Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Proud To Be An American?

Does America have anything to be proud of these days? Well, if she treasures social injustice, iniquities, and cold-heartedness, maybe she does. Not if you read these articles, however, which I really recommend to the heartless Republicans who seem to abound these days.

America In Decline.
Health Care And The Wages Of Sin

The sooner you guys see the error of your ways, the better for all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Great Republican Pro-Life Hyprocrisy

It is a well-known fact that, for many Republican anti-abortion politicos, “life begins at conception and ends at birth.” So says, Carol Joffe, professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

That quip is well-exemplified by the ongoing Republican effort to block funding for essential health care for 9/11 responders. Read Carol Joffe's article to get your blood to boil, then write the Republican Senators like Tom Coburn and Jon Kil who are beyond shameful in their politicking on such a vitally important issue of humanity.

Politicians should not be punished for holding ideas antithetical to our own, but for the hypocrisy they openly display when they defend their turf against all reason.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Abominable Tax Deal

Robert Reich, on Obama's latest capitulation without a fight.

Funny? Not quite.

When there is so much truth in comedy, laughter often leaves to make room for tears. Read Andy Borowitz's take on President Obama's "tax deal" with his Republican überlords.

Incidentally, I thought this was the President who said something like "our job is not to get re-elected; our job is to get results for the American people." Or something to that extent.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Republicans 80,000,000,000 - America's Middle Class 0

The President, this President, is a tool.

With some help from some corrupt Dems, but mainly of his own doing, President Obama has once again agreed to capitulate to Republican demands: The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are going to be extended for 24 months, in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits for 13 months. That is good news for the unemployed, and even better news for people who did not need more money in the first place. Notice how the deal is lopsided in favor of the country's true owners.

Russell at Obsidian Wings put it best: "I must have missed the memo where the Democratic POTUS is the Republican leadership's marketing liaison."

Progressives are at a loss for words to describe the betrayal they have had to endure for the last 23 months. Reagan must be celebrating the Republicans' good fortunes in hell.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving or, as American Indians know it, National Day of Mourning.

To those who chastise me for being a relativist, I like to point out that absolutism is a matter of lack of perspective.

Have a happy one, anyway.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Diplomat I Am Not

My letter to the White House on the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Dear President Obama:

Your first two years in office have been truly dsappointing for progressives. A watered-down health care reform that leaves predatory insurance companies and health care providers in charge, relief for Wall Street and not Main Street (like many Americans, my mortgage is under water, why not allow me to write off my loss, as a one-time measure?), the Afghan War surge, and overall timid policies that have contributed to the resounding Demoratic losses in the mid-terms.

Don't you think it's time to mobilize your base, by sending them the signal that you are working for them and not for the über-rich and powerful?

If the GOP insists that the condition for the Bush tax cuts to be extended for the middle-class is also to extend them for the richest 1-2%, then I am willing to give my tax cuts up. Let all tax cuts expire, then let the Senate introduce a bill to give the middle-class even bigger tax cuts, and let the GOP. vote against such a bill. Let the American people understand who the GOP really works for, and maybe, just maybe, Americans will vote for you and Democrats in 2012. As the lesser of two evils, obviously, but an easy choice nonetheless.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Goes Around, Comes Around

This is really funny news in the "law of unintended consequences" department.

It's what happens when people are so cocksure about their superiority and blinded by their prejudice and hatred that they end up shooting themselves in the foot.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Paul Krugman's Take On The Hijacked Commission

Known by many as "The Catfood Commission" for the rather drastic effects it would have on the the middle-class and the poor in this country, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (also known as the Deficit Reduction Commission), an ill-conceived creation of the increasingly disappointing and overrated mind of President Obama, has released its findings/proposals earlier this week.

Paul Krugman has a rather fierce dissection of the commission's work in today's NYT op-ed. Consider this excerpt: "[H]ow, exactly, did a deficit-cutting commission become a commission whose first priority is cutting tax rates, with deficit reduction literally at the bottom of the list?" Good question, Prof. Krugman.

You can find the complete answer in Krugman's op-ed, The Hijacked Commission.

Stupid Poll

From CNN's home page, this has to be one of the stupidest polls ever published:

Would you support a 15 cent per gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax to help rein in the U.S. debt? [Emphasis added.]

Think about that: Someone is pushing the idea that "to help rein in U.S. debt" we should add a 15 cent per gallon tax to gasoline? I'll give CNN the benefit of the doubt and assume that this proposal was advanced by someone outside of CNN, and that CNN is simply reporting it as a poll to gauge popular sentiment.

Whichever the case, is that the most idiotic proposal you ever heard to help rein in the U.S. debt?

At a time when Congress is pushing for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% in America, someone thinks that we should be increasing gasoline taxes by 15 cents per gallon.

The problem with this country is that few understand the concept of regressive taxation v progressive taxation. Taxes that apply indiscriminately to everybody take a bigger toll on the poorest amongs us. They should never be implemented as a means to primarily increase revenue.

Use of regressive taxation should be limited to cases in which the government (local, state or federal) is trying to discourage a particular elective behavior, for example a cigarette tax aimed at discouraging smoking is still regressive (it impairs the ability of the poor to smoke more than it does the very rich) but it is an understandable compromise to discourage an undesirable behavior. Likewise, a gasoline tax aimed at discouraging gasoline usage for environmental purposes, while hitting the poor harder than the rich, is an acceptable use of regressive taxation IF the region where it is implemented already has adequate transportation alternatives.

Note that the key for acceptable uses of regressive taxation should be directed not only at undesirable behaviors, but elective ones. In other words, you can choose to smoke but don't have to, and you can choose to drive everywhere but don't have to. On the other hand, taxing milk, toothpaste or bread should never be entertained (and in fact sales taxes does not apply to certain basic items in most states), because such items are not elective in nature, but basic needs of human beings in a civilized society.

This kind of reasoning touches on a larger topic, that of flat taxes. I have a couple of very good friends who say they support a flat tax. I doubt that they understand the basic unfairness of a flat tax system (one in which everybody pays the same tax rate, regardless of income level), and I strive to explain it to them every time we discuss the subject. One of the most underappreciated effects of a regressive tax system, such as a flat tax system, by those who support it is the rise in income inequality, the level of which has already reached unseen proportion in over one hundred years.

FYI, the NOs are prevailing on the YESes by a 23% margin (63 to 37%). But the fact that 37% of the people support the regressive proposal suggests that a fairly large portion of the American public has accepted as valid a rhetoric that rewards interests opposed to its own (the super rich v. the poor's). Therefore, educating the public should be the top priority of progressives in this country.

If progressives spent as much time educating the public on important issues such as the unfairness of flat or regressive taxes as they spend on making and counting get-out-the-vote calls before election day (not to mention the time they spend patting each other on the back), we may see a public opinion shift in battles that we should be winning resoundingly, and which we are losing instead.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One Pseudo-Democratic Senator I Would Gladly Lose

Even if it meant losing the Senate, Kent Conrad's is one pseudo-Democrat who needs to go in 2012. Hopefully he will be ousted by a better Democrat, but if he loses his re-election bid to a Republican, little or nothing would be lost. (He already fought agains the Public Option and now he is fighting for the Deficit Commission's draconian cuts to services.)

Read Barbara Morrill's Daily Kos post on Veterans' Day rhetoric and you will understand why.

Dumb and Dumber

This just in from David Axelrod, about the fact that the Obama administration will "have to" cave in to Republicans pushing for the Bush tax cuts to be extended for those making over $250,000.

