Posted by: bkivey | 25 May 2015

The Sentinel’s Creed

Tomb of the unknown

 

My dedication to this sacred duty is total and whole-hearted.
In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter.
And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements,
I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.

Posted by: bkivey | 21 May 2015

The Conversation on Poverty Part II

Poverty, like gender, is a social construct. There is no observable natural phenomenon called ‘poverty’. This isn’t to say that many, if not most, people in the world live in dire economic circumstances. But just as you can ‘define deviancy down’, you can define poverty up. Very few, if any people in the Western world live in true no-social-safety-net poverty.

The current definition of ‘poverty’ in the US is a gross income of $11,770 annually for an individual, and $24,250 annually for the statistical standard family of four. These incomes translate to an hourly wage of $5.89/hr and $12.12/hr respectively for a standard 2000 hrs of annual work. At these income levels, food and medical care are essentially free, while housing, especially for families, is heavily subsidized, so the actual annual compensation is considerably higher than the official rate. Compared to large portions of the globe, there really isn’t any poverty in the US as most of the world understands it.

Looking over the comments by the participants on the poverty panel, one might be forgiven the impression that ‘poverty’ was an unaddressed problem in society.

Barack Obama: “And right now, they don’t have those things, and those things have been stripped away. You look at state budgets, you look at city budgets, and you look at federal budgets, and we don’t make those same common investments that we used to. And it’s had an impact. And we shouldn’t pretend that somehow we have been making those same investments. We haven’t been.”

The first major Federal government intervention in the financial life of the individual occurred during the New Deal of the Great Depression. Prior to the mid 1930’s, there was no real government safety net for the individual, so if you didn’t have a strong family or church, you were on your own. Federal entitlement spending hovered around 2% of GDP until 1940, and rose slowly until the mid 60’s.

In 1964-65 Lyndon Johnson initiated the Great Society, a series of Federal social programs designed to transfer wealth from those with money to those without. Entitlement spending skyrocketed, and for the most part, hasn’t slowed much. Overall social spending has followed a steady growth rate the last half century. From around 2% GDP spending on all entitlement programs, the US now spends 6.8% GDP on pensions, 7.5% GDP on healthcare, and 2.6% GDP on welfare. That’s 16.9% of GDP spent on what are essentially anti-poverty programs.

The only Federal program that’s seen anything like a cut is education. Between 1953 and 1976 Federal spending on education rose from 2.7% GDP to 5.7% GDP. Education spending declined until 1984, rose until 2010, in the intervening five years has declined sharply, and is currently about 5% GDP.

One can truthfully say that some Federal social spending has declined, but to assert that ‘we don’t make the investments we used to’ is blatantly false.

One of the overarching themes of Progressivism is that people aren’t in control of their own destiny. If you’re situation is suboptimal, it’s because someone took something away from you, or did something to you. The individual is powerless, and must depend on the beneficence of the powerful in order to live. This is in direct contradiction to the founding principles of the United States, which was predicated on the premise that the individual was sovereign to the State, and that people should be allowed to find their own way within a liberally permissive societal framework.

There are valid historical reasons why some peoples and areas have been historically impoverished. Societal discrimination has at various times and places formed Polish, Irish, Italian, Asian, and Hispanic ghettos, just as Black ghettos existed and exist. With few exceptions, these and other ethnic groups followed the American blueprint of immigrate, educate, assimilate, and usually within three generations the grandchildren of illiterate, ignorant immigrants were fully integrated into American society. The American Dream is the idea of social mobility based on individual effort.

But Progressives are about things rather than ideas. That’s why you get quotes like:

“What portion of our collective wealth and budget are we willing to invest in those things that allow a poor kid — whether in a rural town, or in Appalachia, or in the inner city — to access what they need both in terms of mentors and social networks, as well as decent books and computers and so forth, in order for them to succeed?”

Barack Obama

In other words, let’s throw money at the problem. No rhetoric on individual effort, personal responsibility, and high societal expectations. Progressives like to use other people’s money to shower things on others, and then wonder why the recipient’s lives aren’t materially improved. If people are encouraged to sit around and wait for others to provide for them like over-age children, they’re never going to be anything but poor.

And that’s really what Progressives want: power over others. As long as significant percentages of the population can be kept poor and on the reservation, but made to feel like someone is doing something for them, then Progressives have a base. The minute people start thinking for themselves and making an effort to improve their lives, is the minute Progressives lose power. And they must have power above all else. As long as Progressive ideology is encouraged, we’re always going to have generational poverty.

Something Wrong with this Picture

Alaska Rising Tide activists pose in front of the Polar Pioneer drilling rig.

