Friday, February 19, 2010

Open Season on USA

They hate us. No matter what we do, certain countries and/or people will always despise the USA. Some hate our apple pie, some hate our free markets, and others hate our SUV’s. When it comes to the Olympics, however, they just hate us for wearing the red, white, and blue.

Last night, Evan Lysacek won the gold medal in men’s figure skating, and in doing so busted the long-time Russian monopoly on the sport. It’s no wonder, then, that a Russian had a few choice words for Lysacek after the competition. Evgeny Plushenko, the silver medalist, said that "you can't be considered a true men's champion without a quad," referring to the fact that he did a quadruple jump while Lysacek chose not to try the risky move. "For someone to stand on top of the podium with the gold medal around his neck by just doing triple jumps, to me it's not progress, it's a regress because we've done triples 10 or even 20 years ago." Well, Geny (can I call you that?), maybe if you wouldn't have been so shaky on your triples, the ones you've been doing for so long, you would have won.

During the awards ceremony, the Russian looked like a teenager being forced to sit through his sister’s piano recital.

But Plushenko wasn’t the only Eurasian to take a few jabs at the Stars and Stripes. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Plushenko that he “would like to sincerely congratulate you on the wonderful Olympic performance -- your silver is worth gold." Actually, Vlad, it’s worth silver. The guy standing on the top shelf – his name is Evan -- is the one with gold. And I don’t think a Russian politician has any right to say what anything is worth: see Soviet price controls, hyperinflation, Nomenklatura, etc.

A Russian news show brought up how Sarah Hughes stole the gold medal from Irina Slutskaya back in the Salt Lake Games of 2002. The commentator went on to say "who now remembers Hughes? Similarly, in a few years' time nobody will remember Lysacek while Plushenko would go down in history as one of the greatest of all time." Okay, comrade, you are right. Who could forget the most hideous haircut this side of Kate Gosselin? That is indeed the greatest use of bangs of all time.

The Korean War

And we can’t forget about our dear friends, the Korean speed skaters. Once again, they have elbowed their way into the press with tales of “mistreatment” and undeserved American medals. They claim that Apolo Ohno shouldn’t have received a medal in the 1500 short track race. The gold medalist, Lee Jung-Su said that "Ohno didn't deserve to stand on the same medal platform as me. I was so enraged that it was hard for me to contain myself during the victory ceremony."

Enraged, huh? Like the “rage” that Roy Jones, Jr. should have felt in 1988 when your Olympic committee bought a Korean victory in boxing? I don’t remember him saying that he couldn’t contain himself during the ceremony, and I don’t remember any toilet paper being sold with the Korean winner’s likeness printed on it or video games that allowed us to shoot him in the head. Too bad Ohno can’t say the same.

The short track team had to withdraw from the 2003 World Cup being held in Korea because of death threats. How would that have played out if it involved, say, the German basketball team withdrawing from a tournament in Pasadena because of American animosity? It would have sparked a global outcry and probably UN sanctions.

Team USA has become the whipping boy for nasty comments and international hatred. I guess we’ll just have to sit back and take it during the Olympics. But at least we’ll look good -- in our ski pants that look like blue jeans and our shiny gold medals. Congrats Evan, job well done. Go enjoy some apple pie.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Olympics have Arrived...

For the next 16 days, the world will be a little different. The Olympic Games have once again brought us together in a way that is truly unique -- athletes from all over the world come to do nothing more than give their very best. Maybe we can all learn something from that concept...

I have always loved the Olympics. Maybe it's because I was born in upstate New York in 1977 -- right between (both in space and time) the Montreal Games of 1976 and the Lake Placid Games of 1980. I think the Olympics are in my blood. Not as a competitor, though. The closest I got to the winter games was probably playing hockey as a kid at lunch recess or "bobsledding" down the hill with my best friend (we'd take turns being the pilot).

I may not be an Olympic caliber athlete, but I'm a true blue Olympic fan. I cried when Dan Jansen fell after losing his sister to Leukemia, and I cried again when he won the gold medal 6 years later. I rooted for "Eddie the Eagle" and the Jamaican bobsled team. My heart races during short track speed skating and freestyle aerials. I am simply amazed by the Norwegian cross-country skiers. My favorite movie of all time might be "Miracle." And yes, I watch (and enjoy) figure skating.