"There are concerns," [Axelrod] added, that Congress will continue to kick the can down the road in the future by passing temporary extensions for the wealthy time and time again. "But I don't want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point." [via Huffington Post]

Axelrod's logic is appalling because it fails to recognize that the security of the middle-class which he and the President are so concerned about (in words) depends to a large degree on increasing revenues by repealing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy 2%. Now I do understand that passing tax cuts for the middle-class will be harder if the administration chooses not to appease Republicans, but let Republicans show the nation whose interest they are truly working for. Eventually, if they don't want to be "repealed" themselves two years from now, they would have to cave in themselves.

The problem with Obama is not that he governs from the center or that he is a pragmatist. The problem is that he has no principles strong enough to endure assault, no balls, and no fire within.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

They Won't Be Happy Until They Have Completely Repealed The New Deal

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post titled They Won't Be Happy Until They Have Completely Destroyed The Middle-Class, in which--among other things--I wished for the death (of natural causes) of Rush Limbaugh, spewer of hatred, peddler of deceit, and enemy of every American who thinks America should belong to the people and not to corporations.

I have to admit, a couple of days on, that wishing evil people dead may be a human and understandable gut-reaction to hatred directed at us, but it does not solve the problem, simply because the number of people who should drop dead for things to improve is so large it would boggle the mind.

Unfortunately, thought, it seems that wishful thinking is the last recourse of the sane man in America, because the powers at work to literally destroy what remains of a middle-class that made American and the world great are relentless, well-financed, and overwhelmingly represented in the rooms where decisions are made. In other words, the little people (whereby I am not referring to people of modest physical stature, but of insignificant economic means) are going to be hopelessly crushed by those who profess to act in the interest of Main Street but are acting on behalf or on the orders of Wall Street.

Latest among the despicable schemes to repeal the accomplishments of the New Deal (and the Great Society) is the drive to privatize Social Security, and to axe the benefits that working Americans of all beliefs, political convictions and walks of life, were promised by people greater than the current ilk.

This push to cut benefits, which has the ultimate goal of moving the bulk of Social Security savings into the rapacious hands of Wall Stree investment fund managers, is particularly insane because it comes in the wake of a worldwide financial crisis that has crippled the savings of people the world over. Imagine if, instead of being deposited into a guaranted Social Security benefit fund, you had been forced to invest your lifetime savings into stock or any kind of fund subject to the fluctations of a market managed by greediest, soulless, immoral people on the planet.

Alas, I have no faith in the American people to rise against these evil raiders of the social good, as they should if this was a country populated by rational human beings, and not fattened, mesmerized, lifeless drones. If this were France, England, Germany, or anywhere where people understand that unity is what wins these battles against pure evil, people would have taken to the streets at the first whiff of cuts to Social Security, present or future. Unfortunately, this is the country where people like Rand Paul get elected, who feel no shame in declaring that there are no rich and poor, that we are all united in the economic bloodstream of the nation and that taxing the least of us more (in proportional terms) than those who have amassedd huge wealth in no small part thanks to idiots like Rand Paul is the logical thing to do.

Who will help us if we cannot help ourselves?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Let Texas Secede

If any Tea-Partying state wants to secede, let Texas lead the way. My friends in Texas can always come and stay with us in Colorado. Until Colorado finally joins the secessionists and we regularly-brained people have moved to Germany.

They Won't Be Happy Until They Have Completely Destroyed The Middle-Class

When Al Franken wrote "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot", still recommended after all these years, he left one adjective out: evil.

How else would you explain this?

You heard right: On Rush's daily ode to Mammon, pre-existing conditions are welfare.

My wife tells me that it is not good to wish for people to die, but I will take Rush Limbaugh as my mulligan.

Let's be unequivocally clear: I am not advocating for anyone to kill him, but an oxycontin overdose? All I am saying that if karma did its job, sooner rather than later, it would be better for Americans, particularly those with a pre-existing condition known as life.

And let's be clear about something else: Rush Limbaugh is not Hitler, nor Stalin, nor Pol Pot. But the ideas and policies he pushes and advocates for, such as the idea that pre-existing conditions are welfare (an idea that taps an unprecedented level of idiocy and evil even for Rush Limbaugh) are truly evil. And by the time he is done spewing evil on the airwaves he and many of the Republican shills in Congress will have a great number of dead Americans on their conscience. If they had one.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


About Faux News reporting on the supposed costs of President Obama's trip to India.

'nuff said.

If President Obama Keeps Ignoring Nobel Winning Economists, Why Do We Keep Saying He Is A Really Smart Guy?

It seems to me that when a smart lawyer gets advice from Nobel-prize winning economists to change course on many of his ill-advised policies (the advisors being foxes in the henhouse like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner), he should take it. President Obama is such a lawyer and Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman are two such economists. He routinely ignores these top world economists' advice. Either he is not smart, or he is taking us for a ride.

America, Land of the Free to Be Stupid

I think the title of Elizabeth Wurtzel's op-ed for the Guardian is a bit ingenerous and not totally accurate. It should be: America, Land of the Free to Be Manipulated, Duped, AND Stupid. As it were, it is just America, Land of the Free to Be Stupid. (via Common Dreams)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

FAIR, on Keith Olbermann's Suspension

As you may know, Keith Olbermann has been suspended by MSNBC for making political contributions that he failed to disclose to MSNBC.

The issue, in my opinion, is not whether Olbermann's suspension is justified or not (it probably is, as many corporations have specific disclosure rules about political contributions). The issue is the hypocrisy in this case, so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting points out that NBC and General Electric have an obvious hypocrisy problem.

The Greatest Banana Republic The World Has Ever Seen

The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof penned an op-ed titled Our Banana Republic. It seems to me the that Tea Party and the Republican Party, true to the American tradition of leadership, are hell-bent on making the United States "number one!" Among Banana Republics, that is.

P.S. If you are wondering why I used corruption as a label, it goes without saying that you do not become a true Banana Republic without a corrupt political system. It's just that here we call it "lobbying" Congress.

Once Again, On False Equivalences

Bill Maher hits the nail on the head on the subject of the left-wing V right-wing media (false) equivalence. (Forgive his mispronunciation of retired Gen. Antonio Taguba's name.)

Oklahoma Bans Sharia Law And Other Idiocies

I picked this up on the Daily Kos, and it's a true gem.
"[In] Oklahoma, voters overwhelmingly approved state question 755 [to ban Islamic Sharia law], one of the most important initiatives in their state's history. This is great news. Just because something doesn’t exist doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ban it. That's why I have long fought for ballot measures to ban cat pilots, baby curling, and man-futon marriage."
---Stephen Colbert

There are, believe it or not, those who praise the wisdom and foresight of Oklahomans. And I cringe at the thought that it will be the Roberts Court that rules on the obvious unconstitutionality of such a ban once the issue gets to the Nine. (You should also know that the referendum, which voters passed, sought to ban courts from considering or using international law, which is obviously unconstitutional per Article VI of the United States Constitution, which teabaggers looooooove!)

Personally, I welcome any and all referenda that seek to ban the undue influence of religion on the lives of U.S. residents (citizens or non-citizens). Oh, wait: Shouldn't the First Amendment already do that? Oh, but you are right, the concept of the separation of church and state appears nowhere in the Constitution. If you are a dim-witted teabagger senatorial candidate, that is.

But really, in a country where supposedly intelligent, loving, and reasonable Christians want Intelligent Design taught in schools alongside the Theory of Evolution, where they believe that stem cell research should be banned on religious grounds, where they feel comfortable analogizing homosexuality to alcoholism on national TV, where they view global warming as a hoax or a conspiracy perpetrated on the American public for the monetary gain of a few, why should Oklahomans busy themselves with banning Sharia Law instead of their own science-averse and discriminatory beliefs?

