Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Take on the Candidates...So Far

After several debates, and no matter the amount of pain it may cause me personally (yes, I do have a candidate I like, but I don't do endorsements in the primary elections), I'm going to give my take on the current field of Presidential Candidates.  I will put their most recent polling numbers after their names.  If I cause you pain, because I've picked on your favorite candidate, please rest assured, I've also picked on mine.  Truth is far more important than defending one's personal choice at any cost.  Every single candidiate has flaws, and life will go a lot easier if we recognize them, rather than blindly defending any and all actions, because when "He's my guy" or "She's my girl".   So without further unnecessary bloviating (okay, maybe it's all unnecessary, but freedom of speech and all that jazz), here we go.

Donald Trump (38%) I have never seen him as a serious candidate, and I don't really care what his poll numbers say.  I still believe that his stance on immigration is the only reason he has the numbers he has, and the only reason he has so many conservatives backing him, despite the fact that just a short 18 months ago, he wasn't really a conservative.   He's going to build a wall, we get it.  I'm all for the wall, I just don't think Mexico is going to pay for it, and I still question the feasibility of kicking out 16 million people.  Outside of immigration?  He looks like someone who has some serious knowledge gaps.  He knows nothing about our nucleear arsenal and where it fits into national defense, he's talking about banning certain people from using the internet (who decides which people? And what right do they have to decide it?), his stance on eminent domain is terrible, and I'm really tired of hearing how rich he is.  I liked the analogy I heard last night.  He looks less presidential and more like he is trying to do an impression of Jim Carey circa Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Ted Cruz (15%)  I realize a lot of Christians like Ted Cruz, because, well, he's a Chrisitan.  Announcing his candidacy at Liberty University was a political move, sure, but a genius political move.  He knows where his bread is buttered.  There's just been something about him.  My husband and I have been trying to pinpoint it since the first debate, and what I saw of him last night, it's still lurking there, rubbing me the wrong way.   He comes off like a politician, slick, and sometimes a little smarmy.  My husband thinks he sounds like a televangelist.    His foreign policy occasionally rubs me the wrong way.  He seems almost semi-isolationist, trying to stay in the middle on issues like ISIS.  (No boots on the ground, we can do it from the air.)  He was  for legalizing illegals (2013) before he was against it (2015).   That was an outright lie he told last night in the debate.  I get the feeling he's taking whatever positions he can to try to siphon off support from other candidates, and I'm starting to wonder what his real views are.

Marco Rubio (12%) Marco has a couple of problems.  His immigration issues come up first, and they are big ones.  He was a sponsor of a bill that offered a path to citizenship for a bunch of people who broke the law to come here.  I think if you want to be a citizen, it starts with going through the proper channels to get here.  I also question his stance on the NSA program.  While I believe we need to do what we can to stop terrorist attacks, I don't believe that means we need to violate constituational protections to do it.  People who are not citizens of the US are not necessarily subject to the same constitutional freedoms as those who are.  You just can't have and retain the phone call records of an American citizen without a warrant.    Patrick Henry said it best.... "Give me liberty, or give me death".  I'm not giving up my freedom for safety.   I don't want Marco's NSA spying on me anymore than I want Barack's NSA spying on me.

Ben Carson (12%) I just don't think Ben is ready to be President.  I'm also not sure he has the ability to fight the way people have to fight to be President.  He's soft spoken, maybe too laid-back.  I know he stepped on the toes of the pro-lifers when he said that both sides of the abortion debate need to tone down their rhetoric, and I think that really had a negative impact on his poll numbers.  He needs more energy.  He tends to put people to sleep.

Jeb Bush (5%)  No more Bushes.  I'm almost positive we fought a war to get out from under the crown and the royalty, and between the Clintons and the Bushes, it seems like now we have dynasties and royalty.  Two was enough.  That whole family doesn't need to run for President to prove a point.  On top of that, a candidate needs to have both a good foreign and domestic policy.  Jeb Bush supports open borders, even if he won't admit it.  Jeb Bush lobbies for Common Core, which is No Child Left Behind on Steroids.  He's a big government Republican.  Just no more.

