Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Awards - The Year In Review

by Dick Mac

Nobody can cover all the events of 2010. It was an amazing year that showed me the new century will be nothing like the last century. It might resemble the 19th Century in terms of social, political and cultural development; but it might not be that advanced.

In 2010, these were the things that turned my head (and sometimes my stomach):

1. Soccer

For years we have been pretending that soccer is making headway as a viable professional sport in the United States. I've always parroted that sentiment and always reserved the doubt that it could happen. To my surprise, soccer in 2010 became part of the national dialog and now enjoys a place under the ever-shrinking umbrella that is American culture.

Although the US lost earlier than expected in the 2010 World Cup tournament, they captured the attention of the American sporting world; and Landon Donovan became a darling of the media after his rather spectacular performance on the global stage. Major League Soccer (MLS) enjoyed unprecedented attention in the media and surpassed in average attendance both the NBA and NHL. Still the best value for your entertainment dollar, new stadiums are opening, new expansion teams are starting, and some of the world's most famous international players are now considering the MLS as a viable stop along the road of their career development.

Red Bull New York signed Thierry Henry, the French king of soccer, and Mexican stud Rafa Marquez to play alongside Captain Juan Pablo Angel and the rest of the generally young Red Bulls team.

Thierry Henry Links:
I Came Here To Win - Thierry Henry
Stammler to Lindpere to Henry
New York Red Bulls v Tottenham Hotspur - highlights

Rafa Marquez Links:
Rafa Marquez Joins Red Bulls
Rafa Marquez Joins Red Bulls

Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup. Most Americans who were paying attention expected the United States to win the bid. Sadly, a theocratic state in constant violation of very basic human rights will attempt to host the event in 120F weather in a nation with little infrastructure and the worst carbon footprint on the planet. It is quite possible that between Islamic revolutions and the ever-deteriorating environmental conditions near the equator, that Qatar will not even exist as a nation in 2022. Perhaps, the USA will then be awarded the tournament. We have an actual infrastructure that I am hoping will last longer than the teabaggers.

For all these reasons, my "Athlete of the Year Award" goes to all American Soccer Players and All Soccer Players Who Play in the United States.

2. The Year In Music (Performance)

If one could gather Yuka Honda, Klaus Voorman, Paul Simon, Bette Midler, Eric Clapton, Harper Simon, Kim Gordon, Cornelius, Thurston Moore, Jim Keltner, Sean Lennon, Cornelius, Scissor Sisters, Mark Ronson, Justin Bond, Gene Ween, and Yoko Ono for a one-night concert, one might title it "We Are Plastic Ono Band."

That's exactly what happened at Brooklyn Academy of Music on February 16, 2010.

My six-year-old-daughter and I attended together. She knew that daddy loves Plastic Ono Band songs, cries whenever he watches shows about John Lennon's death, and defends Yoko Ono to the clueless, and she was excited as I about the show. We had good seats in the 13th row, center, and the show was more than could have been hoped for. There were many highlights, including the Scissor Sisters' rendition of "The Sun Is Down," the original Plastic Ono Band's rendition of "Yer Blues," and the entire ensemble performing "Give Peace A Chance."

Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon win my "Best Live Performance by Multiple Icons" award for "We Are Plastic Ono Band."

We Are Plastic Ono Band At BAM, by Dick Mac

When the We Are Plastic Ono Band show landed in California the cast included Iggy Pop, Perry Farrell, and Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga is in the running, of course, for best musician, best performance, best record, best songs, best etc., of the year. I had no interest in another bleach-blond young woman pre-packaged for television. Then my wife and daughter insisted that I listen. I loved the album. Then I started watching televised performances and realized that this is no Britney Spears here; Gaga is the real thing, the total package: singing, dancing, and wardrobe changes. She has touches of Queen, David Bowie, Madonna, Nina Simone, Patti Smith, Marc Bolan, Nona Hendryx and other top talents that preceded her. I think Gaga will be with us for awhile; but, it's often the second album that makes or breaks an artist. We will see what is forthcoming in 2011.

3. The Year In Music (Recording)
Chocolate Genius released their last CD; that is, the final CD. Marc Anthony Thompson will not be making any new recordings as Chocolate Genius. "Swansongs" is a wonderful collection of great songs that rivals 1998s "Black Music" release. Actually, it might be better.

Influenced by the likes of David Bowie, Thompson has steered Chocolate Genius through four excellent records that include collaborations with some of New York City's finest talents: Yuka Honda, Moby, Marc Ribot, Me'Shell NdegeOcello, Oren Bloedow, Van Dyke Parks, and others.

Chocolate Genius is supposed to continue performing even though the recording is a thing of the past. I am sad to have missed his show in Brooklyn last month, at which he is rumored to have performed David Bowie's "The Bewlay Brothers."

The Chocolate Genius release of Swansongs gets my "Little Gold-Plated Gramophone Statuette" award for 2010.

A close runner-up is Shelby Lynne's Tears, Lies and Alibis that she produced with Brian Harrison and released on her own Everso label.

