Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kicking the Kennedys

Shooting has just begun on a new History Channel miniseries based on the Kennedys. The eight-hour project has already stirred up some controversy, as it apparently looks deep into the making of the family warts-and-all. "The Kennedys" is being produced by "24" creater Joel Surnow, who is a well-known conservative. The History Channel has always been an ideological channel, tending to offer conservative perspectives while feigning the imprimatur of "objectivity." But this seems a little ridiculous -- particularly the timing right soon after Edward's death. Next up, maybe they can do a recounting of the Clinton presidency by Rush Limbaugh and Richard Mellon Scaife. Or maybe a reexploration of FDR and the New Deal by Sean Hanity and Thomas Sewell. Or maybe they should just merge with Fox News . . .

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Depression Redux?

An important op ed from Paul Krugman on Sunday suggested that we may be on the road to a depression: While the worst of the current financial crisis appears to be behind us, we still have historically high long term unemployment, rising debt and seem to be heading toward an austerity program when it is clear we need to further stimulate the economy instead. As Krugman argues, "In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy." To return to a rather obvious point, "if we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat it." What appears to be happening at present is repeating the mistakes of Herbert Hoover and the other liberal, laissez-faire politicians and economists of the 20s and early 30s. Rather than heeding the clarion call of looming catastrophe, we are adhering to tired, orthodoxy led by neoliberal economists and politicians who refuse to admit they are wrong.

Lest us forget, these are the same economists that all but destroyed the Russian economy (before it stopped listening and recovered), that created the Asian Financial Crisis, whose policies have severely damaged Argentina and other countries in South America and Africa (where poverty is higher today than it was 30 years ago), who can be blamed for the S&L crisis, the two Stock Market collapses and the financial crisis of 2007. But we just keep listening, with a tone deafness that would be extraordinary if it didn't mean that millions in the Europe and the U.S. and billions across the globe were not about to suffer under the absurdity of the choice. It's as if world leaders across the developed world have completely lost their minds and their collective blind faith in markets renders them incapacitated to be reasonable. If we don't start listening to sensible voice, like Krugman (and Obama to some extent), we are headed toward the slow, steady and irreversible decline of not only the United States, but probably the entire West. While some might cheer that decline, I hope someone comes to their senses before it is too late . . .

Monday, June 28, 2010

Conservative, Non-Partisans Unite!

I write often here about the rhetorical strategies and tautologies conservatives use and the general tenor of conservative discourse. Today, I was looking up Mike Huckabee corruption charges as the New Yorker has a piece on him this week and many polls are now showing him as the early Republican favorite ( Arkansas News' John Brummett's reading of the New Yorker piece is that it "was mostly flattering and favorable, devoting far more words to the good side -- the independent thought and interest-generating unpredictability, the communication and quipster skills -- than to the bad, meaning the huffiness, ethical shortcomings, bad judgment on commutations and paroles, and the occasional meanness or poor taste or hyperbole of those quips," So I thought I would check out some of these corruption charges.

This led me to a site,, that had a list of their "Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicans." Ironically, during a period when one Republican after another is being charged with corruption charges of one kind or another, their lists always contain 8 to 10 democrats, including President Obama, Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and, of course, Hillary Clinton for two of the past three years. In 2007, the list included Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani and Larry Craig, as well as I. Lewis Libby. Funny that two were potential Republican candidates that conservatives don't like. After reading the list, I moved on to other articles, recognizing that this was a far right group that sent out press releases and had an official looking site that tried to give it the imprimatur of authenticity.

I finished by going to the "About Us" page, to learn more. And here, in the first paragraph, was an interesting distinction: "Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law." They go on to talk about educating the American people and conservatives about corruption and how to use the law and Freedom of Information Act (which the Bush administration abhored), to serve their cause. But I'd like to focus for a moment on the "conservative, non-partisan" nature of the organization. Is this an oxymoron? Actually it isn't, as one can be a conservative (like many Tea Party members, who they seem to support), without aligning themselves with one party of the other. However, I do think it is disingenuous with these groups, that might want to push the Republican party further to the right, but relentlessly attack anything and everything liberals do. What does non-partisan really mean in a country where most conservatives reject everything liberal and most liberals everything conservative?

