Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dumb Letters: Still Not Paying for That

Rarely is such a clear distillation of a simple-minded mindset presented to us. I can't even call it an ideology because it doesn't even rise to that level.

From today's LA Times.

I am not so worried about the employee retirement program that will reduce the city of Los Angeles' civilian workforce at least 9%. It all boils down to priorities. In order of importance:

1. Tax cuts.

2. Tax cuts.

3. Tax cuts . . .

26. Tax cuts.

27. Make sure the city can be a reasonable place to live.

There is always fat and waste to cut.

Yep. The myopia about tax cuts is just mind-boggling to me. It says a lot about the anti-government forces that they have nothing else to add to the discussion other than "I don't want to be taxed so much." There is never a discussion about where the tax funds are going, whether the assessment is progressive enough or whether anything worthwhile is being done with those funds. All that matters is their personal bottom line.

It's most hilarious when they tack on to their "list" that the only other thing anyone should do is "make sure the city is a reasonable place to live". Yes, we'll do that by cutting taxes. Which pay for roads, parks, police, sanitation and schools. Smart.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Arnold Stang

Remember how on MTV's "Remote Control" they had a category called "Alive or Dead"? Always loved that one. We've had two people shuffle off on us this week, neither of whom I realized was still alive. One was a complete charlatan and another was a comic treasure.

Guess which one Oral Roberts was.

Never mind him, I'm here to write about Arnold Stang. You may not recognize his face, although it was a great one. But the voice is unmistakable.

Here he is as the Bilko ripoff "Top Cat", using his slightly more cool voice.

But the total nerd voice was his real stock-in-trade. Even when he was in live action he was a cartoon. Here he is as one of the gas station attendants (he's the skinny one) in a priceless scene from "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World", fleeing in terror as Jonathan Winters wrecks the joint. The real mayhem starts about 4:30 in.

"Irwin, we're gonna have to kill him!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Taxation of My Patience

Remember this quote from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"?

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

It was about a newspaper man refusing to print the truth because...oh, what the hell, let's mix our aphorisms, "A lie gets half way around the world before the truth gets its boots on." In this case, the lie was all the way around the world and it just wasn't worth chasing.

Words matter. Spin works. And the Republicans have been calling the estate tax "the death tax" for so long that even mainstream media outlets have no problem calling it that. It looks like the LA Times has flat-out given up. Check out the title of this editorial.

You read that right. Just in case you didn't, here it is again.

The Taxation of Death

We can argue until we're blue in the face about whether the estate tax is a nice thing or the end of civilization as we know it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But they aren't entitled to their own facts. In this case, death is not taxed. Death never has been taxed. What is being taxed is inheritance. And, more importantly, the estate tax is not actually called "the death tax". Never has been, never will be.

The fact that the word "estate" implies a lot of money is one of the reasons it's never used by its opponents. Taxing estates? What could be wrong with that? But taxing death? Unfair! 98% of beneficiaries or heirs (more words they don't use) will never be subject to it. And the ones who are subject to it should consider themselves fortunate. Even after Uncle Sam takes his bite, they're still inheriting at least a million bucks. Oh no! Poor them!

This is not a tax on death, it's a tax on income. Income which was not earned by the person receiving it. Unless the tax goes up to 100%, then the argument that people want to leave something to their children and can't just doesn't fly.

But, as I mentioned, the real issue I have here is not the merits of the tax but the use of language. The LA Times has succumbed to the right-wing spin machine by adopting their terminology, which is entirely unofficial and entirely inaccurate.

Here's the opening line:
The old saw about the only certainties in life being death and taxes isn't quite right: We'll also always be arguing about the taxation of death.

Now, the editorial actually raises some valid points about some upper-middle-class folks getting socked with a wee bit of pain. And they do use the word "heirs", to their credit. This is all good. But to promote the canard that the thing being taxed here is death and not non-earned income is inexcusable.

Please, LA Times editors. Stop.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Everyone Complains About the Weatherman but Nobody Ever Does Anything About Him

Has it really been nearly a month since I've posted something here? Yikes. It's not like there hasn't been anything to talk about. The health care fiasco continues, Tiger Woods gets more attention than anything like that deserves, Joe Lieberman bravely soldiers on in his attempt to become the biggest asshole of this young century. (And trust me, that's a mighty high bar set by The Idiot and The Dark Lord.)

So what am I concerned with today? The weather. Well, not really the weather, but with weatherpeople. This includes both actual meteorologists and the smiling knuckleheads who point at maps on the teevee because they're better looking than the actual meteorologists.

I'm not going to go into a rant about how they're always wrong and they ruined my day. I'm going to go into a rant about the people who always go into rants about how they're always wrong and ruined their day. These people have problems. And the weatherpeople are the least of it.

Listen, people. Predicting the weather is not simple. There are a ton of variables involved and almost all of them are subject to change on a moment's notice. Given the broad range of things that could change between the time you get your forecast and the time you leave your man-cave for your place of employment or enjoyment it's pretty amazing that we get weather predictions as accurate as we do. It's like predicting what a cat is going to do. You may have a good sense of it and get it most of the time but it keeps surprising you.

And yet, this is the kind of thing I see and hear in my everyday life and on places like the Facebooks:

"The weather report called for about a foot of snow. We didn't even get an inch!"

"Being a weatherman must be the easiest job in the world."

"There will be weather today. Could be 80, could snow. Can I have my paycheck now?"

"People won't let me be wrong as often in my job as weathermen. "

"They're predicting [fill in the blank] but they're always wrong."

I'm guessing the penultimate person's job involves something like holding a scanner up to a barcode and then pressing the enter button. So no, dear person, if you were wrong as often as the weatherman you would not only be fired but you would be in the state hospital.

And there are plenty of other jobs where the failure rate is even higher and nobody seems to complain about them. And some of them involve predictions too. How often has Bill Kristol been right about anything? People still pay him to blather about things he obviously either doesn't understand or is being dishonest about. And all of those guys on ESPN who tell you who's going to win every game in the NFL this week? About 60% on target, if they're pretty good at it. But they're "experts" and the weatherpeople are complete idiots.

I would invite all of the people who complain about the weatherpeople "always" being wrong to do three things.

Thing 1: Mark on your calendar every day how close to accurate the weatherperson's forecast was. I'm guessing that for every day you screamed about them "always" being wrong, there were 9 or 10 days when it was pretty much on target. And when it wasn't quite on it didn't have any tangible effect on your life. "They said it was going to be 70 but it only got up to 65. Those bastards!"

Thing 2: Go try to predict the weather yourself. Really. I'm not kidding. Go try it. Tell me how you do. You wouldn't even know where to begin, I'm sure. I know, I know, you're not paid to do it. Trust me, you never will be.

Thing 3: If you really have no confidence in these people who are ignoramuses at best and hostile disseminators of bad information specifically designed to make you angry at worst, then please just stop reading/watching/listening to your local forecast. You already know it's always wrong. So why bother? Or is it more important to you to have something to complain about?

Predicting the weather is always always always an educated guess. Quit complaining about it and get a life. There are plenty of other things more worthy of your bile.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What's the (Squirrel) Poop?

I was in Prospect Park today here in Brooklyn and noted that this is indeed the busy season if you happen to be a squirrel.

The furry little guys were out in full force digging through the leaves for acorns to bring back to the homestead for the winter. They were scrambling around madly and occasionally fighting with their fellow bushy-tailed rodents over the best nuts. A similar scene was playing out in malls all across America.

I'm not sure what path my brain took to get there, but the whole thing got me to thinking about squirrel poop. Nobody ever mentions squirrel poop. Dog poop, bird poop, cat poop, horse poop...they're all part of city life. Squirrel poop? Not so much, apparently. But squirrels must poop, right? They're animals, and mammals at that. They eat, they scamper about, they have butts. Ergo, they poop. So where is it? It must be there, right?

But nobody ever says, "Aw, fuck, I just stepped in squirrel poop!" And you never hear anyone holler, "I looked up and a goddamn squirrel pooped right on my head!" Are the poops just too small to see? Birds that are much smaller than squirrels manage to make their poop known. And I've seen some dogs running around that shouldn't be picking any fights with your garden variety squirrel.

