Friday, September 30, 2011

Shakira - Waka Waka

by Dick Mac

Even though it includes footage of Maradona's hand-of-god celebration, I still like this video of Shakira singing the theme song for the 2010 World Cup, in South Africa.

It includes footage of many players I DO like; including Pele, Lionel Messi, Rafa Marguez, David Beckham, and the French National Team.

Music video by Shakira featuring Freshlyground performing Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) (The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup (TM) Song). (C) 2010 Sony Music Entertainment

In English:

In Spanish:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jensen Farms - It's Melonicious

by Dick Mac

For thirty years we have been told that federal agencies are too intrusive, and that business and industry suffer from regulation.

Left to self-regulate, we are always told, industry will flourish, business will boom, employment opportunities will grow throughout the land, profits will soar, salaries will increase, and the streets of gold will run with milk and honey.

OK, maybe not the last bit about the milk and honey, but all the other things have been promised for thirty years as supply-side theory has been the guiding light of our economic system.

Ronald Reagan, the poster boy for supply-side economic theory, started the gutting process by appointing not scientists, analysts, professors, or researchers to head regulatory agencies, but CEOs who were being regulated by the agencies they now headed. If the supply-siders couldn't out-right shutter the regulatory agency, they would do the next best thing: hand control of the hen house to the foxes.

During the same time, we have slashed the budgets and staffing for most regulatory agencies, and now Congress is simply trying to take all power away from them so their mere existence is a meaningless waste of money.

One drawback to less effective regulation is the danger of poisons being introduced into the marketplace, for sale to consumers.

This past August, we learned that 36 million pounds of ground turkey was tainted with
salmonella. (See, Getting Out Of The Way Of Business

Now this week, we are being told that cantaloupes from Jensen Farm, in Colorado tainted with listeria. So far, it has caused at least 72 illnesses and 16 deaths in 18 states.

How does something like this happen in America in the 21st Century?

One way to facilitate it, and ensure it happens again in the future, is to limit funding for the Food & Drug Administration, reduce the Agency's staff, and put it under the control of a CEO form the food industry.

Conveniently, that is what we have done.

So, two months ago it was poisonous turkey, this month it's killer cantaloupes. What will it be for Christmas?

Listeria monocytogenes:
Listeriosis is a serious illness, and the disease may manifest as meningitis, or affect newborns due to its ability to penetrate the endothelial layer of the placenta. Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil, and animals can also be carriers. Listeria has been found in uncooked meats, uncooked vegetables, fruit such as cantaloupes, unpasteurized milk, foods made from unpasteurized milk, and processed foods. Pasteurization and sufficient cooking kill listeria; however, contamination may occur after cooking and before packaging. For example, meat-processing plants producing ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs and deli meats, must follow extensive sanitation policies and procedures to prevent listeria contamination.
See, Listeria monocytogenes, Wikipedia

A spokeswoman for Jensen Farms said the company's product is often sold and resold, so they do not always know where it ends up.

"If it's not Jensen Farms, it's OK to eat," said Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centres for Disease Control. "But if you can't confirm it's not Jensen Farms, then it's best to throw it out."

The recalled cantaloupes may be labelled "Colorado Grown," "Distributed by Frontera Produce," "" or "Sweet Rocky Fords" but not every recalled cantaloupe is labelled with a sticker, the US Food and Drug Administration said. The company said it shipped out more than 300,000 cases of cantaloupes that contained five to 15 melons each, meaning the recall involved 1.5m to 4.5m pieces of fruit.
Listeria outbreak expected to cause more deaths across US in coming weeks

Our food supply is more unreliable every year that we live in the current economic and political climate; a climate that says government is bad and deregulation is our only hope for the future. As we continue down this path of folly, outbreaks like this will become more commonplace; and (like the spread of AIDS) nothing will be done until people of privilege start dying from it.

I ate some cantaloupe Tuesday night, and I am still alive. I will not have any more cantaloupe any time soon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Remember when . . .

by Dick Mac

I don't know where this originated, but I copied it as my Facebook status one day and have not forgotten it.

The image here is copied from the Facebook page of the Dublin Educators' Association; but I do not know if they originated it.

If someone knows the origin, please let me know.

