Thursday, December 9, 2010

Save Me From Myself

I sometimes listen to the Thom Hartmann show on the radio. On Fridays he has as his quest in the first hour Senator Bernie Sanders, the liberal independent from Vermont. It never fails. At some point during the hour a listener will call in and ask about the filibuster system and whether it can be changed so that the Republican minority can't block everything it disagrees with. Sanders will then explain about the importance of respecting the opinions of the minority and about how it isn't democratic if the majority can ride rough shod over the minority. Too, someone will call and ask about a liberal solution for some pressing problem. "In my opinion that doesn't go far enough," Sanders will reply. "But, they are (Fill in the blank with whatever special interest is being discussed.) just too powerful. There is nothing we can do."
It seems to me that the House is passing liberal legislation that then goes to the Senate where liberal Democrats don't have the spine to stand up for what they profess to support. Then when President Obama steps in and salvages whatever he can from the mess that's been made, those same liberal Democrats criticize him for selling out. "Oh please Mr. President, save me from myself," they cry. How pathetic.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Poor Cindy

I feel sorry for Cindy McCain. I think she made a bad marriage, and I think she knows it. A few hours after her commercial where she, for all intent and purpose, condemned the government's DADT policy, she repudiated her stance in what can only be described as a humiliating act. More than a few of John McCain's colleagues have described him as a bully, and I have to wonder if he called her up and told her she had no choice but to follow his lead and come over to the conservative dark side or else.
Now, Obama is against DADT but wants congress to overturn it so that, as a written law, the next president can't just come in and reverse things again. The Joint Chiefs don't seem to care, with the exception of the Marines... not too surprising. Secretary Gates wants it reversed and only 40% of actual military personnel think it's a good idea, which means that 60% either don't care or want it reversed. When it gets right down to it, it's only the right wing moralists, the Repug constituency, that cares, and John McCain, a man of no real integrity, follows the political advantage. Poor Cindy. It's time to make the big decision. Stand by your man or D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Prop. 19

Make no mistake. Proposition 19 is not about marijuana. It's not about driving stoned or doctors operating while high. Prop. 19 is about the right of the individual states to overturn federal law.
There are a lot of libertarians out there who would argue that that is a good thing. But, I would caution people to be careful what they ask for. While it is very unlikely that the courts will uphold 19, one can never be too sure. The conservative coupsters on the Supreme Court have ignored 200 years of case law to state that the second amendment is not about the rights of states to maintain militias but about the right of individuals to pack heat. They've ruled that corporations are de facto people with free speech rights, in other words, they have the right to spend as much money as they can to buy elections. If the same right wing five were to say, "Hey why shouldn't states be able to overturn federal law." Well let's see, there are law makers in Utah who have called for state seizure of federal lands. Bye bye Zion National Park. It wouldn't surprise me if Alabama would start putting certain people in the back of the bus. Texas isn't too fond of off shore drilling regs. And Arizona would happily ignore the Colorado River agreement and stop water from reaching California. That's no way to run a country!
Another reminder that has little to do with my central argument against Prop. 19. I've had some discussions with friends who support 19, and when I make my point about states overturning federal law, the counter argument that I get is that the feds aren't in a position to enforce federal drug laws on a local level. Perhaps, but they can withhold highway funds, aide to education, and stimulus funds. Government by proposition is unworkable.

Independents Breaking Republican!

I keep seeing all these polls that show independents are breaking Repug. This reinforces my opinion that most independents don't have a coherent political philosophy. What independents do have is a sense of themselves as being thoughtful and intelligent. Lacking a real understanding of political theory and how it applies to government, they substitute a facade of anger and cynicism, and end up either voting for charismatic leaders or against whom ever is in power. And while that benefited Barack Obama, which I consider a good thing for the United states, they also were the same people who voted Nader and gave us our George.
If the same independents who voted Obama actually had a political philosophy, they wouldn't now be breaking Repug. Their rather incoherent call for change for change sake, is leading them to vote for the obstructionist party that is doing nothing more than blocking any sort of real reform. If the senate didn't have this whole gentlemen's filibuster rule, which allows the Repug minority to declare their intention to filibuster, didn't exist, then the progressive legislation that has been coming out of the house wouldn't be stalled in committee, and we wouldn't be facing the possibility of Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

World Series 2010

Even though I live in Los Angeles, I'm rooting for the San Francisco Giants. I grew up in western Pennsylvania (Officially and painfully, I am a die hard Pirate fan.) so I wasn't raised with the whole got to hate the rival Giants thing. I've been to Dallas; I've been to Fort Worth; I've been to San Francisco. No knock on the Texas twin cities, but I'll take San Fran any day of the week.
It's tempting to hate the Rangers because they were once owned by our George, but that was a long time ago, and while it would have been nice if Junior had stayed in Arlington, today's Rangers have nothing to do with any of that. Too, I like that the Rangers didn't dump Ron Washington when he got caught with some cocaine. Classy. But, Freddy Sanchez was one of my favorite Pirates, and like all good Pirate players he ended up somewhere else, and that was S.F.
I know it's fashionable for liberals to hate Texas, but sorry I can't. I do abhor the political atmosphere in Texas, but it also has one of my favorite national parks, and that gets a lot of credit in my personal ledger. I'm talking Big Bend, by the way. Guadalupe Mountains is a great park, but second rate compared to Big Bend. And while I prefer the bay, Pt. Reyes, and Marin, the gulf coast is great too.
Okay, I realize that there aren't any real baseball reasons for my preference, but that's one of the nice things about baseball. It lacks the whole die for the team feeling of football. A very relaxing game. My prediction, Giants in six.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Little Meg's Ambition

Little Meg Whitman has now spent $142 million of her own money to get elected governor of California. She must really, really, really want the job. I've got to wonder why, though. The reality is that California doesn't really have a state government anymore. What we have is the initiative system and all the state legislature and governor can do is go to Sacramento and try and make some sense of the mess that we the voters have made.
Wait a minute. Could it be? Is it true? Is Little Meg, Ahnold with presidential ambitions? I think so. I mean, Jerry Brown is a political creature from a political family. Had he beat Bill Clinton and become president he'd still probably be running for governor. But Little Meg is a dilettante who, up until now, has shown exactly zero interest in politics. Yes, should Little Meg get sent to the state capitol, when she moves into the governor's mansion, she'll be thinking, "Wow, those curtains would look so much better in the oval office. I think the first thing I'll do in Washington is put the defense department up for auction on EBay." And then, "I'll cut my own taxes. I mean, I'm rich, and it's only the common people who pay taxes. I'm Little Meg Whitman, President and CEO, of America, Inc."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Little Meg Once Again

To answer a question: I think that if the Little Debbie snack girl had grown up to be a sociopathic CEO, she would be just like Meg Whitman. And that's why I call her Little Meg.

Lone Star and Hollywood, Texas

Fox series Lone Star has been cancelled, and all I've got to say is thank goodness. I grew up in western Pennsylvania and watched as the United States threw away the domestic steel industry. At 55 I'm old enough to remember when the United States had a shoe, garment, and electronics industry, all of which, we abandoned. And now, it looks like we're doing the same thing with Hollywood film and television production.
In it's mania to save money and get tax breaks, Hollywood studios have been moving a lot of production out of traditional film making centers, Los Angeles and New York City for the boonies of Texas, New Mexico and Detroit, Michigan. I work, albeit in a very basic position, in the film industry. And believe it or not there is a talent pool that is not made up of actors, writers, and directors that are necessary to make movies. If the film industry spreads out American production, the talent pool of grips, gaffers, set medics, focus pullers, and the whole lot will eventually shrink to a number so small that domestic production will be hard to sustain. The movies and television might be glamorous, but if the crafty guy has to live in a car to work on a film set, more than likely, he's going into another business.
So yes, even if Lone Star was the greatest thing on the small screen since Alcoa Theater, I'm glad it's gone. Moving production to Texas endangers the jobs of below the line personnel, and that in turn makes it more difficult for me to make a living. And, then the worst case scenario, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, when the majority of top flight technicians move on to other professions in order to survive. Now, let's get Chase, The Good Guys, Detroit 187, and Hawaii Five O cancelled. And don't forget, stop watching reality shows!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Contador Clenbuterol