Any scatologists out there that can enlighten me on squirrel poop? Google isn't exactly doing it on this topic. And I wanna know.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ken Ober

Well, here's another one who dropped off before his time.

Ken Ober was known to many as the host of MTV's "Remote Control". It was the first, and probably best, of many game shows on the channel that subverted the format with jokey categories and gimmicks like a chair that sent contestants flipping over backwards when they lost and a spinning wheel from which contestants were supposed to identify music video "artists".

I had my shot on that wheel in the show's final season. The episode I was in aired on St. Patrick's Day 1990 but it was taped on a freaking freezing Manhattan day the prior December. I remember I had planned to wear my NYU sweatshirt on the show but they changed us all into green shirts and stupid hats for the occasion.

Ober didn't come backstage to greet the contestants. He just showed up on set. But he did show me some personal grace. There was a question about which four characters besides Barney and Fred could see the Great Gazoo. Deductive reasoning got it for me. Dino was one, of course. And the other characters must be the ones who weren't going to blab to anyone about it. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, who didn't talk. And Dino's counterpart in the Rubble house, Hoppy the Hopasaurus, of course.

Ober, and everyone else on the show, seemed awfully surprised that I actually answered the question. I think it may have been intended as a stumper. (They often put in questions for which they didn't expect an answer.) After the question, an interruption from "Ken's mother" took place. Ken said "Wow, Mom, I'm just dusted that that kid got that one." Then he looked at me and gave me the thumbs-up while Mom said something stupid.

I ended up winning the day, even though I did something really stupid and almost lost because of it. (I won't go into it here. Ask me about it some time.) And I correctly identified all but one video in the Grand Prize round, missing out on a trip to, where else, Ireland. The video I missed was by Bobby Brown. My response upon learning what I missed? "I hate Bobby Brown!" I said this on national television at the height of the man's popularity. I really heard it from the studio audience, who had been totally with me up to that point.

The whole thing was totally fun and I went home with a bunch of prizes, including a motorcycle that I never rode, all of which I had to pay taxes on. Boo.

Thanks, Ken, for giving me my first and only (so far; I'll get on "Jeopardy" if it kills me) game show experience. You'll be fondly remembered.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dumb Letters: Betraying America by Upholding American Ideals

It's a sign of how low we've sunk that bringing criminals to trial is now considered by some to be a capitulation to terrorists. I would have thunk that letting them go and giving them Hershey's Kisses would be capitulation. But apparently putting them on trial in a court of justice is now tantamount to surrender. I guess the lynch mob is a sign of progress for some people.

A story in the NYTimes about the impending 9/11 trials in New York City elicited letters ranging from those proud of our (occassional) adherence to our own standards of human rights to those out for heads on a stick. This is my favorite.

The plan to bring the terrorists to New York City is an abomination and easily the most pernicious step the Obama administration has taken to date.

Wow. Strong language. Merriam-Webster's defines "pernicious" as "highly injurious or destructive" and notes that it infers "irreparable harm done through evil or insidious corrupting ior undermining". The implication here is not one of poor judgment but of actual conspiracy. It's a willful act of treason against the president's own country. Beyond that, the writer calls it only "the most pernicious" of what are presumably many pernicious things the Big O has done. This guy must really hate America. I won't even get into abomination.

It is almost certain that such a monumentally misguided decision will have a chilling and deleterious effect not only on our ability to prosecute current and future detainees, but also on our ability to prosecute the overall war on terror. These are war criminals, not American citizens.

So if you aren't an American citizen you must be a war criminal. It's one or the other. And if you aren't an American citizen you apparently have no rights whatsoever. That's us, America, the shining beacon for the rest of the world, where all men are created equal, as long as they were born here. (And white.)

The reason you have a Guantánamo in the first place is to avoid the circus that this will inevitably become.

Actually, no. The reason we have a Guantanamo in the first place is because we needed a place where no laws exist. We can't give people American trials there because they aren't in America. And we can't give them Geneva Convention rights because they aren't in Cuba. They aren't anywhere so we can just make up whatever rules suit our purposes.

And any trial has the potential to become a circus. If that potential was a factor in whether to prosecute any trial then we wouldn't bother with half of them. I guess we shouldn't have tried O.J. Simpson or Bernie Madoff or David Berkowitz or Charles Manson or Timothy McVeigh. Can't risk a circus now.

In so doing, the president has placed politics above principle and consequently has violated his most sacred oath: the protection of American citizens.

Politics? What politics? There's nothing more boring than justice, dude. The Idiot had no problem trampling on our constitution for political reasons. The principles that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are dealing in here are the ones in that same constitution. You know, the one that says that everyone (everyone) gets their day in court. And their day in court is also ours. They get to plead their case but we get to plead ours too. Don't like it? You can leave.

And here's some news for you. I know that listening to The Idiot for 8 years may have given you some goofy ideas about what our government, and specifically our president, is supposed to do. But, putting aside the fact that this decision will not endanger American lives in any way (do we really think that they'd let this go to trial if they didn't have a slam-dunk case? or that they'd really let them go if they were actually acquitted?), no American president has ever taken an oath to protect the American people. They take an oath to uphold the constitution. You can read it here. It's short and sweet. Our ideals are more important than any life or lives. And way more important than yours.

Monday, November 16, 2009


This was one of the most humiliating losses in New England sports history. And no one should have to tell you that that's a pretty high bar to jump.

I won't be the first to say it and you can be certain that I'll be far from the last. But I'll say it anyway.


Okay, technically, I do know what he was thinking. He was thinking that all my offense has to do is get two yards on this next play and the game's over. But if they don't, Bill? Then you have problems. And everyone in New England cursing you out for weeks, possibly years, on end.

Ordinarily this situation (4th & 2 on your own 28 yard line) is a no-brainer. You punt. You simply punt. There isn't even anything to consider. Even if you're fairly confident that you can get those two yards, the potential downside is too horrifying to risk it. The only reason Belichick would go for it would be to keep the ball out of the increasingly dangerous Peyton Manning's hands. But if you're concerned that Peyton Manning can take the ball 70 yards on you, shouldn't you be even more concerned about leaving him only 29? Huh?

It also sends a terrible message to your defense. Boys, we can't trust you to keep a team from going 70 yards in under two minutes and driving it all the way into the end zone. How pathetic is that?

The Pats had already done some dumb things in the game. They tried to sit on their lead (which, truth be told, should have worked) in the fourth quarter. And they blew two timeouts in bizarre fashion, which precluded them from challenging the spot on The Play of Stupidity. Although they probably would have lost the challenge anyway.

But another play that no one is mentioning in the shuffle was almost as important. Here's the situation. Manning and the Colts are storming down field in what looks like an inevitable touchdown drive. Their first play is an easy 15-yard pass to Reggie Wayne. On 1st down from the 14, Manning hands it off to Joseph Addai. He zips through a giant hole and looks like he's headed for the end zone. Vince Wilfork and Ron Brace make a herculean effort to drag him down at the 1. Great play? Maybe if there were only 5 seconds left. There is 1:20 left on the clock. This is important.

If Addai scores the touchdown, the Pats have 1:10 or so (after the kickoff return) to try to get into field goal range. Even with no timeouts, it's possible. After the tackle, the clock runs down to 0:36 before the next play starts and when the Colts finally punch it in there are only 16 seconds left.

Now, I'm sure some will say that you never let someone score on purpose. You give your defense a shot at stopping them. And yes, they may have stopped them. But Belichick already made it quite clear that he didn't think he could stop Manning from gaining 70 yards. Why would he think he could stop him from getting 1?

This is a game that was in the bag. That isn't smart analysis. It's just a fact. There is no excuse for losing this game. Give credit to Peyton Manning for taking full advantage of the Pats' terrible decision-making and execution in the fourth quarter, which they started with a 17-point lead. Even with that, not any schmo could have pulled this out. It took a superstar. But the Pats should have known better than to give him the chance. Shame.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dumb Letters: The Oxy Morons

I don't get some people. Here's a couple writing to the NYTimes about what they didn't like about "Sesame Street".

Two decades ago, when our children were young, we weren’t wild about “Sesame Street.”

Most of the puppet characters were male, and the choppy format seemed designed to help reduce a child’s attention span.

