Blog Archives

Tom Coburn on Politics

Senator Tom Coburn on the DC Racket

Bill Gates on Washington

Bill Gates on Washington

Ted Cruz on Hope

Ted Cruz on Hope

Jay Leno on Epiphany in the District of Calamity

Jay Leno on the Epiphany in DC

Some of Hillary Clinton on Smart Power

Former First Lady, New York Senator and the Obama Administration’s first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only attracted a small crowd when she spoke at Gaston Hall in Georgetown University.
Much of the press focused on the empty seats.  Clinton staffers blamed the meager crowd on finals. Politicos pointed to poor staff preparation for having their principal speak before an optically empty house.  But this is not the first time which Hillary has been unable to fill the seats, as demonstrated by her rally in October 2014 at the University of Maryland, College Park.
So it seems that both Hillary’s supporters and detractors should shift away from worry about smart politics and concentrate on Hillary’s concept of “smart power”.
Is a theory of smart power just being geopolitically too clever by half when interacting with unconventional diplomatic counterparts?  It is kind of hard to use “smart” power to aim to sing Kumbaya with others who are intractably oathed to obliterate you, as is demonstrated by Hamas’ modus operandi viz-a-viz Israel.

Kevin Durant on MVPs

Kevin Durant, a 26 year old 6’9″ forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, won the 2013-2014 NBA Most Valuable Player award.  What was striking about Durant’s 25 minute speech is what he chose to highlight.  Durant has been top scorer in four of the last five seasons.  But Durant  highlighted how he was molded by his upbringing coming from modest background in PG county (Prince Georges county outside of the District of Calamity) and how Durant appreciated all of the support that he received.
[L] Kevin Durant embraces his Mama at NBA MVP  (photo: AP/Susan Ogroki)

Durant personally recognized all of his teammates in his MVP speech, which recognizes that he could not achieve without the help of others.  But Durant reserved the highest praise for his mother, who he called the “real MVP”. Wanda Pratt, a.k.a. @MamaDurant , expected to be mentioned in her son’s speech but had no idea about the magnitude of the recognition.

This tribute has struck a chord with the public at large a demonstration of humility, an example that single-mothers can make a difference.  The NBA even made a commercial with selected snippets of Durant’s speech

 However, on the second Sunday in May, it is an especially appropriate tribute to mothers.

Adham Talaat May be First Gallaudet Football Player Drafted Into NFL

Adham Talaat,  a 23 year old six foot six inch 275 pound Senior Defensive Lineman from Springfield, Virginia, may be the first Gallaudet University player chosen in the NFL draft.  Gallaudet is a unique institution of higher learning, founded in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln, as it is the only university which serves the deaf and hard of hearing.
Although Talaant is considered severely to profoundly deaf, he can hear when he has his hearing aids on.  However, Talaat usually plays without the hearing aids.  If Talaat is drafted, he will  be one of the few deaf players play in the NFL. 
The road for Talaat being an NFL draft prospect was long and winding. Talaat had been playing youth sports since age six, but he did not start playing football until high school as that is when Riddell released the Revolution helmet which gave space for hearing aids. 
Due to Talaat’s secondary school playing prowess, Talaat was encouraged to go to the University of Massachusetts in 2008, as it had a Division I football program, but he was “gray-shirted”(delayed enrollment) awaiting a scholarship.  Talaat withdrew before completing his spring semester as the coaching changed and Talaat felt isolated on campus.  
Talaat was warned that his withdrawal might have been the end of his football career.  Talaat worked at a Warehouse Club yet he continued with his football oriented conditioning.  Janitors at West Springfield High let Talaat in their gym to continue his training.  What inspired Talaat during this tough time was an internet poem–“I can, I will, I did”.
In deep
sleep, I’m dreaming
I know
exactly where to go.
I see the
quarterback stumble,
I deal that
crushing blow.
I wake myself
at daybreak.
My rival’s
still asleep.
It gives me
the advantage
when both of
us compete
My hands are
shaking crazy.
I long to get
it done.
My mind’s
already focused.
The fight has
now begun.

Six months after leaving Amherst, Talaat was encouraged to talk to Gallaudet Bison head coach Chuck Goldstein.  Talaat felt that Gallaudet was comfortable but the Division III school had less resources and football culture, but Gallaudet was also the first school which introduced the huddle in the 1890s (using hand signals).  But after prayerful consideration, Talaat enrolled in Gallaudett in 2010. By his Junior year, Talaat was a national standout defenseman, while also being an outstanding student athlete.  Talaat graduated in December 2013 with a 3.93 GPA and was a first team academic All American.
Since the start of the year, Talaat has been enrolled in the TEST Parsi Football Academy to prepare for the NFL combine and the draft. Scouts considered Talaat to be a raw talent, as there were many drills for which Talaat had not previously trained. 
While it remains to be where Talaat will be drafted, his drive and attitude ought to be commended.  Talaat does not let his handicap define him. And Talaat’s positive attitude is inspiring. 

h/t: Washington Post
     CBS Sports

US Mint Strike Curved Coin Commemorating Cooperstown

The US Mint will be striking its first curved coin in order to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Following the mandate of PL 112-152 passed by Congress in 2012, this limited edition legal tender is supposed to be produced like the French Mint’s 2009 coins commemorating the Year of Astronomy.