Incidentally, the Sharia Ban is not the only likely unconstitutional referendum that Oklahoma's voters approved of: They also approved of a requirement that would allow residents to opt out of any federal health care mandates (in a pretty clear contravention of the Commerce Clause.)

I am curious to see what Christians can come up with in the way of an intelligent response.

Rick Perry Advocates Ending Social Security As We Know It

Rick Perry, the guy who will run to become fear-mongerer in-chief (i.e. the Republican nominee for the White House) in 2012 wants to end Social Security as we know it. Think Progress points out the insanity of the plan. This guy is truly, truly dangerous for the future of this country.

Maddow On Point

As usual, Rachel Maddow shines for clarity and accuracy on the MSNBC v. Olbermann fiasco (re: political contributions).


How Great A President Was Ronald Reagan? This Great!

For those who regard Ronald Reagan as an example for our young people to follow (and conversely consider Jimmy Carter's presidency a failure), I offer this picture...

Circled in the photo are the solar panels that President Carter had installed on the roof of the West Wing in 1977, and that President Reagan chose to have removed in 1986. Here's how:
Then came “a clear, calculated campaign by the [Department of Energy] in the years of the Reagan administration to crush the solar energy program of the federal government” according to Denis Hayes, an expert on solar energy who worked for the government at the time. According to another expert involved in Carter’s original solar panel installation, Reagan’s Administration “felt that the equipment was just a joke… and he had it taken down.” [From The Forgotten History Blog]

President Carter, regarded as a failure of a president by many Americans, promoted renewable energy in 1977. Germany, now the world leader in solar energy technology, lit up to the idea of solar panels 24 years later, in 2001. China has overtaken the U.S. in the production and adoption of solar technology. In the United States we have a class of ignorant, idiotic, and dangerous politicians who spend their time pushing for new oil exploration in ANWR and right outside of Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, and who allow fracking in their states.

That is the legacy to our generation of that revered president, Ronald Reagan. Without him, who knows, the United States may well have been on the road to less and less dependence from foreign oil, and the manufacturing sector could have benefited from substantial public investments in renewable energy. Why, there may even have been no 9/11.

And the right wants him carved on the face of Mt. Rushmore?

Friday, November 05, 2010

Obama v FDR's Majorities

I stumbled across a really interesting comparison of Obama and FDR's presidencies, and I completely agree with the writer of this post, who says: "So the point isn’t about the size of majorities. It isn’t clear Obama would have been in any better shape had he had FDR’s majorities." You have to read the post to find out the rest of the compelling opinion.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Fire Tim Kaine

Tim Kaine has been a disastrous replacement for Howard Dean as head of the DNC, and that's another failure we have the President to thank for. It's hard to imagine that Dean would have failed to knock off a few weak Republicans in this election cycle, and that he would not have held some seats (like Grayson, Feingold and Perriello, for example) that were lost last night.

Kaine's gotta go. And unless Obama changes his tune in the next two years, he's gotta go too (and it won't be a problem).

Time To Give Up?

After a night like tonight (last night, already?) the urge to give up is great. I cannot really say that I am disappointed with election results. I am disappointed with what happens in between elections.

This time I am particularly disappointed, because Democrats held the legislature whole, and the executive, and they still managed to fuck things up. Democrats squandered a once in a lifetime opportunity to accomplish meaningful reform. They did everything too timidly, like--for example--they way the handled so-called health care reform: they compromised everything desirable away, and the remaining meaningful provisions, like insurance exchanges, will not kick in until 2014. Are you kidding me?

For a couple of weeks leading up to the elections, the President scuttled around the nation saying "Lookee here! Look at all we have done!" People must not have been impressed, if the results of the elections are to be believed. Rightly so, I might add.

We were promised health care reform. We got an expansion of the current, morally and financially bankrupt(-ing) insurance system.

We were promised Guantanamo would be closed. It's still open.

We were promised the end of war, and all that happened was that more troops were sent to Afghanistan and the soldiers who remain in Iraq were simply re-classified as non-combat troops. Go tell the Iraqi insurgents who routinely attack them.

We were promised financial reform. We bailed out the people that ruined us with hardly any consequences for them.

We were promised help to the middle class. Ask the middle-class folks who lost their job, their home, their savings.

What's worse, pundits will tell us that the mid-terms show that progressivism is the big loser, because Feingold lost his Senate seat and Alan Grayson and Tom Perriello lost their first-term House seats. And I am afraid they might be right, because those who say that progressives stayed home because they felt betrayed cannot apply to Grayson and Perriello. It simply looks like fear won once again, as it does so often.

We were promised hope. No promise was ever betrayed more egregiously.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Today's Vote

Hold your noses and go vote.

Here are a couple of commentaries that should shed light on what happens if you do not.

Today is the day.

To which I would add: I know that calling yourself an independent makes you feel all grown-up, but it assumes that there are Republicans who have your best interest at heart. There aren't.

Don't kid yourself: Republicans are, generally-speaking, the party of the one-percenters, the unspeakably wealthy seeking to get wealthier to your detriment, the regressives, those who would love nothing more than the uncontested rule of moneyed interests, the party of the Bushes, the Scalias, the Roberts and the Thomases. The party of those who love to say that they love to love (opportunity for all Americans), whereas in fact the opportunity they conceive of does not include health care for all, a minimum wage (let alone a living wage), the choice not to carry a pregnancy to term even when the baby's daddy is the mummy's daddy or drunk uncle, or a rapist, where blacks and minorities are only included in photo-ops, not in real discussions about their future. They are the party of people who will trivialize anything (Clinton's indiscretions, Obama's birth certificate) in order to get everything they don't already have.

Republicans are the party that spent millions of dollars on astro-turfing, the practice of enlisting angry folks under the banner of rage, by making them believe that they were part of a grass-root effort, when in fact they were being co-opted only to stop clean energy from replacing a slice of the fossil-fuel cake with something that will slow down the killing of the environment, or to privatize that grand and evil socialist scheme, Social Security, thanks to which your grandparents live at home instead of roasting in your attic or sinking in your basement. Imagine the glee with which Wall Street would have incinerated your parent's lifetime savings in one of the many financial crises that have occurred or will follow these times.

If you still want to go out and vote Republicans, hey! it's a free country, not in name only. Not yet.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Truth About President Obama

On Wednesday, President Obama was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It was a weird interview, which started fairly jovially and ended with the president looking annoyed at Stewart's line of questioning, with the host calling the president timid in his policies in spite of the promise of audacity which he used as a backdrop for his campaign.

Just over a week earlier, the always fiery David Michael Green had already explained why the president's performance fell so egregiously short of the high expectations progressives had two years ago:
Perhaps a better explanation for the failure of Obama and his ilk to fight hard for the country’s welfare and for progressive values is that he is no progressive at all. I’ve been arguing that for a long time, and he is certainly helping to reaffirm that notion right now by appealing a federal court decision ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a policy which he claims to oppose. But, in fact, the Obama ideology ship sailed a long time ago. He previously also went to court defending the Defense of Marriage Act. He bailed out Wall Street a hundred pennies on the dollar, and demanded nothing of them in return. He has tripled the US presence in Afghanistan, and is bombing the snot out of Pakistan. He has not closed Guantánamo, and has an even worse record on civil liberties than Bush and Cheney did. His health care bill is a total gift to insurance corporations, and now we’ve just learned from Tom Daschle that the president had never considered the public option at all, having cut a deal with those corporations in advance promising that there would be no such component in the legislation. And so on, and so on. Stupid voters make the erroneous assumption that politicians like Bill Clinton are liberal because they are Democrats, and because the right and the media keep telling them that these guys are liberals. Most of the country has now done the same for Obama, but of course the opposite is true. So maybe the explanation for his failed presidency is simply that he has adopted the same regressive policies that have been killing the country for three decades now.