I have to admit, before today I had never heard of clenbuterol, yet another drug on the list of prohibited PEDs in pro cycling. So did Alberto Contador use the stuff to help him win the 2010 Tour de France? Was he blood doping, as has been reported by some German news sources? Was it an accidental contamination from eating tainted meat as Contador claims?
Who knows. All I know is that yet again we're getting all tied up in the convoluted governance of pro cycling. Discovered in an amount so small that most WADA labs would never have detected it, Contador had the bad luck of having his sample tested in a German lab that was actually set up to detect such infinitesimal amounts. And now Contador's national governing body will make a determination on whether he doped or was the victim of a Spanish beef steak that just happened to have trace amounts of the drug in it. What Spain decides may be completely different from what Italy, Germany, or United States cycling authorities would decide. How can that be fair?
So once again I'll make the point that a professional sport like cycling should not be run by the hodge podge of national Olympic committees. Cycling needs to have a governing body made up of three different groups. 1.) Representatives of the various race organizers. 2.) A committee representing team owners and sponsors. 3.) And most importantly, a genuine cyclists union empowered to negotiate working standards, minimum contracts and guarantees. And as the only reasonable and fair doping control, an agreement of all three groups on just what drugs and practices are legal, and which are not. Guidelines on what amounts can be argued as accidental exposure. And absolutely no test results made public until all investigations are complete. I don't really have an opinion on whether Alberto Contador doped or not, but if it was an accidental ingestion of a drug amount so small that there was no performance enhancement at all, why should his reputation be ruined?
And one other thing. It's time for cycling to stop pretending that the sport wasn't rife with doping. I'm not saying that every cyclist was shooting up, but I am saying that we can never be sure about any rider during the doping era of the last twenty or so years. It's time to declare a general amnesty and then say that after a certain date any one caught gets the book thrown at them. And that means restoring all titles and race results for everyone from that era, including Floyd Landis' TdF victory.
If Spanish cycling authorities buy the accidental contamination theory, then every other rider who can make a similar and reasonable case who have been banned should be reinstated. I can think of at least two, Tom Zirbel and Li Fuyu.

Little Meg Answers Her Critics

The Mexican did it! The Mexican did it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Little Meg and the Housekeeper

Forget about the boarder. If you want to do something about illegal immigration, arrest those who hire the undocumented. Hmmmmm, where should we start? Here's an idea, how about Republican pornographer, little Meg Whitman. Yes, it seems that our favorite wealthy political dilettante, little Meg had an illegal alien on her household staff. Wow, what a bombshell. It seems that little Meg, just like every other Repug that runs for office, is quick to criticize their liberal opponents (Well let's be honest and make that more liberal. After all, many things are comparative.) for an elastic sense of right and wrong, when they themselves are quick to break the law when it's in the good cause of supporting America's ever expanding plutocracy. (Look it up if you don't know what it means. And for goodness sake, use a paper dictionary!) And what's doubly exciting for little Meg is that she's not just a defender of the plutocrats, she is one!
Hey, but seriously folks. There is only one real reason to hire an illegal immigrant to work as a housekeeper, and that's because they work for a lot less money than a legal resident of the United States. So why isn't anyone asking the obvious question; What kind of billionaire is so cheap that they're comfortable with exploiting the poor and desperate? I'd be willing to bet that if pay was divided by hours worked, little Meg wasn't even paying the lady minimum wage.
I rest my case. To be a successful CEO, one has to be a sociopath. The other great example in Cal politics is political dilettante, Carly Girl Fiorina. Let's see, fire thousands of American workers from a profitable company to increase profits by going for the super cheap labor in China. It's a good thing for the Carly Girls of the world that they shoot labor leaders in China.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Reggie Bush, Contrite but Not Apologetic...

....whatever the hell that means.
Here in southern California, there seems to be an obsession among sports broadcasters that Reggie Bush should apologize for enriching himself while at USC. Well, why should he? There isn't a sports organization, pro, college, or high school that wouldn't kick an athlete to the curb if that organization perceived it to be in their best interests. NCAA scholarships can be cancelled at the end of a season. An athlete can do everything that's asked of him. He can attend every meeting, every practice, and be ready to play in every game; he can live up to the stated ideal of the NCAA and be a true scholar athlete. And then at the end of the season, if coach finds some junior college transfer who scored 450 on his SATs and barely eeked out Cs at such and such community college, but can catch a pass or run to daylight, scholar athlete, who played by the rules can get kicked off the squad, and if not rich, kicked out of school. Coach can go to one of his players, let's say a pre-med major, and tell him, "Hey, I know you've got a 150 IQ, and you want to cure cancer, but you need to spend more time in the weight room. How about becoming a physical education major instead." And if that player says, "Sorry coach, I care more about academics than athletics." it's bye-bye.
Colleges want their athletes to mix with boosters. After all, boosters donate money to the school. Colleges want their athletes to go to the parties, carry the school colors, and glad hand with anyone with a check book and large bank balance. Colleges are allowed to take donations, but athletes are in violation of the rules if they accept anything at all. Colleges can make millions selling jerseys of their star athletes, but the athlete sees nothing from the exploitation of his name and likeness. The NCAA is a racket, all wrapped up in mom and apple pie imagery.

New Hostages

We've all been hearing a lot about the pastor Terry Jones and his weird Koran fetish. The commanding general in Afghanistan, the Secretary of State and Defence have gone on national television to ask him not to go through with his plan. Even President Obama has weighed in on the inadvisability of his actions. With the latest twist in this ongoing saga, a willingness not to strike the match in return for the moving of the so called ground zero mosque, Jones may have found a way to avoid all the trouble his actions will cause with the lose of only a bit of face. Of course, if the Imam in New York City (Sorry, I'm too lazy to look up the spelling of the name.) refuses to meet with Jones, and he'd be smart not to let himself get dragged into this insanity, tomorrows bonfire might go on anyway.
In everything I've read and heard about this lunatic, I've yet to hear anyone make this pretty basic point: Do we face a future of being held hostage by any nut with a computer and Internet access? Twenty or thirty years ago Jones would have been nothing more than a local story worthy of two minutes at the bottom of the local news cast. And at that, the story would have probably been more about a fool starting a bonfire with out a permit. Pastor Terry Jones is a man with, at most, 50 followers. His claim of nation wide support has netted him donations of about 200 Korans for his strange little incineration ceremony. Hardly a sign of an American nation wishing to see the Muslim holy text going up in flame. But thanks to the world wide web, if Jones does strike the match, we will very likely see riots, violence, and the deaths of hundreds, thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands of people, because some jackass from Florida knows how to type and click on "publish post."
Meanwhile back on the narcissist front, pathetic billionaire Donald Trump has offered to buy the sight of the ground zero mosque.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Who Cares?

I don't care about Glenn Beck or his rally. He preaches to the converted. His job title could best be described as baiting liberals. He doesn't care what those on the left think about him and I don't care what he thinks about us. As long as his stupid idolaters don't shot anyone, I say ignore him.

Another Question

I've signed up for Google ads on my blogs because it would be nice to make a couple of bucks on the side. I am a leftist. I mean I'm really a leftist, as in a western European style socialist. So why is it that all the ads seem to be so right wing? I mean Repug, chamber of commerce right wing?

Home and Revolution

Are political revolutions accompanied by social revolutions?
All of the political commentary seems to posit that sooner or latter the American people will, once again, have confidence, and will start to spend money. The left/right split seems to be whether that confidence will return from the economic top, or from the middle class and bottom.
I ride my bikes all over southern California, and as I move from one block to another, I'm reminded of what pre-Reagan America was like. I'm old enough to remember when people bought houses as homes, and not as investments. I'll roll by block after block of what, 30 years ago, were considered large family homes. And then, sometimes in a new development, or a newer house sited among homes from the fifties, sixties or seventies, a McMansion; a house two or three times larger than it's neighbors. Families didn't get bigger. The lust for square footage did.
The political revolution of the Reagan era was accompanied by a social revolution that was fascinated by ostentatious wealth. Bigger, for the sake of bigger, more for the sake of more. But what if the social revolution of the Obama era is a rejection of excess? We've built an economy that survives through mass consumption. What if the American people now want smaller, more manageable homes? Smaller, more fuel efficient cars? What if the idea of a big screen TV in every room of the house begins to seem silly? If our economy needs excessive consumption to right itself, we might be in big trouble.

