Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World Cup Quarterfinals To Begin

by Dick Mac

The United States failed to make the cut this week, and along with England, Chile, Slovakia, Japan, Portugal, Korea and Mexico, have been sent home to live their lives out of the world soccer spotlight.

Some MLS teams will see players return to their fold, and our domestic league will gear-up for the rest of our 2010 season. Other players will return to their teams, most of which are in their off-season, and prepare for some exhibition matches, or continue with their national teams prepare for friendly matches, before the rest of the world's winter leagues start training in August.

The remaining World Cup teams will meet in the Quarterfinals beginning on Friday:

Holland and Brazil will meet in what many were hoping could have been the final. Both of these teams are undefeated in this World Cup competition and have strong rosters that include some of the best players in the world. Brazil may have a deeper roster, but Holland is a formidable opponent that should not be dismissed in the darkness of Brazil's massive shadow. I predict Brazil will go through.

Uruguay and Ghana meet in a match of the unlikelies. It is unlikely that either of these teams will win the big prize; but it would be foolish to dismiss either of them since they have made it this far. Ghana is a strong, fast team that may be lacking a team spirit that I'd expect from a champion. Uruguay is a formidable team filled with talent and imbued with a team-spirit that can carry a team further than you'd expect. I go with Uruguay.

Argentina and Germany meet Saturday morning and this match-up offers the greatest contrast of playing styles. Germany plays in a very technical, almost boring manner and execute with a precision that is almost imperceptible. Argentina, on the other hand, plays emotional, stylish football and are led by a sociopath whose reputation precedes him. My prediction is Argentina wins.

Paraguay and Spain meet in the fourth match. Paraguay makes its first appearance and comes to the field with an intensity and can-do attitude that might surprise Spain. Spain is arguably the best, most talented team in the world, and should go through this round. But, last year, they were expected to go through to the final of the Confederations Cup, also played in South Africa, and they lost to a determined USA. So, do not discount Paraguay. In the end, though, I predict that Spain will go through.

Who are your picks?




Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BP's Mom & Pop Myth

by Dick Mac

Most gas stations make very little money selling gas. The mark-up is embarrassingly small. When you fill-up your tank, the gas station probably earns a buck or two - maximum. Gas station owners make their money on repair shops or retail outlets on the property.

There has been a call for boycotting BP, because of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, BP's failure to fix their mess, and their cavalier attitude about the situation.

The boycott movement has been pretty successful, and there has been much favorable coverage int he mainstream media. The primary virtual gathering spot for the boycott movement has been the BoycottBP Facebook page.

BP has taken action against the boycott and convinced Facebook to delete the page because the owner had used BP's logo in the group's boycott banner. BP is totally within its rights to fight against logo infringement. Facebook deleted the group, and then facing dramatic public pressure, restored it.

I hope that "Bayou Lee," an emotional writer whose dedication to saving the gulf is clear in his posts, will change the banner so it is no longer a copyright infringement.

BP apologists, you know the type: teabaggers who think everything the government says is wrong and everything a corporation says is gospel-truth, are putting forward the argument that a boycott of BP brands doesn't hurt BP, it only hurts the "mom and pop" gas stations. This is, of course, a silly argument.

Here are some excerpts from BP's franchisee requirements:

Becoming a BP am/pm franchisee

What are the Real Estate Specifications for an ampm Franchise Branded Location?
Preferred real estate site specifications for an ampm franchise:
Hard corner with a 40,000 - 60,000 square foot pad
30,000 + Accessible daily traffic count @ intersection
18,000 + Daytime population (2 mile radius) ; 13,000 + Households (2 mile radius)

What are the Minimum Financial Requirements to Obtain a Franchise?
The estimated liquid capital required is $700,000 - $1,000,000 based on an estimated investment of $1,787,704- $7,595,178 which includes the costs for real estate. A good credit record / credit history is also required, evidenced by prompt payment of all financial obligations.

Will BP Finance the Cost of Developing Franchises?
We offer some assistance and incentives for qualifying candidates. You can learn more about this if you qualify.

That's one well-off mom and pop!

I suspect that there are very few moms and pops with an extra million bucks laying around who have chosen to spend that extra million bucks to become gas station franchisees.

I could be wrong, of course; but I don't think I am.

BP franchises are not owned by moms and pops, like some quaint Norman Rockwell painting, they are owned by investors who are now suffering because of their decision to do business with BP. We all make our own beds and we all pay the price when things go poorly. These investors have chosen poorly and they will suffer the inconvenience of a boycott.

BP brands include bp gas stations, ARCO, ARAL, Castrol, ampm, and Wild Bean Coffee.

Boycott all BP products!

An effective way to pressure a corporation is to pressure its shareholders. This is a chart I built outlining the top 10 institutional and retirement fund holders of BP stock.

Click for a larger image

Please consider contacting any of these companies with which you do business and ask them to divest of BP stock.

Links:

The Boycott BP Facebook page.

boycottbp.org





Monday, June 28, 2010

Raptitude Does Nietzsche

by Dick Mac

"If there's one thing Friedrich Nietzsche did well," starts David's article at raptitude.com, "it’s obliterate feel-good beliefs people have about themselves."

David goes on to list "40 Belief-Shaking Remarks . . . " that I highlight here:

1. People who have given us their complete confidence believe that they have a right to ours. The inference is false, a gift confers no rights.

2. He that humbleth himself wishes to be exalted.

3. The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.

9. In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad.

10. The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.

13. No victor believes in chance.

14. Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.

