Losing on purpose at the Olympics

Badminton players from China, South Korea, and Indonesia, were expelled from the Olympics for intentionally losing–they just hit the birdie into the net over and over–so that they would draw easier opponents and avoid competing against another national team in the tournament:

Eight badminton players at the London Olympics were kicked out of competition Wednesday for trying to lose — a display that drew outrage from fans and organizers who said the women had violated the most sacred stage in sports.

After an unexpected loss by a powerful Chinese doubles team, the eight women appeared to play poorly on purpose to secure a more favorable position in the next phase of the event.

The feeble play was obvious to fans who attended the matches Tuesday night at Wembley Arena — they chanted, “Off! Off! Off!” — and to incredulous television broadcasters and viewers watching around the world.

“They’re serving fault and fault! They are just hitting the ball into the net!” the BBC’s David Mercer said in disbelief. “They are both trying to lose, and that is unforgivable. This is the Olympic Games.”

The eight doubles players from China, South Korea and Indonesia were cited by the Badminton World Federation for “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”

[+] EnlargeBadminton

AP Photo/Andres LeightonReferee Torsten Berg, second from right, talks to South Korean coach Sung Han-kook, right, after Berg issued a black card to the players in the women’s doubles match between South Korea and Indonesia.

The players are world doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents, Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na, along with South Korea’s Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung and Indonesia’s Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii. They were disqualified from competition but allowed to stay at the Games — a step lighter than expulsion, the penalty for positive drug tests.

“We have to be clear: There has been a problem here and we have to take that problem very seriously,” BWF secretary general Thomas Lund said. “There are things we can improve on and look at after this competition.”

Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the main cause of the problem. The round-robin format can allow results to be manipulated to earn an easier matchup in the knockout round.

The Chinese players tried to rig the draw after China’s second-seeded pair unexpectedly lost to a Danish team in the morning. That placed the No. 2 pair on course for a semifinal meeting with Wang and Yu, instead of the final.

Wang and Yu then deliberately set out to lose so they would go into the bottom half of the draw. They hardly exerted themselves, and neither did the South Koreans, drawing jeers of derision from the crowd and warnings from the umpire and tournament referee Torsten Berg. Wang and Yu eventually got what they wanted by losing.

After the match, Yu said his team was only trying to save energy for the knockout rounds, which start Wednesday.

Later, Yu said he was quitting the sport.

A comment on a verified account for Yu on the Tencent microblogging service late Wednesday read: “This is my last game. Farewell Badminton World Federation. Farewell my dear badminton.”

An hour later, the South Korean team of Ha and Kim took to the court and decided also to try to lose to the Indonesians to avoid meeting Wang and Yu in the quarterfinals. Early on, all four players were warned by the umpire for not trying hard, and Berg returned and produced black cards to disqualify both pairs, but the cards were rescinded on a promise of better play.

In the third game, Berg reappeared to urge them to finish, and the Indonesians ended up being better at losing than Ha and Kim, who fell into the playoff they didn’t want with the world champions.

South Korea and Indonesia appealed the disqualification, but the BWF rejected the South Korean appeal and Indonesia’s challenge was withdrawn. China had accepted the federation’s earlier decision.

via 2012 London Olympics — Eight badminton players disqualified for trying to lose matches – ESPN.

Sunday’s landing on Mars

Remember those spunky little rovers that were landed on Mars, sending back pictures of the Red Planet for years on end?  Well, another rover is scheduled to touch down on Mars this Sunday, August 6.

It’s the size of an SUV, with massive digging arms, lasers, and automated laboratories that may settle the question of Martian life once and for all.  The plan is for this 2000 pound vehicle, named “Curiosity,” to be dropped inside a Martian crater that appears to have once held water.  The difficulty of this landing, requiring pin-point precision of all systems, is being described as “seven minutes of terror” for the NASA team trying to pull this off.

If it works, we will greatly expand our knowledge of Mars.  And have some sublime photos of another world.

With Mars mission and rover Curiosity, NASA hunts building blocks of life – The Washington Post.

Why Divorce Calls Children’s Existence into Question

Andrew Root, a professor at Luther Seminary, has a moving and illuminating article in Christianity Today.  A sample:

Just months before my own wedding, I sat with my mom in the living room of the home I had grown up in, as she explained that divorce was the next exit on the highway of our family’s history. It had been several weeks since she had told me that her and my father’s marriage was in serious trouble. Now, she told me more: They had gotten married way too young, noting that if she could do it all over again, she would have chosen another route for her life, someone other than my father to share life with. . . .

I existed only because my mother and father had become one, creating me out of the abundance of their covenant community. Now, standing amid the debris and shock of the collision that ended their marriage, all this felt up for grabs. If I was through their union, who could I be in their division? If I was because of their coming together, who would I be if they nullified the community that gave me life? Could I be at all? . . .