Little Meg

So there I was. Sitting in front of the television watching a Q&A with Republican pornographer, Little Meg Whitman. She was asked what she thought of the job that President Obama was doing on the economy. "Well not so good. I mean that colored boy means well, for a Muslim who wants to abort conservative babies and turn America into a socialist state and take all the money away from rich people who should be running things because God blesses them with money and if God didn't want us to be in charge he wouldn't have allowed us to get rich by dealing with his agents on earth, Goldman Sachs..." OK, so I paraphrased a bit. Well, actually a lot.
The fact is I'm not afraid of Little Meg, the virgin Sara, or Mittens Romney. What does scare me is all of the Democrats who make criticisms that are equally silly. Barack Obama inherited the worst financial crisis since the great depression, two unfunded, and stupid wars, and most telling of all, a political center that had been moved so far to the right that it may take decades to get back to Eisenhower's America. And that ain't all that liberal, folks.
So, why do so many people on the left constantly harp on what they perceive to be Obama's failure? If he went before Congress and asked for single payer health care he wouldn't get it. But, he can move the discussion to the left, and with hard work and support, he can get us a lot closer. How about an immediate switch over to complete green, and renewable energy? Again, without across the board support from Congress, it won't happen now, even if it were possible, but we can move in that direction.
I've always hated the way the Repugs characterize those of us on the left, but I've got to admit they may get one thing right; We love to be victims. While Little Meg and her sad, stupid cohorts take the long view to power, too many of those on the left would rather be noble losers, than think about how we can build the foundation for a liberal future. It's so much easier to say, "Don't blame us, Obama wasn't the man we thought he was," than it is to do what's necessary to build the coalitions, make the deals, and inch along to a better country and world. I've noted before that the much hated LBJ got more civil rights legislation, and if it hadn't been for Vietnam, might have gotten us to the great society that most of us on the left would love to live in. He did it by moving the center to the left, one inch at a time. Alas, I fear that many on the left will sit out the next couple of elections because they are sooo disappointed in Barack Obama that they'd like a President Palin since it will feel sooo good to complain about how evil she is. And just to get used to the idea, we can turn over Congress to the Repugs in November.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What I Don't Understand

I understand that Roger Clemens lied to Congress. I understand that that is a very serious charge. After all, if witnesses are allowed to stand before a Congressional panel and say what ever they want, without any regard to the truth, then there is no point in Congress having investigative powers at all. I understand that young athletes want to emulate famous stars, and that when what they use steroids to be like Roger, it can kill them. I understand that is appropriate to charge Roger Clemens with lying to Congress, and if found guilty, it is also appropriate to send him to jail.
What I don't understand is how tobacco company CEOs can come before a Congressional panel, swear to tell the truth, and then state that tobacco is not addictive, and not be charged with lying to Congress, just like Clemens.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Levi Leipheimer, famous for podium finishes at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, has won the Leadville 100, one of the premier mountain bike races in the United States. Once again, I'm going to make an appeal for a multi discipline bike race.
This is what I'd like to see. Day 1, a road time trial in the 20 to 25 mile range. Day 2, cyclo-cross. Day 3, a mountain bike stage. Day 4, a road stage in the 100 to 150 mile range. Day 5, a criterium. And while we're on the subject, both women and men's races.
There are a lot of riders who already ride in multiple disciplines, so it shouldn't be too hard to put together a competitive race.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


This should not be read as a defence of Rep. Maxine Waters in her upcoming ethics trail in the house. At this point, what we know is that she may or may not have set up a meeting with federal regulators that may or may not have benefited a bank in which her husband owns stock.
When I was a child, almost every politician in the United States was a man, and almost all of them were married. The wives of those politicians almost all had the same profession; political wife and help mate. That's no longer true. During the Clinton administration, Repugs liked to attack Bill Clinton by smearing Hilary. It was noted that as a lawyer, her firm often represented their clients before the state of Arkansas when Bill was governor. A conflict of interest, and a possible opportunity for corruption. Well, Hilary was a lawyer who worked for the biggest law firm in the state , and her firm's clients often did business with the state. Was she required to give up her career so that Bill could be in politics? Or perhaps, Bill should have resigned the governorship so that Hilary could make money at the Rose Law Firm? Like it or not, politicians are no longer, mostly male, and politicians of both sexes have spouses with careers and ambitions of their own. And, since ambitious people often marry other ambitious people, there is a high level of certainty that there will be some overlap in their public lives.
Maxine Waters, as a politician, has a long history of representing, not just her district, but minority interests in general. Should her husband not have a right to pursue a career in banking because of that? Should Maxine Waters give up her advocacy of minority interests because her husband's banking interests may come in conflict with her position in the House? The meeting that Rep. Waters supposedly set up was to aid a number of minority owned banks. Does her husband have an obligation to let the bank that he represents go under because a government bail out may overlap with his wife's career? If Goldman, Wells Fargo, B of A, and the rest of the major financial institutions were to be denied government bail outs because so many former, and future employees pass through congress, than Waters' bank should have been allowed to fail as well. But that didn't happen. All the mega-banks that got government hand outs are alive and well. I don't see any reason why the bank that Maxine Waters' husband is involved with shouldn't have been bailed out as well.

Friday, August 6, 2010

In Old Arizona

Arizona got it wrong. If that state really wants to do something about illegal immigration, then it needs to repeal its right to work laws and encourage union membership. Union members make more money, therefore they spend more money. When the general population spends more, more jobs are created. If more jobs are created, eventually there will be labor shortages, which create higher wages for all.
Of course, Arizona can't do it one its own. When John McCain, John Kyle, and the Arizona house delegation move to repeal Taft Hartley, and pass card check, they will need the support of the other 49 states. These brave Arizonans will face an up hill battle to, once again, make the United States a union friendly country. But when jobs are plentiful, when we once again embrace classic economic theory, rather than the trickle down/Chicago School of Economics foolishness, a bright day for the American worker will dawn. When John McCain stands on the steps of the capitol and shouts, "Unions now, unions forever," we'll all regret having voted Democratic. Yes, nationwide labor shortages will make us all prosperous again.
So what does this have to do with illegal immigration? It's simple, we only care about the undocumented when times are hard. Bring back universal prosperity, and no on will care. (Except, of course, those who hate anyone who doesn't have white skin.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Did Dick Cheney pay for his own heart surgery? I'm just saying, that a man who is against government shouldn't be taking government money for medical expenses.

Neverland Ranch State Park, Huh?

When I first heard that state assemblyman, Mike Davis had proposed that Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch be turned into California's newest state park, I thought it a joke. I know that I'm in a vocal minority that thinks Michael Jackson will be a forgotten figure in 30 years, (Remember Eva Tanquay? Fame is fleeting. Look her up, she's a great story.) but shouldn't we wait awhile to see if I'm wrong. Too, while Michael Jackson's supporters seem to attribute a god like quality to the man, the taint of possible child molestation can stink up the place.
But, then I began to give the idea some thought. The first thing I did was look up Neverland Ranch. Its 2, 676 acres is a significant piece of open space in a state that has a habit of putting real estate development on a sacred plane. Turn the house into a Michael Jackson Museum and restore the remaining 2, 670 acres to it's natural state. Hiking, bridal, and perhaps some bike paths, crossing a near natural bit of the Santa Ynez Valley sounds like a pretty good thing to me. Paying to buy the land could be problematic, but not impossible. Rather than pass a bond initiative, take out a bank loan, slap a $10 admission fee to the museum, and tell the bank all the money is theirs until the loan plus a reasonable amount of interest is paid. I would be surprised if initial visitation was under a million visitors a year. I'm willing to put up with crying Michael Jackson idolaters in the parking lot if I can walk away and into a piece of old California landscape in 10 minutes.

Mad Mel!

