• September 17, 2021

Exclusive: A political movement at the Olympic Games?

 Exclusive: A political movement at the Olympic Games?


Shai Akabas of Roll Call writes with familiarity regarding the approaching urgency to extend the federal debt ceiling: Here we go again.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans won’t provide the votes necessary to further extend the debt limit, while others in his party have demanded that it be paired with equal spending reductions. Democrats insist they won’t negotiate or accept demands from the opposition but may not be able to tackle the issue along party lines. Based on history, we might expect another eleventh-hour deal in which both sides shake hands and agree to do it again next year. But with the full faith and credit of the United States on the line, waiting for one side to blink is a dangerous strategy.

In these conditions, it’s time for both parties to take the off-ramp. While the debt limit was once viewed by many as an opportunity to force action on the country’s unsustainable fiscal path, that illusion should be long dead. Since 2012, debt limit extensions have most often ridden on legislation that actually increased deficits.

As bipartisan infrastructure negotiations and Democratic spending ambitions slog on through the summer, time is of the essence to resolve the debt limit problem. In modern history, the U.S. has never defaulted on its obligations, an outcome most commonly associated with banana republics.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times walks on his “wonky side” to talk about … Keynesian Republicans?

Mike Littwin of the Colorado Sun feels no sympathy for those Republicans who willfully choose to be misinformed by the GQP and right-wing media. None.

So sympathy? Sure, I understand that many of the vaccine resisters have been manipulated by the Tucker Carlsons of the world, by the Rand Pauls of the world (did you enjoy, like me, Dr. Fauci’s most recent takedown of Paul?), by the many GOP politicians who don’t have the guts to admit to their political base that they and their families have actually been vaccinated, by social media platforms that clearly play a role (although not nearly as big a role as Biden seems to think), by the misinformation and disinformation running rampant across the country.

But misinformation, particularly when it’s opposed in so many forums with valid information, does not survive, and certainly does not thrive, without a willing audience.

So when I’m asked to be sympathetic to the 44% of Republicans who, according to a YouGov poll, believe Bill Gates wants to use the COVID vaccine to implant microchips in people so he can track them digitally, my sympathy quotient all but disappears. This isn’t about anti-vaxxers. It’s about lunacy.

Nicole Hemmer writes for CNN that women athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games are making bold and perhaps long-lasting political statements.

The deep resistance that seems to emerge every time women athletes advocate for themselves suggests that, even as women’s sports evolve, athletes still contend with a continued fear of female autonomy. They are facing a more specific version of what plagues and often prompts backlash against so many women who demand autonomy in all aspects of public life. That struggle has been especially visible at the Olympics, where patriarchal demands are wrapped in the language of nationalism and patriotism, and women athletes stand accused not only of betraying gender expectations but the nation itself.

At the women’s gymnastics qualifications on Monday, the German team swapped the traditional high-cut leotards for leg-covering unitards for the team competition, a choice the country’s gymnastics federation called a protest “against sexualization in gymnastics.” They first debuted the uniforms at the European championships but wanted to bring their message to the world stage at the Olympics, where gymnastics is one of the most watched events. The athletes were clear about their message: They were not arguing that gymnasts should dispense with leotards, but rather wanted to remind gymnasts that they have a choice. “Every gymnast should be able to decide in which type of suit she feels most comfortable,” said Elisabeth Seitz, a member of the German team, at the European championships this spring.

Renée Graham of The Boston Globe writes about America’s “empathy gap,” and what constitutes a true show of strength.

On “The Sopranos,” HBO’s much-revered drama, Tony Soprano, a mob boss battling depression and panic attacks, lamented what he perceived as a lost era of stoicism. “Nowadays, everybody’s got to go to shrinks and counselors and go on ‘Sally Jessy Raphael’ and talk about their problems,” he grouses to his psychiatrist. “Whatever happened to Gary Cooper, the strong, silent type? That was an American. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings; he just did what he had to do.”

Tony’s primitive view of the human condition permeates this country. From childhood, we’re conditioned to walk off pain or suck up heartache. Some have compared Biles unfavorably to Kerri Strug, the 1996 Olympian who completed her vault on a broken ankle and sealed the gold medal win for the US women’s gymnastics team. Strug’s actions have long been hailed as an exemplar of American perseverance and grit. Rarely mentioned is how Strug was pressured by her coach, Bela Károlyi, to make a vault she didn’t want to make. After Biles withdrew from some Olympic competitions, Strug tweeted her support.

Strength belongs to those willing to express their fears and emotions, not those who deride someone’s pain — which is also what happened after a bipartisan House select committee hearing to investigate the deadly Capitol insurrection. In sworn testimony, Sergeant Aquilino Gonell and Officer Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police and officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the DC Metropolitan Police told in shattering detail what they witnessed and endured on Jan. 6. Their recollections left some legislators in tears.

Stephen Leahy, writing for The Atlantic, notes that the June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest did incalculable (and still to be determined) damage to the area’s ecosystem.

Billions of mussels, clams, oysters, barnacles, sea stars, and other intertidal species died during the late-June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, Christopher Harley, a zoology professor at the University of British Columbia, told me last week. Yes, that’s billions, plural. What I call “extreme, extreme heat events”—because the term extreme events doesn’t quite cover the dire situation—not only kill people; they kill plants and animals. In changing our planet’s climate, we’re permanently altering the natural world that is our life-support system. And we’re seeing this happen in real time.

Harley, who is investigating the extent of the June die-off, has learned from marine scientists at various institutions that an estimated 100 million barnacles died on a 1,000-yard stretch of shore near White Rock, British Columbia. While not all sites are as bad as White Rock, large numbers of dead marine animals have been found along much of the Salish Sea shoreline, from Olympia, Washington, to Campbell River, British Columbia. The situation is so alarming that Harley said it could lead to the collapse of the region’s maritime ecosystem.

Finally today, John Feinstein writes for The Washington Post that, in spite of all the drama of the Tokyo Olympics, he is enjoying watching the athletes. 

For most competitors, the Olympics are a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To tell your kids and grandkids that you were an Olympian — regardless of whether you bring home a medal — is a rare honor, especially in sports that don’t produce dozens of multimillionaires or household names. For archers, table-tennis players, kayakers and fencers, this is the pinnacle.

Delaying the Games in 2020 dashed the Olympic hopes of some athletes. Canceling or again postponing these Games would have ended even more dreams. Most of the athletes who didn’t get to compete in the Moscow Games in 1980, thanks to President Jimmy Carter’s boycott, or the Eastern Bloc’s boycott of Los Angeles in 1984, have never gotten over it.

And it’s not just the competitors who miss out. Dave Gavitt was supposed to coach the 1980 men’s basketball team. Olympic trials were held. Among those who made the team were Isiah Thomas, Mark Aguirre and Maryland’s Buck Williams. None ever got to compete in an Olympics.

Gavitt was preceded as the coach of the U.S. team by Dean Smith and succeeded by Bob Knight — both of whom led the U.S. men to gold medals. “I’d have loved to have done what Dean and Bob did,” Gavitt said in later years

Everyone have a great day!





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