An Olympian Disappointment

The Olympic games get underway today, and in a more perfect world they would provide some much needed distraction from the awful presidential race that’s lately been getting all our attention. Alas, in this imperfect world the Olympics are just as much a gruesome spectacle of incompetence and corruption.
Before the opening ceremonies have even begun in all their quadrennial gaudy splendor the Olympics have already been tarnished by the International Olympic Committee’s usual greasy-palmed awarding of the games to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, where much of the local population is infuriated by the government’s spending of much-needed public funds to to the benefit of a few wealthy and well-connected parties, and is beset by rampant crime and one of those apocalyptic tropical diseases and all the inefficiencies of what is still a second-world country at best. The mess has caused many of the world’s top basketball players and golfers and other elite athletes to stay home, and we confidently expect that incompetence and corruption will also play a part in deciding the winners of several of the subjectively scored sports, and that better living through chemistry will once again play a role in the more rigorously timed and measured events.
Which is a shame, really, because the Olympics used to be the most riveting and inspiring thing on the fuzzy black-and-white three-channel televisions of our youth.
Our earliest memories of the Olympics date back to the ’68 games in Mexico City, when Bob Beamon jumped a full foot and a few inches farther than any human had ever jumped before, the future heavyweight champion of the world and grill-machine magnate George Foreman celebrated his gold-medal boxing performance by waving a couple of small American flags, the great Dick Fosbury forever changed the sport of high-jumping with his gold medal-winning “Fosbury flop,” and Kansas’ own Al Oerter became the first track and field athlete to win a fourth consecutive gold medal with another extraordinary throw of the discus. Even then we were aware of the student protests that disrupted the games, and how gold medal-winning Tommie Smith and bronze medal-winning John Carlos flashed the “black power” salute of an upturned and black-gloved fist while standing on the winner’s platform as the “Star Spangled Banner” played, and that Lew Alcindor had declined to the join the basketball team even before he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and other exceptional black athletes had boycotted the games, but America handily wound up winning the medal count and it bolstered our vague notions of American exceptionalism.
The ’72 Olympics in Munich were in living color, and featured the handsomely mustachioed Mark Spitz winning a record seven gold medals in swimming against a clearly cheating commie squad, the scariest-white-boy-you-ever-saw Dan Gable annihilating one steroid-pump commie after another on his way to a wrestling gold medal, skinny Dave Wottle and his backwards baseball cap coming from way way way behind to beat some fast muscle-bound commie in the 800 meter race, and as well as the hated Soviet Union beating an American basketball team that didn’t have the hippy-dippy Bill Walton or paying for play Julius Ervin on the most outrageously corrupt play-calling in Olympic history. Then there was the massacre of the Israeli team by a radical Islamist Palestinian terror group, and the quick exit of the Jewish Olympic hero Spitz, and Gable’s ill-advised grousing that his win had been overshadowed, and the questionable decision by American Olympic boss Avery Brundage to continue playing the games.
Since then the Olympics have proved less riveting. In ’76 the games went to nearby Montreal, Canada, and America came in an unaccustomed third place in the medal during its Bicentennial Year. The highlight from a patriotic perspective was a handsome young fellow named Bruce Jenner winning the decathlon and the unofficial “world’s greatest athlete title,” and of course he’s now better known as Caitlyn Jenner and was last seen as a honored guest at the Republican National Convention proving how very tolerant even the Republican are about men who think they’re women. America didn’t compete in the ’80 elections in Moscow after President Carter decided to boycott the games as retaliation for the Soviet Union’s invasion of Africa, which kept our junior high and high school classmate Darnell Valentine from a good chance at a basketball gold medal, and when the Soviet bloc boycotted the ’84 games in Los Angeles the Americans won so much they got bored with winning. The ’88 Olympics were in Seoul, we vaguely recall, and America was back in third place behind the Soviet Union and its East German puppets. The ’92 Olympics were in Barcelona, Spain, where professionals were at long last allowed to participate without any pretense of amateurism and the most memorable result was a basketball team featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and nine other all-timers that seemed to prove once and for all how well capitalism works. Some homosexual-hating nutcase set off a bomb at the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta, and except for America’s return to the top of the medal count we can’t recall much else.
By the ’00 Olympics in Sydney there was no Soviet Union and the American victory in the medal count didn’t seem so exceptional, and Marion Jones had two return two of those golds when she was found to be a chemical cheat, and the ’04 Olympics in Athens are best remembered for all abandoned venues that now broke country built for the games. The ’08 games in Beijing were basically a propaganda campaign for China’s totalitarian government, just like the ’36 games in Munich where that same old Avery Brundage wouldn’t let Jewish-American athletes compete for fear of offend his fellow Jew-hating hosts and thus allowed the black Jesse Owens to wind up spoiling the show, and except for Michael Phelps breaking Spitz’ record with eight gold swimming medals we can’t recall a thing about the ’12 games in London.
This year’s Olympics would have been in Chicago if President Barack Obama had his way, and there were reports when he flew off to Switzerland with Oprah Winfrey to make the pitch for his hometown that he envisioned it as a worldwide celebration of the fundamental transformation of America he had wrought by his second term and is pitch to the IOC was mostly predicated on how it would give the Olympics meaning to have them held in his own sanctified hometown. Of course he also hoped it would benefit his longtime consigliere Valerie Jarrett and all the other well-connected slum lords in his Chicago circles, but we suspect the city at large is happy to let the even more crime-ridden city of Rio De Janeiro pick up the tab.
Still, we’ll hope for some uplifting diversion during the games. Surely someone will run faster or jump higher or lift a greater weight than any other human ever has, and there’s a Wichita kid competing with the boxing team, and he might have better luck than the great Wichita miler Jim Ryun or our old basketball-playing classmate or any other local boy has done in the Olympics since James Bausch won the decathlon and the “world’s greatest athlete” title way back in ’32, and there might even be a moment where a good guy or a good gal from any old country wins a moment of well-deserved glory. That would make for a nice diversion right about now, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

