Friday, January 30, 2015

The Friday Link for 1/30/15

Before I begin, I'd like to do a quick follow up to the Super Bowl post I made yesterday.  The NFL has made a HUGE admission in regards to deflate-gate.  They admitted they never logged the official air pressure of the balls when they inspected them prior to the AFC Championship game.  This means there is no record of what the air pressure was before the game, hence, they can't say for sure if the balls were inflated correctly (they likely were, but this is a pretty big loophole).  Basically, they NFL has admitted they don't have official proof the balls weren't deflated before the game.  Here's the link to the NBC Sports story:

Even more amazing was how this story disappeared this morning.  When I got up for the show, I started going over the morning news at 4:30 AM and this story was everywhere, on pretty much every major news outlet I could find.  By the time I got to the station and tried to pull the story up at 5:45 AM, the story had been scrubbed from most news pages.  The link above is one of the few remaining ones left.  The story had been replaced with an NFL fluff piece which insists the AFC Championship referees had conducted an appropriate inspection of the balls before the game, but never mentions anything about whether the air pressure was checked or logged.  The NFL has a shocking amount of control over the media in this country.  Read the story before it disappears.

With the Super Bowl, I will post two links for you, both running themes from the last month.  First is Stephen Colbert's hilarious take on how to get around using the term "Super Bowl" from last years big game:

The second link for tonight is one of the better Super Bowl ads from this year and it features one of my favorite funny people around today, Aubrey Plaza.  She's usually seen on the TV show Parks and Recreation (can you believe the star power of that show?  Unbelievable!).  I think she is wonderfully hilarious and just plain fun.  This ad is gutsy because it rips on the concept of wasting a ton of money on a Super Bowl ad, while making a memorable Super Bowl ad for Newcastle Brown Ale.  Tricky, but I like it.  Okay fine I like Aubrey Plaza, but you will too.  Enjoy.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Deflating NFL

With the Super Bowl coming up, let me write something about the National Football League.  I really don't like it as much as I used to.

It started to change with me when the NFL got really full of themselves and insisted no one could use the name of the title game, the Super Bowl.  If you are making any money off of anything, you can't use the term.  You have to pay an obscene amount of money just to say Super Bowl, or you have to refer to "The Big Game," something the NFL will likely try to trademark as well before too long.  What an arrogant bunch of twits.  Colbert mocked them best when he referred to the Superb Owl.

Then came the cracking down on non-profits and church groups who would get a big TV and have a community watching party for the Super Bowl, raising funds for their organization at the same time.  The NFL wants people at sports bars, not in community centers.  Lame.

The whole fight for a new stadium and a Super Bowl in Minneapolis really drove me away from the sport.  With roads crumbling in the state, with schools having to tighten budgets, with infrastructure in desperate need of repair, and with hunger, insufficient medical care, homelessness and addiction issues all being un-adressed, we're going to spend billions of tax payer dollars building a arena for a sports team to play 10 games a year in, a team whose owner could build one themselves, and most likely would if they made any profit.  NFL stadiums are the biggest taxpayer boondoggle in the United States today.

I'm preparing for the mandate of first born children to be delivered to the NFL as a first payment to the NFL executives and team owners for the "privilege" of hosting the Super Bowl in a few years.  Nice to know our tax dollars are going to be wasted on some billionaire's kid guzzling down the mini bar in their Presidential Suite.  I just hope when the citizens of the Twin Cities are called to lie down on the roadways to prevent the NFL big wig's cars from getting mud on them, I'm not required to be where they park.

This years Super Bowl has been abuzz with talk of Deflate-Gate, the discovery that the New England Patriots were using incorrectly inflated balls in their beat down of Indianapolis in the AFC Championship Game.  I think the Patriots did deflate the balls, and that's coming from a Patriots fan, but the NFL would never punish a team appropriately for such a flagrant violation.  What they should do is strip a team caught doing something so outrageous of the ability to play any home playoff games for five years, regardless of what their record is.  I guarantee a punishment like that would make it unlikely something so egregious and petty would happen again.

Here's one thing I don't understand about the under inflated balls.  Of course the Patriots are being accused of never having won any games with properly inflated footballs, but if that was the case, how could no one else never have noticed?  When the Indianapolis Colt player intercepted the ball, he immediately knew there was something wrong with the football and took it to his equipment manager.  Not one referee, an individual who will touch the footballs a hundred times in a game, noticed the infraction?  No other player from the other team noticed it when they picked up a dropped ball?  No one else, when the Patriots were intercepted and fumbled in the past, ever picked up the ball  and noticed it wasn't right?  Something doesn't add up in the argument of this being a long term problem, rather than a one time advantage.

As far as Sunday's game, Seattle 21 New England 20.  I'll watch the Puppy Bowl and some of the commercials, eat a reuben and some nachos and be glad when I don't have every sport person in the country, all of whom have been clearly bought and paid for by the NFL, tell me why something so unimportant as a football game is the most important thing, EVER!!!  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Quick Hits - 1/26/15

