Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tenacity on the Platform

I don't think I've seen a squat as tenacious as Priscilla Ribic's 546lb. world record in 2006. Then I recently saw Tony Cardella squat 826.7 at the 2003 IPF World Championships. (To watch, go here and click on the 125kg squats. Cardella's is 1:50 in.)

It wasn't the heaviest squat of the day for the 275s. Great Britain's Clive Henry squatted 925.9 (starts at 5:06), which had a remarkable context as well. (Henry was on the verge of bombing out, missing his first attempt at 881.8 and second at 925.9.)

But watch Cardella struggle for nearly six seconds to lift the weight, and you will see what tenacity is.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

For a Free Marketplace in Sport

So steroids are in the news again.

This time the spotlight is on 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis, who admitted using steroids and other drugs during the 90s. Champion cyclist Erik Zabel subsequently admitted doping before the 1996 Tour.

Given the colossal rigor of the race, is this really a surprise?

As a powerlifter who competes in a drug-tested federation, steroids aren’t my thing. My health and hairline matter to me, so I pass on the needle.

But here’s the thing that many people don’t seem to grasp:

Athletes use steroids because they work.

If steroids cause organ damage, physical deformities, and behavioral problems, they also cause marked increases in recovery ability, training intensity, and strength. This translates into improved athletic performance.

If steroids didn’t work, athletes wouldn’t use them. It’s that simple.

Some top powerlifters have been admirably candid about steroid use:
  • “When I reached 40 years of age, it seemed like I just was not retaining enough protein to rebuild my muscles. I wanted to stay on the top, so I chose steroids…I work hard for my power. Steroids gave me the chance to work harder.” (Ernie Frantz)
  • “There's no possible way I can train the way I do without taking anabolics.” (Louie Simmons)
  • “…I'm not going to be hypocritical and say that I haven't done things.” (Ed Coan)
Numerous elite powerlifters don’t use steroids, however, and the sport has found an elegant solution to the issue: a free marketplace of competition.

Powerlifting has drug-tested federations like the International Powerlifting Federation and non-tested federations like the World Powerlifting Organization. There are also federations with tested and non-tested divisions like the American Powerlifting Association.

That’s how it should work; private organizations arise to accommodate certain athletic preferences. Instead of coercive homogeneity, there is a spectrum of choice.

And those private organizations also have the right to establish certain policies. To cite a policy that to my knowledge has caused no controversy, my federation requires a t-shirt beneath the required singlet during the squat and bench press and prohibits t-shirts with “pockets, buttons, zippers, collar, or vee neck.”

These are the rules of performance. If you show up for squats with a Polo shirt and no singlet, don't expect to participate in a meet.

To extend this to the more controversial issue of steroids, the problem with Riis and Zabel isn’t that they used steroids—it’s that they used for an event they knew prohibited steroids, violating the rules of performance and honorable competition.

The principle of self-ownership means that athletes should have the right to pursue their fullest potential with Deca, HGH, EPO, or whatever. That doesn’t create entitlement to compete wherever they want.

But steroid-using athletes are entitled to form organizations where use won’t be an issue. The evolution of powerlifting shows how this can be done.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Releasing Dissidents Doesn't Mean Reform

There's a scene in Syriana where the CIA agent played by George Clooney presents at a meeting about Iran. An official refers to "students marching in the streets" and "Khatami making the right sounds," to which he responds:

They let young people march in the street and then the next day shut down fifty newspapers. They have a few satellite dishes up on roofs, let 'em have My Two Dads, but that doesn't mean the Ayatollahs have relinquished one iota of control over that nation.

This exchange comes to mind with the Castro regime's release of seven prisoners of conscience including Jorge Luis García Pérez, imprisoned since 1990.

Certain knobs, forever eager to soft-pedal the brutality of the regime, will cite the releases as proof of reform in Cuba. There are four responses to this:

1) Jorge Luis García Pérez and his peers shouldn't have been imprisoned to begin with. They are owed restitution for their immense suffering, and those who perpetrated this suffering must be held accountable for their crimes.

2) The "crime" García Pérez was convicted of, "enemy propaganda," remains. Nothing has changed institutionally.

3) Many more prisoners of conscience remain in Cuba.