17. The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.

19. The most common lie is that which one tells himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.

20. I counsel you, my friends: Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.

21. Rejoicing in our joy, not suffering over our suffering, is what makes someone a friend.

24. Nothing on earth consumes a man more quickly than the passion of resentment.

30. All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.

32. Fear is the mother of morality.

34. Everyone who has ever built anywhere a new heaven first found the power thereto in his own hell.

35. There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.

36. The mother of excess is not joy but joylessness.

37. The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart — not something that comes upon the earth or after death.

38. What is the mark of liberation? No longer being ashamed in front of oneself.

Read David's most excellent article at raptitude.com.

Thanks to Yuka Honda for the tip.




Friday, June 25, 2010

Immigration Reform

by Dick Mac

It's true that politics makes for strange bedfellows.

My favorite current example involves immigration reform.

In their quest for seats in Congress, the right-wing has always played to the basest fears of the middle class. Generally, they whip up people's racism, misogyny, and homophobia. Blacks on welfare, gays wrecking marriage, women demanding abortion, and now, immigrants destroying the very fabric of the American Way (which Way is rooted completely, and solely, in the immigrant experience).

Sensible people, including the wealthiest Americans all along the political spectrum, know that there needs to be a clear and sensible path to legal status for the millions of illegal immigrants currently working and thriving in the United States, at the same time that we address the deficiencies in our existing immigration policy.

Recently, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg (one of the most sensible billionaires in America) appeared on a Fox News program with Rupert Murdoch (the billionaire who owns News Corporation) Fox's parent company, to discuss immigration reform.

It is not news that Murdoch and his heirs have begun to grow wary of Roger Ailes' management of the Fox News empire, and the senior Murdoch appeared on one of his own networks to take a political position in direct contradiction to the agenda promoted by his network and Ailes. Fox News has refused to reasonably debate the immigration issue, and regularly broadcasts lies and hysteria that prevent their viewers from truly understanding the issue.

Murdoch is attempting to bring the discussion to a more realistic place.

This does not mean that Murdoch has seen the light and has become a good Christian; but it means that he is not afraid to publicly contradict his generals when he disagrees with an important issue of the day.

Perhaps the billionaires can guide America to a sensible immigration policy. God knows the people they fund and employ have failed to do so.

The Immigration Reform Team editorial at the New York Times site

Rupert Murdoch Is A Traitor To His Own Network! A clip from Countdown with Keith Olberman





Thursday, June 24, 2010

You Couldn't Have Scripted This!

by Dick Mac

The announce said: "It is breathtakingly exciting!"

I sat in my seat, mouth agape, fists clenched, pounding on my thighs. I couldn't make a sound. Then I started crying like a child. My chest heaved and tears fell down my cheeks. I couldn't catch my breath. I felt the corners of my mouth curl downward as I gasped and sobbed. I realized I was crying over a soccer match and that made me start to laugh. Then I didn't know if I was laughing or crying. I sunk my face into my hands and tried to regain my composure.

When I could breathe properly I confirmed that Landon Donovan had taken a throw from goalie Tim Howard, delivered it forward to Jozy Altidore who crossed it to Clint Dempsey. Dempsey took a shot that was blocked by the goalie, and he tumbled over the keeper as the ball ricocheted back into play. Donovan ran forward to score the game-winning goal in stoppage time.

See for yourself: View the FIFA video at youtube.com.

FIFA has banned the embedding of their videos, because . . . well . . . basically . . . FIFA sucks. So, you have to click the link above and watch an extra minute or so of FIFA highlights before you can see the goal.






Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What's Your Song?

by Dick Mac

At my ninth birthday party I received three 45 RPM records among my other gifts. I will always remember them: "Funky Broadway" by Wilson Pickett, "I Say A Little Prayer" by Dionne Warwick, and "Nobody But Me" by The Human Beinz. They were not the first singles in my collection, but I remember them like it was yesterday.

There's a website that tells you the number one song on the day you were born, or any other day.

While Nancy Mac was enjoying the honor that was bringing me into the world, some radio disc jockey somewhere in the United States was announcing that "Get A Job" by The Silhouettes was the number one song in the country. Meanwhile, a jock at BBC Radio was announcing that Perry Como's "Magic Moments" was the pick hit to click in post-war Britain.

What was the number one song on your the day you were born?

Go to This Day In Music and let me know.





Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 World Cup: Final Round Of The Group Stage

by Dick Mac

Today begins the home stretch of the World Cup Group Stage.

32 teams in groups of 4 have each played in two matches within their groups. For the next four days the teams will meet their final group opponent.

Many teams' future in the competition will be determined between now and Friday.

The only countries assured of a spot in the Round of 16 teams are Chile, Portugal, and Brazil. Some teams have been mathematically eliminated: Cameroon and North Korea cannot move on, irrespective of the result of their final match. Others like Honduras, Nigeria, and South Africa are up against nearly insurmountable odds.

Four matches a day for the next four days! It's a soccer fan's dream.

Living in the Eastern U.S. Time Zone, the matches are shown during my workday. I record every match and have been remarkably disciplined about avoiding the scores during the day so I can watch them at night.

Today Mexico and Uruguay. Tomorrow USA v Algeria. Thursday I am looking forward to New Zealand beating Paraguay (as unlikely as that it), and Friday Brazil meets Portugal, and the result could be that one of the world's best teams does not go through!

It has been a very exciting tournament so far!

What team are you supporting? Is your team going to move on to the Round of 16? Who do you think will win the World Cup?

See FIFA's calendar here, and ESPN's broadcast calendar here.