I'm getting Iraq War justification guy coming after me about my comments in the American Sniper piece about how Republicans are so desperate to make the Iraq War justified, they will cling onto whatever they can find.  They're bringing up the Kurds, and how Saddam's slaughter of them was the "real" justification.  First, if you hang your hat on the Kurds being the main reason for the Iraq war, you're acknowledging the W. Bush administration was lying about the original justifications for the war, 9/11 and nuclear/chemical weapons.  You're trying to do an end around to validate the war after the fact.  Having a government openly lie to your face, and in turn getting near 5000 soldiers killed, getting over 30,000 soldiers permanently wounded, and costing tax payers trillions of dollars is something you can brush off by hiding behind the feeblest of 'after the fact' excuses?  Secondly, if you're upset about the Kurds, then you hate Reagan, the GOP God.  Remember, the US at best ignored, at worst aided, Saddam's massacre of the Kurds when he was our ally in the region.  Third, I'll agree that what happened to the Kurds was truly horrible and that Saddam was a real disgusting person, but if that's your new standard to invading a country, regardless of the costs, then I have two words - Boko Haram.  If your argument is we should defend the world, I can come up with at least 20 world leaders today, real doozies too, worse than Saddam Hussein.  You sound pretty pathetic, and maniacal, if your bloodlust for war is an on/off switch.  Also, this "why won't anyone help these poor people" justification is coming from the same party which knowingly turned their back on the slaughter of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia because they could use US intervention as a weapon against Clinton (wag the dog).  Let's not ignore what is really going on.  Your bringing up of the Kurds as the "real reason" of the Iraq War highlights your blind allegiance to the Republican party, which allows you to dismiss the dead and wounded American soldiers and the unbelievable amount of wasted tax payer dollars, just so you can rewrite history, all while feigning a false moral superiority.  You're frauds.

Speaking of frauds, Steve King, Congressman from Iowa is a massive one.  As he insists he's the anti-undocumented worker warrior, he is hiding a big secret.  Rep. King knows many large farms and processing plants in his district use undocumented workers.  I lived in Iowa twice and every season, undocumented workers would come in droves to work the fields and the lines.  It happens everywhere in Iowa, including Steve King's district.  He ignores his own rhetoric because many of the big Ag corporations who bankroll his campaign need undocumented workers to keep costs down.  Rep. Steve King knows these undocumented workers are there, he absolutely does, and he chooses to ignore them.  Remember that the next time he bloviates about how he's "tough on illegals."

In my opinion, Sarah Palin is having a serious issue, outside of her usual inability to make a coherent sentence.  Let's look at the facts: she went from being the #2 on the GOP ticket in 2008 to a laughing stock for most Americans, she is known as the governor who quit, for her falling ratings on Fox News, and for a personal media empire which is more of a village inhabited by idiots.  Her speech last summer in Denver sounded like it was given under the influence of something, her family got into a drunken street brawl in Alaska, she is now trying to package her media persona as Republican hot MILF, but comes across as desperate trailer park grandma, and now she had a unbelievable train wreck of a speech in Iowa this last weekend, which, in my opinion, seemed to be more of what we saw in Denver, regardless of the 'excuse' of a broken teleprompter.  I'm starting to see Palin more like Britney Spears, after she shaved her head and was waving an umbrella around.  It became undeniable Britney had a serious problem.  That's how I look at Sarah.

The GOP is now criticizing the Pope for being too liberal.  It's not the Pope's fault the modern Republican has whittled the Bible's 90% liberal message down to an anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-gun, pro-death penalty, pro-wealthy people, anti-poor people, pro-war, mean spirited pep squad tutorial.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Friday Link for 1/23/15

Television Commercials - once the curse of our existence, now mostly relegated to annoying us when we want to watch something on Hulu.  Most of the commercials today stink.  They are just trying to sell you something, not really trying to entertain you.  Put the biggest face in advertising today, probably Flo from the Progressive commercials, up against any of the regular commercial stars of old.  I'll take a Mr. Whipple any day, a character so damn good, people actually used to stop in grocery stores and squeeze the freaking toilet paper.  That's advertising!

Many of the best commercials today are ones with stunning visuals and kick butt music.  The unfortunate part is sometimes you miss the mark with a good artist.  I remember hearing Charlie XCX for the first time on a electronics commercial.  Can't remember the product, but I have all of her music now.  Thanks!

Comedy in a commercial is usually one joke, a weak one, stretched thin over the length of :30 seconds.  The "ha" factor is pretty low.  Some are okay, usually ones geared for the Super Bowl, but even they have become extremely weak, usually playing themselves down to the lowest common denominator of a viewer.  Yawn...  Sometimes I wonder if the commercial is actually a heck of a lot funnier than I initially thought, like the current IHOP commercials.  Are they actually mocking the hipster culture of the day?  If so, sweet Jesus that's hilarious.  Likely, they are not, just doing a milquetoast version of a hipster.  Lame!

Infomercials are a sweet guilty pleasure for me.  I love the cooking ones, because no matter what the product, they will always find a way to get chicken wings, something gooey and cheesy and freaking lobster and/or crab legs in the ad.  Even if it is for a measuring cup, they will feature lobster.  I love that.  "Just buy this potato peeler and you too can have...(wait for it)...LOBSTER!"

So, like many things, to find the better quality product, we have to go overseas.  I might have found the best commercial ever made.  It's for Carlton Draught and it takes it's cue from 80's cop movies.  The music makes this outrageously good, and frankly this is a better safe drinking ad than the confusing "great responsibility" line beer companies have fallen back to so show with minimal effort, "they care."  Enjoy this commercial!

In the Crosshairs

I will not go see American Sniper.  I like Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven is one of my all time favorite movies) and I like Bradley Cooper too, but Chris Kyle, God bless his soul, was more than a little off.  His repeated lies about his life after Iraq clearly call into question his honor and reputation, and one specific one has me scratching my head in regards to why anyone would be looking at this guy as a hero.

First things first, I might not respect Kyle the person, but, as much as this might upset some, I do respect the combat role he fulfilled.  Snipers are not a pretty job, but when was war ever supposed to be pretty?  Do our enemies use snipers on us? Yes (all due respect to Michael Moore's uncle who died at the hands of one in combat, but I do, begrudgingly, have to disagree with his bashing of the military tactic).  Snipers have been a infantry basic since guns were invented and someone realized that guy was better at shooting one than that guy.  In American history, snipers have been the difference makers in major battles from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan.  Our enemies will use them, and so should we.

