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.
 
 
Don't know why, but the other day I was thinking about the Dixie Chicks. 

Okay I think I do know why. It was this Russia, Ukraine and Crimea thing. A potentially volatile area of the world, with a long history of instability amongst its various nationalities and ethnic groups, threatens to explode, and it was like the world, and especially America's media, went into a time warp.

There was of course the instant reflex to fall back into the old Cold War postures and attitudes. Anything happening anywhere has to be filtered through the lens of the old Soviet vs USA contest. It always has to be about us. Couldn't be about Crimea having been part of Russia for a couple of hundred years, and then being handed over to Ukraine during the days of the old USSR, and now Putin exploiting these tensions and the unrest in the Ukraine to attempt to re-establish the glory of the Russian Empire, and perhaps a little buffer between him and NATO. [Catches breath].

No rather it had to be about how Russia and Putin view the U.S. and the American president. Whatever.

But the other knee jerk response was to bring back the usual suspects from the Bush administration. Everyone who has been wrong about every major foreign policy event or issue for the last 20 years was back in full force on all the network and cable news shows and op-ed pages. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bolton and Rice were there weighing in. And for good measure McCain, Graham, and Giuliani. Suddenly we were all marching to Baghdad again with the same carload of clowns trying to lead the way.

And the first question I had to ask was "why?" Why does anyone care what any of these people think about anything going on in the world anywhere? As stated above they have gotten just about everything wrong for so long, it's hard to remember the last time any of the people above got anything right. But there they were dominating the Sunday talk shows and the news shows. They were partying like it was 2003. 

I couldn't help but think that nobody should be listening to them. At the least none of them should be allowed on any public forum without first having issued an apology for being so disastrously wrong about everything, especially Iraq. These people owe us apologies, they owe the people they sent over there apologies. They certainly are not owed a venue to keep spouting their crap.

It then struck me that they owe The Dixie Chicks an apology. You remember them? They were a highly successful country music trio from Texas. They had sold millions of records and filled stadiums. They were hot. And despite being country musicians from Texas, they were on the liberal side of the political spectrum, though that was not widely known.  And in the buildup and rush to war in Iraq under false pretenses, they found themselves playing a concert in England, our primary partner in crime in Iraq.

 The people in England were more against the war than was the population of the United States at the time, even though the U.S. was quite divided as well. Relatives traveling in England around that same time told me of the graffiti one could see around London, primarily saying "F^&* Bush!" So it was in that atmosphere that the Dixie Chicks at their concert asked the crowd not to judge all Americans by Bush and his administration and supporters. Natalie Maines, the lead singer, even announced they were ashamed that Bush, like them, was from Texas. The exact quote is:
 
"Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas."

Pretty mild stuff compared to what is said routinely now about a Democratic president by many on the right. But once tape of the concert and the comment began circulating a shit storm erupted. ClearChannel, which owns thousands of radio stations, including many country stations, yanked all Dixie Chicks records off the air. Maines tried apologizing and clarifying that she should have been more respectful, but the damage had been done.

There were events around the country where Dixie Chicks records and CD's were burned or bulldozed or buried while crowds stood and cheered. How dare they criticize their hero American president as he prepared to lead us to war? [In fact the war erupted about a week after Maines made her comment]. 

For his part Bush had this to say: “The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say.… they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out.… Freedom is a two-way street ….”

Funny how the right didn't think Freedom was a two-way street when the patriarch of Duck Dynasty spoke his mind about gays, blacks and the best wives are the ones you get when they're 15. But I digress.

The Dixie Chicks have continued on with some breaks since then. They won awards. They made more records. They played concerts, albeit at smaller venues. But their career as a band would never recover to the same heights pre-Bush comment. And as it turns out they were the ones who were right. 

So all those wrong-headed jerks filling our screens and babbling on about Russia and the Crimea should just shut up and go away. But before they do they should apologize to people in the following order: 1. All the people killed in Iraq, all the service members killed or maimed; 2. All the families of the service members who were killed or maimed or called back to countless tours of duty while their families struggled to make ends meet; 3. The Dixie Chicks; 4. The rest of us. Then please just slink off back under a rock and STFU.

And finally one last random thought about the Dixie Chicks: I wonder how many people who gleefully or eagerly threw their Dixie Chicks CD's in the piles or into the pits would later show up at Tea Party rallies with signs showing Obama morphed into Hitler? And it would never occur to them they had too much irony in their diets. 