As the Vancouver Games start, let me share a few thoughts from last night's opening ceremonies:

The show. The Canadians know how to put on a good show. It might not have been as dramatic and grand as the Beijing opening ceremonies, but I'm also pretty sure the participants weren't scared for their lives about messing up. China was a great host, but I have the feeling that if those drummers or stick-men would have been out of wouldn't turn out so well. The Canadians are laid back, eh. And I loved the performance -- especially the whales and the suspended skiers/ snowboarders.

Mounties. These guys and gals are very classy, very iconic, and totally Canadian. I just don't know if the whole poofy pants thing invokes fear into the enemy. They get two thumbs up for pageantry, but if push comes to shove, I'm glad we have the Marines.

The referee's oath. Interesting that the referee's oath was in French with no translation. I guess that gives the Russian judges "plausible deniability" when they totally screw someone over.

KD Lang. I found it interesting that there were no close ups of KD Lang during her performance of "Hallelujah." Not that I'm complaining, please don't misunderstand. But from what I saw, it looked just like Martin Sheen with the microphone, and I don't even know if he's Canadian...I'm just sayin'.

Steve Nash. It was awesome to see my favorite basketball player of all time carry the torch for his home country. Thanks for another amazing assist, Steve.

Nodar Kumaritashvili. What a tragic story to start these games. The Georgian luger was in Vancouver to fulfill a dream, and it ended prematurely. I found it heartwarming that the Georgian team received a standing ovation, and that the team chose to go forward in honor of their friend. I guess that puts everything in perspective: give your very best, no matter the circumstance. Do we give up when times are tough, when we have an excuse to quit? I certainly hope not.

My 8 year old daughter Elly, who besides myself was the only one to stay awake until the very end, said a sweet prayer before she went to bed. On her knees, she said "I'm thankful that the guy who died in the Olympics could go to heaven." That's right Elly, he's in a better place. And during the next 16 days, the world will be, too.

Go USA, and Go World.

Thursday, September 24, 2009 General Assembly Meets in New York

I’m not really an HOA-type guy. I live in an HOA and see some of the benefits, but mostly I despise the idea. Don’t get me wrong…most of the people on the HOA board are hardworking neighbors who want what is best for our community (but some are merely trying to get payback for the high school student council election they lost).

Some of what the HOA does is good…we have a nice common area, a few swing sets, and a Fall Festival that we attend once a decade. We pay an off-duty police officer to patrol the neighborhood at night looking for mischievous teens and open garage doors. The rules in the CC&R’s may even prevent someone from painting their garage door orange. But that’s about the extent of the HOA’s usefulness.

Because it is the nature of men and women to exercise control when they receive a little bit of power, the HOA board often goes over-board. Here are some case studies:

We received a fine for allegedly having a few weeds in our yard past the “clemency” date. The details are not fit for a blog entry, but I did fight that battle and win. We have also received threatening letters telling us to park our tent trailer in the garage…when it had been out for a total of 5 hours in preparation for a trip. Are weeds and a trailer parked in the street against the rules? Technically, I guess.

But here’s the kicker: There are dozens of homes in our neighborhood who have obnoxious lawn ornaments, Goodwill donations sitting in their side yard for weeks at a time (you know who you are, HOA President…), and weeds that would engulf a medium-sized dog. Oh yeah, and our neighbor parks his monster work trailer in front of the mailbox – every night. Should I be expected to keep my yard perfect and my little trailer indoors at every moment? I don’t think so. But these other ongoing violations should be addressed…somehow.

There are other areas in which the HOA tries to force their will on our community. They raised our rates in the midst of the biggest recession since the 1930’s, citing that landscaping costs were getting too high. How about finding a new landscaper? I know several who would love the work in these tough times, and I bet they’d do it for a lot less than whoever is currently taking you guys out to lunch.

We just received a newsletter that said the board is still “considering the amount of use the volleyball court gets” before deciding to replace a broken pole. They decide if volleyball is a worthwhile activity. By the way, if you are watching the volleyball court to see if it gets used, you probably won’t see anyone. THE POLE IS GONE! Geniuses.

