Thursday, September 30, 2010

Don't Call Me

by Dick Mac

Although I have made a career supporting technology use and development, I am not a big fan of one particular invention: the mobile phone.

The telephone was an amazing invention, and the ability to call someone anywhere in the world is remarkable. I cannot imagine life without the telephone.

The telephone was my mother's primary source of entertainment. She could spend hours on the phone with her sisters, and she did. A few minutes after she got settled into her armchair the sign language would start: two fingers held up like the V-victory sign waving back and forth in front of her mouth meant "Get me my cigarettes, matches and ashtray, and get it now and don't say anything." That meant at least an hour-long conversation!

I never quite caught the phone chatting bug. I like the phone to make plans, confirm plans, order something, make a request, inform someone of a fact, etc. Except for friends that live far, far away, I don't much use the phone for conversation.

The advent of the mobile phone was exciting. The thought of carrying a telephone in my pocket was pretty cool. Cell phones 15 years ago were a bit bulky, but still fit in a pocket. Fortunately, not many people had mobile phones, so mine didn't ring often.

Mine still doesn't ring often. Why? Mostly I leave it turned off.

I failed to embrace the novelty of chatting on the phone while walking down the street. I think it's rude to take a call while dining in a restaurant. I am not deaf; but I have trouble hearing on mobile phones -- especially outside.

I just don't like them!

I like them even less when people use them inappropriately.

I wish they would go away, or at least lose their lustre and fall out of favor.

Texts From the Lifeguard Chair Are Raising Concerns Over Safety

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Losing Their Religion

by Dick Mac

The people who think the most about religion are the people who know the most about religion; and those who know the most about religion tend to be those who reject religion.

The world's favorite oxymoron is "Catholic Intellectual," not "Jumbo Shrimp"; and as a Catholic intellectual, I totally get the joke and I laugh along with it.

It's true: most modern-day Catholics (save the Jesuits) do not use their brains when they make decisions about their religion. Most religious Catholics (well, all Christians, really, along with Jews and Muslims) accept the 'teachings' of their religious leaders as matters of fact, instead of matters of history and philosophy provided as spiritual challenges to help us make the world a better place.

As a Catholic intellectual, I take the teachings of Christ and the historical writings of the Jews who founded Western religion as writings intended to challenge me. They are pretty effective teachings, actually, when taken in an intellectual context.

My decision to intellectualize my religious beliefs led me to be an agnostic for many years, and I believed that the presence of a God (or gods) was meaningless as long as I was doing the right things morally.

I have come to believe that, although I can intellectualize and analyze religious teachings and understand them in a modern context, I am a Christian and I do, in particular, follow, respect, and enjoy the teachings of Christ.

I came to this realization after years of practicing religion, learning about all religions, and attempting to fold those teachings into my day-to-day life. Obviously, this has put me at odds with fellow Catholics. Not with the priests and administrators (most of whom also tend to be intellectuals), but with my fellow faithful who tend to be more parochial and literal in their understanding of their religion.

These people seldom know much about the world and their role in it. These people tend to have rather pedestrian beliefs about their God and their Church and their role in the world. They are American Christians.

Recently, The Pew Research Center polled a bunch of Americans about religious facts. The findings showed that atheists and agnostics know the most about religion. There were 32 questions, and I sure wish I had a copy of them. The results showed:

Atheists and agnostics, on average, answered 21 correctly (the highest score of any group).

Jews and Mormons answered 20 correctly.

Protestants answered 16 correctly.

Catholics answered 15 correctly (less than half).

This leads me to believe that atheists and agnostics have made a learned decision about their religious beliefs, they know what they are talking about; and Catholics have little or no idea what their religion means.

The more you know . . . well, the more you know!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Herman's Hermits - This Door Swings Both Ways

by Dick Mac

In 1966, Herman's Hermits released "This Door Swings Both Ways" with a certain amount of success. The song is about being bisexual, but this video from a British television show uses a literal interpretation and shows lead singer Peter Noone entering the set through a swinging door, ostensibly exiting through the entrance.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Scraping By On A Quarter-Mil

by Dick Mac

Thirty-odd years ago a family I knew lived on the Gold Coast in Chicago. One of the behind-the-back jokes made about them was that they couldn't make ends meet on their meager $250,000 annual income. Now, in the late-1970s, a quarter-million dollars was a lot of money, even if you had a city apartment, two country homes, a condo in a foreign country, and three kids in school.

A quarter-million today isn't anywhere near as valuable.

Using the calculator, $250,000.00 in 1980 had the same buying power as $703,875.49 in 2010. Annual inflation over this period was 3.51%. So, a person complaining about $250,000 in 1980 was being pretty vulgar! It's like someone today complaining about almost three-quarters of a million dollars!

Still, $250,000 in 2010 is nothing to sneeze at, and is an annual income that puts you in a very small percentage of the American public living at the top of the food chain. A segment of the population that enjoys hard-earned amenities and is expected to pay hard-earned taxes: just like everyone else.

I find people who complain about taxes are the people who expect the government to provide them with the services they demand while insisting that all other services are immoral, unconstitutional, or unfair.

Tell a Republican earning a quarter-mil that the government is no longer going to maintain roads and airports because it is too expensive, and he'll tell you that's ridiculous. Tell him it will cost more to run schools and he will tell you the teachers' unions are not teaching our children and have to be destroyed.

