Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Person of the Year

A week from now we still won't be able to say who's going to lead the GOP ticket in 2012, but the folks in Iowa might be yesterday's news just as fast as they were four years back, when they decided Mike Huckabee was their guy. A year from now I'll be able to write some kind of sage comments, God willing, about forty years of marriage to the same woman. And at some point I'll be able to talk about my tennis career-ending injury, mostly so that all my readers worldwide can know for sure that I've become old, not that many will care.
But for now, let's consider the title in this week's title, then come out for someone, though it need not be someone who's likable. Time Magazine, who first got in the business of fluffy-type honors decades back, gave their nod for 2011 to "the protester".
And that isn't a bad answer, but it begs for clarification. Those fire-breathing Tea party congressmen who took their seats in Congress with all kinds of plans for shaking things up, for instance, now don't seem to be leaders so much as the kind of person who gladly throw sand in the gearbox of government, then point left and scream "HE did it!" Person of the year? They wouldn't even get the nod from Boehner. The price of corrupting them also seems likely to go down as their first incumbency defense in November looms closer. No award for them.
The Republican candidates for president would also like to be thought of as "protesters" in the way that the Pope might be regarded as a protester against evil. Their debates have been revealing during little exchanges, but on the whole they resemble a dog pile on Obama - pretty riskless as long as he's not there to make replies, while the audience that is there would just as soon see the president dismembered on stage. Most of this group of me too-ers, all brave Christmas Christians will be one with Gephardt and Pawlenty by spring, forgotten by all but self-appointed experts like me. "Protesters"? Impossible - when your hand is out for millions.
Of course, the Left has the Occupy folks. They deserve credit for talking loudly about the inequities of society that often get ignored though they're in plain sight. I honestly believe we haven't seen the last of these tough folks either, though they are facing their toughest enemy right now - winter. I also like that their message is simple enough for everyone to get - "They are rich, and we (all of us) aren't, and it's not because they're so smart, either."
But I'm giving the prize to some real heroes, far away though they may be. If you launch a protest in the wrong country at the wrong time, or in front of the wrong audience, you can find yourself as part of the local landfill. And darned few will care because you were supposed to know the risks before you opened your mouth. But that didn't stop some brave folks in unfree places like Egypt and Libya, most armed with nothing more lethal than cell phones. With blinding speed, they showed the rest of the world what the Iraqis didn't - that people can change things by themselves, guns or no guns, if they want to badly enough. Even if the cause is a little dodgy, you have to pay attention to people willing to risk their lives when success is far from guaranteed. The least I can do for these folks is name them "Person of the Year", with the wish that 2012 works well for them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Peace Time?

Wrapping up 2011, the family can notch a few milestones. Naturally, this also depends on how broadly the term "family" is used, inclusively or excluding certain members. I already mentioned Zach's success in the esoteric art of Ferrari upkeep. Two daughters, Marla and Leah, got immediate employment following their training: Marla in nursing and Leah in dental technology. No babies or marriages this year, but an engagement for an early 2012 wedding for daughter Anna popped up, and our oldest grandchild, Sally, reached the milestone of adolescence. Woo Hoo!

And we couldn't top this year for nature sightings. Besides the whale that did us the favor of moving on fresh water up the Klamath River before dying, this last week we spotted two decent-sized black bear cubs about a half block from home. We were in our sturdy old Buick at the time, so we didn't panic, but we did make sure the garage doors were closed before opening the car doors.

And, not to change subjects too radically, but it was also a big year for Herman Cain. True, he ended the year gone from the list of GOP presidential candidates, but he told Barbara Walters on TV last week that he has a new challenge in his sights. You could see her head almost explode when he said he now wants to be ....the Secretary of Defense! I can just hear him explaining how assembling an aircraft carrier is really no different from putting together a (rather complex) pizza. And his self-proclaimed ignorance of other countries and their leaders? No problem. He'll just sit down with one of those generals he's always talking about in order to get caught up. It could take, oh, an hour or two.

Don't wait for a parade to come through your neighborhood, but we scratched one war front off the list last week. We're finally through in Iraq except for a few mercenaries willing to provide hired gun services for Iraqi bigshots. The locals say they'll handle the rest of the job from here, and what can we do but wish them the best?
Iraq isn't going to become an Islamic Sweden anytime soon, but its people are sophisticated, there's plenty of oil left, and maybe the bad guys will be too worn out from the last war to start the next one for awhile. Explosions, both deliberate and accidental, won't stop, but it's probably now illegal to even say "nuclear weapon". But peace, as we know, carries no guarantees.
In fact, one surprising thing about the new peace is that it's so poorly regarded by those who started the war in the first place, neocon Republicans. None of them are very sold on peace at all, and so naturally have nothing nice to say about president Obama, even though the troop withdrawl coincides exactly with Bush's plan for wrapping things up. To hear the GOP presidential candidates, taking troops out is almost proof that Obama is taking his orders from a klatch of mullahs. Forget the polls, they say. Eight plus years just isn't long enough! The names "Bush" and "Cheney" have disappeared from all public utterances, but they've become used to at least two war fronts going at all times. More importantly, so have those big "job creators", the defense contractors.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Numbers Games

Do you recall mention of son Zach, chosen by the Ferrari folks to compete with nine other master mechanics for the title of (and I'm sure this isn't too accurate) World's Best Ferrari Tinkerer Guy? The contest is over for this year. No, he didn't win, but did finish in the top half (5th) and so he has earned the right to feel pleased. I haven't talked to him, but I think the trip was enjoyable for him and his wife even though it included at least one nine-hour flight non-stop to Paris. Anyway - what a guy!

