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Assault In New Orleans

I was born and raised in the gopher state and I worked on the old “Bud Grant Show” on KSTP-TV in Minneapolis way back when, so I feel more than a little connected to the Minnesota Vikings.   However, I hesitate to become emotionally invested in the team because of their habit of knocking on the door to a Superbowl victory only to get their teeth kicked in at the last minute.

That’s not going to happen this year.  There’s no chance at the Superbowl following yesterday’s loss to New Orleans.  Thing is, I’m not so sure it was the Vikings fault.   It was obvious from the first few plays, that the Saints were out to do everything and anything they possibly could to injure Vikings QB Brett Favre short of beating the poor guy to death with truncheons.   I know it’s a physical game.  I know all that, but this was ridiculous.   The unnecessary beating he took will probably end up claiming several years off the back end of his life.

Is there no rule in the NFL regarding late hits?  I’ve never seen a QB get slaughtered with late hits the way the Saints were hitting Favre.  And the refs?  Did they have a meeting before the game and decide they were going to turn a blind eye to hits on Favre after he had thrown the ball?  And what about using helmets as a weapon?  Isn’t there a rule against helmet hits as well?  Let’ see…..yes, there is.  Again, where were the refs, and for that matter, where were the Vikings coaches?  Why weren’t they yelling about all of this as the Saints continued breaking or at least bending the rulebook into pretzels to beat, batter and bludgeon their 40 year old quarterback who just kept sucking it up and coming back for more?

What happened to Favre wasn’t football.  It was assault.  If what happened in New Orleans yesterday is okay by the NFL rulebook, then it’s time for the NFL to rewrite the book on helmet tackles and unnecessary roughness.  I think the commissioner was there and possibly watching the game?

The Blast From Mass

So the people of Massachusetts have chosen Mr. Brown over Martha Coakley.    They have chosen a man who has pledged to vote against health care reform.

A study out of Wisconsin, indicates a jump of 83% in the cost of family health insurance premiums by 2016 if there is no reform.   The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that nationally, premiums will jump 70% by 2018 without reform.

And the people of Massachusetts, the state that gave us Teddy Kennedy,  have just voted against health care reform?  Oh wait, silly me, Massachusetts already has a health care plan for its residents.   Why should they care about the rest of the country?   Let the folks in Wisconsin and California go broke paying for health care, so long as everything is fine back in Massachusetts.  Never mind that they have just shot down the Democrats “supermajority” in the Senate, which means the Republicans will now be able to filibuster every progressive move the Democrats try to make, including legislation that might increase the number of new jobs rather than backing the multi-national corporations with their millions in campaign contributions (bribes) and continued outsourcing.  No, far better to go with the “party of no” and maintain the status quo.   The horror…..the horror……

Note to Mr. Obama:  The time has come to summon up the ghost of FDR, sir.  It’s time to grab Wall Street and its corporate wonks by the throat.   This attempt at getting along with everybody isn’t working.  The Republicans don’t want to get along.  They want to destroy you and your party.   They just might destroy the country in the process by eliminating the middle class.  Either start fighting back and make those changes you promised, or risk forfeiting the upcoming election.  John McCain says he wants to bring back the Glass Steagall Act.  Call his bluff and back his move.  And make a lot of noise about it.

The following from “Calbuzz” may be informative for Sen. Barbara Boxer and her fellow Democratic incumbents-

“While no one expects U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer to make the kind of rookie, dumbass, arrogant mistakes that Massachusetts Attorney Gen. Martha Coakley made (she’d better not suggest, for example, that Willie Mays played for the Dodgers)*, the election of Republican state legislator Scott Brown in a true-blue state like Massachusetts, suggests that anyone who looks or smells like an incumbent could be in trouble in 2010.”  -Calbuzz

Earthquake Relief Scams

The tragedy in Haiti is bringing out the best in people as millions donate what they can to aid Haitian relief efforts.   Unfortunately, the human equivalent of roaches and rats is also making an appearance with scams designed to try and take advantage of most people’s heartfelt generosity.

The FBI has issued a warning about unsolicited appeals over the Internet.    Web scams were common following Hurricane Katrina and the attack on the World Trade Center.    The FBI was suspicious of most of the 4,600 websites that appeared following the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

A list of valid relief organizations and ratings on the job they are doing can be found at charitynavigator.org.

Or, you can click here for a list of legitimate relief organizations compiled by the Los Angeles Times.

Stop Assisting Kim Jong-il

 Kim Jong-il

photo: wiki commons  

Five months ago, former president Bill Clinton had to travel to North Korea to obtain the release of two American journalists that had apparently “strayed over” into enemy territory.  Apparently, they had made a mistake.  A bad one, but a mistake nonetheless.

Now comes word that another American, this one apparently motivated by religious zeal, has intentionally and illegally crossed over into North Korea to “call attention to tens of thousands of political prisoners believed held in the communist state.”  Oh really?  There are political prisoners being held by a fascist regime?  Do ya think?