Monday, June 21, 2010

Plastic Jesus

by Dick Mac

Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon sing a cover of one of my favorite songs: "Plastic Jesus." This recording appears on their album "Prairie Home Invasion."

It's true: nothing is sacred, and Jello is the King of slaying the sacred cows!



Here is the wikipedia entry for Plastic Jesus.

Here is the wikipedia entry for Prairie Home Invasion.



God Bless America!





Friday, June 18, 2010

Does Music Evolve In A Vaccuum?

by Dick Mac

I love to hear the evolution of sounds and song in pop music.

Listen to "This Door Swings Both Ways" by Herman's Hermits [1966], then listen to "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel [1977]. Although I make no accusations of copy-catting, there is a real similarity between these two songs.

Many artists proudly discuss the derivative nature of their creative process. I believe it is impossible for an artist to avoid influences of other artists that have come before them. America's penchant for dismissing derivative work is misguided.

Could Elvis have existed without Little Richard? Could James Brown have existed without Little Richard or Elvis? Could Michael Jackson have existed without Little Richard, Elvis and James Brown?

I don't see these as artists stealing from each other, I see them as natural progressions of the art form.

Recently, Grace Jones was dismissive of Lady Gaga and she accused the younger star of being derivative. HELLO? If Iggy Pop and Andy Warhol had never been born, Grace Jones would have been a CEO or some other dullard, not a performer. Methinks that Ms. Jones accuses Gaga of that she is herself most guilty!

That said, I have no problem with music deriving from previous music.

Here are some songs. I think they flow rather well in a historical perspective.

Brian Eno: Sky Saw [1975]



Iggy Pop: Sister Midnight [1977]



David Bowie: Red Money [1979]



And here's an added treat: Iggy Pop and his band, including David Bowie on keyboards, performing Sister Midnight live:








Thursday, June 17, 2010

Does Being Greene Require Planting?

by Dick Mac

Alvin Greene won the Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat from South Carolina.

He says he used his own funds to run his campaign.

Until his decisive victory, he was completely unknown.

He has no visible means of support, lives with his elderly mother, and when he was arrested recently he signed a document acknowledging that he was indigent, and required the services of a public defender.

He had no advertising, no noticeable campaign, no campaign committee. His victory boggles the minds of many.

Democratic Party activists and elected officials are suggesting that he is a plant. They believe that Republican Party operatives found him, knew they could destroy him in the general election, and funded his campaign. Is it sour grapes about their mainstream candidate losing, or is there any truth to that notion?

He is a lifelong Democrat, and a man of few words. In this video, a very gentle Keith Olberman interviews the candidate:



Is Greene a plant?

Who’s Alvin Greene? State Asks After Vote







Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Matisse Nude

Henri Matisse, 1933by Dick Mac

I love Matisse paintings. I could look at them all day. There are colors that Matisse used in his work that I do not see in paintings by his contemporaries, or those who came before him. It's almost as if he had a conference with the Sun and decided he would add some colors to the prism, and the Sun agreed.

I enjoyed the Matisse v Picasso show that visited London and New York City in 2002-2003. I had the good fortune to see the show in both cities. This was coincidental. I did not make a special trip to London to see the show. It was interesting to see how the curators in each city handled the show.

The New York show was curated by the Museum of Modern Art, which owns a formidable Picasso collection. One might say that MoMA is Picasso's home away from home. The London show was curated by the Tate Modern, which has a less Picasso-centric collection, and, like MoMA is one of the most important collections of modern art in the world.

It very much felt like the New York show was a Picasso show about his relationship with Matisse; whereas the London show was a more balanced presentation.

This is one of my favorite Matisse paintings:



Matisse's paintings of nude women are nicer than Picasso's. Matisse seemed to paint women with an admiration, a love, a softness; Picasso painted women with a passion that does not always look loving or even admirable. Matisse seems to adore women with his work whereas Picasso seems to think about women with his paintings (and think not very nice things, I'm afraid). OK, I'll just say it: many Picasso nudes feel misogynistic and Matisse's feel loving.

I need to make a lunchtime trek to MoMA soon to gaze upon Matisse.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How Do You Like Your Schadenfreude?

by Dick Mac

Since becoming a father, the things that appear on my television have changed. There's more "family-oriented" television; and that's fine with me.

One type of show we watch together is the "funniest videos" shows. Clips of dad getting whacked in the cookies with a pinata baton. Brothers and boyfriends riding their bikes down staircases or mountainsides and after flailing comically through the air, landing in a humorous position that generally compromises the health of their reproductive organs. Grandma dancing at a wedding while some prosthetic or garment takes off with a mind of its own. People using relatively dangerous power tools to inflict major damage on their property.

We all laugh.

I laugh.

It is collective schadenfreude

I have started recording these shows to DVD so that they can be viewed on demand.

Prior to recording them, though, my daughter and I would sit in front of the computer and search youtube.com for collections of clips that make us laugh.

Today I need to laugh, so I found this one:







Monday, June 14, 2010

Is That A Worm In Your Appple, Or Are You Glad To See Me?

by Dick Mac

Now, we all know that Microsoft is the ultimate evil corporation, in the vein of Orwellian, 1984-ish corporate totalitarianism. A dictatorial head who is focused on making his operating system and application suites an insidious intrusion into our lives, and billions of passive users who silently acquiesce.

When a prototype of Apple's next generation iPhone fell into the hands of (egads!) a web journalist who (egads!) made a video blog entry of his findings, Apple did what any self-respecting American corporation would do: they had the full weight of the law slammed down on the evil-doer.