Above is an image taken during the ‘kayaktivist’ protest of an oil rig docked in Seattle to have some work done before it heads off to the Arctic to drill for oil. The protesters are all very proud of themselves for demonstrating against what they see as an environmental injury, and I don’t doubt their sincerity. But there’s something wrong here. Can you spot it?

That’s right! All of their craft are made of plastic or fiberglass, both of which require oil as a feedstock. The paddles don’t appear to be made of carved wood, and I’m guessing they didn’t tote those boats to the water on their bicycles, either. There is something insanely stupid and childish about protesting the infrastructure that makes your life possible.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: bkivey | 19 May 2015

American Airman

I don’t generally republish posts from other sources, because in this day and age, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake. Oftentimes items that speak to your prejudice turn out to be not real. But I came across an item that checks out from multiple reliable sources, so I’ll reprint it. H/t John Q. Public

Kayce M. Hagen is a pen name assumed by an active duty enlisted airman. She wrote the following words to capture her thoughts after attending mandatory annual training given by her base’s Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) office. I’m publishing her letter here not just because it captures in visceral form a sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly from airmen who are frustrated by increasingly tone-deaf and overwrought approaches to this issue, but also because I believe her input raises (or renews) two important questions. First, what is the current Sexual Assault Prevention program doing for the Air Force? Second, what is it doing to the Air Force? Kayce’s input explores these questions in a powerful way.

Dear SARC,

I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way.

You are the reason I room alone when I deploy. You are the reason that wives are terrified that their husbands are cheating on them when they leave, and I leave with them. When I walk into a room and people are laughing and having a good time, you are the reason they take one look at me and either stop talking or leave. They’re afraid. They’re afraid of me, and it’s because of you. They are afraid that with all of this “power” I have, I can destroy them. They will never respect me or the power and the authority I have as a person, or the power I have as an Airman, because I am nothing more than a victim. That I as a victim, somehow I control their fate. With one sentence, I can destroy the rest of their lives.

“He sexually assaulted me.”

I say enough. He didn’t assault me, you did; and I say enough is enough. If you want to help me, you need to stop calling me a victim. If you want to save me, you need to help me to be equal in the eyes of the people I work with. If you want to change a culture, you need to lessen the gap between men and women, not widen it. Women don’t need their own set of rules: physical training scores, buildings, rooms, raters, sponsors, deployment buddies. When I can only deploy with another woman ‘buddy’ you are telling me and the people around me that I can’t take care of myself. When you forbid me from going into my male friends room to play X-Box on a deployment with the other people on my shift, you isolate me. When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.

Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.

Posted by: bkivey | 17 May 2015

The Conversation on Poverty

On 12 May an event called’ The Conversation on Poverty” was held at Georgetown University. Even in a world that values style over substance, this was a pointless exercise. The idea that three rich and powerful men were going to come to any meaningful conclusions on poverty in a public forum was laughable. And yet that’s what the organizers of this Kabuki theater would have people believe, as if socio-economic issues could be addressed on what amounted to a reality TV show.

The actors participants were:

E.J. Dionne: Print and radio commentator, university professor, and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Arthur Brooks: Social scientist, musician, and president of the American Enterprise Institute.

Robert Putnam: Professor and political scientist.

Barack Obama: President of the United States

Reading through the official transcript and an NPR news article on the event, it’s apparent everyone went through the motions expected of them. I chose the NPR article figuring it would favorable to the President, and have a number of what the organization thinks are the salient quotes.

A fair amount of the President’s and others remarks warned against ‘cynicism’. Given the nature of the conference, the participants, and pretentious nature of the conference, these remarks are a clear signal that dissent will not be tolerated. If you don’t agree with our policies and conclusions, you’re ‘cynical’, and part of the problem. This is of a piece with Progressive ideology: allegations and ad hominem attacks make up nearly the whole of their ‘argument’. The President is rather transparently trying to inoculate his ideas from attack, or even thoughtful opposition.

I’ve done a fair amount of reading of political thought from the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly as it pertains to the conceptual development of individual liberty. The liberals of the day laid out their arguments in thoughtful, logical ways, always keeping in mind that humans were part of the natural world, and subject to it’s rules. They also recognized that people have a spiritual side that had to be taken in to account if the citizenry was to flourish under a given form of government. Liberals of the day had to make well-reasoned arguments: they were fighting oligarchies and monarchies entrenched for centuries, and the penalty for dissent was often death.

Now, it’s a different story. Progressivism is so well entrenched that most Progressives don’t think about what they say, and couldn’t if they tried. And there’s the blatant double standard, enabled by the legacy media: if your dissent doesn’t fit the Progressive Narrative, it’s not OK. Whatever happened to ‘Dissent is Patriotic’? Modern Progressives are keeping one aristocratic tradition alive; they often call for the literal death of their opponents.