Lynne has been touring with her sister, Allison Moorer, and I hope I get to see them sometime in 2011.

I have seen her perform several times and her blend of country, rock, and pop make for a memorable show every time. I recall two performances in particular that both awed and surprised me: At Irving Plaza she came down off the stage and sang John Lennon's "Mother" while walking slowly through the audience. One of the first performances I saw was at the Bowery Ballroom and she broke into Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" with the enthusiasm I expect from a rock star!

The 1999 release "I Am Shelby Lynne" was her sixth studio (non-compilation) record, and she won the Grammy for "Best New Artist" even though she had been a performing, recording professional for over ten years at that point.

"Tears, Lies and Alibis" is a slow moving, deeply reflective short record of ten songs. Like most of her releases, this collection delves into her personal experiences, confessions, anger, drinking, and insights. She hides nothing from her fans.

The entire project echoes the late Dusty Springfield, who is Lynne's major influence. The stark production, guitar work and sultry singing make this a must-have.

I would love to see a show of Shelby Lynne and Chocolate Genius!

4. Project Runway

Reality TV has never been anything that interests me. I have, however, over the past few years been sickeningly attracted to Project Runway. I could claim it's the beauty and smarts of Heidi Klum that draws me back; but I think it's Tim Gunn's brutal honesty, sharp wit, good clothes, and total queerness that makes the show most intriguing. About twenty years ago I participated in a conversation about the impact that the AIDS plague would have on the fashion industry and Broadway. The latter has been embarrassing: having lost a generation of queer theater talent, we are left with countless revivals and an industry all but controlled by the likes of Disney. The loss of queers on Broadway is truly sad.

It was less obvious to me in the fashion industry. Then this show aired and I saw Nina Garcia and Michael Korrs. OMFG! If there had been no plague, neither of these people would have gotten jobs in the fashion industry. They are dull beyond dull. I can only hope that Heidi Klum has them on the show because they make her appear even more fabulous and smarter than she already is!

I have seen two previous seasons. One season saw a straight guy with a tattooed neck beat out a most-tedious broad (and I mean that word in the worst possible way) from Upper Manhattan or Lower Connecticut. Their battle made the penultimate and final shows total theater worth every moment.

The next season I saw was won by an adorable young queen whose use of the word "fierce" put the word on the map around the world. He clicked with his peers, the judges, the guest stars, and everyone he encountered. He was a star and he deserved to win.

This season was dominated by a most tedious celibate white woman who was as ugly and style-less as she was nasty. She was joined by a Korean woman and a couple of tedious under-talented queens in series of vicious campaigns against other contestants, some of whom I didn't like until they were being victimized by this hideous woman and her minions. The little Korean woman was perfectly subservient to the large, domineering white woman, and maintained her dignity by belittling those around her and swearing a lot. The Final Four was a fascinating car wreck with one major talent and three others: the hideous and marginally talented white woman with a dullard's sense of color and style, a young Hawaiian man who had two very sophisticated features: his face, but whose fashion sense was very daring and amusing; and a deeply wounded emotional cripple of Hispanic descent whose work was moderately good and who became a heroic underdog after battling off the hateful spewing of the Korean girl, the hideous white woman, and the two-faced Hawaiian queen.

The major talent in the final group was Mondo. His work was creative and fun, dynamic and wide-ranging. He was the clear winner.

The judges gave the victory to the hideous white woman and her boring fashion.

I will never watch Project Runway again, and I award the judges my "Fickle Finger of Fate" award.

5. 3-D Movies

Tangled, Alice In Wonderland, Toy Story 3, comprise my entire list of favorite new movies of 2010. They are also the only movies I saw this year. I think.

Although I am not sure I like them, I have enjoyed them, and since they dominated my 2010 movie viewing, 3-D Movies win my "Gold-Plated Statuette of a Naked Eunuch" award.

6. Glee

I tried.

Really, I tried. I really wanted to like Glee; but, I could barely get through one episode. Friends, family and acquaintances told me that this was one of the best shows of the season. Oh my.

Perhaps I am not supposed to be critical of the script: the script was embarrassing.

Perhaps my utter disdain for the sit-com format prevents me from suspending my nominal expectations of television scripts.

Whatever it is: this show just totally stinks. It is unwatchable!

Glee and The Cast of Glee win my "This Is a Joke, Right?" award.

7. Facebook

How did we live without this thing? always felt a bit like a sleazy pick-up bar (and not in the good way), and Friendster seemed like the efforts of the Up With People squad after stage performances failed them.

On Facebook I have connected with people from my past that I missed. I learned that I there were many I wanted nothing to do with, and sadly learned that some connections I had looked forward to were not interested in being even virtual friends with me (likely for the same reasons I rejected others).

I have very easy, low-cost, daily contact with friends in Europe, Africa, Central America, Canada, Australia, and Eastern Asia.

I have made friends who share my passion for soccer, good music, intelligent discourse, and a disdain for the dull.