On a final note, Huckabee did take the opportunity of his interview (for the station he works for, one might add) to laud Jeb Bush as one of the smartest Republicans in politics today. Could we have a third round of Bushies in the White House? I hope the American people are smart enough to remember the wars, the economic decline, the increased deficits and the verbal gymnastics that those 12 years brought us. Please, remember . . .

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Thankless Ones

There can be no more thankless job in the world than umpiring/referring big time sports (college and professional). When you do a good job, there is little praise -- and often these days, a series of prima donnas like Kobe Bryant and Derrick Fischer that berate you endlessly anyway. When you make a mistake, the fans scream at you, the television play the error over and over again (sometimes for days) with the benefit of multiple angles and slow motion, and you might even get death threats.

But something has to be said about how bad the referring has been in the World Cup. The second game of the tournament led some to believe it mght be the opposite, after a clever offsides call turned out to be right (the second defender rule that most of us never think about because of the goalie). In any case, since then we have seen one bad call after another. Obviously are the two terrible calls against the United States, who still advanced and won the Group (the first infamous ghost foul by the U.S. against Slovenia, the other now forgotten bad offsides call on a goal by Demsey against Algeria). But there were also several questionable reds including against Australia's Tim Cahill and Germany's star Klose, as well as against Nigeria in a game that probably kept them from advancing. There was a ridiculous double hand ball goal by Brazil against Ivory Coast, the flop by De Rossi in Italy v. New Zealand that led to a tying penalty and countless other minor offenses.

Now we enter the elimination round where these errors can be profound. And while the missed hand ball by a South Korean defender yesterday turned out not to matter, both games today were changed by terrible calls. In the England game, a strike by Lampart was clearly in the goal but missed by all the referees. The goal would have equalized the game in the first half and probably made for a must better second half. While Germany ultimately won 4-1, the last two were on breakaways that probably wouldn't have happened but for the necessity of England pushing for the equalizer. Now in Argentina versus Mexico, the refs miss one of the more obvious offsides calls I've ever seen. Argentina probably would have won anyway, but the truth is Mexico was looking good until that point and you never know.

Hockey was smart enough to introduce goal line technology a few years ago to eliminate errors of this nature. It is time for FIFA to join the times and do so as well. At minimum, they need to use replay for the goal line, maybe for offsides and potentially for terrible calls on goals like the two disqualified U.S. goals and the missed offsides that gave Argentina 1-0. Otherwise we will continue to see blown calls like this that arguably decide games. I still think the worst call in the history of sports happened at the 1988 Olympics, when Roy Jones lost one of the most lopsided victories in boxing history (to a South Korean boxer in South Korea); though the infamous ending to the 1972 basketball gold game is close. In football, the "hand of god" goal by Maradona probably takes the cake, though they might disagree in any given English pub tonight.

Ignorance Wins Again and Again

There was a wonderful post in Talking Points Memo a couple of days ago, which you can read here: In it, Theda Skocpol makes the point that Republicans have a tendency to engage in reckless economic behavior (tax cuts, deficit spending) then pass off the torch to Democrats. Afterwards, they ensure that no real stimulus goes through then blame the problems on Dems and run against their own policies. It's happening again, of course, and seems as if it will be very effective this time. What bothers me the most, beside the fact they are messing with the lives of the un- and marginally employed, is the reality that if Americans just read the paper or paid any attention, they would know the truth. Instead, as Jefferson once warned, we end up believing in what never was and never will be -- a country where citizens can be both ignorant and free.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Another Obama Failure?