The modern GOP so wants to go back and make the Iraq War justified and a major success.  It was neither.  It was a made up war, an informercial designed to get the American people to buy the White House's nefarious agenda.  Saddam was a bad guy, but Iraq wasn't behind 9/11, and when that lie came crumbling down, it became a war to stop mythical chemical weapons and nuclear bombs.  Yes, Dems voted for it, but only because the White House was controlling all of the intelligence and lying their asses off.  Regardless, the modern Republican seems to be far angrier at the Dems for voting along with the Republicans.  For the record, 82 Dems voted with the 215 Republicans for war in the House, but the GOP could have passed it without a single Dem.  In the Senate, 29 Dems joined the 48 Republicans who voted for it.  Far more Republicans voted for war than Dems, and a reminder, this was all done at the behest of Bush and Cheney, who had demanded it be done, or else!  Conservatives love American Sniper because it tries to re-write history, implying Iraq was behind 9/11.  They weren't, and rightos need to stop being delusional fools and start blaming the right people for an unjustified war.

But getting back to Kyle, this guy was a liar, and that's no longer just an opinion.  A court in Minnesota has ruled he lied about his confrontation with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, rewarding Jesse millions in damages (for any lawyer, the closing arguments by Ventura's team are a textbook example of how you completely dismantle a weak defense).  Kyle was getting egged on by the right wing media in this country to smear Ventura and he got caught up in the accolades without realizing his liability.  But this is only one lie he's told.

First there is the lie about killing two men who tried to carjack him.  If someone did try to steal his car, he'd have been justified in using force in his defense, but when journalists have tried to validate this story, they come up empty.  Two dead bodies don't just disappear.  There should be a record of it somewhere, but that pales in comparison to the disturbing whopper he told about Katrina.

Chris Kyle claimed he went into the chaos that was post-Katrina New Orleans and killed 30 people who were looting and doing other bad things.  Let's break this down from the top:

  • You manage to get into a devastated New Orleans, but you don't try to help the thousands of desperate people all around you, maybe even taking some of them out the way you got in, and instead decide to start shooting them?
  • This wasn't a military combat mission, this was supposedly Kyle and a buddy setting themselves up on top of the SuperDome and firing off shots, as regular citizens.
  • Your tolerance for people who are in a devastated urban area, who are not receiving any help from the federal government because they are black and vote Democrat, people who are starving and dying of thirst, while their dead family members float by, is so minuscule you feel the best way to deal with them is to shoot them?
  • Kyle, from his vantage point on top of the Dome, insisted he could determine who was and who wasn't a bad guy in the unfolding chaos.
  • Even if these people were breaking the laws and looting, when did we start implementing an instantaneous death penalty, administered by regular citizens, for the theft of a $100 stereo?
  • Kyle, as a regular citizen, decided he was going to be police, judge, prosecutor, jury and executioner and administered immediate justice, gunning down at lest 30 people in the streets of an American city.

If this is true, he should have been arrested and charged with one of the largest mass shootings in the history of this country.  He lied before, and we know he lied on this one too.

But Republicans love to fall in love with an image.  They not only love Kyle because he was unapologetic and expressed a distorted patriotism, and because he was a fervent supporter of the 2nd Amendment, they love him because what he did, shoot Iraqis with glee.  He fulfills the Cheney mantra of all of "those people" being our enemy.  You can't ignore the fact Kyle bragged about shooting Iraqis and African Americans.  This should call into question the true feelings and rationale of any American who calls him their "hero."

Chris Kyle lied.  When did he start?  My experience with liars, especially ones who lie about such ostentatious things, are they have been lying their entire life.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

GOP fun!

The best thing about the GOP majority is watching them have to vote.  They have too.  They can no longer hide behind the Democratic majority and just say what they won't do.  It's the cat who stalks the bird from the bush, only to have the bush all of the sudden vanish.

They initially were called out about climate change.  The Senate, realizing there were cameras involved and this was going to constitute an official stance, voted 99 - 1 to say, "sure, climate change is happening."  Most of the Republicans who voted for this have insisted climate change was a myth in the past, but there is a difference between tea party fund raiser and the floor of the Congress.  They can't afford to have official votes geared toward appealing to their fervent base haunt them when it comes to a general election.

Then came abortion.  This was a little tricker, as I can't quite figure out who pulled the bill before the vote.  The bill would have been a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks unless pregnancy was due to a rape, but only rapes that were officially reported to the police.  Female Republicans, wanting to avoid another fiasco where Republican men got in front of cameras and insisted on defining what is and what is not rape, usually insulting and re-victimizing rape victims when they did so, just wanted the language changed to allow abortions in all cases of rape.  The GOP men refused and so the bill was pulled for a different abortion bill, a far toned down bill.  Mind you, with young voters, going after abortions is very unpopular, so that could have weighed on their decision as well.

Going on the record is a worst case scenario for the GOP.  They really had it nice in the past, getting all of the benefit of the doubt.  Now, they can't hide anymore and they'll either tone down legislation, pull bills from the voting calendar, or go completely against what they have stood for publicly for years, hoping they'll be forgiven by their tea party followers to avoid being labeled as far right loons, which they are.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Unleash the Bonoff!

I've mostly had positive responses to my post about how angry I am with Democratic Senator Terri Bonoff's proposal to remove teacher seniority as the primary consideration during layoffs.  To make sure I have the full picture, can I ask a question or two? Are we planning on laying off teachers en masse soon?  If so, why?  If not, then why are we wasting time on this?

