Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Olympics

Haven't been much enthused about the Olympics this year. Snowboarding as an Olympic sport just doesn't make it for me, and everything seems tawdry. And how about those Cossacks? Reminds me of the alley scene from Cabaret.

Oh, well – to a wet philosopher, all is wetness.

Maybe my opinion is being influenced by the passage below from Those Angry Days by Lynne Olson, a recent book about the lead-up to American involvement in World War II.

People my age will remember Avery Brundage, who was president of the International Olympic Committee from 1952 to 1972. He was treated with such respect and deference. Speaking of an organization called America First, which tried to keep America neutral while Hitler was bombing London, Olson writes:
[America First's] leaders created some of their own problems by appointing to the national committee two men who were regarded as flagrantly anti-Semitic.
The first was Avery Brundage, a wealthy Chicago construction executive who was also president of the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 1936, Brundage had created a national furor as a result of his actions at that year's summer Olympic games in Nazi Germany. Not only did he reject proposals from American Jewish organizations and other religious groups to boycott the Berlin Olympics, he gave in to German pressure to prevent Jewish athletes from participating in the games. At Brundage's insistence, the only two Jews on the U.S. teams – both of them track and field athletes – were replaced just before the 400-meter relay race. Shortly after the Olympics were over, Hitler's government awarded Brundage's construction company a contract to build a new German embassy in Washington.

(Incidentally, the second "flagrant anti-Semite" on America First's national committee was Henry Ford, who was certainly that.)

Lest we be too miserable about the Brundage Olympics poo, Olson adds a footnote:

"One of the substitutes was Jesse Owens, the black track and field superstar who won four gold medals in Berlin, including one for the 400-meter relay."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The American Corporation Bill of Rights

Esquire's Charles P. Pierce has a great piece on the Supreme Court's decision to hear a case about whether the Affordable Care Act provision requiring large employers to cover birth control in their health insurance is a violation of an employer's freedom of religion.

I'll quote at length:
I say this as a lifelong Papist, this is what happens when you get too many ultramontane, Pius XII Catholics on the high court. The Church has been slug-nutty on birth control for 50 years, and the anti-choice people hate the form of birth control in question because it deprives them of clinic doors to which they can glue their heads. The principle at stake here is a joke; not even by the preposterous standards of this court as regarding corporate personhood, a corporation cannot reasonably be said to have a First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The people who run it certainly do, but they cannot reasonably argue that their freedom of religion is being curtailed because their employees can get their ladyparts medicine covered under the Affordable Care Act, unless your argument is that an employer has a right to subject employees to the employer's religious beliefs, which is an obvious contradiction, unless you're prepared to decide that an employer's First Amendment rights trump those of his employees. Wait. Forget I said that. This action should have been laughed out of the system two courts ago. Now, once again, common sense hangs on the weathervane that is Anthony Kennedy's intellect.
The obvious retort to this absurd cause of action is to ask whether or not the court would listen to a similar objection on behalf of a company owned by Jehovah's Witnesses that didn't want to cover blood transfusions for its employees. (Let us not even begin to get into Christian Science at this point.) However, members of this court, most notably Antonin (Short Time) Scalia, were notably unimpressed in 1990 when some Native Americans tried to argue that peyote was a vital to their religious rituals, pointing out that peyote had been an element in their liturgies for longer than bread had been a part of the Catholic Mass, and that, therefore, their use of it should not disqualify them from receiving benefits under Oregon law. There are people on this court who are more than willing to decide a case based on what is a real religion and what is not, and let's just say that none of them are Zoroastrians.
The entire piece is here.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Kitty Riot

I was amazed by these two young ladies from the Russian band called Kitty Riot. They've spent time in prison, and still have a sense of humor.

Colbert is obviously having fun.

If the videos don't show up here, look for them here.

The Colbert Report
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The Colbert Report
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