But, wait! Green has another theory about the president's failure, and it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that he may be right.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Self Portrait

Enjoy, for a good weekend.

(Steps Ahead: Michael Brecker - tenor sax; Mike Mainieri - vibraphone; Chuck Loeb - guitar; Victor Bailey - bass; Peter Erskine - drums. Umbria Jazz Festival, Perugia, Italia, July 13th, 1985)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ken Buck, Bad for the Brain, Bad for the World

You know how people (well, OK, not people, religious people) say that homosexuality is a choice? I always considered it really stupid argument. So, to me, it's particularly offensive and dangerous when a person who is running to represent us, like the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Colorado, Ken Buck, takes the position that homosexuality is a choice. Adultery (if you believe in such a construct) is a choice. Drinking, as opposed to abstaining, is (to a large degree) a choice. But sex? Really, in the 21st century there are still people who believe that sex is driven by choice?

It's a stupid argument for me, because I never chose to like women. I was attracted to girls since I was a boy and never did it cross my mind that I might, one day, choose to be with men (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course). I think this probably goes for the overwhelming majority of human beings. Truly, if my life depended on it and I had to tell you the day I "chose" to like girls, I'd have to lie and make up a date. Because, in all honesty, that is one answer I don't have to give. I like girls, period.

Really, then, what religious people are asking us to believe is that it would be becoming, for our gay and lesbian (and bisexual) brothers and sisters, to give up their natural (god-given?) sexual orientation to please a god that chose to make them different... to do what exactly? To tease them? To make an example of them. Or, worse, these people really believe that sexual orientation is not a natural feature but a preference.

The way to silence these selfish and dangerous individuals, if they were able to stop and think and shut their gob in humility, would be to ask them to pinpoint, at least to the month and year, the time they choose to like girls and not boys, or viceversa. The usual argument from them, at this point, is that bestiality and pedofilia are also natural, so should we indulge people with such proclivities? That is usually the moment I have to bite my tongue until it bleeds, count to 100, and then say--as politely as possible under the circumstances: "Don't you think that, perhaps, what consenting adult do is different from what an adult imposes on a five year-old? Also, there are some really good laws against Uncle Timmy abusing his little niece Amanda." If that logic does not break trough their concrete brains, then I have to walk away in a hurry because my next instinct would be to punch them. And I am against using force as a mean to show others the errors of their ways.

To add insult to injury, these self-declared Christians and their elected representatives tell us that their religion is different because it's a loving religion, and because we can all choose to have a personal relationship with their god, and that their goal is not to establish a theocracy, unlike--say--Islam. Of course, it wouldn't be a theocracy. It would just be a place where gays and lesbians would not be able to serve openly in the military, one where they would not be able to get married like everybody else (unless we wanted people to go down the slippery slope of marrying donkeys), one where they could not adopt, or even one where they should not be able to teach the children of straight folks. Again, a big difference from a theocracy, why can't you see it? And these people have the gall to call themselves, their god and their religion "loving."

I still believe that there is hope for humans, but it pains me that it takes so long to win even fights with a certain outcome, so that most people won't be alive to reap the fruits of the seeds of reason they sowed. But the fight is worth fighting and it start with voting, to ensure that people like Ken Buck do not get the opportunity to advance their evil, discriminatory beliefs.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

For Your Churchey Friends

From one of the greatest bands in history, with love.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The "Dangers" of Going The Way of Europe

Over at The Constructive Curmudgeon, Douglas Groothuis warns his readers that the upcoming mid-terms are going to be "an election of consequence." If, says Groothuis, Republicans don't make substantial gains, the American Experiment could be lost to Obama's statism, the growth of the federal government, outrageous deficits, an imperial presidency, and--shake in your boots--America may go the way of Europe.

Groothuis and us, we must be living in different worlds, because--the last I checked--the outrageous deficits Groothuis speaks of where largely inherited from the Bush presidency, as noted by David Michael Green, and so was the imperial presidency; not to mention the fact that conservatives tend to forget that massive deficit expansion that took place under their idol, Ronald Reagan. But that's okay, we expect selective memory from Republicans, that's what they do best.

But perhaps the greatest irony is that we are supposed to fear going the way of Europe, just when Alternet released an interviewed by Thomas McNally with Thomas Geoghegan, author of Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?. Go read the interview and see for yourself why we should be so afraid of going the Europe's way. Perhaps it's because
Germany has somehow managed to create a high-wage, unionized economy without shipping all its jobs abroad or creating a massive trade deficit, or any trade deficit at all. And even as the Germans outsell the United States, they manage to take six weeks of vacation every year. They're beating us with one hand tied behind their back.

Or maybe we should fear going the way of Europe because "European nations spend far less than the United States for universal healthcare rated by the World Health Organization as the best in the world" and are way ahead of the United States in creating and using renewable energy technology and in environmental protection laws.

I wasn't born here. I came by choice. I thought this was the place to be, the land of opportunity, one that rewarded initiative over inherited wealth and status. I have to reconsider.

American health care has never been a model for the world to imitate, but it has gotten even worse than it was when I arrived, more unfair.

Politics have deteriorated into the circus that we see today, in which Tea-Party clowns like Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle are regarded as serious contenders, Sarah Palin is considered a political leader and the Chamber of Commerce is a money-laundering organization for foreign entities that seek to more easily influence the political process than they could before. We have gone through the impeachment of one president whose crime was lying about getting "serviced" in the White House, while another who declared an illegal and criminal war on a nation that had not harmed us served his entire two terms out without so much as a congressional inquiry, perhaps because the Republican Congress was so busy rubberstamping everything that they were too busy wondering why four different justifications, none valid, were given for the invasion of Iraq.

Talking about Congress, the American Congress is one of the most corrupt in the Western world. I am not talking about bribes or kickbacks. I am talking about the system of election funding that induces "public servants" to act in the best interest of their corporate sponsors. A perverse system in which money equates free speech, meaning that you and I are crushed before the race starts. One that rewards ignoring the creation of well-paying jobs, fair living conditions, the protection and preservation of the Commons, equal access to justice for all, an educational system where everybody has a shot. A system that rewards focusing energy and effort on protecting the sanctity of the unborn while the living rot, on ensuring that the unconstitutional discrimination against gays continues, on forcing rape and incest victims to carry the fruit of violence to term, on denying science, why, even on denying that the President was born a U.S. citizen.

Sixty-five years ago the United States saved the world. Now they are incapable of saving themselves from the spiral of greed and dishonesty that has all but destroyed the America dream. This once great nation is becoming a Banana Republic, populated by people too ignorant, misled and apathetic to notice that their elected "representatives" have been pulling the wool over their eyes (and ears and mouths) for at least 30 years.

Remember this, since I arrived less than 20 years ago, the share of the nation's income that goes to the top 1% of earners has grown, since I arrived in 1992, from just over 40% to almost 65%, while at the same time it has dropped for the bottom 90% of earners from 30% to just over 10%.

Could it be that the thing the world should fear is going the way of America, the Republican-backed Corporate America version that Douglas Groothuis is so eager to expand?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Religion's Contribution to Science

Here's a pretty definitive argument to silence believers when it comes to their criticism of science and its inability to answer the mysteries of life, the universe and everything:

Name one factual, falsifiable, and essential contribution made by religion, any religion, to the understanding of nature and the development of life and the universe.

I thought so. Or, surprise me.

Tea Partiers Enabled The Mess We're In, And Now They Wanna Solve It?

[Knocking on tea-partier's skull] "Hello? Hello? Anybody in? Didn't think so."

Tea Partiers, says Prof. David Michael Green, were the great enablers of the mess we are in. And they are the one bitching the loudest. And now? Oh yeah, they want your vote. So they can fix the mess they helped create? Jabberwocky.