In the meantime,

Remember when teachers, public employees, planned parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in taxpayer funded bail outs, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes?

Yeah, me neither.

Pass it on!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Would Jesus Do?

by Dick Mac

According to Spirit of Truth Community, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based Christian group "that strives to put love and justice at the center of everything we do. . . . ", Jesus would support President Obama's jobs-creation plan.

Most politicians who pass themselves off as Christian (Michelle Bachmann, from Minnesota, comes to mind), vehemently oppose the jobs plan, saying it is bad for America.

Spirit of Truth has decided to confront Bachmann:

"Jesus would support this bill," said Brandon Nessen, the group’s spokesperson. "Ask the wealthiest to contribute so that ordinary families can get back on two feet again."
See Dangerous Minds article

I think he might be on to something!

"A group of church-going progressives will descend on her Woodbury office to ask her to support President Obama's jobs bill, which would use revenue from taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for infrastructure projects and other bipartisan policies aimed at stimulating job growth," the group's statement said.

Spirit of Truth will re-enact the biblical story of the loaves and fishes to feed thousands of hungry people, a story they say is a lesson for all of us to help those less fortunate.

I look forward to hearing about Bachmann's reaction (which I suspect will be non-existent).

See, also, Faith group to target Bachmann on jobs bill, at The Minnesota Independent

Monday, September 26, 2011

To Protect And Serve

by Dick Mac

I wanted to write about Red Bull New York today, and every time I started writing all I could remember is the videos of the recent police riot in Union Square.

American citizens, taxpayers, were involved in a peaceful protest, a completely peaceful protest, and the New York City police attacked them.

The brutality is remarkable.

Citizens who were engaged in the protest, breaking no laws, were set upon by uniformed officers who beat-up, abused, and maced them. The tactics were despicable.

The city was in no danger from these protesters, the citizenry was in no danger from these protesters, property was in no danger from these protesters, the police were in no danger from these protesters, commerce continued throughout the peaceful protest, there is only one reason for the police to have attacked the protesters: terror; to terrorize those who would dare to publicly question the state of our nation.

Who does the New York Police Department protect and serve?

I am embarrassed to be a New Yorker when people view this footage.

In this slow-motion version, you can see one of the white-shirt commanding officers mace the trapped girls (1:23). After his spineless deed, all the white shirts quickly walk away from the scene like cowards (1:32) with the perp putting the mace back in his holster, leaving the young women on the ground screaming for help:

This one is annotated:

In the next video, the camera person gets a bit irritating as she becomes very emotional and angry, which detracts from the point she is trying to make with her footage. In reality, though, anyone would be upset and emotional about the incident:

It's interesting that the only union the right-wing isn't busting is the police union. Every police union is remaining intact and the police are expected to do the bidding of a minority of people who control most of the wealth: they are expected to beat, terrorize and arrest fellow citizens engaged in Constitutional activity.

Each policeman makes that choice when he leaves for work in the morning.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Unfortunate Quote

by Dick Mac

Updated at 3:57 P.M.

Nobody has ever accused athletes, as a group, of being the brightest bunch.

I try to avoid generalizations of athletes and entertainers, because they are often very different from one another.

I have had the good fortune of being able to chat with a number of athletes and entertainers over the years. Some are very smart, some not so much.

I met Rafa Marquez last year. Although he did not speak English, we managed to stumble through a few points and he was very polite and very generous and seemed to be rather intelligent. You know what I mean? He had a look of depth in his eyes, like he is thoughtful and deliberate, as though he knows what's going on and how to move through life.

The night before last, Rafa Marquez and the rest of Red Bull New York put on a dismal performance against Real Salt Lake (not FC Dallas - as I originally wrote), and were summarily whipped 3 - 1.

Unfortunately, fans began booing Rafa Marquez. They decided that one of the goals was his personal fault alone, because a striker (a very talented striker) ran right through the central defenders. Watching the highlights, you see that Rafa did a bad job keeping tabs on the opponent, and the entire back line was taken to the cleaners.

Another defender made a bigger blunder, basically giving the ball to an opponent in the box, which led to a very easy goal. We have not been discussing that gaffe, and I am not describing it here.


