully.

This issue has evolved most recently with an episode of the animated series The Family Guy, which featured a lady with Down Syndrome who had mentioned that her mother was the former governor of Alaska. The Family Guy is an equal-opportunity comedy show, along the lines of The Simpsons. When has any other politician singled out a television show for a debate? The last one I can remember is Dan Quayle picking on Murphy Brown for deciding to have a child out of wedlock. But that was back in 1992, when conservatives were against single motherhood. One Bristol Palin later, they are now all for single motherhood (because she decided to keep her baby).

Sarah Palin recently wrote on her Facebook status that she was hurt by the episode of The Family Guy. Her statement read: "People are asking me to comment on yesterday’s Fox show that felt like another kick in the gut. Bristol was one who asked what I thought of the show that mocked her baby brother, Trig (and/or others with special needs), in an episode yesterday."

How was Trig mocked? The character on the show was a grown lady on a date, who merely happened to mention that her mother was "a former governor of Alaska." Her father was an accountant, which we all know that Todd Palin most certainly is not. Its obvious that Palin does not get satire, which doesn't surprise me, because satire is actually a more sophisticated form of humour. It requires some intelligent thinking ability, which Palin does not possess in any form.Palin's Facebook rant inspired a comment by the actual actress, Andrea Fay Friedman, who has Down Syndrome and once acted in the television show Life Goes On as Corky's love interest. In a statement that showed an intelligent perception of what satire is, as well a remarkable sense of humour, Andrea made my day! Just one simple statement (it was a letter to the editor that was published in the New York Times) showed that she has more intelligence and sense of humour than Sarah Palin could ever dream of having. I've italicized and put in bold the most biting rebuke of Palin I've come across yet:

"My name is Andrea Fay Friedman. I was born with Down syndrome. I played the role of Ellen on the "Extra Large Medium" episode of Family Guy that was broadcast on Valentine's day. Although they gave me red hair on the show, I am really a blonde. I also wore a red wig for my role in " Smudge" but I was a blonde in Life Goes On. I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor. I thought the line "I am the daughter of the former governor of Alaska" was very funny. I think the word is "sarcasm". In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes."

Below is a clip of the controversial segment in that episode of The Family Guy. One thing I'd like to say to Sarah Palin is...when your real motives are easily discovered by someone with "mental challenges", your gig is up. Maybe your low information voters who live in trailer parks and shop at Walmart still love you, but you don't fool those with Down Syndrome! They see you carrying Trig around like a purse to gain sympathy and admirers. He's nothing more than a prop for your ambitions. Another thing, Sarah...if you hate our government so much, why does the U.S. Capitol hire people with Down Syndrome to run the elevators, gift shops, and other places throughout our government complex? Corporations naturally discriminate, but our government finds a way to employ people with special needs so that they can live fairly independently and have some dignity. Would your favoured corporations hire these people? Would Rush?

Recently, I had a lengthy debate with a Palin defender on someone's Facebook page. This guy claimed that the more liberals ridicule Sarah Palin, the bigger she becomes and the more support she gains. I find this claim ludicrous. Her numbers aren't moving. Her enthusiastic backers essentially are made up of the same number of people who were blind Bush supporters to the very end. There's no hope for these people, who represent about 30% of the American people. They are ignorant and proud of that fact. Each time Palin opens her mouth to pick a fight with ridiculous arguments and out of proportion outrage, she only alienates everyone else who isn't drinking her toxic poison they call Kool-Aid.

I guess the larger point I want to make is..."who is really acting retarded?" There are people who are born with mental challenges who strive to live in a superficial world that does not value people who are different or who cannot compete. Our government has laws in which they cannot discriminate against people, but corporations have no such law barring them from discriminating potential employees with mental challenges. Then there are those people who were born with a normal functioning brain, which allows them to reason and gain intelligence, yet they prefer to remain ignorant for whatever reason. And in their willful ignorance, they are easily manipulated into believing lies because it fits their prejudices and biases, even if they often don't match the reality of our world. So, I ask again..."who is really acting retarded here?" People with Down Syndrome and other mental handicaps are not "retarded" (as in "stupid"). Its Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and their legion of brainless followers.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Hippest Film Ever Made!

My favourite Portland tradition has arrived in full force: The Portland International Film Festival. This is the 33rd year. I've attended a few films each year since 2007. Unfortunately, the organizers of this festival did not take into account the Winter Olympics, as both started on the same day and covers the same number of days. Didn't they realize that some people might be interested in both? What's an internationalist like me to do?