Okay, I don't think that the first area of critique is an entirely valid reason for not watching something. If most of the characters were female, would that be okay? And the writers use the word "most". So there were some female characters, apparently. Not enough? What's the right amount? And were the male puppets (that, from what I know, lack genitalia) pushing some agenda of male-domination? If they were, I missed it. Which was probably part of CPW's nefarious plan, I guess.

The second point is a valid critique, althought the letter writers infer an active plot to reduce the chidrens' attention spans by using the phrase "designed to" instead of something on the lines of "had the unintended consequences of". This leaves a bad taste.

And no one really learns anything from a passive experience like television.
“Educational television” is still an oxymoron.

Okay, this is bullshit. We learn passively all the time. I'm all for hands-on education, but it isn't the only way we learn. I taught myself to read by watching "Sesame Street". I learned from it. It's simply impossible that I'm the only one. I continue to learn by watching television. It's not that you watch. It's what you watch. Just like it's what you read, what you listen to and who you talk to. And yet these snobs dismiss the entire concept with "no one really learns anything". So I guess they didn't ever tell their kids not to touch the stove. That would be passive learning. Better to let them learn by touching it themselves. "Educational television" is not now, nor ever was, an oxymoron.

But wait, these people can't leave well enough alone.

Our children preferred a now-forgotten series, introduced by James Earl Jones, called “Long Ago and Far Away,” which presented a wonderful tale accompanied by beautiful art.

There were no product tie-ins like Tickle Me Elmo, though, so that program wasn’t a moneymaker in the way that “Sesame Street” is.

WHAT? They went right from complaining about how nobody learns anything from television to extolling the virtues of...a television program.

And the fact that "Sesame Street" licensed their characters for merchandising is entirely irrelevant to the conversation. The program is the program. The products exist entirely outside of it. You can watch the show without buying the Tickle Me Elmo, believe it or not. I'm really not sure how one program is better than another because it didn't market its characters. Is making money a bad thing? Is it better to give money to CTW, that has a mission to educate kids, albeit in a way that these two chuckleheads find inferior to wonderful tales and beautiful art, or to some for-profit whose only interest is making money?

These are the kinds of people that even liberals would want to slap in the face.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

I was about to write something about Veterans Day. But then I realized that I already had.

Here's a reprint from last year. I haven't changed my mind one bit and have nothing to add.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm always a bit conflicted on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. You see, I'm basically a pacifist. I think all war is stupid and I wonder why anyone would glorify it. But I know, I know, sometimes it's necessary. Unfortunately, I think a very small percentage of wars falls into that category. With 20/20 hindsight we can usually see how things could have been headed off. Alas, foresight is not so keen. And of course, the Law of Unintended Consequences often comes into play. One never knows what is truly necessary and what isn't. Even after the fact. But I think we err on the side of war way too often. We forget that, as Jimmy Carter said, "Although war is sometimes a necessary evil, it is always evil."

Here we must make a clear differentiation between those who fight our wars (and who we honor) and those who make the decisions to send them off to do so (who we generally despise).

When I see pictures of fine men and women at Walter Reed that are missing arms, legs, eyes, large pieces of their heads and even larger pieces of their souls I get pretty pissed. These people signed up to defend us. Few actually do. More often than not, they're on the offensive, thousands of miles away from the homeland. This is an increase of tragedy. The loss is utterly unnecessary.
Our leaders should have to look at pictures of these people all day, every day. They should invent a computer program that simulates the minds of PTSD soldiers and make our leaders feel what they feel on a regular basis. Nightmares, daymares, jitteriness, moral numbness and isolation. And fear. Maybe they'd think twice about sending other people's sons and daughters off to kill and die to satisfy their geopolitical wet dreams. I'd even settle for them thinking once about it. War sucks the humanity out of people.

My own views on the necessity of their vocations aside, I have great respect for the people who don the uniform and serve. There is nothing any of us can do that compares to it. It's something I am constitutionally incapable of doing. Even when they are being sent on fool's errands, they are serving us. They are doing their job for the country they love. And it's not exactly a cushy one. Or a well-paying one.

It's almost criminal that I'm getting paid more for sitting in an office building than somebody who's getting shot at every day. Not to mention the warmongers who sent them to do so. And senators and federal executives get lovely parting gifts, including pensions and lucrative careers on the public speaking circuit. Your average soldier? Not much. Part of their college tuition and medical care. That's the very least we can do. Really. I think that anybody who goes through combat should be taken care of for life. LIFE. And their immediate families should be taken care of too. Why do we give a scumbag like Tom DeLay a bigger pension than somebody who went and got his legs blown off and wakes up screaming every night at 3AM? It makes no sense.

There will always be veterans of the military. I've got some in my family. Although they didn't fight, thankfully. But I want for there to be no veterans of war. It won't happen in my lifetime. Most of the soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are half my age. And it won't happen in our children's lifetime. It will probably never happen.

But we should at least work towards making sure that we have fewer and fewer veterans as time goes on. Can we do that, please?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dumb Letters: You Have No Idea What I'm Going Through!

Sometimes I'm just not sure.

This person wrote in to the LA Times to decry the horrible horrible liberals infesting today's Republican party. Didn't know about that? Me neither.

Describing people like Dede Scozzafava as a "moderate Republican" is disingenuous. She's a liberal on almost every issue.

The GOP rebellion is led by those rejecting the left's attempt to undermine their party with liberal Democrats who pose as Republicans.

Wait wait wait. It's the left that's undermining your party? The Democratic Party doesn't even count as left-wing. What leftists get anywhere near the Republican Party? Or want to, for that matter?

You may get an occasional person with a gay relative that keeps their mouth shut on gay rights issues. (Doesn't fight for them, by the way. Just doesn't actively fight against them.) But since when are moderates, i.e. persons who occasionally think for themselves on one or two issues, been some kind of disease inflicted on you guys by the left. What are they, spies? They chose their own party, ya big dummy.

And by the way, a "liberal Democrat" is not the same thing as a liberal. It's all relative. Real liberals are as disgusted with their party as you seem to be with yours.

News stories imply these core believers are extremists -- but these are accusations by a media that for decades have been in the pocket of Democrats and supported radical agendas.

Like the Civil Rights Act. And the Environmental Protection Agency. And the Constitution.

Consider the following alternative scenario: How would liberals feel if the Democratic Party had pro-life candidates who supported the war on terror, reduced taxes, voted against bailouts, didn't want government healthcare and saw the United Nations as a threat to American sovereignty?

Okay, this is the part when I lose him. Is this guy serious? That, by the way, is not a rhetorical question. I really don't know. Is this guy dumb enough to not know how many Democrats support one or more of those positions? Or is he making an ironic point? Does he actually understand and feel our pain and this is his clever way of commiserating and therefore bringing us gently into his point?

Pro-life candidates? How about Bob Casey? And Harry Reid, who is only the Senate Majority Leader.

Supported the war on terror? How about...ALL OF THEM. What was the vote on the Patriot Act again? Oh yeah, 98-1. Thank you, Russ Feingold, for spoiling the no-hitter.

Reduced taxes? Um, yeah. This actually happens quite a bit. The Dems just don't ordinarily agree to give a lot of money to people who already have a lot of money. Like the really really rich people who got really really richer under GWB. You may note that Barack Obama promised to, and did, reduce taxes on everyone making under $250K per annum. And a good chunk of them are now screaming in the streets about how high their taxes are and how they can't take it any more. Because Glenn Beck asked them who they believed, him or their lyin' accountant's tables.

Bailouts? That, I believe, was a Republican plan. Plenty of our guys on board though, yes.

Government healthcare? Joe Lieberman ring a bell? Not Democrat enough? Okay. Ben Nelson? Mary Landrieu? Max Baucus? Max Baucus. You know, the head of the freaking committee that deals with it?

And UN as a threat to American sovereignty? Okay, you got me there. This is the one that makes me think he may be serious. I can't think of a single Democrat that has gone on record with that paranoid fantasy.