 
 
There have been a number of articles and postings recently concerning the toxic impact of Fox News, especially to members of the older generation. One article on salon.com dealt with a documentary made concerning "losing" someone's father to Fox News. This article in turn generated postings such as this one on the progressive blog Daily Kos detailing the experiences of others who have seen family members fall under the sway of the hate, disinformation, illogical rants, and hysterical conspiracy theories of Fox News and other right wing outlets. 

As accurate as these articles have been I believe the impact of right wing media is only part of the story. Another factor is how susceptible some people of a certain generation are to having their fears and anxieties preyed upon and played upon by these media opportunists. The world they see around them now is far different in many ways than the one they grew up in, the one they expected to inhabit as they raised families and reached retirement.

As examples I can think of a number of incidents from my own life.

First let's level set. I am a baby boomer. Too young to have come of age in the raucous 1960's, but the times of the late 60's and early 1970's certainly shaped my world and my expectations. Let's just say I am within ten years of what traditionally had been considered retirement age. So I'm younger than many of the parents and grandparents who have been the subject of these "lost to Fox News" pieces. But even for people of my age group the country is vastly different than the one we internalized in our youth. Is it any wonder then that some people of my age could be seen crying and raging at Tea Party events in recent years that they "wanted their country back"? 

The first example of how the world has changed since my youth occurred in high school, specifically American History class my junior year of high school. The teacher said he had a question for just the guys in the class. What if we boarded an airplane and when the pilot's voice came on over the intercom to tell us about our flight, time of departure, etc that it was a female's voice? What would be our reaction?

Maybe my class was a fairly progressive, forward thinking one even though political discussions of any kind were rare among classmates at that time. Every boy who spoke up, including me, thought the question was ridiculous on its face. No commercial airline would put anyone in that position unless they had gone through proper training and were properly certified, it would be too risky for the airline to do otherwise. So you would have to assume this was a qualified pilot, female or not.

"That's interesting", our teacher smiled. "The guys in the class before you were almost unanimous in saying they would get up and leave the plane."  Remembering back to high school days it is possible that some alpha male in the other class spoke up first with that opinion and everyone else followed. But even so the point is that it really wasn't that long ago that the question of a female pilot was something curious enough to be considered worthy of serious thought and debate.

Fast forward to recent years for another example of how today's world has diverged so much from that of my youth. I work at a large corporation in the Information Technology department. At one point, a few years ago, I was part of a small team that worked very closely together for a few months on a very fast-paced intense project. The project methodology called for daily team meetings.

One day as we sat huddled in a small conference room it struck me that this would not have been the project team I would have visualized being a member of in my youth. I looked around the table and saw a man born in Pakistan, another originally from Indonesia, a young woman from South Korea and a young man from India, and me, a middle-aged white male born in the USA. Except for the Indian all of these people were employees living in the area where the office is located. This was definitely not my father's work place.

People react to change in different ways. I noted the makeup of the team and just thought "wow how different from years ago".But I did not find it threatening or unsettling. Rather it struck me as kind of "cool" and an indication that times certainly have changed. But not everyone would look at it that way. What I have described were easily visible ways the country has changed during my lifetime. But there have been deeper currents as well that have led to changes perhaps less visible, but truly disruptive.

The middle class in America has been rocked and squeezed for many decades now. Free trade and globalization have moved high-paying jobs overseas, jobs that used to sustain a large part of the American middle class. Changes to tax and fiscal policy have funneled more and more money into fewer and fewer hands, weakening demand in the economy and putting a downward pressure on job growth. At the same time government policy and globalization pressures have lessened the influence of unions and simultaneously made it easier for companies to exploit workers and to get more work out of them for less money.   

The result is a generation of people who either remember how their own families were provided for, or can remember providing for their own families in a much less stressful environment. Wages and salaries have stagnated while worker productivity has doubled. Job security is a thing of the past. Even if you're doing a good job and your company is profitable, you are not immune from being laid off. Guaranteed pensions were replaced by defined contribution plans and then by 401(k)'s. Each move leading to more risk and less security for the middle class would be retiree.
 
In that atmosphere is it any wonder that people of the baby boomer generation and later are fearful and anxious? It is very easy for some people to conflate the two sea changes that have occurred for this generation, the unsettling and jarring shocks of our changing economy and workplace, with the more transparent and visible changes to the American melting pot.

It is an environment where certain people fall easy prey to those who will offer them easily identifiable scapegoats and simplistic answers. People recognize that things have changed in this country as it relates to their own personal economic well-being, and not in a good way. In that respect I am in agreement with the Tea Party baby boomers wanting their country back. The difference is recognizing the forces that have 'taken it away'. 

