Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Random Stroll Through The NBA Playoffs

Poor Amar'e, or however he's spelling it these days. Gone off to the big city and ended up with essentially the same result. Oh sure, the Suns didn't even make the playoffs without him. But maybe that's better than getting stomped. The New York fans and media can be just a little tougher than their Phoenix counterparts...

The Knicks look about 3 bricks shy of a load. One of the things they need is a real NBA center, which as anyone in Phoenix who's been paying attention for the last 40 years or so can attest, is very hard to come you've got two potent offensive machines that demand the ball and paying an aging Chauncey Billups $14 mil next year to try and make sure they're both kept happy seems a bit excessive...throw in the obvious fact that Mike D'Antoni still doesn't seem to think defense is very important... should be an interesting off season in NYC. Hey, do you think Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando now?

The Heat remain a very talented bunch of individuals. Not a team, though. Not yet. And I don't think they listen to their coach at all.

Boston is old, smart, and nasty. Which, given that they are also talented, may be enough. Plus they won't ever quit, which I'm not sure you can say about Miami.

The Bulls look very good. But beating either Boston or Miami in a seven game series is still probably a stretch for them.

I didn't think Atlanta had a chance against the Magic. But living in Phoenix I shouldn't be surprised when superior talent finds a way to lose...

Boy, the Spurs sure got old overnight. Best record in the West and now DOA against the Grizzlies. Whoever finds Richard Jefferson's game please ship it freight collect to San Antonio. No need to hurry, though. Not now. Zach Randolph is a beast but Memphis's season ends this round.

The Lakers also showed their age and a certain softness against New Orleans. And Pau Gasol is playing like a European again. All finesse and whining. But they still have three very good "bigs" and Kobe. And Ron Artest can lock down just about anybody in the league.

At the moment, Kevin Durant looks like the best player in the West. Now if someone would just tell Russell Westbrook that, the Thunder might have an easier time of it. (Just a thought, but it's usually a good idea to get the ball to your best player when the game's on the line and not just chuck it up yourself. This will matter more and more as they get deeper into the playoffs.)

The Mavs remind me of the Suns of old--great regular season records and then finding some way to lose in the playoffs. I don't expect that to change against the Lakers, however many points Dirk scores.

The Blazers are a fun team to watch, but will they ever be healthy enough to make a serious run? Brandon Roy has somehow ended up with my knees, and Greg Oden is Sam Bowie redux.

As expected, Phoenix not making the playoffs has caused the local media to lapse into teary nostalgia for Colangelo pere et fils. Remind me again how many championships the Suns won when Jerry was running things? Now tell me how great his kid Bryan is doing in Toronto...Uh, huh.

Regarding the Suns, the elephant in the room is that come playoff time, Steve Nash, for all of his talents, is a defensive liability. He simply cannot stay with the younger, quicker, more athletic point guards that playoff caliber teams usually have. And Grant Hill can't guard everybody on the other team...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tough Love

I don't think it's a good idea sending any Federal aid down South to deal with their latest natural disaster. After all, that would just reek of socialism, and we all know how much ya'll hate socialism.

No, it's time for some tough love. As a nation we can't afford to continue to bail them out every time the wind blows or it rains a little. They'll get dependent on the government. They'll get lazy. It's just like welfare, isn't it?

My suggestion is that next time the weather gets a little ugly, our Southern cousins should try praying harder.

That way, whatever happens to them, at least they'll know where they stand with God.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

God Save the Queen

If you're anything like me, at this moment you're trying to figure out how to time your medication properly so you'll be wide awake for the royal wedding.

What century is it again? Does anyone still care about royalty? Besides a few sweet old ladies, the press, and the people selling souvenirs, that is? Gosh, what will Will's title be? (The first Duke of Tired-Cultural-Anachronism-on-Thames?) Who will design Kate's dress? (I'd let Lady Gaga have a shot at it. Mutton with lace, anyone?) Where will all of their various exes sit? (Apparently there are a lot of them.) Quick, let's rush a Commemorative imaginary seating chart for the reception into print! Sell it to the punters for a quid and make a killing!

Don't get me wrong, I'm a card carrying Anglophile when it comes to many things. But in this particular case I just don't get it. Maybe it's because the House of Windsor is basically a bunch of Germans. Or maybe it's because it seems a little late in the game to still be playing at Kings and Queens.

I'm sure that somewhere, way back in the mists of time, rule by royal primogeniture served a purpose. As I understand it, the King used to be the bravest, strongest, perhaps even the smartest of his tribe. And it probably made a great deal of sense to stick with that particular gene pool until a better one came along. But that was a long time ago and it's been more or less straight downhill since then...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday night video

If Velvet Underground had not existed, we might never have seen the punk movement of the 70s or the grunge movement of the late 80s and early 90s. Lou Reed, John Cage and Nico put together one of the most influential bands in history, while remaining one of the least appreciated by the general public. This song was recorded but unreleased by Velvet Underground, only to show up later on the Lou Reed solo effort "Transformer." Since Lou Reed is one of my favorite songwriters, I wanted to share with you the original (though released later) "Satellite of Love." Hope you all enjoy this one, it's definitely one of my favorites.

By the way, this song has been covered brilliantly by such folks as The Eurythmics, Milla Jovavich and, most notably, U2.

And Good Christians All

It's a strange breed of Christian that wants to stomp on the downtrodden. I'll confess to not studying the Bible in many years, but I don't recall any invocation to screw the needy. And yet it must be there, because all around us, screaming their fool heads off, there's an army of self-proclaimed good Christians. And boy are they pissed!

Poor old Jesus. What would he make of it all?

Remember this one? "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." That went right out the window, didn't it? Just not practical for these times. Got to look out for old number one, you know? Sorry, but you're on your own. After all, charity begins at home.

