Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where do I even start?

Sometimes I just don't know where to start. Writers often complain about the terror of facing a blank screen, wondering how they can get anything written. When I contemplate the Republican assault on the middle and lower classes, I seem to have the opposite reaction: there's just so much to say that I don't know where to start.

As an example, right now I have six different web pages open on my computer, all detailing Republican atrocities towards either the people or the law itself. Each one is worthy of pages of analysis, yet no one in the media seems to be paying any attention. If not for the internet, I have no doubt that the rape of America would be much further advanced than it is right now.

The media. Let's start there. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post is generally seen as moderate, possibly left-leaning journalist. He appears constantly on MSNBC on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell and The Rachel Maddow Show. I got to know who he was through his appearances on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Seems pretty liberal, right? Not so much. When discussing the Social Security issue this week, Cillizza followed the typical beltway rhetoric, advanced by the Republican Party at the behest of their corporate benefactors and followed blindly by the media. Cillizza says that "the obvious fix" is to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. "The simple solution is to make cuts to two large government entitlement programs: Social Security and Medicare," he states.

Nowhere does Cillizza mention the most obvious fix -- raise the goddamned cap on FICA and Medicare taxes. If you or I make $85K per year, we pay SS taxes on the entire amount of our taxable income. A person who makes $250K pays on just $106K of their taxable income. Every single member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, who all make considerably more than the average American citizen? You got it, they pay SS taxes on just $106K of their annual taxable income. They also receive a much more generous pension than most of those in the private sector, amounting to roughly 80% of their pay while in Congress. Have you heard anyone in the media discussing this and noting that these are the people who are debating what should happen to the rest of us?

I don't know about most of you, but I'm certainly not wealthy. I've worked as an actor,  restaurant manager, newspaperman, retail manager, and a few other things, but nothing that ever paid more than $106K. So guess what? I don't have a pension. I, like most Americans, have lived paycheck-to-paycheck most of my life. That means I'll be relying on my Social Security when I retire, as well as probably still trying to work part-time on the side. Now they want to cut it? Simply because the rich folks don't want to pay a few more dollars in taxes? This makes me angry -- very, very, angry. What makes me angrier, however, is the fact that the Democratic Party is not shouting from the rooftops about how wrong this is. Once again, they have let the Republicans define the debate, with the result being yet another slide to the right. And yet again, the corporate media reports the story the Republican way. Let's face it, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, etc. are all owned by corporations who have much to gain from the Republican agenda, at the expense of 98% of the American people. As a result, it looks like I may have to learn to like cat food eventually.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Signor Baseball's 2011 AL Preview

Time to oil up the old Wilson A2000, rub a little Tiger balm into the shoulder, and practice talking with a mouthful of sunflowers seeds, 'cause rounding third and stumbling for home, here comes Signor Baseball's 2011 American League Preview.

Did the Rangers really look that good in the AL playoffs or were the Yankees just flat? Josh Hamilton is great, no doubt about it. They will score a lot of runs, but without Cliff Lee as an anchor I'm not so sure about their pitching. Plus, last time I checked they were still in Texas and you know how I feel about Rick Perry's Republic of Texas, ya'll. (See Signor Baseball's NL preview.)
So, I'm picking the Angels, even though I'm not sure they have an everyday Major League catcher on the roster and their starting outfield looks really old. They do have a very good manager and a lot of money to throw around. Their pitching isn't as good as the A's and their offense isn't as good as the Rangers, but I think the combination may be good enough to win in a close race.
The A's, unlike the Pirates and the Royals, have found a way to be competitive on a shoestring budget. They have smart baseball people and don't make too many mistakes with their limited resources. They also have loads of pitching. Now, if they can just score some runs they'll make it a tight three team race.
Over the last 20 years, the Mariners have had four sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famers on their rosters for extended periods of time and they still never made it to the Series. Seattle fans can look forward to a surplus of good coffee, the Experience Music Project, watching Ichiro get another 200 hits, scattered clouds with a 90% chance of rain, and a 75 win season.

Minnesota, Chicago, or Detroit? Take your pick. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. All have better hitting than pitching.
The Twins should probably be the favorite, even though they don't look as formidable on paper as Chicago. They play consistently solid baseball (until they face the Yankees in the playoffs when they turn into the Keystone Kops). Throw in a good manager and perennial all-stars in Mauer, Morneau and Liriano. If Nathan is healthy and Pavano pitches well, I think they'll find a way to repeat.
The White Sox feature the consistently entertaining existentialist raps of Ozzie Guillen, a lot of power and some good starting pitching. What more do you need? Maybe a bullpen you can hand a lead over to and not regret it. And it sure wouldn't hurt if Jake Peavey was healthy at last.
The Tigers have a lot of "ifs". If Verlander remains healthy, and if Porcello and Scherzer continue to improve, and if Valverde can save 50 games, and if Cabrera can stay away from the sauce, then maybe they have a shot.
The Cleveland Indians don't get nearly enough sympathy. They haven't won a World Series since the Truman administration. Three years ago their starting rotation included Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia. (And a fellow named LeBron used to play for the Cavs, but that's another story.) I've been to Cleveland. It's not that bad a place. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is there. It's on a lake. Ian Hunter wrote a great song about it. And there's a really cool amusement park about an hour's drive away. So why do people flee at the first opportunity?
Kansas City is the Pittsburgh of the American League. They're in the eighth or ninth year of a five year rebuilding plan. Wouldn't want to rush things.

Boston went all "evil empire" on us again and copied the Yankee method of buying everything they could get their hands on. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez add a ridiculous amount of punch to a lineup that was already potent. But, and let's all say it together, "they'll only go as far as their pitching takes them." Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Dice-K and that knucleballer who is about my age, (by the way, can anybody name a left handed knuckleballer besides Wilbur Wood?), certainly look like a formidable rotation. But each of them has had health issues in the past, so... And I wonder if Papelbon isn't turning into a little bit of a headcase? Not a good thing for a closer.
The Yankees will probably have to settle for second place and the wild card. Everybody's a year older on what was already an old team, the starting pitching after CC and Hughes is shaky, and if you believe all those sabermetric guys Derek Jeter has the lateral range of your grandmother in her walker. Still, they are the Yankees, A-Rod has had a great spring, Tex is healthy again, Cano is a stud, Mo Rivera remains The Man, and now he has a reliable set-up guy, so maybe AJ Burnett will turn it around and Garcia and Nova will be solid as four and five starters. And I'm guessing that Jeter and Posada have a little left in the tank before they're shipped off to the old folks' home. Besides, if things aren't going well by July, they'll just bust out the checkbook and go shopping.
The Rays may be on the outside looking in this year. A very good team stuck in a division with two slightly better teams. Of course, if the Yankees really are that old, or the Red Sox falter just a little, Tampa will be right there to jump ahead of them. Lots of good young pitching and still enough hitting, even without Carl Crawford. Ugliest ballpark in the AL hands down.
The Orioles are on the upswing at last. Buck Showalter has a history of building good teams and then getting fired just before they make it to the Series. It's still early in his Baltimore tenure, so all is sweetness and light. If he stays true to form, give him another couple of years before he pisses everybody off and then it's back to Baseball Tonight for Buck. In the meantime, the Mark Reynolds' Strike-Out-O-Meter is tuned up and ready to go.
Toronto should petition the league to be moved to another division. The Blue Jays would be contenders in the Central. In the East they'll just be also rans, no matter how many home runs Jose Bautista hits. (And there is no effin way he'll hit 54 again.) O Canada.

Another Caveat: Signor Baseball reminds you that he has been wrong before and he will be wrong again, so for the love of God don't bet the kids' college money based on any of the above. Play ball!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


After 2 plus years of the Obama presidency it should be obvious to all that whatever he does, or doesn't do, he will be condemned by the Republicans. Whether it's Libya, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, the economy, job growth, taxes, health care, gun control, immigration, energy, or simply filling out an NCAA tournament bracket--if Barack does it, it is by definition the wrong move.

Let's cut to the chase here: a bunch of mostly older, predominantly male, white people having a problem with a younger, vital, intellectually superior black man? Boy, I sure didn't see that one coming...

Of course they're not racists. They're Patriots. And the virulence and ubiquity of their attacks is based in their deep love of country and not the color of the President's skin. Right?

But what do they offer as an alternative? Uh, cut taxes on the rich. Then cut 'em again. Privatize social security (because if you can't trust Wall Street with your money, who can you trust?). Ban abortions (because they believe in the sanctity of life). Repeal health care (because they believe in the sanctity of insurance company profits; and anyway, after you're born you're pretty much on your own). Gut whatever remains of the social welfare safety net (because we're not "socialists"). Do away with any pesky regulations the corporations don't like (because we have to protect the free market from government interference). And always, always, keep your hands off the Defense budget (because we can't be safe unless we outspend all the other nations on earth combined). (And even then, we'll never be safe. There will always be a new "threat", and new, exotic, and expensive weapons to protect us from it.)