So the tone of the panel was darkened a bit by the President’s insistence that cynicism vis-a-vis a discussion on poverty had no place. This in itself is cynical, or perhaps the President has confused ‘cynicism’ with ‘rationality’. It’s disturbing when a national leader more-or-less openly states that dissent will not be tolerated. But entirely in keeping with Mr. Obama’s character and the mind set of those he represents.

There is much to be gleaned from this panel, so additional topics will be addressed in follow-on posts:

The correlation between the decline in the American middle-class and the increase in government spending on anti-poverty programs.

The serious decline in social mobility in American society as government power has increased. Actually, I’ve already written on that.

Capitalism is great, but. . .

What happens when the political minority is in power

 

Posted by: bkivey | 13 May 2015

Siren Voices RIP

Everyone with access to the internet has content they read on a regular basis, and quite frequently blogs are in the mix. I’ve got a list of blogs I read on the sidebar. One of my favorite blogs has been Siren Voices, written by an English EMT about his job experiences. Authored under the nom de plume Spence Kennedy, the blog provided a glimpse into the day-to-day of an EMT in Britain. If memory serves, the author’s first degree was in English, and when teaching turned out not to be stimulating enough, went back to school to become an EMT (apparently didn’t consider teaching in a US city, where he could combine both interests).  In his posts, the author shows a talent for descriptive language, giving the reader a real feel for the environment and people, while showing enough of the medical and procedural details to ground the experience.

The blog closed on 6 May, and the author is moving on to other things, including another blog written under his real name. The link will stay up, because the archives are well worth reading. I’ll miss the blog, but want this post to be more in the spirit of an Irish wake than a eulogy: celebrating what was, rather than mourning what is no longer. I learned a fair bit about the work of an EMT, but more about the craft of writing. I wish Jim Clayton every success in his endeavors.

Numerology

Under the European system (day/month/year), every date this week is palindromic. Not an especially rare occurrence, but still interesting.

Today in History

  • 1862 – The USS Planter, a steamer and gunship, steals through Confederate lines and is passed to the Union, by a southern slave, Robert Smalls, who later was officially appointed as captain, becoming the first black man to command a United States ship.
  • 1985 – Police release a bomb on MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia to end a stand-off, killing 11 MOVE members and destroying the homes of 250 city residents.

 

Posted by: bkivey | 12 May 2015

Riding the M Train

Marijuana has been the darling drug du jour the last several years. Several states have legalized it, and in much of the US and some European countries, it’s a non-issue. For decades it’s been legal to smoke it up in The Netherlands, while in the US very few cops would bust you for a joint. On the crime spectrum, possession under an ounce wasn’t worth the hassle.

Full disclosure: I started smoking dope at 16, and continued for twenty years. I stopped when I realized that 1) it’s an expensive habit, and 2) it wasn’t getting me where I wanted to go. I smoked dope while attending and graduating college for a technical degree, working professional jobs, and in general acting as a functioning member of society. ‘Reefer Madness ‘ wasn’t in it. I was able to pass drug tests because they were announced, or I knew I’d be tested, well in advance. Not to say there weren’t some close calls. And I dealt for a time in San Francisco. The statues run, so no harm.

Of the drugs I’ve had experience with, marijuana is pretty low-key. I had a high school math teacher state in class that they’d run someone up to the office for being drunk, but wouldn’t bother them if they were high. His reasoning was that teenagers tended to become disruptive on alcohol, but were passive on grass. And I’ve never heard of anyone beating their wife while high. Humans like to alter their conscienceless, and the skunk is a civilized way to do it. I haven’t used for many years, and I don’t miss it. Dope makes you stupid, and I have enough concussions to do that for me.

As marijuana moves toward acceptance at the state level, if not the federal, it’s been interesting to see how people react to the legalization of a black market product. Well, really a grey-market item, as law enforcement generally didn’t worry too much about it. It has been fun, in a schadenfreude-esque way, to see the dawning consternation on people who are just now realizing the implications of legal weed.

When marijuana was underground, everything was cool. If you wanted some, you were likely to know someone, or the friend-of-a-friend, who could supply. If you were a regular user, it wasn’t too hard to establish a connection. you might meet the dude (and it was almost always a guy) once a week, smoke a joint, make the transaction, and you were on your way. There was a distinction between regular friends, and ‘weed friends’, although sometimes the two would coincide.

Now that the State’s involved, things are a whole lot different. I realize that the last time I was in market was some time ago, but the cost of legal weed is eye-popping. Rather than invoke taxes over time, communities and the state are jumping on the tax wagon all at once. The State is rightly concerned that the black market will undercut them, and so they’ve instituted Draconian penalties for illicit dope peddling. The days of the casual dealer are numbered. There will always be a black market for marijuana: the underground network is too well-established to simply go away; but a number of once illegal grows are going mainstream because the money is just too good. This will restrict the black market supply, and at some point, legal and illegal dope will reach a rough price parity.

