Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Those Extra Holidays

I've decided that all those "Monday only" holidays are, in fact, pretty good to have on the calendar. Think of everything we get from them. True, there is no mail delivery, but you get a chance to see different (and more) tennis players instead of the usual Monday crowd. You get another reason to put out the flag, just to show that it isn't owned by the Republican Party. You get a chance to see trivial things in a historic context - Madison, our smallest and shortest president, nevertheless had a huge role in the government we have today. But at 5'3" and not much more than 100 lb., he publicly deferred to the 6'2" 200 lb. Washington. Ideal stuff fot Presidents Day, yesterday.
It took me a long time to finish the Lincoln book on which the current movie was partially based. Too bad I already knew how it came out, but I learned some things, too. For  instance, Lincoln was a huge fan of the theater, and went there almost weekly as president. I was also impressed with his sense of empathy (mentioned in this space a few weeks ago), which allowed him to see things as others would, but also almost crushed him mentally as he struggled to deal with the suffering of our own most destructive war. For what it's worth, I finished the book on Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12th.

I've thought for awhile that the two most interesting things that ever come on TV are Election night coverage, and the Olympic Games. Neither are completely predictable, and there's the chance that a broadcaster, an athlete, a candidate or a commentator will blurt out something no one expected. The question of which Olympic sports to include and which to dump must, I suppose, be continuing. And I have nothing against events which are a little off the beaten athletic path: rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, biathlon or the oddly-named modern pentathlon, which combines skills taken from cavalry soldiers from the Napoleonic era. Air rifle, judo, sailing, archery - they all require plenty of work and skill, so I won't sneer at any of them.
But some events go back so far that they shouldn't have to prove themselves just on the basis of mass audience or number of countries involved. How long, would you guess, have humans been wrestling? It is mentioned in Genesis in the Old Testament, referring no doubt to a time several thousands of years ago. It has to predate anything involving arrows, spears or balls of any kind. What's more, it remains a sport with participants as small as children and as large as, depending on how the sport is defined, 400 lb. or more. Wrestling is almost, if not completely, worldwide.
And yet the IOC is going to dump wrestling in its two current forms (freestyle and Greco Roman) in favor of  - what, golf? Darts? Speed eating? Creative nagging? I just don't get it. If we have to make sure the whole world knows the difference between real wrestling and the heavyweight acrobatics that comes on TV every week, then I'm in favor of doing so. The heritage of wrestling, as hard and sweaty as it is, is still too much and goes too far back to justify dumping from the Olympics. On this question, even the most unlikely national allies ever find themselves on the same side of the issue - The US and Iran.           

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Not Exactly The News

The family and its various branches have, in the past had big years for moving, career advances and babies. This past one was a huge one for - being less "huge". I think the collective weight loss they (not me) racked up was easily 300 lb. and perhaps closer to 400. Hooray for, ah, us.

Do you think there was much of an internal debate at the headquarters of the company that makes "Cold - Eze" when someone, perhaps the great man himself, brought up the possibility of the boss going on the company's TV commercials? Some CEOs have done this well, and others maybe not so well, but none that I can recall carried the name "Karkus". Do you think anyone suggested thinking this one over a little? Nah.

His Holiness Pope Benedict ("Don't call me "Ben") surprised the world yesterday by announcing his plan to hang up his scepter due to ...just getting too old, I guess. It was even more surprising to learn that the Vatican has a plan in place for just such an event, even though the plan hasn't been needed in almost 600 years. When I learned that, I breathed a sigh of relief, because the idea of a former pontiff supporting himself with exotic garage sales or offering to translate things into (or out of) Latin for a small fee just seemed too sad. Of course, the actual plan itself seems just a touch weird. His (former) Holiness gets his own little cloister, but it's to be located right in the middle of the Vatican itself. Maybe that's what's meant by the phrase "The Lonely Crowd". I sure hope the TV signal that he'll get carries more than Holy See TV. After all, even old guys want to watch a little soccer once in awhile.

