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Archive for the ‘Olympics’ Category

Recognizing fully that there are approximately seven billion people on earth who are more intelligent than I, far be it for me to suggest or dictate possible foreign policy decisions to those in my own nation who are in a temporary, at best, position to do so. It seems somewhat as ridiculous as attempting to tell General Motors how to make an ignition switch for their vehicles or how to tell American tourists which mountains to climb in the Middle East. In other words, speak well of what you know well and speak not of which you know nothing.

That having been said, I would propose that Congress begin impeachment proceedings against President Obama if he sends one soldier, sailor, marine, airman or woman, coast guardsman or woman, or even a member of the Boy/Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls, or member of the 4-H into harm’s way in the Middle East before he clearly, articulately, and demonstrably proves well beyond the shadow of anyone’s doubt that we have national interests at stake in that region other than the protection of our oil interests or the interests of the so-called one percent. Please, do not tell me in the vaguest of terms that terrorists will use bases in the Middle East to plan and carry out attacks on our nation. I will not believe you. If you believe that to be the case, strengthen the protection of our borders at home; increase the use of HUMINT and other intelligence-gathering resources abroad, and devote greater resources to the same type of attacks that the terrorists carry out, i.e., sneak attacks on their targets before they can carry out their attacks on our targets.

It’s an entirely new era of warfare into which we have entered and America is lagging well behind the curve in terms of how it should be fought. Remember the days of the Napoleonic wars when great armies would face each other on the battlefield and exchange fire? Then, when the soldiers of King George III attempted to engage the “American Rabble” [note the capital ‘R’ please}, they were rudely shocked by the guerilla tactics of the Patriots. Those tactics plus planned operations such as D-Day, Operations Overlord, King Too, Charger, Casanova became the way to fight. What about civilians? Well, insofar as possible, America and its allies attempted to respect and reduce civilian casualties with noted exceptions. Today things are different. The people who are America’s enemies today prefer to use civilians because they are aware of America’s horror at seeing non-combatants used, abused, and slaughtered. Our enemies don’t care who they kill as long as they, the dead, don’t believe the way they, the terrorists, happen to believe on that particular day. Politely, we used to call it tribal warfare; it is not. ISIS or whatever the hell they are calling themselves are nothing more than a gang; no better than the Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Michigan Militia, or the Wah Ching. They proclaim to be religious jihadists, but that, I believe, is merely an excuse to kill others unlike themselves.

In 1961, President Kennedy stated that we were sending “advisors” to someplace called Vietnam. It wasn’t a popular decision, but we trusted Jack the war hero to do what was right. The advisors were followed by more advisors and then marines and soldiers who weren’t “advisors,” but who were right in the thick of things. The guys who fought and died in that war were patriots; make no mistake about that. The reason they were asked to fight, I regret to say, were never clearly spelled out. As a consequence, many people back in the states didn’t understand and blamed those who fought and died as much as they blamed future administrations. I didn’t like him and didn’t vote for him, but thanks be to God for Richard Nixon’s intelligence in ending that war that claimed over 58,000 American lives.

Now, this current President – for whom I voted twice – who has nothing to lose because he can’t run again is talking about sending 275-300 “advisors” and Special Forces to “train” Iraqi forces. When do the “advisors” and “trainers” become companies, regiments, battalions, and armies who shed blood? When might we reach the point of saying, “We need more young men and women so by executive order, we’re reinstating selective service?” That is, perhaps extreme, but maybe extreme is what is required to wake up the American people to the fact that our people are dying and the only thing we’re told is “…because it’s in our national interest.” Dammit, give me specifics, not glittering generalities, because right now, I’m thinking that your national interests are not my national interests nor are they in the national interests of those mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters who have gold star flags hanging in their front windows.

If Iraq divides into three states, we all know what will happen. The most war-like state will soon absorb the other two. They will then, in all likelihood absorb Syria and move on Iran. The United Nations will condemn them and they won’t give a damn. The Israelis will fight them and eventually use a nuclear weapon to defeat them, or perhaps by that time, the war-like state will have nuclear weapons and the world’s Armageddon will have come about. Only at that point will some sage declare, “It’s Obama’s fault for not sending in “advisors” and “trainers,” and once more, I will have been proven wrong…but it won’t really matter to me; I’ll be dead.

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“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Will someone kindly remind news and sports reporters around the country and, perhaps, around the world that this is the Olympic creed and tell them to stop trying to turn these ‘amateur’ games into some political sparring match? This concept of “It doesn’t matter if you win or not; it’s how you play the game” is colossal bullshit in today’s Olympiad.