Did this young “missionary” carrying a letter for Kim Jong-il really think he could have a positive impact?   This naive 28 year old Korean-American has done nothing that will impede the power of the communist regime in North Korea.   His only accomplishment is that he has given Kim another bargaining chip, another hostage to use in his ongoing battle of wits with the west.

Note to rookie reporters, Christian zealots and others trying to advance their careers or prove their faith –  Stay the hell away from the North Korean border.

John McCain Supports FDR’s Solution

 John McCain   Franklin Roosevelt

I’ll fess up right here and now.  I’ve gotten to a point where I can’t stand to listen to anything John McCain has to say.   For a number of years I’ve seen him as nothing more than a poster child for Republican talking points.  It’s a betrayal problem I guess, as I started out really liking the guy.  You know, war hero and straight shooter and all of that.  A guy who wanted what was best for the country irrespective of party politics.  Sarah Palin comedy bits notwithstanding, John McCain really was, at one time, a maverick.  Then suddenly, he turned and became a puppet for the neocon thinking of George W. Bush,  supporting nearly everything the guy had to say in spite of Dubya’s obvious intellectual difficulties.

It now appears that McCain has flip-flopped again.  Now he’s supporting controls on the economy originally put in place by the father of the “New Deal,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt.   And his co-sponsor on legislation to get it done, is a Democrat who has been labeled a “Democratic Firebrand.”

John McCain and Democrat Maria Cantwell want to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act.

The Act, passed in 1933, separated commercial from investment banking, which prevented bankers from using the money in their banks as casino chips for risky investments (like real estate loans to people with no collateral).    It’s purpose was to insure that another “Great Depression” would never again be allowed to happen.  But it almost did, didn’t it?  It would have, except that the FDIC (another gift from FDR) and the federal government are backing up the bankers, who were permitted to do what they did because Glass Steagall was repealed in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.

The repeal was introduced in the Senate by Republican Phil Gramm and by another Republican, Jim Leach in the House.  It was passed by a Republican majority in both houses and signed by Bill Clinton on November 12, 1999.  Clinton is said to have been urged to sign the repeal by his treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, who was a member of the board at Goldman Sachs for 26 years prior to his government service.  The outsiders are on the inside, and the insiders are on the outside.  That’s how they control the system.  That’s how they got Bill Clinton to repeal the Act.

And so Glass Steagall, put in place to insure America’s future economic stability, went away just as the administration of George W. Bush was arriving.  Eight years later the economy was shot to pieces.

Republicans will tell you it isn’t their fault.  So why is a conservative Republican like John McCain joining forces with a “Democratic firebrand” like Maria Cantwell,  in an effort to reinstate Glass Steagall which is undoubtedly the last thing the banking and investment industry wants?

Has John McCain come to his senses?  Has he determined that his age and all those years in the Hanoi Hilton give him the right to do what’s right for the country without regard for campaign contributions and party politics?

Or is he the point man for a “new” Republican Party?  A party that badly needs to change its image from one of showing blind support for a mismanaged and privatized war on two fronts and unmitigated corporate greed, to that of a kinder and gentler Republican Party, championing the interests of mainstreet America?   A Republican push to reinstate Glass Steagall, might help do just that.

Time To Buy A Filter

A piece by Charles Duhigg in the NY Times “Toxic Waters” series, points to serious safety concerns about tap water in America.   Duhigg reports the water may be legal but still hazardous to your health.

“All told, more than 62 million Americans have been exposed since 2004 to drinking water that did not meet at least one commonly used government health guideline intended to help protect people from cancer or serious disease, according to an analysis by The Times of more than 19 million drinking-water test results from the District of Columbia and the 45 states that made data available.” – NY Times

“Start Building The Ark Honey, These People Just Can’t Agree…”

The majority of the world’s credible scientists,  people with advanced degrees who actually know what they’re talking about, have warned that global warming is a real and present danger.  So why are they still bickering in Copenhagen?  Because that’s what people do.  Being proactive is not prominent among homo sapiens.

Conversely, it appears to be our nature to ignore impending danger until it’s crashing down upon our heads.   Well this time it’s not impending danger, it’s impending doom.  You know, doom?  That’s bad.   Real bad.  Like the Congress of the United States failing to pass healthcare reform legislation that includes a public option.  That’s bad too, because their failure is going to kill people.

Writing about the greed and ego-driven failures of the men and women on Capitol Hill seems to be all but pointless, because the members of the Senate don’t seem to care.   They don’t seem  to be listening to anyone, other than their corporate masters who keep forking over millions in bribe money to ensure that healthcare reform will either fall victim to death in the womb or be born as a sickly and pale child giving the country reform in name only.

Unlike our national legislators who have been bought off, most of the world’s scientists remain genuinely concerned about facts and accountability.  With that in mind, it’s probably worthwhile to include the following editorial from the British newspaper, the Guardian.  It was originally published in 56 newspapers and 20 languages.

“Copenhagen climate change conference: Fourteen days to seal history’s judgment on this generation”

“Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June’s UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: “We can go into extra time but we can’t afford a replay.”

