aka Neil's Special Circle of Hell.

So this past weekend my wife and I went to Boston and took in two games at Fenway Park.

We had tickets to the Saturday game already. Then a few weeks ago a friend of ours said he had tickets to the Friday game and was wondering if we wanted to go up with him and his wife.

So I attended back to back Red Sox games.

Full disclosure - I'm a Yankees fan. But my wife is a Red Sox fan. It's what we in Connecticut refer to as a "mixed marriage". But I do enjoy watching games at Fenway Park and have attended more baseball games there than any other park.

But they have begun a tradition over the last few years which has just become totally obnoxious. It needs to stop.

I'm referring of course to "Sweet Caroline". They play the old Neil Diamond song during the 8th inning break. So for two nights running I was treated to 35,000 plus people, with varying amounts of alcohol in their system, belting out parts of the chorus. 

Hands, touchin' hands
Reachin' out, touchin' me, touchin' you

Sweet Caroline
[crowd screams: "OH OH OH!"]
Good times never seemed so good
[crowd screams: "SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!"]
... 

It. Has. To. Stop.

Okay I get it. There was the Marathon bombing. And the song became one of the rallying cries that helped the city through it. But enough is enough.

As Neil Diamond songs go "Sweet Caroline" was mediocre to begin with. And when you read in an interview that he was inspired to write the song after seeing a picture of a young Caroline Kennedy (probably about age 10) sitting on a horse, and then look at lines like "touchin' me touchin' you", it gets down right creepy.

So please Neil I'm begging you. Do the right thing. Stop the madness. Revoke your permission for the Red Sox to abuse, er I mean use, your song every damned home game. 

If not I fear there is a special circle of Hell reserved just for you.
 
 
 
Quick prediction.

The Roberts Court, and more specifically, its five radical ideologues, will go down in American history as one of the worst Supreme Courts ever, if not the worst.

The Citizens United and the Hobby Lobby cases especially will rank up (or down) alongside Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson as among the most wrong-headed in our nation's history.

Corporations are people.

Money equals speech.

Certain religious beliefs can take precedence over duly passed legislation and you, or more specifically your company, can get special exemptions from the laws of the land if you really, really sincerely believe something in the name of religion. Especially if that something deals with female sexy times for something other than making babies. And even if the belief is about how certain medical processes work (like birth control) - and the belief is demonstrably wrong!

And of course even if you continue to cover male contraception in the form of vasectomies but don't want to cover female contraception that also simply prevents fertilization from occurring.

Yep the Roberts Court is one for the ages. It just won't be quite the way the gang of five probably believes they should be remembered.




 
 
Something like that was the question posed by an attorney for the U.S. Army to Sen. Joseph McCarthy at the McCarthy-Army hearings during the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950's. It is credited as the turning point where someone finally stood up to McCarthy and he could no longer bully people and end careers, etc. in his zealot pursuit of Communists in high places in American government.

It is time for such a moment regarding the situation in Iraq. More specifically with the people coming out of the woodwork to blame the current mess on Obama and his administration. Mostly, I was thinking of John McCain, but it applies to the usual suspects. All of those who designed, sold and were cheerleaders for a war of choice that was doomed from the start.

McCain, his "Smithers" Lindsay Graham (fans of The Simpsons will understand that reference), John Bolton, Ari Fleisher, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, any conservative or mainstream pundit or "journalist" who sold us on weapons of mass destruction, mushroom clouds, links to al Queda, we will be greeted as liberators, the war will pay for itself, it will be over in a matter of weeks, months at the most, there will be no problems between Sunnis and Shias, anyof the people who peddled that garbage should not be given the time of day ever again.

And all those who scoffed at and ridiculed those who questioned the build up to war, or stood by silently while critics or skeptics were silenced, their patriotism questioned, the warnings to "watch what you say" were made, the Dixie Chicks were "dixie chicked", as Phil Donahue lost his show on MSNBC for questioning the war on terror and the need to invade Iraq, as a CIA agent was outed as political payback for her husband calling out the President for one of his intelligence lies, as people who predicted the chaos that came in the wake of the invasion and that we see again now, were driven to the margins, and you did or said nothing.