OK, what about "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God"? Well, he was young and when you're young you say a lot of crazy things. For instance, I know some people who swore 30 years ago that Boston was a great band. No, I'm sure he'd change that one, given the chance. Because we all know that in America, where God reportedly sheds most of His grace, being poor is the greatest sin imaginable.

If God really loved you, He would have made you rich. Since you aren't, obviously God has found you lacking in some way. You are not worthy of God's love. And so we'll let you fall by the wayside.

The simplest, and probably the best, ethical system I can imagine was summed up by Confucius about 500 years before Christ was born: "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others." No need for the Big Man upstairs to keep track. No Heaven as a reward, no Hell as a threat, and no need to keep passing the collection plate. (If Jesus ever does come back, and personally I'm not holding my breath, he should ask to look at the books, first thing.) No, just try your damnedest to be good to people and they'll try to be good to you.

But I guess that's too simple. Apparently we need the profit motive, and various hierarchies, and always, always, enemies, to give order and meaning to our lives. Inquisitions, and Crusades, and Reformations, and every manner of Holy War, and converting the heathen before you butcher them, and missionaries and zealots, and being born again, and all that mumbo jumbo. And through it all, these words of Pascal ring true: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it for religious convictions."

I began to have suspicions about organized religion when I was 8 and gave up church going for good when I was 12. My mother remained devout. Maybe her faith gave her some solace as she slipped into the deep waters of dementia. I hope so.

Anyway, I'm sure it was all part of God's plan for her. Right? Isn't that what they say, whatever unspeakable tragedy befalls you? AIDS? Part of God's plan. War, famine, plague, cancer, Alzheimer's, the death of a child, etc. Not for us to question, part of God's plan. Holocaust? Part of God's plan. Oh sure, there's evil. The Devil and his many minions. But since an all powerful God is by definition more powerful than them, He still has the final say. Right?

And so we're left with a dilemma. If there is a God, then watching the innocent suffer must be His favorite spectator sport. Damn me to Hell, but I find it hard to feel much for a serial sadist.

Saturday night video

It's been a while since I've posted a video and I apologize for that. To make up for my lapse, I've found a very good one for tonight. It's a song that has, for some reason, been running through my mind all day. I saw this on TV back when I was about 14 years old on what was one of my favorite shows, The Johnny Cash Show, and I've loved this song ever since. So without further adieu, here are Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon -- Derek and the Dominoes -- doing "It's Too Late."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Not intended to be a factual statement...

George W. Bush was a great President, and people miss him.
Dick Cheney is a patriot.
John McCain is a hero.
Jon Kyl is one of the brightest Senators.
The Iraq war was fought over WMD's and terrorism--not oil.
Fox News is fair and balanced.
Sarah Palin is qualified to be President.
Paul Ryan is smart and brave.
Republicans care about the "little guy".
Lower taxes on the rich stimulate job growth.
The Tea Party is not racist.
The Civil War was all about states' rights, not slavery.
Social Security is broke.
The Supreme Court is an impartial arbiter of our Constitution.

Which Obama are we seeing?

It may just be the beginning of his campaign, or he might really mean what he's been saying the last few days. I don't know. I do know that I've been very disturbed by President Obama's seeming lack of desire to follow through on his campaign promises from a couple of years ago, so right now I'm tending to lean away from giving him much credibility. However, I could be wrong. I certainly hope I am.

Since his speech at GWU last week where he absolutely delivered a public spanking to the GOP and its budget guru Paul Ryan, President Obama has come out and started to articulate what most Democrats feel they stand for, without worrying about what those nasty Republicans might say about him. Perhaps this is due to the fact that polls show that the American public overwhelmingly rejects the GOP-Ryan plan to destroy most of what has made this country great over the past 75 years -- I don't know. It very well could be the fact that the President realizes that his base is rapidly losing interest in working very hard for him in the next 19 months. I don't know.

What I do know is that the President needs to continue this fight. Whether Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and all the complete idiots on the far-out fringe of the right wing believe he was born in this country shouldn't matter to him. The right wing of the Republican party is not going to support anything he says or does, so I still can't figure out why he keeps trying to win them over. It's a losing battle, and Obama is smarter than that. That's why I hope that he has actually made a decision to fight for what he says he believes in -- you know, the same things that the people who contributed roughly $750 million and knocked on thousands of doors and made millions of phone calls to get him elected believe in.

The latest polls show that roughly 75% of the American public believes the President's stance on Medicare and Medicaid is the right way to go. Yet, his approval rating has dropped below his disapproval rating in the same polls. I believe this is because in the first two years of his Presidency, candidate Obama has disappeared while milquetoast "I must cooperate with people who hate me" President Obama has been in control. I am praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that this new Obama is the one I campaigned and voted for. If not, I freakin' give up.....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Better late than never...

On the cover of today's The Arizona Republic, and boy what a nearly complete waste of space that "newspaper" is, Governor Brewer is quoted as saying the following about why she vetoed the "birther bill": it "creates significant new problems while failing to do anything constructive for Arizona."

Gee, all this time I thought that was her party's mission statement. Boy, you go out of town for a few days and everything changes....except the Coyote's playoff record.

Monday, April 18, 2011

They're hicks, Rita

Arizona lags behind in so many areas: education, health care, the arts, public transportation, job creation. The list just goes on and on...So it's good to know we can still brag of being if not the craziest state, certainly amongst them. The latest evidence of this is our "birther bill".

For those of you who are just visiting here and not acquainted with our ways, "birthers" are people who continue to insist that Barack Obama pulled a fast one and is not in fact a native born American, and therefore cannot legally hold the office of President of the United States. They are the spiritual descendants of flatearthers and nothing will change their opinion. Definitely not facts. Thank God they've found a state legislature that will finally stand up for them!