Chris Christie (4%)  I like Chris.  Too many people can not get the picture out of their heads of him hugging the President a few short days  before the 2012 election.  The media destroyed him during Bridge-gate, and it doesn't matter that there is no evidence he had anything to do with it.  Christie also doesn't play nice with the media, and while some of us really enjoy that, I'm not sure how negatively that reflects on him during a general election.  I think he will have trouble in the south.  It's very hard for northeastern politicians to make a big splash in the southern states. 

John Kasich (2%)  Most of the country still has no idea who this guy is.  Who is John Kasich?   He spends too much time at Republican Debates spouting Democrat talking points.  Not a good way to win this primary.  He's a major hawk on foreign policy, and a major progressive on domestic policy.  Neither one of those is going to play well.  Sorry dude, but when no one knows who you are, you should maybe slide off the stage.

Rand Paul (2%)  Domestic policy rocks, foreign policy is so atrocious, it disqualifies him from being President.  Donald Trump doesnt know much, but at least he pretends to want to make some changes in our policies over seas.  Rand Paul wouldn't lead from behind, he wouldn't lead at all when it comes to foreign matters.  I said about Jeb Bush that a candidate needs a good domestic and foreign policy.  It's still true down here. 

Carly Fiorina (1%)  She made a splash in the beginning, but we are getting tired of hearing about breast cancer and her HP experience.  It's not enough.  She lacks the knowledge to hold this job.  I like her, but liking someone only extends so far.

That's it.  No one else even deserves a mention, because they don't even rate a full percentage point in the national polls.  That's it.  I'm not doing the Democrats, because they all believe the same things.  Really.  They do.  Free stuff, higher taxes on the rich, open immigration policy.  The only difference is in their gender and age, and unless something big happens, it's going to be Clinton. 

There's my take.  You don't have to like it, but at least do yourself the service of not blindly following or defending any candidate.  Seek the real truth.    I just realized I had nothing positive to say.  My guess is we all know the positives, because we've staked our claim to a candidate already.  Positives?  Almost every candidate up there, with the excpetion of Rand Paul, recognizes our need for a strong defense, and most of them are willing to call our enemies by name.  Most of them, with a few exceptions, believe we need to strengthen our border.  Most of them realize that we need to cut spending, because we are broke.  It's the negative that makes the decisions people.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Head Games

   I love football.  I am almost positive that I started another post like that a couple of years ago.  I am also pretty sure that this will be the third post I have written about football.  As many of my posts on this blog are political in nature, those of you who read this should have come to the conclusion that, well, I love football.  Sixteen guaranteed games a year (a few more if your team is any good), and in this house, we pretty much count the days from the end of one season to the beginning of the next.   After the Flyers and Sixers have disappointed us again, and after the first few months of baseball have us convinced that the Phillies are once again going to tank, we start actively counting down the days until mini-camp, training camp, pre-season, and then... FOOTBALL!!!!  Three of the members of this household play fantasy football.  Almost every game that is televised is broadcast in our house.  We love football.

  The very nature of the game of football is violent.  It's useless to pretend otherwise.  You can't possible sit down and watch four quarters of football and not see at least one player get hurt.  It's usually more than one, although, thankfully, they aren't always taken of the field in a cart or an ambulance.  But honestly, in the course of a game whose entire goal is to get the ball past the goal line, and the other team's goal is to make sure that not only does that not happen, but that they have to get you down on the field for the play to be called dead?  Yes, violence IS the game of football.  So far this year, in the many games I've watched, I've seen a broken collarbone, a shoulder injury, two torn ACL's and numerous likely concussions.  All of this is so that I can set you up to understand that in a game, where the very rules demand a certain level of violence, there are bound to be injuries, and some of those injuries can and will be life changing.  If you want to deny that fact, it's probably best if you stop reading this blog right now.

  In rare instances, a player ends up paralzyed, or worse, but those are very rare occurances.  It's slightly less rare that a player is taken out with what ends up being a career ending injury.  Even still, with medical advances, those injuries occur less often than they used to.  There are a fair share of season ending injuries, the kind the player can come back from, but sometimes he's never really the same.  However, the vast majority of injuries are the four to eight week injuries.  The minor broken bones, the strained muscles, the concussions.  It's the last one that only takes a player out for a few weeks, and yet, might end up belonging in the first category.  The life-changing, and in some cases, life-taking, injuries.