4) This month, human rights activists Rolando Jiménez and Oscar Sanchez were sentenced to twelve years and four years for "disrespect" and "social dangerousness."

In 1976, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn observed of the Soviet Union after the Helsinki Accords, "They're released Plyushch, but continue to lock up others. There you have detente and the spirit of Helsinki."

Now Cuba releases some while locking up others, in this case to end European Union sanctions. The EU's likely response brings to mind another observation by Solzhenitsyn:

The Soviet Union and the Communist countries know how to conduct negotiations. For a long time they make no concessions and then they give in just a little bit. Right away there is rejoicing: "Look, they've made a concession; it's time to sign."...They give one one-thousandth of what natural law should provide--things which people should be able to do even before such negotiations are undertaken--and already there is joy. And here in the West we hear many voices that say: "Look, they're making concessions; it's time to sign."

There are still many voices like that.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Emersonian Israelis

"People in the southern town of Sderot have a choice," begins a recent article in Ha'aretz, "obey the law, or protect their homes against constant Qassam fire [from the Gaza Strip]."

See, municipal regulations prohibit construction of shelters in homes.

But some Israelis, stubbornly concerned for their lives and the lives of their families, are building shelters anyway.

"Good men must not obey the laws too well," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. This truth is urgently apparent in Sderot.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Naughty Henry

Historian Robert Dallek was recently in the news for "revealing" in his new book that Henry Kissinger delayed telling Richard Nixon about the start of the Yom Kippur War in October 1973.

While Dallek's Nixon and Kissinger surely adds to the story, Kissinger's withholding has been known for some time. The late Stephen Ambrose noted in 1991 in the third volume of his Nixon biography:

Kissinger was willing, even eager, to take advantage of Nixon's preoccupations [with Watergate, etc.] to ignore the President as he dealt with the crisis. It was two and a half hours after he had the news that Kissinger called [chief of staff] Al Haig in Key Biscayne to inform him that war had broken out. He did not ask to talk to the President. He had already contacted the Israelis, the Soviets, the Syrians, the United Nations, the Egyptians, and Jordan. This set a pattern that persisted, justified by Kissinger on the grounds that "it was not clear that Nixon retained enough authority to manage the manifold pressures about to descend on him." He had no doubt about his own authority.

To quote Borat, "Naughty, naughty!"

Edgar Allan Poe, Muse of Rocky III?

A little known fact is that Sylvester Stallone is a longtime admirer of Edgar Allan Poe. Stallone's dearest unrealized project might be his movie about Poe.

On this note, I recently came across the following passage in Jeffrey Meyers' biography of Poe, about a fight Mr. Masque of the Red Death had when he was a teenager:

...he got into a fight with a heavier boy and was vigorously beaten for some time, before turning the tables and giving him a sound whipping. When asked why he had allowed the boy to beat his head for so long, Edgar explained that he was waiting for him to lose his breath before administering the final defeat! As always, Edgar offered an ingenious explanation of his strange behavior.

Now compare Poe's fight with the climax of Rocky III. Balboa encourages Clubber "I Pity The Fool" Lang to get piñata on him to fatigue the champion. (He earlier lost the title to Lang.) The tactic works, and by the end of round three Lang's getting the piñata treatment.

I don't know if Stallone read about Poe's fight in an earlier biography (Meyers' came out ten years after Rocky III), but it's a cool commonality in any case.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Good Man, A Good Husband, A Good Friend

"He was a good man, a good husband, and a good friend," recently remarked the widow of late dissident Miguel Valdés Tamayo, whom I wrote about in January. Now the regime that brutalized her husband holds Bárbara Elisa Collazo captive and terrorizes her family.

All she wants to do is leave, but the vicious jerkoffs who enslave Cuba won't allow that.

When Revolution Is Worse

One of my best friends recommended I see Land of the Blind. This being a guy who shares my affection for Superman II--"Kneel before Zod!" is inexplicably absent from the American Film Institute's 100 greatest movie lines--I took his recommendation.

Land of the Blind is about the exacerbation of a country's misery through revolutionary rule. It obliquely represents what happened in Russia after czarism, Cuba after Batista, and Iran after the Shah (not so obliquely regarding Iran).