I have connected with cousins I like and have missed seeing except at funerals and the occasional wedding or birth.

Remarkably, I have avoided social connections with professional acquaintances.

Facebook has taught me more about boundaries than the fifty previous years of socialization, education, drug-abuse, and spiritualization.

Facebook wins my "Best Bar In the Entire World" award.

8. Animal Abuse

There seemed to be a heightened awareness about animal abuse throughout Western Civilization. Food awareness, fur awareness, animal use in entertainment, and any other angle you can imagine made its way into our national discourse.

Two very famous people made many headlines for killing defenseless animals. Michael Vick and Sarah Palin jointly earn my "Humanitarian (Not!) Of the Year" award.

Vick returned to the NFL after finishing his prison sentence for killing dogs and being a principal in a dog-fighting business. Being black ensured he would go to prison.

Sarah Palin was given a television show on which she slaughtered a defenseless moose. She was highly paid and got more work in television for her efforts.

Personally, I don't see much of a difference between the actions of these two. I do see that Palin is white and Vick is black and it makes me wonder if the incidents were reversed, would Palin have gone to prison. I think not. I do suspect, however, that Vick would be arrested and investigated for killing a moose.

9. Chilean Miners

On August 5, 2010, thirty-three miners went to work two thousand feet underground at the San Jose copper and gold mine, near Copiapó, Chile. Florencio Ávalos, Mario Sepúlveda, Juan Illanes, Carlos Mamani, Jimmy Sánchez, Osmán Araya, José Ojeda, Claudio Yáñez, Mario Gómez, Alex Vega, Jorge Galleguillos, Edison Peña, Carlos Barrios, Víctor Zamora, Víctor Segovia, Daniel Herrera, Omar Reygada, Esteban Rojas, Pablo Rojas, Darío Segovia, Yonny Barrios, Samuel Ávalos, Carlos Bugueño, José Henríquez, Renán Ávalos, Claudio Acuña, Franklin Lobos, Richard Villarroel, Juan Carlos Aguilar, Raúl Bustos, Pedro Cortez, Ariel Ticona, and Luis Urzúa did not see the light of day again until October 13th.

Their ordeal became a living fairy tale for the entire world as assistance from around the world arrived on the scene in hopes of creating a happy ending.

Collectively, the 33 Chilean Miners are my "Comeback Player of the Year"!

10. George Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner cannot be inducted into baseball’s Hall Of Fame because he was a convicted felon.

Not a problem for a man of Steinbrenner’s stature.

Yankee stadium is home to the second most famous collection of baseball memorials and Steinbrenner has had himself inducted into that memorial garden along with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and others who made baseball American’s pastime.

Steinbrenner’s memorial is significantly larger than the memorials for any other Yankee, showing one last time that Steinbrenner is the biggest ass the Yankees have ever suffered or known.

George Steinbrenner is awarded the "Kiss My Fat White Ass" award for his snub of the Hall of Fame and his insult to the greats who preceded him into the Yankee memorials.

11. Queers

The issue of civil rights and protections for homosexuals has made its way into the daily mainstream media.

When liberals passed Don’t Ask Don't Tell during the Clinton Administration, I guess it’s possible they believed they were doing a good thing. This proves that liberals are either generally stupid, clueless, or as evil as other on the American right. You decide.

It has taken a long time to repeal this law that prevents homosexual taxpayers from enjoying the same rights as other taxpayers.

The Democratic Party and those of us who voted for them ought to be deeply ashamed of ourselves. This was a Democratic law that it took over a decade to repeal; and it took deep into a Democratic president’s second year in office to get it done.

There was an incident that made Don't Ask Don't Tell almost seem appropriate.

During a vote at the United Nations to affirm that the use of the death penalty is wrong when used for political ends, a horrible African nation put forth an amendment to remove "homosexuality" from the list of human conditions for which the death penalty is illegal. So, after years of including homosexuals on a protected list, the United Nations simply removed their protection from their resolution!

So, in the estimation of the United Nations (specifically a bunch of African dictators and global theocratic fascists) it is OK to kill homosexuals just for being homosexuals.

Fortunately, the amendment was undone and the protection of homosexuals was re-inserted in the resolution.

For these reasons, Queers around the world win my "Best Performance by An Ensemble Cast" award.

12. The Republic of Ireland

This year's "No Bell Prize for Reaganomics" goes to Ireland, who more than any other nation (even Iceland) embodies the complete and total failure of supply-side economic theory and unbridled capitalism. Iceland, Greece, United States, Portugal, and more nations to come, have all fallen victim to the economic farce created by American economists; but no nation failed as thoroughly and spectacularly as Ireland, which should now be referred to as The Reagan of Ireland.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Italy in the coming year.

13. 111th Congress

The Democrats had no plan that was clear to me, and the Republicans had no intention of letting Obama pass a single piece of legislation if they could help it.