Does this scheme remind you of anything? If you take the letters H-O-A, do some code crunching and rearranging, you end up with “The U.N.” Coincidence? I think not.
The U.N. is the ultimate example of a world HOA gone horribly wrong. Nobody (in the U.S.) really wants to be a part of it, but somehow it is a requirement. The U.N. General Assembly and accompanying committees have received power (perceived as it may be) and they intend to use it.

Do they do good things? Absolutely. They help to distribute food to impoverished nations and give assistance to children and mothers who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance. They also…well, they…what about the…I'm sure they do other nice things. Here are some things they don't (or shouldn't) do:
  • World security? That’s handled by the U.S., Great Britain, and a handful of other countries with a backbone.
  • Economics? Don’t get me started…but the socialist U.N. tendencies are not the answer.
  • Environment? They don’t have any answers beyond what they learned in the translated version of An Inconvenient Truth.
  • Social justice? No thanks. I think we can teach our children sex education without your help.

    The U.N. is constantly sending harassing notes to the U.S. about our policies. You can’t create so many green house gasses…you need to get rid of your nuclear weapons…blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, China is in the corner covered in carbon soot. As for the nukes, our weapons aren’t pointed at anyone. North Korea and Iran have documented enemies…and Pakistan is a wreck…let’s start by getting them under control.

    As for raising our rates, the U.N. is constantly seeking more funding to further its mission. The U.S. now pays 26% of the peacekeeping fund and 22% of the general fund. There are 192 countries in the U.N., and we pay ¼ of the rent. And we’re the bad guys? We already offer the world our military - now we have to pay for everyone else's pet projects. Talk about redistribution of wealth...

    In the grand scheme of things, is my neighborhood government/ HOA a huge thing? No, not really. I live next to a guy who parks his ugly trailer in the street and some people whose front yards are FULL of ugly weeds. Annoying, but not the end of the world. I can reasonably expect the HOA to take care of these indiscretions and hold these people accountable, but it's not the end of the world.

    This is the serious part: we live in a world with high-polluting Chinese factories, a dictator named Ahmadinejad, and legions of marching soldiers saluting Kim Jong Il. I expect the U.N. to hold them accountable for breaking the rules. They need to stop pushing their social agenda on the United States and start helping us rid the world of the real threats. If we are going to be a part of this group, let’s make sure they do what is right.

    And note to the HOA board: I want that volleyball pole back.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Maybe We All Could Use a Hug...

The political atmosphere has been tense lately, to say the least. I’ve seen people coming out of the woodwork that have never expressed an interest in politics or public policy before. I think the heightened awareness of our country’s plight is a great thing. Sometimes, though, I think we all tend to argue for argument’s sake. It’s important to remember the reason for our battles (whatever they may be). I think a lot of us lose sight of what we are really fighting for…

Let me tell you why I express my opinions, take a stand on important issues, and even make phone calls or knock on doors for a good cause. Actually, let me show you…

My raison d’ĂȘtre

It has never been about me. I want to make sure these guys grow up in a country where freedom rings. Any stance I take on deficits, healthcare, stimulus plans, marriage, or anything else is to make their future better – but sometimes I may get carried away and forget the true fount of my concern.

This week, I saw a video clip that reminded me of what is most important. This is a clip of a father and daughter enjoying a baseball game in Philadelphia. Please take 53 seconds to watch…but be sure to come back for analysis :)

I hope I would respond the same way this great father did. After his amazing catch, his first thoughts were to give the ball to his admiring daughter. When she threw the ball, his immediate reaction was “oh no!” This good man quickly took her into his arms and simply loved her. She may have been embarrassed, but the safety of her father’s arms was immediately available for refuge.

This clip rightfully made its way through the news media. Nestled in between the latest on the healthcare debate and breaking news of more nuclear threats in the Middle East, this touching moment may have been viewed as frivolous. I couldn’t disagree more.

Until we recognize that the family is the fundamental unit of society, we will never solve the world’s problems. We must remember that our primary responsibility is to our children. In our efforts to make the world a better place, let us remember that sometimes the most important thing we can do is give our kids a hug -- Heaven knows they need it. And come to think of it...we do, too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Quiet No More...

Here we go -- it's time to fight the real battles, beginning with this ridiculous healthcare bill (or bills; there are currently 5 bills floating around in committee).

