Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NASCAR Sacrilege

Mark Martin is my least favorite driver. Oh, I know that is almost blasphemy to NASCAR nation because Mark has been nominated for stock car sainthood. Every time he's on t.v., listening to the announcers describe him in terms just short of reverential, I expect to see wings sprouting from his shoulders and a halo floating above his head. I've heard that NASCAR fans are vastly more Republican and conservative than Democrat and liberal and from the message boards I read, I'd say that true. Conservatives have always proudly proclaimed their opposition to political correctness in all its forms, but it turns out, they have their own rigid rules of p.c.-ness and one of them seems to be that never a discouraging word should be heard about Our Hero.

I'm prejudiced against Mark for several reasons. First is simply because even when I was young, I wasn't captivated by the too-good-to-be-true, holier-than-thou Pollyanna character. Heroines (and heroes) are more interesting if they have some human flaws.....and I expect Mark probably does have some flaws. I'd probably warm up to him a little more if I knew what they were but that's not allowed in the "Mark is perfect" mode NASCAR is in. From reporters to drivers to fans, they all know what is expected of them and so they speak the fawning words of flattery that make me want to roll my eyes and say, "oh, please, enough." I expect the driver who said anything but the required, "I look up to Mark soooo much," would be penalized by the sanctioning body.

The second reason for my anti-Mark bias is how much extra credit he gets just for being older. I'm old myself which is why I can get away with pooh-poohing the exaltation of age. Yes, I understand that Mark is 51 and I understand that he works out religiously to remain fit and yes, I think that is admirable but good Lord, he hasn't exactly returned from the dead. He was barely gone before he was back. Because of his age, Mark is judged by a different standard than the other drivers. Everything he accomplishes is seen through the prism of the number of birthdays he's accumulated and he's placed on an undeserved pedestal because of it.

For instance, I guess you're allowed to be nice if you're old. Jimmie Johnson is called a bland, vanilla corporate clone for being gracious and generally positive in interviews but when Mark is the same, its considered being a class act.

Kyle Busch is admired for his "winning is everything" attitude. Even people who don't like him have to admit that he's a great driver. That passionate, go-for-broke spirit seems to be what NASCAR applauds when it is Dale Earnhardt or DW, but when Mark forgoes the win and settles for second by not bumping Kyle out of the way, he's praised for his integrity.

Third, Mark strikes me as a dog in the manger. Oh, how coy he was about letting Rick Hendrick lure him back to racing. He debated; he was dubious; he was doubtful but in the end, he agreed, really, more as a favor to Mr H. than because he really wanted to, don't you know? Because Rick Hendrick appeared to have a plan - let Mark hold a spot with the 5 car in 2009 and then bring Brad Keslowski up from the Nationwide series in 2010. (Hendrick was quoted as saying that Brad was the future of Hendrick Racing).

But Mark has done extremely well with Hendrick equipment and Hendrick resources so after racing a few months, low and behold, it turned out that he wanted to stay on, for sure in 2010, and maybe even longer. And what about Special K anticipating the spot in Cup he thought was his? Well, "sorry about your luck, Kid, 'cause the 5 is mine and I'm keeping it". So, poor Brad is left hanging out to dry, looking around for a ride. We hear now that he's going to be racing for Roger Penske in 2010, not too shabby, but not exactly the primo HMS slot either.

I assume there is a killer instinct lurking beneath Mark's pretense of humility because I doubt you can be competitive in NASCAR's elite series without it. I could be totally wrong about him. Maybe he is every bit as humble and loyal and good and true and honorable (add your own descriptive adjectives here) as he is touted to be but excuse me if I decline to join the hallelujah chorus of Mark Martin adoration.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Citizens Committed to the Constitution

I've been invited to a meeting of a new group that calls itself Citizens Committed to the Constitution, or C3, for short. C3 members are worried about America. They demand that the U.S. return to "the core principles that made this nation great". They ask citizens to join them if:

1) you are alarmed by the present insane borrowing and spending by an out-of-control government;
2) you reject the present march towards socialism by our elected representatives; or,
3) you find yourself wondering where in the world our nation's ethical and moral values have gone.

C3's Mission Statement states that it was created to: "promote the Constitution, its values and principles, and to inspire and empower others to do the same".

I read an article written about C3 in our local paper and also went to their website seeking more information about what they believe in but there wasn't much to explain their philosophy in any detail.

For instance, I wonder if they remember that Bill Clinton ended his presidency with a surplus that had us on the road to paying down our debt? I wonder where they were during the last eight years when George W Bush "insanely borrowed and spent" until we had a higher deficit than we'd had under all the presidents who preceded him, put together! Odd, that C3 would only just now notice this state of affairs.