I can imagine a country run along those lines. But I can't imagine calling it the United States of America.

Shortly after FDR was inaugurated for the first time, a group of leading American industrialists (reportedly including George W. Bush's grandfather, who also reportedly had no qualms about doing business with the Nazi's) got together to discuss a coup against the new government. They were worried that their way of life was going to be threatened by The New Deal, and they wanted to nip Roosevelt's policies in the bud. And if that meant overturning the will of the American people, and replacing it with something very much like Fascism, then so be it. I'm sure they all thought of themselves as Patriots, too. Fortunately Smedley Butler, the retired Marine general they wanted to lead the coup wouldn't play ball, and as word began to leak out about their plans the whole thing fell apart.

These are subtler times. You don't need the Marines. You just need Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and a lot of frightened, easily distracted and manipulated people.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Someone gets it right about the Republicans

I was watching "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" tonight and I heard Jon's guest define the modern Republican party better than any I've ever heard. Mansour O. el-Kakhia, chair of the Political Science department at the University of Texas - San Antonio (that bastion of liberalism), said this about Republicans:

"Many, not all, but many, Republicans have the intellect of George [W.] Bush, the morality of [Silvio] Berlusconi, and the heart of [Vladimir] Putin."

I can't imagine a more on-point definition of the modern Republican party.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Signor Baseball's 2011 NL Preview

Put on your protective cup, stuff a few pieces of double bubble in your mouth, and grab your big foam finger (if you don't have one, I think Robert Sarver is done with his), because it's time for Signor Baseball's 2011 National League preview.

The Phillies have all the pitching in the world. And pitching is everything. So, until somebody gets a sore arm, it's impossible to bet against the Phillies. (Of course, somebody always gets a sore arm.) Mrs. Signor Baseball thinks they have nice uniforms, too.
Atlanta will hang with 'em for awhile and be a strong wild card contender. Which means we may have to suffer through more of that Tomahawk Chop nonsense come the post season.
The Marlins, who have the best scouting department and the fewest fans of any good team in baseball, should be third.
The Mets will be in receivership by June and forced to play in a pasture somewhere on Long Island because Citi Field has been padlocked by their creditors. Bernie Madoff giveth and Bernie Madoff taketh away.
The Nationals have the best young injured pitching arm in all of MLB. That pretty much sums it up.

I'm taking the Cubs. Yes, I have been drinking. A lot. And I'm not even a Cubs fan.
Of course, the Cardinals should win. But through the years I've developed a very strong dislike of Tony LaRussa, so I hope the Cards crash and burn (again) and Mr. Pujols leaves for greener pastures.
The Reds are managed by another of my managerial favorites, Dusty "No, I never noticed that Barry Bonds all of a sudden started to look like the Incredible Hulk--what you gettin' at?" Baker. So I'm not pulling for them either. Plus I'm still sick of all that "The Big Red Machine is the best team ever!" crap from the 70's. No, they weren't.
The Brewers are my pick if the Cubs don't make it. Yep, I'm still drinking. Good hitting, OK defense, pretty good pitching. With a few breaks...?
The Astros have that stupid hill in centerfield. Who thought that was a good idea? Anyway, can you name one Astro? Is Rusty Staub still playing? And besides, as long as that phony secessionist weasel Rick Perry is governor, I'm not rooting for anything from Texas.
Pittsburgh has great fans, and a great ballpark and maybe someday they'll get a major league team again. (If it sounds like I'm holding a grudge about the two World Series the Pirates won against my Orioles in the 1970's, I am. Even today the sound of the Staples Family gives me nightmares.)

This is the only division where all the teams can be considered legitimate contenders. Yes, even the Diamondbacks. (They would've won 15-20 more games last year, if they hadn't had the worst bullpen in living memory. When a reliever came in, instead of Enter Sandman they played that David Bowie song about putting out a fire with gasoline.) So, should we just put all the names in a hat and draw them out one by one? No, that would be wrong and completely unscientific. Instead, we'll rank them according to the quality of their ballparks.
Giants: Best ballpark in the division, one of the top two or three in all of baseball. Very good pitching. Not much offense. Best manager. Got hot last year when it mattered most. That may not happen again.
Dodgers: Other than Wrigley Field the oldest ballpark in the National League, but still one of the best. And Vin Scully remains the best play by play man in the world. Pitching is not nearly as deep as the Giants. Probably have more offense. Classic underachievers. Let's see if Donnie Baseball can manage. (And let's see who ends up with the team in the McCourt divorce.)
Tie Rockies/Padres: I think I liked Coors Field more before they started putting the baseballs in a humidor. Damn, would the ball carry there! And all of the Rockies' pitchers had that shell-shocked look on their faces, which was kind of cool. The Rockies have two of the top everyday players in the NL--but maybe not enough pitching. Plus there's always the chance that, should they make it to the playoffs and/or World Series, a couple of their home games might get snowed out. Which would be a first, I think. The Padres would've been better off if they'd just copied the Giant's ballpark exactly when they built Petco. Lost their best hitter, but somehow they always manage to compete. Good bullpen, wonder about their starters. Lose the camo uniforms, OK?
Diamondbacks: All the charm of a Costco. Leave the roof open. Leave the roof open. Leave the roof open. Some very good--but inconsistent-- young players, some big question marks in the starting pitching. The bullpen has to be better, right? The outfield and up the middle look solid, but who's going to play first and third? Where have you gone Adam LaRoche? And I'm pretty sure I went to grade school with Melvin Mora. (Curious to see what Mark Reynolds does in Baltimore. 35 homers, .235, and 210 strikeouts is the over/under.) However, if the pitching holds up they'll be in the race. (I know that's the biggest cliche in baseball, but after all, really big cliches are what keep our society afloat. Besides, in this case it's true.)

A Caveat: For what it's worth, about 10 years ago Signor Baseball was sure that Travis Lee was going to be a star.

Stay tuned for Signor Baseball's 2011 AL preview...

Saturday, March 26, 2011


So it turns out that many of those poor, "heavily taxed" corporations don't pay ANY income tax at all. Not one single penny. Instead, they get billions of dollars in refunds. GE, Exxon-Mobil, Boeing, Citigroup, Bank of America. No taxes. Nada, zip, zilch.

What I want to know is where is the Tea Party outrage at this theft? (Really, what else would you call it but theft?) Where are the stupid signs and silly hats now? Where are the armed nitwits with the threatening language, misquoting Thomas Jefferson? Time to put up or shut up, Patriots. Get off your asses and get in the streets. I dare you. Just don't wait for the Koch brothers to pay for your little rallies this time.

No? Well, I guess it is easier to scream about the food stamp recipients who might be getting ice cream for their kids instead of bulk staples. They're the ones ripping us all off, right?

Or those spoiled teachers! Hell, they only work 9 months a year! Parasites!

Or those union thugs! They're the ones holding us back, with their pensions, and health care, and collective bargaining.

Or those 'lazy' Mexicans, taking all of the lucrative jobs picking lettuce or grapefruits away from "good Americans."

Of course, you know what the real problem is, don't ya? It's that damn Obama, who wasn't even born here, forcing socialism down our throats!

I keep thinking that at the end of the day there must be a limit to stupidity. Some finite point where even the dullest amongst us finally takes a good, hard look at things and says, "Wait...What?"

But there's no sign of it yet.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The GOP war on the middle class and the poor

The GOP took over the House of Representatives and several statehouses and Governorships in 2010 by running on the platform of reducing the deficit and creating jobs. Thus far, I haven't seen a single thing -- not one solitary single bill -- to indicate that they weren't lying through their teeth.

The first place where this was really noticeable was in Wisconsin. Gov. Walker ran on a "get the state out of the red" platform. Not once in his campaign did he ever mention dismantling the public unions for all intents and purposes. So what has he done in a mere 11 weeks in office? Destroyed the public sector unions -- except, of course, those that supported him in the election. Not a single bill to create jobs for Wisconsinites -- instead he and the Repulican legislature have passed bills that according to the experts will result in the loss of thousands of jobs as well as killing job expansion.

In Maine, the anti-labor forces led by Governor Paul LePage have reached new heights of silliness. The Governor, who claims the state is another one facing severe budget deficits, is actually spending money to remove a mural depicting the history of labor in Maine. Where is this mural located? The Capitol building? The governor's mansion? No, it's at the Department of Labor! You know, the department assigned to ensure the rights of workers in the state. The reason it is being removed, at taxpayer expense, is that it is actually not pro-business enough. You read that correctly. It actually celebrates labor without giving enough credit to business -- you know, the people who actually fought against labor expansion, minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, etc. Spending taxpayer money on this is something Gov. LePage actually deems important -- all while trying to weaken unions and increase the work week, even on 16 and 17 year old kids!