Last night's speech was a great sales presentation. As usual, President Obama delivered a passionate, well-written speech about the "dire" need for healthcare reform in America. It was nothing more than a sales pitch, however, and I don't believe Americans are buying it. But perhaps the biggest news to come out of the speech was not even part of the speech itself, but a seemingly insignificant jeer from a Republican Congressman.

Representative Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) had the audacity to shout "you lie" in response to the President's assertion that illegal immigrants would not benefit from the new bill. I'll save the details of this half-truth for another post, but suffice it to say that illegals would not be denied insurance for the same reason they are currently not denied ER care.

Was the President lying? Well...let's just say that I'm sure his words were chosen carefully. I think he was telling us what was written in the bill, but I also believe that he knows that the actual consequences that will follow are going to be quite different. I learned in Sunday School that a lie is "any intent to deceive." But I digress...

The Wilson incident (that took all of 7 seconds, max) was headline news today. Again, we stopped focusing on the real debate in lieu of this ancillary story. So, to put the issue to rest, let me give you my take of the outburst.

First of all, I think it was probably wrong to yell what he did during a Presidential speech. It crossed the line of congressional demeanor as we know it. While I would love to have a "House of Commons" approach to presidential speeches, it hasn't ever been a part of our culture. We got rid of that along with driving on the left side of the road and having afternoon tea.

That said, I understand Rep. Wilson's frustrations. During the 40 minute speech, the President drew applause after every partisan comment he made (which were abundant). Nancy Pelosi et al. can stand and clap when they agree with the President, but the opposition's only recourse is to sit quietly when they don't agree with the outlined tenets. I ask: what is more of a distraction; a two word statement or a 30 second round of applause? He felt the need to voice his opinion, and since he didn't sit on the left side of the aisle, this seemed like his only option.

As a side note, I truly enjoyed watching the outrage and sheer disdain on Pelosi's face immediately following the comment. As I watched her reaction, I imagined her telling V.P. Biden that she wanted that man in jail before the speech was over. How dare he speak up? She is the Speaker of the House, after all.

In the end, Rep. Wilson rightly apologized to President Obama for the outburst. President Obama graciously accepted the apology, as did Pelosi (allegedly). It was time to move on with the debate, right? Wrong.

Left-wingers wasted no time hopping on the anti-Wilson bandwagon. Thousands of dollars were immediately sent to his opponent in the next election, courtesy of intellectuals.

Here's the captivating new home page content for their website:

Last night, President Obama challenged Congress to "meet
history's test" and fix our broken health care system.
Republicans, led by Joe Wilson, responded by heckling,
booing, and hissing. We can't afford to let right-wing extremists
hold health care reform hostage.

Since when is the Congressman from South Carolina (that only people from South Carolina had ever heard of before last night) the "leader" of the Republicans?

I now patiently wait for the inevitable boycotts. I'm sure that by this weekend there will be grad students and ACORN employees out picketing Wilson sports equipment, the movie Cast Away, all Dennis the Menace episodes that include Mr. Wilson, and any future reunion concerts of Wilson-Phillips (which, admittedly, I would boycott as well).

Let's really "move on" and learn from this experience. Wilson's comment was merely a symptom of a greater problem. Here is the real crux of the issue:

For weeks, Democrats have ignored Republican ideas, intimated at ideas like reconciliation, and subscribed to the notion that they could do this by themselves -- without a single Republican vote. As a result, Republicans are starving for a voice in this process, and it came to a boiling point last night.

The American public, similarly, may feel that they have lost their voice. The liberals in Congress have drowned us out with their standing ovations for too long. I hope that the polls, town hall meetings, and petitions will serve as an outburst of sorts that will ring loud and clear to the President and Congress.

I long for the day when Nancy Pelosi stares at me with as much vitriol as she did to Rep. Wilson last night. Then I'll know that I'm on the right track.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reason Must Prevail (part 2)

So the President's speech to America's schoolchildren is over,and I have had time to take my kids back to school (they stayed home and watched Yo Gabba Gabba instead of listening to a speech about staying in school and doing your very best for your country).

