Friday, August 22, 2008

Modern-Day Mowgli

In Argentina tonight, there is a newborn baby girl who sleeps soundly in a crib, thanks to this sweet puppy-face to the right.

The 8-plus pound full-term baby was abandoned within an hour of her birth in a vacant field by a 14-year-old girl. The mixed-breed dog, a new mother of six puppies herself, found the crying newborn, dragged her to where the litter of pups were nestled and plunked the baby smack in the middle of the litter, just in time to protect her from a cold winter night (it's winter in Argentina, in case you've forgotten your middle school geography) where temperatures dipped into the high thirties.

Doctors who examined the baby say she suffered some scratches and bruises and was bleeding slightly from her mouth, but was in otherwise good shape. Had she been exposed to the cold night air, doctors are certain the outcome would have been much more grim for the little girl.

The fourteen-year-old mother was later taken to a hospital by a neighbor and has been hospitalized for mental health observation. She has not spoken of the incident.

The La Plata resident who owns the dog, named China, called her a hero.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chinese Years Are Like Dog Years, Apparently.

It seems time moves at a different pace in China than it does everywhere else in the world.

This explains why Chinese gymnasts He Kexin (winner of the team gold medal and the individual gold medal on the uneven parallel bars), Jiang Yuyuan (team gold medalist) and Yang Yilin (team gold medalist and bronze medal winner for all-round individual competition and individual uneven parallel bars) were as young as 13 last year, and yet have all celebrated -- or will celebrate -- their sixteenth birthdays this year, per FIG requirements. The International Olympic Committee has finally put the onus back on the FIG (the federation that governs international gymnastics competition) to verify once and for all that the Chinese gymnasts were eligible to compete at the time they won their medals.

Since this entire controversy began, the FIG has avoided it like the plague, claiming that the government-issued passports couldn't possibly have been falsified and that, even if they were, it wasn't the FIG's responsibility to verify them. Yet it was the FIG that established the "16-year-old or higher" age requirement in the first place, much to the chagrin of gymnastics coaches the world over. Former Romanian-turned-American gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, whose wife coached the US women to a silver team medal this year, believes the age requirement is arbitrary and limiting, and disqualifies some of the most exciting competitors when they're at their athletic peak. Karolyi believes that gymnasts between 14 and 17 are the best they'll ever be, because they are lighter, smaller and more fearless at these younger ages. This is borne out by his own prodigies -- Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton -- who both reached their zeniths around age 17, then never quite matched the glory of their younger years.

But Karolyi is also adamant that rules are rules, and should apply to everyone equally in international competition. He seems particularly offended at the brazen way the Chinese coaches have put forth girls that he feels are clearly younger than the age limit allows, and then rubbed the noses of the international gymnastics world in it. Says Karolyi:

"These people think we are stupid...We are in the business of gymnastics. We know what a kid of 14 or 15 or 16 looks like. What kind of slap in the face is this? They are 12, 14 years old and they get lined up and the government backs them and the federation runs away. There is an age limit and it can't be controlled."
The Chinese gymnastics federation has since "provided new documents" (including what they're calling an old passport and various government-issued IDs) that prove that He was born in 1992. But the New York Times uncovered proof through the very simple process of searching the Internet for old newspaper articles -- many of them in Chinese newspapers -- cached in Google, He -- a sensation in her country for the last two years -- is definitely listed as being 13 last year, and her birth year is given as 1994.
The FIG is still running away from this issue full-force. Setting the arbitrary age limit (a limit that exists in no other event, since several 14- and 15-year-old swimmers and divers competed this year in Beijing) was a mistake that the FIG seems reluctant to back away from. Now that doing so has set up a situation that could create an international incident, they are less inclined to step forward to make it right unless forced to by the IOC (another organization that's not exactly hellbent on upsetting the applecart).