Florida, led by newly-elected Governor Rick Scott -- he of the fraud problems (he was forced to resign as CEO of Columbia/HCA in 1997 after the company was found guilty of fraud and Medicare violations, including 14 felonies) -- has introduced its own bills aimed at weakening labor unions. First is a bill similar to one under consideration in Maine that will ban the government from automatically collecting union dues. The purpose of this is to make people leave the unions, under the assumption that while unions will still fight for the rights of workers, the people can reap the benefits without having to actually support the unions financially. The second bill will force the unions to tell the members every year what they must do to decertify their union -- in other words, the unions will be forced to tell the members how to destroy their unions. This one is a classic. Scott yesterday signed a bill implementing merit pay for teachers while eliminating tenure for new hires and he is pushing a bill that will privatize public hospitals.

Believe it or not, it gets worse than this. Perhaps the champion of them all is Governor John Kasich of Ohio, the former Fox News right-wing pundit. In Ohio, a bill has passed the Senate and looks to pass the House that will restrict the rights of over 350,000 public sector union members there. At least Kasich is more consistent than Walker -- he doesn't care which unions supported him, he is all in favor of ruining them all. Including the police and firefighter unions! Now some may say that Kasich is really just doing his best to cut the deficit, but those who make that argument then must deal with the fact that Kasich just gave his new chief of staff a healthy pay increase over the previous Governor's chief of staff of about 40% to $175,000. His reason for this is that you must pay and pay well to attract people from the private sector into the public sector. You see, Kasich says basically that union members are overpaid, lazy slobs and don't deserve what they're making, but in some cases (as long as it suits him) they actually need to make more!

I haven't even gone into Michigan, Arizona, South Carolina, Colorado and a few other states yet. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The only good things I'm really seeing about all this is that 1) it is definitely opening the eyes of the voters (the governor and legislature approval ratings are dropping precipitously in all these states); and 2) the Democratic base is beginning to be galvanized, after meekly sitting on the sidelines in 2010. Let's hope so. Someone has to do something to stop these con men before the middle class is completely destroyed.

1 step forward 2 steps back

Is it possible that the Republican antipathy to evolution can be traced to an absence of direct personal experience? The whole concept of "evolving" is completely foreign to all of them.

Think about it: Ron Paul begat Rand Paul and J. Danforth Quayle begat Ben Quayle. The bar wasn't set too high in either case--yet they couldn't quite reach it. And of course, Barry Goldwater gave us Barry Jr. Do you see a pattern here? They're going quickly in one direction, and it ain't up.

Of course the ne plus ultra of devolution is the Bush family. George H.W. Bush begat George W. "I'm the Decider" Bush, Jeb "I'm the smart one. No, really!" Bush , Marvin "Security? What Security?" Bush, and Neal "Silverado" Bush. At this point Howard Cosell would be screaming "And down goes Darwin!"

(I don't know much about the Bush daughter, Dorothy. I'm told she's like her mother and as far as I'm concerned that's punishment enough.)

From Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt to Palin-Bachmann-Pawlenty-Gingrich-Romney-Barbour et al in less than 150 years!! At this rate by 2016 the GOP will be starring in a Jane Goodall documentary.

Forget The Descent of Man. "Un-Intelligent Design" has a much truer ring to it.

PS the Rude Pundit has a great post today on unions, why we need them, what happens when the basic needs of workers are ignored, and indeed the ultimate consequences of treating working people as just another disposable resource and not as human beings. I'd post a link but believe me it wouldn't work, so just google him, OK?

EDIT: Here's the link referred to above. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bad week

Death in the family this week, not much fun. However, I'm back and I'll be posting tomorrow because quite frankly there's a lot out there that's pissing me off. In the meantime, Mr. Franklin asked me to post this video.
This is Ian Hunter -- many of you will remember him primarily as the lead vocalist for Mott the Hoople. This video is incredible, so I really hope you all enjoy it.

Oil's well that ends well

Don't you just hate bad puns? Especially quasi Shakespearean ones? Me too.

News flash: we're running out of oil. True or false? Answer: both true and false. Most of the easy oil has been extracted. That leaves the hard to get oil. There's apparently a lot of it--but it's called the "hard to get" oil for a reason. Harder to extract, harder to refine. Dirtier too. This means oil prices will inevitably rise, whether or not we're bombing the crap out of Libya. Throw in the typical future's market manipulations (don't complain, that's part of a "free market" too) and the outlook is $4, $5, $6, and more for a gallon of gas. For the record, all of those Republican pleas to "drill baby drill" were and are a sucker's bet. Alaska and everything in our coastal waters amount to just a tiny fraction of our projected needs, and the environmental hazards far outweigh any short term benefit.

Of course, there are a lot of things we could do. Raise the federal mpg standards right away and the tax the hell out of every new car that doesn't surpass them. Also put a higher tax on horse power, engine displacement and vehicle weight. Begin a nation wide push for recharging stations for electric cars. Maybe take some money away from the Defense Department to fund them. Some form of graduated tax on gasoline usage could be a way to encourage reduced consumption. In the long run, we need to de-emphasize cars and re-emphasize mass transit. Build high speed rail between all major US cities. Build light rail systems in every major city and expand the ones that are already in place. Allocate major federal funding for alternative fuel sources R&D. OK, ethanol was a dead end; maybe algae won't be. Believe it or not, there are still some very smart people in the US and someone in a lab somewhere will eventually find a solution--if they have proper funding and encouragement.

What will we do? Probably nothing. The oil company tail has been wagging this dog for longer than anyone can remember and despite those ubiquitous "we're all in this together" happy face TV ads they've been running since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, they have no desire to change. Not until every last drop of crude has been sucked from the earth or squeezed from the shale and tar sands.

One final thought: Why is it that the people who proudly call themselves "conservatives" are the last people who want to conserve?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's the Hypocrisy, Stupid (part 2 of a series)

With all the other troubles we find ourselves facing, the Republican legislative giants of Arizona have tackled the really big problem of race and/or sex based abortions. That this is a problem that does not exist in Arizona only shows how truly visionary these guys are. Anybody with a brain can attempt to solve a real problem, but it takes a very special intelligence to tackle imaginary problems. We are lucky, dare I say blessed, to be governed by such geniuses.

It's strange, isn't it, that the political party that screams the loudest about keeping the government out of our private lives, has no problem intruding into what should be a woman's most personal decision?

Maybe we should just change our state's motto to, "Arizona, where common sense and common decency go to die..."

Just out of curiosity, I wonder how many wives and daughters of Republicans have had abortions? Probably none, right?

Of course, a person's medical records should remain private...however, if push comes to shove...I wouldn't be surprised to see a list turn up somewhere...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ice ice baby

First off, I must admit to not being a hockey fan. I blame the overall lack of ice in Phoenix during the late 50's to the late 60's, a period I fondly call my formative years. (Dude, this guy is old!)

Like soccer, ice hockey is a game I just didn't play as a kid. And because of that, it's more or less foreign to me. (Although I will say this about "the beautiful game" as we're encouraged to call it every 4 years when the World Cup rolls around: after watching a little FIFA "action" I'm beginning to understand how all the armies of Europe could sit in trenches staring at each other from 1914-1917.) (But then I'm a philistine about so many things.)

Over the years I've seen a couple of hockey games in person (somehow ending up with Wayne Gretzky's autograph, which will be on e-bay just as soon as I remember where I put it), a few on television, and they were...well....OK. I certainly haven't made an effort to see any more. So, frankly I really couldn't care less about the Phoenix Coyotes. Stay or go, it won't affect me one way or the other. The taxpayers of Glendale, on the other hand, might be feeling the effects for many years. Ultimately they are the ones who will be paying off all of the interest and principal on whatever bonds the city issues to keep the team in Glendale.

Mayor Elaine Scruggs and the Glendale city council have rolled the dice on a number of grand projects over the last decade or so. As far as I can tell, with the possible exception of the University of Phoenix stadium, (which really was a statewide boondoggle and not strictly speaking a Glendale one), not one of them has paid off yet.

Westgate, the Steve Ellman mixed use development that surrounds the hockey arena is where chain restaurants you've never heard of go to die. All that's missing most nights are the tumbleweeds blowing through. The big plans the Bidwill family had to develop the land surrounding "their" football stadium disappeared in a cloud of unpaid loans (hard to imagine the Bidwill's screwing something up, isn't it?) Camelback Ranch, the spring training site that Glendale and Phoenix share is about 2 years behind in building all of the outside amenities the teams were promised for their fans. And the Indian tribe that wants to build a casino just north of the Glendale "Sports and Entertainment Hub" is probably going to prevail against the city in court.

Yeah, it's a perfect time to commit the city of Glendale to another $100 million or so in high interest bonds to bribe the hockey team to stay there. I mean, why not? After all, the previous owner only lost $300 million trying to keep the team afloat. Who knows, another 2-300 million and maybe they can turn a profit. Or at least break even.