Countries put together multi-billion dollar packages for the right to host the summer or winter Olympics. Why do they do this? Is there no understanding of where the true need for dollars is in most of these countries, including the United States?  I have no quarrel with a group of amateur athletes from all around the world competing on the best stage possible but I’m not certain that Beijing, China, one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world, or Sochi, Russia, at best known as a summer resort on the Black Sea are the best sites. Certainly, places like Albertville, France or Lillehammer in Norway make sense for the winter Olympic Games; any venue that one can be guaranteed true winter conditions will exist would suit me just fine. I’m certain that there are other cities or sites in Russia where the ‘snow factor’ wouldn’t be a concern. I can hardly wait to see what happens at the next winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018. Ask any veteran of the Korean War [not ‘Conflict’] and they will tell you that South Korea can be a bitch in the winter, but as in Sochi, security could be a problem.

Security of visitors from any country to any large, international event appears to be a security risk these days. Terrorists seem to strike with impunity across the globe and create horrific problems for even the most stable of the countries, whether they are in the West, the East, or anywhere in between. America, so terribly security conscious, was unable to stop a bombing at the 1996 Summer Games, and while Vladimir Putin’s ‘Steel Ring’ appears to be working well to date, there is still a long way to go in Sochi.

Beyond location and security are the Games themselves. These are supposed to be the best that amateur athletics can provide. There are no amateurs anymore. Every athlete who competes is a professional. They train and train and train. They are subsidized, subsidized, subsidized. It’s like calling the athletes who play Division 1 athletics ‘student-athletes’ when we know that the majority of their times is spent in the weight room rather than the classroom. Is it one hundred percent of D1 athletes. It absolutely is not, but don’t try to sell me on the idea that it’s below 85 percent. When the “Miracle on Ice” occurred at Lake Placid in 1980, it was the closest thing to amateur athletics that we’ve seen in a long time…and this may well be the last year that Canada and the United States field teams from the NHL. It also would be nice to see collegiate athletes also competing on the basketball court again rather than a bunch of professionals. Gold, silver, or bronze medals mean a hell of a lot more to young collegians than they do to multimillionaires.

Back to my original premise as a closing; yes, this is a competition, but it’s a competition between each person on each team or in each event. It is not the United States against Russia; it is not France against Germany. It is not the Norwegians against the Swedes or the Finns or whoever. It’s Daisuke Takahashi versus Jeremy Abbott and every other skater; its snowboarder versus snowboarder and screw the country from which one may come. It’s good, honest competition. The only sport I can address with any degree of knowledge happens to be swimming and that, of course, is not a winter Olympic sport. If an athlete can lower his or her time by 1/100th of a second and continue doing this that makes them smile. If they lose a race but better their time by less than a second, they can smile, because they know that they can and will do better. Does it hurt to lose? Of course it hurts and that’s exactly why they train…so that they will not lose. Would I prefer to see an American athlete win gold? Of course I would because I am an American, but if someone from another country wins, good for them; they trained harder and on that particular day had a better performance…so be it, but let’s judge the athletes and stop with this country competition.

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Here are two oaths of office. The first two are identical, correct? Yet, the offices for which they pledge their fealty are quite different. The first is the oath taken by members of the Congress of the United State. The second is the oath taken by officers of the military of the United States.

“…do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

“…do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

Now I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that these two oaths should differ in some regard. Yes, we are dealing with semantics here. In the military, you know who the foreign and domestic enemies are, and you most assuredly have the means to defend the Constitution and the USA against them. If you care to split hairs and say that the Congress has control of the purse strings and can spend the funds or deny the funds to “defend,” etc, you might have a case.  Frankly, as someone who served in the military, both as an enlisted man and an officer, it rather irritates me to think that some politician who sits on his or her ass in Congress two or three days a week has the same understanding that I have of what that oath of office really means.  Those people don’t support and defend the Constitution; they try every way in their power to circumvent that precious document. They accuse any President who is not of their party and every member of the opposite party sitting in Congress of attempting to bypass the Constitution while they are attempting to do the same thing themselves.

Here is a third oath in which you might be interested:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

This oath is so much simpler, but it covers all that is needed. It has a caveat, “…to the best of my ability…” It doesn’t confine that the office holder will defend the Constitution come hell or high water. I don’t believe that there is one original signatory to the Constitution – with the possible exception of the irascible John Adams – who would deny that the Constitution is an ever-evolving document; that it should and must be evolutionary in nature and not etched in steel. Presidents understand that. I find it extremely difficult to understand why members of Congress do not.

From the Supreme Court web page, I learned the oaths of office that may be taken by the justices:

“I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”


The Combined Oath

Upon occasion, appointees to the Supreme Court have taken a combined version of the two oaths, which reads:

 

“I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States; and that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

 

I’m not certain of the reason for the combined oath, but I suppose that even Supreme Court Justices, at certain times, prefer to cover their backsides – I call it wiggle room – against domestic enemies who may accuse them of being under duress in their decisions, ie, who the hell knows why they elect to speak the second part.

