Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Long March - Olympic Underestimates

Shawn Johnson - When first seen, the plastic hair and non-stop smile made this 16 year old look artificial to me, a little too tough for her age. Then she kept smiling, stayed poised and cheered her teammates throughout Alicia Sacramone's tough night in the team competition and some incompetent judging in the all-around and early apparatus events. By the time she finally captured a well-deserved gold on the balance beam, she seemed just tough enough.

Swimming - Jason Lezak's miracle close on the fading French takes the 4x100 freestyle, kicking off the Michael Phelp's mini-series. Phelp's and Dara Torres swim races decided by .01 seconds (are we really sure the pool lanes are all exactly the same length?), star power and better underwater camerawork make swimming more watchable than ever before and more fun than As Good As News expected.

The People's Republic of China built first class venues, stopped traffic and even avoided really serious smog - impressive, but expected. The underestimate was how blatantly the Chinese government would ignore rules, agreements and public opinion. Need a couple of last minute additions to the gymnastics team - presto - two thirteen year olds are instantly aged (despite a documented contradictory history) when China issues new passports, so that they are suddenly old enough to compete as Olympic gymnasts. Chinese officials must realize the entire world will know what happened, they just don't care. China promises the IOC more openness to snare the Olympics for Beijing, then follows through with creation of official protest zones. Protest zones turn out to be a sting operation for "dissidents". Would-be protester's don't get permits, they get reeducation, including hard labor for two ladies in their 70's who wanted to complain that they didn't get fair value when their homes were confiscated. China is demonstrating first world power and capability, but a second rate approach to honoring the kind of commitments needed to participate in international treaties and organizations - a second rate approach that other nations should remember.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Long March

Turkmenistan began the Olympics with a strong showing, remaining tied with traditional athletic power Canada in the medal count at the end of week 1. Disappointment ran red in the streets of Ashgabat on Saturday when Canada shattered the tie by capturing its first medal of the Beijing games. Canada took bronze in the women's 200,000 meter race walk. The event began in Szechuan province shortly before the opening ceremony and crossed the finish line in the Bird's Nest, Saturday AM, Beijing time.

High points from today's NY Time's week in review:

In Malcontents Need Not Apply, Nicholas D. Kristof recounts his Borat-like attempt to apply for a permit to conduct a protest march in one of Beijing's new protest zones. His cause - China's inadequate preservation of historic architecture. The permit application procedure was so demanding he gave up without even filing an application, but at least he didn't get arrested, unlike more than half a dozen other would be demonstrators. Kristoff concludes the protest zones are a step forward because they constitute official acknowledgement that the possibility of protest exists??? The PRC promised expanded freedom to land the Olympics, set up the zones as sop to the IOC and then used them to ensnare nascent dissidents without allowing an actual protest. Mr. Kristoff seems to be covering the 1984 Olympic Games. If only he had pushed his application a little harder, the world would have seen years of columns written from inside a Beijing jail - As Good As News smells a Pulitzer opportunity missed.

Sunday Opinion covers NYC transport, as Hope Cohen wants to speed traffic by banning parking lanes on crowded routes, thus opening extra lanes for moving vehicles - a great idea if combined with the construction of many, many multi, multi story parking garages. David Rakoff proposes rules for pedestrians. The time has come for this idea, at least in midtown where foot traffic jams rival those on the road. Seriously, let's start with the prime directive - Walk On The Right (implicit in Rakoff''s command to pass "on the left" but it needs to be said - this is NYC not London). Let's keep it to two abreast, enthusiastically accept Rakoff's strictures on tailgating, changing lanes without looking and texting in traffic and move on to the big question - enforcement. Apply the rules between 31st and 50th streets, from 8th Ave. to Lexington. Post the rules on signs every few blocks. Give traffic and parking enforcement officers authority to issue written warnings. If the warnings don't get pedestrians organized, then change to fines (I'm thinking small fines, but I have been victimized by pedestrian conduct that deserved 5-10 in Attica) and authorize the officers to issue citations. It's not all the pedestrian's fault - ban the peddlers that cut the busiest sidewalks to a single lane, ditto the outdoor restaurant tables. Take some of those parking lanes Ms Cohen is eliminating and turn them into extra wide sidewalks. Move it NYC and if you don't like it, As Good As News has a protest zone in Beijing where you can protest march randomly while texting to your heart's content.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Hugo Secretly Aquiver for Lone Star Independence?

The Secret Curse of Expert Archers - Target panic? The big secret is target panic? Of course the targets panic - they are about to be pierced with sharp sticks moving very quickly, who wouldn't panic.

More Arrows Seen Pointing to a Recession - This is very, very dangerous. If we make the recession panic it will be a depression.

Sympathetic to Chavez, a New Church Draws Fire - NY Times offers exclusive, detailed coverage of an important story - and completely misses the point. A band of Hugo Chavez loving Roman Catholics in Venezuela has bailed on the Vatican and allied itself with the Conservative Anglican Church of North America (CACNA). CACNA is a group of Texans who quit the main Anglican communion because they couldn't stomach the thought of a gay bishop.

Yes, the anti-American blowhard Hugo Chavez is using the new Venezuelan reformed catholic church to undermine the real Roman Catholic Church in Venezuela. Yes, CACNA seems to be a strange bedfellow for this leftist new Venezuelan church. But why stop there with your mouth hanging open NY Times, connect the dots. CACNA is simply undertaking some very preliminary maneuvers in a long-term plan to sever Texas - not only from the more tolerant Episcopalians, but from the United States itself. The Chavez connection is a path to funds, even arms, that Chavez would gladly provide to any thorn in the side of the US, even a conservative thorn. Imagine Hugo's joy on the day Texas announces it is seceding from the Union. CACNA doesn't really like Hugo, but they will take his money. Maybe he can even get Texas into OPEC once independence is achieved.