Over the last couple of years there has been an increasing culture of what I’ll call ‘artisan weed’. Because I live in the Portland, OR metro area, my perspective is skewed, but there is a growing weed culture in the same vein as wine culture. It is by turns cute and annoying. Cute, because the nascent dope industry is finding its footing, and annoying, because the guy you knew who bored you to tears with his expositions on marijuana now has mainstream presence. Portland has a tendency to overdo anything, and marijuana is no exception.

And so you’d think that with the incipient legalization of dank, the disaffected would be happy. Ha! Proving yet again people don’t know when to quit, there was a ‘protest‘ march 2 May in Portland for weed. Considering that dope will be legal on 1 July, what were they protesting? The main concern seemed to be that medical marijuana users will be ‘lumped in’ with recreational users. This is a problem? Well, if you’ve been special before, I suppose that not being special would be a concern. Things just aren’t the same when mainstream society includes you. If your identity has been as an outsider, insider status might rankle a bit.

Here We Go  Again

There is a demographic, who usually work in an office, have a liberal or soft science education, and long for the days of meaningful social activism, who seem to invent problems so they’ll feel relevant. Such would be the folks who are trying to expunge ‘marijuana’ from the vocabulary in favor of ‘cannabis’. Reading the article in the Portland Mercury, one might think ‘marijuana’ was an oppressive term. This is all bullshit. If you asked 100 people about the marijuana, almost none of them would expound on the oppression of a word, and a fair amount might ask you for a hit. This is rent-seeking behavior. This is a group that has nothing better to do than create historical grievances so they can feel empowered. They are children, and should be treated as such. More to the point, they should be ignored.

Word Watch 

A guy I work with turned me onto the word ‘loud’ in connection with marijuana. He related that one of his friends was smoking, and a neighbor came over and informed them that their smoke was ‘loud’, in the sense that it was pungent. I like this.

“Hey, man.Your smoke is loud. Maybe you can tone it down.”

 

Posted by: bkivey | 8 May 2015

Terrorists Winning

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, the popular refrain, repeated to the point of absurdity, was “Don’t let the terrorists win”. A good argument could be made that to a large extent the terror attacks were successful, given the travel restrictions, enormously expanded surveillance of American citizens, the creation of the Orwellian-titled Department of Homeland Security, and the militarization of American police forces. The attacks also ignited the ill-advised occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The overall results the last fifteen years has been to make American society more fearful and restrictive.

What religiously or politically motivated attacks on US soil have occurred in the intervening time have been one-offs by individuals, with no support or claim of credit from state organizations. Until Monday 4 May, when two gunmen attempted to assault an event organized by anti-Islamic political activist Pamela Geller in Garland, TX. The event was known to be provocative to Muslim sensibilities, so the event was required to pay for a SWAT team and other security. The security was effective, and the gunmen died without accomplishing their goals. The next day Caliphate wanna-be ISIS claimed credit for the event, along with promising more violence and putting Ms. Geller and others on a death list.

The circumstances in Texas were very similar to those in Paris earlier this year, when Islamic terrorists killed most of the staff of the periodical Charlie Hebdo for publishing unflattering cartoons of the prophet Mohammed and Islam in general. Public outcry was immediate and vociferous, as people from every part of the political spectrum expressed shock at the event, and rallied to support free speech.

However, if you’re exercising those freedoms, and are violently attacked, but manage to defend yourself, you’re persona non grata to the Left. The tone of the Left’s response to the attack is illustrated by Noah Feldman’s essay in which he briefly decries the attack, but moves quickly on to accusing Ms. Geller of ‘provoking’ the violence by holding an event she knew would be offensive to Muslims. This view is so completely and overtly hypocritical that even liberal bastion New Republic rejected the position, although they sprinkle in a goodly dose of Geller hate. George Parry does a good job of illustrating why the Progressive reaction is not only hypocritical, but near-psychotic in its detachment from reality.

The Left loves itself some victims, and if you refuse to be victimized, then the Left resorts to hateful allegations and ad hominem attacks. That’s pretty much their entire position on anything.  People who hold Progressive views also tend to skew heavily to the bully/coward personality type. If they think you won’t harm them, Progressives will happily trash you and your institutions. But if you demonstrate a willingness to oppose them, through the use of physical force or otherwise, they’ll run for cover, usually the cover of State intervention. And that intervention won’t be aimed at the perpetrators, but at the victims or potential victims. In the latest case, it’s not about standing up to violence or the threat thereof, but forcing others to acquiesce to it. This is not a strategy for freedom, or in the long-term, survival. I have to think that given the Progressive propensity for forcing others to their views, on some level they identify with Islamic terrorism.