Yesterday morning, the post-match interviews were published in the media and Rafa Marquez had offered this to the reporters:

I think this is a team game, and unfortunately there isn't an equal level between my teammates and I.
Red Bulls' Rafa Marquez goes after teammates, says they're not on his level

(Update at 3:57 P.M.: RBNY coach Hans Backe has suspended Rafa for Saturday's match.)

He said that he is better than his teammates. He also discussed the skills of young, developing players who earn less than one-thousandth of his salary, and he did not talk about them kindly. He attempted to place all responsibility for the team's woes squarely on the shoulders of his teammates, and his attempt to absolve himself of culpability has offended many.

We can have the conversation about the translation and the possibility that what he said in Spanish did not translate properly to the reporters; but, it's too late for that. Any time we include other people's skills and achievements in a discussion of how badly our job was performed, it is called "throwing someone under the bus." And that's what Rafa Marquez did: he highlighted the shortcomings of others while inflating his own skills and role with the team, he threw his teammates, including (specifically) a young player who is a member of the national team and has a very promising future, under the bus.

So, instead of discussing the overall disaster that is Red Bull New York today, we discuss the impolitic statements of Rafa Marquez.

Will his teammates take his comments in stride? Will he offer words of contrition when he sees his teammates before they take the field Saturday night? And what will he do about the fans?

He is now the sole focus of everything that is wrong with RBNY. Nobody is discussing the failure of the front office and coaching staff, who have done a disastrous job with the team, and left us without any hope for the future, everybody is talking about Rafa's remarks.

Does he have a future with the team? Does he want a future with the team?

I am a fan of Rafa Marquez. I have been his fan for a long time. His arrival at Red Bull Arena was a joyous occasion for me. I want to believe that his remarks were translated in a way that makes them sound more dramatic than he intended; but, I don't think there is any basis for believing that. Even if his remarks are softened, he still did what none of us ever should: he threw his teammates under the bus.

As angry as I am about his remarks, I cannot boo him at the stadium. I simply would never boo any player on my team. As I said yesterday, I will boo my team at the conclusion of an awful match. I will happily engage in a critical discussion of my players' performance, but I will not boo an individual player while he is on the field. I just think it's impolitic, as impolitic as Rafa's remarks, and I will not stoop to that level.

Does he have a future with the team? It's hard to imagine that he will enjoy working at Red Bull Arena. I suspect the boos will continue until the final match of the season. Even if he becomes the best of all defenders for the last few matches of the season, the damage may be irreversible.

What do I want from Marquez? I want him to appear with his teammates at a press conference, apologize for denigrating them, and appeal to the supporters for unity. I want him to acknowledge the anger of the fans, and admit that (even if taken out-of-context) his remarks were inappropriate and inaccurate.

I want Rafa Marquez on RBNY. I do not share my fellow-supporters opinions that he is not doing a good job. I think his role is limited and I think that he has spent most of his career surrounded by players whose performances mask his short-comings, and helped him excel. In MLS, he is expected to be a leader and a mutli-faceted defender, and perhaps he cannot be those things.

Whatever the long-term impact of his remarks, he needs to step forward this weekend and show some contrition. It's the only thing that will save his reputation with the supporters.

It's sad to see a star of his calibre in this predicament; but he has nobody to blame for it but himself and only he can make it better.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Salt In The Wound

by Dick Mac

My team stinks.

My beautiful, state-of-the-art, best of breed, truly amazing home stadium is (like my team) poorly managed.

My team plays in this amazing stadium that is also difficult to get to.

This season has been a nightmare-come-true. My star-studded team has a record of 7-7-15. That's seven victories, seven losses and fifteen draws!

Fifteen draws.

Draws against good teams and draws against bad teams.

My team has increased my season-ticket price by almost fifty percent, from four-hundred-something to seven-hundred-something.

The price hike during a truly awful season is cutting. It says: "We own your loyalty and now we are going to cash-in on your desire to see your team play."

I am not happy about it; however, I paid-in-full the week the bill arrived.

Last night was the first home match since paying for next year.

It was embarrassing.

At the beginning of this season, we had a team loaded with talent and deep on the bench. That's one thing a championship team needs to have: depth.