You were wrong. Dreadfully, disastrously wrong. The hippies, the liberals, the anti-war freaks got this right. And many professionals in State, Defense and intelligence communities. They knew the intelligence didn't add up. They knew the history of the region and warned and predicted the insurgency and the sectarian violence then and now should we go in and destabilize the area.

But who do we see and hear from now? Largely the list from above, especially McCain and Graham. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. The surge never worked. We went in and paid off the Sunni tribal and militia leaders to stop fighting us and the Iraqi government. We even armed some of them to help us against other militant groups. And they told our soldiers as soon as you leave we're using these weapons against the Shi'ites. Thank you very much.

This was never "mission accomplished". It never was going to be. As many predicted the most likely outcome was always going to be civil war and a partitioning of the country into three parts. And the likelihood that some of those parts might be more closely aligned to Iran, or more radical and militant than Sadaam had ever been. And now these idiots want to say it's time to turn to the crowd that made the mistakes and got us into that mess in the first place to "make it work". 

If there weren't over 4,000 Americans dead, tens of thousands wounded and maimed, and trillions of dollars spent, those statements would be funny. But they aren't. So to John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and all the rest of that crowd, "have you at long last no shred of human decency"?

And one more thing to them as well - "shut the fuck up". 
 
 
Is it just me, or is there something a bit perverse in this craze of @HiddenCash that is sweeping the Bay Area and poised to move on to other places? 

I know it's great for the people finding the $100 bills in San Francisco and elsewhere. But in this era of outsourced jobs, shrinking opportunities for more and more people, the disappearance of the American Dream as it were, I can't help but have this image...

of a retreat somewhere where billionaires sit around, drinks and cigars in hand, having their agents plant prizes of what amounts to their pocket change. And then sitting back and entertaining themselves watching "the little people" scurry like rats to collect the crumbs. Maybe even thinking of the landscapes in the hunts as the laboratory maze.


 
 
I'll admit I'm torn by the decision of the House Democrats to participate in the House select committee on Benghazi.

On the one hand you can argue that the Democrats should participate to keep an eye on the GOP members and call them on the unadulterated bullshit that you know the proceedings will be.

But that presumes that Democrats inside the Beltway have spines and will stand up to the Republicans rather than merely roll over and try to appear collegial and bipartisan. Clarence Thomas hearings anyone?

I wish they had stayed away. Let the GOP single-handedly continue this farce. You can still hold daily briefings to "set the record straight". But now you have provided cover, a patina of legitimacy, to what at best can be called a charade. 

If only the inside the Beltway Democrats would listen more to the rank and file Democrats around the country, they, and the country, would be better off.
 
 
A short one today.

Was going to comment on the report I saw yesterday morning on the Today Show on NBC concerning the Monica Lewinsky article in Vanity Fair.

In the report correspondent Peter Alexander told of her article and some of the comments in it concerning Hilary and Bill. His report included a clip of Lynne Cheney, delivered on Fox News naturally, speculating that the Clintons themselves were behind the publication of the story. You know to get it "behind them" so that by 2016 it was "old news". (As if something that happened almost 20 years ago and figured in an impeachment proceeding from 16 years ago isn't already old news).

Alexander came out of the Cheney clip with the phrase "true or not...". 

"True or not?", I wondered incredulously. The more accurate statement from a reporter following the clip would have been "As crazy as that is". I thought here is everything wrong with traditional network news media today. Take an inflammatory wild-ass statement from someone with no particular credentials to be considered an expert, and incorporate in your newscast, and give it the weight of credibility with a tepid "true or not". 

"Fair and balanced" and false equivalency trumping accuracy and sanity once again.

Funny thing is I went to the Today Show and NBC News sites to find the clip so I could link to it for this post and guess what? No Lynne Cheney. The Alexander clip on the Lewinsky story does not contain the Lynne Cheney opinions/speculations regarding the article and its timing. Instead we find a clip of Ron Fournier of the National Journal opining on how this hurts Hilary because it is not moving forward but dragging us all back into the past. No "true or not" response to the wild speculation from Ms. Cheney. Here is the current video of the report.