It will be interesting to see how conservatives will spin what many might call another Obama/Democratic Congress success -- the passage of financial reform: If the new plaform from Texas Republicans is any indication, it should be even more absurd then the silliness we've been hearing the past couple of years: Among their recommendations:

- Reinstating anti-sodomy laws
- Dropping out of UN and ending all foreign relationships
- Eliminating federal taxes and the IRS to replace with a national sales tax (progressive to regressive and oddly anti-federalist)
- Removal of tenure in colleges and universities (so we can fire them liberal professors)
- Overturn the minimum wage (why pay people enough to live; that's unAmerican!)
- Repeal of hate crime legislation (apparently they like hate crimes in Texas)
- End Head Start (one of the more effective anti-poverty initiatives)
- Elimination of the US DOE and rescinding of NCLB (wow, I agree with one!)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hollywood and the Marketing/Quality Conundrum

The following quote from A.O. Scott's New York Times review of Knight and Day perfectly captures the problem with Hollywood today:

"Ms. Diaz is June Havens, a collection of alternately appealing and exasperating traits thrown together to satisfy market research data suggesting that audiences go for women who are tough but not aggressive, flaky but not nuts, sexy but not actually having sex, and willing to fall for a certain kind of guy without entirely losing their heads" (

It is not that films shouldn't be made to appeal to audiences, per se, but the fact that these decisions are at the heart of the Hollywood model. Rather than making quality films that will sell themselves, the marketers seem to be brought into the process too early, thus underming the artistic process itself. Art then succumbs to the dictates of the market, much as appears to be the case with publishing and popular music today (though to be fair, I have read several good novels this year).

But Hollywood has always been like this, right? I assume this is the response many would have to this argument. I would say not always. Certainly not in the early days, not in the 60s heyday and not when the studio system collapsed in the early 70s and the great American auteurs took over the business. Unfortunately, one of those auteurs became the doppelganger of the future -- making the sequel into a Hollywood norm (and not stopping at 2), reintroducing product placement in a big way and creating the notion of the blockbuster that has increasingly driven the business in recent years. His name, of course, is Steven Spielberg. While many of his films are great, I really do think we have to look at him as the leader of a movement that took his ideas and translated them without his talent for narrative and character development (though he has done several clunkers himself).

The main problem appears to be that marketing trumps content today. The key questions seem to be: Can we make a compelling 90 second trailer? What stars and directors will bring in the big audiences? How can we get women to action films, men to romantic comedies and/or old men to any film not starring Clint Eastwood (the only guy who seems to consistently make good films in the mainstream today)? Lost is the art of a good script, coherent character development and a push toward technique over artistry. One can see this most clearly in Avatar, which lacked a truly compelling narrative, but amazed with its visual effects. Film has always comprised both elements, but I think the true geniuses bring them both together. Hollywood has fallen prey to the lowest common denominator perspective and it shows up in everything they make, thus forcing good films to the art house or abroad.

Like many things in America today, what worries me the most is the distance between quality and success. In sports, quality still wins most of the time (except when the referees get involved), but in most other popular culture, hype, money and effective marketing have stolen the reigns from those artists still interested in making good films with the big studios. Hopefully, the trend will change, but this appears to be one of the worst years in film I can remember.

First Free Speech, Now Free Reign?

Corporate executives got more good news from the Supreme Court yesterday, as a suit brought by ethically-challenged Jeffrey Skilling of Enron fame and, less well-known, former media mogul Conrad Black might lead to the overturning of a number of convictions based on the "honest service" corruption statute ( One might find it understandable that corporate leaders would have a hard time discerning between criminal and lawful behavior, particularly in the current milieu of winning at all costs, and the Supreme court followed this logic, basing their decision on the ambiguity of "legal" behavior in corporate America today. Apparently, the confusion violates the 5th amendment, which states that due process requires knowledge of what is right and wrong. One wonders if Hitler might have gotten off if he had lived and was tried by the Supreme Court today. On a more serious note, if what Enron did to shareholders, employees, the people of California and countless other victims doesn't count as crime, I think it is time to seriously consider what ethics really means and how to reform civil and criminal codes to deal with corporate malfeasance in a real way.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

And Now For Something Kind of Different . . .

