1968 Olympic Scandal: the Black Power Salute

I just happened to notice that at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, where the three American athletes gave the black power salute as they stood on the podiums after receiving medals, the Mexican government had killed between 200 and 300 students in the weeks leading up to the games. These students were protesting against the dictatorial policies of the one-party Mexican state. The CIA had reported to the U.S. government that the students had agreed to refrain from protesting during the Olympics. The Mexican government didn’t feel like waiting to find out. They didn’t want an embarrassment.

The Olympics loves to claim that they are “apolitical” and most rational people have realized long ago that that claim is utter bullshit: the Olympics are the expression of the hosting regime’s legitimacy and stature.  Officials from governments of all participating countries glory in the success of their athletes.  Audiences everywhere are only interested in events in which someone from their country has a shot at winning.  Sports that favor a particular country (women’s soccer, for example, basketball) are included while other sports (buzkashi, for example) are not.  It is absolutely saturated with politics.

Okay. Kill 200 – 300 students– no problem. The Americans were delighted to honor the Mexican government by participating.

Raise your fist, as if you don’t believe in America the wonderful, the blessed, the just?

It was Avery Brundage, the American president of the IOC, who insisted they be banned from the Olympic Village.  (They did not, contrary to popular myth, have to return their medals.)  Avery Brundage– who had no objection to the Nazi salute at the 1936 games in Berlin.  I am not kidding.  Brundage was a known Nazi sympathizer up U.S. entry into the war.

The U.S. Olympic Committee– to their credit– refused to ban them from the Olympic village until Avery Brundage threatened to ban the entire U.S. track team.

It’s scandalous. It’s absolutely scandalous. And don’t forget that the people who made that judgment– who decided that the Olympics should go on even if the Mexican government murders hundreds of students and even if the the Mexican government was a one-party dictatorship– and then decided that the these three black athletes should be escorted out of the Olympic village– these people were part of that large, large group of gratuitous sycophants and parasites called “the Olympic Delegation” and your tax dollars help pay for their hotels and champagne.

And they really should add Buzkashi to the roster.

[Yes, I know– in the U.S., most money for the Olympic teams is raised privately. But that’s not total cost of maintaining and supporting a national Olympic team. There are stadiums and universities. And because the donations to the Olympic teams is tax deductible– aren’t they?– you really are subsidizing them. ]

Update on Danien Echols

My original post on Damien Echols is here.

Even in a country as brutally committed to the death penalty as the United States, the process can be long and arduous. Echols is still on death row. And there is some movement: a judge has just granted a joint request by the defense and prosecution to have samples of skin, hair, and other tissue from the victims and from under the victims’ finger-nails tested for DNA.

This could be very interesting. And it’s refreshing to see the prosecution join in the motion– if they were right in targeting Echols in the first place, they should have nothing to fear.

On the other hand, if the DNA of those skin samples belongs to someone else…. expect the Attorney-General of Arkansas to continue to stonewall. [2011-03: they did, in fact, belong to someone else.]

How often do you like to admit that you were wrong and may be responsible for destroying three innocent lives? Or that you screwed up and didn’t do your job? Or that you are an ass?


Suppose you were unhappy. Suppose you had a doctor’s appointment for your annual check-up and while you were sitting there half-naked on an examining table, you said, “I just feel kind of down lately.”

I’m feeling kind of blue lately.

Life just seems to suck lately.

I’m not very happy.

We can’t have that, can we? We can’t have people going around not being happy. It cannot be allowed or accepted. It is not normal. It is untenable. It is unsustainable.

We cannot say, “Yeah? Life does suck sometimes.” No, we cannot.

We say that little qualifier– “sometimes” because we can’t bear to say, “life sucks”.

Life sucks, and then you die.

So if you aren’t happy, we will prescribe you a drug. Why? Because that is best solution to the problem of life? No.

To make life good, we would have to find someone to love you, make you rich, make you safe and healthy, and make our cities livable.

That would be too hard to do. So we will zoloft you. We will prozac or paxil you instead.

There really is no clearer indication of just how pagan our society has become. It doesn’t matter what you think is going to happen after this life is over. None of us, Christian or non-Christian, is going to accept a life in this world that is not happy.

Spinning Mother Theresa

Can you count the number of times you have heard the name of Mother Theresa given in conversation as a veritable paragon of virtue and holiness and kindness? Stuff it.

I was fooled. I remember the first articles I read about this devout, holy, self-sacrificing woman living in the worst slums of the poorest city (Calcutta) in the world offering only kindness and care and love to the lowliest outcasts, the vulnerable, the helpless. Malcolm Muggeridge, Christendom’s most pompous twit before he passed on, groveled before her with all the enthusiasm those who think their groveling will be taken for virtue can muster.

I even remember a SCTV skit in which a loud, bombastic “Lola Heatherton” (Catherine O’Hara) interviewed Mother Theresa and sang her Broadway Tunes. SCTV confined the parody to Heatherton– Mother Theresa was depicted (by Andrea Martin) with reverence. The point was that Mother Theresa was so holy that not even SCTV dared impugn her sanctified honor.

And then I stumbled into a crazy article somewhere– I can’t remember what magazine it was — that described how Mother Theresa inspected a home that had been donated to her order, for her novitiates, and I remember how she sternly ordered the hot water tank removed, and the mattresses and beds (they can sleep on the floor), and anything else that might make it a pleasant place to live.

I think the article was generally favorable to her and meant to celebrate her purity and austerity. I remember thinking a lot about it. What’s wrong with making a sacrifice, if it helps the poor? But getting rid of the hot water and the mattresses didn’t help the poor. It simply spread the suffering around. It was as if the point was not to alleviate suffering, but to increase it, out of some twisted sense of masochistic self-sanctification. A few years later, she was quoted as saying that the suffering the poor was “beautiful”. Not beautiful enough for herself, however. When she became ill, she checked into a nice, western hospital and received the best care available.