If Scruggs were a sympathetic character, I might shed a tear over all the problems her "vision" has brought and will continue to bring to sleepy little Glendale. But she isn't, so I won't. (Besides, the good folks of Glendale keep electing her, so they must be happy, and that's all that matters.)

Blind hubris never led to a happy ending in the ancient Greek dramas, and it continues to be a bitch in modern times.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Help Wanted

All good things must come to an end, and so it is with Jon Kyl's time in the Senate. Kyl, who must have an anteater somewhere in his ancestors, (Close your eyes. Now picture Kyl. Then picture an anteater. Now try and tell me that I'm wrong), has announced that he won't be running for re-election in 2012. After the flood of tears and great cries of lamentation died down, the speculation began about who could fill those impossibly large shoes.

On the the Republican side of the ledger Jeff Flake, Trent Franks, Ben Quayle and Grant Woods were amongst the names mentioned. Flake is Rand Paul Lite, who doesn't believe the federal government really has a purpose; Franks is a birther loon, who isn't smart enough to figure out what the federal government's purpose is; and Quayle is a silver spoon cipher, trading on the family name for his own purposes. Since all of these qualities are very attractive to the typical Republican primary voter, there's no telling who might have the edge. It would probably come down to who could a) raise the most money and b) pander the most to the Russell Pearce crowd. Bristol Palin, anyone?

Woods, who wouldn't stand much of a chance in a Republican primary because a) he's not a raving nut and b) he doesn't suffer fools gladly, should consider ditching the GOP once and for all and running as an Independent. He's always struck me as being a centrist at heart (which makes him almost a liberal in Arizona), has bona fides with the Latino community, and can think on his feet. This makes him attractive to a lot of independent voters, the remaining handful of moderate Republicans, and the realpolitik Dems who realize that they're probably not going to get their guy elected anyway, so they might as well stop the inevitable loony bin Tea Party pandering Republican candidate if they can. (The only truly viable Democrat I can think of would be Gabby Giffords--if she's completely healed and decides she wants to run. Even then I don't think she'd be the favorite in the general election. Better for her to wait until McCain retires or expires.)

Of course there is another option that would save us all a lot of time and trouble. Based on the very short list of Kyl's senatorial achievements, an empty suit would be an adequate replacement. Oh, don't get me wrong, it would have to be an expensive, well tailored suit. I'm thinking dark blue, with a light pinstripe, and extremely large and deep pockets.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

If you love insane, then you should worship Arizona

Everytime I think a state like South Carolina takes the lead for craziest state in the U.S., another state like Texas steps up when its governor suggests secession. Just about the time I think it can't get any crazier than that, North Carolina and Viginia enter the mix by advocating for their own currency. Seriously. WTF? I think we've reached the absolute apogee of craziness, right? Nope.

You see, I haven't yet mentioned my own state, Arizona, The Copper State, a perennial contender for either stupidest or craziest state in the nation. Do you need laws to make guns OK on college campuses for students? In Arizona, no problem. How about after the Tucson massacre we decide we need to name an official state gun? You got it, we're there. Should we make it legal to carry (and even encourage) people to carry guns not only in the Capitol building, but in the Legislature itself? Believe it or not, my state senator, the insane libertarian Ron Gould thinks this is a good idea. Birther bills? They haven't yet been enacted, but they will be if our legislature, led by the immortal, touched-by-God (at least the Mormon God) Russell Pearce has his way. Anti-constitutional bills to give Arizona the right to change U.S. immigration laws? At least our reps voted down a few of them, although the worst is still on the books until the time that some sane judge rules that the bill is unconstitutional.

Now that I've mentioned the name "Russell Pearce" and the word "sane" in the last two sentences, it's time to note that Russell may actually be the sanest among his siblings. His brother, Lester Pearce, is actually a sitting JUDGE here. I kid you not. So let's see just how sane Brother Lester really is.

"I wrote a bill when I was in the legislature to give [the Gadsden Purchase] back to Mexico, because we had people in Tucson who were socialists." Mexico didn't want them, he says. "The divisions are going to become greater and greater ... It's not between the haves and the have-nots. It's between the haves and the entitled. Have you ever seen an interview with Obama's aunt? She says, 'they owe me.'"
OK, that's a start. How about this?
The one bright spot is Arizona's permissive concealed-weapon law, he explains. When the U.N. troops arrive, "they're going to have trouble."
Just so you'll know, L. Pearce, crazier brother of Russell also believes that the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, violates "states rights."

The lunatics are coming out all over the country. I contend that Arizona has once again taken the lead.

Poor Russell's Almanac

Been a rough few days for the Grand Imperial Wizard of Mesa, Russell Pearce.

First Scott "Anyone who has that much trouble with women really should consider joining the priesthood" Bundgaard had to give up his position as Senate Majority leader. You'll recall that big Russ had pronounced little Scott a "victim". And then 5, count 'em 5, of Russell's pet immigration laws were shot down by his own party. That's right, some Republicans voted against the Wizard! (there aren't enough Democrats in the legislature to field a good coed softball team, let alone pass or block anything on their own.) My God, it's outright anarchy down there at the Capitol!

Apparently, someone at the Chamber of Commerce finally noticed that the Wizard's policies have turned The Grand Canyon State into a pariah, and that's just not good for business. And what's good for business is, after all, what matters most. It makes the sun come up in the morning and all the little birdies sing. So put a cork in it for awhile Russ, and maybe we can get some convention business back, OK? You see, when push comes to shove, your typical politician always remembers which side their bread is buttered on. And who paid for their bread. And their butter. And their toaster, too.

This is not the beginning of the end, or even the end of the beginning for Russell Pearce's Vision for Arizona's Future*. (* a registered trademark of the "I'm Ape-shit Crazy and You Should Be Too Foundation".)

However, the forecast is now only partly cloudy, with just the slightest glimmer of sanity. (But continue to be on the lookout for occasional periods of outright howling at the moon crazy. This is still Arizona, and Russel Pearce is still The Grand Imperial Wizard of Mesa.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday night video

I saw Leonard Cohen back in the early 70s when I was still in my teens. I did not develop at that time the appreciation that later came. I always remembered the song "Suzanne", but that was really about it. I was certainly not aware that he was an accomplished novelist and poet -- to me he was just another Canadian singer-songwriter. Damn, was I ever wrong.

When Atom Egoyan's film "Exotica" came out, this song knocked me over. I actually went out and bought the soundtrack for the movie, only to be disappointed that the song wasn't included -- it turned out alright for me though, because I was then forced to purchase both the movie and the original Cohen CD. Written for the 1988 album "I'm Your Man", it talks about the society of the 80s -- the Reagan Revolution, the AIDS crisis, and a love gone bad to be more specific.

In my opinion, this song is possibly more relevant now than it was 23 years ago. This version is from London at the O2 Arena in London in 2008, and it's incredible. Great 12-string guitar work, along with Bob Metzgar's wonderful pedal steel.

Listen here to "Everybody Knows" and please let me know your thoughts about my all-time favorite Leonard Cohen song.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nice to be back

Between my computer deciding that it has a mind of its own and has decided to do anything it can to thwart me and the fact that I've been a little under the weather for a couple of days, I haven't posted anything. I'm still not feeling on top of the world, so I haven't put much thought into what I might want to say, so don't expect much here!

With that said, one area in which I usually break from my liberal brethren is on the subject of nuclear power. I served in the nuclear program in the Navy; as a result of that service I have generally had a fairly positive outlook. Are there safety problems? Yes, without a doubt. However, there are safety problems with any energy other than possibly solar. I have said for years that if we could build bombs utilizing solar power, we would have solar everywhere. That, however is not feasible.

Now that you know that in general I'm inclined to view nuclear power favorably, I have to say that this thing in Japan scares the living crap out of me. Three Mile Island? Human error and we dealt with it. Chernobyl? A very, very poorly designed reactor with minimal or no safety standards. However, the Japanese reactors are built using pretty much the same technology that has worked pretty well for 50 years. This scares me. What happens if we have a major quake on the San Andreas fault? Are we prepared to deal with that? Let's put it this way -- I am definitely rethinking my stance on nuclear power.

With all that in mind, here's a song Springsteen wrote about TMI. It's one of my favorite Bruce songs, so I hope you all enjoy the video....Roulette from the Tunnel of Love tour in 1988.

Weak on Defense

I've torn myself away from watching the latest Great White Hope, Jimmer Fredette, play against a college I have never heard of, just long enough to mention that there was a chart on the back of last Sunday's New York Times week in review section (yes, I am a little behind in my reading) that listed the largest Pentagon boondoggles. The total expenditures were in excess of 1.3 TRILLION dollars. (That's $1,300,000,000,000.) By expenditure I mean money pissed away. And by money I mean your tax dollars. And these aren't all of the boondoggles either--just the most egregious.

But by all means, let's cut teacher's pay, do away with collective bargaining, repeal health care reform, privatize social security, cripple the EPA, and gut every welfare program we can, because that's where the real waste is.

Boom, there it is!