I usually allow this blog to sort of follow the news of the day, but I think it is time to ask a broader question that doesn't relate to any news coming out today or this week. Do Republicans want to destroy the country? I have thought this on and off for some time, but for all their rhetorical posturing about this or that legislation leading toward the destruction of America, their words and actions actually tend to be oriented predominantly toward that end. Let's take a look at a few of the general themes in recent years . . .

1) Environment: whether you believe in global warming or not, it is clear that ending our addiction to oil would be good for this country on a number of fronts. These include a) allowing us to get out of the middle east, b) reducing pollution in the country, which could help alleviate alarming asthma rates, c) help us become competitive in the emerging alternative energy industry and d) reduce the chances of another oil spill devastation. But conservatives like to talk of a "global warming" conspiracy bound to make bankers rich and scientist . . .what exactly? The only scientists really benefiting from the debates appear to be those paid by oil companies to refute the claims of nobel prize winners.

2) Regulation: conservatives consistently argue against regulation, even after the financial crisis that was clearly a result of lack of regulation (not their conspiracy theory Community Reinvestment Act narrative). Some of these regulations are to protect consumers, many protect workers and some even protect their own children. But the party of corporations seems to have little concern for the future of their children, grandchildren or the country they claim to love.

3) Healthcare reform: I have written about this before, but beyond the looming retirement of an increasing proportion of the baby boomers is the troubling trend in the U.S. toward spending more and more of our GDP on healthcare expenditures. We pay more for drugs than our neighbors to the North and South, live shorter lives than most industrialized countries, and have a system in disarray. But their doomsday predictions lead them to argue against any change at all.

4) Income Disparity/Social Services: Republicans answer to everything is tax cuts. When times are bad, cut taxes (even though government deficit spending has a higher multiplier, which means stimulates the economy more) and when times are good, cut taxes (even though the Laffer curve turned out to be laughable). The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, but somehow many conservatives have convinced the public that taxes are akin to socialism and that the deficit is much more important than poverty and our collective economic future. By the way, it was mainly republicans who supported the diminition of Americas manufacturing base, which has turned out to be a very bad idea (countries like Japan and Germany that kep theirs seem much better off).

5) Education: the No Child Left Behind started as a bipartisan bill, but though Obama seems unwilling to make any radical changes to its central tenets, it is clear that it is actually leaving many more children behind and lowering standards and expectations in too many public schools today. Stupidity and historical amnesia have served the Republican party for a long time and there program for limiting the knowledge and information available to the public appears to be paying dividends. But what of our future, as an increasing proportion of public school children are black, Latinos and immigrants who are receiving substandard access and opportunities.

6) "Activist" Judges: Conservatives have been decrying liberal judges "activist" tendencies for years. Yet it is really conservative judges that have been the most effective at actually changing public policy since the 60s. Conservative judges have essentially ended Brown vs. Board of Education and overturned the spirit of the 64 Civil Rights Act without any fanfare (in addition to ending most affirmative action in the country -- while conservative politicians and personalities continue to decry a "reverse racism" that seems as fictitious as is supply side economics). It was a conservative court that gave the presidency to Bush 10 years ago, that just gave corporations full citizenship and carte blanche to fully buy the federal and state governments, that told colleges they can't use race as a factor in admissions decisions (except Michigan Law school). that severely limited women's power over their own bodies, etc. The party of freedom appears intent on taking away our freedom.

In the end, the lack of the concern for the average citizens among many conservatives might rightfully be labeled "reckless endangerment." Yet they are likely to gain seats in November. And the music fades.