I offer all this philosophical musing to underscore why divorce—which affects about 40 percent of Americans under age 21 today—is so devastating for young people. Our society assumes in conversation about divorce that the real issues are ones of knowledge and advantage. Popular psychologists and TV talk-show doctors tell us that divorce need not be a big deal as long as children know it’s “not their fault.” Such youth just need to know that Mommy and Daddy are voiding their union for their own reasons, ones that have nothing to do with them.

Further, our university-based number counters tell us that divorce should be prevented because it quickly takes away economic and social capital, so young people need structures and programs to keep them from losing their economic advantages.

God, himself in triune relationship, spoke creation out of nothingness for the sake of relationship. In the same way, in his or her beginning, every child is meant to be welcomed into the beauty of existence through the embrace of mother and father.

I don’t wish to diminish the psychological and economic impact of divorce. But if we truly are relational beings, then divorce is centrally an issue not of psychology nor of economics but of ontology—an issue of our very being. It therefore feels a little like being erased, like losing our being in the deep divide that separates our divorcing parents.

When a young person is informed of her parents’ divorce, it might be that her deepest questions are about her being: How can I be at all now that Mom and Dad aren’t together? Now that they are two, she is unavoidably divided. She has one room at Mom’s and another at Dad’s, one schedule at Dad’s and another at Mom’s. As philosopher Martin Heidegger said, we have our being in our practical way of living, in our actions. And now post-divorce, because this young person’s action and living is divided, so too is her very being. Her parents are seeking to reverse, to go back, to be as if the two never became one. But she can’t do this because she belongs (in the very material of her person that acts with and for them) to both of them.

via Why Divorce Calls Children’s Existence into Question | Christianity Today.

Prof. Root goes on to say how the Church can minister to those who have been put through this crisis of existence.   He has written a book on the whole subject: Children of Divorce, The: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being (Youth, Family, and Culture)

Mitt Romney’s Olympic event

Mitt Romney not only organized the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, he has a horse in this year’s game.  He and his wife are part owners of a horse that will compete in the dressage competition.   Comedians, satirists, and Democrats in general are having a field day with this, calling it “ballet for horses” and an example of the effete decadence of  very wealthy people like the Romneys.  For example, this from a snarky column by Dana Milbank:

Rafalca, a 15-year-old Oldenburg mare owned in part by the Romneys, qualified as a member of the U.S. Olympic team and will compete in London in the dressage competition — a form of ballet for horses and their riders in which the animals do pirouettes and serpentines. They also do piaffes, which, according to the International Equestrian Federation, is a “highly collected, cadenced, elevated diagonal movement” in which “the haunches with active hocks are well engaged.” Rafalca, after qualifying, flew across the Atlantic on a FedEx jet (no, they didn’t strap her to the roof) and reportedly dined on an in-flight meal of watermelon.

Understandably, Romney was wary about discussing dressage when NBC’s Brian Williams asked him in London on Wednesday about his equine Olympian. “You actually have a horse in the race. What’s that gonna be like?”

“Well,” Romney replied. “It’s — a big — exciting experience for my wife and — and for the person that she’s worked with, the trainer of the horse who’s riding the horse. And — obviously, it’s fun to be part of the Olympics in any way you can be part of them.”

Williams followed up: “When is the event, and for those of us who don’t follow the sport, what happens? Are there rounds that — of competition? Is there just one chance? What happens?”

Romney pleaded ignorance. “I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport. I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not — be — watching — the event. I hope — her horse does well.”

It was arguably Romney’s worst interview since Chris Wallace asked him about Seamus. The flustered candidate went on to disparage the British preparation for the Olympics, setting off an international incident.

It’s understandable that Romney would be reluctant to discuss dressage. Seamus may have made him look odd, or insensitive. Rafalca makes him look like a super-rich playboy.

John Kerry was made to look effete in 2004 by Republican mockery of his windsurfing, his Turnbull & Asser shirts and his French fluency. Now Democrats have a chance to do something similar to Romney, with his Swiss bank account, his Grand Cayman and Bermuda tax havens, his multiple homes, his $10,000 bet, his friends who own NASCAR teams, and now the six-figure horses his wife imports from Europe. Nothing says “man of the people” quite like horse ballet.

Ann Romney takes umbrage at the criticism, saying that dressage has helped with her multiple sclerosis. That was enough to get the Democratic National Committee to back away from a video campaign showing Rafalca spliced with Mitt Romney “dancing around” questions about his tax returns.

While it’s heartening that Ann Romney has been helped by the horses, most MS sufferers don’t have the luxury of importing $100,000 horses from Europe. And the candidate’s disavowal of dressage as “Ann’s sport” isn’t quite right.

In an interview with the Web site Chronicle of the Horse, Rafalca’s trainer, Jan Ebeling, said Mitt Romney selected the music for the horse’s routine at an international competition; Ebeling, in another interview, said the former Massachusetts governor, inspired by his wife, “really enjoys the horses.” Romney joined his wife at an Olympic qualifying dressage event in April 2008, and the couple declared a $77,731 loss on their 2010 tax returns for their share of Rafalca’s care.

via Dana Milbank: Prancing around dressage – The Washington Post.

