Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Crime On Our Street

Our street is kind of tucked away in an obscure spot. We have found that getting here requires giving  directions -  even for long time locals. It's one of those streets that are cut in two by a steep gully, and our part probably has as many deer (plus a visiting bear cub or two) as people.
That's one reason that what happened last week seems so odd. When I was off playing my usual noon hour tennis, a man drove (Yes. He had a car!) onto our street and knocked on the door of our next door neighbors, with whom we share a small yard and a common landlord. Their home is perhaps thirty yards to the West of where we live.
The woman inside the home was surprised at this request. She excused herself, but then returned to the door with a bucket and told the man that he was welcome to get all the water he needed from the outside hose. To someone desperate for water, this would seem to be a good solution, considering that the man was a total stranger. But instead of thanking the woman and making use of the hose and bucket, the man became enraged.
That's when the crime spree began. He loudly cursed at her, then went to his car and pulled out a sledgehammer. He left the screaming woman inside, but shattered some of the windows on her car with the sledgehammer, then reached into the car and scattered the papers inside all over the driveway.
And he wasn't satisfied. At first, he got into his car and drove away, but was soon afterword seen in a nearby back yard, still wielding the sledgehammer. Soon, a group of neighborhood residents started to pursue him until police arrived and arrested the man. He was charged with suspicion of burglary, vandalism, resisting arrest and possession of a controlled substance - the usual one, I suppose. He is being held on bail of $50,000 .
Mona was home during all this, but had her head in a kindle book and did not hear a thing. I returned from tennis about the time the man was put under arrest. The neighbor's car, I noticed, had lost at least one window, and there were papers scattered on the driveway. Naturally, I had no idea what had just happened.
It's a week later. I don't know how auto insurance figures into all this, but the car sits in the driveway with a large cloth covering all the windows. It doesn't seem to be going anywhere. I suppose if someone wants to get into my old Honda badly enough, there isn't much that could really stop them, so I usually leave the doors unlocked. It now has about 140,000 miles, but I was told that it had been stolen twice before we got it. A few more years and it will be old enough to vote.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dog Day Doings

As noted before, this is not a hot place, nor was it hot this year, but the rest of the country didn't do as well. It's even been hot in places like Portland and Seattle. It's even reported that the country has NEVER had a hotter month than July 2012. I'm no scientist, and have no predictions to make - except one. When, in a few months, it becomes unseasonably cold somewhere, some local wag is going to throw out an uninformed, sarcastic remark indicating that the local cold snap "proves" that there is no global warming. You heard it here first.

Some sports news of note: Major League baseball has had just 23 "perfect games" pitched (no base runners, just various putouts) in more than a hundred years of existence. One took place last week in Seattle. Now, if someone could just explain why it was the third perfect game of this season, that would probably earn a Nobel Prize of some kind.

When national soccer teams hook up for a game that isn't part of some larger tournament, they call it a "friendly", even though some of the rivalries between teams are anything but friendly. The US had played 24 of these in Mexico over the years, earning ONE draw against 23 defeats in a 75-year period. That changed last week, when our boys in red, white and blue managed to hold on for a 1-0 victory in a huge stadium in Mexico City. Bueno!

I still watch commercials, even though it's perhaps not the best use of time. I've noticed lately that the financial genius companies are on TV as much as ever, all implying they have the edge in employing the smartest investment "sharpies".  Funny, though, that NONE of these companies use the following words: "We saw the market collapse of 2007-8 coming, and advised our customers to get out of equities and start stuffing their mattresses." In fact, some of these outfits have changed owners as a result of that collapse, and now work for someone else.

And there is, no surprise, campaign news, too. It took less than a week for Paul Ryan, our possible next vice president, to be caught in a less-than-truthful mode. The Obama stimulus package got zero Republican votes, but that didn't stop GOP members of Congress from asking for stimulus cash for their home districts. Not Ryan, according to Ryan, who called himself an exception. Anyway, letters with his signature to the administration asking for his Wiscinsin district's fair share were found, forcing Ryan to clarify his own memory and place the blame on...his Congressional staff. That's pretty short, it seems to me, of saying "The buck stops here."

About 30 years ago, Congress created the IRA (Individual Retirement Account), a tax deferred device allowing folks to stash money away for retirement. Few people know just when Mitt Romney's IRA got started, but the rules limit the annual investment in such an account to $6,000, an amount you could probably find in the Romney family sofas. So, just how did Mitt's own IRA grow to over $100 million dollars? I'm starting to agree with him that this country's just not big enough for all that cash.   

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Deal Breaker 2012

On our recent trip, we found ourselves amused by the account of a court case coming up in Nevada. Some years back, a pair of men had created an "art car" from a school bus, turning it from a mundane vehicle into something resembling a Spanish galleon, presumably without cannon. For quite a while it was a big draw at local festive events, but then it was put into storage, where its condition deteriorated. The storage facility had a change of owners, and at some point, the new owner put the doomed vehicle to the torch.
The dispute revolved around the question of just who owned the galleon in its last days, and what, if anything, was owed to its original owners. I'm not sure how it turned out, or even if  a decision has been rendered. Regardless, the whole affair seems like the best reason I've come across to drop all my other commitments and spend each day hanging around courtrooms waiting for the chance to witness interesting cases argued in front of a judge.