Tell him we are going to give tax-incentives to insurance companies and he will tell you that this is the only way to stimulate the economy. Tell him we are going to guarantee minimum health care standards for all Americans and he will tell you the government has to get out of the way of business.

Tell him we are going to bailout a billionaire and he will explain to you exactly how that will help America in the long-run. Tell him we are going to renegotiate the mortgages of working people who are underwater and he will complain that this interferes with the free market.

In some perverse and immoral way, all the arguments Republicans make about taxes, economics, and laws are completely accurate. The way it is accurate to say that Jesus intends us to treat homosexuals as second-class citizens because of 5,000 year-old writings. Technically, it is accurate; but morally, it is wrong.

Recently, a poor unfortunate professional soul in Chicago posted a blog entry explaining why he and his professional wife are struggling to make ends meet and that expiration of the Bush tax cuts would mean doom for them and their little slice of the American dream.

I know a lot of people who are hurting right now. The economy is a shambles. George W Bush promised us, as did Reagan before him, that if we reduce the tax burden on the wealthiest Americans they would use that money to build the economy. The rich would use their gain to start more companies and hire more people.

When this notion was first implemented in 1980, I said it was a recipe for disaster. It was. It still is. The rich, the upper-middle-class, and the middle-class are just like everyone else: give them a little extra money and they are going to spend it on themselves. This is perfectly legitimate: I earn my money and I will spend it as I choose. it's ludicrous to think that those at the top of the food chain feel some moral obligation to build a better world. In fact, it seems that those on the top of the economic food chain actually feel the exact opposite.

So, back to our friend in Chicago. He lives in a nice neighborhood and sends his kids to nice schools. He has two cars, and probably takes nice vacations -- all of which is lovely. I am certain his parents are proud of his success.

He doesn't think he should have to pay any more than 40% of his income for taxes.

It would be lovely if we could maintain a government for less than what it costs. This man obviously doesn't grasp the expense of supporting the wealthy, propping-up a failed economic system, maintaining a military-industrial complex, and also allowing the richest to pay less for all of it.

This is typically Republican: let's prop-up the rich, and the businesses that bring the least benefits, let our infrastructure and education systems deteriorate, then insist that we need to pay lower taxes.

Still, they haven't figured-out that this just won't work!

Here is the unfortunate disclosure by the poor, suffering Chicago man and his family: We are the Super Rich

Another article for your perusal: Advice for the 'Poor Rich'

Friday, September 24, 2010

Part Of A Balanced Breakfast

by Dick Mac

My 6-year-old daughter was staying home from school because she was sick. It happens. She asked to watch television and when it was powered-up, the first sentence heard was: "Froot Loops With Sprinkles, part of a balanced breakfast."

I started wondering: what is a balanced breakfast?

My breakfast habits are terrible. The combination of taking a medication one-full hour before eating, getting my daughter to school, followed by a seventy-five minute subway commute means that I would have to finish breakfast by 7:30 A.M. in order to get to work on time. This hasn't worked out for me, because I don't get up and at it until 6:30. So, I eat in the city and I generally have more fat and carbohydrates than I should. In my defense: I always have a piece of fruit!

I know that my small black coffee, bagel and cream cheese and apple is not a terrible breakfast; but it could be better. It's about 450 calories with not much nutrition.

Although I am not a scientist or a nutritionist, I suspect that what I eat in the morning is better because I do not include Froot Loops with Sprinkles.

This got me thinking about how we define a balanced breakfast and I started searching. I didn't find as much as I expected. I thought Google would return a list of sites with concise listings of suggested menus. Sadly, the results were a bit of a disappointment.

At, I found this list of Low Calorie Breakfasts

•One serving of whole grain cereal like Cheerios or Wheaties with one-half cup non-fat milk, one teaspoon sugar, one hard-boiled egg with a glass of water. 270 calories

•One slice of whole grain toast with two tablespoons peanut butter with a 10-ounce glass of non-fat milk. 375 calories

•Omelet made with two eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, green onions, peppers and one ounce of shredded cheese with an apple and a glass of water. 410 calories

The site offers Eating balanced breakfast smartest start to your day:

•One-ounce equivalent of grains, such as one slice of 100 percent whole grain bread, 1 cup of cooked oatmeal, 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal, half an English muffin, one mini-bagel, one (4 1/2-inch diameter) pancake, or small (2-1/2-inch diameter) muffin.

•One cup equivalent of fruit or vegetables, such as a half-cup of fruit or vegetables and a half-cup of fruit or vegetable juice.

•One cup equivalent of milk or calcium-rich foods, such as one cup of milk, one cup of yogurt or 1-1/2 ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

•One-ounce equivalent of protein, such as 1 ounce of lean meat, poultry or fish, one egg, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, one-quarter cup cooked dry beans or a half-ounce of nuts or seeds.

An article about advertising standards for children's foods in the UK provides a scorecard about cereals, Part of a Balanced Breakfast:

The Guilty Parties
It should come as no great surprise that the companies we're talking about here are Kellogg and General Mills. Those two together are responsible for Tony the Tiger, the silly Trix rabbit, and pretty much everything else except for Cap'n Crunch. Quaker owns Cap'n Crunch (their only child brand). I have complaints about what they do to oatmeal, but at least nobody is advertising artificially flavored sugary instant oatmeal using obnoxious cartoon characters.