The movie is also about the need for foresight. A rival to a tyrant is often worse than the tyrant, and support for the wrong movement has disastrous consequences. (See Cuba since 1959 and Iran since 1979.)

This isn't an argument for the conservation of oppression, rather the prevention of worse suffering. If you care about your country, you don't replace a pit bull with a Queen Xenomorph.

And by depicting a revolution not as salvation but damnation, Land of the Blind is itself revolutionary in a community (Hollywood) where several denizens are prone to kissing totalitarian ass.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Boost Your Training and Fight Cancer

Lift Strong is a CD containing 800 pages of training and nutritional information from the best in the business. At $25.00, it's a damn good deal.

And all of the proceeds go to fighting leukemia.

I have a personal interest in this cause. A couple of years ago, I donated platelets for a young boy with AML (Acute Myelogenous Leukemia). He later died from the disease.

To listen to an interview with the two-time cancer survivor behind Lift Strong, click here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Where Is Al Sharpton's Apology?

With the lame atonement of Don Imus before Al Sharpton yesterday, I ask:

Where is Sharpton's apology?

Apology for what? Praising a notorious oppressor of black people comes to mind.

In his 2002 book Al on America, Sharpton recounts a meeting with Fidel Castro in Cuba. This is the same Castro whose regime imprisons and tortures Afro-Cuban human rights activists like Oscar Elías Biscet, Iván Hernández Carrillo, and the late Miguel Valdés Tamayo, whose death was murder by degrees.

This is the same regime that imprisoned the late black Cuban patriot Eusebio Peñalver for almost 30 years.

This is the same regime where it's a crime to criticize Castro and the rest of the regime's mostly white functionaries.

And how did Sharpton describe Castro in Al on America? He called him "brilliant" and "absolutely awesome."

Sharpton said that Imus' comments were "abominable." Abominable describes Sharpton's comments, which are also an offense against the aforementioned Cuban heroes.

In addition to solidarity with black Cubans like Biscet and Carrillo, Sharpton owes these men an apology. Until he acknowledges his despicable error, Sharpton has as much moral credibility as Charles Lindbergh after he called Hitler "a great man" in 1937.

That would be less than zero credibility.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

When Cuba Was A Nation Of Immigrants

In response to my post on the conflict between Cuba and Sweden, Pureplay Press publisher David Landau notes:

The truth is that Cuba used to be a nation of immigrants before Castro took over; but then the regime's policies turned Cuba into a nation of emigrants.

The fate of Cuba's Jewish population illustrates this key point. Before 1959, Cuba had approximately 12,000 Jews who immigrated mostly during the 20th century. Over 90% of that population is gone thanks to the Castro's regime's totalitarian anti-Semitism.

When immigration ceases and emigration sky rockets, it's reasonable to infer that awful shit is happening in a country.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Is That Blood On Your Hand, Miguel?

I remember thinking Miguel Moratinos was a knob when I saw him in Oliver Stone's 2003 documentary, Persona Non Grata. Back then he was "EU Special Representative to the Middle East Process."

Well, I was wrong about Moratinos. He's way beyond knobdom.

Now foreign minister of Spain, Moratinos recently met with Raul "Machine-Gun People And Throw 'Em In A Ditch" Castro in Cuba to re-establish relations. Here's one of the photos Moratinos took with the mass murderer.

Wash that hand, Ministro de Asuntos Exteriores. There's a lot of blood on it.

Moratinos didn't meet with dissidents during the visit, as that would have clashed with kissing totalitarian ass.

"Moratinos's visit was an insult to the Cuban people," said former prisoner of conscience Vladimiro Roca. "He came and gave tyranny a slap on the back."

The next time Moratinos or some other Spanish leftist gets outraged about Franco or Pinochet, keep this visit in mind.

"I Support Hamas," Says Israeli Professor

I wrote an article in 2005 called "Israel's Enemies Within," which emphasized academic anti-Zionism in Israel. One of the professors I wrote about was Ilan Pappe from the University of Haifa.

"I support Hamas in its resistance against the Israeli occupation," Pappe recently told a Qatari newspaper. Way to show the neo-Nazi love, professor. (Pappe was recently in Doha, but are Israelis otherwise allowed in Qatar?)

Pappe said he's moving to England. Kol HaKavod.