I know Apple-ologists (those who accept Apple's actions and marketing plan and refer to it as innovation) say that it was just the cops enforcing the law; but, I promise you that the police would not have enforced this particular, obscure intellectual property law against this guy unless Apple agreed specifically that it be done.

The introductions of the iPhone and its oafish larger brother, the iPad, have revolutionized personal computing. Without doubt, there has been little technology in the past five years that can rival Apple in the innovation arena.

Developers for these platforms are cashing-in and there are apps for everything.

Illustrator Robert Berry recently created an app about James Joyce's famous novel "Ulysses." Ulysses Seen is an amusing graphic novel adaptation of the original work.

Joyce's novel faced censorship problems in the United States ninety years ago, when our nation was much more liberal, if slightly more repressed, than it is today. (See, Publication history, at wikipedia.com.)

In today's America, censorship is more insidious because we do not allow government agencies to implement it, we rely on Wal-Mart and other corporations like Wal-Mart to apply cultural and social standards as a retail tool. Like Wal-Mart, Apple is happy to assume control of the censorship issue, and they have done so with the Ulysses Seen app.

Apple insisted that Robert Berry remove a nude drawing from the app.

A drawn breast.

Apple has banned a drawing of a breast, not a photograph of a breast, in a graphic version of "Ulysses"! What's next? No bare-breasted Eve in the Garden of Eden? No apps that display Renaissance art showing a woman's breast?

Of course, you can use Apple products to visit any number of obscene and pornographic web sites, but an illustrator cannot include a drawing of a woman's breast in a graphic novel based on "Ulysses"!

It's not as though all Apple users would have to see this offensive drawing of a breast; only those who choose to download the application would see it.

Can't the consumer decide whether or not a drawn breast is inappropriate?

*sigh*

The Apple-users I know are all really smart people, and I suspect that they find this stuff embarrassing and I hope they will talk about this. No apologies, please. We know that Apple has the "right" to reject anything they don't like, that is not my point.

What kind of company operates this way? Historically, it's only been Wal-Mart, News Corporation, AmWay, and other corporations who are specifically implementing a social program to make the country more "conservative."

Is Apple one of these corporations?

We played out an all night movie role. You said it would last, but I guess we enrolled in 1984. Who could ask for more?







Friday, June 11, 2010

A Belated Happy Birthday, Judy!

by Dick Mac

I was going to write about Americans who are teabagging for BP, but the thought of discussing teabagging again made me sad. When I think of my fellow-citizens sucking the balls of an oil company, I get all uncomfortable. I wonder if BP's testicles taste oily.

Then my friend the Super-Vixen posted that yesterday was Judy Garland's birthday!

So, here's a video clip of Judy performing one of my all-time favorite songs, on The Judy Garland Show:



Get up, Judy! We love you!

The Man That Got Away

The night is bitter,
The stars have lost their glitter;
The winds grow colder
And suddenly you're older -
And all because of the man that got away.

No more his eager call,
The writing's on the wall;
The dreams you dreamed have all
Gone astray.

The man that won you
Has gone off and undone you.
That great beginning
Has seen the final inning.
Don't know what happened. It's all a crazy game!

No more that all-time thrill,
For you've been through the mill -
And never a new love will
Be the same.

Good riddance, good-bye!
Ev'ry trick of his you're on to.
But, fools will be fools -
And where's he gone to?

The road gets rougher,
It's lonelier and tougher.
With hope you burn up -
Tomorrow he may turn up.
There's just no letup the live-long night and day!

Ever since this world began
There is nothing sadder than
A one-man woman looking for
The man that got away.
The man that got away.

Judy at wikipedia



Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's Coming!

by Dick Mac

Since 10:30 P.M. last night, I have heard three stories about the World Cup on my local NPR station. I love hearing about soccer in the mainstream media, because I am a huge fan and it is generally dismissed by the United States media.

On Saturday, the United States will play its first match in the Group Stage. The Group Stage is the first round of the World Cup finals. Each group is comprised of four teams who play each other once and accumulate points for the result. A Win garners 3 points, a draw 1 point, and a loss zero. The two teams with the most points at the end of the stage move to the next stage.

The United States is in Group C with Algeria, England, and Slovenia.

England and the USA face-off Saturday, and most people expect England to take the full three points from the match, on their way to winning the Group. Popular opinion has the USA taking the second spot and moving on to the Round of 16.

The USA has a troubled defense. It is our weak link. Our goalkeepers, however, are some of the best in the tournament and will compensate, to some degree, for our failings in the back. England has a very strong defense, including the very fast and talented Ashley Cole who is a threat at both ends of the field; but they suffer some of the weakest goalkeepers in the tournament. Can England's defense compensate for their weakness in the goal?

My conclusion is that a defense can better assist a weak goalkeeper more effectively than a strong goalkeeper can compensate for a weak defense.

I am not of the mindset that England is the automatic winner of this first Group C match. USA has strong strikers and attacking midfielders, and if Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey (all of whom played on English professional teams last season) can keep Ashley Cole back on defense, they might eliminate his ability to run up the side and assist with goal-making and -scoring.

This is a huge "maybe"; but maybe it will work.

If USA beat England, it will be a huge victory. If we draw, it is a spiritual victory for the USA and a spiritual loss for England. If we lose, we need only beat Slovenia and Algeria in the coming weeks to potentially secure passage into the next round.

Back to my NPR broadcasts. I have heard three American announcers/commentators refer to our first opponent as Britain.