And I wonder just what they mean by socialism and what they'd give up to get us back to that idyllic time in America's history before we developed these socialist tendencies. Social security, I suppose. Obviously, because the very term SOCIAL security, gives the game away. Damn, here I am just about ready to start collecting too! I guess we'll all be put in charge of taking care of our parents, just like back in the good old days. Or maybe they'll go to the Poor House like they used to when they didn't have children to take them in. But, hell, even the concept of the Poor House is kind of socialistic, isn't it?

And it goes without saying that Medicare will have to go along with social security. And any form of welfare, of course. Let the deadbeats go out and get jobs and if it means their kids go hungry, well, hell, it isn't our fault they had children they're not able to care for.

What else? Highways? National parks? OSHA? (For sure, what do I care if workers have safe conditions when I work in an office)? EPA? (I say, let the factories go back to spewing their pollutants into the air and water - it's the American way - capitalism at its finest). Child labor laws? Food and Drug Administration? (I'm willing to trust the pharmaceutical companies and agribusiness to give us only well-tested, high quality meds and food without government looking over their shoulder, aren't you)? And, damn, I think unemployment benefits should be the first thing to go. People shouldn't get paid for not working. No matter how high the employment rate is, they could get some kind of job if they tried hard enough! And student loans and grants. If you can't afford to pay your college tuition, you haven't got any business going. We'll go back to the way it used to be in our heyday when only the kids of the affluent were eligible for higher education.

I could go on and on about the various government programs we'd be better off without. I sure wish I had lived back in America's glory days when the rich built their magnificent mansions and the rest of us damn well worked our way up by our bootstraps. Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll get to see that again before I die. Of course, I wasn't especially smart and my bootstraps haven't taken me very far and it's too late to start over now so I sure hope they don't take MY social security and Medicare but it's all right if they take everyone else's.

And C3's emphasis on the Constitution? Again, I have to wonder where they've been the last eight years or so. Here are some of the items mentioned in the Constitution:

1) The Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended except during an Invasion of Public Safety. I guess George W thought 911 qualified since he suspended it.
2) The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures as well as no warrant to be issued without probable cause. This amendment in the Bill of Rights was added in 1791. Seems like the founding fathers were pretty adamant about this so I expect they'd have considered phone calls and electronic messages part of "effects" if they'd known such things would ever exist. George W Bush obviously didn't agree with this amendment either since he embarked on "warrantless domestic surveillance".
3) Due process - Yep, the Bushies bypassed this one too.
4) The right to have an impartial jury, to be informed of the nature of the charges against you, to confront the witnesses against you, to have the assistance of counsel in your defense. George W blah, blah, blah ....you can fill in the rest.
5) No cruel or unusual punishment. Most people would consider torture cruel, if not unusual in a world of bullies, but evidently not the Bush administration.
6) All persons born in the U.S. or in its jurisdiction shall be United States citizens. (I don't know if the C3 folks disagree with this one but I expect they probably do).

In fact, because they've not enunciated their beliefs, I really don't know exactly what C3 does believe. They have recommended some particular reading materials though which include Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg, among others. And since I'm familiar with the authors they are pushing, it is pretty easy to guess the direction they are going.

They appear to be racing on auto pilot as far and as fast to the right as they can go without a clue as to their eventual destination.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Bill Clinton, My Hero

Ah, Bill Clinton, my hero. I always thought of Bill as larger than life - larger than life intellect, larger than life appetites, larger than life ability to connect with people. The appetites tarnished his reputation in spite of the other achievements. I doubt if we'll see schools or highways or bridges named for him any time soon and that's too bad because Bill Clinton is us, classic American achiever, son of poverty and alcoholism who climbed to the top via sheer hard work and ambition, a collection of out-sized strengths and weaknesses that are often contradictory.

Still determined to make a difference (and perhaps, reparation), the years since his presidency ended have been dominated by sweeping acts of service - by the Clinton Global Initiative, by his contributions toward ending AIDS, by his work with George Bush I in raising funds to assist those struck by disaster, and most recently by his successful rescue mission to North Korea. Bill Clinton is still casts a giant shadow on the world stage.

By contrast, consider the president who succeeded him - George W, a spoiled child of the silver spoon, accepting the presidency as his by inherited right. He never seemed to enjoy his job very much, ceding much of his power to Cheney and Rumsfield and Rove, fleeing to his ranch in Texas as often as possible. He appeared to be relieved to be cutting brush rather than making policy. He was frequently tone deaf about the needs of his people (Katrina) and often inarticulate about what he was in the White House to achieve. What I most often thought about W during his eight years in office was that he was in over his head.

I may be underestimating W. Perhaps after a long post-presidency rest, he'll re-enter the fray. Maybe he'll become a globe trotter, like Clinton, working tirelessly to improve life for human kind, meeting with other world leaders to plan strategy for issues he believes are critical for the benefit of America and the world (whatever he thinks those are). Perhaps future presidents will think of him when they need someone to send on a high-profile rescue mission.

But, I doubt it. Because if George W Bush's vices were small, so were his gifts. That's often the way it works.