As Representative Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley said (and I promise you I am not making this up) "It's essential that we bring back the integrity to the office." Her concerns begin to make sense when you remember that a skull is a head without a brain. So Skull Valley could just as easily be called Brainless Valley. Also consider that 8 years of Simple W. and the Dark Lord Cheney's debaucheries, including their various assaults on the Constitution and their murderous lies and criminal distortions apparently didn't concern dear Judy even a teeny little bit. Well, it's a free country and I suppose we're all entitled to have our own ideas about what does and doesn't constitute integrity.

PS This just in: Jan Brewer, who is currently appearing in the role of "Governor of Arizona", vetoed the "birther bill" shortly after I finished my post. That loud anguished wailing you hear is her base. My guess is that, once again, the state's monied interests got to her and said, "stop this nonsense before you kill off what's left of our tourism and convention business. Remember, we're trying to rebuild the state--not destroy it." But whatever her motivation, you can bet that the hillbillies aren't going to be happy.

A bad week for Ryan and the Randians

Paul Ryan had a bad week.

First, the "serious" congressman was invited to sit in the front row for President Obama's budget speech last Wednesday. Apparently this was so the President could look him straight in the eye as he spanked him for his ridiculous budget proposal -- a proposal that would eliminate Medicare at the same time that it gives more tax cuts for the wealthiest, all the while doing absolutely nothing to decrease the deficit. He deserved a spanking and he got it. It has been a lot of fun since then watching the Republicans and Fox News whine about how mean the President was for spanking Ryan in public. You see, it's OK for Republicans to call Obama a communist, socialist, fascist usurper from Kenya who is out to single-handedly destroy America. It's not OK for Democrats, especially the President, to point out the fact that Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" is a ridiculous, unserious document that will actually destroy the middle class in the long run while redistributing even more wealth to the richest.

Second, the movie "Atlas Shrugged" was released to the worst reviews I've seen since "Heaven's Gate" about 25 years ago. Why anyone would want to make or see a movie based on this turd of a book is beyond me, but it got made anyhow. A wealthy conservative friend of mine that adores the book told me that it doesn't matter that the characters are wooden stiffs that bear no real resemblance to actual human beings -- the book was just a way for Rand to get her insane ideas across. Funny, I always thought novels were supposed to illustrate reality in some form or another and a key to that is having characters that bear some resemblance to reality.

Third, the Democrats then made the Republicans look just plain foolish when they voted present in an attempt to force the Republicans to pass a budget that actually is even farther to the right than Ryan's -- a budget that I believe was put there just to make Ryan's look better by comparison, but one which the Republicans really did NOT want to pass. The Democrats forced the Republicans to actually go on record opposing their own budget! The GOPers had to vote against it simply because passing that budget would have virtually guaranteed that the House would go back to Democratic control in 2012.

Fourth, Alan Greenspan -- the ultimate Randian -- yesterday called for the Bush tax cuts to expire. What a slap in the face this must be to Ryan and all the other Randian idiots (yes I'm talking about you, Rand Paul) .When the man who has done more to introduce Rands batshit crazy ideas into the American body politic openly revolts and calls for tax hikes, it has got to hurt. Greenspan stated that he believes the tax rates should revert back to where they were under President Clinton, an idea that is repellent to anyone in the Republican Party, especially the tea partiers.

Fifth, Ryan then went on Face the Nation where Bob Schieffer (not one of my favorite interviewers, but he's sure as hell better than David Gregory) spanked him again. When asked to respond to the President's fairly transparent blast at him, Ryan basically said he could respond to each of the President's points, but he chooses not to. WTF? Since when has any Republican chosen not to respond to anything Obama says -- unless he had absolutely nothing to say, knowing that anything that came out of his mouth would just make him look worse than he already does?

The more Ryan and the Randians are out in public, the worse they look. I'm all in favor of having them out there each and every day, because sooner or later the American public will see what these idiots really want -- an American oligarchy completely controlled by and for corporations. We're already a long way on that path, but there is still time to retrace those steps. I hope.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Next Voice You Hear

For some reason, American politics is infested with people who think they can hear God's voice. Maybe we can chalk it up to the fact that we are a young nation and the crazy strand still runs wide and deep in us.

George W. Bush apparently ran the country for 8 years with one ear constantly cocked heavenwards. Theologians now believe that this was necessary to counter balance the voice of Satan, in the form of Dick Cheney, whispering into his other ear. Goodness and light may triumph in the long run, who can really say, but in the case of Simple W. and the Dark Lord I think we can all agree that goodness and light took an ass whipping.

Michele Bachmann claims to be the most recent recipient of God's words o' wisdom. I have nothing to say about this latest, seemingly haphazard, manifestation of the Supreme Ruler of the Cosmos and All That Was, Is and Shall Be, except to note that the Big Man Upstairs has always had a wicked sense of humor.

No good will come from listening to the voices in your head, whatever you suppose their source to be. If you sincerely believe that God is talking to you, do us all a favor and ask a family member or close friend to hide the knives and guns, and make sure to up whatever medication you're on.

Friday, April 15, 2011


I read where that bilious pigboy Rush Limbaugh has called Obama's base "savages." Rushbo is such a clever boots and quite the witty wordsmith, too. My guess is that when one of Oink's typical listeners hears the word "savages" he can't help but think of the old Tarzan movies. "We gonna cook dee white folks up and eat dem." Of course Swiney didn't mean it like that. He never does. In fact, I must be a racist for even suggesting that ol' Bacon Face is a racist.

For the last time, Turd Pusball is not a racist at all. Just a good American. Not one of "them". Certainly not a savage. He's an entertainer. You know, like Amos and Andy?

Boy, weren't they funny? And wasn't that a great time? We should go back to that time. When women knew their place, blacks wouldn't dare to look a white person in the eyes, and gay people didn't even exist.