It's so much easier to blame all the problems, and your feelings of anxiety and fear, on people different than you, even if logic tells you they have no real power, than it is to look at the policy and structural changes that have occurred and work with others to try and move the country in a different direction. Who is it easier to take on, rich Wall Street stockbrokers and bankers, or immigrants, single mothers, poor people and people with strange accents and a different skin color?

So yes Fox News and their ilk are all too ready to stoke the forces of fear and prejudice for their own aims. But it is also important to recognize the things that are leading to anxiety and fear of people of a certain age that makes them easy prey, if we have any chance of reaching and regaining those we have lost.  





    



 
 
I debated whether this post would go on the "Views" or the "Brews" side of the site. 

Only once before have I put a post that dealt with politics under "Brews". That was when the government shutdown was impacting reviews of applications for new beer offerings, which of course hit the small, craft brewers harder. I didn't go into deep political analysis or try to assign blame, rant about any one side in particular. Just laid out the issue and asked people who cared about beer and the microbrews to contact their Congress people to please get this resolved. People's dreams and livelihoods were being impacted after all.

This time though I will err on the side of caution and put this post on the "Views" side of the site, the overtly political side. Even though it shouldn't be. This deals with climate and science so it shouldn't be the subject of political tugs-of-war but we know how that's been going.

So anyway it seems that the drought in California may impact the beer industry sooner rather than later. Many breweries, such as Lagunitas, rely on water from rivers such as the Russian River. The rivers and the reservoirs, lakes, etc that feed them are running dry after years of severe drought. Breweries may need to look for alternative sites to switch production, or even switch to using groundwater which would greatly influence the taste of the products. Lagunitas is large enough to be able to pursue some alternatives. Other smaller producers will not be so lucky.

Of course the article I was reading, "California's Water Crisis Is Becoming A Beer Crisis" by Jeff Spross at thinkprogress.org, doesn't stop with just California. The article points out how what is happening to California is very much in line with predictions made by climate scientists concerning climate change. It also points to other changes impacting breweries due to climate change. It notes that barley and hops production have been impacted, and will likely decrease due to shifting climate patterns. Experts consider the quality of European hops in general to have been declining since the 1990's as temperatures in general rise. A study in the Czech Republic determined that the quality of the highly prized Saaz hops, the hops that give the famed Pilsener beers their distinctive quality, has deteriorated steadily since 1954 due to rising temperatures.

By all means if you want to believe global warming is a hoax, that is your right. You want to believe we can take tons of carbon deposited over millenia and locked away beneath the earth, and burn through them in about a 200 year period with little or no consequences, you can believe that too. You are even free to vote for people who believe the same thing, even if most of their money is coming from the fossil fuel industry. 

But now it's personal. Sure your ignorance may help doom many species on this planet, including our own, put half of Florida under water in 50 or so years, cause huge dislocations and unrest among populations (which the reality-based Pentagon and CIA are already planning on happening), lead to increasingly extreme weather conditions, but negatively impact the quantity and quality of beer available? Now you've gone too far.  
 
 
I usually don't read Cal Thomas, a leading conservative columnist. In fact according to the Chicago Tribune he is "America's number one nationally syndicated political columnist". They couldn't post it if it wasn't true.

But when I saw from the title that the subject of his latest column was retiring Representative Michelle Bachmann, well I had to look. It's like a pile-up at a NASCAR race. You're obligated to look, heck you're almost not human if you don't.

So curiosity piqued I waded into the column. And I came away with a totally different picture of Mr. Thomas.   It turns out Cal Thomas may just be his generation's greatest political comic. Follow me below for further explanation. 

The humor began ever so subtly. He started off by noting that Rep. Bachmann has less than a year to go in her final term. Too early for an exit interview, but never too early to get the views of Ms. Bachmann on the issues of the day, including "how to beat Hillary Clinton in 2016". And he delivered that with a straight face! Pure comic genius right there. Because who else do you turn to for deep political thoughts or winning "strategery" than the founder of the John Wayne Gacy Fan Club? Or the woman who relies on scientific advice from some woman who comes up to her at an event?

But wait Cal wasn't done.  He asked her if she was disappointed the conservative cause has not gotten further during her time in Washington. Her response was that the conservative agenda requires voters electing people with "a biblical world view". Now some people might get the joke right there, but Cal missed an opportunity with this one. It required some more setup, some mention of how Rep. Bachmann and others are all up in arms about Muslims and Sharia Law. Then hit them with the biblical world view quote. Sometimes Cal you do need to hit the audience between the eyes with a 2 by 4.