Apparently even the people at NBC News must have looked at their report and realized they were re-peddling batshit insanity on their network and making it seem that they themselves found it serious enough to air.

And in case you're curious here is a link to a Politico story about Ms. Cheney's musings that includes the clip from Fox News

Good times. Good times.  


 
 
Or more precisely what's in a word? 

I know there has been much written and said about the Donald Sterling matter and his lifetime ban from the NBA. 

I have nothing particular to add to the conversation, no new or unique insight to share.

But we can all use a laugh on a Monday, so did want to pass along something on the subject that was amusing to say the least. Well I found it amusing anyway. Continue on and see if you agree.

Visited my mother over the weekend. While she was occupied with some other matters in other rooms I sat in her living room. I noticed she had the weekend edition of the local paper sitting on her couch. While waiting for her to return I leafed through the paper and came upon their editorial page. There were several letters to the editor on the page, most dealing with local issues. One letter however dealt with the Sterling matter. 

I'll provide a link to the full letter here. It's quite the amusing read, though unintentionally of course. The letter hits at Democrats, Magic Johnson, and the "liberal media", so you can guess the basic tone and tenor of the opinions.

The letter writer had seven points he wished to convey concerning the topic of Donald Sterling. He had me hooked with point number one:

1) I listened to the tape. There is nothing “racist” about it. The man has a mixed-race mistress and he is complaining she hangs around blacks. Prejudice? Sure. Bigoted? Probably. Racist? Give me a break; 

Now I was a Chemistry major in college, not an English major. But I began my college career as an English major and did take some English courses which I passed easily. So while the contention that somehow there must be a subtle distinction between prejudice, bigotry and racism certainly struck me as obviously wrong, I thought I should do some checking just to see if this esteemed writer was onto something from a technical definition standpoint.

My source for this investigation was the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. The definition pages for the individual words are linked to below. 

Prejudice:

an unfair feeling of dislike for a person or group because of race, sex, religion, etc.

: a feeling of like or dislike for someone or something especially when it is not reasonable or logical


Okay I believe we can all agree that the sentiments expressed by Mr. Sterling were not at all reasonable or logical and did convey a certain dislike for a group of people based on race. Strike one.

Bigoted:

 a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)


Asking his mistress not to bring black people to his basketball's teams games? Sure sounds like refusing to accept the members of a particular group to me. Strike two.

But of course at this point we are in agreement with the letter writer who conceded that Donald Sterling was prejudiced and a bigot. Well okay technically he only conceded that Sterling was "probably" a bigot. Now, as they say, is where it gets weird.

Racism:

poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race

: the belief that some races of people are better than others

First of all while the author of the letter used the term "racist" I am giving the definition of "racism". This is because the definition of racist pretty much referred to someone who exhibited racism, so the definition of "racist" itself was meaningless to this investigation. 

To a lay person such as myself, not wanting your mistress to bring people of a certain race to your games would meet the standard of "poor treatment of...people because of their race". Strike three. 

So the conclusion of this non-linguist is that the letter writer was incorrect and in fact Donald Sterling did hit the trifecta and was prejudiced, bigoted AND racist. 

If you do read the entire letter at the link above you'll see in the final point, #7, is where our poor letter writer went astray. In his world the term "racist" can only be applied to those who condone or practice violence against others based on the color of their skin. Treating people like second-class citizens without violence to back it up doesn't count, and he wishes the liberal media and all the rest of us would cut it out, including apparently the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  Save it for the pointy heads wearing the pointy sheets.

As a final thought, looking at points 2 and 3 in the letter, it is also funny to see yet another self-professed fan of First Amendment freedoms confusing free speech with the consequences of free speech.

2) Hello, we’re in America, not China or Russia. You’re allowed to be ignorant and stupid in this country. It’s not a crime.

3) Since when did we rescind the First Amendment? I know Democrats use it like a buffet, using it only for speech they object to (like school prayer), but it protects all speech. Even objectionable speech.

 Yes the amendment does protect all speech, even vile, objectionable speech and insures it is not a crime. However, the First Amendment does not mean there cannot be private sector consequences to that speech. 