You were so close, letter writer. You almost had me. But you pushed it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lieberman Finds More Knives with Which to Stab His Party

Wow, I'm so glad that Barack Obama and Harry Reid supported Joe Lieberman after he stumped for John McCain. "He's with us on everything except the war," they said. Well, that's like saying "He's with us on everything except rape." I've had enough of this shithead since his pathetic showing as a running mate for Al Gore. He was a terrible choice as Democratic standard-bearer then and he's only gotten worse since then. Way worse. Progressively worse. (I shouldn't say "progressively". He's been anything but progressive.)

What was that about "everything except the war"? Oh yeah, and health care. Not just "I won't vote for the bill" not with us. More like "I will actively support a filibuster" not with us. Feel better now, guys? See what that gesture has gotten you?

Someone please tell me why this person who lost a Democratic primary, no longer has a D next to his name and campaigned for the candidate with an R next to his name -- who also happened to support every George W. Bush policy and picked an empty-headed spokesmodel as his running mate -- still has positions of leadership within the Democratic party.

What will it take, people? Does he have to actually try to assassinate the president? Kick him out. Kick him way out. He is not one of us. He can stay in the Senate if he wants. He won his seat (sort of) fair and square. But let an actual Democrat take over his leadership positions. I don't care who. He is the bottom of the pile. Please please please. Go blow, Joe.

Monday, October 19, 2009


It's been a gruesome week for New England sports fans. We've had a splendid decade up to now so it's tough for us to complain about anything for a while. But the Sox made us remember what it was like to be a Sox fan pre-2004 in last week's Game 3 vs. Los Angeles. (That was Spanish for "The Angels", by the way, not English for "Los Angeles", the city, where the Angels don't play.) 9th inning. Two outs. 6-4 lead. Bases empty. 0-2 count on the #9 hitter. One strike away from getting back in the series. Oh, and on the mound is a guy with a lifetime playoff ERA of 0.00. Howzit end?

Yep, feels like old times. Painful.

We tried to make ourselves feel better by switching to the Patriots game. Hurray! A 10-point lead at the half! The Pats are back! Oh, no.

That's what it used to be like to be a Pats fan too.

So thank you, Patriots, for giving us a good old-fashioned ass-whupping yesterday. 59-0! What was that score again? 59-0.

I just need to type that again. 59-0.

One more time. 59-0.

"Yes!" you say. A shutout! Okay, yeah. A shutout is, like, 10-0. Or 13-0. Usually when you score 59 points, the other team scores 35. But no. The 0 is great but it isn't exactly the number that pops out at you, is it? It's the one that starts with 5 and ends with 9. Okay, have to do it again. 59-0.

The box score at halftime was already absurd. 45-0. (An NFL record, by the way.) Tom Brady with 345 yards and 5 touchdowns. We didn't even want them to come out for the second half. Really, nowhere to go but down. Seriously. I mean, think about what would have happened if the second half wasn't a letdown. If they just equalled the first half, the score would have been 90-0. Brady would have destroyed the single-game passing records with 690 yards and 10 touchdowns. Impossible!

So, all they really had to do was not suck in the second half. Well, they outscored them 14-0, mostly with backup QB Brian Hoyer making sure Brady didn't get cheap-shotted out of the game for no reason.

A letdown? Yeah, but who's complaining?

Oh, and by the way, the Titans two quarterbacks combined to complete 2 of 14 passes for -7 yards. Yes, that's negative. Wow. They completed just as many passes to Patriots players.

Feeling better about this team, we are. Please, Patriots. More of this.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day

One of the joys of living in New York City is that, although we have fantastic libraries here, the city itself is a primary source. Book report on Ellis Island? Get on the boat. Back by lunchtime. "Starry Night"? Yeah, we've got that.

On this fine day which somehow isn't quite a holiday anymore (which seems to get a lot of the local Eye-talian contingent in a bit of a knicker twist), let's talk about what we've got here in the Apple to commemorate the man.

We've got a big parade. It doesn't really celebrate Columbus per se. It's just another one of our endless stream of ethnic pride parades. You know, the ones that are so gauche and unseemly when they're being participated in by folks of other ethnic persuasions (you know, the ones who got here after your group, whenever that was) but are wholesome and wonderful when your particular group (you know, the ones who came here for the right reasons) is whooping it up, waving at the city council member or athlete that happens to belong to the tribe and, if that's part of your heritage, vomiting.

We've also got some streets. Columbus Avenue is a biggie, although it becomes 9th Avenue as it gets further downtown. Closer to Little Italy, oddly enough.

The top of the line, though, is Columbus Circle. It was a big horrifying mess of a traffic circle for a long time. Until its recent renovation, to navigate it on foot from one side to another was to take your life into your own hands, or at least the hands of a passel of NYC cabbies, and you know how good and caring those hands are. To navigate it now is to be late for wherever it is you're going. With order comes inconvenience, folks.

I recently got bored trying to get from the Whole Foods in the fresh new Time Warner Center to my usual lunchtime perch in Central Park, which requires crossing three separate rights-of-way, and just crossed one street into the center of the circle. There's a mammoth Columbus memorial thing there (umm, duh), which I've seen a milllion times, but never up close until now.

A revelation.

Here's what the inscription on the side reads.

"To the world he gave a world." Yep. I think you know where we're going with this.

We've been revising the book on Columbus for years now. He's gone from a heroic explorer to basically a genocidal creep and lives probably somewhere in between for most people. Where that in-between is depends largely on your political persuasion and possibly whether you belong to a particular one of the above-mentioned ethnic groups. (Guess which one!)

We always hear these people screaming whenever some of their cherished orthodoxies are challenged. It's no wonder they cling to religion and reject science. If you build your world on universal immutable truths, and something you thought you knew turns out to be not quite true, your whole world falls apart. ("Hey, what are all these dead bodies doing in this closet?" "Shh! Never mind that. The history books have already gone to the printers!") Of course, they would never ever try to re-write the history books themselves.

But did we always feel so straightforward about Columbus and his legacy before liberalism run rampant and insufferable political correctness? Here's a picture I snapped of a high relief on the side of the monument showing Columbus and his crew upon arrival in The New World.

It's downright inspiring! They're so full of wonder. So full of awe and appreciation for the golden land they've found and for the deity made flesh that led them there.

But wait, while they're all fawning over the captain, there's one dude with something else on his mind. There he is on the right. What's he pointing at? Must be some gold. Or lots and lots of food. "Um, chief? Chee-eef. CHIEF!"

Aw, crap on a stick. There's Indians here. Somebody call Terminix.

So, it doesn't seem that it was ever as cut and dry as we thought. Even in a monument to the guy, it acknowledges that even though he "discovered" the place there were still kinda some people here already. And not exactly very dangerous ones, from the looks of it. Which group in the above picture do you think is going to keep the land?

Happy Columbus Day!

Friday, October 2, 2009

America Loves Garlic Milkshakes!

John Boehner just gets dumber and dumber.

Here's what he had to say yesterday about the public option.

“I’m still trying to find the first American to talk to who’s in favor of the public option, other than a member of Congress or the administration. I’ve not talked to one, and I get to a lot of places and I’ve not had anyone come up to me — I know I’m inviting it — and lobby for the public option,” Boehner said.

“This thing (the public option) is about as unpopular as a garlic milkshake...”

He's looking about as hard for that lonesome American as O.J. is looking for Nicole's real killers.

Poll after poll shows between 50% and 75% of Americans supporting a public option.

Maybe Boehner just doesn't get out of his home state of Ohio very much. Well, here's a Quinnipiac poll (you have to scroll down almost all the way) showing 57% support and only 35% against in Ohio.

Well, maybe he only speaks to Republicans in his state. Okay, this is worst-case scenario here. Really stretching it. Even 28% of Republicans in Ohio support a public option. So, giving Boehner the most outrageous benefit of the doubt, even if Boehner never leaves his home state and studiously avoids anyone not in his own party, if he's spoken to more than 3 people, odds are he's run into one who supports this. And yet he just can't seem to find anyone who supports this horrible horrible thing, the poor dear.

We have two options here, and it doesn't take a genius to see this. Either John Boehner is incredibly stupid, or he is incredibly -- what's the word? -- LYING. There is no third option.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Okay, I ordinarily don't write about personal things on this blog, but this is just too cool.

