Archive for May, 2009

hey, baby this

I’m getting tired of babying myself. Sure, my body aches in most places, my left knee is grinding bone on bone so much that my leg is getting shorter and the sciatica in my right leg sometimes makes my leg fold like a cheap card table, but does that mean I have to give in to all of that?

“Making allowances” rather than directly confronting my physical problems seems to be a sure, short way to the grave. I have fallen into the trap of accepting diminished physical capabilities as normal instead of doing everything I can to keep that from happening. Yes, it is obvious from my current physical condition that I will not be one of the lucky old farts whose body just seems to keep on trucking, but that doesn’t mean I should just park my old carcass in a chair and not move from now on, which is pretty much what I have been doing.

I suspect that I’m not the only one facing this situation. Well, my friends, it’s time to fight back. It’s time to quit shaking your fist at fate and instead grab it by the balls and give it a twist. Get up off your duff and do something – anything. Movement is life – move! It is so easy to get used to not moving. Hell, I may never move again with ease and comfort, but I can guarantee you that movement is easier the more you move. If you don’t move, you rust. All your joints will lock up and no amount of WD-40 will get them moving again.

I’ve never liked exercise for the sake of exercise, but if that’s what it takes to get my body moving again, so be it. Maybe the struggle to regain and retain as much physical capability as possible will be an upward climb (and damn, climbing those stairs is tough) but it beats the hell out of a downward spiral. It’s time to grow up and fight it like a man.

a new “justice?”

There are certain crimes in this country where being found guilty means a specific, mandatory sentence. Usually these kinds of sentences are established because there has been a practice of unfair sentencing. If everyone gets the same sentence, it’s hard to argue that it was unfair. While I understand and can appreciate this approach, I can also appreciate the discretion that a judge can use in determining a sentence.

People do make mistakes and true justice requires that judgment be made in the light of circumstances. This does not mean that I believe in being soft on crime, only that I understand that extenuating conditions can have a bearing on judgment and sentencing. A good judge will be able to determine a “fair” sentence. A bad judge will either just “go by the book” or will go so far off the book as to be dealing in fiction.

However, there is a definite place for cut and dried, hard-ruled judgment, and that place is the United States Supreme Court. I believe that our founding document – the Constitution of the United States of America, including all amendments – is the primary reference for all decisions the Supreme Court may face. I do not believe there is any place for “empathy” or touchy-feely, soft-hearted, mushy thinking in the court. This is the place that “law and order” must hold.

President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to be the next United States Supreme Court justice flies in the face of this logic. Indeed, it is apparent that he is looking for a judge who will attempt to make law that promotes his social ideals, rather than a judge whose efforts will be to apply existing law.

It appears that her approval is predetermined, given the Democratic majority in the Senate. I can only hope that there will be some open and frank discussion over Ms. Sotomayor’s qualifications and judicial record. There are valid concerns in this regard that need to see the light of day.

One of Ms. Sotomayor’s better known quotes is, “”I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” There has been extensive comment on this quote, but I will add my own. While this reveals the judge’s racial, gender and social prejudices, what is more frightening is that she considers the law to be legitimately subject to those prejudices. This is not what we need on the Supreme Court.

Thomas Sowell, a man I greatly admire, has written an editorial in Investor’s Business Daily on this subject. I’m not sure how long this link will be active, but go read it if you can. He makes this issue crystal clear. Unfortunately, clear thinking will not give President Obama the Supreme Court justice he desires. Lucky for him that our Senate is filled with fuzzy thinkers.

sports? you can keep them!

I dislike sports intensely. I was going to start off by saying that I hate sports, but I think “hate” is more appropriately used for those people, places and things which encroach upon personal freedoms. Fortunately, sports do not.

I must confess that my family was never a big sports family. As far as I know, while I was growing up neither my father nor mother had any interest in any sport. Only in his later years did my father develop an interest in football and even then, only if it was “da Bears.” Somehow my brother wound up in Little League for a couple of years, but that was the limit of his participation in sports (though he did encourage his kids to participate in sports and has retained an interest in watching).

Not growing up in a sports oriented family meant that I was not pressured to participate in school sports. This was a good thing as I never had the urge to do so. In my sophomore year of high school I got interested in golf because one of my friends took up playing and it gave me something to do with him. I was never very good at it and I had little personal motivation to continue to play.

My one short foray into school sports was joining the golf team, only to be told after a couple of weeks that I would never be playing in a tournament because of my lack of experience, whereupon I quit and never looked back, except for taking golf in college as a least objectionable option to fulfill the requirement for physical education. I only attended a couple of classes and yet somehow managed to pass the course. The other course I took to fulfill my physical education requirement? Bowling. Yeah, I’m a real sports kind of guy.

I suppose that there are a lot of guys who feel most at home in a locker room. Stinky, sweaty clothes and bodies, towel snapping and running around naked, the camaraderie of the common experience, the hazing that the big dogs feel obligated to perpetrate upon the little dogs – there is nothing there that holds the slightest appeal to me. I managed to muddle through grade school and high school gym class in the middle of the pack and was content to be there and even more content to be done with it.