Dear NPR: please note that Britain is made up of the countries of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. There is no British soccer team (which is why they are never represented in Olympic Soccer). All of those countries have their own teams. Fans of soccer in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland are as likely rooting for the USA as England. Nowhere in any of the information about the World Cup is there any reference to "Britain," because there is no British team. This is not even a matter of being ignorant about soccer, which I forgive every American, it is about being able to read and comprehend. Read the schedule! We are playing England, not Britain!

Go USA!

Official World Cup Site

ESPN World Cup Site

United States vs. England Point/Counterpoint






Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Double-Dipping

by Dick Mac

I am 100% pro-worker. My experience as a worker, an American, a consumer, and a taxpayer is that big business wants to not just make a lot of money (with which I agree), but they want to continually expand profits by eliminating benefits for their greatest resource: their staff.

In bad economic times, as we have had specifically since the Bush II years and generally since the Reagan years, companies are able to squeeze their employees with the loss of jobs due to a downturn in the economy. Workers are then willing to sacrifice a little now (even if it's a lot in the long-run) in order to keep their jobs going forward. I am one of those people.

My position in the company was eliminated and I was moved into a different position lower down the totem pole, and I happily accepted it so that I could remain employed. Benefits at my job have been reduced, and I am happy for the reduction in order to keep my job.

There are just times when workers have to cooperate with bosses in order to keep jobs, and American has a history of success with this.

Although I disagree with conservatives in most analyses of workplace relations, I completely agree that there are times when workers have to give back for the good of the company. The fact that the company rarely gives these things back when times improve is a different discussion, and one I am not addressing here.

Government jobs are generally the easiest to criticize during bad economic times. Some government employees are set for life, while those of us who pay them (even those of us making a good salary) live in fear of the future because we are not guaranteed any type of pension as some government workers are promised. I do not begrudge government workers their pension, in fact I believe private industry can be remarkably profitable for its shareholders and provide a better future for its employees.

After 20 or 25 years of service in a government position, a person can retire and when they reach a certain age (generally 65) they can start drawing the pension they earned as a clerk or a cop or any other government job. I know folks who retired form the government at fifty, started a second career in a field they love and will start collecting a pension when they are in their late-50s.

I think this is a wonderful thing. These people worked hard, earned their pension, are no working in a field they love and know they will be able to pay their bills when they are no longer employable.

Some people work in private industry for many years, build a nest egg, then move into government service (often electoral politics) in their later years. I am also impressed by this.

Both of these groups seem to be living the American Dream in a way that seems so right and so perfect. Work hard, earn money, do what you love, have safety in retirement.

Today I was presented with a third scenario and I am disquieted to realize I agree with the wrong-wingers on this one.

That is people who put in 25 years of service in a government position, retire, then take another government position. So, they are collecting a pension from their first job and collecting a salary from their second job. I don't like this.

If a worker spends 20-plus years in public employment, collects a pension, and then moves into the private sector and earns a salary, I applaud them for their industriousness. Also, if a person works some number of decades in private industry and earns enough money to live off a retirement fund, then takes a paying job with the government later in life to earn more money, I similarly applaud them. Truly one example of the American Dream coming true for a hard-working person.

There is something untoward, though, about somebody taking a pension and a salary from the government. If you put in your time with the government and earned your pension and want to move on, that's great. To take another government job that pays you a salary while you collect a government pension just doesn't sit right with me. It feels like somebody has learned how to game the system and it is untoward, at best.

I applaud hard work. I have had a job if one kind or another since I was 8-years-old and I am proud of it. I have not fared particularly well in the retirement game and will have to work until I drop dead; so, I am impressed by those who have managed to secure a pension or viable retirement fund.

I applaud government workers. I am not opposed to the government being a large bureaucracy with a huge employment role (freedom is complicated and expensive and a great big people have a great big government).

I think that in many ways government agencies are the employer of last resort for many people who can't make it in the private sector. Better to employ those people in the government than have them trying to serve me at a bank or diner. (In fact, one of the bad effects of reducing government is that those incompetent people enter the work place and we have to deal with them everyday.) That is not to say that everyone in the government is unemployable in the private sector, far from it! I know many bright, hard-working people who are employed by the government. But, I digress . . .

I am embarrassed to have these feelings about double-dipping, about collecting a pension from the government and taking a new paying job with the government. Something just doesn't sit right with me. I guess I think the government should only pay one citizen one check to be in its employ, and if a person is already collecting a government check as a pension, then they should not also draw a salary.

A retied government employee who still has earning power should move into private industry, or retire. Make room for another person who needs a job.

I think I can say that I officially oppose double-dipping.



Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Is One Wrongful Conviction OK?

by Dick Mac

If a wrongly convicted prisoner is up for parole and is required to admit culpability and remorse, should he admit that for which he is not guilty?

In the 11 minute video linked below, an innocent convict decides, after twenty-plus years of incarceration and three denied paroles, to screw his integrity, the integrity that allowed him to retain his dignity, in hopes of being paroled.

He admitted culpability and remorse for a crime he did not commit, and was repeatedly denied parole. Eventually his former defense attorney came to his aid.

It's worth watching:

The Innocent Prisoner's Dilemma

Today, he is a convicted killer who has admitted to a crime he never committed.

But he is free.



Monday, June 07, 2010

Sarah Palin Opposes Job Outsourcing?

by Dick Mac

In a post on her Facebook page, Sarah Palin rationalized that environmental activists are hurting America, and came out as an opponent of moving American jobs off-shore:
Look, here’s the deal: when you lock up our land, you outsource jobs and opportunity away from America and into foreign countries that are making us beholden to them.

When did the outsourcing of jobs become a concern for teabaggers?

