Olympians of the Moment

(I’ll be adding to this as new Olympians bubble up into the headlines….)

(Update 1, 7/28)

Seems that whenever the Olympics come around, the sports media here quickly develops a story line that will utterly dominate their coverage. This time, it’s the Simone Biles Olympics. Only things that happen to her deserve detailed coverage. If someone else manages to win a medal, everyone rushes to her to get her reaction. It gets annoying after a while – especially when there are so many other great athletes with real interesting stories to tell.

When you just barely qualify for the finals in the 400m Men’s Freestyle, you get stuck in Lane 8. Against the side of the pool, where you have to deal with waves reflecting off the concrete wall. In a contest that comes down to hundredths of a second, that stuff matters. Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui wasn’t going to let that bother him….

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Let the 2020 Games Begin

As I’m writing this, some of the preliminary & qualifying rounds of the competitions at the Tokyo Olympics are underway. There are still plenty of people questioning the wisdom of holding an international event of this scale given that we are still technically in a pandemic.

I am not one of them.

COVID-19 is shifting from “pandemic” to “endemic”. It’s all over the world; we can’t contain it anymore. We know what it is, how it spreads, and how it works. We’ve got vaccines that work better than we could have hoped for. To those who have been vaccinated and take reasonable precautions, it – and even the variants – should no longer be a big deal.

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Juneteenth

So we’re coming up on June 19th, which is in the process of becoming a major holiday. It’s supposed to mark the day that slavery ended in the US…..

HOWEVER, they’ve got the date VERY wrong. June 19th, 1865, was when Union Army general Gordon Granger announced “General Order Number 3” – that as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery had ended in Texas – in the city of Galveston.

That’s a pretty darned limited thing. First of all, as we should all know, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery. Secondly, it wasn’t until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865, that chattel slavery was finally made illegal in the United States.

If they really wanted to mark the day slavery ended, the celebration would be in December – right in the middle of the holiday season. That’s not going to happen. And people started celebrating June 19th almost immediately afterwards, so there’s enough of a tradition behind it.

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Unmasking

With the CDC issuing another set of de-masking guidelines, there are a few groups of people who are upset that they are being lifted too soon, in their opinion. Other places have tossed the “Masks Required” signs into the garbage – if they ever had them up in the first place. There’s ambiguity in the new guidelines, and each state is likely to be in a different situation where following those guidelines isn’t the best option.

Frankly, it seems to me like it ought to be easy to come up with a set that should work everywhere.

Health Care Facilities: REQUIRED. Duh. Hospitals, nursing homes, dentists, even eye doctors – you’re going to be around people who aren’t in the best of health. Do you want to catch whatever it is they’ve got? Why even walk in to a place with lots of sick people WITHOUT a mask?

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Eurovision 2021

I honestly didn’t think they were going to have it this year, so I didn’t bother checking weeks ago to see when the performers were finalized and the official music videos were released. Evidently, things have settled down enough in Europe for them to have the “battle of the bands” this year.

I hope I don’t have to explain what this is – just look for the posts with the “Eurovision” tag. This year’s event details are at the usual place – https://eurovision.tv/

The official “recap” of the music videos for the entries:

I haven’t had enough time to decide which ones I prefer.

Look, if you still think Verka Serduchka is the standard example of a Eurovision entrant, that’s like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger is the standard example of a state governor. Yes, they count as one, but in no way are they typical.

And we all know the real point of following the contest – making fun of the entries. Eurovision doesn’t take itself too seriously, so why should you?

I wish I could watch the actual competition here in the US (the semi-finals are May 18 and 20; the Grand Final on May 22). Even if it wasn’t happening during working hours here, I don’t think any cable network is carrying it. And for some reason, you can’t easily stream it online.

But if you can watch it, give it a look. There’s almost always going to be something fun, cool, goofy, or downright awesome.

(Yes, I know about the Will Ferrel movie on Netflix. No, I haven’t seen it. It’s a comedy spoof (at least it’s supposed to be), and should never be taken as a serious and accurate depiction of the contest.)

Reparations

At the end of the Great War, the victorious allies wanted to really punish Germany for everything they had to endure in their victory. In addition to the loss of territory, the Treaty of Versailles contained a statement where Germany apologized and took all the blame for the war, and they were forced to pay some 132 billion gold marks (about $33 billion in 1919 dollars; over $500 billion today) in reparations. After a lot of refinancing (and another war sparked – in no small part – by the perceived humiliation of the reparations), the last payment was made in 2010.

In that next war, Finland wound up on the losing side due an alliance of convenience with Germany after Finland was invaded by the Soviet Union. Finland not only had to let the Soviets keep the territory they grabbed, but give them even more land and some serious cash payments. After the payments were made, a new bit of Finnish currency featured some nude figures (seen from the back) gazing at a sunset over an ocean. The joke was that it represented the Finns watching their last reparations payment going off to the Soviets.