Let's face it. In the grand scheme of things, this isn't exactly life or death. Personally, I think He Kexin is just as cute as she can be. I'd like to take her home and feed her a hearty stew and some rolls. And in spite of the prejudicial judging system, the farcical age restrictions and the flurry of injuries the US team suffered immediately before their competitions began, American female gymnasts totally rocked the "hiz-ouse." But that is hardly the point. The Olympics is supposed to be about setting a new, higher standard for international interaction, removed from customary politics. It's also supposed to be about competing on equal footing. To have not just competitors, not just teams and coaches, but entire nations and their governmental documentation agencies, participating in a giant ponzi scheme in order to give their teams an advantage on the international stage does not bode well for either the Games or the sport of gymnastics. It taints the medals that were won by everyone, in every sport, because it casts doubt on the levelness of the playing field. It tampers with the "true north" of fair play.

Furthermore, between trying to kill us with poisoned toothpaste, our pets with tainted pet food, and our kids with lead-painted toys, I think we've given China enough of a pass to last a lifetime. I say, make the lying, cheating SOBs face the music once and for all, and quit trying to kiss China's ass,just because we know that, in a few years, we'll be second to them as a world power.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Unringing the Bell

For a country that has a huge chunk of the population that believes that witchcraft is the Devil's work, and Harry Potter is evil, we sure do believe in magic.

Travelling in this country has become increasingly difficult. Going to places were large numbers of people congregate -- my two favorites are Disneyland and the Hollywood Bowl -- isn't much fun either, since getting into the venue requires me to allow total strangers to pry through my tampons and peak into my change purse to make sure I'm not hiding... what?... Tweezers?

Though I used to love to fly, I can barely stand the thought of entering an airport, knowing that doing so is agreeing to submit to the Transportation Safety Association, a collection of despotic, usually poorly trained individuals who have absolute control over each of us, and can hold each of us hostage -- even to the cost of making us miss our flights -- should we choose to speak up. I have related the story of transporting my father's ashes to Hawaii, in a wrapped box that stated clearly that the contents were cremated human remains. I have recounted the insensitive, ignorant TSA agent, tossing the box on the conveyor belt through the x-ray machine over and over, flipping it over, inspecting it, tossing it back on the belt (I use the word "toss" literally, by the way), so much so that a black-suited TSA supervisor became intrigued and came over. As he approached, I finally said to the quizzical, clueless agent, loudly enough for everyone to hear, "Excuse me. Those are my father's remains. Can you not throw the box, please?" Every head in line turned first to me, then to him, with many appalled expressions on their faces. The TSA supervisor took the box, inspected it, turned it over in his hands, inspected it again, and gently handed it back to me.

Other people have worse stories to relate, so I don't feel particularly singled out. I only bring it up to demonstrate the shift in attitude at the average American airport -- the one that says, "We think that, in spite of the fact that you've done nothing wrong, you are a terrorist and a criminal, you are guilty because we say you are, and we will treat you as such. And there's nothing you can do about it, because you, in your abject fear and cowardice, have given us this power."

This, among other little stolen liberties, is the gift the Patriot Act has given us. If we were actually safer because of it, I might not mind so much. But the results of a Harvard School of Public Health study in late 2007 indicates that, in spite of the rampant x-raying of our peep-toe sandals and the confiscation of our Jergen's hand lotion, we are somehow made no safer. Granted, Harvard was applying what the TSA clearly considered unreasonable standards -- Harvard was suggesting that security measures be applied similarly to those of cancer screening procedures. In other words, limit the screening procedures only to those which have proven to be effective over time. Does x-raying your shoes really prevent mid-air terrorist activity? The TSA's Christopher White swears it does. Why, he says, they have pictures of many shoe bombs already confiscated by x-raying shoes, right here. (In truth there is but one photo, and it looks suspiciously like the photo of UK shoe bomber wacko, Richard Reid's running shoe -- the one that the smartest demolitions experts at the Pentagon and at the FBI facility in Langley have yet to be able to detonate as Reid built it.)