More filibusters were executed in this Congress than any other, and teabaggers (elected and non-elected alike) actually referred to the filibuster as part of the Constitution.

The Republicans even got bills they wanted passed while publically opposing them, and were rewarded for doing nothing and promising less by being elected as the House majority.

The 111th Congress wins the "Buddy Can You Spare a Dime" award for complete and total ineffectiveness and ineptitude. The one thing the members of this Congress can cling to is that the 112th Congress is likely to be a bigger freak show.

14. Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck

Palin and Beck made teabagging a household word, and the duo may have cemented their place as the future of American ideology. Even the GOP leadership seems impotent to stop their stampede. They have whipped-up the stupid, pretended to start a political party, and begun undoing two hundred years of civilization and progress. The teabaggers have embraced the notion that "Freedom is not free, freedom is worth fighting for." However, they fail to note cost in their discussion, that freedom -- being the freest nation in the world -- is very expensive. They don't want to pay for it. They want to cut taxes, gut the government and still maintain their freedom. Good luck with that!
Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck share my "Person of the Year" award.

15. Barack Obama and George W Bush

In the early 1990s, the GOP told Clinton that he couldn’t have his health care plan and they presented him with an alternative health care plan. That plan was rejected by the Clinton Administration, as it forced Americans to purchase insurance from corporations instead of creating a single-payer public option.

Any idiot (even wonks in the Clinton Administration) knows you can’t pass a law that forces citizens to make purchases from corporations. That is unconstitutional.

Still, Newt Gingrich said: put forward a bill that gives control of health care to the insurance companies and we will pass it.

Nothing ever came of it and health care was not mentioned again for over ten years. During those ten-plus years, insurance companies drove up the cost of insurance by absolutely ridiculous amounts, increased their profits by amazing numbers, and now pay their chiefs and chairmen upwards of 200 times the amount they pay their employees.

On the campaign trail for the 2010 election, Barack Obama promised to address the health care crisis facing America.

His first priority was to get health care reform done.

Knowing the GOP would never give him the only sensible plan (a public option), he presented to the Republicans the exact same plan they presented to Clinton in 1993. They rejected it, Congress passed it, and the courts are starting to say: "Hey, you can’t force a citizen to make a purchase from a corporation. That’s unconstitutional."

Courts are not saying you can’t have a public health care system, they are saying it can’t be a private system run outside the government.

So, today we have an absolutely horrible health care plan for our future that is exactly what the GOP wanted all along, but they managed to get it passed by acting as if they were opposed to it (which they really are not).

Next on Obama’s agenda was the expiring Bush tax cuts.

We’ve decided as a nation that the rich should not have to pay the majority of the cost for running the country.

George Bush gave the very elite a war from which they are profiting handsomely, and then he gave them another war from which they will profit handsomely. The he cut their taxes and ran the nation into debt – the brink of bankruptcy.

Those tax cuts were about to retire and Barack Obama gave the GOP exactly what they wanted: more fantastic breaks for the people who don’t need them and a little crumb for the other 97.5% of us.

Just like Reagan did when putting forward policies based on Voodoo Economics, the GOP has actually convinced hard-working Americans that this is in their best interest. Teabaggers coast to coast are locked and loaded, ready to kill to ensure that people they will never know, and whose wealth they can never hope to achieve, will get to keep more of their money while our once-great nation goes bankrupt; like Ireland and Greece and Iceland.

The working people of America have sacrificed their future, their children’s future and the future of generations to come in order to prove that the greatest government in the history of mankind is now bad and evil and needs to be dismantled. Good work Dubya and Barry! Good work

George Bush and Barack Obama are hereby presented the "What Middle Class?" award.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Nice Thing

by Dick Mac

Jamie Scott (pictured) and her sister Gladys participated in an armed robbery in their early twenties, and have been serving life sentences since their trials ended in guilty verdicts in 1994. They would have become eligible for parole in 2014, after serving twenty years.

Nobody was killed during the robbery, and many have thought the sentence was a bit harsh. However, if you look at the circumstances you see that the sentences make total sense: they are black, their victims were white, and it happened in Mississippi.

Many have complained that the sentences were too harsh, the implication being that they would never have been given life sentences if they were white women and/or their victims were black. I think this is true, but that's the way things go in America.

If you're black in the South then your greatest crime is staying in the South. Hell, I believe it's a crime to stay in the South even if you're white! Most smart Southerners come North, and I've never heard a single one of them clamouring to get back to the old sod of South Carolina or Mississippi or Alabama, or even Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. I mean, it's the South!

OK! OK! OK! I've exposed my deepest prejudice. I really don't like Southern culture, politics, revisionist history, or traditions. I like the food, but wouldn't miss it if I was suddenly denied access. The Southerners I've met in the North are all very smart, talented, dynamic people (which is why they left the South, I assume); so, I don't hate Southerners, per se.

But I digress. This is actually supposed to be a posting about Jamie and Gladys Scott. Two women in their thirties who have served 16 years of a life sentence for armed robbery.

