Thursday, April 18, 2013

What happened yesterday

In light of the defeat of the background check bill yesterday (or, in light of its inevitable rejection by the Republicans in the House, its premature defeat), it's worth thinking about what actually happened.

And why? Because I can already hear people saying that this is one more sign that in their view the Democratic Party is useless, Democrats lack spine, Democrats won't fight for anything.

So let's be clear. This was not a failure of the Democrats in the Senate, this was a Republican filibuster.

Sure, there were conservative Democrats who voted to support the filibuster, but even if all of them had voted to end debate, the Republicans had enough votes to maintain the filibuster and block the legislation, even though the bill had the support of a majority of the Senate.

Ii have no problem criticizing Democrats when it's deserved, and I have great contempt for the Democrats who voted with the Republicans yesterday, but they're not who killed the bill. It was the Republicans.

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Monday, April 08, 2013

Interesting contrast

Margaret Thatcher is dead and good riddance.

I thought it was a funny coincidence when I heard the news this morning because it was just yesterday that I listened to and shared on Facebook "Stand Down, Margaret" by the English Beat and it got me thinking.

i said i see no joy
i see only sorry
i see no chance of your bright new tomorrow
Lyrics from href

The careers of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were remarkably similar. They shared the same malign perspective of favor the rich and screw all the rest. They each took the opportunity to crush a union, the air traffic controllers here, the coal miners in England. Perhaps Reagan surpassed Thatcher in racism, although it could be that I don't know enough about Thatcher to express an opinion.

One tremendous difference, though, is that in England Thatcher inspired a wealth of oppositional popular music, like Stand Down, Margaret, whereas there was nothing like that in the United States.

Listen to "Tramp the Dirt Down" by Elvis Costello.

Well I hope I don't die too soon
I pray the lord my soul to save
Oh I'll be a good boy, Im trying so hard to behave
Because there's one thing I know, I'd like to liv
Long enough to savour
That's when they finally put you in the ground
Ill stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.

I don't know of a similar body of anti-Reagan music in the United States. The only thing that comes close is He Got Hungry and Forgot His Manners by Jimmy Breslin. Breslin is every bit as angry at Reaganism as Costello is at Thatcherism, but what really stands out is how rare it is.

Still, as Slate points out, there is a wealth of anti-Thatcher music, and with good reason.

But if we had more of that here in America we wouldn't have Republicans winning elections by railing against inheritance taxes and income taxes for the obscenely rich, while trying to dismantle health care for the poor and aged.

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

The sports page

There's big news in the world of college sports this week, and it really opens a window on the nature of big-time college athletics.

First, you probably heard about Mike Rice, the coach of the Rutgers basketball team. He got fired yesterday after video surfaced showing him shoving, punching, kicking, and throwing basketballs at his players, as well as swearing at them and calling them such vile names as "fucking fairy" and "fucking faggot".

Robert Barchi, the president of the university, released a strongly worded statement about the firing.

"Rutgers University has a long and proud history as one of the nation's most diverse and welcoming academic institutions. Coach Rice's abusive language and actions are deeply offensive and egregiously violate the university's core values," the statement said.

Of course, we also know that the university had the videos of this abusive conduct since at least last November, so when Barchi talks about the "university's core values" I think we know exactly what he means: the desire of Rutgers University not to be publicly humiliated or lose any of its sports revenue.

And are they going to take any action against the athletic director for not firing the coach earlier? No, and for exactly one reason. As they admitted to ESPN, "Pernetti's job is safe" for now because of his prior work on getting Rutgers into a lucrative Big 10 deal last fall.

Stay classy, Rutgers!

Sticking with basketball we have the case of Kevin Ware, the Louisville basketball player with the gruesome tibia fracture on Sunday, the injury that was so bad that the networks aren't even showing the replays of. He had surgery earlier this week, and we're hoping he has a complete recovery that won't interfere with his continuing to pursue his education--er, his career as an unpaid minor league basketball player. This is fortunate, because under existing NCAA rules, if his injury had prevented him from playing he would not be entitled to keep his athletic scholarship.

Every tragedy is an opportunity, though, right? For instance, to honor Kevin Ware Adidas and the NCAA are marketing a T-shirt emblazoned with his number, the Louisville cardinal, and the slogan "Rise to the occasion". You know who won't get any of the twenty-five bucks you have to plunk down to show your respect for Kevin Ware? Kevin Ware or his family. Ever.

If you're still not mad enough at the gross shame and corruption that is big-time college athletics, learn more from this great article by Taylor Branch, The Shame of College Sports, in The Atlantic.

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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Help me understand this

The budget cuts caused by the federal sequestration have been in effect for a month now, and some of them are starting to roll out to the communities where those dollars were going to be spent, and now I'm confused.

Now don't tell me I don't understand economics, because I do. I listen to the Republicans year after year, so I know what works and what doesn't. And like Republicans, the one thing I know for sure is this:

"The government doesn't create jobs," – Mitt Romney, October 16.

So can you explain what Republican congressman Dennis Ross is talking about when he doesn't want the FAA to shut down the control tower at his local airport?

The state’s largest convention, SUN ‘n FUN, which is held in April at Lakeland Linder Airport, not only provides incredible economic value to Lakeland, but it serves our children by investing $1.4 million dollars annually in education. It is unacceptable to close this important control tower. 

Maybe he needs Mitt Romney to explain to him, one more time, that the government doesn't create jobs.

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