I have met Senator Bonoff twice.  Both times it was very cordial.  I have no problem with a moderate Democrat, as half the time, I agree with them.  I love Congressman Tim Walz, and I understand Democrats who represent districts with a Republican lean need to be more on the moderate side, but starting to go after the teachers union isn't a moderate stance, it's a far right Republican stance.  I will not sit on the sidelines and say, "different strokes!"

I've had four people complain about my protest, and I can't tell if they're Bonoff apologists or anti-teacher zealots.  They all pretty much ran the same script, one I rebuffed easily, and now I'll share my counterpoints, so you can play at home!

Complaint #1 - I'm violating Senator Bonoff's freedom of speech!  Wha...?  No, her freedom of speech is fully intact, as is mine, which allows me to criticize her proposal.

Complaint #2 - I'm guilty of running moderates out of the party!  No, I have no problem with moderate Democrats, but what's moderate about what Senator Bonoff is suggesting?  Removing teacher seniority rules is the first step in dismantling the teachers union and statewide public education as a whole. You get rid of teacher seniority, and then someone proposes a new "test" to become the true standard of what is, and what is not, a bad teacher.  The test is not geared towards educating kids, or even fairly evaluating educators.  It's about punishing teachers, especially experienced ones, and blacklisting schools.  Then someone suggests getting rid of collective bargaining and mandatory union dues, while insisting it would be better if we allowed teachers to have a certificate instead of a degree, eventually neutering the biggest defender and advocate for quality education.  When statewide public schools are a mess, the GOP then starts to divert tax dollars to private schools in the form of vouchers, and to charter schools, which, according to the recent academic testing in the state, scored lower than public schools, and are run by private corporations/individuals.  Think I'm exaggerating?  It's only happened repeatedly in other states in this country, over and over and over again.  There is nothing moderate about what she is suggesting.

Complaint #3 - You're punishing good, young teachers by keeping all of the older, bad teachers on staff!  First, I'm calling you on the Loch Ness Monster/Sasquatch/Bad Teacher story.  These stories reek of lies, like a Canadian girlfriend.  The allegation:  A teacher is horrific (drunk, abusive, surfing the Internet all day) and the school has no recourse to get rid of them.  Trust me, they have methods to get bad teachers fired.  For goodness sake, one substitute teacher was just convicted in court of showing her students a horror movie instead of teaching them.  She was fired.  This conservative, made up story, a bad teacher who can never be fired, has to be created to justify the first step in dismantling the union.  It's a lie!

But I'll play your game, what percentage of teachers do the anti-seniority advocates think are "bad?"  Twenty percent, 30%?  You're a fool if you think so.  In my kid's elementary and junior high, I have yet to meet a bad teacher.  It's like the people who are for voter ID's, who insist there is far more voter fraud than there really is.  Truthfully, there are a few bad teachers, sure, but only a very small percentage, and no where near enough to validate the stripping of seniority from layoff considerations.

When seniority is disregarded in employment negotiations, you open the door to something really scary.  A school district might make the decision to get rid of 30 teachers, each with 20 plus years teaching experience, and replace them with fresh from school, new teachers, at a cost savings to the district.  This scenario has also happened, repeatedly.  It makes our schools worse when we take our most seasoned professionals and replace them with the cheapest.

And here is the best counterpoint to the young verses old misnomer; there is no guarantee you're replacing an experienced teacher with a better teacher, just a younger, far less experienced one.  They can't say one way or another if that new teacher will be better than the one they replace.

Complaint #4 - I think we should get rid of the seniority rules because I only care about the kids.  Oh, please.  I have three of them.  You think I don't care about what's best for kids?  When you pull out the "Kids" argument, you're no better than people who accuse anyone they disagree with as not caring for the troops, or for supporting the terrorists.  I'm for the kids too, including mine.  That's why I want the best, most experienced teachers teaching them.

What these made up problems really hide is the tremendous effort many teachers put forward to help students.  Considering the extreme dynamics which make up the standard public school classroom's student body, teachers do a incredibly hard job, sometimes with near zero parental support, many times spending their own money, and investing an obscene amount of time, while constantly being accused of failing.  The last thing teachers need is a hostile political environment.  Instead of asking what we can take away from the teachers, we need to be asking them, and the school districts, what do you need?

My stance is about keeping education in Minnesota strong.  We shouldn't buy into a political ulterior motive hidden behind the "bad teacher" lie. With all due respect to Senator Bonoff, I will not sit idly by why you propose the first step in destroying our public schools, with a smile on your face.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Friday Link for 1/16/15

Everyone knows I love MST3K, so this link tonight shouldn't be too much of a leap.

I stumbled upon the Cinema Sins guys one day and have been addicted ever since.  Their series "Everything Wrong With..." is hilarious.  They watch a movie, then piece together the egregious errors from the movie, such as movie cliches, continuity problems, and feasibility scenarios.  They inter cut it with humor.  The end result is a too funny (and actually very educational in regards to making movies).

Warnings - first these guys do use a lot of salty language.  They bleep the real bad words, but viewer be warned.

Second, they are going to show you a lot of the movie they are dissecting.  When they put the "spoilers (duh)" warning up, they mean it.  If you want to watch the movie, or at least watch the movie without knowing all of the gapping holes in it, wait until after you do so before watching the Cinema Sins guys.

Trust me, the '2012' and "Batman and Robin' breakdowns are amazing, but work your way up to them with National Treasure.  Nike Cage is always a safe bet!  Enjoy.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ignoring the Lessons Learned

Minnesota Senator Terri Bonoff greatly disappointed me with her bill to strip seniority from the teacher's ranks.  It's mind boggling a Democrat would author a bill like this.  Senator, you do know that there are already methods in place to remove bad teachers, don't you?