Very funny, I admit.  But there is nothing wrong with the Romneys owning this horse!  Gymnastic floor exercises to music are very difficult.  Imagine getting a horse to do that.  Actually, dressage is described as gymnastics for horses.  And it isn’t effete. The word means “training,” and the sport grew directly out of the different moves,  motions, and maneuvers that cavalrymen taught their mounts.  Like other sports and other human endeavors, if you don’t know anything about it, it may seem silly, but the more you know about it, the more you can appreciate it.  Here is a good explanation.

I hope Rafalca, her rider, and her owners win a gold medal!  The dressage competition begins today.

Here is a video of the Romney’s horse and her rider Jan Ebeling:

The Glass-Steagall myth

According to the left, the financial crisis was caused in large measure by the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, making it possible for local commercial banks to make risky investments.  Business & economics columnist Steven Pearlstein–who is himself a liberal–busts that myth:

I was watching “The Newsroom” last week, the latest hit show by the producer and screenwriter, when the brainy-but-beautiful economics correspondent for the fictional cable news network was explaining to her gutsy-but-impulsive executive producer how the world’s financial system recently came to the brink of collapse.

“So after the Great Depression, Congress wanted to put a firewall between the [banks and the] investment banks. They wanted to make sure that Wall Street could melt to the ground and the commercial banks wouldn’t be touched. They passed a law, the Glass-Steagall Act. Now you could be Gordon Gekko [tycoon in the movie “Wall Street] or George Bailey [small-town banker in the movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”], but you couldn’t be both.”

Then, explains the brainy-but-beautiful correspondent, Ronald Reagan launched a two-decade push toward deregulation, which culminates in the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999. Suddenly, Gordon Gekko could make risky bets with George Bailey’s deposits, and the rest, as they say, is history.

It was vintage Sorkin: eloquent, fast-paced dialogue that perfectly channels the liberal political/cultural zeitgeist, transforming what appears to be a complex story into a simple morality play.

The only thing is, it’s not true — not even close. Yet it has been repeated so many times — on PBS and NPR, in the liberal blogosphere, on very-serious Op-Ed pages, in an Oscar-winning documentary — that whenever I give a talk to a group of college students about the financial crisis, the first question predictably is, “Yeah, isn’t it all really about the repeal of Glass-Steagall.”

But why let facts get in the way of a good screenplay?

Facts such as that Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch — three institutions at the heart of the crisis — were pure investment banks that had never crossed the old line into commercial banking. The same goes for Goldman Sachs, another favorite villain of the left.

The infamous AIG? An insurance firm. New Century Financial? A real estate investment trust. No Glass-Steagall there.

Two of the biggest banks that went under, Wachovia and Washington Mutual, got into trouble the old-fashioned way – largely by making risky loans to homeowners. Bank of America nearly met the same fate, not because it had bought an investment bank but because it had bought Countrywide Financial, a vanilla-variety mortgage lender.

Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo — two large banks with big investment banking arms — resisted taking government capital and arguably could have weathered the crisis without it.

Did U.S. investment banks create a shadow banking system and derivatives market outside the normal regulatory framework that encouraged sloppy lending and created what turned out to be toxic securities? You betcha.

And did regular banks make some of those bad loans and buy up some of those toxic securities? Yes, they did.

But that was as much a problem at the banks and investment banks that combined as those that remained independent. More significantly, the bulk of the money that flowed through the shadow banking system didn’t come from government-insured bank deposits. It came from money market funds, hedge funds, pension funds, insurance companies, foreign banks and foreign central banks.

via Steven Pearlstein: Shattering the Glass-Steagall myth – The Washington Post.

Eat mor chikin day

Today, August 1, has been proclaimed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” by those who support the chicken sandwich company’s CEO who is catching flak for opposing gay marriage.  Americans are being urged to show up at one of their stores and simply buy a sandwich.  I suspect the company will have huge sales today.

Then again, pro-gay-marriage protesters are promising to show up too.  Some are saying they will just order water, so as to make workers busy without buying anything.  Gays are calling for a kiss-in at Chick-fil-A outlets on August 3.

See  Chick-fil-A braces for protests, same-sex ‘kiss-in’ | The Lookout – Yahoo! News.

So what do you think about this?  Will you eat “chikin” (as the cows in the company’s advertising campaign put it)?  Or, if you support gay marriage, will you boycott the company?  If you oppose gay marriage, will you eat chicken sandwiches for the principle of the thing?

It seems to me that those who want to boycott Chick-fil-A because of the CEO’s beliefs and are otherwise making a big deal of this may be opening a can of worms.  The issue of gay marriage is not nearly as settled as our cultural elites think it is.  If those who oppose gay marriage were to follow suit by refusing to patronize companies that support gay causes, it would probably have a bigger impact.

Do you think the political, moral, or religious beliefs of a company’s owners or leaders should be taken into account when consumers make their purchasing decisions?  If the company’s philanthropy goes to support a particular cause, doesn’t that mean that people who buy the product might be giving money to something they don’t believe in?


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