Now there’s some serious talk – again – about reparations payments to African-Americans to atone in some fashion for slavery.

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Cancelling Characters

It started with the news media misreading a press release from Hasbro about the rebranding of one of their toys. Then an announcement from the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books that they would let a handful of the titles go out of print.

The right wing news media grabbed that and went bonkers over the libs “cancelling” childhood icons. They grabbed more fuel for their fire when Warner Brothers sent out some pre-release updates to the forthcoming remake of “Space Jam”.

Naturally, the general news media had to cover this “outrage”.

And now we’re forced to rehash the old arguments over offensive stereotypes and censorship.
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It started with the news media misreading a press release from Hasbro about the rebranding of one of their toys. Then an announcement from the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books that they would let a handful of the titles go out of print.

The right wing news media grabbed that and went bonkers over the libs “cancelling” childhood icons. They grabbed more fuel for their fire when Warner Brothers sent out some pre-release updates to the forthcoming remake of “Space Jam”.

Naturally, the general news media had to cover this “outrage”.

And now we’re forced to rehash the old arguments over offensive stereotypes and censorship.
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IOKIYAR

I don’t know how you’d pronounce it – perhaps “Eye-OWE-kay-arr” – but it’s an acronym for “It’s OK, If You’re A Republican”, and it seems to be the guiding ethical principle for today’s GOP. Any perceived offense or violation of ethics by a Democrat calls for immediate condemnation – at a minimum. But a similar or even greater offense by a Republican is of no consequence as long as the alleged offender is in good standing with the party.

A Democrat is found to have made a tasteless joke years before he entered politics? Sorry; he’ll have to resign. A Republican has many credible accusations of sexual assault in his history? Nothing to see here; he won’t do it again. The Democrat president’s son has just released a book? Even though the publisher bought the manuscript before Dad became president, that’s still nepotism! We must investigate! The Republican president puts several family members in high level positions, bypassing normal background security checks, and his son publishes a book? Meh, no big deal.

The best instance of this hypocrisy can be seen by comparing the responses to a pair of deadly attacks on government facilities.

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Nobody

So the results of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame election have been announced, and we do not have a winner.

The leading candidates were Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, each of whom has problems when it comes to the “Character Clause” that voters are asked to consider. They all fell short by a handful of votes; for obvious reasons.

I do not have a problem with the clause itself; what does irk me is how much people publicly agonize over their decision. “Oh, we can’t allow people who cheated in the Hall! What about players who, when they were active, were known to have or at least were widely suspected to have cheated and are already enshrined? What about the known racists in the Hall? What about the players who will appear on the next ballot?” I can understand why one might ask these questions, but do we really need to read about all your hair-pulling and kvetching?

Then there are those few who have said they aren’t going to vote in any future elections, because the Hall hasn’t given them any guidance on how to deal with this matter. Why are you telling us? If you have a problem, take it up with the BBWAA. You know, that organization of which you are a member and sends you a ballot every year? By the way, can you not trust your own judgment?

The “electorate” consists of nearly three hundred people. And an election does not have to be unanimous. One individual vote is rarely going to make a difference. We’re going for a consensus here.

So you can’t bring yourself to vote for someone who, on the basis of their record, clearly belongs, but has been a real schmuck off the field. OK, that’s fine. Don’t vote for them.

And by the way, it is also fine to change your mind about someone. Every year, once the results are announced, we read about players who increased or decreased their vote totals. You know what that means? People changed their minds! If no one ever did, no one would ever go “up” or “down” in the polling, and we’d only have to have people on the ballot once when they became eligible – instead of keeping them on for up to ten years.

I get that you want to treat the matter – and your vote – with seriousness. Good, you’re supposed to take it seriously (and not consult a Magic 8 Ball to help you decide). But this isn’t like partitioning India. Fill out your ballot, and don’t lose any sleep over it.

After Impeachment

Let’s face it; it’s going to take more than a basic impeachment hearing to properly clean up after the insurrection attempt earlier this month. Punishing El Presidente by permanently barring him from holding federal office ever again won’t be enough. We’re going to need hearings on a scale we’ve never seen before.

We need something like the 9/11 Commission to identify the security failures that let the mob get as far into the Capitol as they did – and propose valid fixes to those failures.

We’ll need something on the order of the Kefauver Crime Committee that will treat the Q-Anon people, “Proud Boys”, and other such groups as organized crime so we can find them and root them out. Political disagreements are fine – but not turning to violence to get your way.

And, given that there are still people in Congress who still refuse to acknowledge reality, and that there are reports that the mob had help on the inside, we need a version of the Watergate hearings to clear the rot out of the federal government. If members of Congress need to be censured or even expelled for their role in the insurrection, so be it. They broke their oath of office; they should suffer the consequences.