Cal quickly redeemed himself however when the topic turned to getting Ms. Bachmann's advice on how a presumptive male Republican nominee goes about beating Hillary Clinton in 2016. And of course you already know what's coming next, but that doesn't make it any less hilarious. Or should I say "Hillary-ous"? Two words: "Benghazi" and "Obamacare". Pow! Bam! Sure you see it coming but it still leaves you rolling on the floor laughing your you know what off.

And again Cal was the master of restraint, transcribing these lines from Bachmann like they were to be taken seriously. Comic gold. 

First up in the one-two punch Bachmann advises for taking out Hillary: 
"Remind people (Clinton) is seeking to become commander in chief (and look at) how she has operated in the past with these types of responsibilities. She was in charge during the Benghazi debacle."

Yes. Yes. Benghazi. It really took Obama out in 2012.

But wait, catch your breath for the second in the combination from the dear departing Representative:

She says to label Hillary as the "the godmother of Obamacare", who worked "behind closed doors" to enact a similar program when her husband was president.


That one is the absolute best right there. How Cal kept from laughing out loud in Michelle's face and wrote it in his column as if it was something worthy of serious consideration is beyond me. I mean sure, what is now Obamacare was devised by the conservative Heritage Foundation as the market based answer to what the Clintons had proposed for health care reform. And sure, what is now Obamacare was pushed for a while by Senate Republicans at the time, again as the market based solution to counter the Clinton plan. But make believe that the Clinton plan was like Obamacare and pin it on her. And Cal plays along like this is a great strategy!


But wait, Bachmann is still not finished. Cal sets her up beautifully at this point. Despite the obvious and proven appeal of the twin Benghazi-Obamacare attacks, how, he asks Ms. Bachmann, does the GOP candidate overcome the "lure" some voters might feel to elect our first female president. 
Don't you worry, Michelle's answer does not disappoint. 

"Effectively she would be Obama's third and fourth term in office."

That one still cracks me up every time I read it. Yes, you can overcome the "female" angle by hanging Obama around Hillary's neck. You know with Benghazi and Obamacare. Because those issues weren't tried before. And that's where Cal Thomas has shown himself to be a true artist. Surely he knows the joke is that the GOP tried Benghazi and Obamacare as two of their main issues in 2012. Heck they flogged them to death. How many times did Mitt Romney promise he was going to repeal Obamacare, "day one"? Presumably by executive order. And we all know how he tried to make Benghazi a center piece of the presidential debates. And he lost in 2012 by something like 5 million votes to Obama. 

But Cal just keeps feeding Bachmann the rope and plays the straight man while she hangs herself by seriously proposing that Benghazi and Obamacare are the keys to beating Hillary in 2016. I'm still wiping the tears from my eyes. 

Just in case your ribs weren't already sore from all the laughing, Cal delivers another punch line stating that those issues and the prospect of Hillary being a continuation of Obama "might scare enough people to vote for the Republican nominee". Just like they did in 2012. I get the joke,Cal, I get it! My sides hurt, please stop!


And as a final gift, Cal shares one more Bachmann gem concerning the possibility of the first female president. She believes "a lot of people 'aren't ready' for a female president". You didn't even have to say it Cal. We know what you were thinking. We can insert our own joke here.
I'll have to begin checking out his columns more often. It's always good to start your day with a good belly laugh - or several. 


 
 