That bears repeating. While raising millions of dollars to preach to people who are dying and while making no effort to provide them with any kind of medical care, because, she says, their suffering is “beautiful”– she herself has accepted some of the finest medical care available from clinics in California.

Later on, I read more about Mother Theresa, and grew more and more disturbed by what I read. While she was receiving tens of millions of dollars in donations from thousands of benefactors around the world– and the Nobel Peace Prize– she was also appearing in public with Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvalier, to defend his regime against charges of corruption, and with Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha. And of course, as an unrepentant traditionalist, Mother Theresa fought fanatically against the very idea of any form of birth control.

Ironically, she was embraced by some in the Christian right in America, including Ralph Reed, as representative of “family values”– as if she had never taken a vow of chastity. And as if Ralph Reed, and Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell, had anything but contempt for Catholicism. She was politically useful to them.

According to Hitchens, after intervening in the referendum in Ireland to allow divorce, (she was opposed), she told the Ladies Home Journal that she was glad her friend, Princess Diana, was getting a divorce because she will be happier. Clearly, there is one set of rules for the poor….

What kicked it for me, though, was when I realized that what she was actually doing in the slums of Calcutta was not “helping”. She provided some comfort, yes, to the dying, but she did almost nothing to alleviate suffering or to make people’s lives better when she clearly could have. In fact, she actively opposed efforts to provide the poor with medical care and food, because, she said, it did not further the advancement of Catholicism. It merely distracted people from the real issue, which was, saving souls.

That’s not the gospel.

All of the Health Care we can Afford

A nurse recently told me that we could no longer afford our current health care system. I was just starting to think about her point when we were sidetracked by other people and other conversations. I wanted to ask her, though, what exactly she thought the solution was. She’s a nurse. She sees first-hand the health care system in action.

Our health care system here in Ontario, and in Canada, is a publicly-funded, universal, regulated system. Every citizen of Canada is covered, automatically, for all necessary health care, except for prescriptions, and experimental or unapproved treatments. That part is great. You get sick, you go to your doctor and she recommends treatments and books you into the hospital and, if you’re lucky, you get cured and get home. All without having to reach for anything in your wallet except your OHIP card.

For certain procedures, like MRI scans, you might have to wait a few weeks or months, because the system is a little over-loaded.

Some people really hype the issue of waiting periods. I personally feel we should be concerned about them, and we should try to do better, but in most cases people do receive decent treatment on time. I believe the advantages of our publicly funded system far outweigh the disadvantages of the U.S. system, which is more efficient– if you have money– but leaves about 50 million people with no coverage at all.  And by efficient, I mean quick– not cheap.  The American system is the most expensive system on earth.

For one thing, it seems logical that people who visit doctors regularly (because it’s free) will be healthier than people who don’t, and therefore, less costly over-all to the system. Pre-natal care in the U.S. is ridiculously inadequate for a “developed” country. They pay sooner or later, with the higher costs of premature births and complications.

But in the U.S., you wouldn’t have to wait for certain treatments. You could have your hip-replacement or MRI or triple-bypass immediately.

But if you got cancer, for example, your private insurance company could discontinue your coverage and you could be forced to sell your car and your home and then declare personal bankruptcy. That might sound like a harshly exaggerated scenario, but, in fact, it’s not. The largest cause of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. is catastrophic health problems. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s not.

I thought about the comment, “we can no longer afford our health care system”. What exactly is the alternative?

Think about it. Our system is expensive, and it has it’s shortcomings. But right now it provides decent care for the vast majority of people. We absolutely can afford it because right now we absolutely are affording it, and paying for it. It works.

What my friend meant was that costs are escalating so much that soon we will not have enough money to pay for all the treatments available for all the possible diseases or injuries we could ever have.

So think about this: when you get really old and your organs start failing you and your hips need replacements and your eyes are filled with cataracts and your bones are brittle and you can’t process food and you need dialysis and a respirator, and so on and so on, and nobody but nobody has the courage to “pull the plug” and we decide to keep you alive forever– then yes, it’s going to get very, very expensive. I recommend the movie “Coma” for an interesting discussion of the issue.

It is possible to spend an infinite amount of money on health care.

A very large percentage of the U.S. health care dollar is spent on people who are in the last few months of their lives. I forget the portion– was it 30%?

I think she’s right in this sense. We will have to learn, as a society, that there is a time to let go. And so far, in the entire world, it appears that the Dutch are the only people to have faced this problem squarely.

At it’s heart, our system relies on a very simple concept. Most health care problems are the result of chance or accident or diseases over which we have little control. As citizens, we band together and pool our resources and agree that if any of us becomes seriously ill, we will all contribute to the costs of making him or her better.

Since the total cost of providing health care for everyone is theoretically the same no matter how the system is paid for, the Canadian system makes a lot of sense. It makes even more sense when you realize that the government has a lot more control over costs in the Canadian system, because it can regulate doctors’ fees, and it can choose to not fund treatments that have no proven medical benefits.  The truth is, it is more efficient anyway.

The only obvious alternative– if we really can’t “afford” our system, is to drop people off the map. In other words, poor people will no longer receive health care. That has a cheeky kind of appeal to some people, but it’s never going to happen.

Or…. or you start charging people who can afford it for the health care they receive. But since these are the same people that would pay most of the taxes for a publicly funded system, I fail to see how that changes anything– except this: if you are reasonably well-to-do and you get cancer and require very expensive treatments, you are going to be impoverished. If you are really poor, you will probably be covered by some government plan.

And if you are really rich, you will be able to afford extended private insurance coverage.

But if you are in the middle, you will be screwed.