Please note that Froot Loops do not qualify for advertising in the UK.

I couldn't find Froot Loops recommended at any site I visited.

Are Froot Loops part of a balanced breakfast? Are Froot Loops part of your breakfast?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fox News *Hearts* Monsanto

by Dick Mac

Although I suffer when I enjoy a snack of cheese, I have never regretted being lactose-intolerant. I haven't drunk a glass of milk since 1971, and I remember rushing to the toilet shortly after finishing it. I knew it was the milk that made me feel that way and I never drank another glass.

being a non-milk-drinker has protected me from the horror that is the American dairy industry. Corporate farms with hundred of cows being injected with hormones, and god-knows-what-else, and basically tortured by milking machines that tug at their teats for hours and hours.

The milk that is produced is then processed. Homogenization and pasteurization make the milk silky smooth and disease-free. There are processes that allow the milk to be kept unrefrigerated for an extended period to be sold from a shelf, not from a refrigerator. Warm milk in a box sorta freaks me out. What have they done to this milk to make it stay 'fresh' without refrigeration? Actually, I don't think I want to know.

What DOES fascinate me, is the methods they use to get so much milk from a single cow. Seems this is a chemical process, and some people are concerned about the impact of the chemicals on the human body - especially children.

So, Fox News reporters started investigating. They found a lot of readily-available information and produced a story about it.

When the chemical company Monsanto learned of the investigation, the bosses at Fox News were given a talking-to, and like all shit, that talking-to travelled downhill to the reporters.

Here's their version of what happened:

Reporters Fired For Telling The Truth About RGBH Milk Hormone

It's shocking that Fox would even have hired investigators that could find something of importance. It's not shocking that Fox would then cancel the investigative report.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Snorting With The Stars

by Dick Mac

Or, snorting at the stars.

I would love to have a cocktail with Dorothy Parker today and talk about American pop stars in the 21st Century. In Parker's time, a heyday for the cult of personality, most of the pop stars were actors.

During my childhood, politicians were added to the list of daily pop-ism, and I witnessed the explosion of Andy Warhol-ism starting in the late 60s and continuing on today.

"In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes," Warhol told the world, and his prediction has come to fruition.

Local access and cable television, the 24-hour news cycle, digital media, affordable fashion, and access to credit have made pretty much all middle-class Americans (and some impoverished Americans) "millionaires," "playboys," and "superstars."

One real millionaire and one politician's child are the superstars this morning, and their presence on the pages of the press points to the depressing state of superstardom.

I have always been enamoured of the notion that some people are famous just for being famous, and Jackie Kennedy comes to mind. Sure, she was the First Lady; but scores of other women have been first ladies and none of them are as famous as Jackie.

Today, we get Paris Hilton. She's turned anal sex and texting into news. She is, ostensibly, a singer and I find myself tapping my toe to her single "Stars Are Blind." She is wealthy beyond imagination, an heir to the Hilton Hotel fortune. She is very Hollywood and looks like an actress. She uses drugs.

Recently, she got caught with a baggie of cocaine in her purse, was convicted of the crime, fined, put on probation, and received a suspended prison sentence. If she gets arrested in Nevada in the next few years, she will have to serve the prison term.

She embarked on a world tour recently, bringing her singing prowess to the masses. Yesterday she arrived in Tokyo to begin the Asian leg of the tour. She failed to apply for a visa ahead of time, and when the customs officials noted that she had just been convicted of a drug offense, she was denied entry into the country. Her Asian tour has been cancelled.

Kazuo Kashihara, an immigration official at Narita International Airport, said if Hilton had applied for an entry permit farther ahead of her arrival, there might have been a chance for Japan's justice minister to consider an exception in her case. "She just showed up the day after (pleading guilty)," he said.
See, Japan Denies Paris Hilton Entry

The other superstar in the news today is Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is famous for having been nominated as the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008. The glare of the spotlight excited her, so she resigned her job as the Governor of Alaska to spread her message of abstinence, morality, and weaponry across the country. When her unmarried daughter, Bristol, became pregnant (so much for the abstinence rallies), the media applauded her as a little girl not afraid to have a baby. Palin's political circles generally condemn young women (especially brown-skinned young women) who have children out-of-wedlock. Bristol, however, got the star/victim treatment.

Ahh, yes, "victims"! Victims are another new category of superstars that I'm sure Dorothy Parker would have an opinion about.

Well, poor, victimized Bristol became a star for getting knocked-up (the standards of stardom, as you can see, have been lowered substantially in conservative America). This stardom garnered her an invitation to star on the television show "Dancing With The Stars."

I admit right now that last season I tuned-in to DWTS to watch Macy Gray, my favorite mentally-ill pop singer. It's a tedious show hosted by tedious people, with a panel of tedious experts passing judgment on the dancing ability of the stars.

Last night, poor Bristol made her debut, and cut a rug with a talented young dancer named Mark Ballas. The routine started with Palin dressed like her Mother, then doing what conservative girls do best: a strip-tease! Her strip routine revealed a red, fringed dress that moved very nicely during the couple's cha-cha to "Mama Told Me Not To Come."

The best part of the segment, the judges held-up their scoring cards and each of the three awarded Palin and Ballas a six, making her score 666.