So, if we let Sarah Palin's friends drill in shallow waters and the Arctic, she will support a law that bans the off-shoring of American jobs? I don't believe that. I think she's a liar!

You can't have voted Republican ever in the past thirty years and say you oppose outsourcing. This woman was the vice-presidential nominee of the Republican party. She is against outsourcing jobs? No way she cares about American jobs moving off-shore! Republicans would never come-out against off-shoring or outsourcing jobs.

Outsourcing of America's jobs is a keystone to American profitability. We can't make huge profits AND employ Americans! It's too expensive. The wages we must pay people who live in America are high. In order for the corporations who support Palin to employ the people Palin is trying to reach, they will have to reduce their profits by paying them American wages. This is the sort of 'protectionism' that I thought teabaggers and Republicans opposed. I thought opposition to outsourcing was a liberal position. Are "conservatives" taking an anti-outsourcing position now?

Look, you can't have it both ways: either you support the post-Reagan model of American industry that includes the outsourcing of America's jobs, or you support protecting America's jobs and keeping them on-shore, no matter the cost, no matter the hit to the shareholders. The former is the 'conservative' position, and the latter is the liberal position. There is no way you can live on both sides of that argument.

Which is it, Mrs. Palin? Do you support protecting America by eliminating the outsourcing of our jobs, especially the jobs of the middle-class you say you care about so deeply? Or, do you support the government-as-a-business model promoted by Ronald Reagan and all the supply-siders who have backed you?

My teabagging friends? Do you have any idea where Mrs. Palin stands on the outsourcing of jobs? From her recent Facebook post it sounds like she opposes it. Is this the new teabagger position: end the outsourcing of America's jobs?

If so, you'll get a lot of votes! You'll lose all your corporate funding, but you'll get a lot of votes.

Which is it? Outsource America's jobs or keep them in America?




Friday, June 04, 2010

Opinion Piece

by Al Falafal



I am just so sick of hearing and reading about people’s dumb ass opinions, aren’t you?



I mean, sure, we all have the right to form our own opinions and we are blessed in this country with that wonderful Constitutional right to freedom of speech. But, sorry, I am just totally sick of being constantly bombarded by moronic opinions from every Tom, Dickhead and Mary Jane Smoker with a keyboard and an ax to grind. Obviously, this massive over-saturation of uninformed opinion is wholly attributable to these here interwebs.

It is perhaps an inevitable - but somehow unforeseen - consequence of the Internet’s anarchic rise after bursting out of its roots in the closed electronic communications network - developed for military and espionage purposes - to become the ubiquitous commercial network tool that invades every nook and cranny of our miserable lives today.

Back in the day it took a shitload of motivation for illiterate, ignorant and hateful Americans to bother trying to write (write?!) down their thoughts and share them with the world. Back then it took the chancy act of composing a letter and taking it to a mailbox, having invested the dimes for postage and hoping – just hoping! - that it met the approval editor of your local newspaper and that it will maybe appear in some barely recognizable form (after editing) someday not too long after sending it off. Only then you had to identify yourself and there was still no guarantee that your opinion would ever see the light of day in a public forum. That’s the beauty, wisdom and utility of newspapers: they have editors to try and keep moronic ill-informed crap out of print or make sure it was offset with an opposing and reasonable point of view. And may the goddess bless them for sparing us the tons of crap that they surely have for all these years. That is, before all newspapers went online.

Nowadays, any cockamamie online news story is followed by a string of inane comments that normally range from the vapid or merely idiotic to the downright hateful and threatening -- full of misspellings, dreadful grammar and always, always anonymous. Why anyone with half a brain bothers to read those comments anymore is beyond me.

Now everyone has a Blog (like this one), or at least a Facebook or some other Social Networking site. Christ! Now the morons don’t even have to wait for something to appear in print or on the tubes to evoke a jacked-up outrage in response. The 24 hour hyperbolic newsfeeds stream in from Fox and every other irresponsible ratings whore: individuals as well as those organizations not quite satisfied with having thoroughly polluted our TV and radio airwaves to death with their erratic insane-sounding opinions that stupid people (i.e. the apparent majority of Americans) take seriously as FACT and react to predictably and on cue.



The primary function, role and raison d’etre of the Internet, of course, is as a marketing tool. The Internet would be nowhere nearly as vast and accessible as it is if not for its usefulness and profitability to our corporate overlords in big business. Not only does the World Wide Web provide a still new way of advertising and product delivery through online sales, it is even more useful as a somewhat covert data collection system driving the development, availability and pricing of new and useless products based on what we consumers can be sucked into buying, shopping for or even looking at on our home computers.

Besides the “cookie” functions and other clandestine ways they tap into and steal our personal information we are constantly bombarded by customer surveys that tell us how important our opinion is, inflating our pathetic little egos by pretending to care what we think, which stupid people mistake for caring about who we are. What builds us up more effectively than being told that someone cares who we are? Stupid people are thus led to believe that their identity exists within the opinions they are fed (well, what else do they have?)

“Your opinion counts! Your opinion matters! Never mind the depths of ignorance from which your opinion stems. We want it: we NEED your opinion! It is important to us!”

The political implications of this gross inflation in the assigned value of mass opinion over intelligence are far-reaching and very threatening to humanity’s progress as a civilized species.