Real Republicans

Ken Buck, Colorado.

Carly Fiorina, California.

Democrats are lame, but Republicans are positively dangerous.

The worst that can happen is that you will find some Democrats, in some districts, who are as bad as the Republican candidate. But, as a rule, Republicans are far worse for regular folks (a.k.a. non-wealthy, non-millionaires.)

No brainer, no choice. Vote Democrat or suffer (more).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Curing Homosexuality

These people who advocate that gays can be cured of their homosexuality, what do you call them... ah, yes believers. I wonder about them. There is more evidence that homosexuality is not a choice (and even if it were a choice, so what?) than there is for the Universe being created by an all-loving, perfect, all-knowing (and therefore not free), all-caring god. I think we need more classes to cure religious people than ones to cure gays. Delusion being more dangerous than sexual preference, i.e.

On a related note, watch this segment from last night's Rachel Maddow Show.

Why anyone would vote for people like these is beyond me. It's quite disgusting when it's just people like the ones depicted in Maddow's segment who decry Sharia Law, when they themselves want to impose the Christian equivalent of it. I'll have none of it, will you?

Poll Respondents

I am no die-hard fan of President Obama, but I know the difference between a disappointment and a complete failure made possible by evil and idiocy. Unlike 41% of the CNN poll shown above.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Leprechauns, Religions and Science

Jerry Coyne, in USA Today, explains why science and religion are incompatible, and why religions deserves no more concessions from science than leprechauns do.

Class Warfare Hypocrisy

Interesting article on class warfare. The real one, that is.

Beware of those who accuse governments that try to bring relief to the poor and huddles masses as statists, while hailing those whose intent is to crush the same masses into servitude and submission as paladins of freedom.

Monday, October 04, 2010

This Is One Fucked Up Country

If you want proof that this is one really fucked up country, and that some of the people who inhabit it are indefensible morons, all you have to do is ready the following two articles from Think Progress:

National Review Writers Defend County Whose Subscription-Only Firefighters Watched Home Burn Down.
All I have to say is: If we have to subscribe to firefighting services, what on earth are we paying taxes for: corporate welfare and wars? In that case, I might add, sign me in for opt-in corporate welfare and opt-in military. I loath the former, and on the latter you don't even want to get me started.

The second article should be all you ever need to convince your Republican, Libertarian and teabagging friends that voting Republican is, in essence, like kissing your money, jobs, and freedom away. It describes the fact that Mike Pence, a contender for the 2012 Republican nomination for the presidency, believes that the way to fix the economy is to keep gays from marrying.

Just so we're clear, the problem is not that there are people who promote stupid ideas, such as that you should opt-in for firefighting services or that preventing gays from marrying is as much of a national priority as fixing the economy. The problem is that there is quite a large number of people who vote for candidates who promote those ideas. In any country that was not a Banana Republic, such candidates would be laughed out of debates, and kicked out of political parties.

It's getting increasingly harder to feel any pride for being Americans.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The President Who Does Not (Want To) Get It

One of these days, if and when I get past the unbelievable sense of disappointment, I might get around to commenting on the stupidity and the lack of empathy of a president who, after treating the people who were instrumental in his election like the drunk at the other end of the counter, tells them that they are irresponsible and that they should buck up (after his chief of staff called them retarded, and his press secretary called them the professional left-wing, or something to that effect.)

In the meantime, I am going to leave it at Greg Sargent's eloquent rebuke of the White House and its tone deafness on what progressives are "whining about."

OK, I can't resist the urge, such is the level of my frustration and impatience with this White House: The President and the Vicepresident are either playing dumb, or they are dumb altogether, when they say that folks like me are whining because we did not get everything we wanted. (Or, an even scarier and more offensive prospect, "change you can believe in" was all about misdirection.)

I, as many folks like me, am not complaining because I did not get everything I wanted: I am complaining because I did not get anything I wanted.

Obama's appointments have been dis-appointments, from Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor on the Supreme Court, to Tim Geithner and Larry Summers at the helm of the economic ship.

The advice the President has gotten from his Chief of Staff has been dismal, with plenty of critics coming out of the woodwork now that Rahm Emanuel is on his way out, if this Financial Times article is to be believed.

Obama's approach on health care and financial reform, in pursuit of the mirage of Republican support, was comparable in ineptitude and lack of foresight to Neville Chamberlain's foreign policy. He gave up his negotiating strong points before the negotiations even began. The common thread in both instances is the choice of leaving the foxes (Republicans and Democrats) in charge of the hen-house. The last thing I wanted was more insurance involvement in health care, and that is exactly what we got. No price-controls, no meaningful bans on rescissions (you will see), no public option. In financial reform, no caps on credit card interest rates, no sensible barriers to the size of financial institutions, no meaningful help for people in financial distress. The list could go on for pages, but I am too frustrated and too upset to continue.

If the President and his advisors have any sense left in them, they will realize that his favorability ratings have tanked, the Democrats' prospects are grim for November, and my sentiments about his presidency are shared by many, not because we are whiners, but because we thought we had elected not Anthony Robbins, but FDR. And our discontent is not due to a single factor, but to the sum of the President's actions over the two years since we celebrated the most exhilarating moment in recent political history.

If the President's goal was to appease his enemies, he is fighting a losing battle, and a mighty foolish and hopeless one. And if his desire to appease them is so overwhelming that he will go to any lengths, including insulting the intelligence of those who most believed in him, without ever throwing them a bone, he will be a one-term president, and deservedly so.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Educate Yourself, September 27, 2010 Edition

Please listen to this installment of the BBC program Business Daily. The topic is:
Could ever greater concentrations of wealth in a country be not just socially divisive, but also economically inefficient?

The rich are getting richer in America at a time of high unemployment and a worn out safety net. Steve Forbes, publisher, political hopeful, and also a very rich man defends the American economic system. John Monks of the European Trades Union Confederation makes the case for a gentler, more European, form of capitalism.

It is pretty appalling to listen to Steve Forbes's trite and unoriginal rhetoric. My favorite part starts about 8 minutes into the recording, when John Monks wonders why people in the United States have been taking thirty years of failed economic policies lying down. I often wonder, too.

We All Have Dumb Friends

We all have dumb friends, people we love in spite of their lack of good judgement or good educashun. You love them, but they remain as dumb as posts. (And to the religulous among you, that should tell you something about the power of prayer, but anyway, that's another topic, for another day.) You know, friends like Christine O'Donnell, who believe that if evolution were true (for her, it is not), we'd still see monkeys evolve into humans, or that if apes evolve into humans, why are apes still around?

Well, we all have such friends. Do not make fun of them. Instead, send them to, where they can find good answers to their dumb questions, instead of ridiculing them.

If they still don't get it, well, then, go ahead and make fun of them. Lovingly, that is.

For Those Who Would Do Away With the EPA (And Other Government Agencies): Apricots

There those (mostly libertarians and Repuglycans) who believe that it is not the government job's to regulate business and things like health care, the environmnent, etc. So, for them, this is what happens to apricots when your field happens to be next to a new garbage dump.

Again, they are (supposed to be) apricots.

For Those Who Believe In The Mythical Left Wing Media Conspiracy

This is a sad read, not an unexpected one.

"Fox ‘News’ Personalities Seen As Having Most Positive Impact In Political Debate".

In related news, "Fox ‘News’ Personalities Seen As Having Most Positive Impact In Political Debate". The political climate has changed much since the days of Eisenhower, when the marginal tax rate (the tax on the richest people) sat at 91% and no one dared called the President a socialist. Back in those days, paying a high marginal rate was considered patriotic, not confiscation. Too bad that those who pay lip service to the Greatest Generation on a daily basis forget how the greatest generation regarded taxation and patriotism.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ask The Bigot!