Here's a bit from The Rachel Maddow Show about skunks invading New York City. Some of you may recognize the music in the background of the piece. I almost crapped my pants when I heard it.

After all these years, ASCAP may finally be sending me that first check. Glad it wasn't on Faux News or I never would have known about it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Meet the Press and Play It for a Sucker

If you have the stomach for it, watch this lengthy clip. It's hard to sit through just a few minutes of it, but I managed to hold my vomit in and make it to the end. It saddens me to report that I am not a better person for it.

But, if you want to know what the problem with "bipartisanship" is, this is a fine place to start. Representative (and House minority leader) John Boehner and senator Lindsay Graham are, how shall we say it, not exactly dealing in good faith here. And, as someone has pointed out previously, bipartisanship is a two-way street. And the traffic's only going one way right now.

These guys are regulars on shows like this. But if any of these shows had any journalistic standards at all, they'd be laughed off the sound stage on a regular basis. There's spin and there's complete bullshit and Mssrs. Boehner and Graham are way on the stinky side of that equation.

David Gregory occasionally interjects The Tough Question, as he always does to make himself look like a real journalist, but when one of his guests says something patently false, he just lets it go. This is why shitheads like this love these shows. It makes them look like they've run the gantlet, when they've done nothing of the sort. They control the message totally.

Here's the video. Have the Tylenol ready. And the Rolaids, for that matter. What the hell, get the whiskey too.

The transcript is here, if you can't handle looking at the crumbs. And believe me, it's tough.

Some choice moments, refuted (naturally) by Yours Truly.

BOEHNER: And if you look at what the president has been supporting, it’s this big government plan that has some 51 new agencies, boards, commissions, mandates that is going to get in the way of delivering quality care to the American people.

And your evidence for this is...what? How exactly is this going to "get in the way"? Are they going to be in the hospitals telling doctors not to treat patients? Like the insurance companies do now? We'll never know because Gregory doesn't ask.

GRAHAM: The president is selling something that people, quite frankly, are not buying. He’s been on everything but the food channel. Just a few weeks—you know, last week he was addressing the nation.

His problem is when he says the public auction—option won’t affect your healthcare choice, people don’t believe that. ... It’s about the president selling something that people inherently believe sounds too good and doesn’t add up.

People? What people? Here's what a Harris poll said last week.

Based on what you've read, seen or heard, how would you rate the health care plans proposed by each of the following?

President Obama: 53% good, 47% Bad
Democrats in Congress: 46 / 54
Republicans in Congress: 35 / 65

See, Lindsay, you would be one of those "Republicans in Congress" up there. You too, Boehner, FYI.

BOEHNER: Americans today are getting more news about what’s happening in their government than they have ever gotten before, and Americans are genuinely scared to death. Scared to death...

And if this is one of those "news" sources, I can see why. Imagine how scared they are if they watch Fox News, where you guys are the only ones whose "opinions" are considered worthwhile.

BOEHNER: There’s been no bipartisan conversation on Capitol Hill about health care. At some point when these big government plans fail—and they will, the Congress will not pass this—it’s really time for the president to hit the reset button, just stop all of this and let’s sit down and start over in a bipartisan way to build a plan that Americans will support.

You lie! There have been over 160 Republican amendments added to the current bill. Well beyond this, the "public option", which doesn't even seem to be on the table anymore, was a compromise to begin with. If the Democrats had any brains in their heads, they would have started with single-payer (which 60% of doctors support, by the way, those radicals) and the public option might have been a disappointing but fair compromise, not that they deserve one. This is a complete failure of politics.

And you know what, fuck you guys. You didn't give a shit about being "bipartisan" when you were in the majority. Public opinion is not on your side, and yet you speak as if it is not only on your side, but overwhelmingly so. Piss off.

This next one is my favorite.

GRAHAM: [Obama]’s changed his rhetoric because the speech was a disaster. What he’s trying to sell to the American people, they don’t buy. ... So the president’s saying things that people want to hear, but the details don’t add up.

Really? His approval rating went up after the speech and support for a public option, which was always at least in the 50% range before all of the bullshit started spewing, went up again too. To 76%. The speech was only a disaster if you wanted those numbers to go in the other direction. No honest person would ever call it a disaster. And no honest person would ever call Lindsay Graham an honest person. The American people, apparently, are buying it. But you'd never know it from watching "Meet the Press".

Friday, September 18, 2009

Democrat Is a Relative Term

I used to live in a place called Staten Island. It's a dreary place that I am glad to be rid of. There are many things to dislike about the rock. (To be fair, it has a few charms, but these are vastly outweighed by its uglies.) But among the worst is its politics. As a recent movee, I still get the campaign literature from the candidates there. This is what passes for a Democrat in Staten Island. It's a flyer from New York City Councilmember Ken Mitchell. (Yes, I voted for the guy. Oy.) Notice the complete absence of the words "Democrat" or "Democratic Party", although his website mentions an endorsement from the SI Democratic Party.

Can you read that? Here's what the bullets say:
  • Fighting to restore fiscally responsible local government.
  • Working to make state budgets spend only what the voters of Staten Island are willing to pay in taxes. [MAB: what, like nothing?]
  • Championing tax relief for our senior citizens.
  • Listening to the voices of local businesses and residents who want solutions that do not require increasing their tax burden nor expanding the scope of government.
  • Supports legislation that will require at least a two thirds vote of all council members for the passage of any law or resolution that raises taxes.
  • Securing property tax rebates for Staten Island homeowners.
  • Has fought to cut waste and unnecessary spending in the city budget to hold the line on taxes.

Wait a minute, I thought we were the party of tax-and-spend. So Kenny is totally against all of these horrible taxes? Okay, fine. So let's just not spend anything then. Every one for themself. But geez, Kenny. That two-thirds-to-raise-taxes thing hasn't worked out so well for California. The state is considered by many to be ungovernable.

Hey, what's this? Another flyer.

The bullets again:
  • Fighting to restore vital services to the seniors of Staten Island.
  • Keeping open senior centers which were threatened with closure.
  • Saving transportation programs which provide buses for our seniors to travel to medical appointments, shop for groceries, and visit family and friends.
  • And then a repeat of some of the same anti-tax bullets from the last flyer.

Do I need to ask the obvious question? Where is this money supposed to come from? The schools, maybe? How about the roads that everyone out there complains about? Or the already woefully inadequate public transportation? Yes, let's keep special programs to get old people to the grocery but forget all of those (black) people who have to take the bus to get to work (and the grocery). And, I don't know, help the economy.

The flip-side of the flyer says "Our seniors have worked hard, fought to keep our country free and the world safe, and taught and supported the next generation. In short, they've done everything right. WE HAVE TO DO RIGHT BY THEM!"

Talk about generalization. All of them did right? Everything right? All of them fought the commies? All of them taught and supported the youngsters? Not that old fucker who lived down the street and called the cops whenever we got near his yard. I'm not giving that bastard a ride anywhere. He can suck it.

We should have just let these knuckleheads secede and find out just how difficult government and budgeting really is. But we needed a place to dump our trash. Now that Fresh Kills is closed, the place has no purpose, other than as a shortcut to Philly. Good riddance, Stupid Island.

Today in Hypocrisy

You can't make this stuff up.

Apparently, the folks who went to Washington to complain about all of the government spending are upset that the government didn't spend enough to make it easier for them to complain about government spending.

You have to read this from the Wall Street Journal. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) has a bit of a beef with our nation's capital and its woeful lack of amenities for him and his crew of nutjobs and racists. There weren't enough trains! Oh no!

It gets better. The stimulus package had millions for improvements for the Metro. Guess who voted against it? Oh, here it is.

"We shouldn't be giving people free stuff! Hey, where's my stuff?"

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Well, this makes perfect sense. A giant Times Square-sized advertisement for an undoubtedly entertaining television program. Fire up the Tivo!

Here in New York City we enjoy seeing larger-than-life-size images of things on fire and people in states of panic (trauma, one might say), particularly on a lovely mid-September morning.
Thanks, NBC. Nice work.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dumb Letters: Joe Wilson

We knew there would be dumb letters aplenty on this issue. Heck, there are two right on this page in the LA Times.

It's like shooting fish in a barrel at this point in American history. The stupid has become mainstream.