I know Senator, "I'm not saying we throw out all experienced teachers."  In turn, yes you are.  We have already seen an education system ripped apart by the mythical weeding out of "bad teachers," but in state after state where they have gotten rid of seniority protections, the quality of education has fallen dramatically.  Why?  Because conservatives then introduce a test structure which actually hurts experienced teachers and rewards inexperienced teachers.  Then the good teachers are thrown under the bus, accused of being a bad teacher even though they had a 99% graduation rate before the new testing structure.  They are labeled as a bad teacher even though they had all passing grades on their tests but the overall scores weren't as high as a brand new teacher who only taught the test for an entire year.

What other industry is it good to throw out all of your most experienced professionals? Tell me.  Who would hire an architect or law firm, or a medical group who routinely threw out a third of their most experienced professionals just because they didn't preform well enough on an arbitrary test?  Maybe if the House and Senate got rid of their seniority rules and got rid of their bad legislators first, then maybe you could lead by example, giving your argument more validity.  And trust me, there are a lot of bad legislators, Senator Bonoff.

The tests used to get rid of teachers with seniority are not designed to educate kids, but to punish experienced teachers, validating the erosion of our education system under this modern red herring.  Then there is the desire to label our schools as under performing and insufficient so private businesses can get their hand on the money pile which is tax dollars set aside for public education.  You do know this, don't you Senator?

Senator Bonoff, this bill has to be about one of three things, 1) killing the teacher's union, 2) pandering to the charter school crowd (many of whom also hate the teacher's union), or 3) a misguided attempt at cutting costs (even though the tests in effect today point to properly funded schools preforming far better than under funded schools).  Regardless, it's disturbing.  Maybe you introduced this bill early in this session because you hope the Democrats will forget about your true feelings when primary season comes up.  Good luck with that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Third World USA - Addendum

It has been pointed out to me how much the sulfur mine to extract copper and nickel from the ground around Ely, Minnesota falls into this Third World USA mold.  The mining companies who are the real puppet masters behind this mine are based in Canada, Brazil, Europe and China.  They have created a fake dummy Minnesota company to make it look like an American operation.

Sulfur mining is astounding in its environmental danger.  There is a mine in Montana from the 1800's where the pit of sulfur is still sitting there, threatening to overflow it's retaining walls.  That mine will not be safe for another 400 years.  In the history of sulfur mining, there has never, NEVER, been a clean, environmentally safe operation, something the pro mining people are insisting will be the case this time, but they also insist no rules or laws be enacted to ensure the international mining conglomerate is held accountable if an environmental clean up needs to happen.

The checks to political campaigns, ensuring this mine goes through with zero concern for the citizens of the state, are being written fast and furious, buying off the decision makers to do harm to the rest.  Union heads are screaming for approval even though the mining company has only implied it will use union workers.  No guarantees.  I would bet the same mining people are negotiating with federal regulators to allow them to ship cheap, temporary non-union workers from Oklahoma and Alabama up here to circumvent union hiring rules.

When the truth comes out years from now, long after the foreign companies have pocketed the money from Minnesota's ground and left a scarred earth behind, some Droopy of a mining executive will say "oops," followed by "we're bankrupt."  Then some Droopy politicians will get in front of some cameras and say "oops, I guess we shouldn't have trusted them."

If this sounds familiar, it's exactly what has been done in African, Asian, Central and South American countries.  In many of those places, if the locals dare protest the toxification of their land or the low sub-human wages, they get shot in the streets, or they just disappear.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Third World USA

Last weekend I realized we're in big trouble in America.  Projects like the Keystone pipeline prove America is becoming more of a third world country for the rest of the developed world, and it's happening in large part because of the complete lack of accountability Republican voters have for their elected officials.

The Keystone pipeline will not make American businesses any money and the oil from it will not help our oil needs, instead it's already committed to foreign countries.  This pipeline will surely leak, and will only create 40 permanent jobs.  This isn't the latest example of greedy, corporate America abusing US citizens.  It's Canadians doing it.  It's Canadian oil companies who could create a far shorter pipeline to take the oil across Alberta and British Columbia to the Canadian Pacific Coast, so ask yourself, why would they build an much longer pipeline to come south instead of going west?  Let's look at the USA route:

1) Port Arthur, Texas is a foreign-trade zone, where goods come into America, but are treated like they haven't entered the country yet.  Port Arthur has something more.  It has refineries, a lot of them, and the oil would come across the US, get refined at the port and then loaded onto ships to sail away without a US tax or charge on it.  Even though it is traveling across the heart of America, the oil will not be taxed unless the product is refined and then 'taken back' into the USA (this happening in a country which proudly states "America First").  We regulate train lines more than pipelines, that's why the Keystone push.  Canada doesn't have a tax free zone on their Pacific Coast, let alone one with refineries to process the tar sands oil, and will likely tax the oil as it leaves Canada.  Factoring it all in, it's more profitable for the Canadian oil company to go with the far longer pipeline.

2) Labor costs are cheap in the United States.  Conservative policies have whittled away at workers pay and benefits, to where wages for most of the country have actually gone down in the last 50 years (factoring in inflation).  Even good union jobs are a hollow shell of their former selves.  A large portion of the country doesn't even receive a living wage.  This new American work reality has been created by Republicans.

3) Product and Safety standards are almost non-existent in the modern Conservative America.  We used to demand products were made with quality raw materials, with highly trained labor, and controlled testing.  Decades of lobbying have changed the system, to dirt cheap, unsafe raw materials, unskilled hourly workers and lax testing.  It's created a system where the question isn't if the pipeline will leak, but how bad.  It also makes it far cheaper to do a pipeline in the United States verses Canada, which still maintains rigorous quality standards.