Well...unfortunately, I am not able to go up to Vancouver BC for the weekend during the Olympics like I had originally wanted to when I moved out here in 2006 (another failure in my big plans for a new life in the nothing I had wanted to accomplish has come true). To me, Vancouver BC is the perfect city to host the Olympics (either summer or winter). If it was an American city, I would have moved there instead of Portland in 2006. It ranks in the top 3 of my favourite cities that I've been to. Though its only a 6 hour drive from Portland, I couldn't find anyone who was willing to make a day trip. The cost of going increases dramatically if you add in overnight lodging, thus I would have preferred a simple day trip. Even if I couldn't attend any events, there's still a vibe to tap into. Plus, its the best opportunity to meet with people from around the world. The Olympics truly transformed Atlanta during the period it was going on...but once it was gone, Atlanta was back to its Southern provincialism. I'm still amazed sometimes when I think about Atlanta winning the right to host the 1996 Olympics.

Anyhow, though I can't experience the Olympics in person, I am enjoying it on television and will write a post about my thoughts later. For now, there's the Portland International Film Festival, which is undoubtedly my favourite tradition in Portland. I start craving it after the holiday season ends. The guidebook to the hundred films is published in early February and its great simply to sit down and browse through the short descriptions of each film, trying to decide which ones I want to see. I usually have a preference, which goes like this: I'll consider the country first, which means that France, Australia, Germany, Italy, South Africa, and Thailand will be considered first. Next, I look at the subject matter. This means anything dealing with Nazis, fascists, communists, history, spirituality, or travel is high on my list. Finally, the story has to be compelling or intriguing. This year, there were ten films I wanted to see. However, that would be a major expense, so I had to pare down that list to an affordable four. This is where I had to weight options using my standards of logic and biases. Logic in terms of what is worth the admission price and what may end up getting a longer run in regular theaters this spring. Bias, as in...Australia gets the absolute must see vote.

On Monday, I did see an Australian film, which I will write about later, once I have seen my four selections. The other film selections I made is a Russian film set during the height of the Cold War period (1955), an Italian film about the rise of Benito Mussolini, and a German film about a couple on vacation in Sardinia (how could I resist that? I hope the town I lived in from 1991 through 1994, La Maddalena, has at least a cameo appearance).

Last night, I went to see Hipsters, the Russian film. Man, I was completely blown away by its spectacle and brilliance! The wow-factor is HUGE for me. This movie better be available to buy on DVD in the USA at some point because I'm definitely owning this one. I've only seen a few Russian films and thought they were okay, nothing to get excited about. This one, though, is definitely the one Russian film people should see. Based on the description in the PIFF booklet, Hipsters is about a young man who is part of the Communist Youth group that goes around raiding "decadent parties" where "hipsters" are present. This young man, Mels, finds himself smitten with a hipster girl and soon gets involved with her social group. They stand out from the crowd with their strange clothing (really bright colours, often clashing outfits) and pompadour hairstyles.

This is 1955, where conformity was king (Soviet citizens wore a uniform gray), yet these rebels were enthralled with the American culture they imagined it to be. In reality, American culture was just as conformist as Soviet culture in the 1950s. That's what's so fascinating about this movie for me. The ironies abound. Our two countries may have been in a Cold War, viewing the other as an enemy not to be trusted, but the reality is that we had more in common than most people realized. In the U.S., accusations of being a communist ruined careers in Hollywood and the government. In the USSR, accusations of being a hipster or being too interested in American culture could get one thrown in jail. The irony is that the most conformist minded anti-communist in the U.S. would most likely be the most pro-Soviet citizen had that person been born in the USSR instead of the USA. Most people don't seem to realize that they are conformist minded to the culture they were born in. The true rebels are those who, like me, are fascinated by other cultures and even adopt foreign styles as their own. Lord knows, I've been accused of being a commie all my life. I wear it as a badge of honour, because I know the truth. Had I been born in the USSR, I would have been a hipster, like these young people in this ultra-cool movie.

Pictured above is the lady whom Mels falls for. Like Avatar, all it takes is a woman to lead a man astray. Its more than that, though. What repressives don't seem to understand is that when you restrict another person's freedom by banning things, it only makes the forbidden item that much more alluring. In contrast to the dull gray world of the Soviet Union in the 1950s, the colourful clothing, the doo-wop jazz, and the unrestrictive dancing proves too much to resist.