Some fun facts about the Palo Verde Nuclear plant:

It's upwind of the Phoenix metropolitan area. In case of an "incident" the prevailing winds generally blow right toward us. Bonus fun fact: the land Palo Verde was built on was owned by a relative of the then president of APS. I'm sure this was just a coincidence.

For what it cost to build the plant, solar panels could have been installed on at least 400,000 houses. (This is a conservative estimate. Factoring in economics of scale, the actual number probably would have been much higher.)

The plant is cooled by treated effluent from the Valley's cities. This is water that would normally be used for agricultural irrigation or returned to the aquifer. The consortium that owns the plant paid such a ridiculously low rate for this water that a lawsuit was filed by a concerned private citizen when the deal was announced. Naturally, he lost. In Arizona, the concerns of industry always trump the rights of citizens.

Most of the electricity produced by Palo Verde goes out of state. All of the hazard stays in state.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"The future Mr. Gittes. The future."

There's a moment near the end of the classic film noir Chinatown when the detective, Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) confronts Noah Cross (John Huston). Cross is a very rich, very corrupt, and very powerful man (just before the film's climax his daughter remarks, "He owns the police."), and Gittes wants to know why he's done what he's done. How much better can he eat? What can he buy that he can't already afford? Cross replies, "The future, Mr. Gittes. The future."

I find myself thinking about the Noah Crosses of our world more and more these days. The Kochs and Waltons and Murdochs and all the other rapacious billionaires. They aren't content with all that they have, though their wealth is several magnitudes beyond Cross's wildest dreams. They want the future, too.

For the Kochs that means buying elections, and then using their bought and paid for politicians to destroy unions and strip away any environmental regulation that lessens their profits. Clean air, clean water, and a living wage just don't figure into their calculations.

For the Waltons it means forcing their suppliers to take their manufacturing overseas to the cheapest labor markets and undercutting any and all competition, so we ultimately have no choice but Wal Mart. It is a perfect business plan--if you don't care much about America.

For Murdoch it means gobbling up all the media outlets he can, so that his propaganda machine can spread its lies without fear of contradiction. Orwellian is the word that comes to mind.

Noah Cross was an old man. He didn't have much time left. But he still wanted control, if only from beyond the grave. And if that meant destroying another person's future, so be it.

The time has come for the rest of us to ask "how much is enough?" And then we have to have the common sense and courage to say "No" to Noah Cross's many spiritual heirs. The future cannot be exclusively theirs. The future belongs to all of us. Because if it doesn't, it won't be worth having.

How much better can they eat, and what can they buy that they can't already afford?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

O Phoenix, My Phoenix!

This is how cruel life can be: you go to sleep, safe and secure that you're the 5th largest city in the US, with all the glory that entails, only to wake up and find your world shaken to its core by the news that, while you slept, innocent as a baby, the cosmos has blinked and you've slipped back to 6th. Dear God, why hast thou forsaken us?

Oh how fondly I remember that halcyon day a few years back when the news came that Phoenix had passed Philadelphia and moved into the treasured 5th spot. The cries of joy were deafening! Mayor Phil Gordon, who really is kind of a doofus, (but still preferable to the oily Sal DiCiccio, who dreams of succeeding Phil and whose persona screams out for a suitable nickname, like Sally Cheech, or maybe Sal the Cheech), talked a lot of smack about Phoenix's superiority, and the chorus of civic cheerleaders chimed in with how this was only the beginning. Watch out Houston, we're coming for you next! Meanwhile, City of Brotherly Love, you can eat our dust!

This all played well with the locals, who have, truth to tell, a terrible inferiority complex about their hometown. Cheering crowds filled the streets chanting "nyah nyah, we're bigger than Philadelphia!! And because we're bigger that means we're better, right?" Of course to anyone who had ever been to Philadelphia this celebrating was all very confusing. Because, well...

Let's compare and contrast the two cities in a couple of areas: Philadelphia is a sophisticated, mature metropolis. It's main art museum rivals the Met and MoMa in New York City in terms of quality. (Nothing rivals them in quantity). The Phoenix Art Museum has a very nice cafe. It's permanent collection isn't worth more than a casual glance, but occasionally it does get a good traveling exhibition. Advantage Philadelphia.

Well, so what? We don't care much about "art" here anyway...

Moving on, the downtown of Philadelphia is a vibrant place, full of theatres, shops, restaurants, galleries, high-rise office buildings and a variety of residential areas. Pedestrians roam about at all hours and the place has an actual pulse. On the other hand, Downtown Phoenix has been re-branded yet again and is making another "comeback". I've lost count as to which one this is, but I hope it works out better than the last two or three. "Copper Square"? Really? For the time being, however, other than sporting events and the occasional concert, the only "action" is people fleeing to the suburbs at the end of the workday. Advantage Philadelphia.

What about sports? Isn't Phoenix one of just a few cities that have teams in all 4 major professional sports? Yes it is. Philadelphia is another one of those cities, and all of their teams have won their respective championships more recently than ours. Ouch. Advantage Philadelphia.

It's not really fair to compare histories because Philadelphia has a 200 year head start. But we can compare some famous citizens, men whose life work is reflected in their city. Philadelphia had Ben Franklin and we had Kemper Marley. Every school kid knows who Franklin was: a printer, pamphleteer, scientist, inventor, diplomat, statesman. I would explain to you who Kemper Marley was, but I don't want my car to blow up. Maybe some day, when I have better insurance...In the meantime you can google Don Bolles. Advantage Philadelphia.

The wording of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were argued out over drinks at Philadelphia's City Tavern. Call me old fashioned, but that trumps all of the land swindles ever concocted over a scotch and soda at Durant's. Advantage Philadelphia.

Both cities have some great restaurants--if you can afford them. Better to judge what the common folk eat on a regular basis. So it's a loaded cheesesteak versus refried beans and a cheesecrisp. I think my cardiologist would call that a "push".

Come on now, Phoenix must have some advantages over Philadelphia. Well, we do have a very mild winter. And a shit load of golf courses. Advantage Phoenix.

Of course, none of this matters now. Philadelphia has somehow slipped ahead of us--probably through strong-arm union chicanery, if you ask me. We're back to being number 6. And honestly, in the long run wouldn't we be better off comparing ourselves to other sunbelt cities?

But not San Diego--we have no ocean. And unless a tsunami is roaring toward you like a fatboy bumrushing an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, nothing beats an ocean view. How about Vegas then? Overbuilt? Check. Water shortage? Check. Overrun with gamblers and the chronic desperation and sadness they bring? Well, we're getting there. Salt Lake City? Yeah, we can whip them in a fair fight. Albuquerque? Bring 'em on! San Antonio? Maybe. Maybe not.

A pessimist might think that Phoenix's rise has stopped, and that our best days are behind us. But the winters here are still very mild and we do have all of those golf courses, so who knows?

Monday, March 14, 2011

The real reason that the midwest Republican governors are doing what they're doing

Talk all you want about budget issues, it's a bunch of crap. You want to know why they're trying to bust the unions? It's money, pure and simple. The fact that unions are the ONLY groups contributing large sums to Democratic politicians. Every union that gets destroyed, or downsized to the point of irrelevancy, represents more money that doesn't get sent to Democrats. Period.

We are now watching the Republican autocracy do its best to absolutely destroy the two party system in America. The Citizens United decision from the Roberts-Scalia Supreme Court did more than I ever imagined possible for the right-wing to destroy the middle class -- until I saw the concerted effort to destroy unions as well. Let's face it, if corporations spend all the money on campaigns with no money available on the other side, who's going to win the elections? Clue -- it ain't the Democrats.

I'm beginning to believe a revolution is necessary in this country.

Yet another Be Bop Deluxe video

As I said the other day, I really wanted a lot of you to see who Bill Nelson and Be Bop Deluxe are. I've been trying to figure out why this band never got any bigger than it did. I think it really comes down to two things. First, they seemed too much like David Bowie. I would disagree with that, although I do hear similarities. Then again, I hear similarities between many, many bands and that has never seemed to stop any particular band from getting big or well-known and popular.

The second and more important reason in my opinion is that the punk movement hit and really eliminated the possibility of any band playing glam, or progressive rock, from really exploding if they weren't already known. Don't get me wrong, I love a lot of punk. The Clash is one of the greatest bands ever, but I really wish that the punk explosion hadn't ended the careers of a lot of really, really great bands. 10CC is another that suffered from this change in music.

At any rate, here's another Be Bop Deluxe song, from their third LP, "Sunburst Finish". This is "Fair Exchange". Tomorrow I'm going to post a song from the last Be Bop Deluxe LP and then I'll look at something else, but for now enjoy! And after you listen to this, seriously, can you tell me that Bill Nelson is not a great, great guitar player? I don't think so.... :)

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Sometimes you can sit around for hours, days even, pondering what to rant about next...and sometimes it just falls from the heavens, like manna. And for a fleeting moment you think, "Yes! There really is a God!"