4) Because it will done on the cheap, the pipeline is expected to leak an estimated 91 times in 50 years.  How bad remains to be seen, but we can expect a few of those leaks to be major.  If the Keystone pipeline was going to go through Canada, the company would have far more rules and regulations to follow, and if the pipeline leaked, the oil companies would have to clean it up.  Not in the USA!  They can hook up a sprinkler to the pipeline, spray unrefined oil all over the land for days and Republicans will ensure the company is not only blameless, they'll find them a tax break too.

(On a side note, the fact the union heads are fighting so hard to get this pipeline approved tells me how bad things have gotten for organized labor.  There was a time when the unions would have been the biggest voice against a boondoggle like Keystone.)

If this business model sounds familiar, it's because it is starting to look like the one US businesses adopted in the 1970's.  They realized they could ship the raw materials to a foreign country, buy off the local government, get slave labor to make their products, and then ship them back to the United States.  In the years that followed, the American manufacturing base was nearly wiped out.  If international business could lower the costs of raw materials, manufacture here, and in turn save on the shipping costs to and fro, the businesses might be able to find a low salary for the American worker just high enough for them to buy the products produced.  They've been trying to find that mythical price point for years, and are very close.

What is happening is so anti-American, you'd think the modern "America First" Republican voter would be out in the street demanding it stops, but the modern right doesn't care about what's best for Americans any more.  Their entire mantra is based around hating what the Democrats are for.  Their blind allegiance creates an accountability vacuum.  Since Republican voters are only concerned about what the Democrats are doing, they pay zero attention to the politicians they've elected.  The only time the GOP voter does seem to care is when the harsh reality of the polices they've endorsed comes to light, but even then, regardless of how little say the left has in their system, they can always find a Democrat to blame first.

From the foreign companies point of view, they don't have to rely on slave labor and inhuman conditions, common in many third world countries, hence their conscious is cleaner (heck, they can do an entire marketing campaign about how they love 'Merica!), and when you look at the bottom line, it is far more expensive to pay a military despot or evil dictator millions of dollars than it is to scratch out a $20,000 campaign check to get your own Republican lap dog who will sell their soul and the souls of their constituents, with a smile on their face.  It's a bargain to pay off Republicans to treat the American population horribly!

Keystone is just the beginning.  Look for many foreign economic powerhouses to start eyeing the United States as the place for their low wage, unsafe jobs.  As long as Republicans ensure salaries are low, regulations are unenforced, quality control is a low priority and safety is never a concern, and as long as the modern Republican voter doesn't notice what the people they've elected into office are doing, the USA will continue it's regression from the ranks of the developed nations to the under-developed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Friday Link for 1/9/15

Game shows aren't usually funny.  You can have classic funny moments, like the one The Newlywed Game had many years ago (YouTube it), and of course you can have charismatic game show hosts, but really the shows aren't, for the most part, funny.

I think the gold standard for comedy in game shows was Match Game. Gene Rayburn was such a hilarious host, playing the straight man most of the time, corralling half drunk celebrities, and occasionally running with the punchline when he knew his was best.  The celebrities were off the cuff and uproarious at times, but the concept of the Match Game is one of the best, a simple game of Mad Libs where the contestant had to match the celebrities.  Loved that show.

The Family Feud was actually a "spin-off" from Match Game, but not like AfterMASH.  Match Game was such a popular daytime game show, they asked the creators of the Match Game, the very recognizable Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, to create another game show, which became The Family Feud.  They plucked Richard Dawson from Match Game to be the new host, and he played it up perfectly, mugging for the camera, flirting with the ladies and using the right amount humor.  The Feud was soon the number one game show on television and stayed that way through the early 80's.

When Dawson left, the show had numerous hosts, including Ray Combs (whose fall was tragic), Minnesota's Louie Anderson, Home Improvements Richard Karn and Dancing with the stars/Seinfeld's John O'Hurley, but none of them were anything special.  The show seemed destined for "remember when" specials.  Then came Steve Harvey.

Steve Harvey is the funniest host of the Family Feud since Dawson himself.  He is perfect for the show.  He has great reactions to jaw dropping answers, relates to the families and audience brilliantly and seems to be having a great time.  The show has also opened up the answers, so you can get more adult responses.  This also plays to Harvey's comedic abilities.  I can say for the first time since I was 12, I will stop and watch Family Feud whenever I find it on.

Jeopardy is my favorite game show, Match Game made me laugh, and I think the Pyramid had the best final round period, but Steve Harvey on the Feud, in my opinion, is hilarious.  Tonight, enjoy some of the funniest moments from his tenure (NAKED GRANDMA!) but there is an adult theme to some of it, so be advised.  It's your Friday link!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Third Party Candidates

I wanted to take some time to clarify some comments I made about third party candidates.  The discussion started on Tuesday when Diane in St. Louis Park (a listener who doesn't care for the two party system and is a big supporter of ranked choice voting) commented that the incoming Speaker of the Minnesota House not showing up to the swearing in ceremony of the Governor is more indicative of the failure of the two party system, ignoring the real problem, petty partisanship which is the mantra of the GOP today.  She then used her distorted deduction to call for an abandoning of the two party system and expressed frustration that more people were not willing to throw their long voting allegiances to the side, for third party candidates.

A third, fourth and fifth party can exist, and they can be successful, but they're hard to start, and require a massive amount of effort, time, supporters, and financial backers to bankroll them.

But, let me start by acknowledging the reality we live in, stating the obvious: You are doing the GOP puppet masters bidding when you throw your hands in the air and insist their is no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.  That is exactly what the right wants you to think.