As to whether Ms. Geller was being deliberately provocative, I can’t say for certain, although her anti-Islam views are well-known. I’ve read the Quar’an, and I’m not a big fan of the religion. Other major religions have become more inclusive as the world has changed, but not Islam. Recall that this is a religion where:

  • Non-believers must convert under threat of death. Christians and Jews, also people of the Book, are actively persecuted.
  • Women are treated as chattel.
  • Women are sexually mutilated.
  • Muslims are extremely intolerant of anything that doesn’t comport with their views.
  • The concepts of redemption and forgiveness are unknown in Islam.

The Progressive position is that people shouldn’t rile up the Muslims, because death and destruction will ensue. While I don’t advocate deliberately offending people, I can’t abide by an ideology that refuses to allow for variation in human expression. The Left is not only cowardly, they’re at odds with 2500 years of Western philosophical development. If people won’t exercise their rights because some group threatens to kill them, then the terrorists are winning.

The Coolest Thing I Saw This Week

I moved to Hillsboro last November, and soon found out about the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. I enjoy natural history, and made a mental note to check out the museum. They’re closed on days I usually have off, but the opportunity arose Wednesday, so I made the trip.

The museum was founded by Richard and Helen Rice in the early 1950’s. They built a house outside Hillsboro, and opened the displays in the basement to the public. The Rice’s incorporated the museum as a foundation, and over the years another building was added, as well as outdoor facilities. The main museum is still the Rice’s house. The museum is a bit off the beaten track, but still readily accessible from Hillsboro and highway 26. Admission is $8, and cheap at twice the price.

I’d visited the Crater Rock Museum in Medford last year, and was very impressed. The Rice museum is equally impressive, but in different ways. The collection isn’t as large as Crate Rock, but Rice has the most impressive collection of pyrites I’ve seen, and a more comprehensive collection of petrified wood. I didn’t know petrified pine cones existed. Rice also has a better dinosaur fossil collection, including a complete skeleton of a young dinosaur. The fluorescent rock display is housed in a room, rather than the curtained alcove of Crater Rock.

What sets Rice apart are the number of interactive and hands-on displays. An entire room is devoted to tactile displays where you can test rocks for hardness, and learn about the molecular structures that differentiate various rocks and minerals. The displays are there for the school groups that come through, but are equally fun for adults. Want to touch a 2 billion year old rock? You can do that here, as well as handle meteorites and other geological items. Touching is encouraged here. The displays also have placards that give context to what you’re looking at.

The house itself is worthy of attention, as the entire building displays a high level of craftsmanship, especially the woodwork. There is a walking tour of rocks and minerals on the grounds, as well as a rock pile where you can cart away rocks for $1/lb.

I was there on a weekday afternoon, so not too many people were there. I got to spend a fair amount of time with their geologist discussing the displays and learning about the museum history. It was a very enjoyable three hours, and a must-see for anyone interested in natural history.

Posted by: bkivey | 4 May 2015

Western Hockey League Conference Finals

Portland is home to three major league sports; the Trailblazers of the NBA, the Timbers in MLS, and the Thorns in NWSL. The Arena Football League is represented by the Thunder, and the Single-A Hops all the way out in Hillsboro for baseball. Then there are the Winterhawks, the major-junior contingent of the Western Hockey League (WHL). For a league made up of teenage boys playing a sport with no real organic presence in the region, the Winterhawks have a loyal fan base. It helps that they win a lot, making it to the post-season the last six seasons, and winning the conference Finals the last four seasons.  Since an ownership change in 2008, they’ve become the New York Yankees of the WHL, earning the moniker ‘Evil Empire’, and a destination team for many players coming up to the major-junior level.

Of the major sports, hockey is perhaps the most blue-collar. The culture emphasizes hard work, discipline, and toughness, even more so than football. Hockey players shrug off and play through injuries that would have a soccer player sidelined for a month. And as with any culture, it has it’s quirks: the singing of the Canadian and American national anthems prior to games, fans throwing hats (or octupi in Detroit) on the ice to acknowledge a hat trick, players expressing appreciation by banging the heel of their sticks on the ice, and acknowledging  a teammate with a light tap of the stick, an oddly touching gesture in a sport featuring hard hits and fast action.

I’ve never been to a Winterhawks game, although I do follow them on the radio.  On Sunday they were playing the Kelowna Rockets in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, and money and time converged to create the opportunity to see the game. The ‘Hawks defeated Kelowna last year to win their fourth consecutive Western Conference title, so there is some history between the teams.  I was especially interested in getting a look at Kelowna goalkeeper Jackson Whistle, who’s been playing out of his mind during the series.