Let's face it. It would take quite a bit to get me to vote Republican most of the time, though I don't doubt the GOP has some worthy candidates.
I can think of plenty of reasons to go Democratic, as I have since the '70s. But almost all of them are arguable in some way. This applies to things like taxes, Medicare, employment, social issues, blah, blah, blah. Even past decisions can be argued: the GM bailout, the stimulus, foreign policy, etc.
Almost all hugely bad political decisions have their defenders. Sure, (for instance) Nixon did things that were wrong, but wasn't it for the good of the country? Iran-Contra broke the law, but we got some hostages back, didn't we? Attacking Iraq didn't turn out too well, but we were just trusting our (and Germany's) intelligence. Vietnam was kind of a disaster, but we meant well. Each disaster seems to have a "but", no matter how bad hindsight reveals the decision to have been. Same with good decisions. You can find people who insist that Medicare has been bad for the country.
Aren't there any matters that can be considered both "wrong" from the standpoint of relative wisdom and morally lacking? Could we attach this perfidy to more than one individual, but just one political party?
I believe there is such an issue in this election which I fear will be with us for awhile. It's the issue of voter ID, which sounds benign enough, but is not. The goal is simple enough. Nationwide, Democrats outnumber Republicans. The path to winning for the GOP is, therefore, a bit harder than for Democrats. Republicans must either work harder to get every single (R) safely in the right corral along with some (I)s, OR find a way to drain big numbers of (D)s from their corral.
They can't come out and openly threaten Democrats who vote, although attempting to scare them into changing is both traditional and at least legal. Instead, the (R)s have happened on an issue which has given them leverage to change voter rolls in some key states. The cover issue is "voter fraud", which alleges that hordes of unqualified people could overwhelm the polls on Election Day claiming to be someone else in order to tip the election to the (D)s.
The operative word here is "could", because a huge effort by the Bush administration to find evidence of this practice turned up next to nothing. Regardless, the GOP undertook after the 2010 midterm election to make it harder to vote. More specifically, it will be harder for elderly, younger, poorer and minority voters to vote, all of these being groups more likely to pull the (D) lever. Every state goes about this differently, but some surprisingly bold tactics are now in place. In Ohio, it goes so far as to have different (shorter) hours and fewer days of early voting ONLY in Democratic-leaning counties.
This, I believe, meets the criteria of "deal breaker". It is wrong to make it harder to vote when two centuries of past trends has tended to allow more, not fewer voters. The effort to reverse a two century trend is 100% Republican, and no important GOP candidate seems courageous enough to point out that this is  morally wrong. Not Romney, Ryan or Fox News or former presidents or former senators now earning  big bucks as lobbyists. All of them know that this is a phony issue, but none are willing to admit it. I just can't think of anything more black-and-white, and until at least one Republican agrees, I just don't feel I can support them.   


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Not An Event

We just returned from a trek to the Great American Desert to see 19 of the 25 total of immediate family. Those in attendance included all eleven grandchildren. It was hot, dry, sometimes windy, and, need I say, hot. And this was at a place with an altitude of around 8,000 feet. Highlights included the sighting of a female moose, tennis instruction to four of the grandkids, and a family version of a table game that reminded us of both good and not-so-good events in our family's history.
I heard something else from one of another branch of the family that helped me realize just how big the gaps in opinion can get between two apparently reasonable people. Our nation, she said in so many words, was now so full of evil (pornography leading the list) that we didn't deserve Mitt Romney as president. I thanked her for giving me a reason to not vote for him. We might speak again in November. Might not.

Yes, I know not everyone cares about sports, but, having admitted that, I think that people with no interest in the broadcast of the Olympic Games should be checked for a pulse. We're not even halfway through, and it seems there are new highlights every day. Last night, for example, NBC did its usual job of all but putting their cameras up the noses of the "women's" gymnastics contestants, almost all of them undersized teenagers. The network was looking for what another network used to grandly call "the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat." They got it. Weeping Russian girls offering sympathy to each other, while our little American darlings hugged each other in victory.
And I've got a nominee for the Snappy Name List that's sure to move up pretty quickly. The USA women's volleyball team features a tall, powerful spiker named Destinee Hooker. And I'm not forgetting the always appealing Lolo Jones, either. She'll be on next week running hurdles.
I had another thought. There are some events, bocci ball, for instance, that just aren't on the Olympic program. I understand that it's just not possible to include everything, but could still think of several possibly interesting competitions that someone besides the IOC will have to put on. Here are a few, with possible national favorites for the medals along with longshots:
     Mountain Climbing - favorites - Switzerland, Austria, Nepal. longshots - Netherlands, Fiji
     Grenade Toss - favorites - Iraq, Syria, Pakistan. longshots - Sweden, Denmark
     Creative Banking - favorites - Cayman Islands, Switzerland. longshots - Japan, Cuba
     Tunnel Digging - favorites - Mexico, North Korea. longshots - Tonga, Monte Carlo
     Deregulation - favorites - USA, Somalia, Haiti. longshots - UK, China
     Gratuitous Violence - favorites - USA, Afghanistan, Iraq, Columbia, Syria, Mexico. longshots - Japan, Sweden, UK
Wow. A guy could spend some time on this. I haven't even mentioned square dancing, slam poetry, machismo or creative resume writing. Who's the best? Well, as they say, that's why they play the games.