Don't ask, don't tell? Guess, then.
(You can find Chan Lowe's original cartoon, with commentary, here.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Quote for Conservatives, from a Conservative

In the age of Barack Obama, many rank-and-file conservatives have been more upset about redistribution of a different sort – the kind that takes money from the prosperous and ''spreads the wealth'' (as Obama put it, in his famous confrontation with Joe the Plumber) down the income ladder.

This kind of spending can be problematic. But conservatives need to recognize that the most pernicious sort of redistribution isn't from the successful to the poor. It's from savers to speculators, from outsiders to insiders, and from the industrious middle class to the reckless, unproductive rich.

From “The Class War We Need”, by conservative New York Times columnist, Ross Douthat,

David Michael Green Is One Angry Professor

"How stupid are you?", asks Prof. David Michael Green of Hofstra University.

I'll give you this: David Michael Green is one angry professor, as you can tell from his website, The Regressive Antidote. But read through his posts and, "if are not outraged, you are not paying attention." When you are done, you will ask this question: What is there NOT to be angry about?

Prof. Green's latest post is one rightfully angry rant about the State of the Union, and the question "How stupid are you?" is, for a vast number of people in this country, purely rhetorical. (Of course, followers of this blog are largely exempted, or you wouldn't be followers by now.) In any case, we won't have to wait too long to find out that the majority of the country is exactly as stupid as our dear professor fears. We will find out on the first Tuesday of November, to be exact.

In the meantime do yourself a favor, and read The Dismantling of Civilized Society. Pass it along, too, to your family, friends, and--why not?--to people for whom you suspect the answer to the opening question is "very."

Spes ultima dea, as my ancestors used to say.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Olbermann Dissects The Reality Behind The Republican Small Business Sham

Olbermann, the journalist that false equivalence peddlers/consumers label "the left's Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck" does a masterful job of dismantling the myth that extending Bush's tax cuts would help "small businesses" and their repeal, conversely, would help them.


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

After the lengthy and enlightening introduction, Olbermann then asks tax shenanigans expert David Cay Johnston and reporter Chris Hayes of The Nation to put things in even more perspective.

Again, watch:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Prof. Shallit Bashes Doug Groothuis. So I Don't Have To.

Read here.

And in case the blogger named Miranda finds this (she replied to Prof. Shallit's post): No, civility, or alleged lack thereof, has nothing to do with Groothuis banning people. Groothuis routinely uses worse invective (ok, equally bad) towards others than I or other banned invididuals ever used against him. Only, since The Constructive Curmudgeon is his blog, he can capriciously ban people rather than accepting a challenge or engaging dissenters in debate. He is very good at finding the speck in other people's arguments while displaying an uncanny ability to ignore the log in his own.

As another blogger pointed out, calling someone a hypocrite, who is demonstrably in fact a hypocrite, is no more "invective" than calling a spade a spade.

President Obama Pisses Me Off. Again. (UPDATED)

If you thought President Obama was going to appoint progressive replacements for the people that are leaving the administration. His nominee to replace Pete Orszag as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget? A guy who does not believe that deregulation is to blame for the financial crisis that crushed the world economy. I am not kidding.

Fortunately Bernie Sanders, one of the few honorable and sane senators left around, will vote against his confirmation.


Update: Cenk Uygur has a very good post about Obama's love of the establishment at Huffington Post.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Scattered Thoughts About President Obama and the State of the Union

Velma Hart, my spokeswoman.

This woman articulated the disappointment that many who helped Sen. Obama become President of the United States are feeling. Notice that many of the things that President Obama mentions as examples of success are greatly exaggerated. Credit cards still hold the upper hand over consumers (there is no cap on interest rates), health insurance reform has been a huge flop for those who were hoping that insurance companies would be punished for their past and present predatory behavior (instead, they have been rewarded with more customers), the economy is still hurting millions of Americans.

From the beginning, the President has let his base down, by surrounding himself with Clintonites and economic conservatives like Lawrence Summers (good f***ing riddance, by the way); he disregarded the advice of giant of economic studies, such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, and countless others who advised him to do more to stimulate the economy, to push greater banking reforms to prevent a repeat of "too big to fail", and to give more help to the middle class; he has taken single-payer and the public option off the table and put the worst Democrats in the Senate in charge of steering health care reform (later renamed health insurance reform, when it became obvious how much it fell short of reforming health care); he continued some of the most intrusive and abusive Bush policies in terms of secrecy and presidential authority; he has been lukewarm or absent in voicing his support for gay rights; he sought the cooperation of Republicans to a fault, when it was obvious Republicans had no intention of cooperating with him on anything; and, worst of all, he did not fire his chief of staff, Rahm F***ing Emanuel, when that piece of beastly excrement called progressive voters "f***ing retarded" for simply complaining that the president had let them down over, and over, and over again. So believe me, when Velma Hart says that she doesn't "feel it", she speaks for a great number of us, and much too politely for what President Obama truly deserves.

The greatest affront is that the President surrounded himself with the most conservative advisers he could have picked while Democrats had a large majority in both the Senate and the House, leaving us to wonder what could have been achieved if he had picked more progressive staff and if he had strong-armed worms like Max Baucus and Ben Nelson into voting for change one could believe in, or else. But not the opportunity has gone to waste. Even if he were to replace those who are departing with true progressive thinkers and public servants, they could achieve little if Congress goes Republican, as it is likely to, in the upcoming mid-terms. So maybe the plan was to talk the good talk and walk the usual middle-class-adverse walk that we have been shocked into accepting for the last 30 years. Really, when you think about it, politics have become the tool by which the rich and the powerful pour insult and injury on common folks. Who, by and large, deserve all the insult and injury poured open them, if popular support for tea-party candidates is a good yardstick of the State of the Union.


Enter Mike Huckabee.

The former Governor of Arkansas, a supposed example of how compassionate Republicans can be when they try really hard, defended the practice of health insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions:
"Look, I think that sounds terrific, but I want to ask you something from a common sense perspective. Suppose we applied that principle [to] our property insurance. And you can call your insurance agent and say, "I'd like to buy some insurance for my house." He'd say, "Tell me about your house." "Well sir, it burned down yesterday, but I'd like to insure it today." And he'll say "I'm sorry, but we can't insure it after it's already burned." Well, no preexisting conditions."

Think about that, for a moment: even the most compassionate conservative around is so blinded by his subservience to the profits of insurance companies, that he fails to understand that the job of a public servant is to find a solution to the problem, instead of accepting the status quo as the only possible answer.

Ironically, Huckabee's comments have been attacked for the lack of compassion they show to the victims of the health insurance sector. Pundits should have focused on a different aspect instead. Huckabee's comments, as heartless and disingenuous as they are, demonstrate one thing: people's health should not be left to the devices of a poorly regulated, free-rein health insurance market. The job of an insurer is to disburse as little money as possible in order to maximize profits. That involves denying as many legitimate claims as possible, or reducing the risk pool to the smallest possible size. If anyone needed any further proof that the way this country regards the relationship between health and insurance is completely insane, you should point them to Huckabee's comments.


The problem is that things will unavoidably get worse for most people under Republicans. But it does not matter any more, because neither party serves the best interest of the nation or the majority its people. They are designed to serve the interest of the oligopaths (the sociopathic oligarchs that fund the politicians' elections.) Sadly, it seems that the nation's answer to the political derangement and futility is to choose more derangement and futility, in the form of ridiculous and dangerous individuals like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and now Carl Paladino and Christine O'Donnell. I guess these days all you need to put on your résumé to become a representative of the lunatic mainstream on the right is "deranged, ignorant dingbat is seeking your vote."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On 9/11, Against Revisionism

President Bush did not keep us safe. 9/11 happened under his watch. The same goes for all the people in his administration who would like us to forget that the worst act of terrorism against the United States happened as they and their neo-con friends had been plotting to invade Iraq and to occupy the Middle East in the name of a nascent American empire, under the guise of the Project for the New American Century.