Sadly, the exploitation of ignorant opinions in this democracy occurs across the political spectrum, stretching from the extreme right to what exists of a far left wing in America. Politicians, Political Action Committees and grass roots organizers alike pander to the basest instincts of voters, trying to outstrip each other with promises so far overreaching that they cannot possibly live up to the campaign hype. The difference between the way this plays out on the extreme right as compared to the left is that right wing neo-cons and ATBCs are far more willing to push the limits of reason for political purposes by blatantly promoting the supposed value of orthodoxy or conformity, where the left tends to shun those so-called “traditional values” in favor of recognizing the value of non-conformity and the reality of human diversity (I hope).

The annoying right wing backlash we’re witnessing today in the emergence of the Angry Tea-Bagger Cult (ATBC) follows directly from the many neat little manipulative tricks of miscommunication and disinformation that neo-cons have practiced for years and with which they honed their skills before, during and after the rise of the Internet.

Oh yes. The neo-cons were poised and ready to take charge of people’s minds through the internet once it became the sloppy and ubiquitous cyber-pig trough we now know it to be. The real-life “newspeak” you hear today spewing from neo-cons on TV & radio, in elected office and behind the scenes may be traced and attributed to the evil talent embodied in whatever Hollywood PR machine that, half a century ago, turned a B-grade movie actor/leading man to a chimp named Bonzo - and Van Heusen Shirt salesman - Ronald Reagan into an absurd caricature: one still called the “Great Communicator” by stupid and na├»ve people today. Well, that’s the opinion they decided to swallow, and they have every right to it. But they are dead wrong and I don’t see any reason to go along with it. Reagan was no orator. He was a pre-packaged fake patsy and always a really bad actor, IMHO.

Since Reagan it has always been the first trick and prime directive of all wanna-be neo-cons that they master the art of LABELING and re-PACKAGING. While in office, Reagan’s Orwellian handlers used their power to get people in the fourth estate to use words THEY chose to label and rename all kinds of things, usually branding them in a package slapped with a label opposite in meaning to what their real intent, effect and use would be: e.g., they cleverly re-dubbed a gang of brutal right-wing Nicaraguan terrorists known to be death squads as “Freedom Fighters” (and secretely funded them with profits from illegal drug sales). Reagan’s people also conned all the news media to use the phrase “Peace Keepers” when referring to our arsenal of 300-kiloton nuclear missiles. Each of these supposedly pacifist missiles was twenty times more powerful than the bomb used to bring lasting peace to the Island of Hiroshima during WWII. And who can forget when the Reagan administration repackaged the condiment ketchup as a vegetable for purposes of denying sufficient funds for healthful school lunch programs across the country? The list goes on and on… ad nausea.

A not-so-subtle subtext that runs through all the real-life newspeak we have watched and heard sullying ever more the political discourse in this country is the deliberate elevation of opinion over fact.
Never mind that “Peace Keepers” were built for the sole purpose and intent of raining fiery mass death and utter destruction on our fellow human beings. In the Reagan groupthink opinion those missiles were the deterrent that kept the peace during the Cold War. And never mind that “Freedom Fighters” were shown to be nothing more than a bunch of wild thugs who would kidnap, torture, rape and execute civilians, including children, burning down civilian houses and targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination. It was the opinion of Reagan’s handlers that the Contras were on the side of capitalism – our side – against the socialist Sandanistas who had overthrown the dictatorship that had long ruled their country and… Oh, Sorry! I know. Blah blah blah! TMI. Too much information! Historical facts getting all up in our opinion grills! Never mind. We can just call them “Peace Keepers” and “Freedom Fighters.” Let’s just go with the opinion that it was all about freedom vs socialism: bringing up nasty and brutal South American dictatorships and nuclear devastation just causes brain freeze.

See how that works? If you let it…

“Opinion: noun. A belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty” (Definition #1 at Dictionary.com).

The lack of complete certainty is what is so easy to exploit. It is also the essence of our human condition. We do not really know anything for certain – except most of us believe that we damn well know what our opinions are! The certainty of our opinion, no matter how shaky its base may be, far outweighs the certainty of our knowledge. That’s what makes the opinions of stupid people so ripe for exploitation.

Just look at how certain the so-called “Birthers” are in their opinion that President Obama is not an American citizen. No matter that a verified birth certificate has been produced and that there is not a shred of reason to support their claims, they are absolutely certain in their opinion that Obama was not born in the USA. To paraphrase a common adage, they don’t know what smart is but they definitely know what they like to think.

In the modern era it is “newspeak” from the Reagan era that first elevated opinion over fact as a deliberate political ploy to curry favor with stupid and lazy people in this country – stupid and lazy people who can be nonetheless motivated to vote. After all, a stupid person’s vote is just as valid and valuable as a smart person’s vote. And as Karl Rove will tell you, there is such a huge majority of stubbornly stupid people in this country that any politician would be stupid herself NOT to pander to them as a voting bloc.

That’s why Sarah Palin is so enduring. She appeals to all those stupid people who buy into her professed idea of the “Real America” (though it’s not really her opinion, of course. She’s just whoring for the glamour and glitz of her extended 15 minutes in the spotlight, IMHO).

In the end, power in this democracy is totally based in nothing but numbers: numbers of votes, that is. Votes that can be wrenched out of people by exploiting and manipulating the one thing we ALL have, each and every one: opinions.

It’s quantity, not quality. That was the essence of the architectural plan for which Rove was given due credit, giving the Presidency to Cheney and his sock puppet twice in a row! Pretty simple, really: you don’t try to educate people, don’t befuddle their pathetic little brains with facts, truth, science, or reality. Rather, play on the one thing they definitely have going for them: their OPINIONS!



As the old saying goes, opinions are like assholes. Everyone ‘s got one and everyone thinks that everyone else’s stinks.