The biggest surprise for me was that this film is actually a musical. The singing is in Russian, but the melodies are pretty catchy and the lyrics quite funny. I generally don't like musicals, but I love good music, which this film has plenty of. Standouts include a scene where the female Communist Youth leader (who I thought was way more beautiful than the lady Mels falls for) sings from a podium to the Communist Youth sitting before her. Its reminiscent of a scene out of Evita, though the song had hints of Eminem. It was simply hip that way. The closing scene in the film was quite simply a HOME RUN! As the protagonist sings his way on the streets of Moscow in his 1955 attire, Russians of all kinds (punks, anarchists, goths, regular types) walk along side him. The scene is meant to convey how much Russia has changed, where individual expression is the norm thanks to hipsters of the 1950s who dared to dress differently despite the ridicule, harassment, and threats of arrest. The song is beautiful, but the scene is perfect. No wonder why this film won the Russian equivalent of the Oscar for Best Picture. It presents a great message about the new Russia that emerged from the death of communism in 1991.

Those who fear the reemergence of a communist empire in Russia are probably a little too paranoid to face reality. Once people have the freedom that they do, its hard to imagine them ever wanting to return to the repressive era of the 1950s. Its like in the U.S. Sure, we have some die-hard conservatives who dream of returning America to the "good ole days of the 1950s", but the majority of our country was born after that era and we're used to integration and diversity. There's no path leading backwards. Yeah, there might be some moments where we allow a reactionary government to raise a nationalist impulse, but for the most part, the Russians, love our individualism. There is no going back to the 1950s for either nation.

One of the funniest moments in the movie is when Fyodor returns after a year in America and he tells Mels that to his disappointment, "there are no hipsters in America." Mels doesn't want to hear it, because he's so invested in this lifestyle that liberated him from his Communist Youth loyalties. I'd say that Fyodor didn't look very hard. All he had to do was hang out in Greenwich Village in 1955. He might have come across Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Eartha Kitt, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, and others who were challenging the conformity of American corporate culture. The Beat Generation was on the verge of becoming well known (Kerouac's On the Road was published in 1957 and the press derogatorily called the Beat Generation "beatniks" to imply a Soviet influence).

The Russian hipsters dig their saxophone jazz, swing dancing, outrageous clothing (they'd fit in well in the 1930s Harlem), and freedom. They even adopt American nicknames, as Fyodor becomes Fred, Kataryn is Katie, Paulina is Polly, and Mels is simply Mel. This name change outraged the Communist Youth lady who has a crush on him. As she pointed out to members of the Communist Youth, Mels is a sacred name because its a tribute to the Soviet founding fathers: Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin. By dropping the S from his name, he's denying the glory of Stalin. Of course, these days, Stalin is properly viewed as a villain on the scale of Hitler and in terms of number of people whose deaths he's personally responsible for, he far surpassed Hitler.

When I left the theater, I was beaming. I haven't felt this great about a movie in a long time. I was similarily awed after seeing the German film Goodbye, Lenin in 2004. I guess part of this stems from an idea I had as a boy in elementary school. I never understood why other classmates hated the Soviets so much. I used to pretend that I was a kid in the Soviet Union just to try an understand how they might have viewed us. Thus, the reason why I've been called a commie since the first grade. That's okay, though, because I know I'm right on this. The Russians were people like us. They had little power in what their government does and they were just as conformist in their culture as Americans were in ours. They were quick to apply labels on anyone who dared to think differently and take an interest in the foreign culture they were taught to hate. Russian hipsters might have been called decadent American wannabes, just as I was accused of being a commie. The awesomeness is that the hipsters and the nonconformists knew better. We didn't allow our governments to tell us who to hate. We just embraced the best ideas and lived our truth the way we see it. And guess what? We won! The hipsters helped break the conformity of the Soviet Union and the hippies helped end the war in Vietnam. Who'd you rather be?

So...if you really want to see an awesome movie with some fantastic music, a dazzling visual style, and an ultra-hip vibe, you must see Hipsters if and when it plays in an upscale theater near you. It is perhaps the hippest film ever made. I LOVED it! In fact, if I take all the films I've seen at the Portland International Film Festival these past four years, I would say that Hipsters is far and away the best of them all. Its seriously that great. Americans will learn a lot about Russians and of ourselves if they dare to watch this film. The parallels between our two cultures is too important to ignore. Let's reject the conformity of communist and corporate capitalistic cultures and allow a less restrictive culture to take its place. Of course, not everyone can be a hipster. There will always be conformist-minded folks in both societies who follow the dictates of their chosen leaders. But if you want to be different, Hipsters definitely shows you how to live a life true to your inner being.