We know that Mel Gibson's father is a holocaust denier and an extreme anti-Semite. We know that such people usually have a whole host of such prejudices. We know that the man embraces a very conservative Catholicism that divides women into three categories: saintly virgin, wife and mother, and whore, bent on corrupting righteous men.
It's very possible that Mel Gibson is at war with himself. One side is rational Mel, who knows that the holocaust did happen, that Jews aren't responsible for the Crucifixion of Christ, and that other minorities are not inferior sub humans. And one the other side, emotional Mel is ruled by the prejudices pounded into him by his father. Or then again, Mel Gibson may just be a major league jack-ass.
Is it just me, or are there others out there wondering why Mel's use of certain racial slurs is a much bigger story than the domestic violence?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Roman Polanski 2

Well, I'm not really all that surprised. Roman Polanski is a free man, at least if he never ventures out of France or Switzerland. I always thought it unlikely that the Swiss would extradite Polanski to Los Angles to face sentencing for his rape (Plea bargained down to unlawful sex with a minor.) of a 13 year old girl.
What has always bothered me is the large number of people, who should know better, that seemed to just brush off what Polanski had done as some sort of right for those creative enough to have directed Chinatown. Let's be clear about what happened. Roman Polanski had forcible sex with a thirteen year old after giving her drugs and alcohol. He admitted this. He also admitted that he knew she was thirteen and that it was against the law for a man in his forties to have sex with a minor. In her initial interviews with the police, the victim claimed that she said no. Even if she was lying, it is still against the law. If she was telling the truth, she was forcibly raped by Polanski. Some of Polanski's supporters claim that the victims mother, basically, pimped out the girl to Polanski. There is no proof of this, but even if it were true, it is not legal to have sex with a thirteen year old, even if the mother consents. Many of Polanski's supporters point out that the victim, now a mother in her own right, would prefer that this all go away and that any prosecution of Polanski end. In the United states one does not commit a crime against a person, but rather against the laws of the state. It is irrelevant what the victim thinks. Many of Polanski's supporters argue that he was unjustly made an example of for his crimes, and was receiving unusually harsh treatment. In fact, in being allowed to plea bargain down to statutory rape from forcible rape, he was treated with a great deal of leniency. Polanski fled the jurisdiction when he learned that the plea bargain negotiated by his lawyers and the DA's office might not be honored by the judge. Plea bargains only go into effect when the judge signs off, and Polanski was informed of that possibility ahead of time.
For those who would argue that there was a lynch mob mentality in the United States surrounding Polanski's case, I would refer them to the death of Emmit Till. A request for extradition is far from being a lynching. For those who would argue that what Polanski did was not "rape rape," whatever that means, I would ask them to refer to the facts of the case. For those who would argue that Polanski has been punished enough I would ask them where in the law does it say that someone who has suffered in life is exempt from rape laws. For those would argue that his film career justifies his actions, I would ask what are the limits of the creative exemption to the law. Is is battery, robbery, rape, murder?
Roman Polanski is a great director. I have another blog that I've made up, primarily for my movie buff friends, and sooner or latter I'll add Chinatown, Knife in the Water and Rosemary's Baby to the list. But even though I admire his movies, that doesn't mean I think he should get away with rape and fleeing the jurisdiction to avoid jail time.
Is it just me, or are there others out there that find the Swiss claim that national interests were involved in denying the extradition request a little weird?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Census

Ran across some interesting figures today. It seems that the U.S. Census has been tracking threats against census workers. 13 times shots were fired at census workers; 132 times, weapons were pulled on census workers; there were 88 physical assaults; ten times census takers were robbed; there were 101 verbal assaults. Well, I spent six weeks as a census worker, and those numbers are way too low.
The fact is, most of us never reported incidents because there were just too many of them. To start with, I'm not challenging shots fired, weapons pulled, or robberies. Those numbers I'm sure represent what really went on out there. But 101 verbal assaults? I'd love to know how that term is defined, because I got told off, doors slammed, finger wagged and poked in the chest plenty of times. The big thing was bizarre, right wing political rants about census workers as the vanguard of a leftist plot to take over the country. I wonder where those ideas came from? Right wing insanity spreads, I guess. What other explanation can there be for one rant after another about how government was trying to violate the rights of our citizenry via the census. And what were these dangerous questions. How many people live in a home? Names, birthdays? Ethnicity, race? Rent or own? Telephone? And the weird thing was that beyond the actual count, people were pretty much free to refuse. How intrusive!
Of course, if a lot of people in the "RED" states like Alabama, Texas, and Utah refuse to answer the census, they'll lose seats in congress and "BLUE" states like New York and California will gain. So right wingers of America, you are right! We census workers are trying to figure out who should go to conservative concentration camps! We are trying to take your guns! Avoid the census!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Two If By Sea

Didn't we fight a revolution so we could ignore these people! It's only been a couple of days, but I'm already tired of listening to the British complain about our less than happy feelings toward British Petroleum. What do they expect? Are we supposed to shrug our shoulders, say stuff happens, and ignore BP's mixture of stupidity and arrogance because lots of Brits own BP stock? Come on! If anything, I wish President Obama would talk less about kicking British ass and spend more time actually dirtying his shoe on Tony Hayward's behind.
I'm 55, and I can't ever remember a time when the British and the other Europeans haven't been lecturing us. It's always the same; Americans are stupid, Americans are naive, Americans need to shut up and learn from superior Europeans. Well lets look at the historical trend of the last 100 years. The general legacy of European imperialism, especially English imperialism created one problem after another, in every corner of the world. Now I'm not saying that we Americans have always done the right thing, but I would point out that we've spent trillions of dollars, and sacrificed thousands of lives trying to solve those problems. The United States did not conquer the world, rob, steal pillage, rape, loot, and betray Africa, Asia, Australia, Oceania, and any other bit of land they could lay their greedy hands on.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Civic Duty

Well, I did my civic duty; I voted. It's been a day, and I've got to stop being lazy about my political writing, so if nothing else, it's time to throw out a few thoughts on yesterday's elections.
Of course, it's California that I'm most concerned with. As a Democrat, there wasn't much suspense in who my party would nominate in the two big races. Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer, for all intent and purpose, ran unopposed. Some of the down slate races had names that might be real powers in the future. Most notably the two San Franciscans, Gavin Newsome and Kamala Harris. On the Republican side...well, what can I say. Multi-millionaires, Meg Whitman (A billionaire, actually.) and Carly Fiorina won. It will be fun to see how two candidates who went after the immigrant community (Supporting Arizona's new anti-immigrant law was the new standard for this year's Repugs.) will fare in a state with soooo many Hispanics. Not well, I suspect.
Both Fiorina and Whitman tout their business backgrounds. I'm not quite sure why Carly does, considering she was fired for running Hewlett Packard into the ground. At least Whitman has been successful at her various corporate gigs. Both ladies love to point out that government doesn't create jobs, private enterprise does. As the big corporations give, so do they taketh away. In the case of Carly, she fired 30,000 American workers and outsourced their jobs to China. Meg wasn't much better. Before she ran eBay, she ran Hasbro. Under her leadership, the children's toy manufacturer also shipped jobs off to China. At least she provided jobs for lots of Chinese children. Such little fingers, so good for making Mr. Potato Heads. Of course, I will say this. The 80 million that Meg spent from her own pocket was an economic shot in the arm for California. At least I think she didn't outsource any campaign jobs.
As anyone who has ever read either the original (See my first post for an explanation.) or the current version of The New Common Sense knows, I'm not a big fan of the initiative system. We Californians, through the ballot box, have pretty much banned political parties. (Maybe.) Our newly approved top two primary system, where all candidates run on a single non-partisan ballot, followed by a run-off of the top two, doesn't make much sense to me. The whole purpose of having parties is so that people, or coalitions of like minded people, can chose candidates to represent their own political philosophy. The backers of the proposition claim that it will eliminate extreme candidates and give us centrist choices. I don't want centrist choices. I want a supporter of labor unions, single payer health care, a true national pension system, stronger environmental laws, and a strong opponent of unlimited military spending. Oh well, I doubt it will survive court challenges. At least I hope not.
Just when I thought that we Californians were powerless to resist the siren call of corporate sponsored propositions, we went and rejected prop. 16, sponsored by PG&E, which would have granted the utility near monopoly status, and prop. 17, sponsored by Mercury Insurance that would have royally screwed car owners come insurance renewal time. Small miracles. I guess the outlay of millions of dollars of corporate cash can't buy a victory after all. Carly, Meg, are you listening?
My two favorite, non-California elections, were in Nevada and South Carolina. In Nevada, Tea Party candidate, Sharon Angle won the Repug primary and the right to oppose Harry Reid for his U.S. Senate seat. Let's see, her ambition is to get rid of Social Security, medicare, the EPA, the Department o Education, and maybe ban the consumption of Alcohol. That will go over big in Vegas. And South Carolina...Democrats are crying foul over the nomination of unknown Alvin Greene to run against ultraconservative, nut case, Jim DeMint. Just because Greene is an unemployed veteran without a college degree, who lives in his parents house, and may be charged with a sex crime at sometime in the near future, they think they've been robbed of the chance to defeat DeMint. The main stream candidate probably wouldn't have beat DeMint, so why not nominate Greene? Who knows, South Carolina is just crazy enough that Greene might have a chance. If nothing else, his unemployed status might win him the unemployed vote, and in South Carolina, that's a lot of people.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day