   Just a few years back, the NFL was dragged through the mud in the media, and then hauled before a Congressional committee over the long term effects of head injuries, specifically concussions.  The majority of the research was done by Boston University, but a neuropathologist in Pittsburgh, Dr. Bennett Omalu, was the first to diagnose Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in former NFL Player, Mike Webster.   The researchers in Boston, over the space of several years, saw more cases.  When research commissioned by the NFL was discovered to have come to some of the same conclusions, well, the NFL was in hot water.  Commissioner Roger Goodell began to institute changes to the game, penalties us football lovers have become more than acquainted with:  Helmet to Helmet, Hit on a Defenseless Receiver, Leading with the Head.  All penalties that could have fines levied if the NFL thinks the hit was brutal enough.  To many people it seemed like the NFL got into the act late in the game.  Shocking deaths of NFL players like Junior Seau made it clear that there was a problem, and that problem was directly related to the violence of the sport.  But....if you take out all the violence is it even football anymore?  And honestly, while American Football is one of the most profitable sports, and the sport with the largest US television audience, is it the only sport that should have been hauled before Congress (don't they have better things to do????) and had the comissioner grilled about head injuries?  What about hockey?  Lacrosse?  Rugby?  Soccer?  Gymanstics?  How many lesser known sports have the same possibility?

   Flyers Captain, Keith Primeau, had his hockey career ended by head injuries.  The head trainer of the Flyers told him after his fourth concussion that they would never let him back on the ice.  He is still dealing with the effects. 

   US Gold-Medal Soccer team player, Cindy Parlow, retired from soccer, also because of injuries she sustained during the game.  Seems bouncing the ball off your head might not be the best idea.

  Even though I haven't looked up the cases and players, I can guarantee you that Rugby and Lacrosse probably have more than a few of these cases, and gymanstics is a sport that is brutal on all parts of the body, and trust me, gymnasts fall on their heads.  Even they will tell you that.

  Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, CTE, is a traumatic brain injury, and unitl recently was thought to be confined to the sport of boxing.  It's caused by repeated Minor Traumatic Brain Injuries (MTBIs).  Not sure how you can consider any brain injury minor, but it's the difference betweeen headaches and blurry vision, and in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes and wires.  When your head gets hit hard enough, it causes your brain to move around inside your skull, and it does that very quickly.  Over time, these injuries cause breakages in the microtubules that run between different parts of the brain, allowing it to communicate.  The worse the injuries, the more times they occur, tau proteins become defective and no longer stabilize the microtubules.  Communication breaks down and you see things like memory loss, loss of focus, and behavioral instability.
Among the worst cases you see suicide, like Andre Waters (Eagles) and Junior Seau (Chargers).   The last count I looked at, out of the 79 brains that Boston University's CTE study had looked at, 78 had the markers for CTE.  That's pretty damning evidence of a problem.

   Some of the NFL's problem is related to what appears to be their intention to not seriously investigate, and possibly cover up, the connections between head injuries sustained in football and CTE.  Had they been more proactive, there is a real possibility they wouldn't have been skewered to the extent they were, and I believe rightly deserved.  The truth is, if more mothers were aware of this, how many of them would sign that release form for high school football?  If kids stop playing high school football, where would college talent come from?  Without college talent, what happens to the NFL's ready made talent pool?

   Now, as far as I know, almost all the, if not all of the brains sectioned and studied by BU came from players who died before their time, sometimes via suicide.   My feeling is, until they start sectioning and studying the brains of players who have not suffered an unusual or early death, we are still in the dark as to how prevalent the problem is.  An NFL Roster has 53 players (not including the practice squad which is an additional 10 players).  Which means one NFL team during a single season contains 2/3 of the players whose brains have been examined over the last several years.  Those aren't sufficient numbers to get any idea of the scope of the disease.  It is possible that the majority of players don't end up suffering from CTE, and that opens a whole new can of worms as to why some people are susceptible to it, and others aren't.  It will take more than a decade to compile the amount of information needed to figure out the prevalance and whether there is a genetic pre-dispositition.  And I do believe the NFL has taken steps to protect the players as best as they can in a sport where punishing hits aren't just a part of the game, they are practically the rules of the game.  I am in no way clamoring for football to cease.  I think we would lose something that is as American as apple pie and baseball.  I simply think we need to be aware of the dangers.