I keep hearing this rumor that the Republicans are the party of small government. The party of getting government off your back. The party of getting the government out of the way so businesses, entrepreneurs, and the wonderful, all-knowing free market can work their magic.
At least that's what I keep hearing them say. The markets pick winners and losers, not government. Local and state governments know better, not Washington. People can be trusted with decisions over their own lives, their own health, their own money, not politicians or bureaucrats.
But then they do stuff, and I get really confused as to what this party really does believe.
Take Tennessee for example. Please. [Rimshot]. 
Volkswagen has a plant in Chattanooga. This week the workers at the plant are voting on whether or not to join a union, specifically the United Auto Workers. And the company is taking a neutral, hands-off approach to the vote. In fact at times the corporation has sounded supportive of the idea. You see they want to institute a works council at the plant, which is a committee that includes management and workers. They have one at every other VW plant in the world. To have one here requires a union. So they will not be upset to see a pro-union vote.
But you know who will be upset and is doing everything they can to stop a 'yes' vote? Yes the Tennessee Republican party. The Governor, U. S. Senator Bob Corker, various GOP members of the Tennessee legislature have weighed in. They have threatened to withdraw the tax breaks VW was given to open the factory in Chattanooga should a union be brought in. Billboards have been taken out about the invasion from the "union" for "up north". I mean, really? And as I said this is not coming from the corporate management. It's those damned politicians butting in. 
Sen. Corker has even gone so far as to say if the vote goes pro-union VW will probably take the jobs for the SUV's built there to other plants. Or that he has been assured, by people unnamed, that a "no" vote assures expansion and more jobs at the Chattanooga plant.
Of course a VW executive denied this. He said the decision of whether to expand in Chattanooga or instead to expand an existing factory in Mexico would hinge on other factors, not the union vote. After all that plant in Mexico? Wait for it - it's unionized.
So suddenly we see the "trust the people" Republicans jumping into an issue that you would think does not concern government. It's an issue between the company and its workers and the decision is up to the workers. I thought that's what Republicans were all about, people making their own decisions without interference from the big, bad "gummint"? Instead it looks like they're trying to interfere with the market.
But this is just another example of the divergence between what the GOP says and what they actually do. They rail against Obamacare as government intrusion and scream how medical decisions should be up to you and be between you and your doctor. Unless of course you're a woman and the decision is to use birth control, or for whatever reason make the gut-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy. Then you can't be trusted apparently and the government must stop you. It must tell your doctor what he or she can or can't tell you about your healthcare options. The government in some states must even mandate medically unnecessary procedures and threaten the doctor with penalties if he or she fails to perform them.
Or if you're a state that has decided to allow same sex marriages. Then apparently Washington knows best and there should be federal laws or Constitutional amendments to override the wishes and laws of the individual states.
So it looks like all the Republican talk about individual freedom, freedom from government interference and intrusion is just that - talk. They trust you to make your own decisions, until those decisions run counter to their ideology or their religion. Then they are all too happy to have the government jump into your bedroom, your boardroom, your doctor's office as quickly as possible. They are very eager and willing to have the government intrude to enforce their ideology and religion on you and make you abide by it. 

 
 
 
Here we go again.
So you may or may not have heard that Michael Sam, a linebacker for the University of Missouri, and SEC Defensive Player of the Year, came out as gay.
He had been projected to be a middle round draft pick for the next NFL draft, with various handicappers projecting him going anywhere from the third round to the seventh round. There was some question of his pro career as he was somewhat of a tweener. Some considered him too large to play outside linebacker in the NFL, but too small to play defensive end which many felt would be his natural pro position. Still the only question wasn't whether he would be drafted, but when.
But all that changed with his announcement. Now his draft stock is expected to slide. 
One source, NFLDraftScout.com, had Sam projected as 9th best defensive end in the draft. After his announcement he slid to 14th. CBS had Sam as the 90th best player overall for the draft before his "coming out". Afterwards, he is now 160th.
To what is this attributed? He was considered one of the best pure pass rushers in the draft. That hasn't changed. What has changed is that Michael Sam is now considered a "distraction". Several anonymous NFL execs, player personnel directors, scouts, general managers, etc. have talked about how the NFL just isn't ready. It has nothing to do with him personally or his being gay. But the culture of the NFL locker room isn't ready you understand. Camaraderie in the locker room is apparently a fragile thing, and all you need is one player who gets a little more attention than others feel is warranted to derail the whole atmosphere and presumably the team's season. In that regard since Sam will now be the focus of media attention rather than the superstars of the team it just won't work. Teams and players don't like distractions or controversy. Apparently having a gay teammate might not be accepted by everyone and so again that delicate locker room balance will be upset. So you know, they aren't bigots or have anything against Michael Sam being gay, but think of the poor locker room.
But wait. Stop me if you've heard these arguments before. And you have.
This was the exact same argument that was made against desegregating the armed forces. The lines were something like, I'm no bigot, but, having blacks and whites in the same unit will lead to complications and distractions and destroy the effectiveness and cohesiveness of the outfits. And on a battlefield that will get people killed.
So Harry Truman did it anyway, and guess what, no issues.
The argument in various forms has been used again and again since then. It was used as an excuse to not have women in the same military outfits as men, or serving in combat. 
It was the argument against allowing gays to serve openly in the military. The effectiveness of fighting units was again raised as the reason not to do it. And again was shown to be false. 
And so here we go again. Someone has to be the first to break the barrier, but "we're not ready yet". And the usual excuses are made about the effectiveness of the team being imperiled by the "controversy" and the "distraction". 
Only once again we can already know that the narrative is a false one. You see Sam came out to his University of Missouri teammates before last season. And it was a non-issue. They had a fine season and went to a bowl game. All that despite having such a "distraction" on the team.
So sorry anonymous NFL execs, but you are simply bigots, or at best, enablers of bigots. 
 