There have been numerous requests for clemency and pardons and the Governor has always kept the door open for discussion. Recently, officials in the Mississippi Department of Corrections have said they believe the sisters are no threat to society. They have been rehabilitated.

On top of that, and likely the most compelling issue is that Jamie is suffering from kidney disease. We are currently required by law to care for our prisoners' health, and until that rule is changed (which it probably will be) we need to spend money caring for her. Even low-end dialysis is really, really expensive. So, by releasing her, the prison system and the State can move Jamie off the State roles and onto the federal roles by releasing her from prison and allowing her to wind-up on Medicaid.

This financial detail does not take away from the fact that these women appear to be American success stories. They committed a crime, were tried and sentenced, have been rehabilitated, are no longer a threat to society, and will be released.

I hope this continues to be a success story and not a Willie Horton sequel.

Sister's kidney donation condition of Miss. parole

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

by Dick Mac

I took the above picture while walking around the corner from my apartment. I crossed four intersections on the walk and the other three looked similar to this.

The snow fell during the early part of the day on December 26. Today, December 29, my street remains unplowed.

Here is a NYC slideshow from The New York Times.

After a Blizzard, New York Struggles to Dig Out

I am glad to have had a couple days off, and I am off to the subway now.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

If You Have A Bad Job: Keep It!

by Dick Mac

I shared the article below with an acquaintance who attends tea parties. After reading the article and some of the ensuing comments, she told me that she "knows people who keep bad-paying jobs so they can keep their Section 8 and Food Stamps. . . . "

I think she's a liar, but didn't say it to her face. I know that she is totally misinformed about who benefits from the Section 8 housing program and she has absolutely no idea (like most tea-drinkers) how economics really works. She confuses hatred with economy and concludes that our economic problems are the fault of the poor (who have no control over any money or monetary policy).

You see, as a tea-drinker she thinks that the Section 8 housing program was designed to enable the poor to have wonderful housing that she could never afford. This is exactly the sort of illogical thinking that has had America voting for Reagans, Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas for 30 years.

I don't know if you've ever seen a Section 8 apartment, or the neighborhoods in which most of this housing is located. I have. And I don't know anybody that wants to live in these conditions.

Those on the right-wing (liberals and conservatives) work to keep the public uninformed and under-informed about social spending. Conservatives continue to reap the profits of government subsidies, and liberals pretend they are helping the poor. In reality, the Section 8 housing program is welfare for the rich.

If developers, especially urban developers, were required to rent their apartments in the free market, they would have to lower their rents by at least 75%. Rental apartments cost $1,500 per month in urban settings like Brockton, MA, Brooklyn, NY, Patterson, PA, East Los Angeles, CA, and similar places filled with lower middle-, working-, and welfare-class citizens, not because they are worth $1,500 per month, but because the federal government artificially inflates the rental market by ensuring developers and other large-scale landlords receive a huge subsidy from the housing program.

If the federal government would stop making welfare payments to wealthy developers, they would have to lower their rents to market value, which would be more like $200 per month than $1,500 per month.

Tea-drinkers of course want to blame the poor for this program, but it is really a benefit for the rich AND the middle class.

You see, if the feds stop subsidizing slum housing, then the entire real estate market will go down. Home values in every community except the most privileged will plummet, and even the hard-working tea-baggers will be underwater with their mortgages.

So, we can pretend it's the fault of the poor that the Section 8 housing program exists; but it's really the fault of the middle class who want their real estate values to remain artificially high, all the while receiving massive tax deductions on their jumbo mortgages, and the wealthy who receive tax benefits to build bad housing then get subsidies to keep rental values artificially inflated.

So, when you think that welfare is expensive because of the poor, you should ask yourself how much it is costing to continue welfare that subsidizes the rich and the middle-class.

Now, back to this article: it lists five reasons to leave your job.

1. Does my company stand for something -- anything -- special?

2. Am I excited to see my colleagues when I show up for work on Monday morning?

3. Do I have a voice at work -- does anyone who matters listen to what I say?

4. Am I learning as fast as the world is changing?

5. Am I making enough money?

I get three no (1, 3 and 4) and two yes (2 and 5). According to this article, it is time to leave my job. Sadly, now is no time to leave my job as there is no alternative employment for me in this economic climate.

You see, I don't want to live in sub-standard, subsidized housing that keeps the wealthy rich and the middle-class home values artificially inflated.

I, like everyone I know (who drinks coffee instead of tea), like to work. Sadly, the more welfare we give to tea-drinkers and the rich, the less likely it is that working people will ever make a living.

You want to cut the budget? Eliminate welfare for the rich, then welfare for the middle class. When those two classes are finished watching their lives crumble without their welfare, then we'll cut welfare for the poor.

Is It Time to Leave Your Job?

Soon, I will discuss how food stamps does almost nothing for the poor, but keeps processed food prices artificially high and corporate farms rolling in the dough (our tax money)!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Is Healthcare Unconstitutional?

by Al Falafal

So now that the Bush-appointed Federal District Court Judge has chimed in with his opinion that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, it seems like a good time to review some of the basic popular arguments for and against healthcare reform as it stands.