Yes: 666! The perfect number for a good chaste Christian girl like Bristol.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brits Conspire To Thwart Israel

by Dick Mac

I have heard in the past that the failure of the British to keep their post-War obligations during the creation of the state of Israel is to blame for the perpetual crises in that region.

Britain's refusal to cooperate, and their interference with the plan to relocate the Palestinian population, led to thousands of Palestinians being left behind in what was to become Israel. Even though Britain had agreed to take on this task as part of the rebuilding of the world, they undermined the relocation and failed - completely and deliberately.

The Brits guaranteed that Israel would never become a secure state.

This new story about Britain's efforts to undermine Israel is news to me, and I take it as further proof that Britain never had any intention of helping to stabilize that region after the war.

I sure do hope a book is eventually published about the Palestinian relocation efforts, and the total failure of the Brits to keep-up their end of the bargain. Until that time, please enjoy this new information that proves the British actively undermined the transport of Jews to Palestine.

MI6, Britain's secret intelligence service, planted explosives to disable ships before they could transport Jewish men, women and children from Europe to Palestine. Britain controlled Palestine at the time and, partly due to pressure from wartime Arab allies, adopted a policy of strictly limiting Jewish migration to British-controlled lands in the region. In May 1948, the British left and Israel declared independence.

As an American, it's refreshing to see that we have learned how to fuck-up the world by following the lead of the best fucker-uppers in the history of Western Civilization.

Britain bombed ships that were to transport Jews after Holocaust

Monday, September 20, 2010


by Dick Mac

I lost interest in the NBA during the Michael Jordan era, when cheating became glorified and criminal activity was rewarded. In both cases, the more famous the player, the more rules and laws could be broken; with Jordan himself being the poster boy for all of it.

The NFL, on the other hand, has always worked hard to preserve its image - to prevent individual players from bringing the game into disrepute. One problem I remember happened when the players were striking and showed-up at the stadiums with guns. They were, theoretically, going to shoot any athletes who crossed the picket lines.

Living in New York City, I get regular doses of sports craziness. Last year it was a Giants player firing a gun in a nightclub. That was pretty amazing. What was most amazing is that almost everyone involved, from bouncers to nurses to agents tried to cover it up for the guy!

Last night, a different Giants player threw his helmet into the stands during a game in Indianapolis. One lucky fan took possession of it. The coach yelled at the player and one can only hope he used the word "asshole" in his tongue-lashing. Then an employee for the Colts took the helmet away from the lucky fan who was in possession of the helmet.

I don't think either action was acceptable: the player should be banned from the game for endangering fans (even if it was an "accident"), and the team official should be fired for failing to protect the fan in possession of the helmet, and then taking the helmet away from him.

Perhaps the NFL and NBA should merge and hire all the nation's sociopaths!

Friday, September 17, 2010


by Dick Mac

I love to smoke. I love the buzz of nicotine, especially the first cigarette of the day. When combined with caffeine, it is a remarkable buzz. In fact, it is one of the most stimulating combinations of drugs I have ever experienced.

Sadly, I had to stop smoking. I had been having episodes of light-headedness combined with my limbs getting a little tingling (sometimes a lot tingly). So, I made an appointment with my doctor on (coincidentally) my birthday.

I sat on the examining table describing my symptoms to the physician's assistant when it happened again. The PA got the doctor, an ambulance was called and I got a birthday ride to the emergency room. (My friend, James, asked if I requested the siren and flashing lights for my birthday. Oddly, I was sort of too frightened to think of such a treat.)

The fear was that I was having a heart-attack. The good news is that in this particular instance, I was not!

I was admitted to the hospital and put through a battery of tests. I had a private, corner room -- two views of Greenwich Village buildings -- and was able to rest. (In those days, good insurance meant good medical care and treatment; after 8 years of Bush, good insurance means you aren't left on the street to die.)

The next morning, my doctor came to my room and made the statement that changed my life. He said:
I'm not going to tell you to quit smoking, that's your choice. What I will tell you is this: if you keep smoking this will keep happening.

That was eight-and-a-half years ago. The diagnosis was severe gastritis.

So, now I don't smoke, and I envy those who do.

I've found myself standing close to people who are smoking, so that I can smell the smoke. I miss smoking. I loved smoking.

I remember smoking in hospitals and on airplanes, I remember grown-ups smoking in movie theaters, and as recently as 15 years ago, I could smoke at my desk in my office. I can't imagine anyone doing any of that anymore.

After I quit smoking, smoking was banned in bars in New York City! Imagine! You can't smoke while you drink. It was a controversial law when it was enacted, but now it seems perfectly normal that there is no smoke in bars.

Now, the mayor wants to ban smoking in all parks and city-owned outdoor spaces. This would not impact private outdoor spaces. You could still smoke in your yard or garden, privately-owned outdoor spaces like plazas and concourses could still allow smoking.

Some militant non-smokers will use this law, if enacted, to justify their bad behavior; but I generally don't go to neighborhoods where those dullards live. If you want to see these assholes in action, visit Manhattan's Upper West Side or Brooklyn's Park Slope. You know the types: everything they do and believe is right and good and everything they don't like is bad and wrong -- and they have every intention of letting you know about it. They are often well-educated, overpaid, poorly-mannered people of privilege who thirty years ago stayed in the suburbs (and I wish they'd go back).