Admit it. Some of you probably weren't crazy about my two-part entry on the subject of guns a few weeks ago. You have your revenge. I took the material and turned it into a speech delivered at the Toastmasters meeting last week.
The speech had one irredeemable fault - it was too long by about seven minutes. Of course, for speeches that are very good, this wouldn't be much of a problem. Instead, the audience, made up of about a dozen adults almost all younger than me, used the time issue as leverage to say what they were really thinking, which was something like "Sit down, geezer. We get the message, OK?" They didn't say it out loud, but Toastmaster meetings allow the audience to make comments on little pieces of paper slightly larger than fortune cookie predictions. I haven't had less fun since taking almost a half hour once to talk about all the irregularities in the 2000 presidential election. So on this occasion, at least, I was something of a flop. Let's hope the president does better with tonight's State of the Union message. Of course, he gets more help.          

Monday, February 04, 2013

Lights Out in New Orleans

I was thinking about the great quarterbacks in the history of the Forty Niners - John Brodie, Joe Montana, Steve Young, - and I was prepared to add this year's mid season starter to the list, a guy with the rather cumbersome name of Colin Kaepernick as last night's Superbowl wound to a climax. But then, the Niners failed to get their final needed score despite their screams for a holding penalty on the defending Baltimore Ravens, and the hero instead became their quarterback, Joe Flacco (Italian, or something else?). I'm now prepared to say that it was the greatest football game of all time that included a half hour delay caused by problems with the lights. For the Forty Niners, maybe next year. For my part, I maintained the family tradition of watching big Sunday events with the sound off. Makes me feel purer for a day or so.

Because of delays in the House vote on Sandy aid to certain Northeastern states, they had to vote again in the Senate. Thirty six senators voted for NO aid to those whining, bagel-eating Democratic-voting Yankees as long as there isn't some kind of give-back to balance out all this help. All thirty six "no's" are Republicans. We'll see if they sing a different tune the next time there's a hurricane in Florida, a tornado in Kansas or a drought in Texas. I'm guessing that when those folks get the disaster, their GOP senators will be at the front of the line crying for help.

Bobby Jindal, governor of the Pelican State (Louisiana) is a Republican with some chance, they say, of being the Party's next presidential candidate. I haven't forgotten the hapless Romney campaign yet, so all this talk seems a bit premature. But big shot party members gathered last week to try to determine the Party's future, and Jindal said that they should stop being "the party of stupid."
There's some evidence that Jindal is not stupid. He proposes that Louisiana do away with the state income tax altogether. Of course, that raises the question of  how to pay for all the state's legal obligations for school, health care and everything else. Jindal's plan is to double the state's sales tax. Great. Let rich folks off the hook completely, and make poor folks pay for their own aid by bearing the biggest share of what is the most regressive (tougher on poor people) type of tax. Sure, rich people buy plenty of things, too, but as a percentage of their income they buy less

Finally, there's the latest "steal the election" plan being eyed by certain specific states - those with state GOP-run government that nevertheless voted for Obama in this last election. Our Constitution lets states decide how their presidential electoral votes are allocated. Most (48 now) simply award the votes to the leading vote getter, even if it is not a majority. But two states, Maine and Nebraska, for reasons of their own, award the votes based on majorities in each congressional district, thus allowing a split electoral vote.  
The states looking at this option (PA, VA, MI, WI, FL, OH, and a couple of others) would simply use the post-2010 redistricted boundaries to allow GOP votes to, in effect, count more than Democratic votes. If that sounds odd, it's the system that allowed the Republicans to maintain a 33-seat majority in the House despite being outvoted for House seats by 1.5 million nationwide.
Of course, there's one other big IF. If you try this, there is a good chance of a howling protest by both state citizens and courts wanting to know how a minority ruled system is what the Founding Fathers set up. This last part has, in fact, made state GOP officeholders a little hesitant about trying to ram through such a big change. Most, for now (the exception is PA), are backing away. I guess that would get us back to the old plan - make 'em all show ID's, and make sure the line to the polls keeps 'em standing there a long time.