Notes and Thoughts for December

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Top photo by Claudia Gestro

I wonder where all the college protests are over the recent explosion in salaries for head football coaches. Young men and women will protest over a guest speaker booked to talk on campus because of something controversial they said and do nothing when that same university pays a multimillion-dollar buyout to a coach they fire while hiring a new coach for close to a hundred million dollars. When these same students become adults and complain about their bills because they have student loans on top of everything else to pay for, they might regret protesting a comedian their college booked.

Not to brag, but I told you so. Earlier this year I predicted a new COVID variant would enter the scene to replace our dread over the delta variant. So far, what we know is this one is more highly contagious than the other variants. Whether its symptoms are milder or worse is a little too soon to know. However, it is just a matter of time before a new variant comes along that is both highly contagious and deadlier than previous variants. How deadly does something have to become to convince people with easy access to a vaccine to get vaccinated? How deadly does something have to be before nations like ours with plenty of vaccines see to it people in poor nations get vaccinated?

A war-like nation like ours must be wondering when our rhetoric we use to drum up patriotic support for long and unwinnable wars bites us. It’s one thing to convince Americans we need to send our military to God forsaken places like Afghanistan when there is no direct worry of our military sustaining horrible losses. However, can that same rhetoric convince us we need to defend Taiwan if invaded by China? How about defending Ukraine from a Russian invasion? What if both nations decide to invade people we have promised to protect at the same time? We are not just vulnerable at home with our divisive politics, but we are also vulnerable abroad in our ability to aid allies from a real threat.

Our fat youth that have been coddled by helicopter parents and an addiction to fast food and lethargic computer/phone activities will have a hard time passing any physical standards set by our military if we need to resume the draft. Since we have found a way to outsource all our hard labor that we used to do for ourselves, how long before we hire immigrants to do our dirty work on the front lines of a brutal war? Our military has plenty of great weaponry to combat enemies from great distances, but we lack enough man/woman power to do the grunt work necessary to hold front lines or hold off an army with as many soldiers as China can throw at us.

I’ve been watching Yellowstone lately. The first season was the best because it reminded me of a modern-day western version of the Godfather. However, the second and third seasons were off a bit and ended with cliffhangers more in tune with Dynasty from the 80’s. Still, as far as television goes, it’s one of the better shows.

I also recommend The Sinner if you have not watched it. Bill Pullman has created the best sleuth since Columbo and the crimes he solves from each season are hard to figure out.

Congratulations to USC for hiring Lincoln Riley as their next head football coach. He will have that football program challenging Alabama and anyone else for the national title in short order. On the other hand, Brian Kelly going to LSU is a head scratcher. I understand why he left Notre Dame, but he is entering a different world in Baton Rouge than the one he left. He is also going to face a much harder level of competition. If he can split wins and losses against Alabama every year, then he might well win a national championship there. However, he still has the likes of Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas to get past as well as Florida, Texas A&M, and what seems like about 50 more high level programs in the SEC.

Michigan has been in the news a lot lately. There was a well-publicized school shooting, however, the most shocking recent news from that state was the University of Michigan beating The Ohio State for the first time since their coach, Jim Harbaugh, took over the program. I don’t think his win is a changing of the guard, not when it took the best team he has produced to beat the Buckeyes who have had an off year.

Smash and grab robberies seem to be the new rage. Time will tell if this becomes more normal or if it is just a fad. You can bet cities will begin installing more surveillance cameras to help track down these culprits. You can also bet the ACLU is going to claim this is an infringement of our privacy. I think most citizens would prefer to feel they are protected rather than be easy prey. I also think it is just a matter of time when a group of these robbers find themselves in a shootout with a couple of well-armed customers with concealed weapons permits. My guess is it will be in Texas.

Speaking of Texas, why can’t supporters there of more restrictive abortion access not see their hypocrisy when they support laws making it easier to carry a concealed weapon so they can kill someone? If all life matters, why is killing someone during the act of a crime considered justice? Why is executing a murderer considered justice if all life matters? The only consistency I see results in others, mostly men, being allowed to decide who gets to have control over their body and who doesn’t. It’s a bunch of white men playing God. Maybe it is time we let God play God.