On the other side of the fence, some smokers are reacting foolishly with arguments about "freedom," and one person in the linked article actually invoked Nazi Germany in her defense of smoking; but I think that this law will probably pass, and we will all adjust.

In general, I think this is a good law. People can smoke, and it should be confined to spaces designated for that. It's a drag to have to walk a gauntlet of smokers to get into work. There are smoking bars, and your home is your castle -- smoke away.

This falls in place with my position on all recreational substances: if you're an adult and you want to smoke marijuana, you should be allowed to do that, if you want to use heroin, you should be able to purchase it. I totally believe in the regulation and controlled distribution of all drugs: cigarettes and coffee included. However, I don't want to watch most of it.

It will be amusing to watch this new smoking ban play out. Stay tuned!

When Citizens (Gasp) Are the Smoking Police

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Your Pennies Go Where?

by Dick Mac

Since the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people and have the same rights to participate in the electoral process as actual human beings, people have been talking more about corporate financing of electoral campaigns.

The site has created an interactive online application that tracks corporate donations to the two major political parties.

This picture shows donors to the GOP, but the application allows you to view the data in many different ways.

When you buy toothpaste, does part of the profit go to support candidates you oppose?

When you eat a burger, are you supporting laws that actually hinder your civil liberties?

When you take a vacation, does your flight support an elected official who intends to threaten your job security?

It's hard to know, of course, because most companies keep that information private. (You see, corporations now think they are people with rights to privacy.)

Now you only need go here: Corporate Contributions to Political Parties to get that information at a high level.

Consider using this site before you vote in November!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


by Dick Mac

It has been difficult the last thirty years to watch the Democratic Party move further and further to the right-wing.

In 1980, it was unfathomable to think that a Democrat would embrace economic theories that destroy the lives of workers and chip away at the middle-class, or that a Democrat would sign not one but two federal laws barring homosexuals from enjoying the same civil rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

Nor would I have ever thought that given the chance to rectify these situations, they would reaffirm the most draconian economic system the first-world has ever seen, refuse to protect homosexual taxpayers, and pander to the basest fears of white people in the heartland.

Yet, that's what we have: a political party that is called "leftist" and has enacted more right-wing laws than even the Republicans.

The amusing part of this frightening shift to the right is watching the Republican party overtaken by right-wing extremists.

I have always seen midterm elections as my opportunity to show my feelings on the state of affairs; not just about the President, but about the entire political situation.

In 2006, for the first time in my adult life, I failed to vote for a single Democrat. I voted the Green Party straight down their ticket.

What to do in 2010?

I remain a registered Democrat, so yesterday I got to vote in the Democratic primary.

I voted for Gail Goode, a progressive Brooklyn-based attorney has served as a Deputy Borough Chief for Trials in the New York City Law Department. She was running in the U.S. Senate primary, against right-wing Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. Gillibrand was never elected to her seat, but was appointed by Buffoon-in-Chief, Governor David Patterson in his efforts to secure upstate votes in his aborted attempt to run for re-election. So, he is out and he has stuck us with a horrible U.S. Senator.

Gillibrand won in a landslide. I think most New Yorkers aren't really paying attention.

In the Attorney General race, I voted for Eric Schneiderman, a progressive Democrat with an impressive track-record who most recently worked diligently to reform the failed Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Schneiderman beat the other four candidates.

In November, it is unlikely that I will vote for any Democrats; but I will analyze the situation as election day approaches.

The good news is in Delaware, where anti-masturbation teabagger Christine O'Donnell took the GOP nomination and will run against "Democrat" Christopher Coons. I think it would be amusing to have more teabaggers in the Senate. They really have no positions on anything (well, except that they all seem to hate blacks, homosexuals, women, and poor people) and they do not vote the straight GOP-line - they do not tow-the-line. Also, teabaggers are fun to point at and watch, they all seem to be socially retarded and lacking any real political skills beyond marketing.

I have no hope that the Democrats will retain control of the Senate, nor do I think they deserve to retain control. I will give no money to any Democratic candidates during the midterm cycle, and I hope that progressives across the nation will take a chance and vote Green.

New York Primary Results

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Doing The Math

by Dick Mac

Last night I tuned-in to ESPN to watch Monday Night Football.

Historically, I've enjoyed watching the NFL on television, because the game is designed for television. In the mid-1960s, Pete Rozelle and Roone Arledge re-engineered the NFL game to more easily lend itself to broadcast revenue. It was a brilliant move, and from it came the perfectly packaged televised sporting events.

In recent years, the contracts between the NFL and broadcast outlets have been modified, as well they should, to accommodate redistribution of the huge profits being made.

Unfortunately, nobody like Pete Rozelle and/or Roone Arledge has been involved in these modern day efforts, so the changes have been engineered by accountants and lawyers, instead of television producers and sportsmen.

What we have today barely resembles the NFL I enjoyed so much the past forty-odd years. There's just not enough football in the broadcast.

Let's count some beans:

The average broadcast of an NFL game is scheduled for three hours.

An NFL game consists of four fifteen-minute quarters: one hour.

There is a short break at the end of each quarter, for the teams to change sides.

Half-time lasts about twenty minutes or so.

Approximately thirty minutes is required for intervals, during which time, advertising and promotions are proffered.

This leaves an additional ninety minutes, a full fifty percent more than the actual time of the game, for advertising and promotion.

One hour of football is nestled in an additional two hours of other stuff.