I won't always have Governor Rick Perry to kick around as a presidential candidate, but the guy is comedy gold when it comes to things he says (or forgets to say) on the campaign trail. Forget for a moment his plan to eliminate three cabinet level departments from government altogether, but only remembering two. Here's what he's done lately:
Referred to Election Day as "November 12th, 2012". It's actually the 6th.
Called on people in that same sentence "age 21 and over" to support him. The legal voting age, by amendment to the Constitution, has been 18 for over forty years.
Referred to the Supreme Court as having eight "unelected" justices. The court actually has nine justices, though Perry was right that none got the job via the ballot.
He couldn't remember Justice Sonya Sotomayor's name, which would be understandable if he hadn't been trying to single her out as a flaming liberal at the time.
I guess it's easy to see how Perry was in line for the governor's job when Bush went off to Washington as the newly (sort-of) elected president in 2001. Perry made Bush look smart.

Albert Pujols is going to be remembered for a long time. Even if he suffers a career-ending injury during next spring's preseason workouts, his new employers, the Los Angeles Angels (or whatever their current name is) will be on the hook for $250 million, payable over the next ten years. That's quite a bit of money - about what Mitt Romney has in financial assets today. Is the hard-hitting Pujols worth that much? Ah, there an economist in the house?

Speaking of Mitt, there was another GOP presidential debate last night in which the most interesting moment may have been when Mitt tried to call out Perry about a minor accusation regarding a line in Mitt's book regarding health care. Romney offered to put up $10,000 backing his side of the argument. Perry backed off the bet part, though he persisted with the allegation. It wasn't so much Mitt's conviction, but his treatment of 10G's as pocket money that may have started some folks thinking that Mitt's life is far removed from that of most people. Does that preclude someone from being an effective president? No, but it's not a bad thing to see a little empathy in the nation's CEO, and that's a quality seldom seen of late by current CEO's. To many of them, all of life is little more than a numbers game.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Another One Bites....

Our daughter Anna, like her siblings, grew up in Iowa. Some good fortune in her life has led to an upcoming wedding with David, a native of Idaho. They will make their home in Ohio. My question: might all this be hard to explain to the portion of Anna's co-workers who communicate only in Spanish? Hay, caramba!

I've concluded that after all the noise of several decades that soccer is finally here in the US to stay. A sprinkling of Americans play in foreign leagues, and the USL (Is that correct?) in this country is drawing good crowds who mostly know when to cheer and what the yellow card means. But I knew we had crossed some kind of line the other day when I saw a trio of Americans trying to pick over the schedule for next year's European Cup. They were using terms like "group of death" with straight faces and had no problem picking the favorites, but what impressed me most was the fact that all this discussion was taking place on TV even though play doesn't begin for over six months, and the US isn't in it at all!

Finally, there's the "Herman, we hardly knew ye" portion of this entry. Mr. Cain shoveled out all the "my family, my wife, blah, blah" cliches as he reluctantly put his campaign for president into the bun warmer, where it's liable to stay.
I have no special dislike for Cain, but have to wonder about just what people ever saw in him as a possible president. His speeches seemed to have little content other than he doesn't trust Muslims no matter WHERE they're from, that he's against abortion, but murky as to who should be in charge of enforcing his preference, and that he's almost proud of knowing little or nothing about the rest of the world ("beki, beki, beki..").
Yes, he had a proposal - the easy-to-remember 9/9/9 plan. It took a couple of people with calculators about three minutes to figure out that the plan was yet another "don't tax the rich AT ALL' play that would do nothing to solve yearly deficits, but much to completely transfer the weight of taxation entirely to the middle and lower classes. Cain didn't really give any more details, but went on repeating "9" enough to remind us of background sounds on a Beatle cut from the white album.
The Cain campaign, in fact, had a kind of Potemkin village quality about it. He had no one doing actual organizing in the early primary or caucus states, and his views on things like defense seemed to boil down to saying that leaders do what the generals and defense company lobbyists want. Any more questions?
The strangest aspect of all this, it seems to me, is this: Cain exits the campaign still declaring his innocence in matters sexual although he has more than one accuser. None of these accusers were pure enough to be believed by the TV bullies at Fox News, but it becomes harder to say all FIVE are liars. But regardless, the person who appears most likely to scoop up the Cain followers is - Newt Gingrich, who, if you know anything at all about, it's that he cheated on TWO wives. ALL THIS, folks, comes your way courtesy of the Republican Party, the "pro-family values" folks who will keep insisting that they're good guys even as another candidate bites the dust.