Today's Arizona Republic offers us just such a gift: a "my turn"column from Barry Goldwater Jr. Some people, once consigned to the ash bin of history, have the decency to stay there. But not that old coke head Barry Jr. (I'm sorry, where are my manners. I meant former coke head.) He has opinions and by God he's going to express them! (I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not any paper would publish his opinions if his last name weren't Goldwater.)

So what does Junior think? Oh, about what you'd expect. In a meandering waddle (you know, drugs really do affect the brain) through some conservative pet peeves, we learn that we haven't gone in and straightened out the Middle East by helping all those people yearning for freedom because Obama is a foreign policy naif, with no experience in statecraft or diplomacy (not a word about the Bush foreign policy debacles, naturally) (because throwing our weight around militarily has worked so well over there in the past); all that government debt is killing our nation (overlooking the fact that the debt was increased more by Reagan and the two Bushes than it was by Carter, Clinton or Obama); we shouldn't identify ourselves as African American, or Mexican American, or Italian Americans, etc because, dammit, we're all Americans (no mention that some of us came as captives and remained in chains for 400 years. To be fair, he may not know this)(also no mention of Irish Americans, which means you're still free to get shit-faced on St. Patrick's Day without feeling unpatriotic); and perhaps most importantly, a reminder that "charity came from the heart, not government programs" and "we have traded the ideals of self-sufficiency and hard work for handouts, entitlements" (so leave the rich alone, OK?).

But not to worry, Junior has a plan! With the restoration of "free" markets (in truth there is no such thing), economic liberty (I have no idea what he means by this, but it probably has something to do with cutting taxes, which is the only economic idea conservatives ever have), a constitutional republic (except the parts of the Constitution that conservatives don't like, of course), and above all, personal responsibility, we can make Thomas Jefferson proud again. So stop your whining, grab your bootstraps and pull!

What's particularly amusing about this, is that Barry Junior, like so many "self made men" (including his illustrious father) has been on the teat his entire life. He has his trust funds, he has his government pension, and he still has that last name. What else do you need?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's the Hypocrisy, Stupid (part 1 of a series)

Like a herpes sore that just won't go away, news of Newt Gingrich's sex life has burst forth yet again. Now personally, I don't care about Newt Gingrich's sex life. In fact, I find the idea of Newt Gingrich having sex with anyone or anything appalling. The times being what they are, I'm sure there is a subset of pornography that features pasty, flabby, old men having sex with mentally deficient women, though I can't imagine that it's very popular. But then "de gustibus non est disputandum" as the ancient Romans used to say. (And most of them were bent in ways we can't even begin to comprehend.)

No, what I care about is the disturbing fact that there are some people who still pay serious attention to Newt Gingrich. Why? When has he been right about anything? When has he added anything worthwhile to the national debate? For instance, has he ever suggested maybe cutting the defense budget just a little bit? No, better to hunt down and "reform" a few "welfare queens" than go after the trillion dollar gorilla.

Gingrich's big moment was shutting down the government. Wow, there's an achievement! I'm sure that bulging pustule Grover Norquist was very proud. But a funny thing, when you shut down the government everybody suddenly realizes--including the people who think they hate government--how much they really rely on government. So tip o' the hat to you on that one, Newty.

(His second biggest moment was the impeachment of Bill Clinton. That he was schtupping a woman other than his wife at the same time he was attacking Clinton's morals wasn't a problem for Gingrich, who has, like so many Republicans, what one might charitably call "flexible" ethics. This is not the behavior I expect from the man who wrote that timeless spiritual classic "Rediscovering God in America.")

In the past, politicians who miscalculated as badly as Newt Gingrich had the decency to disappear into the night, never to be heard from again. But those were nobler and simpler times. Being catastrophically wrong just isn't enough these days. In fact, the reverse seems to be true, at least for the Republicans. Now being wrong over and over again about a variety of things gives you a certain gravitas. Throw in a large dose of moral hypocrisy and you've got the perfect Conservative talking head. And so we're repeatedly treated to Newt's thoughts on, well, everything. And the constant threat and/or promise that he will run for President. The Democrats would certainly welcome that. Picture it: Newt and whatever number wife he's on by 2012 up against Barack and Michelle Obama. The smart money says he gets his cracker ass stomped. Oh well, just one more debacle to add to an already impressive resume.

Another adventure from a guitar legend

I said yesterday that I was going to post some Be Bop Deluxe music for a few days, so here's another one. This song, "Adventures From a Yorkshire Landscape", was originally released on the "Axe Victim" LP, never released officially in the U.S. It was, however, an amazing LP. This is a live version of the song and the guitar solo that starts at the 2:05 point is unbelievable. It's followed by a solo by Andy Clarke on the Fender Rhodes piano, which definitely has its own very distinctive sound.

Again, I ask any of you who read this blog to enjoy the magnificent sounds of one of the world's most underrated bands -- Be Bop Deluxe.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A freebie

Normally I charge a very hefty fee for my consulting services, and trust me they're worth every penny. But hey, Opening Day is just around the corner and the various lies on my 1040 form are much more believable than last year's, so I find myself in a particularly giving mood. In that spirit I offer the nuclear power industry this new slogan, gratis:

Nuclear Power...What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Saturday afternoon video addendum

If you're curious about what Bill Nelson has been up to since he put Be Bop Deluxe to rest in the late '70's, check out his website

For the past 30 years or so he's labored away at his home studio turning out some truly remarkable music, most of it completely unlike his Be Bop "rock star" stuff. In addition to his music, he is a visual artist and fascinating diarist.

I think his site is a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in popular music, guitar playing in particular (any of those "greatest guitarist" lists that doesn't have Bill Nelson in its Top 10 players isn't worth the paper it's printed on), and the overall creative process. His diary offers a wonderful insight into the evolution and struggles of the artist, with a peak at his personal life, too. And there's a link to buy his solo recordings, most of which are almost impossible to find in the US.

The Grand Imperial Wizard of Mesa

Recently Russell Pearce, the Grand Imperial Wizard of Mesa and de facto Governor of Arizona, was quoted as saying "it's not the law of the land when a Supreme Court issues a bad decision. It's to be challenged and overturned." Apparently Pearce is now putting himself forward as the ultimate decider of what is and isn't "the law of the land." This would be news to the Founding Fathers, I'm sure.

What about the decisions the rest of us don't like? Personally I thought Bush v. Gore and Citizens United were travesties. So I'll just ignore them, OK? When you get right down to it, why should we even have laws, let alone courts? After all, this is the Wild West, where all the law you'll ever need comes out of the business end of your Colt 45. So strap on, partner, and let's do us some governin'!

Russell has been a very busy boy lately, what with banning anyone he considers "undesirable" or "disruptive" from the Capitol building. Forget that "people's house" nonsense. This is R. Pearce's Crib now, y'all, and he don't want your kind sniffin' around.

But even with all that impressive legislatin' he's doing, Russell still found time to pronounce Scott Bundgaard a "victim". So I guess that settles that, right? Of course, all Republicans are victims; simple, God fearing, pure of heart and mind, America loving Patriots who are unfairly hounded by that wicked liberal media. (In Bundgaard's case you'd have to believe that the Arizona Republic was liberal, which for any sane person would be a stretch. But if Russell says it, it must be true.)

To believe Scott Bundgaard is a "victim" you'd have to believe that the woman he was manhandling by the side of the road really was reaching for a gun. And then you'd have to believe that his ex-wife, who called the police on their honeymoon, (which might be a new record, or at least tie the old record), because she feared for her safety, was also out to get poor Scott. Who knows, there might be a whole dance card of former Bundgaard paramours with interesting tales to tell. But don't you believe any of them. For The Grand Imperial Wizard of Mesa hath spaketh; and verily Scott Bundgaard is a victim. Hallelujah!

Saturday afternoon video

OK, I'm not particularly consistent in when I decide to post music videos, but whenever I get the urge I will -- and I hope that I can turn some people on to some music they may not have been exposed to but that is brilliant! With that in mind, today I started thinking about this band. When B Franklin and I met back in about 1984, we realized we had a lot of things in common -- we both loved Peter O'Toole, David Letterman and Springsteen. We also both knew a lot of pretty much unknown bands. One we realized we had in common was Be Bop Deluxe -- possibly the most underrated band in the world.  Bill Nelson is both a great songwriter and an amazing guitarist. I hope that you will check this out -- it's worth your time. Every day for the next week or so I'm going to post a Be Bop Deluxe video, and I'm begging you to both comment on the blog and link to it if you like it -- let us know what you think! The more of  you that do this, the happier I'll be!

So here for your enjoyment is Be Bop Deluxe from 1975, doing "Maid in Heaven." Hope you all enjoy it!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

I'm really beginning to feel the way that Lewis Carroll's delightful young heroine felt after she slipped down the hole -- or how Dorothy felt after her house landed in a far, faraway place. My first thought every time I turn on the news is, "what the hell is going on here?"