In the middle of the season, we traded two of the team's important, but unheralded players: Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman (along with a future draft pick). Tchani is a rising star with excellent skills, and Borman was an anchor on the wing, whether playing midfield or defending. Were they the core of our future? No, but they provided depth and versatility. In that trade we got Dwayne DeRosario, an exciting Canadian player with midfield skills that raise the play of any team. We traded depth for immediate results, and DeRosario's presence was known; he played very well.

Then management decided to trade him to rival D.C. United for Dax McCarty.

Dax McCarty.

Things have deteriorated in the midfield.

Our defense is aged and only Tim Ream and Rafa Marquez possess the skills needed for the team to go to the next level. The currently-injured Roy Miller has been a reliable replacement for Borman, but Jan Gunnar Solli has not become the stalwart his early performances hinted at. Our defenders on the bench are not sufficient to help win games. Carlos Mendes is a hard-working, hard-nosed defender with strong skills. I think he might be the longest-serving member of the team now. He's lost a step, though. Speed isn't his forte, so he is not much help on the wings. When he plays there, however, he works his tail off! Chris Albright, the semi-retiree hired when New England found no use for his deteriorating skills, is high on the depth-chart. I am as baffled as everyone in New England must be about this. Stephen Keel can come off the bench, and defends admirably; but has never been given a chance to find a spot in the line-up.

Our defense is a wreck.

At last night's embarrassing loss to Real Salt Lake, our defensive woes were exposed. Rafa Marquez earned the vocal derision of the fans by providing an opening to the opponent that lead to a goal. Tim Ream made the same mistake for another goal-against, but did not suffer the wrath of the supporters.

Marquez is not the same player he was for Barcelona, and his performances as captain of the Mexican National team have also suffered. I do not believe, however, that he is responsible for the problems on defense; and to focus all the derision on him is a mistake. He is actually one of only two defenders that actually help the team.

Goalkeeping? We are playing an aged and decrepit Frank Rost who is paid a huge sum of money and takes one of our Designated Player spots. As goalkeeper, he was involved in giving up all three goals. Would a younger GK do a better job? Probably. But, for the money we pay him, we can get a better (if not younger) GK.

So, I sent off my thousands of dollars a couple weeks ago for next year, and last night I was treated to standard fare: a tedious commute to a half-empty remote stadium, a concession stand that had no hot dogs ready for sale seven minutes before scheduled kick-off, a skeleton of a team being run ragged by the opponent, and the new addition, the sound of my fellow fans booing not the team's performance, but the play of an individual player. Yup: fans were booing whenever Rafa Marquez touched the ball.

A fan doesn't boo his own player during a match. Boo the teams performance, yes; isolate one player for public derision, no.

Watching my team deteriorate in clear sight while hearing my fellow fans boo Rafa Marquez, was salt in the would of paying for next year's tickets.

How could things have gone this wrong so quickly?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Presidential Humor

by Dick Mac

It was reported that when President Obama visited London for the G20 summit, he presented Queen Elizabeth II with an iPod!

An iPod loaded with video footage of the Queen & Prince Philip from their recent visit to the US, backed by a selection of music including popular show tunes.

What a gaffe!


Someone should have told him she's not THAT kind of Queen!

Thanks to Ted for sending this along

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Math Facts

by Dick Mac

Warren Buffet recently shared his opinion about America's debt and tax rates.

He is one of the richest men in the world. He believes that rich people should shoulder more of the burden of funding society than poor people and working people.

He is embarrassed to know that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than him.

Firefighters and schoolteachers and bus drivers (all those people the tea party hates) pay a higher tax rate than John Boehner, Michelle Bachmann, the Koch brothers, and all the other tea party millionaires who are working to reduce the tax burden of the wealthy while placing that burden squarely on the shoulders of the working class.

These tea partiers insist that raising the taxes on the rich will damage the economy.

This is illogical, of course.

Think about it.

If a person earning two million dollars a year spends a hundred grand on housing, and ten grand on candy, and fifty grand on clothes and shoes, and twenty grand on cars, and twenty grand on travel, they are going to continue to spend that exact same amount of money if their tax rate increases by a few points.