I've always had mixed feelings about Memorial Day. It's hard to imagine just how much worse our world would be if it wasn't for the United States military, Franklin Roosevelt and to a lesser extent, Harry Truman. Unlike most of the people I know who share my left wing political philosophy, I don't have anything against the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think those attacks preferable to an invasion of Japan...and as for those who argue that a negotiated peace, with the Emperor preserved on the throne of Japan, with his imperial powers intact, well they are just plain naive as to the true nature of Japanese militarism.
But, I also think that our success in World War 2 has left far too many people in the United States thinking that wars are won on the battlefield, that the enemy surrenders to our will, and that all of our actions are true and just. War just isn't that simple. When I was a child, our high school history teacher taught us that in World War 1, our brave soldiers ended, at least for a couple of decades, the threat of German aggression. With age and scepticism, I find World War 1 as the last gasp of European imperialism a far more plausible explanation for that particular conflict. The sad fact is, most wars are far more morally ambiguous than World War 2, and many wars end, not in clear cut victory, but when both sides decide that it really isn't worth it to continue the fight.
And that's one of the things that I don't like about Memorial Day. It's not just a time of remembrance. We don't just honor those who sacrificed their lives in war. We demand that our war dead did not die in vain. I'm sorry, but since the inception of Memorial Day, almost one million Americans have died in our wars, and many of them have died for nothing. Right now we are fighting two wars. While I realize that there may have been alternatives, I do view the invasion of Afghanistan as a reasonable response to 9/11. The Taliban may not have been aware, specifically, of the attacks before hand, but clearly the Taliban was aware that Al-Qaeda was using their country as a safe base for terrorism. Iraq, on the other hand was a war of choice. Not only have 4,000 plus Americans died in vain, but we've also crippled our economy for decades with the huge financial cost of dealing with a country that was little more than a minor irritant to us. On Memorial Day, it might be wise to remember the obscene stupidity of some of our wars, and not just the sacrifice made by some of our soldiers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Floyd Landis

I spent last Saturday at the Tour of California Time Trails, in downtown Los Angeles. Knowing that it would be foolish to try and drive, and park, for the day, I took the subway from North Hollywood to the 7th Street Metro Station and walked to the start line, and despite arriving an hour early, not finding a good spot to see the action. And so, I worked my along the route. As the racers began to ride by, I stopped and watched, and then continued along until I was at the one hill on the course, in downtown. With the riders making two circuits, out and back, I could stand there and watch them climb up, and then speed down. I had hoped that Levi Leipheimer or Dave Zabriskie could make up the needed seconds to move into the lead, but Australian Michael Rogers kept the gold jersey, and would end up winning the Tour. Among those attending the time trails was Floyd Landis.
At the risk of inviting a lot of ridicule, I find Landis' earlier claims of innocence far more credible than his recent confession that he doped during the Tour de France. In the first version of The New Common Sense (For an explanation, see my first post.) I wrote that, while I eventually came to believe Floyd Landis, the issue of his guilt or innocence was of secondary interest to me. What I really found fascinating was how a rider could loose his championship, his team, his income, and his reputation via such a flawed testing system. I'm not writing this to re-argue the case. Anyone with the time and patience can look up all of the evidence supporting Landis' claim that he was unfairly convicted. Just the fact that the testing equipment was running the wrong software, and that the manufacturer was willing to admit that, because of that basic mistake, all tests results were unusable, would have been enough to have Landis' case tossed, if it were held before an American court of law.
As I've read the stories, of how Floyd tried to blackmail Lance Armstrong, threatening to name him as a doper if he wasn't offered a position with Radio Shack, I've now come to believe that Landis is going mad. Yes, I know, a reach from a cycling fan who has never really believed in psychology, but I have to wonder about a man who has lost everything, both professionally and personally, who has done his time, and is still being pushed aside by the sport. Is Floyd Landis telling the truth about Armstrong, Hincapie, Leipheimer, Zabriskie and the others he has named, or is he trying to destroy American cycling, the way American cycling has destroyed him? Basso, Millar, even Ricardo Rico have been able to get on with their post doping careers, while Floyd Landis is shunned, while the teams who are willing to sign him, all seem to suddenly find themselves relegated to the back of the peloton. Is there anyone out there who thinks that the Bahati Foundation Team was less worthy of a spot at the Tour of California than Jelly Belly and Kelly Benefit Systems? I wonder.
No, I'm not defending Landis' behavior, nor am I defending the use of PEDs in sports. I am however, pointing out that it's very easy for old men with no other job qualifications than an exaggerated sense of self importance, to both exploit athletes, and then throw them aside when it suits them. Floyd may or may not have won the Tour de France with the help of a testosterone patch, but if he did, I would suggest that the team owners and event sponsors have as much interest in seeing athletes put in impossible performances as any athlete does. It's time for the Olympics, WADA, and all of the rest, to step aside for a new structure in professional cycling. Cycling needs a separate organization, not dissimilar to NASCAR to set up the events. It needs an ownership group empowered to negotiate contracts and reasonable doping controls, with reasonable penalties. But most of all, cycling needs a true riders union to look out for the best interests of the riders themselves. A union with the power to call a strike and cancel the grand tours, if necessary.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meg Whitman, Porn

Every so often, I'll post something that is incredibly obvious that no one else seems to have picked up on. On 9/22/09 I pointed out that Republican California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, while CEO of eBay, allowed the sale of pornography on the site. This made eBay one of the largest, if not the largest, distributors of pornography in the world. It seemed interesting to me that this was being ignored by Republican leadership, considering that the Repugs have positioned themselves as the party of public morality.
No more. Her primary rival, Steve Poizner, has begun running campaign ads pointing out Whitman's status as one of the world's largest porn distributors. No, I'm not so egotistical to write that the Poizner people got the idea from The New Common Sense, but I will mention that it took them a hell of a long time to make the link.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yes, but...

I'll try and write more about the oil spill later, but while I'm thinking about this, I wanted to make a very quick point. The United States can't keep expecting other countries to solve our problems. Whether it's a no drilling policy in ANWR, or a possible ban on off shore drilling, (Unlikely) we can't look the other way while the environments of other countries are destroyed so that we can have more oil.

The Goddess, Silent Movie DVD of the Week...

...Or whenever the hell I get around to it.
It's been a long time since I've written about my love affair with silent movies, and I hope it was worth the wait. Shot in a 1934, in a style that 25 years latter would be associated with the Italian neo-realists, The Goddess, written and directed by Wu Yonggang, stars the luminous Ruan Ling-yu as the Goddess, Shanghai slang for a prostitute. A single mother, with no other way to support her son, she sells herself on the streets of Shanghai. One night, seeking to avoid arrest in a police sweep, she blunders into the room of a street thug, in the English inter-titles, referred to as the Boss. It's only a matter of time until she finds herself as little more than property of this gangster.
What's most compelling about this film is it's depiction of a woman who, because of her social position, lack of education, and what's seen by Chinese society, as a lack of morals (In one scene, she refers to herself as a degenerate woman.) who has little chance to pull herself out of the downward spiral of her life. It's the love she has for her young son that both ties her to the Boss, who casually threatens to sell the child if she doesn't continue to prostitute herself for his financial benefit, and ultimately, when her son is expelled from his school because of her profession, and the Boss steals the money she had been able to save herself and her son, leads her to murder her oppressor. Like the neo-realists, the Goddess is a stand-in for a suffering lower class, constrained by poverty, exploited by those at the level of the street, as well as societal norms. In the end, the crime she commits liberates her from her pimp, but the prison sentence for that crime, takes her son from her. A son that has been the only fine thing in her life. Sent to prison for 12 years, her son is saved from the orphanage, when the headmaster of the school who had fought, and failed to prevent the child's expulsion, steps in to adopt the boy, and give him the education that he needs if he is to have any chance of a better life than that which his mother had.
Ruan Ling-yu, a major star of the Chinese silent cinema, like Mary Pickford in the United States, had enough power to really be the true creative force behind her movies. Essentially, she ran the production company. Whenever I watch this film, I'm reminded of the line from Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard. "We had faces then." Silent acting, often ridiculed by modern audiences, when done well is a study in the beauty an expressiveness of the human face. Ruan Ling-yu can, in the blink of an eye, go from a subtle, ambiguous pain, to anger to joy, when in the presence of her son. A wonderful actress, who committed suicide in 1935, a year after this movie was made. She was 24 at the time of her death. She made 29 silent films in her brief career. One can only wonder what great movies she might have made in sound films.
The DVD that I've written about was produced with a grant from Ball State University, in Indiana. I purchased it on eBay. See my blog,