So, okay, I don’t like participation. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy watching someone else play a sport, does it? Well, no, it doesn’t, but as a rule, I don’t.

First, most sports are boring. You usually watch for a long time with only minutes of actual excitement. Watching something like baseball is just about the equivalent of watching a pot of water come to a boil. Golf is even worse, but at least the announcers talk quietly enough that you can sleep through a golf match. With football, you waste hours of your life watching only minutes of play spaced out widely between commercials. Basketball at least has pretty constant action, as does hockey, and soccer.

I won’t even honor things like boxing or ultimate fighting by calling them sports. Sure, the participants have to be in good shape physically, but I question the mental condition of anyone who thinks that beating the crap out of another human being can be defined as sport, and that means fans as well as fighters. Perhaps the sports that come closest to having any appeal to me are those that involve individual accomplishment – people competing against their own limits as much as, if not more than, against an opponent. The individual sports in the Olympics come to mind.

To me, the most obnoxious of all sports to watch on television is football. I’m not sure, but it appears that the common requirement for all football announcers is that they must speak at the top of their voices. Yes, I know it’s not golf and they don’t have to worry about disturbing the players, and I know that they are probably trying to inject more excitement into the game than it naturally engenders, but listening to a football game just makes me want to gag the announcers by shoving a sock in it. At the least it makes me turn the volume down to the lowest setting. Better yet, I’ll just leave the room, thank you.

I guess the problem is with me. I have never really liked the effects of an adrenaline rush. I prefer calm and peace over the tension and conflict that is part and parcel of sports. Strident competition has never been my forte. I would rather watch something or do something that challenges my mental abilities than my physical abilities.

“Sports” is big, big business and not about to disappear. There are million of fans who live vicariously through the teams and players they support. Millions of dollars are made in the sports marketplace and it represents a fair chunk of our economy. Players are celebrities, and wealthy ones at that, even if they aren’t all angels.

If you enjoy sports – no problem – to each his/her own. Just don’t ask me to participate. And please, turn the damn volume down.

prefer socialism ?

It’s a bit of old news by now, but a Rasmussen poll a few weeks ago was headlined with the comment that, “Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.” In itself that is a frightening statement, but further on in the summary of the poll they claim that, “Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism.” Now that is downright terrifying.

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the actual numbers in the poll because I’m not about to lay out twenty bucks a month to get that access, but I will assume that the published summary accurately represents the numbers. They also state that “capitalism” and “socialism” were not defined in the poll, so the results rely on the poll respondents’ definition of each term. I will also admit that in my discussion here I am equating liberalism with socialism and capitalism with conservatism and though that isn’t really one hundred percent correct, for this purpose it is close enough.

In many ways, these results do not surprise me. It seems to be expected that young people are more liberal (“socialism”) and older people are more conservative (“capitalism”). The logic behind this is – to my simple mind – simple. When you are young, you are generally in a position where you have little to lose with liberalism/socialism (and perhaps something to gain), whereas after you have invested years in making a life and a living for yourself, you see all too clearly what liberalism will cost you.

Switching into “old fogey” mode, back when I was in school they taught about “laissez-faire” – the principle that government should not interfere in the marketplace. This was not taught as just one point of view, but rather as part and parcel of what our government is supposed to be. Even back then, my young mind found perfect sense in the laissez-faire principle. I seriously wonder how they are teaching this in schools today. Do they even mention this principle? Do they not teach our young people the difference between such a system of government and socialism? This could explain a lot.

Another factor that might contribute to a rise in socialism’s acceptability is the fact that we no longer have the strong example of the Soviet government. Back in the days of the cold war, stories of people standing in endless lines for a chance of obtaining a roll of toilet paper or a loaf of bread were concrete examples of the failure of socialism. Today we no longer have such a strong example and the end of the cold war eliminated the constant comparisons between the U.S. and Soviet economies.

The current economic situation also has much to do with the demonization of capitalism. Poorly run businesses have been presented as paradigms of capitalism gone wrong. The average citizen does not think critically beyond what they hear from those with a vested interest in, or responsibility for, the failure of capitalism. Interference in the marketplace by the government is one of the direct causes of economic distress. The involvement of government in the failure of those businesses is swept under the rug even as the government seeks to insinuate itself further into the affairs of business.

Democracy is a great form of government, until “the people” realize that they can vote property and rights away from other people. That’s why our government is a republic and has a Bill of Rights – our founders could see the dangers of a pure democracy. The fact that young people with the right to vote, as well as others, see socialism as an acceptable form of government does not bode well. One can only hope that the founding principles and laws of our country can withstand the onslaught against capitalism.

where’s the beef?

It looks like I’ve missed a whole month’s worth of posting here. To tell the truth, there’s so much shit going on in the world and in my life that I get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things I could write about. When I finally decide what to write about, I get half way through it and think, “Ah, what’s the point?” Hence, no posts for the last month.