That's important to remember. Remembering is the best tribute to all who perished on 9/11 and since, in two misconceived, miscarried wars which cost this country its prosperity and the future of its middle-class.

The Havoc Rahm Emanuel Wreaked

Cenk Uygur has a smart analysis of why Rahm Emanuel is the chief culprit for the disaster that awaits Democrats in the upcoming mid-term elections.

To which I would add: Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats would not be where they are, in the electoral doldrums, if President Obama had not picked him. The president surrounded himself with centrists or Republican lite types, and we are paying the price for his timid approach to reform. He has two years to convince the people who enthusiastically supported his election that he is not the pro-corporate fraud he looked like for the first 20 months or so in office, but in the meantime prepare to suffer the consequences of the distance between the president's talk and his walk.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Republican Hypocrisy Watch -- Episode One

Can a Republican please explain to me how it is ok for Republicans to decry President Obama's proposal to spend $50b on infrastructure projects, while at the same time pushing for $800b in tax cuts for the rich?

Trampling The Constitution

I have been absent from these parts of the world for a couple of months due to personal reasons, but this piece of news prompted me to interrupt my absence and return to blogging.

In a 6-5 ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with the C.I.A. (and with the Obama Administration) in a case that revolved around extraordinary rendition and that should make your stomach turn if a) you believe in human rights, b) you believe that the first duty of the President is to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution", and c) you believe that when "Bush did it" it was wrong (and Obama doing the same does not make it right.)

And now that I am back expect a bunch of posts between now and Election Day, focusing in particular on hypocrisy and the Republican effort to dismantle the middle class, aided and abetted by complacent, spineless, and self-centered Democrats.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

World Cup Update 2 (Corrected)

CORRECTION: In the original post below, I used incorrect information about tie-breaking procedures. In case of a two-way tie, goal differentials and goal scored count first. If those criteria are also fully-tied, then direct matchups are used. This has specific consequences for Group H: if Switerland and Spain ended in a two-way tie, which could happen if they both tie on Frieday, Spain would advance on account of better goal differential (+1 against Switerland's 0) even if Switzerland beat Spain in the direct matchup. To me this makes no sense. Hey, blame it on FIFA!

With all teams having played 2 out of the 3 group stage matches, the only team that are sure to advance to the round of 16 are Argentina, Brazil, and the Netherlands. Mexico and Uruguay can both clinch a spot with a tie tomorrow morning, so it would be reasonable to expect a tie, which would put France and host country South Africa out of their misery. However, there is one reason for each team risking to go broke: the second qualifier from Group A would play Argentina, the team that has shown more consistency so far, and one of the 3-4 teams most highly likely to win the tournament. The first place team would play either Greece or South Korea, much more malleable opponents. (We now know that Uruguay and Mexico have advanced, in that order, even as Uruguay beat Mexico in the last group stage match.)

Argentina and South Korea have advanced from Group B. No one I know has picked South Korea, whose only trip beyond group play so far had been in the 2002 World Cup, which they co-hosted with Japan, where they reached the semifinals thanks to some very "directed" refereeing aided by the powers that be at FIFA. Nigeria blew a chance to be the first (possibly the only) African team to move on to the elimination round, even after losing the first two games.

The U.S.A. have a good chance to advance, but they will need to play better defense than they have so far. They have conceded 3 goals in 2 games, and have always had to come from behind. If they advance, they will be a tough opponent for whoever they play in the second round. England, also in group C, has a do or die match against Slovenia. Who'd have thunk? Capello's eleven need a win in the last match of group play to stay alive and move on. Germany, Serbia, and Ghana are going to play for two spots tomorrow. Australia has a fighting chance to advance, too, but what a shocker it would be if they did after their disastrous opener to Germany. My prediction is that Serbia and Germany will advance in that order, since Serbia owns the tie-breaker if those two teams end level on points. Expect two interesting match-ups in the second round. Serbia v. England and the U.S. v. Germany.

The Netherlands will clinch the first spot in Group E with a tie or a win over already eliminated Cameroon. Japan could qualify with a win or even a tie against Denmark, since it holds the advantage on goal differential. However, I believe that Denmark will prevail to advance in second place. Who either team will play in the second round is impossible to tell, because all teams in Group F are alive. Italy needs a win against Slovakia to be sure of advancing, and the way Italy have played so far does not bode well for the reigning World Champs. New Zealand, coming off their tie against Italy, shocking to many but not to the savvier football observers, could shock the world if they beat Paraguay, so far the most convincing team in the group. If everything goes as it should based on perceived team strength, Paraguay will advance in first place and Italy will take second place, to play Denmark or Japan and the Netherlands respectively. But, you have been warned: expect a shocker from this group.

Finally, the last group. Brazil and Portugal are favorites to advance in Group G. The only doubt is in which order. That makes a big difference because of the situation in Group H. Spain needs a win against Chile to advance. With a tie, they could be eliminated if Switzerland ties or beat Honduras, so far the weakest team in the group, seemingly incapable of producing any offense. Switzerland holds the tiebreaker against Spain. In my humble opinion, Spain will not beat Chile, who are a very solid team, and that will be the real shocker of the World Cup this year.

One last observation: an interesting scenario can develop in groups C and F. In group C, England and the U.S. are tied on points. If they both draw against their respective opponents, Slovenia will take first place. Which team advances between England and the U.S. will then depend on goals scored (being that both team will have an even goal differential.) Right now, the U.S. has the advantage, since it has scored 3 goals against England's lone goal. However, if England scores two goals more than the U.S., both teams will have an even goal differential and the same number of goals scored. In that case, the advancing team will be decided, literally, by a coin toss. The same thing could happen in Group F, if Italy and New Zealand tie their opponents with the same score. They would be level on points, level on goal differentials, and level on goals scored. What a sport!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Al Franken, People's Hero

That, you will have to admit, is a pretty catchy headline, because pretty much everybody in the U.S. knows who Al Franken is and because the calling someone a "hero" is pretty sure to raise curiosity in readers. "Hero? What did he do?"

In sum, Al Franken gets it. He gets what it means to be an ordinary American. But not only he gets it, he cares. And he is a United States Senator. It takes someone pretty heroic, if you ask me, to sit in the same room as people like Blanche Lincoln, Max Baucus, and Jon Lieberman (not to mention any of his Republican colleagues) and not to lose one's head and either strangle them or shoot oneself in the head. Though they sit in the same chamber, and are united by a common title, they have nothing in common. Because Lincoln, Lieberman and Baucus are first and foremost interested in keeping their jobs. Sen. Franken is interested in keeping his job too, I am sure, but not for the sake of the job, but for the sake of those he was elected to represent: the people of Minnesota, yes, but also you and me.

So it is with pleasure that I am linking to the text of Franken's keynote address (PDF) at the Eighth Annual American Constitution Society National Convention, delivered only a couple of days ago. It is well worth reading, because it contains a healthy and needed reminder of what the role of the Supreme Court is, and what a good Senator can and should to to ensure that Supreme Court appointments to come offer better representation to ordinary Americans (understood as Americans who do not the money, influence, and power to appoint and or buy their own personal judge or Justice).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup Update 1

After all 32 teams have had a chance to show what they've got, or what they haven't got, there is mighty little to cheer about. Play has been disappointing in most matches. Many of the favorites have failed to impress, with a couple of exceptions, Argentina and Germany, who have had the good fortune of playing against some of the weakest teams around (South Korea and Australia).