The venue was Moda Center in the Rose Quarter, the same building where I watched the Trailblazers earlier this year.  The upper bowl is closed off for hockey, making the seating capacity around 10,000. Although some 8,000 tickets had been sold, when the puck dropped, there looked to be about 6,000 in the building. Kelowna fans were few and far between. My seat was at center ice in the 200 level, because while rink-side seats are good for seeing the action up close, I prefer to get an overview of the game. NHL games I’ve attended have been from the 300 level, which is a bit too much of an overview. And no photos of the game, because for some reason WHL likes to keep lighting at movie-theater levels.

Opening ceremonies included the Canadian and American national anthems, with the Canadian sung first per tradition. The Canadian anthem was sung by a member of Canadian law enforcement; not sure of the branch, and he did a credible job. The Kelowna team applauded in hockey fashion. The American anthem was sung by a women who delivered one of the finest performances I’ve ever heard. She hit every note of a song that’s notoriously hard to sing, and did it with a clarity and depth that was breath-taking. An exceptional performance.

Game action.

The ‘Hawks had to win this game or go home. They came out strong and scored three goals in the first fifteen minutes of the opening period. Hey, things are looking good! As good as the Kelowna goalie had been in the series, it looked like the ‘Hawks had solved him.

But no game is about who scores the most in fifteen minutes, it’s about who has the higher score when the game is done. And it seemed the ‘Hawks slacked off after the third goal, as if to say “Well, that’s enough.” But this is hockey, and any effort but the maximum isn’t enough. This was the conference Finals, Kelowna earned the right to be here, and they weren’t going to roll over. They scored a goal late in the period, and people around me were rooting for the clock. As in, let it roll to zeros so the ‘Hawks can get off the ice. That’s not good.

The second period Kenowa absolutely shelled the Winterhawks goal. They fired some 20 shots-on-goal, and 3 got through, one on a short-handed effort. The score was 4 – 3 in favor of the Rockets. The ‘Hawks got the equalizer in as pretty a play as you’ll see in hockey. A Hawk had the puck beside the Rocket goal, spun 180 degrees to center the puck, and a teammate shot it in from 5 feet. Very nicely done, and the score was tied. The ‘Hawks still seemed to lack intensity, which was curious considering their season was on the line.

Early third period the Rockets scored two goals, so now the ‘Hawks were down two just to equalize, and the clock was becoming a factor. The ‘Hawks coach pulled the goalie, and the Rockets scored almost immediately.  Now down 3, the ‘Hawks on the ice assumed the position of defeat: bent over with stick across knees. People started to leave. A Winterhawk banged the goal with his stick. He knew. We all knew. There would be no fifth consecutive conference championship.

The next series the Portland goalie was on the ice, but was pulled. Another Kelowna score. 8 – 4. Less than two minutes to go, the ‘Hawks goalie was on the ice, but he wouldn’t be needed. At the final horn Kelowna celebrated, and the Winterhawks players on the ice went to their knees. Most cried. If you’ve done your best, there’s no shame in defeat, but that doesn’t make the hurt any less.

Most of the fans stayed to salute the team during the awards ceremony. The players didn’t acknowledge the crowd during the ceremony, although by the hockey code, Kelowna did applaud the Winterhawks in the hockey manner. The crowd stayed and applauded the players throughout the ceremony and the handshakes and after Kalowna left the ice the players did acknowledge the heartfelt appreciation from the audience.

It’s just sports. But for 16 and 17 year-old’s who’ve spent their lives working toward a goal, it’s more. You can argue that maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is. For a number of ‘Hawks players, Sunday was the last game of major-junior. Most will probably go into minor-league hockey; some may see the NHL or European leagues. A few may find that Sunday was the last day of their hockey career. They’ve all done well, and I look forward to next season.

 

 

Posted by: bkivey | 2 May 2015

Baltimore Aftermath

After the riots of last week, Baltimore appears to settling down to an uneasy peace. There’s a curfew in effect for the month, but no one appears to be burning anything. I didn’t go out of my way to follow the news concerning the events, so what I knew is what I heard on the radio. And what I knew was that Baltimore PD had arrested a Black man, transported him, and he died in custody. After his funeral, Baltimore burned. A little research reveals that:

  • Police arrested Freddie Gray (a man whose rap sheet includes some 20 arrests) after he ran from officers who made ‘eye contact‘ with him. He was arrested for possession of a switchblade, and placed in a police transport van. He may or may not have been beaten by police. Cause of death was a spinal injury at the neck.
  •  Mr. Gray’s funeral on 25 April led to rioting and assaults on police officers. Gangs actively prevented firefighters from doing their job. There were numerous reports of people attacked by rioters, and the National Guard was called in.