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Prop. 187

Are we about to welcome Arizona into the Democratic fold? In 1994, California Republican State Rep. Dick Mountjoy sponsored prop. 187. With Republican Governor Pete Wilson, (Why is it always Republicans?) as it's main supporter, 187 was approved by the voters of California. What prop. 187 did was to deny most state services to anyone in California, who was not a legal resident of the United States. While the backers of 187 were quick to point out that the children of Canadians illegally in the United States would also be kicked out of public schools, well, let's be honest, 187 was aimed at Mexicans, and central Americans.
So what does prop. 187 have to do with politics in Arizona? Well, history does have a habit of repeating itself, and one of the things that 187 did was to energize Hispanic citizens into a potent, Democratic, voting block. It also had a tendency to inspire moderate, Republican Hispanics to change parties. Nothing like a hate campaign from a major political party to inspire revulsion from the electorate.
The sad thing is that there is a long history in the United States of employers using immigrants, both legal and illegal, to suppress wages and break unions. What 187 did, and what Arizona's new anti-immigrant law does, is it makes it difficult to discuss immigration in a rational manner. If we could, we would realize that one of the side affects of NAFTA, has been the wholesale destruction of small, family farming in Mexico. One of the reasons for increases in illegal immigration has been income lose suffered by poor, subsistence farmers in Mexico. Remember the Zapatistas, anyone.
A trade policy based on equalizing the three NAFTA partners economies would go a long way towards solving immigration problems. Common social safety nets, common environmental laws, common anti-trust regulations, and if possible, common minimum wage scales, would enrich Canadian, Mexican, and American workers.
I'm not going to deny that there are racist elements in Arizona's new anti-immigration law, but I do wish that my fellow liberals would remember that American workers do lose jobs, or have their wages reduced by immigration, both legal and illegal. Being aware of that may provoke a racist reaction, but recognition that the building trades, meat packing, and other jobs in the Untied States have been lost to illegal immigrants is, not in itself, racist.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bring Back Beheading!

The Supreme Court has banned the three drug cocktail as a painful means of execution and therefore unconstitutional. My home state of California, seeking to kill people in a humane way, is moving towards a single drug method of execution. My question for both the Court and those states that still have the death penalty: Why not beheading?
If we really think it's important to kill in a humane fashion, it's hard to beat the ax. One very quick chop, an immediate severing of the nerves in the spine, and it's all over in the only method that is close to being painless. The only reason why the United States wouldn't emulate this advanced means of death is squeamishness on the part of prison personnel. I admit that, if I were a prison guard, I would be a bit traumatized, seeing the prisoner's head plopping into a basket, and the fountain of blood squirting across the execution chamber. But what of it? In the name of humanity, shouldn't our representatives be able to stomach a little mess? Yes, beheading is the way to go. If it's really our aim to kill in a sensitive, humane fashion, than the blade is the only method of execution that guarantees a fast and painless end. And if we don't really care about the suffering of the condemned, than let's go back to the garrote! Now that's deterrent.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Well, not really, but it is notable that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has gone so far as to say that walking and cycling should have equal status in transportation planning as cars and trucks. This is the new Transpo Department policy. It has no force in law, which would take, as I understand it, an act of congress.
Anyway, I got to thinking, what does equality in planning mean? I doubt it means equal funding, and as both a cyclist and a driver, I'm not sure there should be equality in funding for bike/pedestrian funding and motorized traffic funding. Like it or not, most of us will be using cars to commute. Any real movement to make cycling a realistic option to car commuting would require an investment on the part of employers, as much as from government transportation planners. Most of us can't show up at work, covered in sweat, and expect to do our jobs. Too many of us have jobs that require some interaction with the public, which means that employers would have to pony up for shower and locker rooms. In cities, off road mass transit would probably make more sense, as far as funding goes, than either car or bicycle funding. Here in Los Angeles, I can think of dozens of routes that would be perfect for subway or above ground, off road, light rail. A better investment than in high speed rail between Orange County to the bay area.
But since I do live in Los Angeles, and since I own four bicycles, and two pair of hiking boots, I also think about bike and walking routes. I find it very frustrating to see all of the stream beds, criss-crossing the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, channelized and lined in concrete, all with service roads. Lets get some money to open up those routes to foot and bike traffic. And for drivers who object to money going for bike paths, and don't forget most cyclists and pedestrians are also drivers, think of how nice your car commute will be if cyclists are riding along the Los Angles River, and all those stream beds that end up at the L.A. River. Put in plenty of marked bike lanes on streets, letting both cyclists and drivers know exactly where they should be on the road, and every one wins.

Friday, April 9, 2010

In The Angeles National Forest

After, the fires; after the rains; after the mudslides, I finally got into the Angeles National Forest to see some of the damage. I had wanted to drive up Angeles Crest Highway to the paved, gated route down to the Gabrieleno National Recreation Trail at Gould Mesa. This trail is one of my favorites for, among other reasons, it's a long, scenic route that is just above the city. It wasn't my plan to walk the entire route, but I had hoped to walk down to the trail junction to get an idea of how bad things were.
Unfortunately, the Crest Highway is still closed, so I had to turn around and try Big Tujunga Canyon Road. As I drove into the San Gabriel Mountains, it was clear that from the Sunland/Tujunga area to the Angeles Forest Highway, it's pretty much a complete loss. The canyon sides have burnt down to bare soil, and while the chaparral is growing back, it will probably be a couple of years before things look green and healthy. There are signs all along the road noting that the area is closed to all activities because of fire damage, though the Condor Peak Trail looks like it's still passable, and there was no sign prohibiting its use at the trail head.
At the Forest Highway junction, I turned right, and headed for the Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road. The Hidden Springs store is gone. Off of Upper Big Tujunga, I took the narrow paved route towards Camp Colby, a church property. I wanted to see if the trail that goes up the back side of Strawberry Peak was still open. It was signed as closed, but there were two guys in the parking lot and I asked them if they had been on the trail. "Yes," they told me, "And it's not too bad." I asked if they had gone as high as the trail junction going to the peak, but they had not gone that far. There is a lot of fire damage along the creek.
I then went as far as the Crest Highway. Everything on either side of the road was burned. The chaparral will grow back soon, but the trees will probably not return in my lifetime. The Crest Highway was open in either direction from the Upper Big Tujunga Road junction. There were signs stating that Newcombe's Ranch was open, so it must have come through the fires, if not unharmed, at least in good enough shape to serve food. Looking up the road, I could see that there were areas where the trees were untouched by the fires, and patches that had been burned out. I drove back towards the city as far as the Redbox Ranger Station. It's still in tact, and looking down the Arroyo Seco, things didn't look too bad. The slopes of Mount Wilson don't appear to have been burnt at all. The Redbox Trail is signed, closed, but the trail down to Switzers, was not signed at all.
I turned around and retraced my route to the Forest Highway and headed toward Mill Creek Summit. Everything along the creek is burned out, including the Monte Cristo Campground. At Mill Creek Summit, the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the road. There were no signs barring entry. I headed down to Aliso Canyon Road, and didn't return to an area unburnt, until I was closing in on the backside of Acton.
To see my blog on hiking and biking, including a description, with pictures, of a hike from Dawson saddle to Mt. Baden-Powell go to

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dancing With The Stars Beats American Idol?

