Saturday, July 30, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 2

Almost immediately after Gerald Ford took office, he gave Richard Nixon a full pardon. My understanding is it was to put the incident to rest so the US could move forward. Many did not like this at all. The media portrayed President Ford as a bumbling oaf even though he’d been a star football player at Michigan who could have played in the NFL. Chevy Chase portrayed him to comedic effect on a new show called Saturday Night Live. I remember also the Swine Flu debacle. Several people ended up with a strain of the flu called the Swine Flu. The government hurriedly rushed out a vaccine (I remember a picture of a smiling President Ford being vaccinated). Multiple people died after receiving it and it was just as quickly pulled back. I remember going to my pediatrician to get one and being told it had been pulled back.

As the year of our bicentennial arrived in 1976, the presidential primaries came along. President Ford withstood a stiff challenge from the former governor of California – Ronald Reagan. Several candidates jockeyed for the Democratic nomination. An unknown guy who’d been a peanut farmer and the governor of Georgia emerged as the candidate – Jimmy Carter. He campaigned as being a Washington outsider and beat out a host of other more well-known Democrats such as Jerry Brown, Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Mo Udall. He took a huge lead in the polls as the start over Ford. The race began to tighten as the months went on. Carter made a major gaffe when he admitted in a Playboy interview that he had “looked on a lot of women with lust” admitting he’d “committed adultery in his heart many times” (Matthew 5:28). By the time the election arrived, the election polls showed a very close race.

I remember my mom taking us to the Republican campaign headquarters to pick up bumper stickers, signs and brochures for President Ford. I also remember this ad he started running. Election day came and I remember staying glued to the TV as the results came in. Jimmy Carter carried just about every southern state (including Kentucky and the last time to date a Democratic would win it - Texas). Ford began to pick up other states including states like Illinois and Michigan. Ford took California to tighten the Electoral Vote count. When I finally went to bed, the race still wasn’t decided. Finally, early that morning, Carter went over the required number of Electoral votes to win. Ford actually won more states, but Carter won the Popular Vote and Electoral Vote. As you’d expect, I was pretty disappointed.

How did Ford lose? One, many people did not approve of the pardon he’d given Richard Nixon. Two, his choice of vice president was Bob Dole (who we’ll hear from again later) who wasn’t the best in my mind. My thought was if he’d chosen a VP candidate from the south, he’d have broken up the “Solid South” that helped propel Carter to victory.

President Carter started his term with an executive order declaring amnesty for Vietnam War draft evaders. As his term went on, more and more problems arose. I’ve talked for a while now, so I’ll talk about that and my previously promised discussion of the 1980 Presidential Election, who I voted for and why in my next post.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 1

Now that we pretty much officially have our candidates for president and we’re set for several months of rhetoric on all sides, I ‘ve started thinking about the presidential elections and campaigns I’ve lived though. This will be the fourteenth. I thought it might be interesting (or it might not) to share my memories and how they line up with what history actually says about what went on.

The first one was in 1964. I was a little shy of my third birthday, so I remember nothing of LBJ blowing out Barry Goldwater. The first campaign I remember anything about at all is 1968. I was in the 2nd grade at Freemont Elementary. What I can remember is kids talking about who their parents voted for. I remember a lot of kids saying their parents voted for somebody named George Wallace. He was a third party candidate (and governor of Alabama) that year who had broken ranks with Democrats He was the last third party candidate to win a state’s electoral votes – he actually won five states (Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana). Richard Nixon still ended up winning enough electoral votes to beat out Vice President Hubert Humphrey and beaome president. I have read since about President Johnson deciding not to run (he could have since he served less than two years of John Kennedy’s term after his assassination). I have no remembrance of Robert Kennedy’s assassination during the 1968 Democratic primaries. Had he been the nominee, things could have turned out totally differently. What I initially remember about Richard Nixon after his election is his going to China and re-initiating foreign relations with them.

What little I remember about the 1972 presidential election was that George Wallace campaigned again and was shot. He lived but was in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. George McGovern won the Democratic primary and Richard Nixon won over him in a landslide. This is what made the uncovering of the Watergate scandal soon after so bizarre. I still don’t understand why there was a need to spy on the Democrats. I remember the Watergate hearings running seemingly forever and interrupting all the game shows I liked to watch during the day. Nixon’s VP Spiro Agnew resigned over things he’d done while governor of Maryland and Gerald Ford was the first replacement VP ever chosen (which would become important later). It turned out Nixon had taped a lot of his meetings and there was a huge battle to get a hold of those tapes. I actually read the transcripts of those tapes in a book later. They were pretty boring - the thing I remember most was how many times "Expletive Deleted" was in there. The Supreme Court finally ruled the tapes had to be turned over. Soon after, Richard Nixon did what many thought a US President would never do. He resigned the presidency. I remember that day. A bunch of us were playing outside and Troy Wurth’s (Troy Bean as we called him) mom made him come in to watch Nixon resign and leave the White House because it was so historic. Gerald Ford ended up giving Nixon a full pardon – a move which would play out in the upcoming presidential election.