At the deal’s heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”.

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.”  -The Guardian 12/07/09

Tiger Woods – “Athlete of the Decade”

 Tiger Woods

photo: wiki commons 

He may be having problems on the homefront but Tiger is still the man when it comes to chasing a little white ball around.   Members of the Associated Press have just selected Woods as their “Athlete of the Decade.”

“He won 64 times around the world, including 12 majors, and hoisted a trophy on every continent golf is played. He lost only one time with the lead going into the final round. His 56 PGA Tour victories in one incomparable decade were more than anyone except four of golf’s greatest players won in their careers.” -AP

Geothermal Drilling Stops In CA

In what looks like a setback to President Obama’s push to go green, a company going after geothermal energy in northern California, has shut down its federally funded drilling operation.

The New York Times reports that AltaRock Energy, has pulled it drilling rig and informed the federal government that it’s abandoning the project.  The newspaper reports the project was shut down “…a day after Swiss government officials permanently shut down a similar project in Basel, because of the damaging earthquakes it produced in 2006 and 2007.”

With talks on global warming underway in Copenhagen, the timing on the cessation of drilling here in the U.S. is at the very least, interesting?

Happy Holidays From The U.S. Senate

Our wonderful U.S. Senate has gone the extra mile (poor guys are working so hard on our behalf) and hopes to have a health care reform bill hammered out before Christmas.  God bless those wonderful public servants. And God bless our wonderful insurance industry.  And God bless smilin’ Joe Lieberman and his blue dog crew.  It’s the Senate’s job to look out for them too and it appears that’s just what our fine senators are doing.  Tucked away in their shiny new bill under a clause captioned “No lifetime or annual limits” the literary laureates of the Senate have included words that would give insurance companies the right to place annual limits on benefits for serious illnesses, like cancer and, well, who knows what else?  Anything the insurance companies want to place limits on?

Your United States Senate.  They’re always on the job.  Looks like another big win for the insurance industry could be just days away, but hey, they need to make a living too.  Consider it a holiday greeting from those wonderful folks on Capitol Hill.

Get Off Mr. Obama’s Back

 Barack Obama Among many sad episodes in recent American history, one of the saddest is the move by those on the right to criticize President Obama for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Some of the critics act as though Mr. Obama has awarded it to himself.  He has not.   The decision on recipients comes from a selection committee.  Beyond that, there is the great honor of having our nation’s leader being chosen as a recipient.  It’s an honor and a public relations coup for both the President and the country, at a time when international cooperation is a critical component in the fight against the international terrorist conspiracy that continues to threaten the U.S. and the world.

This goes beyond reasonable political differences.  For members of the party of “NO!” to attack the president on this front is simply shameful.

Iraqi Insecurity

 bombing in iraq

photo: u.s. dod

A couple of statements by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki,  point to the futility of prolonging the United States engagement in his country, and why George W. should have taken a deep breath and stepped back from the precipice (like his father did) before sending troops into that tribal mess.

Maliki, says political infighting is preventing the country from appointing a new security minister.   A particularly  sore spot right now, what with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arriving shortly after the deaths of 127 people in a series of bomb attacks on Baghdad.  An al Qaeda affiliated group is claiming responsibility for the bombings.  Maliki is quoted by the AFP as saying, “The intelligence services cannot appoint any chief because there is no political consensus on it.  Every party wants to be in charge of this service.”

Another comment from Maliki, about Osama bin Laden, speaks volumes  with regard to the mindset of some Iraqis.  “Now if I detain Osama bin Laden, some people will ask, ‘Why did you arrest him? He is a mujaheed (religious fighter)’,” Maliki reportedly said of disputes between political groups that he said were causing violence.”

Saddam may be gone but tribal differences remain.  These guys can’t even agree on a security minister.   Seems like that would be kind of ….ah…..basic?

Iraq has been without an national intelligence chief for several months.   Maliki, fired his security chief in Baghdad on Wednesday, following the bombings.

4,685 coalition forces  and more than 100,000 Iraqis have died in the war.   More than 31,000 coalition forces have been wounded in action.   The Iraqi Government has reported that 5 million kids, nearly half the country’s children, are now orphans.

Wolinsky Named Editor At Daily Variety

Congrats to old friend and colleague from the Los Angeles Times, Leo Wolinsky.   After 31 years at the Times, Leo has landed at Daily Variety where he will be responsible for all editorial content.

“After many years on the forefront of news gathering, I feel so fortunate to be joining a great organization like Variety,” said Wolinsky. “The entertainment industry is undergoing dynamic changes and it’s exciting to be there to help chronicle the next chapter in its rapid evolution. Whether it be movies, television, theater or music, tremendous economic, technological and sociological forces are impacting culture around the globe as never before. No one is positioned to tell that story better than Variety.”  -Daily Variety

Leo is one of the really good guys, a top pro from the Times, who helped build the paper into what it was when it was pulling down two to five Pulitzers a year.