Limbo, I think they called it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Rose By Any Other Name

Branding, as anyone in advertising will tell you, is crucial in marketing a product or idea. With the right name--and a big enough budget--you can sell just about anything to just about anyone.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Republican Party's newest magic elixir (drum roll please): The Path to Prosperity! Catchy, isn't it? Path is such a friendly word. Makes you think of elves on a quest or Winnie the Pooh and his cuddly pals. Sunny days and green trees. And who can argue against prosperity? No one, that's who.

OK. The name is great. Mom and apple pie and the Path to Prosperity. But what's in the plan? Uh...well...

Turns out this Path is paved with the bones of the middle class and the poor. The Grand Oligarchs' Party has gone all in on this one. No hemming and hawing, no phony populism, none of that friend of the small businessman bullshit. The corporate bosses who control the GOP have decided the time has come to eradicate the last vestiges of The New Deal and The Great Society. Time to do away with all of those nasty social programs that might actually help people. Turns out people are a drag on Prosperity! In fact, the only way to guarantee prosperity is to cut taxes on the rich and the corporations. (Which, as we shall see, is essentially the same thing.)

A little background: Almost all American corporations are controlled by the same 1 percent of the population that owns 42 percent of the nation's assets (5 percent of the population owns 69 percent). Oh, you own stock? Good for you. You take your hundred shares and try to throw your weight around at the next shareholder's meeting. Go on. Rich people enjoy a good laugh just as much as the rest of us.

Now, corporations are by their very nature amoral entities, much like the current majority on our Supreme Court. Humanity doesn't really enter into their reasoning. What matters is the bottom line. And in this case the people who own our country see a lot of money going to kids, old people, poor people, students, the sick and the disabled, money that could be, indeed should be, going to them. What to do, what to do?

I've got it! Let's scare the hell out of everyone. We'll tell the people we're broke and the only way to fix things is to cut back on what we'll call "entitlements". Creepy word, "entitlements". Sounds like something you don't really deserve. Like you're trying to get away with something. Maybe even like you're trying to steal from the rest of us. Yeah, that's it! You lazy bastards are trying to steal from me and my family! You're what's wrong!

Like New Coke, Compassionate Conservatism was a washout. And since coming up with new ideas isn't really a Republican strong point, they've decided to just re-brand the old ones. This time they're calling it the Path to Prosperity, because Paul Ryan's Final Solution, while more to the point, might frighten the children, the elderly, and certain sensitive adults.

Shared responsibility?

Tonight President Obama will address the nation regarding our next budget, the debt ceiling and deficit reduction. Many are calling this the most important speech in his Presidency thus far. This I believe to be true, although for a different reason than many people think.

The GOP has gone back to its tried-and-true playbook regarding the budget. Push the discussion so far to the right that what now looks like the center is actually far to the right of where any previous discussion has been. The Ryan plan, touted by so many Republicans and beltway pundits as brave, serious, etc., is so far to the right that it stands virtually no chance of being passed. Even the Republicans aren't stupid enough to destroy Medicare -- Medicaid, possibly, but not Medicare. By pushing the debate so far to the right with the budget though, they've made the Simpson-Bowles proposition (the catfood commission budget) look as if it's in the center. Guess what -- it's not, not by a long shot.

The President is expected tonight to endorse most of the S-B budget recommendations. If you remember, this was the proposal introduced last November that raised the eyebrows of progressives with its draconian cuts. These recommendations include gutting our social safety net, reducing spending on education, clean air, and global warming reduction programs, cutting the number of federal workers, and increasing the amount veterans must pay for participating in veterans and military healthcare systems.

On the good side, the S-B proposal sent Rush Limbaugh into apoplexy. You see, the proposal also calls for reducing defense and foreign policy spending, although not nearly to the degree that these need to be cut. It calls for tax increases, but most of the increases will fall on the poor and middle class. The top 1%? Not so much.

Tonight our Democratic President is expected to begin the process of destroying that which has been painstakingly built by Democratic Presidents and Congresses going back to FDR. He will call for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts (which would almost single-handedly fix our economic problem, by the way), but you know as well as I do that we won't really hear much more about that.

The response that the President will get from me is this: if his budget begins to destroy SS, Medicare, Medicaid, education, etc. and doesn't include significant tax increases on the top 2% of Americans then he can immediately remove me from his mailing and email lists. I will never again donate a penny of my money or a second of my time to support him for reelection -- instead, I will join other progressives around the country to find someone somewhere who will actually work for the majority of Americans rather than paying them lip service while continuing to service the wants of the wealthy. To be sure, I'm not optimistic about finding such a candidate -- but I would rather go down fighting with my principles intact than just roll over again claiming in victory in what is obviously defeat.

In a somewhat related note, I'm proud to know that it is now official that what is said on the floor of the Senate no longer needs to have any basis in reality, and the great state of Arizona is responsible for this. Thank you Jon Kyl!

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Seaside Meditation

Sitting with a mug of something warm and tasty, watching the Pacific, half listening to the squads of Marines as they run along the sand shouting the cadences of whatever the current version of "this is my rifle, this is my gun" is, and wondering where they'll all be in a year's time. It's anyone's guess, because the possibilities are almost endless...

The US has over 1000 overseas military bases in more than 40 countries. (I'd be willing to bet that many of our fellow citizens can't name 40 countries, but that will have to be a topic for a future post.) And those are just the bases the Defense Department officially acknowledges. Who knows how many "off the books" operations there are?

More than 50 years after Eisenhower warned us of the dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex here we are, playing at being the Roman Empire, going broke while trying to enforce a Pax Americana on the world. (By the way, wasn't it nice of Ike to alert us as he was leaving office, after spending 8 years aiding and abetting the creation of the complex? Kind of like Cheney saying "Oh, by the way, it's probably not a good idea to let the oil companies dictate your energy policy. Bye bye now!")