The "Basketball" Set

The match that wouldn't end finally did, after three days and 11 hours and 5 minutes on court, with a 70-68 final set victory for American John Isner over Frenchman Nicholas Mahut. In this nonpareil moment, the loser was an equal winner (held serve 65 times with the match on the line), the club honored both players and a first round match between a qualifier and a young American became a classic -- the longest match in history, with the most points, the most aces (individual and collective) and the most winners. The moment leaves us with indelible hints of the human spirit as the largely cynical world beyond seems to learn little from the continuing financial crisis, an unprecedented oil spill in the Gulf, ongoing wars and the mounting human costs of neoliberal economic policy and unfettered corporate hegemony. Wimbeldon and the World Cup give us these sublime moments the world so infrequently offers, from a last second U.S. win, to the two finalists thrust out of the cup in the group stage, to a huge first round comeback from Roger Federer, to the goals that we marvel at from Brazil and Portugal to a match that started on a quiet Court 18 and ended with a media frenzy on that same 750-person court two days later. This is the beauty of sport, to offer respite from a world where just today . . .

- BP is going forward with even more dangerous drilling in Alaska
- Blackwater gets a $100,000 contract from the CIA under its new sobriquet: Xe
- Massey Energy sues the Mine Safety and Health Admin over potential safety regulation
- And yesterday the new British PM announced cuts of $99 billion dollars, mainly to social services including education. One wonders if the whole Western world will soon follow the U.S. in dumbing down anyone unlucky enough to find themselves in public schools.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Do You Believe in Miracles

The U.S. soccer team completed a nail-biting group stage of the World Cup with a dramatic 1-0 victory over Algeria in the 91st minute. It was a an apt end to a game that looked like it might leave bitter memories of another blown call -- an errant offsides that wrongly negated a goal for the second game in a row. This is an ongoing trend in the World Cup, where the Americans suffered several terrible calls in a 2002 quarterfinal defeat by Germany (including a missed hand ball in the box and two questionable offsides) and a ghost foul against Ghana after a questionable red card in a draw with Italy.

It has been a great World Cup, with the exception of pretty consistently bad refereeing (not just against the U.S.). We have witnessed serious challenge to the European stalwarts, though England and Germany pulled through in their final matches to advance and Spain looks like they will as well. We've seen the reemergence of Diego Maradona, this time as a coach who doesn't seem to fit in his suit either metaphorically or satorially. Brazil looks good, but it is Argentina that looks great, and really all of South America, with the exception of Honduras. The World Cup has not been great for the home continent, except Ghana who snuck through today on goal differential.

The greatest event in the world marches on. The U.S. will have their chance at redemption from four years ago Saturday and this team has the potential to go far, if they can keep from the defensive mistakes that wil cost more as the talent level of their opponents increases. Lets hope the referees stop intervening for our opponents. The beautiful game has gotten some beautiful moments from a team that used to play the game even uglier than Germany. One wonders if the country will ever find real love for a game that  has limited commercial opportunities and excitment that is more oriented toward team than individual performance. I hope so, as I have grown to love it ever since living in Barcelona 10 years ago.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Following the advice of positive thinking gurus the world over, BP's PR team is in overdrive turning a tragedy into good news ( The company's online, in house magazine, in fact, reports "Much of the region's [nonfishing boat] businesses — particularly the hotels — have been prospering because so many people have come here from BP and other oil emergency response teams." The glowing article continues with a quote from a Gulf seafood entrepreneur who points out that oil is THE industry in the region: "There is no reason to hate BP." Screw contrition, let's just pretend an oil spill already eight times as big as Exxon Valdez is a boom to the Gulf economy. CEO Hayward who was lambasted by some Congressmen (and apologized to by others) last week decided to take the weekend off to attend a Yacht race before heading out to Russia to convince Medvedev that BP is still a good company, before taking a bath in caviar and Crystal.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Palin Prays; Sane People Glad its Not From the White House

Sarah Palin had a tweet today about the Gulf Crisis . . .

“Gulf disaster needs divine intervention as man’s efforts have been futile. Gulf lawmakers designate today Day of Prayer for solution/miracle.”