Based on the information I have, my observations are:

  • Police officers, especially in light of events the past year, aren’t likely to start randomly beating someone, especially a Black someone. While Mr. Gray’s injuries aren’t consistent with a peaceful arrest, I think it likely that if he’d complied with police, he’d be alive today. He’d certainly been in the system enough to know how the process worked.
  • Baltimore leadership is incompetent, duplicitous, or both. During the riots, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made statements to the effect that the rioters should be allowed to riot. Really? If your city is being destroyed, that’s not the time for appeasement (actually, no time is).
  • Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby is ignorant or naive. Her husband is Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby. When questioned about a possible conflict of interest in her handling of the criminal investigation involving the Baltimore PD, she stated that there was no conflict, as her husband made the law, and she enforced it. When those two functions are sharing a bed, that’s the definition of conflict of interest. She also said that murder charges would be preferred against the arresting officers. That action was a bald-faced political appeasement to the rioters, as murder requires proof of intent. The actual charges filed are significantly reduced from murder. She also said that running from police wasn’t probable cause. Um, yes, it is. The police hadn’t even approached Freddie Gray, and he took off. A reasonable person would conclude that if you run from police just because they notice you, you’re probably doing something you shouldn’t be. As for the reason for arrest, Ms. Mosby said that the knife in Mr. Gray’s possession wasn’t a switchblade, but most people would agree that a ‘spring-assisted knife’ is, in fact, a switchblade.

The rioters also learned some things the past week:

  • You don’t have to obey the law. Get enough people together, and you can do whatever the hell you want. The Mayor will stand aside.
  • Police have no authority. See an officer? Run. Because running isn’t ‘probable cause’. And whatever the police do, they won’t be supported by leadership. I don’t know why anybody would want to be a police officer in Baltimore.

I’m not familiar with Baltimore: driven through it a few times and transferred at the airport, so I don’t know what the city is like. But I think it’s reasonable to assume that the city is in for a tough ride. All those businesses burned aren’t likely to come back, and convention and tourist dollars are going to dry up. Who wants to schedule an event or put a business in a place where city government won’t protect them?

The rioters may think they’ve ‘won’, but they’ve lost big time. Urban activists lament the lack of businesses in poorer parts of cities, but I’d just send them a looped tape of the Baltimore riots and ask “Any questions?”

WHL Conference Finals

Our local WHL team Portland Winterhawks have had their usual good season, and have made it to the Western Conference Finals. They were ousted in this series last year, but Game 6 is Sunday afternoon, and I have tickets. They’re playing the Kelowna Rockets, and the series has been back and forth between two evenly matched teams. Kelowna goalie Jackson Whistle has been absolutely superb. Sunday’s game is a must-win for the Winterhawks, as they have to even the series and force a Game 7 to continue. I’m looking forward to it.

What I don’t appreciate is the fees Ticketmaster charges for the ‘service’ of buying tickets. I bought a seat in the 200 level, as hockey rewards an overview of the rink so you can see defensive sets and line changes. There were seats closer to the ice, but I like the overview upper-level seats afford. I’ve sat rink-side at hockey games, and while exciting, it’s hard to appreciate the total game that close. My beef is that the service charges were fully one-third of the total cost. Not even airlines are so mercenary.

 

Posted by: bkivey | 20 April 2015

One Day Vacation

This is a busy time of year for me, and days off are subject to job scheduling. I try to schedule one day off a week, but during busy weeks, that’s not always possible. There’s been a lot of work lately, so a week and a half ago I decided to take Sunday 19 April off. Work was becoming a grind, and I needed some time.

While reading one of the area’s independent papers, I discovered that there was a sci-fi film festival during the week at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s (OMSI) IMAX theater. A dozen different films were showing at various times during the week, and I noticed that three of my favorite sci-fi films were showing Sunday. Score! A quick call to the box office secured tickets for the bargain price of $7 each. Although I own copies of the films I wanted to see, and have seen each of them at least half a dozen times, the opportunity to see one classic and two near-classic sci-fi movies on an IMAX screen with big sound was far too good to pass up. The movies are listed in the order of viewing.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

This genre-defining film included many notable firsts, including the first completely electronic score. The story has been compared to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and make no mistake, the story is the star here. The pacing is pedestrian early on, but picks up almost imperceptibly as plot elements are introduced. Dialogue and acting are above average, especially compared to the sci-fi films of the time. Part mystery, part drama, with some humor thrown in, events build logically and with increasing speed to the denouement.

The Academy Award-nominated special effects hold up very well some 60 years on. Along with their technical proficiency,a large part of the appeal of the effects is that they serve the story, rather than serve as a distraction from weaker elements of a movie. The print shown was excellent: clear and sharp. I’d never seen this movie on the big screen, and it was a real pleasure to revisit this classic the way it was meant to be seen.