As a member of The Screen Actors Guild I must ask my fellow SAG members to stop appearing on Dancing With the Stars, Marriage Ref, Celebrity Apprentice, and all the other reality shows asking for your services. Don't you realize that you are putting hundreds of your fellow actors out of work?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fearless Predictions

It's the opening of baseball season and it's time for my fearless predictions for this years campaign. As I do every year, I predict that this will be the year the Pittsburgh Pirates win it all!
No, I'm not crazy. I grew up in a coal mining town 60 miles from the golden triangle, and I always pick the Pirates. Seriously, there are two types of baseball fans; those that stand by the team they first followed and those who switch allegiances. It may not make sense, but I'm a do or die Pirate, Steeler, Penguin, Penn State, Pitt and West Virginia fan.
Alas, my more rational side can only hope for a Pirate revival. The sad fact is, that baseball's business structure has reduced the game to a handful of true major league teams, united with a whole host of other teams that exist as super farm systems for the Yankees, Red Sox and a few others. Unlike, say the Tampa Bay Rays, the Pirates don't even make an attempt to juggle the buying, selling, and keeping of talent for some sort of run at a championship. I used to think that the worst thing that happened to the game was French philosopher, Jacques Barzun's theory that to understand America it was necessary to understand baseball. Barzun made it acceptable for all those aspiring intellectuals, looking to Europe for some sort of validation to burden a rather simple and pleasurable pastime with one pretentious pronouncement after another. Of course, that was before I saw several decades of the destructive influence of George Steinbrenner and the evil empire in New York. With out further ado, my true predictions for the season.
AL East. I hate to write this, but the New York Yankees on top. The American League wild card will be the Boston Red Sox, though the Tampa Bay Rays have an outside shot to over take an aging Boston team for the wild card.
AL Central. The Minnesota Twins. The Twins are lucky to be in a division dominated by small market teams.
AL West. The Los Angeles Angels. I'm tempted to pick the Mariners, mostly because they are a good, but not great team and I'm a huge Chone Figgins fan, but the Angeles, while far weaker than last year, still have a strong core of players and the money to go out and add more talent.
NL East. The Philadelphia Phillies are so obviously the cream of the division, that there isn't even a point in thinking about a real challenge to their supremacy. Look for Atlanta to take the wild card. I really, really hate the Braves.
NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals, like the Phillies dominate their division. Look for the Chicago Cubs to plummet, as the curse continues. As for my Pirates. They won't finish last.
NL West. If it wasn't for the McCourt divorce, I'd have not problem picking the Dodgers. If the Dodger owners can keep their marital problems out of the club house, which I doubt, the Dodgers could still win the west, but if not, it's the Colorado Rockies.
World series, Phillies over Yankees.
This morning, I was watching some of Tiger Woods press conference, and it got me thinking. Political revolutions are usually accompanied by social revolutions. Part of the social revolution that went with the Reagan era was a fascination with wealth and privilege. Is the return of consequence part of the Obama era? John Edwards, Tiger Woods, and the completely inconsequential Jesse James are all getting raked over the coals for indiscretions that, on the surface, would seem to be fairly minor scandals. Edwards, because he stressed his family man credentials during his presidential run, could be charged with a certain level of hypocrisy, but Woods and James are just fairly common rich guys with a straying libido. Are people just plain tired of the rich and famous getting away with things? I'm predicting that Tiger wins the Masters, well, mostly because he's the only golfer I know. I mean, who in their right mind would watch golf?
Because I love cycling, I'm calling the Tour of California for Levi Leipheimer. And the Tour de France; Astana isn't a strong enough team to put Alberto Contador in yellow, and Lance is getting up there in age. If it's between those two, I'll go with Lance just because Team Radio Shack, provides a stronger supporting cast. Look for a new winner.
I'm rooting for Butler, but if I had to put money on it, I'd pick Duke. As a matter of fact, I'd take Duke and give points. And if anyone tells me they picked Butler for the finals, I won't call them a liar, but I will ask for proof.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ronald Reagan is Killing Your Children!

I'm in my fifties. I was born and raised in a coal mining town in western Pennsylvania. I went to school in one of the poorer districts in the state. When I was a child we had eight periods of instruction a day. We got new, revised school books every two years. We had a full program of arts and music education. We had technical education, things like auto shop, carpentry, agriculture, business courses, and cooking. We had full sports programs, and three hours of gym a week. We also had a school lunch program that included either meat, chicken or fish, fresh vegetables, salad, and a pint of milk every day of the week. We also had a full time health nurse, who monitored the weights, diet, and general health of each student.
Ronald Reagan rose to power as the leader of the anti-tax movement. Yes, he had a broad political agenda, but it was opposition to taxes that made him, first, governor of California, and then President of the United States. With the erosion of our tax base under Reagan, one of the things that was defunded was public education. Long gone, in most states, are arts and music programs, new text books, full sports programs, classes that aren't part of core curricula, healthy school lunch programs, and public health nurses. Today's school lunch programs are now governed by the need to provide food as cheaply as possible. I can attest from my personal experience, (I only work part time and have shifted my own diet from quality, fresh foods to starch and fat heavy cheaper foods.) that cheap food is bad food. Too, school districts, desperate to make up lost funding, have turned to soda/junk food, vending machine deals that put extra dollars in school budgets, and high fructose corn syrup in the stomachs of their students.
Sure, I'll admit it; video gaming, MacDonald's and television haven't helped. But remember, next time you see an obese twelve year old with diabetes, hyper tension and heart disease walk down the street, it was the tax rebellion, and Ronald Reagan that helped put him on the path to early death.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Predictions-Arms Control

From Article 2, Section 2 of the United States Constitution: He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur. Barack Obama has just announced a landmark treaty with Russia to lower our collective nuclear arsenals by 1/3 each. Every Republican will vote against this treaty. DOA. It doesn't matter that Ronald Reagan's old quote, "Trust but verify" is being bandied about by every senior administration official; it doesn't matter that the joint chiefs, and Republican holdover Defence Secretary Gates will be out pushing for this thing; it doesn't matter that it will provide the treasury a peace dividend. Every Republican senator will vote against it, so that they can damage the Obama administration. No matter that their no votes will also damage the United States. Republican patriotism.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The New Nazis

I've never liked Nazi analogies. Anyone who conflates Saddam with Hitler or George W. Bush with the Nazi Party is an idiot. Still, I'm having a hard time in not seeing similarities between the Tea Party movement and the rise of National Socialism.
No, I'm not saying that the Tea Party is the new Nazi Party of America. What I am saying is that the Nazis rose to power because so many people who should have known better saw the Nazis as useful tools and gave them support. I've always assumed that German businessmen who helped Hitler's rise to power because Hitler was willing to suppress independent unions, the social democrats who stood by because the Nazis would neuter the hard core communists, and the many intellectuals who supported Nazism because of the mystical, nationalistic elements of the movement all assumed that when the time came Hitler and his thugs could be controlled and then suppressed. The similarity I see is that mainstream Republicans, American business interests, and others on the right are willing to champion a fringe, hate movement in order to when a political battle.
Today's news story of Tea Party supporters, standing in the halls of congress, yelling nigger, faggot, and spitting on legislators is truly disturbing. When Barack Obama was running for president and many of the people I knew said that sooner or latter someone was going to shoot the guy, I dismissed those fears. Yes, I admitted, there might be some lone gunman, insane, with some imaginary grievance, who could go off the deep end, but the whole idea that there was a large segment of the American public wanting to kill a president because of either his race or his politics seemed silly to me. Not anymore. Now I'm convinced that it is only a matter of time before some Tea Party supporter makes the attempt. The only question I have is this: Will we blame that lone gunman, or will we blame the movement and it's supporters? People like Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and even House member Michele Bachmann have walked right up to the edge of calling for violence against President Obama, House Speaker Pelosi, and other Democratic and liberal leaders. I have a great deal of faith in the Secret Service, and am confident that they are up to the task of protecting the lives of our leaders. It just bothers me that when they make the arrest or, unfortunately, are put in the position of having to kill an attacker, that the hate leaders of the far right won't be sitting in a jail cell for inciting such a treasonous act.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Whale's Tale

Well, it's not often that one gets the chance to type whale and scandal in the same sentence, but I have my chance today. As difficult as it is to believe, a Los Angeles area (Santa Monica to be precise) restaurant has been caught serving whale to its customers. Why any business would risk its survival by illegally selling the flesh of an endangered species is beyond me, but the owner and chef of Hump, a fashionable eatery, popular with the rich and famous of SoCal, are in jail for doing just that. Needless to say Hump's business license is probably going to get pulled, and just to make things dicey for Hump, the restaurant's landlord is the city of Santa Monica, and it's highly unlikely that a town once referred to as the people's republic isn't going to cancel the restaurant's lease.
Yes, I am glad that the chef and owner of Hump are likely to serve some time for serving whale. If violating laws meant to protect endangered species result in nothing more than a fine and some community service, well why even have a law in the first place. But what I really want to know is, who was ordering whale? At $600 a meal, there aren't too many working class types eating whale. The customers for such exotic and expensive food have to be the previously mentioned rich and famous. My guess is that there are credit card receipts with some recognizable names on them that can be linked to whale consumption. If an ordinary, poor or middle class person gets caught buying something illegal there are penalties to pay. Depending on what's being purchased and whether or not the purchaser has a criminal record, punishment can range from probation to serious jail time. Why should a famous Hollywood agent, actor, studio chief, or just plain old rich guy not have to go to court and say, "Sorry, my bad." I'm not arguing for major jail time, but a nice fine and a few weeks picking up garbage along the streets of L.A., or more appropriately, coming the beaches for litter, would be a reminder that actions have consequence.