Chris Cuomo was fired by CNN. The question should not be why was he fired nearly as much as why was he ever hired? A left leaning network hiring a member of the left leaning Cuomo clan was bound to blow up in their faces. How could CNN believe he would remain neutral when his older brother was governor of New York until it was made public he could not keep his hands to himself around women? Imagine if his brother, Andrew, became president. Chris could conduct the same sort of in-depth interviews Tucker Carlson did at FOX with Trump. It’s what we need, another news network that makes a joke out of journalism.

School shootings no longer surprise me. They don’t even make me mad. I have finally accepted the fact this nation will never do anything to solve this and our many other gun problems. Whenever there is a school shooting, my mind takes me back to the late 1980’s when I taught at Red Bluff Union High School. It was normal during deer hunting season for boys to arrive at school late with their hunting rifles left in their trucks. My students gave speeches where they brought in their guns and demonstrated how to clean a weapon. There was never a problem. Then one afternoon, I had a suicidal student show up in my room with a gun in his back waist. I could not convince him to let me take him to get help and after two hours alone with him, he took off. That night, he shot himself before police could find him.

Hilda and Jesse, the San Francisco restaurant that recently refused service to three police officers is why conservatives think the left has gone nuts. Their staff asked the three cops to leave because their guns made employees “uncomfortable,” and their restaurant is a “safe space” for customers. I’m trying to understand how anyone can own a business and think a sign will deter someone from doing bad things more than the presence of three cops. I once saw a sign posted at the front desk of a Cleveland hotel telling customers they were required to check in their guns upon arrival. Reading it made me question my choice of where to stay that night.

Abortion looks to be on the outs. If you have not followed the current Supreme Court case looking at abortion and the line of questioning from the majority conservative justices, you may be in for a surprise. Based on their comments and questions, it would appear the court is willing to begin undoing Roe v. Wade. That historic decision gave women the right to have control over their bodies. Now a bunch of conservative justices who claimed during confirmation hearings they had no interest in undoing what has become law appear to have changed their minds or flat out lied.

If Roe v. Wade is undone, there is the fear access to abortion in conservative controlled states is over. Next will be attempts to make it impossible to gain access in liberal states. The church, and by that, I mean white evangelical churches, will become the state which the justices seem to forget runs counter to the Constitution. We will be another step closer to where being white, male, and owning a gun to shoot first and claim self-defense later becomes more important than being female and having the right to decide what you do and don’t do with your body.

But in the long game, this might spell defeat for Republicans. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” and women will vote in high numbers beginning next fall for elected leaders who will act on their behalf. If this happens and Democrats hang on to both houses, they can stuff the court with liberal justices to reverse the current conservative advantage. The filibuster may well be eliminated and under Democratic control new laws can be enacted to provide women what they have had for 50 years, and voters will finally see easier access to elections. None of these are things conservatives want to see happen.

Republicans are foolish if they think they will have finally won the war if the current court sides with them on abortion. They will have only won a battle and in the process begun an all-out war against the dangers of allowing a political party that has shifted as far right as the GOP has to call the shots. The further right the GOP moves, you can bet democrats will respond and move further left.

The Winter Olympics will soon be here, and President Biden has announced there will be a boycott by U.S. diplomats. This does nothing. It is a symbolic move that basically tells China what they already know; we don’t like your government. Does anyone think our network coverage will focus on China’s government and their controversial policies or will it aim to create another generation of athletic darlings for viewers to fall in love with?

What are the odds? Maybe a horse joke is not so funny, but seriously, what are the odds that Medina Sprint, the Dirty Bob Baffert trained horse that failed a drug test after winning the Kentucky Derby, drops dead after a recent workout? What are the odds the death doesn’t stop Bob from producing more PED trained horses? His horses are the tool for his riches. If they win, he gets rich. If they sire, he gets rich. And if they drop dead, he still gets rich thanks to insuring his equine tools. Bob Baffert did not suffer a huge loss. He just did not profit as much off a horse he worked to death.

Is it wrong of me to like both UCLA and USC? I was raised in the Bay Area at a time where our local colleges, Stanford and Cal, were a joke on the football field and basketball court. As a result, our TV coverage consisted of weekly televised games of USC football and UCLA basketball at a time both programs shined. The Bruins were guided by a coach named Wooden and the Trojans were led by someone named McKay. National titles, Heisman trophies, and National Player of the Year awards were the norm. Today, I see the two schools as programs competing for the same things they did when I was a kid. I have no allegiance to either school because I never came close to going to either one. Consequently, in the fall, I Fight On with Trojan football and in the Winter, I am 8 Clapping the Bruins.