— Bud Norman

An Awful, Awful Deal

The deal with Iran has been made, and is unlikely to be undone by Congress or public opinion or any last vestige of common sense, but it is awful. It is historically awful, catastrophically awful, worse even than Chamberlain-in-Munich awful, and so awful it would be impossible to overstate its awfulness.
The deal does not require the Iranians to disclose anything regarding their previous efforts at building nuclear weapons, allows them to keep centrifuges spinning, the Arak heavy water reactor and plutonium production plant stays open, as does the fortified underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, the country’s missile program also continues, along with its nuclear research and development, rather than being subject to “anywhere, anytime” inspections the regime will be given advance warnings and “consultations” and other courtesies, no procedures are outlined to deal with violations that might somehow be discovered, there is no requirement that the regime halt its support of the Hezbollah terror group or turn over the countless other terrorists under their protection who have struck everywhere from Buenos Aires to Washington, D.C., and it even frees up $150 billion dollars worth of previously frozen assets with another $50 billion of the American taxpayer’s money thrown in as a signing bonus, all of which they can now spend on missiles and other sophisticated weaponry as well as low-tech terrorism because the deal also does away with a longstanding arms embargo. In return, the apocalyptic suicide cult has promised the Great Satan that it won’t acquire any nuclear bombs for at least 10 years, and they seem quite pleased with the bargain.
That’s good enough for the president, who is staking his historical reputation on Iran’s mad mullahs at long last keeping a promise, but the Israelis and the Sunni Arabs are within closer range of those ballistic missiles and have even more at stake, and they’re not at all reassured by the deal. Perhaps that’s also because they’re more familiar than the Madrassa-educated president with such Islamic concepts as hudna, meaning a tactical retreat disguised as a peace agreement, and taqqiya, a Koranic loophole that countenances lies told in the furtherance of Islam, and they don’t have the modern left’s peculiar notion that the only religious fanaticism afoot in the world is some Baptist confectioners who don’t care to bake a gay wedding cake, and they’ve not been able to avoid noticing Iran’s decades-old bellicosity. Even if the mad mullahs conclude that armageddon can wait another 10 years they’ll be just as troublesome in the meantime, and not only does the deal do nothing about it gives them more money and international legitimacy to keep doing blowing up Jewish centers in South America and plant roadside bombs in Afghanistan and lob rockets into Israeli schoolyards and prop up equally troublesome regimes fund those fervent rallies where everyone chants “Death to America.” The administration would have us believe that we can take the Iranian regime as its word when they sign the deal, but not when they’re leading those chants. One can argue that the sanctions never stopped them, but at least such global troublemaking wasn’t being subsidized and excused.
Nothing we’ve read satisfactorily explains why the deal isn’t subject to the Constitution’s requirement of ratification by two-thirds of the Senate, a threshold it would never meet, but everything we’ve read suggests that the best Congress can do is pass a resolution of disapproval that would surely be vetoed and require two-thirds of both chambers to override, another threshold that cannot be met. Any vote that expresses disapproval of the deal will be welcome, however, no matter how futile, because the Iranian regime should at least know that the country isn’t so gullible as its president, nor as willing to assist their rise to regional hegemony. If the deal isn’t a treaty according to the legal definition that would require the Senate’s ratification it’s just a deal, and a resounding vote of disapproval would emphasize that it’s the president’s deal and not the country’s, and just maybe that will help some more clear-eyed president to someday resist rather than facilitate Iran’s insane ambitions. We hope it’s soon, and not too late, as the present policy is awful.

— Bud Norman