We need to be aware, because this year, all across the country,  parents won't simply sign releases for high school football.  They will also sign them for pee-wee and middle school football.  And if you think that long-term damage in NFL players is tragic, imagine what can happen to children, taking and delivering the brutal hits of football,  with brains that have not even fully developed.  Imagine those child hockey players getting their heads shoved into the boards, or those child soccer players constantly pounding their heads into a ball.  If you knew your child could suffer long term damage from the sport they play, damage that could lead them to commit suicide at the age of 17 or 21, would you be so willing to sign that release? 

When a player chooses to enter college on a scholarship or the NFL draft, they are at an age where they are capable of understanding the risks of the sport they play.  If they are willing to pay that price, that is entirely up to them.  Eight year olds have no idea, and as parents, our goal is to protect our children.  So before you sign the release, read this again, read more about it from other places, and make an informed decision.  Football, soccer, hockey and many other sports carry an inherent risk.  It's your job to decide if the risk is worth it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Move Along...Move Along

Part of me wants to be snarky.  Part of me wants to cry.  Part of me figures laughing might be the entirely best solution, since laughter is better for me than crying or being snarky.  The US Supreme Court made gay marriage legal in all 50 states.  Whether or not that was a sound Constitutional decision or not is left to far greater legal minds than my own.  I do think that whenever possible we should avoid undercutting the democratic process, but again, it's much better for me to leave those things to the scholars.
Snark, crying and laughter aside, can we finally put away the outrage machine now?  Can everyone do that? 
It seems in this country, when something people want finally comes to fruition, even that is not enough.  We fought the civil war more than 100 years ago.  The civil rights act was passed 50 years ago.  And yet, I keep hearing that we are still a racist country.  That racism is in our DNA.  That things really aren't that great.  Seriously?  No one alive today in America has experienced slavery under the banner of the United States.  No one.  You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who actually has interacted with anyone who did.  Slavery in America is dead, people, and it has been for so long that we actually feel justified into tossing the charges of bigotry and racism around as if they mean absolutely nothing.  People are so busy being outraged here, that they have saved little outrage for places where true slavery still exists.  Are the people in this country who are burning down their own cities aware that 14.3 million people in India live in slavery?  Real slavery still exists.  Yes, there are still racists and they live everywhere, not just in the USA.  But for the majority of the western world, racism is unacceptable behavior, and the vast majority of people, even white people, are long past it.
Then we have the still boiling feminist movement, you know who I'm talking about.  The ones who start foaming at the mouth over shirts, makeup, armpit hair, and that guy who held the door for them.  The entirety of the movement should buy stock in fainting couches with all the oppression they see in this country.    They aren't really oppressed, but shhhh...don't tell them that.  They rage over the non-existent pay gap, the rape culture that's a figment of their imagination, and they truly feel they are the only human beings harassed.  The feminist movement of today is fighting a battle they never realize has already been won.  Won by our mothers and grandmothers.  Yes, ladies, there are still misogynstic pigs out there, but it seems we've also added a whole group of misandry-filled  miss piggy's to the mix. It's not enough to be equal, now we have to better.  And if we can't really be equal, well, just change the standards so we can still be "equal."  Just...no.  If you really want to feel like a second-class citizen you ought to try Yemen, Pakistan, Iran or Syria.
And finally, on to that group who won their battle today in the Supreme Court.
The gay marriage movement has won.  Gay people can now be legally married in 50 states.  It's what they wanted, can we all now be happy, or something?  Or are people going to sue every baker, florist, photographer and maybe Pastor who doesn't fall into line?   Now that gay marriage is legal, opression is a thing of the past.  No, everyone is not going to agreee with your lifestyle choice, but this is America.  They are allowed to not agree.  But the basic rights, well, gay people have them all.  Oppression of homosexuals is not the business of the USA, but, it is the business of others...countries like Russia and Turkey, where you can be gay, if you don't mind being brutally beaten, stabbed, sliced, or shot.  Or places like India, Jamaica, Uganda, or Iran where being gay means prison or death.  ISIS throws homosexuals off of buildings.  That is oppression and bigotry.  The Pastor of your local Baptist church refusing to marry you?  Not oppression.  (For the record, in the church where I grew up there was no hypocrisy like I'm seeing others accuse Christians of having.  Divorced people couldn't get married there either.)
So, can the outrage just stop now?  Can we move along?  Because there are serious battles for real human rights to be fought, serious battles for the freedom of the men and women being enslaved, mistreated and even killed, and those battles aren't here.