Now that's the kind of sensible policy prescription we need.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Obama's Disposition

New York Times Visual Editor and Op Ed contributor Charles Blow has an interesting Op Ed on the waning popularity of Obama: The love affair, of course, didn't last long and one could argue the media contributed to the quick fall by holding him to impossible standards. The right then pounced and anti-government sentiment was stirred, even as we arguably need the government like never before. Even when Obama cajoled BP to set up an unprecedented $20 billion account for damages, he is still critiqued. The main focus of that critique is his stoic nature and ability to control, or at least conceal, his deeper emotions. In most countries, this would be celebrated. Here a President has to be both leveled and show the pain of the average person. It is a relatively cynical statement on American politics, given that one could quite convincingly argue that Bush didn't really care about the average American while Obama advocated for them for years in Chicago, but the press gives Bush the pass because he often wore his emotions on his sleeves.

The real irony, I believe, is the media's failure to report that Obama has been largely successful in getting very contentious legistlation passed, from the recovery bill (that was not enough from many liberals) to healthcare reform to smaller successes on the environment, labor rights and changing global attitudes toward America. In fact, a website, as reported by Blow, reports that of the 168 promises Obama made where actions have been completed, he only broke 19. Compare that to the record of Bush, or Clinton for that matter. Remember GW's promise of bipartisanship! And yet the media, including Blow, believe that the major problem with Obama is that he must change and show his emotions. I think he needs to gain more resolve to take on the party of no and complete his work, though he must address his cosmetic relationship with America to save us from another conservative revolution led from an even more radical right.

Friday, June 18, 2010

No Place for Privacy in the Workplace

While we do not have to sell our souls to the corporate devil quite yet, we do apparently have to sell our privacy. So said the Supreme Court 9-0 yesterday, arguing that companies can read the private text messages of employees:,0,7772406.story. To be fair, it's actually not private companies at all, but the 20 million employees of state and local governments as well as federal employees. It also appears that it only relates to phones given to you by the agency. However, the questinon in the case revolved around private text messages used by an employee who was told he could use the phone for private messages. Why then is the police chief in this case able to check those messages? Apparently the rights of employers trump employees here. The question of whether this case will serve as precedent for private companies is a serious concern though, as is the thought that it might extend to private phones at some point. Many companies already block access to certain websites (which seems fair) and track professional emails (sometimes more troubling, depending on how scanning is done). And without much fanfare, Wal*Mart started using technology a few years ago that would allow someone to quickly walk through your apartment and scan all the products you bought through a tiny microchip they use for shipping and receiving. It appears that employers continue to gain more and more rights, as those of employees are increasingly challenged.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Republican Malarky . . .

During the BP hearings today, Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton criticized the White House’s brokering the $20 billion fund as a “shakedown,” and apologized to Mr. Hayward for what he called the politicization of the crisis. He went on to claim he was "ashamed" of the White House meeting ( I wonder how he can be ashamed of the White House, unashamed of kissing up to our old landlords and of chosing corporate interests over those of the people of the gulf or the 11 that died in the accident. And how is this crisis not "political" exactly? It strikes at one of the key political questions today -- are government going to hold corporations accountable for their behavior, or treat them like victims of efforts to regulate or hurt their bottom line by actually considering the common good or the "small people" BP CEO Hayward mentioned in the now infamous quote: "I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don't care. But that is not the case indeed. We care about the small people." ( The obvious question is who these small people are, exactly? The customers that make BP execs rich? Everyone on the planet worth less than $500 million? Those pesky ex-colonists that keep pestering us with their problems? Or does he just mean people under six feet tall? The real question is what is more embarrassing -- the Republican party today aligning with BP execs or the English football team tying the United States. Tough call, really.