Being angry and dissatisfied with the Democrats is a hobby for some on the left.  They can always find something the President and Democratic leaders are failing on; Keystone, Guantanamo, Net Neutrality.  Don't get me wrong, Obama's support of the TPP, oil drilling and his close allegiances to Wall Street are very disappointing, Democrats need to grow a spine more often and I think Harry Reid is a waste of skin, but the President and the Democrats have managed to do a lot of good considering the forces they have had to contend with.  The two party system is what we currently have, and if you protest not getting exactly what you want from one party by not participating in the elections, you're helping the other party by default.  That's a fact made clear by the results of 2014.

Let me challenge the flawed accusation that there is no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans another way.  The GOP's main goal is to end the basic social safety nets and social rights we have in this country.  Public education?  Whittled down to 'pay for education,' and if you can't afford it, no school for you.  Transportation?  No mass transportation, more toll roads, and no basic repairs, with the exception being the roads in wealthy neighborhoods and around corporations.   Workers rights?  No unions, no pay, no benefits and your only recourse is to quit.  Health care?  "Let 'em die!"  Tax policy?  Wealthy people and corporations not only don't pay any, they actually get massive rebates, all paid for by the middle and lower class, just because they are wealthy (Kansas and Wisconsin are prime examples of this principle in its early stages).  I don't necessarily agree with the Democrats stances on all issues, but don't tell me their isn't a difference between the two parties.  I imagine the families of tens of thousand of dead and permanently injured soldiers from Iraq would whole hardily agree there is a difference.

Money in elections is a legit problem, but that too can be addressed.  Prohibition wasn't a national issue until politicians who believed in enacting a Constitutional Amendment started to get elected to the US House and Senate beginning, in earnest, in the 1910 election.  After 1912, 1914, and 1916, enough politicians had been elected to office to start those wheels into motion.  Granted Prohibition was a misguided endeavor, but the point remains, if we held our politicians to one standard over all, the first act of their first day would be to introduce "a Constitutional Amendment limiting the amount of spending in elections by political candidates, and 'money isn't speech,' and we limit the amount of outside money spent on an election, and none of it anonymously," we could start to change the tide of this issue, and eventually get to a point where real change can happen.  It just will take many years, and a heck of a lot of hard work.

How about the third party's themselves?  The feeling many have is you can't run a third party candidate today and win.  I don't disagree with that sentiment.  If I was to start the Matt Party, I wouldn't get invited to the debates, I wouldn't get the press coverage, and I wouldn't get the money of the major parties.  It's foolish to think the major parties have to recognize you, just because your political party exists.  I don't agree with opening up the debates to everyone and anyone.  If your political point of view garners interest in less than 2% of the population, I don't think you should be part of the debate (currently, Minnesota demands 5%.  I think that's too high.).  I don't want to see our elections become like the California recall election where for every legit candidate, 6 others who were jokes got the same stage.  That's how you get buffoons elected.  Starting an effective third party is not a sprint, it's a marathon, but a marathon you can lose if you don't stay focused on the finish line.

Let's look at two examples.  First, I'm no fan of Ron Paul, or of the Tea Party, but they've given a textbook example of how you start a political party or highly influence a major party.  By taking advantage of the system that was in place, individual Republican state primaries and caucuses, the far right pseudo-libertarians started getting more and more say in the Republican national agenda.  Today, they have a majority control of the Republican party, a party that is terrified of them breaking off and beginning their own political party, something they could easily do.  Their demented rise started only six years ago, a tiny blip on the timeline of politics.  It can be done.

The Independence Party in Minnesota isn't dead, but it's on life support and needs a major re-boot to become relevant again.  They mismanaged their nomination process and ended up with a non-Independent, Tea Party Senate candidate.  They screwed up, but instead of ignoring that race and focusing on the Governor's race, many of the party jumped ship and endorsed the Republican.  By changing affiliation as quickly as they did, they doomed the IP to failure this last election.

What both of these cases point out is your political movement is only as powerful as the amount of people who are willing to endorse it.  The Tea Party, shockingly, strengthens because the people involved don't want to be just far right Republicans, and the Independence Party falters as the members of their congregation look to return to their old church.

Which brings up another question people who desire third party's don't want to ask.  Is the foundation for your third party an issue that is primarily important to only you and a handful of your friends?  Is it really that popular?  This is a hard question to answer.  We all become convinced something that means a lot to us individually is important to everyone, but is it really enough to start a successful political party?  Most of the times no.  Doesn't mean you shouldn't fight for what's important to you, but if I'm for taco Tuesday really becoming a mandatory "taco Tuesday," can I convince enough people to abandon their established political ties to jump on board a new political party centered around that principle?  When worse comes to worse, can I still count on all of those followers to stay on board the taco Tuesday bandwagon, or will they run back to a political party that is more relevant?  It breaks my heart to see people passionate about something fail because they never realized what they believe in is not something many others do.  Remember, it has to become a rallying cry for your new party, not just something turned down by your old political party and you're determined to prove them wrong.

And what happens when you do find an issue that does get many people motivated?  Let's look at the Green Party.  They live on because their tent pole issue fires up fervent loyalty, but the Green Party wised up years ago and started developing a complete political platform, giving their party substance and sustainability.  Their political stances have some similarities too other parties, but they are unique to the Green Party.  You can't just be the one issue and then the Democrats for everything else.  It has to be a complete foundation for a political party/movement to thrive.

If someone on the left was smart, they would start to cultivate the feelings of the Occupy Movement. There was a political issue which had massive appeal.  A political party based on defending the rights of the citizens against Wall Street and Corporate America would garner ground support quickly.