So we can't possibly afford universal health care, or to rebuild our infrastructure, or provide good schools for every child and affordable colleges for those who desire them, or to change over to sustainable energy, or to keep our air, water and food clean and safe, or any of a thousand other valuable things, but we can afford to continue to arm ourselves to the teeth and deploy wherever and whenever. Right?

Do the American people really face such constant and pervasive threats, or is there something else going on?

Here's a quote from many years ago. It came from a highly decorated Marine general. Sadly, it still rings true today:

"I spent 33 years and 4 months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, Wall Street, and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make for American oil interests. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of...Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies. In China I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Night Video

After learning what Paul Ryan's budget will do to most of America, this song seems much more relevant today than when it was written in the mid-1990s. Actually, it's more relevant now than since when Steinbeck wrote "The Grapes of Wrath."

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with Tom Morello -- "The Ghost of Tom Joad"

The Last Laugh

Apparently the rest of the world is laughing at us. I know this, because Donald Trump, Patriot, has been giving interviews to any and all news outlets that will listen. Loudly, repetitively, the Donald has banged the "foreigners are mocking us" drum until he's red (redder) in the face.

Setting aside that one of our country's strongest national traits has always been a complete indifference to what any other country thinks about us (feel free to chant "USA, USA, USA" at any point during the remainder of this post), is it possible that Trump is right?

Well, even a blind squirrel with a bad rug stumbles on an acorn occasionally.

We are being laughed at--but not for the reason Trump believes. See La Donna (as the peasants of Umbria call him), thinks we're being mocked because our president is weak, and if only we had a strong leader, someone like IL Trumpo, then the mocking would stop immediately.

The truth is that as long as a bunch of easily misled simpletons like the Tea Party can scare allegedly serious politicians into doing the bidding not of the American people, but of a few amoral billionaires, the laughter from abroad will only continue. As long as Fox News broadcasts lies and distortions nightly with relative impunity; as long as a majority of the Supreme Court believes corporations should have all of the privileges of citizens--but none of the responsibilities of citizenship; as long as Glen Beck is treated as a serious journalist--and not as the circus geek he is; as long as people like Michele Bachmann, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour, Paul Ryan and the rest of that gang of fools, thieves, and grifters masquerading as a political party is given any credence at all, the laughter will only increase.

The rest of the world wonders why our financial institutions, which caused the world wide recession, continue to avoid regulation, let alone prosecution. Why we worry so much about what should be personal issues, like abortion, drugs, religion, and sexuality. Why we can't even agree to guarantee basic health care for all of our citizens. Why anyone in his right mind would consider Donald Trump a viable candidate for president of anything other than a restricted country club.

Yeah Don, they are laughing. But not at Obama.

The Great Satan

I write to you from the bowels of The Great Satan. That's right, I'm in California. You know, that awful place that Arizona doesn't want to become?

On the drive over we passed a few thousand wind turbines. Of course none of them was in Arizona. Because we certainly wouldn't want those monstrosities cluttering up our pristine desert. Oh sure, we'll probably have to get them some day. But only after every other state runs out of room. Anyway, I have it on good authority that the wind only blows on the California side of the border. Besides, our desert is reserved solely for land fraud.

Who needs a diversified economy? We'd rather rely on a boom and bust real estate market and a few hundred thousand low paying service jobs.

Cleaner air and better fuel economy? Sounds like government interference with the marketplace. And that just reeks of socialism.

We don't want train service between our major cities either. That's so old fashioned! I mean we're not in Europe, you know?

Multiculturalism? We don't need no stinkin' multiculturalism. The Grand Imperial Wizard of Mesa and his friends don't play that game. Arizona is for Arizonans. And Arizonans are by definition white.

Well, what about education? Arizona universities raise their tuition every year. That must result in better schools, right? Sure. Stanford, Cal, USC, UCLA, UCSD, Cal Arts and all the rest are scared to death of the competition from ASU, UofA and NAU.

So don't worry too much about becoming California. We're much more like Bull Connor's Alabama.

(By the way, I'm sure California has its own share of racist thug sheriffs playing crime buster for the nearest camera crew. But they're out in the sticks somewhere where they can't do too much harm, and not running around L.A. busting a bunch of cooks and dishwashers. And yes the traffic here can be brutal. But at least when you finally get to where you're going, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, "there's a there, there.")

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Great Negotiator

We have no government shutdown (at least for a while, possibly a very short while). That's a good thing, I guess. What we do have is yet another instance of how President Barack Obama is not the man who ran for President, the man for whom I walked door-to-door, made phone calls and voted. Not even close.

This is President Obama's negotiating process when dealing with Congress: 1) sit back and watch for a while; 2) get involved by saying "OK, we'll give you everything you asked for at first -- now what else do you want? 3) OK, I'll give you most of that as well, but can we talk about this last little small item? 4) No, I swear the last little small item is not negotiable! Do you hear me? I said no!! 5) hold press conference telling supporters "By not granting my opponents this last little small item that they insisted on [after I asked them to tell me everything they wanted] we have won a great victory!!! " 6) send out a letter to all the people who worked and voted for him before asking them to work and contribute money again, because he is "The Great Negotiator.".

Friday, April 8, 2011

Shut it down

Perhaps the best thing that could happen for the Democrats would be for someone to tie Barack Obama to a chair and force him to watch the first six seasons of The West Wing -- or at least this clip.

The Serious Republicans

As I glance at my TV screen, I see that we are just over nine hours from a government shutdown -- a shutdown that will reduce national GDP by 0.2% for every week that it continues. The Republicans say they are serious about reducing the deficit and that this is just the first step. However, even though the Democrats have already granted them the spending cuts they first asked for ($31 billion) and then increased that ($38 billion), this is not good enough for the serious Republicans. Instead, they are now demanding cuts of over $60 billion (which the Tea Party folks still don't believe is enough) AND demanding that Planned Parenthood be defunded -- a concession which would do virtually nothing to reduce the deficit, but which would certainly go a long way towards appeasing the base of the GOP/Tea Partiers.