Friday, March 5, 2010

To The Streets

Well, it seems like old times, turning on the television and seeing student protests. This time it's not war or civil rights that motivates American college students, but ever increasing tuition costs as well as a shrinking curricula.
I've written about this in the past, and finally there seems to be a willingness on the part of students to begin the fight.
We can not have a modern economy without a well educated work force, nor can we have any real class mobility with an undereducated population. It's about time that somebody realizes this and is willing to put up the good fight to provide free higher education for all. As of right now, the protests are just about keeping tuition prices at a reasonable level and stopping the loss of classes, but in the long run the real struggle has to be open access, and free higher education. And that includes graduate schools.
Again, this goes back to the short sighted stupidity of Ronald Reagan and the tax rebellion. Always ready with a quick quip, when Reagan was asked why he wanted to get rid of free college education in California, he made a joke about not wanting to pay for the education of students who were going to protest his policies. As fun as Ronnie could be, what it got down to was that low taxes and nonexistent government are the goals of the modern conservative movement. What's that old line about fools knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing?
This is an idea right of the top of my head and it might not be workable. After all, I ran out of money and dropped out of college, so I'm not educated enough to do the math. A national Internet sales tax, including song downloads. Steve Jobs should be able to figure out the best way to collect it. Then, minus administration costs, redistribute those taxes to the states, based on population, on the condition that all college and grad school tuition be eliminated. Hey Steve, a well educated work force makes more money, so they'll buy more stuff on line. In the long run, those profits are going to go up, up, and up, in return for a little sacrifice (in effort) now.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Don't Have a Heart Attack in Lomita

Just heard a story on the local TV news, and I don't have any information beyond the two minutes, on air report, so take this one with a grain of salt. Lomita, California will be charging $300 for every 911 call from Lomita residents, and if you're driving through town, it will be a hefty $400 charge. My former, next door neighbor's boyfriend used to beat the shit out of her and I had to call 911 a couple of times a month. If L.A. starts to charge for 911 calls, I'll have to think twice about calling the cops. Got to wonder how many people are going to end up dead because the good Samaritans of the world aren't willing to go broke to do the right thing?

The Cult of Apple

Despite the fact that I don't own an I-Phone, I-Pod, I-Pad, or even eye drops, I have a fascination with Apple's marketing. With the always emaciated Steve Jobs, dressed in black, looking more like a monk in the church of Johnny Cash, than a fairly ruthless CEO, as front man, Apple pushes a cult like ad campaign, with Apple's product line positioned as holy objects rather than somewhat useful bits of technology. Apple's latest Zen marketing is an announcement that they've discovered child labor in their Chinese factories and that Apple no longer will have any of their products built by children. Ah, let me see if I understand Apple's core business decision; for years Apple has taken advantage of cheap labor in a country that has a well documented history of allowing children to slave away in factories, making products for western consumers. Apple's wilful ignorance of a business model, so common, that it would be naive to think that any product coming from the People's Republic doesn't have some child labor in the product supply chain allows the always pacific Mr. Jobs to claim morality from former immorality. That is if child labor is to be viewed as wrong.
I'd turn this post into an attack on Apple but, like most Americans, I have a number of Chinese made products in my home, and as such, I'm as guilty of child exploitation as anyone else, though certainly not on the level of western CEO's, including Steve Jobs. I'd much rather ask the obvious question: Why do so many Americans, including many who self describe themselves as liberals, invoke Tom Friedman and his "world is flat" philosophy and smugly point out that American workers need to start competing in a flat world, and if they aren't willing to do so, it's their own fault if their jobs disappear. What does that mean? Should the United states and the EU, repeal child labor laws? Should we start shooting union organizers? Should we abandon environmental and work safety laws? I have a relative who describes herself as being far to the left who at the same time refers to Tom Friedman as being brilliant. If she is right, and if Tom Friedman is so brilliant, than it's time the west embraces slavery, child exploitation, and massive environmental degradation. I can't imagine any other way in which the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and the EU can compete in a truly flat world. Dare I suggest that Tom Friedman might be wrong? Maybe the world isn't flat, and maybe the side that feels comfortable with 10 year old children working in factories, slave labor, and repressive regimes will win because western, democratic societies want cheap I-Pods. Downloads, anyone?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Again and Again

I keep wondering about the stupidity of the average foothill dweller in Los Angeles. Year after year, there are fires, and then if we have a wet winter, the fires are followed by mudslides. In the past couple of weeks, we've seen rain storms, mud, and destroyed homes. And then the people who have lost their homes are interviewed on TV and they assure their fellow Angelenos that, yes, they do intend to rebuild, and that they will not be defeated by this bit of adversity. And then some talking head on the evening news will say, "Aren't they courageous."
Courageous isn't the word I would use. I'd say stupid. Like it or not, there are places where people should not live. If it was just those who loose their homes that insist on building in fire and flood zones, I wouldn't care overly much. But, we spend millions of dollars defending homes from fire and mudslide and then spend even more millions trying to engineer mountain and canyon sides in a futile attempt to prevent the inevitable. It would be far cheaper and far more sensible to just buy these people out and turn the mountain sides into open space. It isn't viable to remove the entire city of Los Angeles as a defense against earth quakes, but it does make sense to buy out a few hundred or even a few thousand homes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On the Beach

Well, it's happening again. There is a long tradition in California of developers trying to steal public land by blocking access to the general public. The beach may be free for anyone to use, but if builders block a way to sea, for all intent and purpose, that public land becomes private property.
Today's Los Angeles Times reports a more subtle attempt at a land grab. In order to get building permits and permission from the states coastal commission, developers of a high end, gated community at Orange County's Dana Point, offered up a plan with multiple access points to the beach, as well as an inclined railway to the sea. Seems like the money men were bending over backward to insure that swimmers, and surfers could easily get to the water.
But, things are not always what they seem. The fly in this particular ointment is an attempt to limit the hours that the public can use the beach. "Ah shucks, it's just a matter of privacy. Isn't it unfair that surfer dudes might loose their way on paths after dark and stumble onto people's lawns?" My guess is that if Headlands Reserve, the developer, is allowed to restrict access to certain hours, as time goes by, those hours will become even more restricted, with flimsier and flimsier excuses given until only the residents of the north strand gated community can get to the ocean. I understand that people who are paying millions of dollars for a home in a gated community might not want someone walking by their kitchen window with a surf board tucked under their arm, but the law has always been that public access to beaches is a right in California. It's not like the home owners didn't know, ahead of time, what came with those great ocean views.
California has a conservancy, set up by the state, to preserve the Santa Monica Mountains; a conservancy that has been so successful that it's been able to expand its reach to other local mountain ranges. It's time that California had a similar conservancy to preserve ocean beaches, river fronts, and stream banks. It would have been far better if the Dana Point headland had been preserved as open space by such a conservancy. Too, river and stream banks, when developed, have a tendency to prevent public access and free navigation in favor of a property right that, quite often, is nothing more than a de facto land grab. I know that proposing that all ocean front property and river and stream banks should be owned by the state sounds insanely ambitious, but I would remind readers that a sizable percentage of such lands are already preserved in California's many state and federal parks, and forests.