Fun fact: for several years one of my vehicles sported a ALTAIR4 license plate.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

The first Star Trek feature film opened to much fanfare in 1979, and disappointed nearly everyone. Instead of the beloved TV show adapted to the big screen, fans were assaulted with an overblown, turgid, glacially-paced abomination. The second film addressed those issues, and it’s been said that the second film is what the first film should have been. My opinion is that the first film could be flushed, and the franchise would be better for it.

Ricardo Montelban reprises his role as Khan Nonian Singh, probably the most interesting villain in the original Star Trek milieu. Strong, intelligent, and ruthless, Khan is given enough of a background in Space Seed to make him more than one-dimensional. While Montelban totally chews the scenery, making Shatner look almost restrained, he does bring the character to life. All of the primary cast members are present, although Uhura, Scotty, and Sulu are pretty much pushed to the side. The pacing is much closer to the TV show, bringing energy to the production.

The story is almost a remake of Moby Dick. The primary conflict is between Khan and Kirk, but there are subplots of friendship, purpose, and the subtleties of decisions, experience and knowledge to flesh out the story. During the movie, there was a cringe-inducing moment when early on, Kirk asks Spock “Aren’t you dead?” Ouch. You could hear the gasps in the audience. In 1982, that was foreshadowing. In 2015, it’s poking a fresh wound. I saw this as a first-run movie, so the print on display was disappointing: muddy and jittery. Still, it was fun to watch old friends again.

Fun fact: In the movie, Khan recognizes Chekov. In Space Seed, he never sees Chekov.

Serenity (2005)

In late summer 2005, I chanced upon a show on the Sci-Fi (Syfy) Channel that was unlike anything I’d seen. A large ensemble cast on a rickety space freighter wearing Wild West clothing and talking in a weird mix of frontier American West and Mandarin committed a heist. I was hooked in five minutes. A week later, Serenity was released, and I saw it twice. Since then, I’ve obtained the 14 TV episodes and one movie that comprise the Firefly/Serenity franchise. It’s one of my favorite sci-fi shows.

Firefly premiered in 2002, ran for 14 episodes (13 aired), and was never seen again on network TV. Serenity was produced in response to the massive sales generated when the series was released on DVD. The original cast returns for the movie, with the addition of Chiwetel Ejiofor as The Operative, a person you do not want to cross. The story (and franchise) are what you might get if Louis L’Amour collaborated with Akira Kurosawa and Steven Spielberg. While there are plot holes you could fly an Alliance cruiser through, the dialogue and characters are what make this movie go. The Firefly/Serenity productions are insanely quotable, a tribute to Joss Whedon’s ear for dialogue and eye for character.

As might be expected for a modern movie, the print was clear and sharp. The major criticism from the press at the time was that the movie didn’t rise above its TV origins. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (see Wrath of Khan) if that’s what the fans want. The movie stays true to its roots and characters, satisfying the fan without alienating those unfamiliar with the franchise. I hadn’t seen this film in a couple of years, and I was taken by the texture of the production, in that production values are high, and most scenes have a kinetic component. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the movie was released, but a lot of fun to see one of my favorite sci-fi films in the IMAX environment.

Fun anecdote: The couple behind me in line had never seen Firefly or Serenity.  Because Serenity is something of a cult movie, I asked them why they chose to see it. They’d wanted to see Wrath of Khan, but couldn’t get to the theater in time, so Serenity was their ‘settle’ movie.  I explained a bit about the movie and the franchise, without giving away plot points. I hope they enjoyed it, and maybe the movie recruited a couple more browncoats.

Wait, there’s more!

The title of the post is ‘One Day Vacation’, not ‘Three Movies I Saw in One Day’. I had to do something between movies, and the Mariners and Blazers were in action. I searched for the nearest bar, and hit upon The Firkin. A pleasantly seedy neighborhood dive, I went there for lunch after the first movie. They have a decent beer selection, and big slices for reasonable prices. Watched the Mariners for a while. They were losing 10 – 5 when I left (and eventually won 11 – 10). During the second intermission, I returned to watch the Blazers get embarrassed by the Grizzlies in first round playoff action. Had an interesting conversation with a couple of musicians who’d showed up for open mic. I was tempted to return after the last movie, but it was a fair drive home, and work the next day. The Firkin appears to be something of a nexus for the local dope scene, as every time I passed by the outdoor patio, people were pulling out bags of weed. Not my drug of choice, but weed is virtually legal in Portland (the cops aren’t enforcing the law) and will be actually legal 1 July.

I got to spend a warm, sunny day doing things I like to do. It was a nice break between two hectic weeks.

 

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