Mr. Sterling will be charged with no crime. The government will take no action against him. But that doesn't mean his business associates can't decide he's bad for business and kick him out of their organization based on bylaws and rules he agreed to follow when he "joined the club" by purchasing the team.  

Finally I'd like to end on a positive note by saying I did find something in the letter that I agree with wholeheartedly. From the author's point #2 above:

You’re allowed to be ignorant and stupid in this country.

Amen brother. Exhibit 1 - your letter.






 
 
For decades now we have been going down the road of deregulation and privatization. The promise is always the same. Competition, leading to more choice, more efficiency, lower prices. 

We also know what the reality has been every single time. Consolidation. Monopolies or near monopolies. Less choice. Lower quality. Higher prices. Lack of oversight and checks and balances leading to abuses. Whether it was the savings and loan industry, electricity and energy production and distribution, commodities and stocks, the results have always been disastrously the same. And yet the conservatives keep pushing the "government is bad and ineffective, let the free market works its magic" message for everything.

One of the latest areas of deregulation to catch my eye is that of telecommunications and the cable industry. In large part this is due to personal experience. We have underground utilities in our neighborhood and so the cable wire comes in through the basement. We have bundled services through the cable company: cable, internet and the land line phones. Until we bundled our services,  the internet modem, and our wireless router, were on the second floor of the house, in the study where our desktop computer still resides. However apparently that was too far away from the initial point of entry (the basement) to provide a strong enough signal for the land line. And so the modem and router were moved to the basement.  

We adjusted to that. But lately, at least every other day, there comes a time during the day where the internet is "lost". Cable and phone will still be working, but the internet is down. One of us has to go down to the basement, unplug the modem from the strip it's plugged into, count to 10, and plug it back in. Then the internet "reappears". 

And don't get my wife started on the cable itself. Remotes that don't work. Features heavily advertised that it turns out you have to pay extra for. Down times where suddenly you can't DVR programs. And then to find out that other people we know in town are being called by the cable company offering them free services or reduced rates, to make up for the inconvenience of this DVR outage. The calls were initiated by the cable company mind you to these friends and relatives, but we get no such calls or offers. We suspect it is because we already have a fairly high number of optional program services so there is less opportunity for the company to entice us to upgrade or add services than there might be for others by "giving" them free trials.

So all this led me to do a little research. I remembered hearing that our experience in the USA is not the norm in other modern, industrial countries, but I figured I'd take a look. Sure enough, the wonders of the free market, free from government interference and regulation, means that Americans are paying more for less service. Sound familiar?

For example, people in the U.S. pay about twice as much for slower internet connection speeds. According to a study by the New America Foundation, in New York City you pay approximately $70/month for slow to moderate download speeds of under 20 mbps (megabits per second). Meanwhile in South Korea you would pay the equivalent of about $28/month for download speeds of about 45 mbps.

A comparison of bundled packages (internet/cable/phone service combined) that includes low to mid-range download speeds found the following internet charges for American cities:

San Francisco $99/month
New York $70/month
Washington DC $68/month.

For the same service in representative international cities:

London $38/month
Paris $35/month
Seoul $15/month.

So why do we find this pattern? According to Susan Crawford, former special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation policy, "Americans pay so much because they don't have a choice". 

The deregulation of the telecommunications industry has led to consolidation and even more monopolies in the cable/internet marketplace than existed prior to deregulation. The result, in another quote from the BBC News Magazine article where Ms. Crawford's quote was found, is that "companies face neither competition nor oversight". And so there is no incentive for internet service providers to expand broadband or to build faster networks. The New America Foundation study concluded: 

"...the most affordable and fast connections are available in markets where consumers can choose between at least three competitive service providers." This is not the case in most American cities or regions.  

Ah, taste the freedom as the dollars fly out of your wallet. 




 
 
So when did forcing your religious beliefs on your employees, or on society as a whole through legislation, become the definition of "religious liberty"?

Sounds more like religious tyranny to me.
 
 
The difference between a Republican and a centrist Third Way corporatist Democrat.

Republican: Corporations can rape you with no consequences.

Third Way Democrat: Corporations can still rape you, but we'll beg them to leave a dollar on the dresser when they leave.