Last night, I explained it this way:

Fifteen airings of the same truck ad, fifteen airings of the same beer ad, fifteen airings of the same car ad, fifteen airings of the same pizza ad, fifteen airings of various armed forces ads, and fifteen promos for some insipid new sitcom EVERY HOUR for three hours. Oh, and then a little bit of a sporting event.

My fave is this combo: three to five ads, back to the game, announcer does audio promo for television show, team kicks-off the ball for a fair catch, announcer does another promo for the same upcoming show, three to five ads, then the first play of the series. In five minutes there has been one completed play (for a fair catch) and the start of a play from scrimmage.
Although those paragraphs were written with tongue firmly planted in cheek, they are not much of an exaggeration.

In order to watch an NFL game, you must watch at least two hours of other stuff.

In my estimation, that is not watching a football game, that is watching television advertising with some football interspersed through it.

Why people continue to tune-in is beyond my ability to reason.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Arsenal, Highbury, Thierry Henry, Red Bull New York, and Me

by Dick Mac

In October, 2000, I attended my first English football match, in London. Friends of ours took Mrs. Mac and me to Highbury to see Arsenal play Manchester City.

I knew what soccer was, and I had attended NASL Boston Beacons matches at Fenway Park in the 1960s; but I had no interest in the sport. Many long-time friends will tell you I derided the game while praising the virtues of baseball and American football. I subscribed to all the humorous notions that it can't be a sport because you can't use your hands, and that the game was so boring you had to stab your neighbor in the stands for excitement.

Given my prejudice, I decided to approach this event with an open mind. I was, after all, a guest in a foreign land and the guest of an American acquaintance who insisted I would enjoy the match.

We stopped by a ticket agency (a tout, in the vernacular) in Regent Street at Piccadilly Circus and collected two pairs of tickets at ninety quid a pair. Then we made a reasonably short journey on the tube to Highbury, home of Arsenal. Our seats were quite good in the East Lower stand, twenty-odd rows back from the field (the pitch) at the top of the box.

I knew nothing about the teams, but I knew I was at Arsenal's home and I would cheer for Arsenal. Sadly, the two pairs of tickets, although in the same section, were ten rows apart from each other. The other couple sat closer to the pitch.

I knew nothing about the terminology of the game and confused the terms "free-kick" and "penalty-kick" in a conversation with an older gentleman who arrived late and asked how the goals had been scored. Good-natured chuckles all around as another guy explained the shots were not penalty kicks.

Arsenal won the match 5-0, but the match was no where near as close as the score sounds.

Arsenal had acquired a player named Thierry Henry, and his hat-trick that day was a feat I will never forget. Henry, along with his amazing teammates, mesmerized me that day, and I fell in love.

I fell in love with soccer, and I fell in love with Thierry Henry.

After moving back to New York a year later, I worked hard to get access to the English Premier League matches: pay-per-view, website and magazine subscriptions, early morning visits to pubs. I couldn't get enough.

Eventually, I learned about Major League Soccer and I became a season-ticket holder.

Sometime in the middle of the decade, Henry began showing-up at New York sporting events and appearing in the press espousing his love for the City and his desire to live here. He said he spent all his vacations here, and that he would like to end his career playing in New York!

Rumors persisted for years that he would join Red Bull New York of MLS. Fans of the European game poked fun at me for this ridiculous notion. Henry had moved to Barcelona, another champion, and there was no way, in the estimation of better-versed football fans that he would deign to play in MLS.

I tempered my hopes with the negativism that fans of European soccer seem to thrive on (like a nation of Red Sox fans that spans the globe). I've never let the Eurosnob disdain for American soccer get in the way of my love for the game, and I attend almost every RBNY home match.

When my daughter turned 4-years-old, she became a season-ticket holder, too; and we have never looked back. She is six now, in her third season as a fan, and attending the matches is heaven for us.

This year, Thierry Henry and Red Bull New York announced that he would join the team on a three-year contract.

I don't even know the words to write when describing this. I thought I must be the luckiest sports fan in the world.

This past Saturday, RBNY hosted Colorado. We won 3-0 in a wonderful match that rivaled the quality of play of any European match I have seen. Certainly better than all of this weekend's English matches.

After the match and all the associated press events, my daughter and I were given all-access passes and escorted to the post-match interview room.

One at a time, or in small groups, every RBNY player entered the room to say hello, sign the new shirt the team provided to my daughter. Shook hands, gave kisses. chatted about the team, the match, life in New York City, our families, our travels, and the all the things people chat about in a somewhat awkward social setting.

Every player was friendly and gracious and generous of time and spirit: even players known for being a little cranky were all smiles and handshakes. Rafa Marquez, captain of Mexico, and our star midfielder greeted my daughter with a kiss and huge smiles. We were both awed by his ease, even with a sever knock on his ankle. Juan Pablo Angel, captain and most famous of all Red Bulls, seemed to remember my daughter from a previous encounter and was genuinely excited to see her.

Everyone posed for pictures, everyone signed the shirt, everyone was just great.

And then it happened.

My daughter and I had been there for quite a while. The door opened and in walked Thierry Henry. My daughter was cool as a cucumber. He kissed her and asked her questions. We shook hands and I was at a loss for words.

Here I was with Thierry Henry and I could barely speak. I had so much to tell him. I had intended to tell him that he is solely the reason I am a soccer fan today, that his performance that damp October day in 2000 made me a lover. That I have carried a torch for him these ten years and that I adore him.