 
 
 
People have been beating up on journalists and journalism pretty well the last couple of days and deservedly so. I mean you expect Fox News to misrepresent and distort the Congressional Budget Office report on the impacts of healthcare reform ("Obamacare") on the economy. But it was very disheartening to see how many members of the traditional, mainstream, mythical "liberal" media fell right into line with the right wing talking points. And yes I realize in the preceding sentence the word "mythical" can be modifying the words liberal, media or both. I'll leave it up to you to decide which is more appropriate.
As hopefully you realize by now the assertions that the CBO report stated that Obamacare would "kill" 2.5 millions jobs was totally wrong. The report concluded that in fact Obamacare would:
  • create jobs
  • lower unemployment
  • reduce the deficit
What it did say about those 2.5 million fewer people working, was just that. Thanks to being able to find affordable health insurance on the exchanges, approximately that number of Americans would voluntarily decide to leave their jobs. Jobs that in the past they would have been chained to because it was the only way they could obtain affordable health insurance for themselves and/or their families. Now they would have the freedom to retire early and bridge the gap until they qualify for Medicare, leave a job to start a business, switch to a part-time job for a period of time to be home with young children or an ailing parent. The lock between job and health benefits is broken. The jobs don't go away, some of the people who would have filled them in the past, do. Which of course makes room for others needing work.
Even Republicans used to believe that was a good thing. Rep. Paul Ryan even laid that out as needing to be a key component of any healthcare reform when the work on healthcare reform began to get underway in early 2009. The CBO is simply confirming that yes, Obamacare accomplishes that goal. 
Eventually most of the media (the usual suspects excluded of course) got around to reporting the correct conclusions of the report. But of course damage had been done as far as the impression given to the casual observer/voter who may have only heard the initial reports and postings. But in usual media fashion they didn't blame themselves for having totally misinterpreted the report (or more likely not bothered even reading it in the first place and simply reporting off the assertions of others). It was all the Democrats and the White House's problem that it was being misrepresented. Healthcare reform is just too complex so they need to do a better job explaining this "stuff", you know the facts.
Silly me. I guess I'm getting old and hearken back to the good ol' days when reporting facts and making sense of things to the general public was the job of, oh I think the word for them used to be, "journalists". You know an informed citizenry being the lifeblood of a democracy and all that quaint stuff. Now they are content to sit back and be glorified stenographers. They paint every issue as having two (and only two) sides. They simply transcribe what each side says, and then voila their work is done. No context, no facts to help the general public interpret the competing statements. Just a "he said, she said" and you decide which side to believe.
So that brings me to what set me off this morning. I hesitate to pile on since journalism has given itself such a bad black eye recently. And compared to the CBO report fiasco this is really a minor thing. But I heard something this morning that I found infuriating and is emblematic of the level of reporting America receives today.
It occurred on the Today Show on NBC. Of course they are spending most of their time and energy promoting the Olympics, but in between they take time to give the other news of the day.
First up today in the "rest of the news" was a not more than 30 seconds item regarding the vote on extending unemployment insurance. The lead in was along the lines of "Another major loss for Democrats". Then described how they failed by one vote to get the extension of unemployment insurance to come to a vote. That they failed to satisfy Republicans that there was enough of it paid for along with other deficit reduction measures. And then simply stated that as of December 31, 2013 when the extended UI expired 1.7 million Americans lost their unemployment payments.
"There", I thought, "is everything that is wrong with the modern media in a nutshell." 
Notice what the focus of the story was, not the lost unemployment and it not being brought back. No, the focus was the horse race aspect of it. The Democrats lost. The Republicans won. The 1.7 million Americans without unemployment? Bit players in the political drama apparently. No need for context as to the vote itself, the issues involved, the historical context of emergency unemployment insurance in tough times having been a bipartisan, no brainer, didn't have to be paid for, issue in the past. No discussion of how from an economic standpoint extending unemployment on the one hand, and cutting back in other areas, makes no policy sense. Because facts like that just get in the way, and besides then it might appear you're taking sides rather than being balanced.
Which is ultimately one of the major failings of today's traditional media. Their job should be to accurately inform the public. When "balance" trumps accuracy, then everyone in the democracy is in trouble.