As the University of Haifa's president said after Pappe endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, "It is fitting for someone who calls for a boycott of his university to apply the boycott himself."

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

If You Care About Your Knees...

Mike Robertson's writings and DVDs have benefited me immensely as a powerlifter and trainer. If knee health is important to you, check out Mike's new manual and DVD set: Bulletproof Knees.

This package is a major expansion of Mike's article last year on knee health. Bulletproof Knees is the product not only of extensive professional and athletic experience but also Mike's rehabilitation of a severe knee injury.

On a related note, I have a cool interview with Mike that will be up soon.

I Guess Castro Won't Be Visiting Stockholm Soon

Cuba and Sweden aren't getting along after foreign minister Carl Bildt noted how the Castro regime treats human rights like a piñata. The island prison now seems to be screwing with the Swedish embassy's mail.

"Cuba, unlike Sweden, does not persecute migrants," said Cuban UN representative Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios.

To persecute migrants, don't you need to have migrants?

Cuba isn't exactly a magnet for immigration. After all, people tend to avoid countries where it's a crime to criticize officials, travel without permission, and engage in free enterprise. Likewise, you don't see people flocking to other Bruegel adaptations like North Korea and Zimbabwe.

"Whilst Shame keeps its watch, Virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart," Edmund Burke wrote in Reflections on the Revolution in France. In addition to its almost unmatched brutality, the Castro regime has excelled at shamelessness--thus its complete depravity. The regime's reaction to Mr. Bildt's remarks is yet another example of this.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Nietzschean Athletics

I referred to Dennis Cieri's 2006 raw 525 lb. bench press at 198 lbs. in my recent article on powerlifting. Here's a new video of the feat. Watch this elite athlete's splendid tenacity in lifting over 250% of his bodyweight.

No bench shirt.

No wrist wraps.

Pure power.

"Where is beauty?" Friedrich Nietzsche once asked. "Where I must will with all my will..."

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Vato-ization of Batman

One of my favorite movies is Training Day, which portrays Ludwig von Mises' observation in The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science:

The men who are to protect the community against violent aggression easily turn into the most dangerous aggressors.

This week I saw Harsh Times, directed and written by Training Day screenwriter David Ayer. If for no other reason, rent it to see Christian Bale as a vato loco.

That's right, Patrick Bateman/Batman talks about pistos, cohetes, and other stuff in excellent Spanish.

Like Denzel Washington's character in Training Day, Bale plays a witty and gifted psycho who serves the State and was trained by the same. Both worldly and savage, Bale's character is multilingual and uses words like "parasitic" and "harem" when he's not throwing beer bottles against windshields and putting guns to heads.

These incongruent traits make for a very memorable protagonist and highly entertaining movie with important themes.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Lessons from a Tragedy

Joshua Peterson of Putnam, Connecticut died on March 19 from compression asphyxiation while working out at a local gym. I extend condolences to his family and friends.

It is likely that Mr. Peterson was doing one of the following exercises:
The decline press is especially hazardous, and the guillotine press speaks for itself.

There are inherent dangers in having a weighted bar near one's neck. This makes a training partner or spotter that much more important on heavy sets. Training partners are good enough for elite powerlifters, and they're good enough for you. (I realize finding a good training partner can be very difficult. The point is just find someone to cover you when the weight gets up there.)

Doing dumbbell bench presses avoids the risk of asphyxiation since the bar element is removed. Other risks remain, though. In a state of fatigue, a person could drop a dumbbell or otherwise lose control, with severe consequences.

Strength training is a wonderful endeavor. Learn from this tragedy to pursue it safely.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Deep Sleep of Ariel Sharon

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon turned 79 last month in a coma. He has been in a coma for over a year.

In August 2005, Sharon dispossessed 8,000 Israelis in the Gaza Strip. This was after Sharon played a key role in establishing Israeli settlement in Gaza and said that withdrawal "will only encourage terror and increase the pressure on us." (See notes 10 and 11 of this article.)

With reference to the dispossession, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel Ovadia Yosef said in 2005:

The Holy One wants us all to return to the Torah, and then he will strike him [Sharon] with one blow and he will die. He will sleep and never wake up.

The question of prophetic veracity aside, I ask: Is it smart to upset one of the world's preeminent Judaic scholars who convincingly sports eyewear like this?