Republicans Decry BP $20 Billion as "Chicago-Style Shakedown"

After eight years of Bush, Cheney and crew arguing that the President has almost unlimited power, Republicans are actually complaining that Obama was able to bully (or cajole, depending on your perspective) BP to set up the $20 billion fund to pay for some of the damages associated with the Gulf Oil Spill: Is there any sanity left in the party of big business cheerleading, ecumencial haters, empty rhetoric and pure opposition?  Their main argument revolves around a troubling truth -- the U.S. government has no right to hold corporations accountable for their behavior. Though that is not completely true, as was shown with the tobacco companies, it is largely true. And this is a serious problem. The courts can certainly handle incidents of individual, or through class action, group damages at the hands of corporate malfeasance. But governments have little, and arguably waning, power over corporations, who are largely free to do whatever they can get away with. American corporations were originally given their charters by states with the caveat that they must "serve the public good." If they didn't, their charter could be taken away. Can anyone imagine that happening today? Can any sane person listen to the Republicans with a straight face?

One interesting point on their endless opposition to healthcare reform -- more Americans apparently support the reform than at any time since the debates began and legislation passed (45% in favor, 42% opposed):

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Big Pharma Losing an Excuse?

Seniors and others in the U.S. have called for legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs in America (with much cheaper versions of the same products available to the North and South) for years, but Big Pharmaceutical companies always argued that the higher prices paid for researching new drugs. Those arguments were always suspect, as the industry moved from curatives to palliatives in the 70s -- recognizing they could make a lot more treating symptoms than curing conditions -- and as advertising budgets increased astronomically. Those shifts also substantially increased the number of people on prescription drugs for non-congenital conditions -- like depression (major or minor), general anxiety disorder, ED, restless leg syndrome and the like. Now even the claim of researching new drugs will be called into question, as budgets for R&D are being slashed across the globe: I think we should help out these poor companies by coming up with some new excuses for paying such exhorbinant prices. Any ideas? Maybe it will hurt the sale of first class airline tickets, or summer homes, or undermine the big karat diamond market? Or maybe we should consider if we really want to shift from being the "prozac nation" to "generic nation"?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tea Party in New York

Many think of the Tea Party as a fringe party that is much more active in the backwoods of American life. But as the New York Daily News reports today, one in four New Yorkers and 21% of those in the City claim to the support the party ( While these findings in themselves are interesting, I though it might be interesting to deconstruct a paper that could never be confused with the "liberal" media bias we hear so much about from the right:

Let's start with the lede paragraph:

"Much of America sees New York City as the epicenter of bleeding heart liberaldom, a tolerant, immigrant-friendly, tax-and-spend kind of place." Now does most of America think liberalism is dominated by "bleeding hearts" anymore? When did "tolerant" take on a negative connotation? I guess we will never get rid of the "tax and spend" label, even as that is the obvious thing one does with collected taxes, and taxes in the U.S. continue to be among the lowest in the world.

In the next paragraph we get a description of the Tea Party, "the right-leaning, close-the-borders, anti-government movement of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck." While New York City is the epicentre of liberalism in America, even as Giuliani and Bloomberg (two moderate Republicans) have ruled the city for over a decade, apparently the far right Tea Party now merely "leans" right? Give me a break! What is more fascinating is that any party led by characters like Palin and Beck could be taken seriously by anyone but the most fring of groups in the U.S.

The third paragraph continues "Here in this city of labor rights, gay pride and lefty havens, Tea Partyers lead double lives as foot soldiers in a quiet war to reverse the direction of America." One must again question what is so bad about labor rights and gay pride, but obviously to conservatives these two issues alone can send them into spasmodic diatribes on free markets and religion (the media never seems to concern themselves with the fact that the party arguing for liberty and freedom, seems to believe corporations are the only ones that really deserve it (and top teir tax payers) while gays, women or immigrants . . . not so much).

We then have a quote from perrenial losing candidate Rick Lazio, next slated for a GOP governor run: "Citizens and patriots! We have a government that overtaxes, overspends, overreaches and overregulates - and we want them out of our lives!" It is fascinating to me to hear this when it is undertaxation that helps create the deficits they decry, underreaching that has arguably caused many of the problems in America today and underregution that was clearly at the foundation of the financial crisis. The argument of the right centers on not only historical ignorance, but an inabilty to even look back a few months to the reality of where America stands today. It is a fascinatingly effective strategy that shows how effective empty rhetoric has become today -- though one shouldn't be too surprised given two elections for George W. Bush.