Here's what Stupid #1 had to say.

Although Wilson's comment to Obama was inappropriate, I am glad somebody had the nerve to speak up to Obama.

All those yes-men surround Obama, and the president thinks he's fooling everyone. Behind Obama's back is when the truth comes out. Finally, somebody said it to his face.

Thank you, Joe Wilson.

This would be great if somebody really did need to say it. But nobody did. Let me say this again: THE MAN WAS NOT LYING. He just plain wasn't.

I hate to keep coming back to comparing the right's stinkbombs to their attitudes towards their departed dear leader, but I can't help it. It was well-known and documented that The Idiot was surrounded by people who told him what he wanted to hear or manipulated him into thinking the way his handlers wanted him to think. Accusing Obama of existing in some kind of toady bubble is ludicrous and hypocritical, like almost everything else these nitwits say.

Here's Stupid #2:

Although I think Wilson was out of order and his conduct regrettable, he was also quite correct.

The House health reform legislation has loopholes, which I think Democrats are probably aware of.

Oy. No, it doesn't. What this chucklehead is talking about doesn't rise to the level of a loophole. A loophole is an oversight that allows someone to game the system. The bill explicitly states that illegals aren't covered. But, apparently, not specifically requiring proof of citizenship before the EMTs scrape you off of the sidewalk is considered a loophole to these people. Nice.

He wasn't quite correct. In fact (and I said "fact", not "opinion"), he was quite wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

Watch Keith explain it all for you. He even forgives him his rudeness. Just not his wrongness. Thank you, Keith.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Meet Joe Wilson, Professional Asshole

What is there to say about Representative Joe Wilson's jaw-dropping breach of decorum at President Obama's health care speech? It defies belief.

Even if he really thought that BO was lying (he wasn't, by the way; not even a little), this was not the place to say so. This wasn't a debate, it was a speech. The Dems sat and listened to The Idiot lie to them about much more important things for eight years and never once did they do what I was doing at home. Which was standing up and saying exactly what Joe Wilson did to Obama. But I can call my TV screen a liar in the privacy of my own home. And even in a sternly-worded letter to my local newspaper. If I were in that chamber, I'd have to sit on my hands. It's proper.

What's even more ridiculous than one idiot heckling the president is the (inevitable, I suppose) defenders of the outburst. We were lectured on "respect for the office" for eight years until, conveniently, we didn't need to respect the office anymore. Because now things are different. Now we have some kind of un-American radical in office. Who just happened to have been elected mere months ago by a clear majority of American voters. But truth must be told. And Joe Wilson is our hero.

Oh, and pre-2000 respect for the office wasn't such a big deal either. Remember that? But 9/11 changed everything. Until it changed black. I mean, back.

The Right has become unbelievably unhinged since their worldview has come crashing down. Thomas Frank has a great piece in the >shudder< Wall Street Journal today detailing the steps that we've skipped on the road to outrage. Good stuff.

Wilson's outburst was stupid on several levels. First off, it was just culturally stupid. Decorum. We've covered this.

Second, his charge was based on a perceived loophole in the bill, not any fundamental issue with the bill. (It's actually pretty hilarious. Because there is no specific requirement to prove citizenship at the time of treatment, it's feasible that someone could sneak in and get some. Which is tantamount to explicitly offering care to illegals, of course. Bring your passport at all times. You'll need it to get into that ambulance.) So, even if he believed in the loophole, it didn't reach the level of a lie. But hollering "That's not entirely true, sir, and I'll be glad to demonstrate the flaw in your plan if given the opportunity!" is a bit too, shall we say, nuanced, for the current Republican party. "You lie!" is closer to the sixth-grade level they've been floating on lately.

Third, and I'm surprised that no one has talked about this, this was a pretty minor point that he was objecting to. Health care for illegal immigrants? There are so many larger points to concern yourself with, even in this particular debate. And this is the one that he stood up for and blew whatever reputation he had? You know, if I were a member of congress and I had one shot at a big movie moment, I'd save it for something really earth-shattering like, say, "Iraq has weapons of mass destruction". As it is, Wilson just looks like a garden variety racist. Not to mention petty.

As Eugene Robinson notes, Wilson's was the worst, but hardly the only, breach of decorum. But here we are. Enjoy your devoted cult following, GOP. The rest of us think you're a bunch of petulant, childish assholes.

UPDATE: E.J. Dionne has now talked about the thing that I was surprised that no one was talking about. Read it here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dumb Letters: Problem? What Problem?

You know, I could pick a dumb letter out every day just on health care and what passes for debate in the this country.

Here's a nice one from the Chicago Tribune that's basically just the usual self-reliance thing. But there's a myopia to it that is alarmingly typical of those on the other side.

This is another one of those letters that has something to pick apart in every other line. Let's do that. If you want to read the whole thing first, I'll wait.

Done? Okay.

I find it rather disheartening to read many of the letters to the editor regarding the health-care debate. I wonder where people come up with some of the stuff they're griping about.

Uh oh. This spells trouble. We're going to see a lot of this in this letter. "I don't have any problems, so why would anybody else? Your HMO just denied your claim and your husband died? I'm fine, thank you. What's your problem?"

All of my experiences with the doctors and hospitals were very positive. I never once thought that I would want to go to another country for any of this work.

Great. Good for you. But that's not what the debate is about. It's about how it's managed and paid for. The doctors and hospitals aren't the problem. The insurance racket is.

And I never thought that it was someone else's responsibility to pay for it. Whatever happened to self-reliance?

Here we go. We're going to revisit this, because the letter writer later complains about "handouts". You knew it was coming.

The Democratic Party has done everything that it can to make as many people count on handouts as possible. We subsidize housing, heating, cooling, food, school lunches and breakfasts, day care; now we want to add health care to that list.

What, like this is some kind of plot? To what end? What do we gain by making people dependent on "handouts"? More votes? Wow. Great. Hey, it worked for the Republicans. They hand out so much to corporations that they all count on it now.

And I have two things to say about those awful hadnouts. First, all of the things that the letter writer mentions as subsidized are good things, essential things, things that a caring society would have no problem with.

Second, let's add a few things that Mr. Self-Reliance has undoubtedly taken advantage of himself. The police, the fire department, the highway department, the military and, not just the school lunches, but the whole damn school system. Want to be self-reliant? Put out your own fires. Take down that mugger by yourself. Teach your own kids (actually, don't; please don't). And invade that foreign nation on your own. Enjoy.

Nearly everyone I know has good things to say about their health care.

Yes, we know. But that isn't the problem. Don't you read my blog?

The main problem seems to be the cost of insurance.

Ah, good. Now we're getting to a point of agreement. Maybe this guy is okay after all.

It seems to me that the main reason for the high costs are that they are caused by government regulations. They force insurance companies to cover things that have nothing to do with a person's health, such as Viagra, fertility treatments, etc.

WHAT? You really think that this is the problem? A few boner pills? The cost of all of the Viagra in the world wouldn't cover one CEO's salary. If the government really wanted to force the insurance companies to do something, it would force them to cover everybody and not exclude based on pre-existing conditions. Or better yet, make all profits illegal. But they won't. They get too much money from them. Which is why things like Viagra are covered, by the way.

Let's have real competition in the market like we do with everything else. Health Savings Accounts work great. You have every incentive to go to the doctor only when you really need to, as you get to keep the money you don't spend.

Do I have to point out how stupid this is? Let's think about the "more competition" thing. How do insurance companies make money? Not by providing care but by denying it. More competition would mean companies working harder to drive down costs. There is one, and only one, way to do this: by denying more claims. Great idea, sport.

And Health Savings Accounts. They "work great" if you have money in them. If you don't, then what? My wallet works great when it's full of pictures of Andrew Jackson. When it doesn't, I can't get any of the stores to give me anything. I say I have a wallet and they just laugh at me. But don't worry. Competition will take care of everything.

And if it's in my account, then the benefit of not going to the doctor is really pointless. If I spend the money I saved by not going to the doctor (which would stimulate the economy, by the way), then it's not in my account in case I need it, which is the whole point of having the account. And if I do need it and use it all for health expenditures, well, now it's empty. What if something else happens? Do you understand this, dipshit?