Okay, I didn't really keep my kids home from school today...and I am so glad that they had the opportunity to see the speech. I know that many of you have differing opinions on this and chose to keep your kids home or do an alternative activity in school. Great! That's what America is all about, and I support your decision.

In this installment of my "Reason Must Prevail" series, however, I want to address a dangerous trend I am seeing: the abandonment of the high-road and the disappearance of true conservative values.

[B]ad hominem

I've heard just about every argument for not allowing our children to view the President's speech today. Almost all of them come down to not wanting children to hear from President Obama - the man. Please allow me to address each one in turn.

Kids don't need to hear from the President, that is beyond his scope of responsibility

The President of the United States holds the highest political office in our country. The office that has been held by men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, JFK, and Ronald Reagan has many responsibilities, not the least of which is to inspire the nation. Whether you agree with his policies or not, President Obama has inspired many Americans to pursue their dreams.

Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush also addressed our nation's children. I don't think they were overstepping their bounds, either. I'm sure no one pulled their kids out of school citing that nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the President is supposed to address school kids.

This is a political stunt to "harvest" a generation of Obama supporters

First of all, my school-aged kids won't be voting until 2019 and 2022. If my understanding of the Constitution is correct, President Obama will not be eligible for re-election in those years (unless of course he decides not to run in 2012, which is a strategy that I am willing to let him pursue).

Secondly, even if my kids were seniors in high school, I wouldn't be worried about them taking a sudden turn toward liberal principles. Unless there is some brainwashing taking place (and despite some activists' opinions I don't think there is), they will revert to the ideas they have learned at home. If I have left my children vulnerable to changing their beliefs during a single, 20 minute speech, then I have failed as a parent.

Lastly, even if my children did become a lib..libe..liberal (that is hard to write), that would be their choice. A great man named Joseph Smith once said, in referring to his religious congregation, that "I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves." I pray that my children will make good choices.

I want them to be prepared to defend their beliefs, too. Shutting them off to the world will not prepare them for the debates that will define their generation. I'd like them to know what they are up against. So I would let them watch a highly political "State of the Union" speech, too (although I would discourage behaviors like the obnoxious clapping of Nancy Pelosi - that's one area where I draw the line as a parent).

We don't need our kids to hear about Obama's views on policy

Hindsight is 20/20, but I have been saying this since last week: President Obama is not going to speak about healthcare, gay marriage, or stimulus plans. He is going to speak about getting an education and setting goals. Isn't that something we believe in, too?

Having seen the broadcast, he went further than I expected him to. He actually spoke about many "conservative" principles, such as taking personal responsibility for your future. I don't think Ronald Reagan would have said it much differently.

Obama is pure evil

Many of the arguments I have heard boiled down to this. These aggressive, ad-hominem attacks on the President will get us

As to the evil part, I don't buy it. This is a man who loves his family, tries to be a good Christian, and generally tries to do what is right. He just happens to believe in a different set of political ideals than I do. I wouldn't hesitate to have him over for dinner, however, based on his political opinions. (If you're reading this, Mr. President, you are welcome anytime. My wife makes a killer roast, and we'd love to discuss this healthcare plan with you).

It seems more and more that he is viewed as some sort of villain that parades down the street. The popular thinking is that if we are good parents, we will cover our kids' eyes and shield them from the monster. I don't see it that way.

It reminds me of the way George W. Bush was treated...he was for all intents and purposes labeled as the evil man only interested in oil and wars. Do we want to be associated with this classy ad campaign?

Disappearing Conservative Values

We used to stand for values. Values like civility and fairness. It seems like we are adopting the tactics and viewpoints that have defined the left for so many years. Tactics, by the way, that have infuriated me since I was a sophomore in high school...but I never thought that so-called conservatives would choose that road.

The Rachel Maddows, Bill Mahers, a Michael Moores of the world have lost all credibility because of their visible disdain for George W. Bush, Clarence Thomas, small business owners, and every middle-America homemaker. They attack the person, but have no answer for policy questions.

We should be different. We have the policy answers, and they will speak for themselves. We have been so consumed with attacking President Obama that we have forgotten to debate the issues. I'm afraid that calling Obama evil and not letting our children near him will make us lose credibility on what really matters.