So, the change in income for the wealthy has no impact on the amount of money that person sinks into the economy. She is still going to spend the same amounts of money for the exact same services an d her lifestyle will be nominally impacted by the tax increase, if it is affected at all; and her savings will likely continue to grow at a similar rate as it does currently.

If a person is earning $75,000 a year is given a tax decrease of a couple of points, a few more dollars will appear in his budget, and it is likely he's going to spend that money in the marketplace, thereby boosting the economy.

Giving money to the rich has never stimulated the economy, giving money to the working class always stimulates the economy.

If you want to stimulate the economy, make more money available to those who spend it, not those who horde it!

It is simple math and those are facts.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cheering Death

by Dick Mac

When President Obama put forward a somewhat sensible health care policy, the Tea Party spent tens of millions of dollars whipping-up fear and hatred among their following.

Although the Tea Party has no alternative suggestions about how to fix America's disastrous health care system, they are opposed to anything President Obama puts forward, even if it will help them.

Now that the election season has started for the Republicans, the candidates have been "debating" on television.

One of these "debates" was sponsored by the Tea Party.

Health care was a topic.

A scenario was put forward about a man who died of a curable illness. He died because he had no health insurance.

The Tea Party cheered. They cheered the paradigm that if you cannot afford health insurance, then you should die of your illness.

None of the candidates spoke-up. None of them suggested that perhaps we shouldn't let the uninsured die, and die miserable deaths, because they have lost their health insurance.

Susan Grigsby has recorded a video about the story of her brother, a man who worked all of his life, until he was discarded by his company at age 55, never found another job, and died without receiving available treatment for his illness. At 55 he wasn't ever going to find another job, he had no insurance, and he was ineligible for current federal programs.

So, he died.

And the Tea Party cheers his death.

MoveOn.Org Takes On Cheer For Death Of Uninsured With Hard-Hitting Campaign (VIDEO)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Erasure - L'Amour, Live, Terminal 5, NYC, 9/14/11

by Dick Mac

I took my seven-year-old to see an all-ages Erasure show, at Terminal 5, last night. She had a great time . . . we both did. I wish I hadn't forgotten my camera. The only shots I have are from my phone.

In the video below, you can actually see her dancing on my leg, while I am sitting on a chair against the far wall, about 20 or 30 feet from the stage (just where the first wall ends before the emergency exits).

Erasure were amazing; much better than I ever remember them, and the show didn't have a single low-point.

She danced to almost every song.

What a show!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The GOP Solution To Health Care Costs: Let Him Die!

by Dick Mac

"These are the same people who, two thousand years ago, cheered as the lions ate the Christians," Alan Grayson.

He goes on to say that the people who proclaim they are pro-life (that is, Republicans) are really pro-death.

Last week they cheered when it was announced that Texas Governor Rick Perry has signed the death warrants of more than two score of convicted criminals.

They cheered.

Republicans cheered at the idea that by killing a killer we somehow are not killers. Republicans fail to see that killing a criminal is sinking to his level, to become him.

It gets worse.

This week, collected Republicans cheered at the notion that Americans without health care should be let to die.

Just leave them to die, like a wounded human in the gutter, on the road to Jerusalem.

The only hope that the uninsured have in our brave new America, is that a Samaritan, a person so reviled by the majority that he lives in poverty and anguish, will stop, pick-up the wounded man in the road, and restore him to health.

Liberals are today's Samaritans: both paying taxes to save society and working to restore economic justice to America. Republicans are the Romans, exploiting all around them and laughing at the results.

Alan Grayson discussed the most recent Republican display of inhumanity with Keith Olermann:

Launch video in new window/tab: Alan Grayson condemns Tea Party for "sadistic" response to uninsured Americans

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No Wonder Wisconsin Is Broke!

by Dick Mac

Because the extreme, fringe right-wing is opposed to taxation in various forms, and believe that we are taxed too much (even though we are pretty much the lowest taxed citizens of the free world), one of their favorite tactics is gutting the IRS and state agencies charged with collecting taxes.

If tax-collecting agencies are gutted, then they can't get at the people who are delinquent on their taxes. Conveniently, the people most interested in this are the wealthiest of Americans, because they pay more taxes than the poorest.