Briefly, we have heard - and Congress agreed - that we cannot have tax-payer supported universal healthcare coverage in the United States because that would amount to socialism. As a result, rather than reforming healthcare costs and cost-drivers, what Congress ended up enacting was a bill that the President signed, mandating that everyone must eventually buy into the completely capitalistic system of contracting with profit-driven health INSURANCE companies.

Now back up a second. What is the basic idea underlying capitalist health insurance? It is to collect and maintain a large reservoir of funds by having a large number of people contribute relatively small amounts of money, on a regular basis over time, into health insurance accounts controlled by capitalist corporations, most of which are euphemistically called Health Management Organizations (HMOs). This system is feasible and necessary in our capitalist economy because only a very few of us could possibly bear the financial burden of getting sick or injured and having to engage with the bloated profit-driven US medical industry, without going bankrupt every time we felt a pain or physical discomfort.

So, all subscribers pay in to those accounts which theoretically make funds available to each one when he or she gets sick or injured and needs to pay for their always-catastrophic medical expenses. These pools of money are supposed to become capital resources, which are presumedly only made available to the minority who are sick or hurt at any given time. All subscribers pay into the pool and continue to pay regularly through their time of illness and after their recovery, ad perpetuum. Whether sick or well, you never stop paying into the system that provides tons of money - unused for medical care at any given time - to the private controlling interests who primarily use the excess funds to pay their top brass outrageous salaries & bonuses and leave plenty to invest in other capitalist corporate ventures.

Universal healthcare would have provided for a tax-supported system of paying for health care that would operate according to the same basic idea as health insurance - spreading medical costs across the widest number of contributors - all US taxpayers - but it would be a radically different system than the capitalist model in that it would naturally eliminate, for one thing, the HMO & Insurance Company profit motive that insures bloated costs and removes most incentives to promote health over illness. And it would mean that the contributions to health insurance that each of us would make, could be equitably distributed, potentially reducing the individual burden we all bear to the absolute lowest possible. This is the (shudder) socialist system that was taken off the table early on in the process of formulating "healthcare reform." But it is not this type of system that was ruled unconstitutional in the Federal District Court.

What was ruled unconstitutional was the idea that our representative, elected government could legislate a requirement that capitalist, profit-driven insurance companies would have to spread the cost of subscribing to health insurance to everyone. In doing so they would accomplish the (quiver) socialist agenda item of minimizing individual costs for health insurance coverage for all of us. This is framed as a matter of infringing on our individual right to decline health insurance coverage altogether -- which we should be able to do as a free people. If we are a freedom-loving citizenry, the argument goes, how can our government force us to pay for any "product" on the free market if we individually decide that we do not want it?

Skipping over many of the inherent absurdities of this situation -- including the argument about whether insurance is a "product" or not (a product you never really get to own, sell, exchange or get any reasonable return on) -- what effect does all this have on the concept of "socialist" vs "capitalist" or "free market" spending decisions when it comes to paying the costs of healthcare?

For one thing, it may be argued that requiring everyone to subscribe to health insurance implies a certain loss of competition and control over price-fixing by insurance company moguls. Being less able to justify gouging us with outrageous rates & premiums companies would instead be compelled to undercut each others' prices to garner the greatest market share in order to stay profitable. If everyone were legally bound to find a policy that they could afford it would shift the whole paradigm around to make insurance largely a buyer's market.

But, sticking with the status quo rather than mandating that everyone subscribe to some kind of health insurance, we all still end up needing medical care at some point and it will have to be paid for somehow. So those who opt out of the insurance game will either be faced with unbearable out-of-pocket costs or they will, as now, have to rely on the limited, inferior care provided by way of public assistance, welfare, medicaid/medicare system or some other TAXPAYER-SUPPORTED system.

Doesn't that mean that all of us freedom-loving taxpayers end up paying for the healthcare of others anyway? If so, then the status quo means capitalist healthcare for those who can barely afford it (for the most part) and socialist healthcare for those who can't pay for it themselves.

Of all the disingenuous arguments we have heard against healthcare reform or even health insurance reform, then, the idea it may be unconstitutional to mandate coverage for everyone, the most insidious is this idea that our "freedom" is somehow compromised by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The politicians and their cronies who oppose this provision of the bill on the grounds they claim are unconstitutional should have the balls and integrity to put forth an alternative bill that would accomplish what will happen by repealing the mandatory coverage provision while totally dismissing universal healthcare.

That is: anyone who wishes to opt out of insurance coverage should have the absolute freedom to do so. But in the name of pure-bred free-market capitalism they will either have to pay the full cost of any medical care they may need or forego medical care altogether. No exceptions.