I'll start with the unbelievable battle against labor the Republicans are waging right now. If I understand the Republican position correctly, getting rid of unions will both add great jobs and empower the average American worker. Could this be true? If so, how do we explain the economic prosperity that the country enjoyed when unions were at their strongest? And how do we explain the repeated recessions we've seen since Reagan and his acolytes decided that unions were the worst thing to ever happen to America? And more importantly, where are the jobs?

Here's what really gets me, that it seems that nobody is seeing. The anti-union fight corresponds EXACTLY with the anti-immigrant fight. You see, if you get rid of the unions, then those folks who want jobs will be forced into lower paying work, which of course benefits our corporate overlords. If they can't get those jobs, then who is to blame? Is it the aforementioned corporate overlords who will do anything in order to increase profits? Of course not -- it's the fault of the immigrants, damn it! If they weren't here to do those crappy jobs like cleaning toilets, then the rest of us would be forced to and the corporate overlords would then be able to increase their profits while keeping the rest of us in our place giving thanks to them for our crappy little paychecks.

Now let's talk about something that really doesn't get discussed much -- net neutrality. This is absolutely mind-boggling. You see, according to the Republicans and their corporate overlords, making sure that everyone has access to the internet, both to read and to create, actually HURTS all of us -- in fact, internet freedom is actually internet censorship! Again, it seems like I've gone straight down that rabbithole. Down is up, left is right, north is south, etc... Apparently giving corporations the ability to censor what you can read by way of raising prices, restricting access, etc.,  is actually protecting freedom of speech. I suppose that's true -- if you consider the idea of freedom of speech being "I speak, you listen, and don't you forget it."

So getting rid of the process designed to help workers actually helps workers. Getting rid of things that protect freedom of speech actually helps freedom of speech. Next thing I know, they'll be saying that getting rid of food actually helps make sure that all nutrition needs are met.....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why We Love Capitalism So Much

Looking over the Forbes' list of Arizona billionaires we find a guy who made his money selling cheap tires, (bits of which you can often see dotting the freeway on your morning commute); a guy who made his money selling billboards, (which are considered public art in these parts); a guy who made his money the Koch brothers' way, (he inherited it); and last, and certainly least, a father and son team who owe their billions, for both are indeed billionaires, to government backed student loans, (these loans help students attend their "university", which is a university in the same way Elvis was a black belt).

Let me repeat that: government backed student loans have made these guys billionaires. Wow. Is this a great country, or what?

Oh no, not a reading assignment!!

When someone's core beliefs are challenged, reason and facts go right out the door, and what should be painfully obvious becomes just too threatening to accept. And yes, as a matter of fact, I am an amateur psychiatrist. But I'm not a Freudian, because, let's face it, Freud was kinda nuts.

Something for you from Naomi "Shock Doctrine" Klein:

Naomi Klein: Why Climate Change Is So Threatening to Right-Wing Ideologues | Environment | AlterNet

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

American Exceptionalism

One of the more remarkable things about America is that so many of our people repeatedly vote against their own self interests. Think of how often you've seen that peeling Bush-Cheney bumper sticker on a beat-up old car, its occupants obviously just scraping by, underpaid all of their working lives because they've been told how evil unions are, living in constant fear that their job will disappear to China or India, kids at a second rate school, with either insufficient health care or none at all, but still willing to fight to their last breath to repeal the estate tax--a tax they will never have to pay--because Rush Limbaugh told them how unfair it is.

They're angry, of course, but their anger is aimed in exactly the wrong direction. They get distracted by issues like gay marriage, abortion, Acorn, Obama's birth certificate, and that most fantastical of creatures, the balanced budget.

(For the first and last time, the government is not a business, it does not need to be run exactly like a business, in fact it cannot be run exactly like a business. And any person who tells you that the United States government should have to follow the same budget rules you and the missus do when you're paying the monthly bills is either a goddamn fool or a goddamn liar. Or possibly both.)

So, angry and confused, they end up voting for the candidates who can scare them the most. Look out! The Mexicans are going to take your job (actually, it's US corporations looking to maximize their profits that are taking your jobs); the gays are going to, uh, I don't know, make you gay, too? Anyway, marriage is sacred--just ask Newt Gingrich; fetuses are babies! (no, fetuses are fetuses and babies are babies--that's why they have different names); government supported health care is socialism, and socialism is evil (but don't you dare touch my medicare!); and the mother of them all, be afraid of them, because they are not like us. This all leads to one thing: people who desperately need help from the government consistently electing people whose core belief is that government can't help you, and who, once elected, go out of their way to prove it.

I think they call that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bang Bang!! Bang Bang!!

I know it's pointless to talk about gun control in Arizona, but well, much of life is ultimately pointless, and so, why not?

I've spent the past few weeks wondering how severely my personal freedom would be harmed by keeping all guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable, and 30 shot clips out of the hands of everyone. And despite the usual dire warnings from the NRA and their bought and paid for minions (political and media) about the threat to my Constitutional rights, I just don't feel too threatened by the prospect. But then, I've read all of the Second Amendment and not just the part that seemingly supports unlimited access to everything the gun manufacturers can conjure, including "cop killer" bullets, rifles that are capable of shooting an airliner out of the sky, and anything else that goes bang bang.

For the record, the Second Amendment to the Constitution reads in full "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." "Well regulated"? Another word for regulation is "law." Laws are usually enacted and enforced by governments. Therefore, "well regulated" certainly seems to imply some sort of government control. So, even the 'let's go back to the original intent strict constructionists' amongst you must admit that 'gun control' is as much a part of the Constitution as 'the right to bear arms.' To further reinforce this notion, Section 8 of Article 1 of the Constitution explains how the Congress can call forth this Militia after first organizing, arming, and disciplining them. And reserves for the states the appointment of officers and the authority of training this Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress. (By the way, every Supreme Court decision regarding the Second Amendment since United States v. Miller-1939, has upheld the government's right to control certain kinds of weapons. And that includes the current Scalia/Thomas court.)

Now I realize this is the Wild West and we only have to obey those laws and/or parts of the Constitution that we agree with. Because Russell Pearce, that noted Constitutional authority, and Grand Imperial Wizard of Mesa, says so. Can I get a rousing "Amen!" from the hillbilly chorus? You bet I can.

However it should be pointed out that, since popular culture plays such a big part in many people's understanding of American history, in the Wild West that Hollywood taught us to love, the first thing the new sheriff did (after the old sheriff had been gunned down by some citizen enjoying his Second Amendment rights) was to confiscate all the guns of anyone wishing to enjoy whatever civilized delights the town offered. Remember? Leave your guns with the sheriff while you're boozing or whoring or whatever, and then you can pick them up on your way out of town. In other words, the Wild West stopped at the city limits. Out on the open range you can do what you want, but civilization, by definition, must enforce certain rules. I think that's still a reasonable request.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Don't let the Repubs take away PBS

Tonight I did something I do every now and then that I may not be able to do if the Republicans in Congress get their way -- I watched PBS. I bring this up because it infuriates me to no end that so many people in this country cannot see the value of a publically-supported network that brings programming that will never be seen if left to profit TV -- the ratings simply won't support it. However, PBS brings to all of America not only educational shows for children, but also the kind of culturally-based programming that should be every bit as available as such lowbrow shows as Two and a Half Men or American Idol. Granted, it's not always my cup of tea -- the programming ranges from fair at the bottom end to outstanding and above at the top end. Nowhere else on broadcast television will you see shows like NOVA, American Experience, Masterpiece Theatre, and Great Performances. Tonight's 25th Anniversary concert from London of Les Miserables is one of the shows that falls into the truly outstanding category.

The argument seems to be that cable networks will continue to bring this type of programming; however, that denies a large portion of the country the ability to be able to see this kind of show simply because they can't afford cable or satellite. That number is growing as unemployment stays high and the economy remains stagnant. Whether people choose to watch shows like this is immaterial -- what matters is that they have the choice and ability to watch.

Please contact your congressperson or senator and urge them not to remove the funding from PBS -- this, I believe, is urgent. Outside a few large cities, there is a serious lack of access to culture, please don't let it get worse.

With that said, tonight I offer you Jean Valjean's death and the finale from Les Miserables: the 25th Anniversary Concert from the O2 Arena in London. Enjoy!

The Lord's Day

This being the Lord's day, naturally my thoughts turn to professional sports. And since, like all American males, I am an expert on all the sports that really matter, I herewith offer some expert advice and/or expert solutions to a few sports related issues:

First of all, if Darrell Issa wants to investigate something important he should look into the ridiculous number of free throws the Oklahoma Thunder get to shoot at home. Of all the major sports, basketball has the most inconsistent officiating, and it almost always tilts toward the home team.