The wealthy, represented by the Republican Party (which is the party of America's fringe right-wing), can pay less taxes simply by ignoring the laws and continuing to gut the tax code, and de-funds the agencies charged with enforcing it.

Let's take Wisconsin, for example.

The Wisconsin state government, like all state governments, has a long list of tax delinquents.

The top 100 Wisconsin tax delinquents owe the state $78,687,608.37!

Here is a state that is eliminating the lowest paid jobs in their government because they can't afford to have a government, and they allow 100 of their wealthiest citizens to evade seventy-eight million dollars in taxes. And that's just the top hundred! There are more!

I have an idea: instead of stripping the poorest citizens of their only form of income, perhaps we could collect the taxes due from those who aren't paying them.

Top 100 Delinquent Taxpayers

Monday, September 12, 2011

Republicans Against Science

by Dick Mac

Conversations about climate change and global warming are always complicated.

Many people I've spoken to consider the two things to be the same topic.

I believe they are certainly intertwined, but there is a difference between the two.

It is folly to argue against global warming. The planet is getting warmer. If that is because of man's activities, or if we are moving microscopically closer to the Sun, or the planet's geo-thermal design always meant it would get warmer, is all debatable; but, the planet is getting warmer.

In the linked article below, Paul Krugman states that the number of scientists who believe there is a direct connection between global warming and climate change is about 97%. This is according to the National Academy of Science.

It appears that the percentage of believing scientists increases as the evidence continues to pour in about the impact of our waste on the planet's atmosphere.

Even though most intelligent beings also accept that there is a correlation between global warming and climate change, there are millions of Americans who have accepted the corporate theory that there is no such evidence and that global warming and climate change are, like evolution, just unproved theories.

These people would have us allow industry to continue polluting without any checks and balances in place, all in the name of some sort of libertarianism that is supposed to be better than the amazingly intricate and complicated society and government we had in place before the last four presidents began dismantling it.

There are people who believe global warming and climate change is a conspiracy, they believe evolution is just a bright idea perpetrated by liberals, and that our government is the worst thing that has ever happened to the American people since Colonial times.

One of these people is not only an elected official, but is the front-runner for the Republican nomination for President. He is so convinced, and so convincing, that other Republican candidates are hedging their bets and failing to refute the insanity spewing from this man's mouth in the name of patriotism.

Scarier yet, is that we all know people who would vote for these people, especially the front-runner.

And I don't even know why.

Republicans Against Science

Friday, September 09, 2011

Discussing 9/11

My daughter was born in 2004, and 9/11 and the World Trade Center are historical facts to her.

Last year, as the anniversary approached and the television filled-up with documentaries and docudramas, she asked a few questions that were easy to answer. I simply answered with known facts:
  • Planes were flown into the buildings by terrorists.
  • Many people died, including people from our neighborhood and parish.
  • People all around the whole world came to our aid.
  • New buildings are currently being built on the site.
This year, she is older and the questions are a little more sophisticated.

I saw this news program advertised on Nickelodeon: "What Happened: The True Story of September 11, 2001"

I object to the use of the word "True" in the title, because it places a value judgment on the facts being discussed; but decided to give it a chance.

The show succeeds at presenting facts about the incident with nominal judgment and analysis, which is what I needed. I can give her all the opinion and political analysis I can generate, and my discussion of the facts is often interspersed with those opinions and analyses. She has a lifetime to hear those. I wanted to talk about what actually happened, free of conspiracy theories, criticisms of governments and religions, and opportunistic politicians who have built careers on the pain of others.

This report succeeded at presenting the information in a straight-forward and relatively non-judgmental manner. I cried three times during the 20-odd minutes.

If you need to discuss 9/11 with a child in your life, perhaps this show can help:

What Happened: The True Story of September 11, 2001

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Who's Your Daddy?

Human Genomeby Dick Mac

How many siblings do you have?

I have four siblings, one of whom is a half-sibling as she has a different father. One of my brothers celebrates his birthday today.

I come from a large Irish clan based in Boston, Massachusetts, and although I only know about half of my cousins. I know who the other half are, and if we were to meet we would know each other by genealogy and name, if not visual recognition.