Don’t get your hopes up by the announcement of Tiger Woods returning to golf. The next version of Tiger is not one that will be playing in, let alone winning, any major PGA tournaments. Tiger’s return to the PNC Championship amounts to not much more than a televised father-son tournament. It’s only 36 holes and Tiger gets to use a golf cart rather than having to walk the course. Still, just him playing will probably double the size of the TV audience. However, even Tiger says not to expect to see him again as a regular on the tour. Golf fans will just have to wait and hope his son Charlie rises to the level of popularity Tiger still has.

I wonder how much children of stars want to be like mom or dad. There is a huge advantage being born with a silver spoon, especially when a parent or parents are famous. Before his death, how many teenagers had a father who could shuttle you to and from games with his helicopter like Kobe Bryant did? Who can shop nation-wide where to have your son play basketball while you decide to play for any NBA team of your choosing like LeBron James? I live in an area close enough to elite training centers and private schools that attract children of famous parents. I often wonder if these kids burn with the same desire mom or dad had or were they groomed to become the next one?

It goes beyond athletics. Musicians, television and film stars, and models all seem to push their children in the same direction of life they followed. It’s a parenting thing. It is not unusual to want to see your child follow in your footsteps to reinforce you made the right decisions for your life. I just wonder what happens when these kids fall short of mom or dad’s fame. Worse, what happens when they tell them they want nothing close to what became of them and just want a chance to find themselves? How can a three-year-old child of a famous parent know what they want?  How can they already have that desire to become great without being guided in that direction?  How can they possibly have a chance to grow and explore if all they know is the time and energy it takes to be just like mom or dad? Maybe I think too much, but I just believe this is a recipe for disaster more often than the key to greatness.

The Lakers are a mess, and I couldn’t be happier. LeBron handpicked this team which should prove he has no future as a successful owner or executive. The team’s decision to go with older star players who have already made millions of dollars instead of younger and hungrier ones has backfired. The first thing an aging player loses is his reaction time and that shows up in their defense. Maybe LeBron should recruit his kid now rather than wait a few years.

Bob Dole’s passing marks an end of decency in politics. He came from an era where politicians from different parties could disagree on one issue and still work together on another. He was the definition of a patriot, a term that has since been horribly misused by a new generation of Republicans. He served his country and sacrificed his body in battle and never complained about it. Instead, he championed causes for veterans and the handicapped without thought about if it met the goals of the GOP. We would be a much better nation if there were more Bob Doles on both sides of the political aisle.

Jessie Smollett’s sentence will be interesting to follow. The now unemployed actor who deliberately misled police about being the victim of a hate crime was found guilty of several charges that could result in jail time. However, is it worth sending him to prison?

There are several things to factor when he is sentenced. Smollett is a man of color who has made a name for himself, and I assume some high level of wealth prior to his conviction (that may have all been spent on lawyer fees). His claim of a hate crime resulted in a good deal of outrage and Chicago PD was under the microscope while unraveling the lie. If Smollett were white, would he even be considered for jail? If he were not famous, would he be looking at jail? Is sending him to prison doing more good or is there another way to make his punishment benefit the community he lied to better off?

At the risk of sounding like a bleeding heart, it is important to remember prison sentencing was designed to rehabilitate those capable of reentering society and contributing to its good. There is no denying it has resulted in a massive prison complex that has become a gigantic industry designed to keep low level men and women incarcerated. The result is by the time most criminals are released into society they have been turned into people incapable of feeling comfortable in the outside world and in too many cases, better and more dangerous criminals.

Smollett is not a threat to the outside world, just like many others who are first sent to prison. Why send someone to prison when there is a way he can help educate others and give back to society while remaining outside of prison walls? Think of it this way: When your father took the paddle to you for messing up, did you learn not to do what you did, or did you learn not to get caught in the future? When he sat you down and spoke to you with love and compassion were you thankful for his approach or did you ignore his words and become worse?

It’s time to get rid of white Jesus. It’s not part of the cancel culture at work to get rid of an historical inaccuracy nearly as much as deciding to be more historically accurate. The white world has known for hundreds of years Christ was not white and yet it has chosen to depict him as such. If the savior of your religion is depicted as a lie, it just makes others wonder how much of the rest of what you preach is also not true.