The article then does mention a slight hypocrisy in supporting anti-immigrant reforms in Arizona while hanging out at Mexican restaurant Tio Pepe's. It closes with this brilliant observation from Tea Party member Frank Santarpia, "We are the silent majority." Of course, 21 percent is not a majority and no one is going to confuse the Tea Party with the silent majority Nixon talked about 40 years ago -- those who had grown weary of the Civil Rights Movement, anti-war Protesters, counculturalists, feminists, etc. but were not out in the streets challenging them. Nixon turned out to be right, exemplified by the conservative revolution to come. Will the Tea Party lead us even further to the right, a mere two years after Obama's election? God, I hope not.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bryant Admits Foul

Boston, MA -- For the first time in six years, Kobe Bryant admitted a foul call. The momentous event occurred with 3:24 left in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the NBA finals. Ironically, a replay showed that Paul Pierce in fact flopped on the play, but for the first time anyone can remember, Kobe did not argue the call. Referees around the world celebrated a rare moment in the career of one of the greatest players in NBA history, who never saw a call go against his team he didn't feel worthy of arguing. Bryant made up for the concession going down the stretch, but many will remember the moment as a magnanimous one in his ongoing, endless debate with referees. Kobe scored 38 in a losing effort, as the Celtics pulled off a 92-86 victory to take a 3-2 lead in the series. The Celtics almost gave the game away in the fourth quarter yet again, with an airball by Ray Allen (0 for his last 19 three point attempts), continuing a pattern for the team this year, but pulled it out after a circus catch and pass from Pierce to Rondo. The next game will be in Los Angeles Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.

Marketers Empathize with Teens Who Lack Empathy

A new study finds that college students lack the empathy of their peers from 30 years ago: Students scored 40% lower on an empathy scale than those in 1979, based on 72 studies of 14,000 American college students. This is good news to marketers who have been trying to replace human emotions, family members and friends with products that can stand in and embody them. "Many people see the current group of college students - sometimes called 'Generation Me' - as one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history," said Konrath, who is also affiliated with the University of Rochester Department of Psychiatry.

"While narcissism, individualism and self-centeredness might be bad for democracy and the common good, we love it," said marketer Sophie O'Patty, arguing empathy is a retrograde emotion that doesn't really serve humans in the 21st century world of success at any cost. "All empathy does is make us feel bad for the losers in the global market. That is a waste of our valuable time and cuts efficiency."

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Another Blow to Same Sex Advocates

In yet another blow to those arguing that all people in the U.S. should have equal access to the institution of marriage, a new study finds that lesbian parents actually raise smarter and more socially healthy children ( It is a given that gay marriage will destroy the sanctity of one of the oldest social institutions and that men will start leaving their wives, eating their children or engaging in gay orgies (and women could actually demand that men actually do their fair share of the housework) but the thought that our children could be smarter only further solidifies how gay marriage woulddestroy the country. For isn't it those elite intellectuals who listen to NPR, watch foreign films and actually read books that are destroying the country? The last thing we need is smarter children! Luckily, No Child Left Behind and the general nature of our K-12 system today ensure that most children will not receive an adequate education.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Kids will be . . .

poor, it appears. A new study finds that quality of life for American children has fallen to 1975 levels. That translates to 21% of children living below the poverty line, over 500,000 homeless children, almost 3/4 of a million more children in food insecure households and all of the costs associated with this degradation. Kids who are grow up in stressful environments have "Higher rates of cancer, liver disease, respiratory disease and other conditions." ( The good news is they are less likely to make it to retirement age, thus not contributing to the strain on Social Security. Of course, we can blame this on the government as well, I'm sure. If only we allowed corporations to pay people what they the market would bear, all our problems would be solved. Right?