Some of my cousins come from families of nine children, and I went to school with twins who were from a family of fourteen kids. My mother's five offspring was considered a small family in the 1950s and early-1960s, when we were born. A family, especially an Irish family, with seven or more children was very common. Today, a family of five, even for an Irish Catholic family, is considered a huge family.

It's a joy to be part of a large clan, and my generation is an amazing concoction of Americans: half-Irish and half-Lithuanian, or half-Italian, or half-Polish, and in some cases, all Irish. The next generation of my clan includes half-Chinese and half-Vietnamese children who are mixed with their Irish or Irish-Italian parents.

We are uniquely American: that is, we are not at all unique, we are a mixed-up group of nationalities all melted together in a pot, just like we are supposed to be.

Because we are products of the American melting pot, in that part of the human diaspora where the gene pool is deepest, we have little chance of genetic birth defects. By participating in "mixed-marriages" (that is, marriages between Catholics of different nationalities) in the mid-20th Century, our ancestors help establish a pretty solid gene-pool.

I know Americans who are not so lucky. They are from families who marry specific people from particular families because of religion or financial considerations. Some of their family trees look more like spider webs or vines, rather than trees. There are so many lines leading back to each other, creating marriages among cousins and distant cousins, that their gene pool actually diminishes with time.

This is what happened to the royal families of England, and probably other monarchies. In their attempt to maintain control, they established rules of marriage and procreation that limit their options, and the white get whiter as the gene pool shrinks.

There are still laws in England defining the rights of bastard children to inheritance. That is, they have no rights. English law has been so screwed-up about the monarch's bloodline, that today's mixed-race Englishmen suffer the absurd notions of the past.

There are many Americans who trace their families back to the settling of North America, who are related to the British monarchs. In fact, the former presidents Bush trace their lineage right into the House of Windsor. Fortunately, for the Bush family, the most recent generation of adults began to marry people of other nationalities and their formerly shallow gene pool is deepening and widening. Now, if only their politics could do the same thing.

But, I digress.

Along with the offspring of British monarchy who have settled in America, there is a newer group of citizens whose gene pool might not be as easy to expand: test-tube babies. Children born via artificial insemination of embryos fertilized with sperm from a donor may have many half-siblings.

How many?

Well, this has been a concern of some doctors, geneticists, and philosophers since the first test-tube baby was born in England almost thirty years ago.

The English government took the issue very seriously and commissioned a study headed by modern philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock, which concluded that a single sperm donor should be limited to ten offspring. Other European nations followed suits and created some laws and regulations.

Sperm Donor Online ApplicationIn America, the fertility industry is a big business, and God knows you can't interfere with commerce by creating laws or regulations that might impede profits.

There are no regulations, no limits.

Since sperm donors tend to be stable people that remain settled in one place during their career as a genetic factory, and stable people tend to be smart people, and smart people (especially attractive smart people) are desirable choices, some sperm donors are more popular than others and their sperm is used in more insemination than others.

There is a man who is now the anonymous father of 150 children. This means that this single sperm donor has created 150 children who live in the same geographical area. Women do not travel abroad or interstate to purchase sperm, generally, they get it from their local provider.

If one donor has created 150 children, then there are potentially 150 half-siblings living in the same area. Perhaps some of the families have full siblings, if the mother has used the same donor for multiple births.

Those half-siblings who are now coming of age, become sexually active, romantically interesting young adults. How many of them will encounter half-siblings they do not know?

One mother thought about that, and in 2000, Wendy Kramer founded a donor sibling registry:

No one knows how many children are born in this country each year using sperm donors. Some estimates put the number at between 30,000 and 60,000, perhaps more. Mothers of donor children are asked to report a child’s birth to the sperm bank voluntarily, but just 20 to 40 percent of them do so, said Wendy Kramer, founder of the Donor Sibling Registry.

Because of this dearth of records, many families turn to the registry's Web site,, for information about their child's half brothers or half sisters.
One Sperm Donor, 150 Brothers and Sisters

Is there a potential health hazard here? Are people over-reacting to the potential danger of one sperm donor creating so many children?

As is noted in the article, there are more questions and regulations when buying or selling a used car than when purchasing human sperm or eggs for procreation.