The knee-jerk reaction of the left may be spreading dangerously towards the right. Here's an example: When John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, had the audacity to say he didn't agree with the healthcare proposal, left-wingers immediately called for his removal. They also initiated a boycott of the chain of grocery stores. Typical left-wing activism. It is so predictable, if maddening.

But here's the scary part...I have heard people saying that they are no longer watching movies and TV shows that include actors who participated in the "support Obama" video. That video was atrocious, but boycotting TV shows? Really? Is that the best we can do? What's next: a Suns player refusing to catch a pass from Steve Nash because Nash doesn't agree with the war? Let's take the high road and re-draw the line between us and the left-wing fanatics.

In the end, we are all on the same team. President Obama is our president. Remember this popular sign after the Florida recount?

Let's not take that approach. I'm grown up enough to say that President Obama is my president, too. I pray that he will make good choices. I want him to succeed in making America better; I don't want him to fail simply because he is a liberal. I don't want him to be in office forever, and in fact I will go out and knock on doors for Mitt Romney in a year or two (which I did last time...maybe that's what did him in...). Until then, I will fight the battles where I can make a difference.

Let's debate the points where we differ and embrace the areas in which we agree. But let's be reasonable. I hope we can all agree that education, goals, and confidence are American values that we can all embrace. That's all this speech was.

Like Whitney Houston sang..."I believe the children are our future." Let's start by teaching them to get along with each other, no matter their political view.

Maybe...just maybe...we can leave them a world worth living in.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reason Must Prevail (part 1)

At the risk of getting too political, I decided to write a few blog posts about what I have been thinking lately. So here is my view on point 1:

Czar Schmar

There has been a lot of talk about the so-called "czars" in the Obama Administration. It seems like some talk show hosts and activists have recently dedicated their lives to exposing the true men behind the president. Sounds innocent enough; but I believe the unrelenting focus on the President's advisors is making us lose sight of what is really important.

First of all, there is nothing we can do about the czars. They are not up for senate confirmation and it's the President's prerogative to listen to whomever he wants. We already lost that battle...back in November (actually, I think we lost it in the primaries when we didn't vote for Romney, but I digress). Note to talk show hosts: if you want to spend a few minutes of every show talking about what these guys said in California in February, great! I'm good with that. But I can't even watch Glenn Beck because he has become the "czar Czar" himself -- it completely consumes his show.

I'm glad that the information came out...thank you. I'm over it. I know these guys are radical. I knew it during the election. The horse is dead, let's go beat something the Congress!

The President isn't going to empty his advisory board at our request, but we do have a chance of convincing the blue-dog Democrats that the healthcare bill is bad for America and bad for freedom. I'm pretty sure the "green jobs" czar doesn't have a vote in the House of Representatives, but Heath Shuler and Brad Ellsworth sure do. Let's focus on getting the message out to them.

We do have a say in this representative democracy of ours. Our (nation's) voice was heard in Novemeber, and it said that we will let President Obama live in a cool house with an underground bowling alley. Oh, and he could appoint judges and his own staff. That election is over.

There is, however, going to be a vote on some pretty important healthcare legislation. Our voice must be heard loud and clear -- we don't want it. This is a battle we can still win.

Here's a rough analogy -- let's say that a certain football coach* has been accused of being a cheater. It is well documented in the press that his assistant coaches believe you should be allowed to play with 12 players, regardless of the rules. If we spend all of our time exposing these coaches, we may forget to watch the game.

While our focus is on these assistant's past histories, we fail to see them sneaking a 12th player onto the field right in front of us. If our cameras are focused on the sidelines, we miss the game - and the game is what counts.

Those coaches needed to be exposed...and I applaud Beck and others for bringing the "czar" details forward. We know what they want to do -- heck, we knew during the election last year what President Obama stood for. It's time to get over it. Now we need to "watch the field." Let's make sure they don't cheat or change the rules on us (i.e. destroy the Constitution).

They have to go through congress to get stuff done...let's focus our attention there - where we do still have a voice. In 2 years, when the presidential election is heating up, then we can discuss President Obama and his band of merry men (and women).

Until then, I think we should focus most of our energy on discrediting these ludicrous bills coming from Pelosi and Friends.

*I am not implying that the coaches in the photo are under suspicion of any malfeasance. They were merely the best image available on Google.