None of that came out of course. I was like a little boy: dumbstruck.

We chatted and he posed for pictures.

He is more handsome than his pictures show.

He is humbler than his interviews show.

He is an amazing human specimen with the grace of an angel and the presence of a god.

That day, I was the luckiest man in the world.

Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti

Friday, September 10, 2010

Remember September 10th

by Dick Mac

Thousands of Americans have been killed in a pretend effort to catch a criminal whose family is well-connected to the most powerful families in the Republic of Texas.

No sincere effort has been made to capture our enemy. In fact, when we had him cornered, the President of the United States (George W Bush) called-off the army.

Instead of chasing our sworn enemies, he decided to attack a personal enemy to gain control of oil fields for generations to come.

Thousands of Americans have been killed in that effort.

Our young people are throwing themselves in harm's way for nothing.


It's easy to remember September 11th. I challenge you to remember September 10th!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)

by Dick Mac

I have seen Flea perform a number of times, and there is something especially amusing about watching him play bass for the song Brandy (You're A Fine Girl); which was an early-seventies Top 40 fave of mine.

Yes, I could like Brandy and Hand of Doom!

Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Pay (Dearly) To Play (Little)

by Dick Mac

Over the past thirty years, since Ronald Reagan's successful campaign against America's poor, those at the bottom of the economic ladder have been held to blame for America's ills and economic woes.

Even as social welfare programs are slashed and the United States struggles to maintain the scantest levels of social safety nets, medical care, and education, billions and billions of dollars are funnelled to the wealthiest Americans to subsidize their elegant, avaricious and power-driven lifestyles.

Today's example is the professional sports team.

The argument the rich make about needing billions of dollars in welfare is that they create jobs.

Let's talk about those jobs. Anecdotally, this is my understanding of the structure of a team and its stadium:

They hire executives who are paid handsomely and receive benefits you and I could only dream about. Many of those executives do not even live in the state from which the team receives its subsidies.

They hire professional talent: athletes, coaches and trainers who are paid remarkable amounts of money and provided amazing extras, and give little, if anything, back to the taxpayers who have subsidized them.

They hire technical staff who are generally private contractors who receive no benefits beyond contracted sums for specific tasks.

They hire a sales force who sell tickets and help season-ticket holders. Most of these are permanent employees with benefits.

They hire operational staff: those who maintain the physical plant like the field, stands, and the rest of the grounds. Although not many in number, these are generally full-time staff who are paid a wage and benefits.

They hire entertainers: cheerleaders and hostesses whose work is seasonal and receive no benefits.

They hire cleaners who are paid poorly, hired seasonally and sporadically. These people work hard and receive no benefits.

They hire concession stand staff who are grossly underpaid, hired seasonally, and receive no benefits. This is the largest pool of people employed by a sports team, and they cannot support a family on the money they earn and lack of benefits, even though they work long, hard hours. Like the cleaners, these jobs are generally second jobs for most of the staff.

The argument made by sports teams that stadiums are good business because they create jobs is a bad argument. Stadiums are notoriously bad employers and even worse neighbors.

The cost to the taxpayer is enormous. Most stadiums are financed in such a way that taxpayers are managing payments for years after a stadium is obsolete or demolished, or the team has moved to greener pastures.

Today's New York Times discusses exactly this today in two articles:

As Stadiums Vanish, Their Debt Lives On

The N.F.L. Plays, the Public Pays

There is only one solution: no taxpayer dollars for stadiums, and no tax breaks for sports teams. We live in a country that can't feed its hungry, clothe its naked, and educate its young. Why are we subsidizing millionaires?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Burning Books Is Never A Good Idea

by Dick Mac

One of the right-wing's absurd conclusions, that they use with impunity, is that objection and resistance to the war in Afghanistan endangers the troops.

Back in 2003, I wrote about right-wingers who cancelled a celebration in Cooperstown, New York, that had been planned for over a year, because they determined that two of the participants' objection to the war in Iraq endangered the troops. This, of course, was patently false, and the monster who was in charge of the event was just taking an opportunity to further his own political aspirations. Fortunately, this back-fired and he is pretty much invisible outside of Cooperstown today.

This has always been a tactic of the right-wing, and the liberal media like Fox News and CNN never confront them about it. They are allowed to continue spreading their lies.

Can exercising our First Amendment rights ever really endanger the troops? Generally, I think not. There might be one exception: book burning.

A right-winger has come forward to announce that other right-wingers are endangering the troops with their planned exercise of free speech.

The Dove World Outreach Center, in Gainesville, Florida, has declared "Burn a Koran Day" on Saturday, September 11, 2010.

U.S. and NATO Commander Gen. David Petraeus said yesterday:

Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.

The geniuses behind the idea to burn the holy book of their competition are Dr. Terry Jones, and his lovely wife, Sylvia Jones.

I am not a businessman, but I understand a little bit about marketing and competition in the marketplace. Religion is a huge business and there is a lot of money to be made. Other religious leaders have tried various tactics to increase membership in their churches, temples, and mosques. Book-burning, however, is never a very popular option. People seem to prefer sex-scandals infused with a nominal amount of piety and humility. Bad clothes permeate the entire industry, so there is no reason for criticism in that area.