I ask -- is this the position of a party that claims it is serious? I don't think so. So let's look at what else is being discussed by this serious party -- the Ryan budget.

Paul Ryan, whom David Brooks lauds as being serious, has relied on budget projections from the Heritage Foundation of all places to show how his plan will reduce the deficit, reduce unemployment and raise the general prosperity of all Americans. Let's look at these in order.

As far as reducing the deficit goes, the Ryan plan actually does virtually nothing to accomplish this. Almost all spending cut savings will be eliminated by the massive tax cuts for the people who don't need them. Ryan's plan calls for a reduction on the highest tax bracket from 35% to 25% -- a return to the Coolidge/Hoover tax rates on the rich. All this is done on the shoulders of the bottom 90% of the American people, especially seniors and the poor. John Bouman of the Shriver Center notes that the Ryan budget proposes $4.3 trillion in spending cuts over the next ten years that is entirely offset by $4.2 trillion in tax cuts that overwhelmingly favor the top tax brackets. This is nothing but a war on the poor, working and middle classes. Is this something we really call serious?

Next, Ryan's budget as originally written (it has since been changed) used Heritage Foundation numbers to assure us that within four years unemployment would be reduced to less than 5%, and even further to just 2.8% by 2021. This would be wonderful -- except that it is nothing but a made-up number. The Heritage Foundation scrubbed these numbers from its website shortly after the Ryan budget was released. Even they don't believe their own garbage. Unemployment didn't reach this low even during World War II or the Korean War. If it didn't go that low then, why on earth would any serious person believe it would go that low now?

As far as raising the general prosperity of all Americans, the Ryan budget destroys Medicare. Instead, it proposes giving vouchers to seniors to purchase their own health insurance -- a $15,000 voucher to start. Sounds good, right? Until you realize that most seniors can't buy into employer or group health plans and that most seniors already have healthcare costs far greater than the average American. That means that they would be forced to purchase plans (if they can even find one) that will force them to pay much more out of their own pockets than they are paying now for plans with reduced coverage, higher deductibles and the inability to choose their own providers as Medicare now allows them. It also calls for the amount of the vouchers to be tied to inflation -- not to health care cost inflation, which has risen dramatically faster than general inflation over the last 20 years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the vouchers will cover no more than 33% of the amount required to purchase insurance for seniors by 2030. This is nothing but a step toward the Republican wet dream of destroying FDR's New Deal policies and LBJ's Great Society policies. This is a serious plan?

In addition to the destruction of Medicare, Ryan's plan proposes completely changing Medicaid, instead granting block grants to the states to spend as they please. I live in Arizona. Trust me, I don't want Jan Brewer and Russell Pearce determining how Medicaid is allocated. We've already seen that and it isn't pretty. I certainly don't call this a serious plan -- although it is very serious about destroying the social safety net for the elderly and the poor that we have built over the last 75 years.

Under the Ryan plan, people making over $1 million per year will see an increase in their net income of $125K per year, while the poor, working and middle classes will all see vast reductions. This will be the greatest redistribution of wealth in history -- and I thought that those conservative Republicans were supposed to be all about opposing wealth redistribution. I guess that's true -- except when the wealth continues to be redistributed upwards as it has been for the last 30 years. It's just that nasty downward redistribution they oppose.

Note that the Congresscritters who will be voting on this will not be affected in the same way that most Americans will. The average net worth of a U.S. Senator is something in the range of $1.4 million, while Representatives are much worse off at only about $680K each. Something tells me that they don't rely on things like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

While we're discussing how serious the Republicans are, let's take a quick look at a few of their potential presidential candidates. Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee both worry about whether President Obama was born in the U.S. Michele Bachmann doesn't know American history that I learned in the third grade, despite having a B.A. and a law degree (the law degree came from Oral Roberts University, so I'm not sure you can really count it). Sarah Palin quit her job halfway through and thinks any criticism of her is blood libel, thus refusing to talk to anyone other than through Fox News and Facebook. Herman Cain is just plain nuts, as are both Ron and Rand Paul. Serial adulterer Newt Gingrich blames his adultery on his love for his country. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have changed their opinion on issues to suit the Republican base more often than a mother changes her newborn's diapers. Are these people really considered serious?

The bottom line is that it is time for Democrats, liberals, progressives -- whatever the hell we want to call ourselves -- to wake up and realize that the Republicans/Tea Partiers are trying to destroy everything we've built since 1932. It's time to stop this nonsense -- now.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Tribute to the Gipper

This being the centennial of Ronald Reagan's birth, I've been thinking about an appropriate tribute.

There's been talk of adding dear old Ronnie to Mount Rushmore. But, well, money is tight right now, and besides there's already a reminder of the Great Communicator that we can all enjoy without spending a penny.

Whenever you see a homeless, mentally ill person, wrapped in a dirty blanket, wandering the streets of your town muttering to himself, think of Ronald Reagan, who taught us to count ketchup as a vegetable, and who de-institutionalized the mentally ill, because it was the right thing to do.

Surprise Grandma!

All of those old people, who've relied on the law and order, family value Republicans to keep them safe from the blacks and the gays and the liberals and the feminists and the young people and all of the other boogie men (and women) that trouble their dreams, I wonder how they like the idea of their Medicare disappearing?

You don't need "entitlements", do you? Of course not. So, that nice Mr. Ryan and the other good Christians that make up the GOP are going to give you "vouchers" instead of health care. Good luck with that.

And your Social Security? Well that's going to Wall Street, because they'll treat it just like it's their own. And before you know it, it will be. Just wait and see.

But whatever happens, you can sleep well, content with the knowledge that none of your tax dollars are going to fund abortions.