I have incentive not to eat food too. The less I eat, the more money I keep. Think how much I could save by fasting for 365 days a year.

These accounts are in the Democrats' cross-hairs and will be gone if they get this health-care bill through. The only reason I can possibly think of why they want to get rid of them is that they work and people like them.

Okay, they don't formally exist. So they can't be in anyone's cross-hairs. Dude, if you want to keep an account for yourself strictly for health care, there is nothing to stop you from doing so. And hey, you know what else works and people like? Medicare. And all of those aforementioned "handouts". But this guy has a problem with that.

That is the problem. They want to control every aspect of as many people's lives as possible.

By giving them more choices. Yes, it all makes perfect sense. Knucklehead.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Froot Loops Are Health Food! I Know It's True Because the Food Industry Said So

You really do need to read every section of the newspaper. Or skim it, at least. This is from the Business section of today's New York Times. You simply must read this. If you have any illusions that any industry of any kind can regulate itself, then this should put the nail in the coffin of that particular notion.

Several giants of the food industry have come together to agree on a "Smart Choice" label to "help" consumers find "healthier" products to eat. Like fruits and vegetables and whole grains, right? No. More like Froot Loops and Hellmann's mayonnaise. Of course.

I had to stop reading this every paragraph or two in order to quote the stupidity to my family. It's literally jaw-dropping. (I'm one of those people whose jaw does indeed drop when he can't believe what he's seeing/hearing/smelling.)

Here are some of my favorite quotes.

“The checkmark means the food item is a ‘better for you’ product, as opposed to having an x on it saying ‘Don’t eat this,’ ” [Smart Choices board president] Dr. [Eileen T.] Kennedy said. “Consumers are smart enough to deduce that if it doesn’t have the checkmark, by implication it’s not a ‘better for you’ product. They want to have a choice. They don’t want to be told ‘You must do this.’ ”

Okay, so if consumers are so smart, then why do you need to put a label on something that says "smart"? Pander much? I guess she figures if you put the words "smart" and "choice" in her quote, then the people who arent' so smart will buy it. Not buying it here. Insulted that she'd think I would. But I guess I'm not her target audience.

Froot Loops qualifies for the label because it meets standards set by the Smart Choices Program for fiber and Vitamins A and C, and because it does not exceed limits on fat, sodium and sugar. It contains the maximum amount of sugar allowed under the program for cereals, 12 grams per serving, which in the case of Froot Loops is 41 percent of the product, measured by weight. That is more sugar than in many popular brands of cookies.

“Froot Loops is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals and it is also a good source of fiber with only 12 grams of sugar,” said Celeste A. Clark, senior vice president of global nutrition for Kellogg’s, which makes Froot Loops. “You cannot judge the nutritional merits of a food product based on one ingredient.”

Holy crap. Apparently, as long as you pump some laboratory nutrients into a pile of sugar then it qualifies as "smart". But I'm rushing to judgment. Sugar is just "one ingredient", after all. Froot Loops are the nutritional equivalent of a relationship where the guy is fantastic in bed but he beats you every night. "Don't judge him based on that!"

Here's my personal favorite.

[Dr. Kennedy] said Froot Loops was better than other things parents could choose for their children.

“You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal,” Dr. Kennedy said, evoking a hypothetical parent in the supermarket. “So Froot Loops is a better choice.”

Holy crap. I'm rushing around. I'm a busy parent. I don't know what to do. And I'm really not all that smart, even though Dr. Kennedy told me I was. How could I be if I don't know if a doughnut is a good choice for breakfast? But wait! This check mark tells me that Froot Loops are better! Yes! Hey, are they putting a super-duper check mark on that banana? 'Cause that seems like an even better choice. No? No. My only choices are Froot Loops and doughnut. That's it. Want a choice. Rushing around.

I guess that is somewhat logical. I mean, it's all relative. Hey, would I be better off giving my kids a bowl of Froot Loops or a pile of arsenic-laden buffalo feces? Clearly, Froot Loops are the smart choice. Thank you, Dr. Kennedy!

I could keep going, but this piece is so rich in mind-boggling quotes that I could just copy the whole thing verbatim. I'll leave the rest to you. Go. Read. Unreal.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Really? THIS Is Something to Be Upset About?

It's hard to imagine people in this country getting any more petty and stupid. Congratulations, America. You've done it again.

The latest manufactured outrage? The President of the United States is going to make a speech to school children. Oh no! He's the first to ever do this! He's going to idoctrinate our children with all of his socialist propaganda!

Seriously, people. Do you have any idea how stupid this makes you look? He's talking to your children about staying in school and your response is to take them out of school. The gentleman (and I use that term quite loosely) who thinks that "values" should be taught by parents, and this is why he's keeping his kids home, may want to think about the fact that he sends his kids to school every other day to be taught by people who presumably are not him. Better start keeping them home every day, dad. They're getting indoctrinated.

So lots of kids will fall a day behind in their studies because their parents don't want them to hear ten minutes of boilerplate stay-in-school, which they won't listen to anyway, from a man with whom they disagree on a number of completely unrelated issues.

It doesn't matter what Obama talks about. Apparently, he'll be using his hypnotic powers to promote gay marriage and universal health care without our poor children even knowing about it. Obama will say "Stay in school, kids!" but they'll come home saying "The workers control the means of production!"

As much as I hate to fall back on this argument, I'm sure that the simple truth is that many parents don't want their children taking advice from a black man. We've come a short way, baby.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dick Cheney Can Suck My Ass

Seriously. And while he's at it, he can suck the whole nation's giant, boil-ridden ass too. Twice.

Remember when Jimmy Carter criticized The Idiot and his gang? And pretty mildly too, given the circumstances, if you ask me. (And I know you do.) Okay, so he called them "the worst in history". But really, that just barely scratched the surface.

Anyway, you heard howls about an ex-president criticizing a sitting president. An awful breach of decorum! Spitting on a long-standing unwritten rule! The horror of such disrespect! And anyway, who was he to talk?

Of course, now that he's no longer president (yes, president), Dick has been piling it on. Obama was barely inaugurated when Dick started blaming the next terrorist attack on him. Classy.

It's pretty hilarious to hear the head of the most politicized White House in American history claim that any investigation into their criminal activities must be "intensely partisan" and "politicized". You guys would never do anything like that, would you, Dick?

This is all about deflection. Cheney would just disappear if he weren't going to be implicated in all of this. After all, this did not happen in a vacuum. Everything that happened was ordered by somebody. Rules were re-written and legal "opinions" were ordered. Dick needs to get the word out now so when he gets dragged into court (well, he probably won't be but he knows that he should be, in a country that respects the rule of law) he has some right-wing, and maybe "moderate" opinion on his side.

Even if you survive cancer, it continues to define your life. No matter what we do, these cancers will stay with us until long after we're gone. Thanks a bunch, dick.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Edward M. Kennedy

No biographical details should be necessary here. That's been covered extensively elsewhere, in print and in video. (I'm not even bothering to link. If you're connected, you've seen it all.)

Ted Kennedy was the senator in my home state since before I was born. Think about that. The same man has held that seat for my entire life. But just holding a senate seat is not that difficult. The power of incumbency only grows with time. At some point, unless you do something really horrible like try to pass a bill mandating abortions for every woman due to give birth on a Tuesday, it's a lifetime position like the Supreme Court. But what you do with that position is what makes you.

Teddy was a bit of a goof in his younger days. Not a great student and prone to bad behavior. But, unlike some other children of privilege who were goofs in their younger days and went into politics based on their family name, he worked hard to become a legislator of the top order. And beyond that a fighter, a real and true fighter, for unabashedly liberal causes. When Reaganism was in vogue (and still is, among a certain subset of our brainwashed nation) he defended not just the word "liberal", which had become, and continues to be, a dirty word to some, but the ideals behind it. He was not ashamed to say that compassion meant more than just feeling for others but acting on their behalf. This was the "great work".

No one expected much of Ted. But he ended up being the most consequential of all the Kennedys (Eunice being a possible exception). Even after the scandals of Chappaquiddick and his nephew William Kennedy Smith, he proved that there are second (and third and fourth) acts in American lives. The totality of Ted Kennedy, even with his personal disgraces, was overwhelmingly a net positive. You can thank him if you have a disability, or are a woman, or a child, or care about civil rights, or if you just happen to have a body. His death may re-focus energy on passing some form of useful health care legislation.