Dove World is gathering together a bunch of semi-literate bigots on Saturday and they are going to burn the Quran! Muslims from Gainesville to Kabul are going to lose their minds over this.

If you think Muslims are angry about the war in Afghanistan, wait until you see their reaction to this!

The insurgents in every country will be encouraged by this act. There will be more bombings, more acts of terror, a deeper rift between Muslim Americans and non-Muslim Americans.

There is no good reason for this.

We can only hope that one or more of these imbeciles catches fire themselves and dies for their righteous cause.


Top US commander: Burning Quran endangers troops

Dove World Outreach Center

Monday, September 06, 2010

A Laborious News Day

Jennifer Thompson who says she had sex with Wayne Rooney while his wife Coleen was pregnant Photo: TIM STEWARTby Dick Mac

The BBC, News of the World, The Telegraph, and the Sunday Mirror have reported that soccer star Wayne Rooney had sex with a prostitute when his wife was pregnant.

A professional athlete had sex with a prostitute.

How is this "news"?

This is like publishing an article that explains: "The sun rose this morning and billions of people below the Arctic Circle could see it in the skies to the West."

Is there really nothing else to report? Those square inches could't be used to report on anything else? Nothing?

So, I'm jumping on the badwagon: "OMG! Wayne Rooney Who Has To Pay For Sex Has Paid For Sex!"

Wayne Rooney 'slept with prostitute while wife Coleen was pregnant' - The Telegraph

Wayne Rooney arrives in Switzerland despite controversy - BBC

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Mammals: Humans

by Dick Mac

Humans are members of the group homo sapiens (tranlated to "wise man"). Homo is a subset of the Hominidae (a/k/a the great ape family). Humans are most commonly known as people.

Humans are the most evolved of all species, having learned to master most aspects of our surroundings.

We are a migratory animal, we like to move from place to place, as is obviated by the notion of travel and vacations, as well as the incredible migration of the past 500 years. Migration is just as normal for people as it is for the wildebeest of the the Serengeti.

We are omnivores. We eat other animals and vegetation. We have learned to manipulate both groups, to some detriment.

Although popular myths perpetrated by historical writings of religious organization promote monogamy, people are generally promiscuous and form monogamous unions only with the exertion of reason and free-will over the natural desire to the contrary.

We are able to reason, to make determinations that allow us to form allegedly polite social contracts, and overcome our animalistic desires to dominate other humans.

We are saddled with free-will, which works hand-in-hand with reason, allowing us to do amazing things collectively and individually.

We are destroying our environment.

Some humans have formed societies that ignore evolution, migration, science, sex drive, reason, social contracts, and free-will. They tend to be possessive of external riches in spite of their religious rantings, congregate in specific regions, and form a mob mentality. These groups tend to be dangerous to the surrounding, more civilized societies. Below is a video that highlights some of their more insidious philosophies:

As Ricky Gervais might say: "Only kidding, really. No, not really."

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Mammals: Cows (Cattle)

by Dick Mac

Cows (more generally known as cattle) are the most well-known ungulates, they are bovines. They are domesticated and raised as livestock (meat), dairy cows, and draft animals. Their skins are used for leather goods and their shit is used as fertilizer.

In India they are sacred, and in the rest of the world they are a multi-billion dollar industry,

Some people think they are cute, I find them scary-looking.

There are many, many different types of cattle, and Wikipedia has an excellent List of cattle breeds. Yes, some are cuter than others, and some are scarier than others.

My relationship to cattle is pretty much the same as all other non-Indian humans. I think of them as a product. It's rare to see them in a zoo (but not impossible). They are not mysterious or cuddly, they are thought of, sadly, as a product.

I am lactose-intolerant. I suffer when I enjoy cheese or ice cream. I haven't had a glass of milk since 1973, because it just makes me sick. Not sick in the figurative ("that makes me sick") sense, but physically sick with stomach cramps, a runny nose, etc. I accept the lesser discomfort I experience from cheese, because I just love cheese - especially stinky cheese.

I am an omnivore, and I am neither allergic nor physically intolerant to the meat of cattle the way I am to their milk. I love a steak, I love a burger, I love a good beef stew. Not intending to totally gross-out my vegan and vegetarian friends, I admit that I quite like liver, sweetbreads, and other forms of offal.

I am vegan during my Lenten fast. That is, for all of Lent I eat no animal products. None. No butter or cheese, certainly no meat or fish. It's a challenge, but it's a challenge I embrace and rather enjoy. In fact, for some weeks after Easter, I find myself continuing to avoid animal products. Eventually, though, I am back in the throes of animal-consumption and forget all about the healthy alternative of a vegan lifestyle.

As a meat-eater, and like most meat-eaters, I am loathe to consider the process used to deliver that yummy burger to my plate.

Like all products, however, cattle are processed. We often see movies of dairy farms: shiny, clean barns with rows and rows of cows attached to tubes that extract their milk. These are basically corporate propaganda films; they do not show the bruising and abuse of the cows' teats, or the remarkable amount of antibiotics pumped into the animals. What is shown is a rather sterile, almost lovely, image of modern efficiency.

It's rare that we see movies of slaughterhouses. Just the thought is unpleasant, and even the most gullible person can't be convinced to see the process as modern, clean, efficient, and downright attractive.

So, I have decided to provide you with the opportunity to see how that burger gets to my plate.