If universal healthcare is unconstitutional by one means or another then NO taxpayer-supported healthcare should be available to anyone. That would, of course, extend to old people, the indigent and government employees - even military personnel and veterans, judges and all elected officials. Especially members of Congress. Our taxes pay their salaries and benefits, why should we be paying for their healthcare coverage as well as our own?

Fly that up your pseudo-patriotic flag pole and see who salutes!

Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas - Julie Andrews and The King Singers

by Dick Mac

Five Glockenspiels!

Julie Andrews gets trashed singing an Austrian pub version of The Twelve Days OF Christmas!

Oh No! They killed Julie Andrews!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas - The You Tube Community Choir (2006)

by Dick Mac

Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas - Janice Dickinson

by Dick Mac

Twelve boyfriends begging.
Eleven charges pending.
Ten gays a-primping.
Nine models prancing.
Eight techs a-waxing.
Seven doctors injecting.
Six paparazzi.
Five naked men.
Four Italian suits.
Three former husbands.
Two giant breasts.
Fledgling modeling agency.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 Days of Christmas - Shrek

by Dick Mac

Twelve men a singing
Eleven fairies dusting
Ten puppets dancing
Nine mice a'tripping
Eight cookies dunking
Seven dwarfs a jamming
Six mirrors cracking
Five onion rings
Four exploding birds
Three little pigs
Two weed rats
And a fire-breathing dragon just for me!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas - The Rock

by Dick Mac

12 Sharpshooters Stinging
11 Eyebrows Raising
10 Spines a'Busting
9 Noggin's Knocking
8 Kicks of Kicking
7 Punches Punching
6 Suplex Smashing
5 Seconds of the people chanting The Rocks Name!!
4 Rock Bottoms
3 People's Elbow on Your
2 Buck Teeth
And An Ass Kicking all over New Orleans

A tip of the hat to Tony V for posting this at Facebook last week!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas - John Denver & The Muppets

by Dick Mac

Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 Days of Christmas - Bob and Doug McKenzie - Animax Entertainment

by Dick Mac

Phew! This should just be the two days of Christmas, it's too hard for us!

Eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Eight comic books,
Seven packs of smokes
Six packs of two-four,
Five golden touques!
Four pounds of backbacon,
three French toast,
two turtlenecks,
And a beer.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Twelve Days Of Christmas - Boy Mongoose

by Dick Mac

Twelve cricket ball tamperers
Eleven syllable name
Ten-minute yoga
Nine telemarketers
Eight Bollywood films
Seven-11 workers
Six IT graduates
Five minutes of fame
Four Hari Krishnas
Three butter chickens
Two nosy in-laws
And a totally insufficient dowry!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twelve Days Of Christmas - King's Singers and Mormon Tabernacle Choir

by Dick Mac

Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Twelve Days Of Christmas - Johnny Cash

by Dick Mac

Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Peace On Earth

by Dick Mac

Little Baby,
I am a poor boy, too.
I have no gift to bring
that's fit to give the King.
Shall I play for you,
on my drum?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Sex Crimes (Or Not)

by Dick Mac

Not enough sexual predators are apprehended and punished. One might say this is because most sexual abuse takes place in families or among those who know each other. As a society, we turn a blind eye to the uncomfortable topic of sexual abuse of children within families, and the rape of women and girlfriends by their husbands and boyfriends. One might say that these incidents likely account for a massive percentage of sexual abuse among human beings. The sensationalist media will not discuss incest in any discernible way and local law enforcement agencies generally avoid intervention, even when the abuse is generally known in the community.

Most of the sex crimes in the world go unreported, uninvestigated, and unprosecuted.

Sex crimes and their ensuing publicity are generally reserved for political media campaigns. Rounding-up homosexuals during elections, fabricating sex rings for the media, and producing after-the-fact heart-tugging docudramas about the small percentage of children actually abused by strangers, are generally the sum-total of law enforcement's efforts in this arena.

When an individual is indicted of an alleged sex crime, and it is splashed all over the media, chances are it's a publicity stunt to either distract viewers from a bigger problem or create hysteria used to discredit the person.

Yesterday's arrest of Julian Assange for alleged sex crimes in Sweden is probably a little bit of both. The media can turn his efforts at WikiLeaks into an old story on the back burner by waving the flag of his terrible sexual activity, and at the same time destroy his credibility among the general public, who hate sex offenders and whistle-blowers in the first place.

I do not agree with Assange's decision to leak the information; but I think the important story is not that he is a bad guy, but that there is a lack of transparency that Western Civilization (if it can be called that anymore) needs to discuss.

There are no secrets in the political world anymore. Governments cannot keep illicit or immoral behavior from the public, and lies told to excuse bad decisions are eventually exposed.

George Bush didn't have to lie about weapons of mass destruction to convince most Americans to invade Iraq; but he is old-school and lying is what guys like Bush have always done when put into positions of power. When it became clear there were no weapons of mass destruction, the story became another lie, a tale of restoring Democracy to Iraq (a nation and a culture with absolutely no interest in democracy).