After the horrors of the Great Depression it took more than 30 years to build a social safety net. It wasn't perfect, but it was certainly better than nothing. And most of the heavy lifting was done by the Democrats.

It won't take nearly that long to tear it apart. And all of the damage will be done by the Republicans.

So by all means keep voting your fears. But remember "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Funny Pages

Forget The Onion, turn off The Daily Show and Colbert Report, connoisseurs of truly absurd humor know to reach for the letters to the editor page of The Arizona Republic for pure comic gold.

Each day brings a fresh infusion from the fertile minds of the paper's readers. It's amazing how people who don't know anything can have opinions about everything. (I guess that's another one of the things that makes America so great, huh?)

These are folks who couldn't define "socialism" if you gave them all day and a dictionary. But does that stop them from railing against "the evils of socialism"? Hell no! Same thing with the Constitution (especially the Second Amendment), foreign policy, the deficit, illegal immigrants, states' rights, those wicked liberals, nuclear power, unions, American history, World history, and Obama, Obama, Barack Hussein Obama--you name it, some idiot has a completely uninformed or misinformed point of view and he's got a right to express it. As a bonus, these letters are sometimes written by the kind of person who likes to spice up his prose with the occasional "methinks". Well, methinks, that in the 21st Century, anyone who uses "methinks" in anything other than a satirical way is, if I may channel Gilbert and Sullivan for a moment, pathetically pompous and possibly a ponce.

But archaic words and primitive grammar really aren't a problem. The Arizona Republic will gladly print even the craziest of rants. That's what freedom of the press is all about--isn't it? Besides, if you study the Republic's opinion page closely, you'll discover that the letters are usually right in line with the paper's own views. All the more to chuckle about.

PS Mrs Franklin and I are leaving on a short road trip. To communicate with our dear readers, I will be relying on technology that apparently became obsolete soon after we finished paying for it. (Thank you, Mr. Jobs.) So if I'm unable to post for a few days, keep me in your hearts, enjoy the Mission Man, and read a good book, OK? (I recommend 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, a highly entertaining stroll through the "free" markets of the world by Ha-Joon Chang, who teaches economics at Cambridge.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Stockholm Syndrome

So the Republicans would like to cut $6 Trillion dollars from the deficit over the next 10 years, and they propose doing it without touching defense spending and continuing to lower taxes on the rich and corporations? This can only mean a full scale attack on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, Food Stamps, Head Start, Unemployment Insurance, Student Loans and Grants, and anything else that might conceivably protect working people from a downward spiral into poverty.

When captives begin to sympathize with their captors they call it the Stockholm Syndrome. Working class people in the US have been held hostage by corporations and their center-rightist stooges in politics and the media for so many years that many of them truly believe that up is down, and black is white.

That lower taxes on the rich are the only way to create jobs, that guaranteed health care for all is somehow un-American, that government programs only help "other" people, and that benevolent corporations will look out for them.

These are the people who listened to Reagan and cheered when he said that government was the problem. Of course, the clear implication was that the Federal government was helping "them" and not you. And we all know who "they" are, don't we? (The undercurrent of racism that runs from Nixon's Southern Strategy, through Reagan's attacks on "Welfare queens", right up to today's Tea Party is undeniable.)

They swallow whatever Fox News says without a second thought.

They rely on Beck, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Coulter to educate them on the issues.

And all along they keep getting poorer, and angrier, and further away from "the American Dream."

These are the people who still think Barack Obama is the most serious threat to "our" way of life.

What can you do with people like that?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hats off to the Bulldogs!

I had high hopes indeed for Butler going into tonight's NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game against the University of Connecticut. Alas, those hopes were dashed as the Bulldog shots kept clanging off the rim the entire game. I'm not sure that I've ever seen a team that relies on shooting and defense have as poor a shooting night as Butler did tonight. The second half was downright ugly if you were cheering for Butler. It's not like UConn really played much better, but their height advantage really showed over the course of the game. When your shots keep getting blocked, it can get into your head to the point where every time you go up you wonder where the hand is going to come from.

However, my hat is still off to the Bulldogs. When a school from a mid-major conference (the Horizon) and an enrollment of just about 8000 students can make it to the championship game in two straight years, there is cause for celebration. So here's to coach Brad Stevens and the Mighty Bulldogs!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I'm just curious....

When did the things that I and most Americans have been paying for out of our paychecks for years become "entitlements?"  I ask this because I'm intelligent enough to understand that while everyone who gets a paycheck pays for these "entitlements", the burden is on the bottom 80% economically. After all, those who make a ton only pay on a small percentage of their earnings, which are earned at the expense of most of us, using the infrastructure that most of us pay for. We have allowed the Beltway establishment (all of which exists only at the whim of their corporate masters) to change the definition of the Social Security and Medicare payments we've made from what it is, a safety net for our old age or catastrophes, instead to become an "entitlement." This pisses me off. What pisses me off even more is that the people we have elected to represent us don't have to worry about this shit -- moreover, they don't even care. When, oh when, are we ever going to realize that without campaign finance reform, the politicians (both sides of the aisle) and their corporate overseers will continue to steal all the wealth from the rest of the country and then, when things go exactly the way these thieves have planned, tell us all that the only way out is for us to sacrifice even more. Yet we continue like sheep, being led willingly to the slaughter. Because after all, we still get to see American Idol, right? And heaven knows, that MegaMillions drawing will be mine next week and then I'll be one of the biggies!!!! So I can't possibly do anything that will jeopardize my estate that I will someday have against all odds.

Sometimes I think the American people are getting exactly what they deserve.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Enter the Donald

The 3 ring freak show that is the Republican presidential field for 2012 just got a little freakier. Noted historian Michele Bachmann, famous tweeter Sarah Palin, family values guru Newt Gingrich, hillbilly savant Mike Huckabee, and the impeccably groomed Mitt Romney please welcome a new playmate to the sandbox:

Say hello to Donald Trump!