I know this article might come across harsh, but I really am for more than two major political parties.  I think the best governments function when they have three to five major political parties represented, but at the end of the day, I do prefer quality over quantity.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Quick Hits - 1/4/15

Here are some quickies before we get back at it tomorrow:

1 - House Majority Whip Steve Scalise from Louisiana is not only a lying, racist pig, but he's a fool that just exposed how warped many people who vote Republican really are.  In another misguided effort to defend his speaking to, and buddying up to, white supremacist groups in the not too distant past, he has tried to rationalize his bleach white speaking tour by comparing the white supremacists, Nazi's, Klan, and other racist groups to the League of Women Voters.  The idiotic argument goes - All that pro white and pro white male organizations do is advocate for white people rights, just like the LWV advocates for women's rights.

Setting aside the fact white men still pretty much dominate most power structures in the USA (this is white guys giving up 5 cents of the dollar, and insisting the conversation needs to revolve around the real victims, the white guys who are persecuted because all they have left is 95 cents), and moving around, not ignoring, the valid point that pro white groups are generally for persecuting anyone who is not white, male and Christian, I found the choice of the League of Women Voters interesting.

The reason the slime ball Scalise picked them is because it was probably one of the few non-racist groups he spoke in front of back then.  He is trying to paint them as some liberal, 'women only vote' organization to offset his embracing the racists.  The League of Women Voters, from their website: dedicated to ensuring that all eligible voters – particularly those from traditionally underrepresented or underserved communities, including first-time voters, non-college youth, new citizens, minorities, the elderly and low-income Americans – have the opportunity and the information to exercise their right to vote. 

The LWV isn't a liberal group, and not a women first group, but a very noble and legitimate pro-information, pro-voting group,  But that didn't stop Scalise from trying to paint them as liberal, anti-man hippies.  Why? Because most people who vote Republican might not be racists (a shocking large percentage of them are), but they view being a Democrat/Liberal as a bigger sin than preaching white power.  That's scary.

2 - It is hilarious to watch Kansas, a state run completely by the modern Conservative political ideology, fall into the 7th circle of hell.  On Tuesday of last week, the jobs report showed job growth in Kansas was almost non-existent, and the promise of jobs running out of Missouri into Kansas has not materialized.  Missouri is hiring at four times the rate of Kansas.  Then, later on Tuesday, a state judicial panel ruled that regardless of Republican, anti-education, self gratification fantasies, the state of Kansas has to fund it's education system for an additional $500 million, money the state gave to the biggest corporations and the wealthiest residents, people who have no intent to give back to the state.  They have great, great, great, great, great grandkids private schooling to pay for!  This is on top of a 1.1 billion dollar hole the state is already in.  And then on Wednesday, they heard they were another $15 million short on tax collections.  And the hits just keep on coming.  Early reports are Kansas Republicans are hiding how truly horrible the tax numbers are, because they would rather watch every public sector in the state crumble than admit throwing tax dollars at wealthy people is not a sane economic policy.

To the Tea Party idiots in the state of Kansas who never even thought of voting for the other candidates on your ballot, even though you knew the Republicans had failed miserably, I'm really enjoying watching you reap what you sowed.  Have fun!

3 - Louis Gohmert is going to challenge John Boehner for Speaker of the House.  I am on my knees praying he wins.

4 - The University of Minnesota Gopher Football team lost in the Citrus Bowl because of multiple reasons.  The defense got run down and tired, unable to wrap up Missouri's running game, our QB is good enough to get to a bowl game, but he's not bowl game winning caliber (yet), and the referees clearly missed enough big drive calls that would have changed a lot of the game's dynamic (face mask, holding, offensive pass interference), and in turn gave Missouri an advantage, but lets not look past the biggest problem.  The coaches for the Gophers mis-managed that game horribly.  They looked like they were the epitome of "just happy to be there."

5 - Minnesota kicks caboose!  I've lived in towns where showing up on one of those "best of" lists was the selling point of their town for the next three years.  Ben Johnson from City Pages has a great story about how many times Minneapolis/St. Paul and Minnesota showed up on these positive lists in 2014.  So far for 2015, we showed as the 9th safest state to live in and the Twin Cities has the best drivers in the nation.  Go Team, GO!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Friday Link for 1/2/15

So now that I mailed it in for the last two weeks, paying tribute to Stephen Colbert, the question needs to be answered, "since we are saying goodbye to the best political humorist in the country, who will take his place?"

My answer is not Jon Stewart, but Stewart does own the fake news category.  He does it so well, the Saturday Night Live fake news cast is horribly unfunny now, in comparison.  Colbert understood he couldn't just be a The Daily Show 2, and that's why he excelled.  To find the next big political humorist, we must now look to another former Daily Show correspondent, John Oliver.

Oliver was exceptional when he filled in for Stewart while he made the movie Rosewater, and it was a matter of time before one of the other networks plucked him away.  He was smart enough to go with HBO and the freedom cable television brings.

John Oliver not only skewers the big stories brilliantly, he does not shy away from a treasure trove for comedy, international news.  Some of the comedy bits he does are the first time I am even aware of a political or social event overseas.  He also does something which makes him my pick to rule the political humor category, he does investigative journalism.

Investigative journalism used to be a tent pole of every major news outlet, but with the streamlining of news and budget cutting, those departments, and many great journalists, are no longer around.  Oliver and his crew must have realized this window was there.  In the first season he has been on, his show Last Week Tonight has done amazingly work exposing the real story behind predatory lending, the sugar lobby, civil forfeiture and the Ms. America pageant.  It's important work which elevates his comedy to a different level.  He is a fine choice to take over Colbert's throne.

The link tonight is his hilarious look at State Legislatures. Warning - Adult content and language!!! Enjoy!