The Harvard researchers dared ask the obvious question in their study: "Can you hide anything in your shoes that you cannot hide in your underwear?" White didn't seem to have an answer for this. He did say, though, that the TSA welcomes public dialogue. I'm pretty sure that's a freakin' lie, because the last thing megalomaniac over-dressed security guards who've barely earned a high school diploma want is to have their absolute authority questioned, but I was thinking it might be fun if we go to the link above and put him to the test.

All of my lamentations are really about one thing and one thing only. I do not have a problem instituting better security at airports, if it makes us more secure. But the real, deep-down truth of all of the post-9/11 security isn't that we want future airport to be safer. We really, really want to make past air travel to be safer. There is something in us -- in our President, in our National Security Advisor, in our Director of Homeland Security, and in each of us as citizens that's hoping that, if we can put enough energy into throwing away tweezers, lighters and hand lotion, we can stop four planes from taking off on September 11, 2001, and then the Twin Towers will magically reappear, and we can wake up on Wednesday, September 12th, and it will all have been a terrible, horrible nightmare. All those phone calls made in final moments will never have been made. The expression, "Let's roll," will not exist in today's vernacular.

If we can just hand over enough of our civil rights, take our shoes off, forgo drinking water and throw away enough Bic lighters, we can make the world safe again. We can roll over and close our eyes and pretend that nothing can hurt us, that we are invincible, that we are, once again, safe.

Sorry, guys, but... there's not enough magic in the world to unring this bell. So quit trying, stop being sheep and start forcing the TSA to spend the $6.5 billion dollars it's allotted every year on measures that will actually make us safer. Specifically measures that don't automatically make the presumption that each of us who buys a plane ticket is a terrorist and must be treated as such.


Friday, August 08, 2008

This Shocking News Just In!

John Edwards has a penis.

And to think we came this close |---| to electing electing him President. Or was it this close |-------|. Let's call Rielle Hunter and ask her, shall we?

And thank God this came to light before the conventions. We wouldn't want to not be distracted by something base and trivial shortly before an opportunity to hear what both parties' platforms on the upcoming election issues is going to be, would we? (GASP!) Can you imagine?


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Okay, You Know You've Screwed Up When....

.... you find yourself being totally schooled by Paris Hilton.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Here's the interesting part about McCain's original ad. It didn't do a lot to raise people's opinions of John McCain, or lower people's opinions of Barack Obama. But it actually served to boost public opinion of both Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, which was something that the best press liaisons in the entertainment industry haven't been able to do in the past three years.

"I'll see you at the debates, bitches." Classic. I'm kinda likin' Paris a little bit now.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Redneck Ebonics

Okay, black people, feel free to pack it in and go home anytime, safe in the knowledge that what you have to say and how you feel is being eloquently and diligently championed by that icon of racial sensitivity, Toby Keith.

In this interview with on Glenn Beck's radio show, Keith proclaimed that, "...the black people would say he [Obama] don't talk, act or carry himself as a black person." Even the ultra-conservative, uber-right-wing Beck was incredulous. "What does that even mean?" he asked Keith. Revealing himself to be the thoughtful, articulate hate-monger he is, Keith responded, "Well, I don't know what that means, but I think that that's what they would say. Even though the black society would pull for him I still think that they think in the back of their mind that the only reason he is in is because he talks, acts and carries himself as a Caucasian."

So, now that Keith as appointed himself harbinger of what "black society" wants, needs and feels, it's really kind of superfluous to have all those black people around expressing their own opinions.

Thanks, Toby, for letting us in on what your years of sensitive, in-depth studies of African-American culture and politics have revealed to us, in a way that we Caucasians can understand.

(A translation from Caucasian-speak to whatever it is Toby Keith thinks black people speak will be forthcoming, as soon as I can find the white guys who used to write for Amos 'n' Andy.)


Friday, August 01, 2008

The Trouble With Getting Older Is...

... your memory isn't what it used to be. If John McCain was a bit more on top of his game, for example, he might have thought back to a time when it was he that was rubbing philosophical shoulders with Britney Spears.

Progressive Accountability put the above clips together. In their post, John McCain and Britney, they further detail the other memory lapses regarding his early stance regarding the Iraqi war.