England, France and Italy have scraped together unimpressive ties. While it was legitimate to expect that both France and Italy would fail to impress in their first game, England played rather disappointingly against the U.S.A., though Howard, the American goalkeeper, was the man of the match. Holland and Brazil did little better, managing two rather belabored wins against Denmark, a solid but unimaginative opponent, and North Korea respectively. Serbia, another team that some saw as a possible surprise, managed to lose their opener to Ghana, greatly endangering their chances to advance to the second round.

Worst of all did Spain, which also managed to lose their opener against humble Switzerland. As I said in my previous post about the World Cup, I think Spain's chances of winning the World Cup are greatly exaggerated. They can still advance, but it won't be easy, particularly if they get to the last group match having to beat Chile to advance. Even if they do, they would be up against history: no team has lost its World Cup opener and gone on to win the Cup.

African teams continue to produce mixed results, with host nation South Africa virtually eliminated after two games, Nigeria needing lots of help to stay alive after their harakiri against Greece, and Algeria beaten by Slovenia. Ivory Coast and Ghana have a fighting chance, but they former plays Brazil next, and its chances to advance are almost inextricably linked to their ability not to lose against the Brazilians. Ghana can virtually clinch a spot in the second round by beating Australia, which after seeing Australia against Germany last Sunday might induce some to think that Ghana will go on to win easily. Not so fast. The real surprise so far, aside from Switzerland's win over Spain, has been Japan's victory over Cameroon. Japan is by far the best Asian team, better than the overrated South Koreans which were helped by incredibly helpful refereeing when they reached the semis in 2002, when the co-hosted the tournament with Japan. But they play Holland next, and will have to play their defensive best to hold the Dutch scoreless, since Japan's firepower is not too awesome.

In a few minutes, France will play for its World Cup life against Mexico. If it's up les Bleus it won't be an entertaining match, but the Mexicans have all they need to pull off what would be a stunner to many. A win over France would all but oust the 2006 runner-ups, because a tie in the next match between Uruguay and Mexico would result in both teams advancing, leaving the French nation to wonder why coach Domenech was allowed to lead his team to defeat in spite of almost failing to qualify for South Africa. That would be poetic justice to the Irish, who were eliminated by France six months ago when Henry handled the ball--not once, but twice--to produce the assist which cost Ireland a chance to advance to the World Cup Finals.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup Delight

Tomorrow marks the start of the XIX FIFA World Cup. With the Summer Olympics, it is the biggest sport event in the world. Starting with the South Africa v Mexico opener, 32 teams will be competing for the most prized trophy in all of sports.

I lived my first World Cup in the United States in 1994. Since then, football has come a long way in this nation, thanks mostly to a policy of spreading it across schools in America. It is known, with good reason, as the beautiful game. Its near universal appeal is due to a combination of factors: It blends individual skills with team spirit. It does not required a particular physical build (unlike, for example, American football or basketball), anyone can play it. And, above all, it requires nothing but a ball and a field to be played, not even a goal (kids use anything they find to make makeshift posts) or a proper football (I remember that growing up I didn't even need a football to play. I would just crumple an old newspaper in a ball and kick it around my grandmother's dark hallway.). This makes football the sport of choice in poor countries. This is a particular important point, because some other exciting sports, like hockey, American football, and tennis, require the investment of large sums of money over time in special gear, club memberships, lessons, etc. Football (with track and field sports being the other exception) is rather unique in being open to people of all social backgrounds.

Favorites to win include Brazil (as usual), Argentina, Spain, and England, with a few other teams right behind (Holland and Germany foremost, but do not count out the defending world champions--Italy). Personally, I think that Spain will not do as well as expected, certainly not well enough to win. Holland is long overdue and have a real chance to win, but to do so they will foreseeably have to get past Brazil, which is a tall task. Among the few other predictions I am bold enough to venture: look for Mexico to stun a theoretically better team along the way (England?). Italy is a huge question mark. If they advance, which they should in what is likely the weakest group, they become a threat for anyone on their way, especially Spain. The team is widely regarded as weak, but coach Lippi is showing a lot of confidence in the players he brought to South Africa. Do not underestimate his ability to motivate his "troops".

Until July 11, when the World Cup Final is played, count on my appearances on the blog to be scarcer than usual, and mostly football-related. I hope you share my interest but, if you don't, see you back here in a month.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The High Road Not Taken

Christians extremists like to make much of the supposed vitriol poured upon them by New Atheists (the moniker which christian extremists like to use for individuals like Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.) They bemoan lack of respect for religion by these new atheists, their irrational rejection of god, and so on and so forth. They claim for themselves the high moral ground, and extol the works of like-minded people who deride atheists and, in general, all enemies of christianity.

One such work contains the following vile garbage directed at atheism: "Atheism is simply incompatible with a life well-lived (shalom)." Or, perhaps even worse, this:
The descent into atheism is caused by a complex of moral-psychological factors, not a perceived lack of evidence for God’s existence. The atheist willfully rejects God, though this is precipitated by immoral indulgences and typically a broken relationship with his or her father. Thus, the choice of the atheist paradigm is motivated by non-rational factors, some of which are psychological and some of which are moral in nature.

The last paragraph is insulting on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin: "descent into atheism"? "precipitated by immoral indulgences" and "typically, by a broken relationship with his or her father"? "the choice of the atheist paradigm [is] motivated by non-rational factors"?

And how about this gem? "The hardening of the atheist mind-set occurs through cognitive malfunction".

You can find the above examples of atheist-directed hatred in James S. Spiegel's The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief. The above excerpts represent sufficient waiver of the obligation to read the whole work before one can declare it complete nonsense even if it were not so sanctimoniously insulting as it is. It instantly earns a place in the Daily Fuel's Hall of Eternal Shame.

There is no higher delusion in this world than the belief that a moral life can only be lived by those who believe in a very specific god who, in his infinitely puzzling wisdom, issued such edicts as "Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be detestable to you" or "And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he [is] unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they [are] unclean to you."

You know, most christians have found a way to get past these risible commands. As they fall, one by one, time will eventually win the fight against all other christian superstitions, one way or another. Until the last one finally and deservedly falls.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Shedding Light on the Path to Peace

David Michael Green of Hofstra University has an excellent, balanced article on the conflict between Israel and Palestine and how the recent, shameful attack by Israelis on a ship carrying foreign aid has the potential to be a turning point and a pivotal moment for the U.S. and the rest of the world.

It is a long article, but it is probably the most illuminating piece you are going to read on that part of the world and well-worth reading. Please do so.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

PSA: You Have The Right To Remain Silent, As Long As You Speak First.

The always interesting AdamB over at the Daily Kos remind us of today's SCOTUS ruling about Berghuis v. Thompkins. Thompkins had assumed that by refusing to answer most of the questions posed by the police officer who was questioning him about a murder he had affirmed his intent to avail himself of the right to remain silent. However
About 2 hours and 45 minutes into the interrogation, Helgert asked Thompkins, “Do you believe in God?” Thompkins made eye contact with Helgert and said “Yes,” as his eyes “well[ed] up with tears.” Helgert asked, “Do you pray to God?” Thompkins said “Yes.” Helgert asked, “Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?” Thompkins answered “Yes” and looked away. Thompkins refused to make a written confession, and the interrogation ended about 15 minutes later.

Thompkins was subsequently charged with first-degree murder.

I take no firm position on this ruling, as it may have hidden implications that may sway me one way or another. In the meantime you can read all about it at the Daily Kos.

Oh, and... if you get arrested on suspicion of a crime, remember you now need to momentarly suspend your silence in order to tell police officers that you intend to avail yourself of the right to be silent. Huh? That's right.
Copyright 2004-2012