In this age of anti-government sentiment, where ordinary Americans have decided their government is bad and must be destroyed and de-funded, it is unlikely that any politician would succeed in trying to pass regulatory legislation.

Fortunately, this is not an issue I have to face in my personal life. I was blessed with a large family and have managed to create a small family of my own.

If I was the child of an anonymous sperm donor, however, I think I would want to know that somebody is paying attention to the companies buying and selling the human sperm used to create me and my uncountable half-siblings.

One Sperm Donor, 150 Brothers and Sisters

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Bush and Cheney remind us how we got into this mess, by Eugene Robinson

by Dick Mac

Eugene Robinson sheds light on the angle that most Americans, liberals and conservatives alike, seem to miss: these people are trying to destroy the American government, the American way of life, and the jobs and livelihoods of all Americans.

Those who earn less than $250,000 a year and continue to vote Republican are actually committing a long, slow painful suicide. The GOP has no intention of helping anyone but the very tiny percentage of people who earn millions of dollars a year, and those earning $250,000 will become the tiny middle class. The rest of us will live in near-Dickensian conditions.

Those who earn less will have no job protection, no workplace safety, no food or product safety inspections, no government agencies working to promote health, education, or the general welfare of our society.

The so-called "conservatives" want to continue gutting our nation "until it is so small they can drag it into the bathroom and drown it."

The important thing isn't what Bush says in his interview with National Geographic or what scores Cheney tries to settle in his memoir. What matters is that as they return to the public eye, they highlight their record of wrongheaded policy choices that helped bring the nation to a sour, penurious state.
Bush and Cheney remind us how we got into this mess

The former president and vice-president destroyed our government, cleaned-out our treasury, bloated our spending on military contractors, and left us with two wars we cannot afford and an empowered upper-class that no longer wants to pay reasonable taxes.

We need to rescind the Bush tax cuts and discuss, aloud, the mess that was created by 8 years of Bush/Cheney's policies.

Continuing at our current rate of taxation, not only will we continue to go deeper into debt to support the military, we will no longer be able to afford roads and airports, never mind health, education and the general welfare of a civilized society.

Bush and Cheney remind us how we got into this mess

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Labor Day, 2011

by Dick Mac

Yesterday was Labor Day.

It was a day off. A paid day off.

We are lucky to have a day off from work.

For me, Labor Day was the end of my week-long vacation, giving me ten days off.

We are lucky to have paid vacations.

I went to the doctor's office on Friday, because of a pain in my side.

We are lucky to have health insurance.

I spent some time looking over the investments in my retirement account.

We are lucky to have retirement plans.

I go back to work tomorrow, it's a short week because of the holiday.

We are lucky to have a 5-day work week.

My child starts second grade this week.

We are lucky to have jobs and child labor laws.

We have these things because of unions. Not because of the largess of corporate America, bankers or industrialists.

We have these things even though corporations, banks, and industry would rather we didn't. In fact, they have started a Tea Party to spawn a nationwide campaign against these benefits. Many people who enjoy the benefits won by unions have joined the tea parties.

If you are against unions, if you think unions are destroying America, if you think that business would prosper and jobs would be created if we removed all workplace regulation, then perhaps you would like to sacrifice these things (since this is what you are against):

Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
Paid Vacation
Sick Leave
Social Security
Minimum Wage
Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
8-Hour Work Day
Overtime Pay
Child Labor Laws
Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
40 Hour Work Week
Worker's Compensation (Worker's Comp)
Unemployment Insurance
Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
Employer Health Care Insurance
Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
Wrongful Termination Laws
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
Whistle blower Protection Laws
Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee)
Veteran's Employment and Training Services (VETS)
Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
Sexual Harassment Laws
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
Holiday Pay
Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
Privacy Rights
Pregnancy and Parental Leave
Military Leave
The Right to Strike
Public Education for Children
Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States

After you give-up all those things, let me know the quality of your life, and if it is better than mine, I will join you for tea.

Until you give-up all those things, however, you have nothing valid to say about unions and workers.

Put your money where your mouth is: put-up or shut-up!

The list is from Thank a Union: 36 Ways Unions Have Improved Your Life