In our corporate-controlled government, Ted's example will not be followed by many. But a true government of, by and for the people would be populated by a lot more Ted Kennedys and a lot fewer John Boehners and Mitch McConnells.

Goodbye, senator. And thank you. You will be sorely missed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

PYSBRIoM: Doug Glanville

I was cool to this guy's blog at first. Who needs another ex-jock yapping about a game that he never was a superstar at in the first place? I can be judgmental. This is where I am deficient. To my credit, I did come back and read it every now and then. I like to give people a reasonable opportunity to win me over. This is where I am not deficient. Glad I did.

Doug Glanville knows the game and he knows how to write. Just as importantly, he's the rare smart jock whose intelligence and interests range well outside of the foul lines. I've been watching baseball (and reading about baseball) for many years. But there are very few writers who can hold my interest on the topic. There is the occasional Roger Angell, who isn't really a baseball writer but a writer who happens to write about baseball. Or revolutionary stat geek like Bill James.

But Glanville has won me over with his clear-headed and informative bits about baseball culture and the real struggles and concerns of the human beings that play the game. His current piece is about why players should bother showing up when their team is clearly going nowhere. Believe it or not, they should. And Glanville will tell you why. He gives even longtime fans new things to think about.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Robert Novak

Good riddance, you lying motherfucker.

I'm sure you had family that loved you. To them, I offer my profound condolences.

For the rest of us, you were a smug, deceitful right-wing apologist and propagandist who cared less about the truth and the safety and well-being of everyday Americans than you did about promoting your own ghastly ideology.

It's fitting that you died of a malignant brain tumor because you had the most malignant of brains.

You were the kind of person that makes me dearly wish that I believed in an afterlife, particularly the hot and crispy place, where right about now you would undoubtedly be checking in for an extended stay after a hasty triage to determine your proper infernal stateroom.

The world is a better place without you. You would probably take that as a compliment, as it implies that you "made a difference". Feel free. We'll get on with our lives without you to pollute our air any further.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You Call This a Debate? Take Out the "t" and Add a "cl".

Hello, people. I haven't been around much lately. I've been thinking about stuff, just not writing about it.

One of the things I've been thinking about is health care. (Really? You're, like, the only one. Nobody's talking about it.)

You know, we all had a lovely series of moments when Obama was elected and took office. Hurray, America. We elected a black man. The Bush/Cheney era was ending. It was cleansing. It was wonderful. A new day was dawning.

Bullshit. Utter fucking bullshit. We are now seeing just how dishonest and depraved this nation really is.

Obama was never a flaming liberal. He was always a pragmatic centrist "liberal". I knew he was in trouble almost immediately upon taking office when the stimulus bill, for which Obama spent a lot of time attempting to get Republican buy-in got, oh, zero Republican votes. The red flag was not that the bill got no Republican votes. I kind of expected that. The red flag was that Republicans and their enablers in the supposedly liberal media howled with fury about how partisan Obama was being. "He never consulted us! This bill was supposed to be bipartisan and it's the most partisan bill ever! He's a fraud!" I knew at this point that nothing would be easy and that there was nothing, literally nothing he could do to get anything worthwhile done. Bipartisanship requires two willing parties. And we were at least one short. Country first? Nuh-uh.

And here we are at health care, a big issue for folks and one for which there is broad support among the American electorate. Here's a lovely New York Times poll showing that 72% of Americans support a government-run health plan. 72%! Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get 72% of Americans to agree on anything? We can't get 72% of Americans to agree that torture is a bad thing. Yes, torture, which is unequivocally and unambiguously illegal under domestic and international law, not to mention immoral and ineffective. But 72% were for a public plan. And 7% had no opinion in the health care poll, which means only 20% of Americans opposed it. That's slightly more than the number that like Dick Cheney. And athlete's foot.

And yet, where are we with the public option (which, by the way, is only a shadow of what we should be moving towards, which is universal single-payer)? Well, it's about to be killed. Why? Because of a few people shouting at town hall meetings, per the direction of a few right-wing and corporate-sponsored groups, and media ass monkeys all around the joint.

I really don't have the strenght to go into the details right now, which you undoubtedly know already, but suffice it to say that every single argument I've heard against a public plan, let alone single-payer, has contained at least one whopping big fat honking lie. Not an untruth, not a stretch, not a minor prevarication, but something grossly, demonstrably false. Death panels! 6-month waits! No choices! Government takeover! Tyranny! All of it patently untrue and promoted relentlessly by the insurance industry and Fox News. Surprise surprise.

For crying out loud, they took out end-of-life care counseling (counseling!) because apparently it was easier to do so than to just explain why the death panel idea was a lie. How low must your opinion of the American people be when you can't debunk something so easily debunked?

Not low enough, apparently. Because now they're talking about taking the public option out of the mix. Why? Because lying works. That's how stupid we are. Congratulations, insurance industry. This is an absolute triumph of propaganda. You've managed to take a topic about which there was broad consensus and make it seem like an apocalyptic gummint nightmare to which the villagers were revolting with the pitchforks and the torches in an inspiring show of democracy in action.

Hey, Congress. If you're thinking of passing a bill that can't even include something so modest, and for which there was such support, for fear of pissing off a few yahoos and the corporations whose bidding they do, don't bother, okay? I can't bear the thought of you and the president congratulating yourselves for doing something worse than doing nothing.

I have officially lost all of the good feelings I had about this country around the turn of last year. My opinion of this country is actually lower than it was during the nightmare that was the Bush administration. And that is really saying something.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kenya Dig It?

Apparently, the birthers read my blog. Before my comments, they hadn't even bothered to forge a birth certificate for Obama. Situation rectified.

Of course, the thing's an obvious fake, debunkable with just minutes of Google time.

I thought I'd get one too. Here 'tis.

Go here for yours.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Birth, Right?

I'm really having a difficult time understanding people. (This is news?) We just emerged from eight years of an utterly lawless administration, of which we continue to learn more and more details of just how far they were willing to go to undermine our constitution and system of checks and balances.

Some of us weren't happy with this and expressed our displeasure at the time. Our reward? We were told that we were deranged. Literally. They coined the term Bush Derangement Syndrome in order to plant the idea that we weren't reacting to actual crimes being committed by our so-called leaders but that we were poisoned by an irrational hatred of the man himself. This was really putting the cart of hatred before the horse of insanely undemocratic and immoral policy. It was a clever -- if cheap and dishonest -- way of deflecting attention away from the criminals and towards those nuts who would call them on their criminality. Sand in the face.

Now, here we are in the future. I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with our new leader. I'm a fan in general, but I have some serious issues with him. (First and foremost, his insistence on continuing some of the worst policies of his predecessor.) But the people who believe that Obama is not a U.S. citizen are seriously, literally, certifiably deranged.

How on earth can a person continue to insist, in spite of overwhelming (or at least, satisfactorily convincing) evidence to the contrary, that The Prez was somehow born in Africa? These people show up at rallies and at town halls insisting that there is some sort of conspiracy on and that we're still waiting for him to show proof of birth. This, of course, is over a year after his birth certificate was produced and published. Oh, and the State of Hawaii certified more than once that he was born there. And, yeah, after two Honolulu newspapers dug up their archives to find the announcement that the Obamas had a baby boy on August 4th, 1961.

This should be more than enough to satisfy anyone.

And yet, we still have this.

For extra fun, go to the YouTube page where this video came from and enjoy the eloquent comments.

I'd be willing to give them the benefit of a small amount of doubt if there were the teeny-tiniest base on which to build their nutty theory (and I apologize here for demeaning the word "theory"), such as a claim of a birth certificate from Kenya, for instance. Haven't heard about it. This is built on a foundation of nothing.

The absolute rage displayed by these people, and utter indifference to reason or logic, tells me that this is not about facts. It's about people who simply can't comprehend that their vision of America is moribund. And this is the way they express it, by clinging to a fable. They couldn't possibly be wrong. Obama couldn't possibly be popular. It must be a hoax. Facts to the contrary? Scream louder.