David Everhart

The shape of the coin has the convex side depicting a raised Major League baseball which was designed by US Mint Engraver David Everhart and the convex obverse side will display the winner of a design competition judged by Baseball Hall of Famers Joe Morgan, Brooks Robinson, Ozzie Smith, Don Sutton and Dave Winfield.

Cassie McFarland

Cassie McFarland, a 28 year old artist from San Luis Obispo, California, entered the baseball coin design competition because: “she was fascinated by the notion that America’s coins could reflect the personality and history of its people”.  McFarland’s  “Hand Full of Gold” design beat 177 other contestants by depicting a stylized baseball glove.  McFarland’s glove design complimented the concave shape of the cupped glove.  Two shafts of wheat on the side of the glove unite with the glove stitching to form a circle, depicting national unity and perhaps the importance of our national pastime to American culture.

The San Francisco Mint will produce up to 50,000 $5 gold coins, 400,000 $1 silver coins and 750,000 half-dollar coins. These commemorative coins will be sold at a premium of $35, $10 and $5 respectively, with the proceeds going to benefit the Cooperstown based National Baseball Hall of Fame‘s non-profit operations.  

Numismatics can catch their curve-ball coins starting March 27th. However, due to the baseball theme and the convex curvature of the commemorative coin, it still would have been a bad bet for Broadway Joe to use for the Super Bowl XLVIII ceremonial coin toss

Bye Bye to Brutalist Bunker Church Between the Beltways

One of the world’s ugliest church structures was the Third Church of Christ, Scientist in Washington, DC, just blocks away from the White House.  This octagonal shaped building was designed by Araldo Cossetta, an associate of I.M. Pei, in a brutalist architectural style and was completed in 1971.

Academics often voiced approval of Modernist Architecture like brutalism.  Randall Ott, the dean of architectural design at Catholic University, waxed philosophically:  “Modernism was a fairly austere, fairly confrontational style, and the Third Church is an obvious example of that style.”  But outside of academia, there usually are not warm feelings about austere and confrontational buildings.

La Verne Hill, a woman who worked nearby the brutalist behemoth, opined:  “It’s awful. It looks like they just dumped a bunch of concrete down here and shaped it into a box.” Church members had long long disliked the design of the building.  Longtime church member Darrow Kirkpatrick articulated: We think it says, ‘Stay away.’ Something goes on in here that they don’t want to get outside, which is exactly wrong for all Christianity. We don’t think the architecture conveys taking the Word to the people…  Brutalism is not our religious expression.”

Darrow Kirkpatrick

Membership in the Third Church of Christ, Scientist dropped to 50 members.  But the congregation was stuck with an ugly architectural white elephant.  The brutalist building was not well suited for re-purposing.  It was a 60 foot tall concrete bunker that was hard to heat and harder to cool. There were structural defects in many spots.  And in order to change lightbulbs, a scaffolding needed to be erected in the sanctuary which would cost betweeen $5,000 to $8,000.  These were costs which  the congregation neither had the funds nor the inclination to pay.

Yet in 2007, the DC Historical Preservation Board unanimously voted the Third Church of Christ, Scientist as a Historical Landmark, thereby protecting it from demolition or alteration.  This had the fascinating dynamic of having the government tell a religious group where to worship and how to spend their funds.

Due to the shepherding of former Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty’s Planning Director Harriet Tregoning,  the zealotry of the Historical Planners was overturned.  Tregoning ruled that Cosetta design was an experiment which failed badly.  The city approved of razing the building in May, 2009 citing hardship of maintaining the building and the risk of the demise of the church if the Historical Landmark status continued.

Yet it took until February, 2014 for the District to issue a permit to raze the building.  Little time was lost by Celtic Demolition to start to take down the structure.  And there was much rejoicing among ordinary District denizens.

William Newton, who writes the Blog of the Courier, put it poetically:

The more you are able to study and look at exactly why such hideous
things as the Third Church of Christ Scientist came to be, the more you
will realize why your gut reaction to their readily apparent ugliness is
correct, because these buildings often reflect a wider, even uglier
philosophy about human nature and man’s place in the universe.  Without
knowing exactly why, you can cheer the demolition of this terrible

But it will take up to eight weeks to totally demolish the edifice, as the lower walls are six foot think walls of concrete.  The demolished scraps will be sent for recycling.

For any fans of brutalist architecture in the District of Calamity, they can still admire the F.B.I. Building, the H.U.D. Building, the Department of Energy’s Forrestal Building and the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art.

The property where the brutalist building once stood is slated to become another glass and metal shoebox office building, but it will have an economical space where the congregation can worship.

Aside from aesthetic issues, the battle over the brutalist bunker also brings to a forefront salient issues on religious liberty.  Perhaps the eventual triumph of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist over a government dictating how religious institutions must act might serve as a framework for future judicial decision regarding the H.H.S. Qualified Health Plan (Contraception Mandate) issue.

h/t: NPR

Real Clear Religion

Washington Post

William Newton

Christopher Columbus on Courage

DC Christopher Columbus Union Station