I believe that the oaths taken by the President and the Supreme Court Justices have meaning; have strong, strong meaning; that the men and women who take these oaths do so with great sincerity in their hearts. It would be wonderful to believe that members of Congress have the same degree of commitment…but they don’t. You know it; I know it; and they know it.

More and more I find it difficult to believe that Senators and Representatives are putting the country ahead of their party affiliation or their state. Isn’t that a pity? In Olympic competition, if the United States finishes third in anything, we’re dissatisfied. In the Congress, if the country finishes behind party affiliation or state requirements, it’s considered by some as a victory. Is this a bad analogy? No, no, I don’t believe so. If a Representative can attach an earmark to a bill and get away with it, he stands a good chance of getting reelected. If he can’t, his next challenger will surely use that against him or her.

Here is my oath for the members of Congress:

“I ___________, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of (Senator/Representative) from the State of __________ [and the  __________ District] and will, to the best of my abilities preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of [name of state].”

Frankly, I believe my making them responsible to their state and to their district, it makes the entire process more binding in a very personal way. Some might say that the noise would become chaos when the oath is being administered. Hell, Congress is chaos already; might as well get it off on the right chaotic step. They are not defending this nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. If they served in the armed forces, they already took that oath, but they sure as hell aren’t doing it now. I’d love to put something in there that would read, “I will serve no party but the party of the United States,” but I suppose there’s only so far that one can push one’s luck.

When I first looked at the oaths taken by Congressmen and officers in the military, I couldn’t help but think, “My God, how lazy are we as a nation that we cannot compose oaths of office that are genuinely appropriate for the two different groups.” What we have now is a travesty. No, no, I’m not talking about Congress itself, at least not in this case. I’m really talking about the oaths…honest and true, I really am!

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The Olympic Creed reads, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”  

Somewhere along the way, Americans seem to have lost sight of the fact that winning a medal isn’t as important as being at the event and taking part. Medals should be secondary; they are not. In today’s society, it would appear that winning at nearly any cost is the most important thing in the games, because if you win – at least in America – you get endorsement deals worth millions and public appearances that will net a few thousand more. You might even become a motivational speaker, and there are still a lot of bucks to be made in that field. Do it now, however, because in four years, you are most likely to be a forgotten champion.

There are a couple of things that bother me about the Olympics. First, the concentration that is placed on what I call the “common sports.” Gymnastics, swimming, basketball, and even volleyball – particularly beach volleyball – can you say, “skimpy outfits” – to the detriment of sports that, while less glamorous, are just as highly competitive and require equal or greater skill than those I’ve mentioned. Another bothersome facet is this emphasis we place on beating those whom we consider our closest competitors. At one time, it was Russia – then the U.S.S.R. – and now it’s the Chinese. It’s a figurative war game with wonderful western democracy attempting to triumph over the evils of despotic communism.  It’s a joke.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’ll watch swimming and basketball until the cows come home. Our children grew up in the pool. They won medals and championships, set collegiate records and swam because of their love for the sport.  They never qualified as Olympians, in part perhaps because they weren’t that talented; in part because they didn’t wish to devote their lives to sport, and; perhaps, in part, because we couldn’t afford to pay the huge amount of money and commitment required for training.

As an American, I’m somewhat in awe of what our athletes were able to accomplish – 104 medals is no small feat. But then, we have the best training facilities available. Yes, a few of the other big medal winners have similar facilities, but not as many and not controlled by “the state.”  I’m just not certain that either we or the athletes understand how easy it is for an American to strive to reach his or her Olympic dream…not of winning a medal, but of just being able to participate. For athletes from other countries, things can be so different. “This means a lot for me and my country,” said sprinter Tahmina Kohistani of Afghanistan. “There were a lot of people who were trying to stop me from training, but I am here. I know having a medal at the Olympics is very difficult, but I am here to open a new way for the women of Afghanistan because in my society there is no sport for females.” According to the Jakarta Globe,  “we have raised Afghanistan’s flag in London. This is a big achievement, my dear fellow countrymen,” Olympic committee chairman Aghbar said. Bronze is like gold for us.” The team rode from airport to the Ghazi Stadium along with the officials and fans in cars and horses. Supporters carried Afghanistan’s flag and photos of Nikpa and other athletes. Ghazi Stadium was notorious during the Taliban regime, between 1996 and 2001, for being a stage for public executions. All forms of sports were banned during that time.” There will be no endorsements for Nikpai who won that bronze medal in his weight class in Taekwondo; however, the honor he brought to his country is impossible to underestimate. It’s part of the reason I gained new respect for Miami Heat’ Lebron James, who said, “We didn’t win the gold for us, we won it for these three letters (USA) on our shirts. “

Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. If you qualified to participate and represent your country at the Olympics, you brought great pride to your nation. Whether you were Mavzuna Chorieva from Tajikistan with a bronze, or Missy Franklin from the USA, a four-time gold medalist, it makes no difference. You are your nation’s best and congratulations are in order to you and your fellow participants.

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