The establishment of secret prisons, and the refusal of the Bush Administration to categorize its prisoners as Prisoners of War (thereby denying them the protections we all agreed upon in the Twentieth Century) seem to be just the tip of the iceberg that is our immorality.

That people like the Bush family want the American working person to fund their international power grabs for profit also deserves to be out in the open. The secret relationships between businessmen, their lackeys in the government, and foreign powers (some of whom are quite unsavory, like Saudi Arabia) should be a public dialog. Since these powers choose to keep all of their dealings secret, the American people are turned into international pariahs, without knowing the extent of our immorality.

There are many people who think this sort of information should be in the public discourse. I am one of those people. Conservative paternalism that insists we should be kept ignorant for our own good is invalid, and the arguments against transparency no longer hold water.

Come now, WikiLeaks.

Like Daniel Ellsberg during the Vietnam War, Julian Assange believes that current wars are being carried-out in a manner dissimilar to the manner in which the American people are being informed.

So, Assange has been leaking classified and previously-classified government documents that highlight (expose?) some of the more unsavory elements of our government and the way we operate internationally as a people.

I think Assange should have been, like Ellsberg, more discerning in the methodologies used in the release of the information. Actually, it seems there is no methodology, just a sort of diarrhea-like explosion of an overwhelming amount of data that most people could never hope to absorb. Ellsberg was very careful, downright analytical, about the presentation of the Pentagon Papers, and although he angered a lot of people, he made his point and will likely be seen historically as more hero than cow.

The WikiLeaks project just feels ineffective, and Assange is throwing himself under the wheels of injustice for a poorly-executed mission. It almost seems as though he is an employee of the US government, because I'd think only they could fuck-up-a-free-lunch the way Assange has.

Yes, the information should be in the public purview.

Yes, Assange has done a lousy job trying to reach his ends.

Yes, the corporations that have mounted a cyber-war against WikiLeaks are as despicable as they come.

So, where does our government go? They didn't go to damage-control and development of a plan for better transparency; they went to the tried and true sex-crimes tactic, despicable in its own right, and ultimately ineffective.

That Interpol participated in this charade should highlight to all of us how scared the powerful have become. They are not really afraid that we are exposed to terrorism, they are afraid they will lose their business opportunities.

If there are lessons to be learned in all this, two of them would be (1) that our governments' activities should be more transparent, and (2) never believe the story of an international sex scandal when a politically unpopular person is the target.

Julian Assange Captured by World's Dating Police

Monday, December 06, 2010

Creating Reality In Kentucky

by Dick Mac

According to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Earth was created by a monotheistic entity five or six thousand years ago. This God also deliberately flooded the Earth, but not before telling his faithful servant, Noah, to build an ark large enough for his family and two of every kind of animal. The ark is alleged to look like the drawing above.

To promulgate this notion, the Commonwealth of Kentucky is providing handsome tax incentives to a corporation whose mission is to debunk science and promote religion.

On Friday, The Lexington Herald-Leader, Kentucky’s second-largest newspaper, criticized Mr. Beshear in an editorial for a plan that it said would result in low-wage jobs and a poor image for the state.

"Anyone who wants to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible has that right," the editorial said. "However, the way the Beshear administration handled this makes it appear Kentucky either embraces such thinking or is desperate to take advantage of those who do."

When I think of liberal news media, The Lexington Herald-Leader never comes to mind. In fact, no media outlet in Kentucky ever comes to mind when I consider liberalism; truly, not a single institution in Kentucky comes to mind when I consider liberalism and its impact on American culture. Even this local newspaper is questioning the decision.

In the Commonwealth's efforts to promote the theory of Creationism, they are working with Ark Encounter to develop a these park based on the Bible.

The centerpiece will be a "replica of Noah's Ark."

Somehow, this ark is supposed to have been large enough to hold a small number of humans, and a lot of animals, including wooly mammoths, and a pair of dinosaurs that were approximately 74 feet long and weighed about 100,000 pounds.

The story of Noah's Ark is one of many tales in the Bible intended to challenge readers to examine their notions of reality, of right and wrong, of morality and mortality. In a civilized world, these are important lessons, and the story is a good tool to teach children some of these lessons.

Lessons that cannot be derived from the story of Noah's Ark are lessons of science, evolution, history, biology, paleontology, geology, geography, meteorology, or any other intellectual pursuit. It is a religious story used to teach some religious people some lessons of morality.

It's not rocket science to conclude that no government money should be used to promote this enterprise. Any elected official who cannot see the connection between Noah's Ark and organized religion is a buffoon!

Come now, Steven L. Beshear, the Democratic Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Governor Beshear believes the arrangement poses no constitutional problem, and has brushed off questions about his stand on creationism.

"The people of Kentucky didn't elect me governor to debate religion," he said at a news conference. "They elected me governor to create jobs."

But, Governor Beshear is not creating jobs, he is promoting religion with tax dollars. That some jobs may or may not be created in this process is secondary.

We cannot use government money to promote religion.

In Kentucky, Noah’s Ark Theme Park Is Planned -