Secondly, if Tiger Woods wants to return to the level he was at before his, uh, marital problems, he should start playing tournaments every week. The, 'oh I think I'll just play the occasional tournament here and there and then practice for the Majors' routine isn't working anymore. Eldrick, and I say this as someone who really enjoyed watching you dominate the PGA for the last decade or so, get back into the grind and maybe you'll find some sort of consistency in your game.

Thirdly, it should be a law that the roof of Chase Field stays open for every night game, and every day game when the temperature is under 100. Otherwise it's like watching a ballgame in a great, big, ugly warehouse. And while we're at it, let's get rid of that Baxter abomination, too.

Finally, every professional team should have to pay a fixed amount into its league's building fund every year. Then we wouldn't have to witness the seemingly annual spectacle of "If the city of (fill in the blank) doesn't build us a new stadium (arena, ballpark), then the (pick your favorite team) will be forced to move to (somewhere)." You might think that billionaires would be ashamed to ask for a municipal handout, especially in times like these. You would be wrong. So let's demand that each major league fully pay for it's own venues and take the potential for extortion off the table.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Wretched excess and an excess of wretches

Poor Charlie Sheen. What's the point of making $2 million a week if you can't spend it the way you want? This is America, after all. For over 200 years brave men and women have laid down their lives so that rich people can have the freedom to live by their own rules. If you take that away from us, the terrorists have won.

Where are all the Libertarians when you really need them, that's what I want to know.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Night Video

When Rosanne Cash was a young girl her father, the late great Johnny Cash, gave her his list of the 100 essential country songs. Rosanne decided to cut a CD featuring some of the songs from the list -- and this one is incredible. It's been covered by many, many artists in the past, but Roseanne with Bruce Springsteen singing harmony is the best I've ever heard. Enjoy.....

A quick glimpse at the future

Since a 'free market' America, unshackled from any oppressive government regulation, seems to be one of the goals of the Republican Tea Party, perhaps we should take a moment or two and reflect on what that would be like.

First of all, you can kiss clean air and water goodbye. Environmental regulations only stifle business. Better watch what you eat, too, because without any FDA oversite salmonella and e coli outbreaks will be as common as the sun coming up. Mad cow, anyone? Also, why waste money testing drugs in controlled laboratory settings? Just release them to the public and see what happens.

Get used to working longer for less--that is if your job hasn't already been outsourced. Without minimum wage laws as a baseline, and with lots and lots of desperate people, employers will be free to pay as little as they want.

Social Security will be turned over to Wall Street, to treat as their own personal piggy bank, and to be invested in whatever byzantine financial instrument they can devise. Good luck getting it back.

Our public education system, once the envy of the world, will become only a fond memory. If you can't afford good private schools for your children--too bad.

The health care industry will continue to raise your premiums and increase its profits. If you can't pay, either don't get sick or go bankrupt if you do.

On the plus side, you'll pay a few dollars less in taxes, the back alley abortion business will flourish, and you'll be able to buy all the guns and ammo you want. It's morning in America!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The apple doesn't fall very far from the tree

I hold in my hand a press clipping about Ben Quayle. I realize this means nothing to most of you. I can hear you now: "Ben who?" Ignorance is indeed bliss. But because I live in a congressional district that is so overrun by Republicans that the rotting corpse of Joe McCarthy would stand a good chance of being elected by acclamation, just who and what Ben Quayle is matters to me. You see, for reasons completely beyond my control, Ben Quayle happens to be my Representative. In other words, in the hallowed halls of Washington DC, he speaks for me. I have to pause for a second here because I just threw up in my mouth....OK I'm better now. Young Ben, who has absolutely no qualifications to be anything at all but the spoiled son of a historical embarrassment, replaced the legendary John Shadegg. (Yes, I am being sarcastic. As far as I can tell Shadegg never did anything during his many years in the Congress. So let this be a lesson to those of you who think things can't get any worse. Things can always get worse. At this rate, in a few years my district will be represented by a large, steaming pile of horse shit, with one of those flag lapel pins stuck somewhere on it.)

So far Young Ben's chief claim to political fame is his campaign ad that declared Barack Obama to be 'the worst president in history.' Which leads me to believe that Young Ben was in a coma during the Bush years. (Would that we were all so lucky.) It goes without saying that he's never read any history, if he can indeed read. (Don't laugh, it isn't uncommon for the scions of famous families to have all sorts of, let us say, deficiencies. To be fair, Young Ben Quayle hasn't had an easy life. Being the son of a moron must cause a multitude of interesting psychological issues. But I'm not a psychiatrist, geneticist, faith healer, bartender, potato farmer, or anyone else qualified to discuss Young Ben's problems. I'm just a constituent.) In the same ad he promised to 'knock the hell out of Washington.' Washington, you have been warned. Proceed at your own risk.

Now that he's been elected, Young Ben has tempered his rhetoric a tad. He now says, 'I have great respect for our president. But I think the policies and the initiatives he's been pursuing are damaging our country. And my generation and future generations will actually inherit a weaker nation.' Whoever wrote that for Young Ben deserves a raise. It is respectful, and well reasoned, and though I completely disagree with it, at least I don't find it offensive. I'm not sure if it's the kind of thing that plays well to his Arizona base, though. Time will tell if Young Ben Quayle can walk the fine line between Republican Country Club respectability and Tea Party Howling at the Moon Lunacy. If he can, there's no telling how far he can go in Arizona politics...

Justice for all

Wouldn't we all feel just a little better if a few hundred of the Wall Street rat prick bastards that drove us off the cliff had had to do a handcuffed perp walk, broadcast live on every channel? (Except Fox, of course.) The sad fact is that two and a half years after the grandest larceny ever committed against the American people no one has been punished. None of the big boys anyway. Oh, Bernie Madoff and his family are paying a price, but let's face it, they're relatively small potatoes. No, I want to see some bigshots from Chase, and Goldman Sachs, and Citi, and B. of A., and especially that worm who ran Countrywide, in jail. Throw in anyone who had a hand in repealing Glass-Steagall, or hindering the SEC's enforcement ability. Just make some space in Guantanamo and hold them there until we can sort things out. Which might take some time because the courts are backlogged these days, what with all those bankruptcies to deal with. Meanwhile they'll get 3 square meals a day, a cot, and a half hour in the yard every week. The other prisoners can teach them the Koran and they can return the favor by giving workshops about investing in mortgage backed securities. After they're found guilty, and they will be found guilty, RICO all of their assets and give the proceeds to the poor.

One last thought on this matter: Isn't it curious that, for similar offenses, Eliot Spitzer lost his job, but Senators Vitter and Ensign didn't? Whatever his failings as a husband, Spitzer was relentless at tracking down and prosecuting Wall Street shenanigans. That would've come in handy the last few years...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I saw this last night and my jaw dropped. How an elected official can have this much disdain for the citizens of his state is absolutely beyond me. I hope that the people in his district immediately begin work to unseat this idiot from the state senate.

Thanks to Crooks and Liars and MSNBC for the video.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

334 days of sunshine a year

By all rights, Arizona should be the solar energy capitol of the world. But it isn't. Right now, Germany is producing more solar power than Arizona. Germany! Close your eyes and imagine all the jobs that aren't being created here. Breathtaking, isn't it? You might think that those twin Sequoias of the Arizona congressional delegation, our esteemed Senators, Jon K. and John M., or Null and Void, as I prefer to think of them, would spend all of their time promoting legislation that would thrust our state into the forefront of the green energy revolution. You would be mistaken.

Thirty years ago, a Phoenix developer built a small solar powered subdivision. He went to JPL and ARCO Solar for the latest technology and even got the Department of Energy involved. He had plans to use what he learned from this first project to build an entire solar powered city, that also incorporated the latest water saving technology, near where Anthem is today. But he had to fight against the utility companies every step of the way and finally decided that, even though the subdivision was a success, it wasn't worth all the hassle to try and build his solar city. So he moved on to other projects...

That small subdivision is still in existence, its solar panels turning out clean, cheap energy. And surrounding it are hundreds of thousands of homes that get their electricity from coal fired plants. That's because it's cheaper in the short run to burn coal or build another dam somewhere upstream. So that's what we do. Forget about acid rain, ground water depletion and pollution, cancerous toxins, and overall air quality. What are you, some kind of environmentalist fairy? The status quo is always so much easier--in the short run. Don't make waves. Just hold your breath and try to tread water until the next real estate boom comes along. Because that's how we roll in Arizona.

The movement to eradicate labor -- and its possible consequences

The worse it gets for the labor movement in this country, the more people are going to be driven to what Bruce talks about here. A wonderful video from his Charlotte, NC show back on the Born in the USA tour.

Oscar wrap up

I don't know why everyone always complains about the Oscar telecast. Sure the hosts are hit and miss, the pacing sucks, the writing is lame, the camera work pedestrian, the production numbers amateurish, the presenters woefully under rehearsed and haphazard, and OK, sometimes the acceptance speeches do drone on and on incoherently. But hey, cut them a little slack! After all it is only one night a year, and it's not like those people do that stuff for a living.