That’s enough for now. If I haven’t totally lost your interest, my next post will be about the 1976 election – the first one I took a real interest in. I’ll also discuss the 1980 election. It was the first one I ever voted in and you’ll find who I voted for and why.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pokemon Go...

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past two weeks, you’ve no doubt heard of Pokemon Go. It’s an app for a smartphone which (from what I’ve read) is the most downloaded game ever. Opinions range from “one of the greatest things ever” to “one of the stupidest things ever”. Pokemon reminds me of when my sons were young. They enthusiastically collected Pokemon cards, watched the TV show and even went to several movies. I remember them waiting anxiously for Tuesday when Wal-Mart got their latest shipment of cards and us going there to spend their allowance on packs of cards. I remember how excited they were to get a powerful Pokemon (Pocket Monster) and especially a “holo” (card with holographic background). Like most everything else though, they faded away and something more popular replaced them. Now with the introduction of this app, Pokemon are popular again.

We had gone for a visit to Wisconsin to see Josh. He had downloaded the app. It sounded intriguing so I downloaded the app and started playing it myself. I’ll give you my thoughts on the app. This isn’t any sort of all-inclusive description at all nor do I have much more knowledge than I had back then of how this all works.

There are several parts to the game. First, the game supports augmented reality. You can have the app use your camera to make the Pokemon appear to be actually located in the area you are viewing. I will tell you I turned that off pretty quickly and I see more of a generic background – it still uses your phone’s GPS and shows streets and such. As you move around, you are alerted to the presence of a Pokemon. You then click on it and you are then able to throw Pokeballs at it to try and catch the Pokemon. You can gain experience points doing this (along with other things) to raise the level of your character. There also places called PokeStops. They are generally located around landmarks of various types. You can visit these to gather up items you need – such as Pokeballs. There are also PokeGyms. These seem to be located at large public gathering areas. The most common place I’ve seen these are at religious gathering places. Once you reach level five, you can go to a gym to either fight other Pokemon or defend the gym. This depends on what color team you join. A big part of the game is you have to spend a lot of time walking around to get to/do these things. You cannot just drive past them to do them. You also collect eggs which you can hatch in an incubator. Hatching is done by walking a certain number of kilometers (2,5 or 10). Driving will not do this, it must be walking.

We had a lot of fun just walking around trying to do all these things. On the way from Josh’s apartment to where I get my morning donuts, I managed to catch several Pokemon plus there were multiple PokeStops to replenish my supplies. The company where Josh works was rich in Pokemon, PokeStops and gyms since it’s a large spread out campus. We went to downtown Madison one night to look around and had our phones out doing this (along with a ton of other people). I’m not super good at the game, but I’ve gotten better and caught all sorts of Pokemon. Josh and I even took over a gym for a bit (by the Verona Library) and I had to text Jonathan and Cheyenne and show them what we’d done.

I’ve heard a lot of disparaging things about the game. No doubt some people are thinking “what on earth is an old guy like you wasting time on this”. It’s fun to play. While Josh and I were walking around on a “PokeWalk”, we spent a lot of time talking about all sorts of things. We did extra walking playing the game (Several extra miles a day) so the game can help you get additional exercise. You end up seeing things you didn’t even realize were in an area when you go to a Pokestop, It’s social, which is a big thing among young people. When we stopped for cookies in downtown Madison, a young man saw me playing the game and started excitedly talking to me (he was shocked to see an old guy playing the game I’d guess). The big thing is something I discovered after listening to a radio story about it and talking to Josh (and which I alluded to earlier). It reminds young people of when they were kids and the only thing they really worried about was trying to "Catch ‘em all!”. I think most of us can identify with the feeling of looking back with nostalgia to our youth and remembering simpler times.

My final thoughts are these. It’s a fun game. It’s like most any earthly pursuit though. In moderation, it’s fine (presuming of course it’s legal, moral, and not against the teachings of the Bible) . If you spend too much time playing it to the exclusion of important things in your life (God, Christianity, family, friends), that’s a problem.