Why? Because there comes a time in a man's life when he decides it's no longer enough to just be a blowhard real estate tycoon who mistakes glitz for style, and gilt for class; when the pleasure of hosting a reality show featuring "celebrities" willing to debase themselves to please you stops being fulfilling. No, one day you have that "ask what you can do for your country" moment, when you look in the mirror--Louis XIV, natch--and say, "what is that on my head?"

(Sorry, that was a cheap shot and I hate myself for it. But come on, if that really is his hair, as he insists, shouldn't a billionaire be able to find a better barber? It's almost like someone is playing a practical joke on him.)

Where were we? Oh yes. One day you look in the mirror and say, "hey! I have so much more to offer the world!!"

Now, I've always found Trump to be amusing, in a kind of PT Barnum way. The bankruptcies, the failed airline, the failed casino (really, how do you lose money with a casino?), the beauty pageant, the marriages, the books (Trump on the Art of the Deal: "first, take the $10 million your dad gave you..."), the constant self-promotion, the mind boggling egotism--it really is a history of American business excess wrapped up in one guy.

And, since the other Republican candidates are numbingly predictable in their positions and attitudes, having Trump around should have added a certain je ne sais quoi, in a Big Apple version of Ross Perot way.

But what did the Donald do right out of the box? Join the "birther" bandwagon. Now, you expect that crap from the Tea Party loonies and their beltway enablers. But this is supposed to be a sophisticated man of the world. And for him to pander so early on shows a shocking, almost John McCain-like, weakness in character. I suppose he thinks it's the only way to appeal to the Republican base. Note to the Donald: however much you debase yourself they're never going to vote for you. You're from New York City and New York City stands for everything they hate and fear.

And in the process you've shown yourself to be just another loathsome turd in a $5000 suit.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sticky Fingers

The thing about Arizona corruption is that it's pretty straight forward. Other than Ned Warren's byzantine land deals back in the 60's and 70's, our crooks don't really exhibit much inventiveness. This makes it much easier to follow their crimes--that is, if anyone is paying attention.

John Junker, former CEO of the Fiesta Bowl, is the latest poster boy for Arizona corruption.

The Fiesta Bowl is a big deal. (I read that somewhere.) It's a big deal because it allegedly pumps $200 million into the local economy every year. Just between you and me, I do not believe for one moment that that figure is accurate. A quick fingering of the old abacus tells me that if it were, it would mean that everyone who attends the game must spend about 5 grand each while they're here. Seems a little high, doesn't it? And whatever amount the bowl actually generates, I'm guessing that no more than a fifth, and probably closer to a tenth, of it actually stays in the Valley.

But what do I know? Some expert economists have been paid a lot of money to explain to us disbelievers just how important it is to have The Fiesta Bowl, or the Insight Bowl, or any bowl for that matter. And who am I to argue with "expert economists"? (The underlying theory seems to be that no one will come to the Valley of the Sun in the winter unless there's a college football game to attend. And so all of that money would stay in winter wonderlands like Pittsburgh, Dubuque, or Omaha.)

The Fiesta Bowl's stated goals include "assisting education and being a source of pride for all Arizonans". Well, mission accomplished! Its Board of Directors is made up of some very important people and like most boards they don't do much of anything. Oh, there are functions to attend, and photo ops, and the various perks that come with being on a board, and maybe even the occasional board meeting. But for the most part, they mind their own business. After all, these are important people and they have other important things to do. Besides, the bowl has a large well paid staff, headed by the aforementioned Mr. Junker, who do all of the day to day stuff.

Apparently the day to day stuff included what could be called "bribes", and the misuse of expense accounts on an impressively large scale. Of course, the board is shocked, shocked, to find out that that sort of activity is taking place.

Now, as I am fond of saying, let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone. Let's not be naive here, of course you have to bribe people. What is crony capitalism if not a system of bribes? This good old boy greases the palm of that good old boy and stuff gets done. So and so plays golf with such and such, they have a nice dinner, a few drinks, later they end up at a strip club, because, well, boys will be boys. Now who's going to pay for all that? Well, their employer, naturally. Because they're working. And from such arduous labor much wealth flows...allegedly.

Furthermore, if a politician is in a position to help the Fiesta Bowl, it would be a foolish, indeed reckless, business practice to not "help" that politician in any way possible. And if some busy body do-gooder has erected barriers (i. e. laws) to stop you from helping your friends, then by God it's your moral obligation to find ways around these barriers (i.e. laws). After all, what kind of person doesn't help his friends? A bad person, that's what kind.

And sometimes you might even help people who aren't your friends in the hopes that they might become your friends. That's called being an optimist. What's that old saying? "A stranger is only a friend you haven't spent thousands of dollars on yet."

I guess once you get in the habit of handing out a lot of cash, it's hard to stop. And finding yourself sitting on about $22 million, with incredibly lax accounting procedures overseeing it, well, a fellow just feels entitled, indeed obligated, to help himself to his fair share. And maybe some more, just for luck.

So John Junker got a little carried away and began spending the bowl's money like a drunken sailor. Five thousand here, ten thousand there, and my personal favorite, thirty thousand plus for his own birthday party. Come on, he's only human. Admit it, you'd do the same if you could get your hands on that kind of loot. In his defense, it was his 50th birthday. And you only have one 50th birthday, so you better have a big party. Otherwise people might think you're a loser. And the CEO of the Fiesta Bowl is not, cannot be, a loser. (I don't remember what we did for my 50th birthday. Probably something with Mexican food, tequila, and a cake from Safeway. Come to think of it, there might have been balloons, too.)

I'm not sure how good the Fiesta Bowl is for the local economy. But it was very good for John Junker and his friends.