Thursday, June 03, 2010

RBNY 2 - 1 Houston Dynamo

by Dick Mac

A short article appeared on the New York Times sports site last night: Angel Lifts Red Bulls Past Dynamo in Stoppage Time.

It is the type of report that's shot-off quickly, late at night, at the end of a sporting event, that gives a bare-bones statement of fact about the event.

The Red Bulls won last night, to end a four-game losing streak that had even the most faithful of us on the edge of the abyss of doubt.

The 2-1 score tells nothing of the two brilliant saves of Juan Pablo Angel strikes by Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad, or the heart-wrenching John Wolyniec shot off the crossbar. The score tells nothing about the hard, physical nature of the contest, that saw more yellow cards in one match than I think I've ever seen (I don't even have a count for you).

It says nothing of the amazing athletic displays by Seth Stammler and his take-down of a Houston midfielder during a tense moment between two other players. It says nothing about Sinisa Ubiparapovic, who scored the first goal, dispossessed Houston uncountable times, and was the team's workhorse until exhaustion began to get the better of him after the 85th minute.

The persistent defense of Danleigh Borman, who repeatedly raced down the side to keep Houston back on their heels, Tim Ream who intercepted seemingly accurate passes in Houston's midfield, Mike Petke who handled the coordination between his fellow defenders and the goalkeeper, or Chris Albright (involved in the aforementioned dust-up) who with his hard and intense, physical play, proved that he is worthy of being called a Red Bull and not just a former New England defender.

Bouna Condoul stopped all but one of Houston's shots. He has become a key to this team's success. He engages his teammates and the crowd with an ease and aplomb not generally seen in athletes.

Dane Richards went down early. He is a winger whose speed is the bane of many teams' defenders. He can outrun almost any defender in the league, and when our forwards can figure out how to get up top on time to benefit from his speed, they can benefit from some crosses, that he can then learn to deliver promptly. He was replaced by Tony Tchani, who took over the midfield and dribbled through the Houston players with ease. Tchani is a player to watch for the future and he played amazingly last night.

This leaves Joel Lindpere, who has been a godsend. A proper European soccer player with solid skills and dogged determination, he sees plays developing and makes things happen.

Well, then there are the officials. As MLS has managed to raise the level of play and the quality of players, they have failed to raise the quality of the officials. Last night's match was an embarrassment to officiating, and the teams played remarkably well in spite of the danger inherent in bad officiating.

Houston has two of my favorite MLS players: veteran Brian Ching who, in spite of a nagging injury that kept him off the USA World Cup squad, scored his team's only goal; and, the amazingly fast Corey Ashe, who came in for the later minutes of the match.

Last night, Red Bull New York played the kind of soccer that anyone would love to watch; and I think they are fast becoming a very marketable team in the New York market.

After the break for the World Cup, be certain to take in a match at Red Bull Arena, or the MLS stadium in your area.

You will not be disappointed.








Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Do you ever wonder how fights begin?

by Dick Mac

This list of jokes was forwarded to me by my friend, Dave. They are not original but merit publication!

One year, I decided to buy my mother-in-law a cemetery plot as a Christmas gift. The next year, I didn't buy her anything.

When she asked me why, I explained, "Well, you still haven't used the gift I bought you last year!"

And that's how the fight started.

***


I asked my wife, "Where do you want to go for our anniversary?"

It warmed my heart to see her face melt in sweet appreciation. "Somewhere I haven't been in a long time!'" She smiled.

So I suggested, "How about the kitchen?"

And that's how the fight started.

***


My wife and I were watching 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' while we were in bed.

I turned to her and asked, "Do you want to have Sex?"

"No," she answered. So I asked, "'Is that your final answer?"

She didn't even look at me this time, simply saying, "Yes."

So I said, "Then I'd like to phone a friend."

And that's how the fight started.

***


I took my wife to a restaurant and oddly the waiter took my order first.

"I'll have the rump steak, medium rare, please."

He said, "Aren't you worried about mad cow?"

"Nah, she can order for herself."

And that's how the fight started.

***


My wife sat down on the couch next to me as I was flipping the channels. She asked, "What's on TV?"

I said, "Dust."

And then the fight started.

***


My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our upcoming anniversary.

She explained, "I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 200 in about 3 seconds."

I bought her a bathroom scale.

And that's how the fight started.

***


My wife and I were sitting at a table at her high school reunion, and she kept staring at a drunken man swigging his drink as he sat alone at a nearby table.

I asked her, "Do you know him?"

"Yes," she sighed. "He's my old boyfriend. He took to drinking right after we split up those many years ago, and he hasn't been sober since."

"My God!" I said. "Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?'"

And that's how the fight started.

***


I rear-ended a car this morning.

There we were alongside the road and slowly the other driver got out of his car.

You know how sometimes you just get soooo stressed that little things just seem funny?

Yeah, well I couldn't believe it: the other driver was a DWARF!

He stormed over to my car, looked up at me, and shouted, "I AM NOT HAPPY!"

So, I looked down at him and said, "Well, then which one are you?"

And that's how the fight started.

***


When our lawn mower broke and wouldn't run, my wife kept hinting to me that I should get it fixed; but, somehow I always had something else to take care of first, the shed, the football, making beer.

Finally she thought of a clever way to make her point.

When I arrived home one day, I found her seated in the tall grass, busily snipping away with a tiny pair of sewing scissors. I watched silently for a moment and then went into the house. I came back and handed her a toothbrush saying, "When you finish cutting the grass, you might as well sweep the driveway."

The doctors say I will walk again, but I will always have a limp.