Friday, June 18, 2010

The Parochial School Boys Agree!

At last there is something MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and lunatic fringe wingnut Glenn Beck agree on: hatred of the World Cup, football specifically -- they call it “soccer” (whatever that means). Here’s Beck’s rant against the World Cup (he also disses baseball, probably because too many Latinos and Asians play the game):

Keith’s riposte: “And now to discuss Glenn Beck versus the world at large over soccer … Beck, of course, being right, not only does the world tells us we must love soccer, but it tells us we’re too stupid to understand this game in which almost nothing happens, which the referee keeps how much time there’s left a secret. And by the way, vuvuzelas were on sale at Yankee Stadium in 1967, they stole it from us, ladies and gentlemen, here is soccer apologist Rachel Maddow!”

To Glenn Beck I say, beware of the One World conspiracy. The New World Order is coming for you, Beckster. The invading World Cup hordes are plotting your destruction in South Africa, as we speak.

Keith, there’s plenty of action going on, only you’re too stupid, or stubborn, to understand it. Imagine a Martian alighting on a baseball game while Nolan Ryan is striking out the side. What would the alien think of those static people standing in the outfield, arms crossed, picking their fingernails or noses, as one guy on the mound does all the work, tossing a little ball to a masked man past guys who walk up to the plate with a piece of lumber, whiff the air with it three times and walk back to their bunker. Meanwhile, another masked man clad in black yells and makes strange hand signals (which have no apparent connection to the signals from those other guys on the sidelines).

FYI, Keith, nearing the conclusion of the 90 minutes of play, a sideline official with FIFA clearly stamped on his back holds up a large digital board with 3’ or 4’ or however many extra injury and stoppage time minutes the referee has added to the game. The ref communicates this to sideline officials through the magic of that little transmitter device and microphone clipped to one ear. Stoppage time is shown next to regulation time on any TV broadcast football game and some (not all) stadium scoreboards.

And Keith, the vuvuzelas were actually introduced by a Mets plant in Yankee Stadium. It came from a pro-Apartheid Afrikaner who said vuvuzelas were used as instruments of torture.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


It didn’t take long. The American people, and even some Republicans are appalled and ashamed at the spectacle of a United States Congressman bowing before BP CEO Tony Hayward and apologizing to Big Oil for what he termed a “shakedown” from the White House and a “slush fund” for the victims of this outlaw corporation. Even Tony Hayward conceded it was not a “slush fund.” Barton, Limbaugh, and the oil patch Republicans hate that President Obama did an end-run around their block of raising the $75 million liability law to $10 billion, and got twice the amount out of BP to boot (on the neck of BP).

Barton’s panicked Caucus forced him to retract his statement (sort of), but not before fellow Republican Joe Miller of Florida calls for him to step down as Ranking Member on the Energy Committee. Barton sounds petulant and envious, as if he’s being cut out of the action. This is a badly-needed escrow fund independently administered by the same person who disbursed the 9/11 victims fund -- Ken Feinberg, of unimpeachable integrity. Here’s Barton whoring for Big Oil money:
“I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize. [GET OUT YOUR BARF BAGS] I do not want to live in a county where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, [it is] subject to some sort of political pressure that, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown.” [KACHING-KACHING = $1.4 million from the oil and gas industry, including $27,350 from BP.]

Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of South Dakota said: “He ought to apologize to the American people. That wasn’t a shakedown, it’s exactly what our government should be saying to BP.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


BP Chairman of the Board Carl-Henric Svanberg caused a furor with his fake apology: “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.”

“Purely a translation matter,” said a flustered BP spokesman. “In Swedish ‘small people’ is ‘MUNCHKIN’.
Later, Svanberg apologized for his fake apology: “I spoke clumsily this afternoon, and for that, I am very sorry. I meant to say munchkin, of course. President Obama and I care very much for the munchkins.”

President's Arm-Twisting Gets Results for Gulf Residents

Credit where credit is due. President Obama got a big win today and went a long way toward ameliorating the economic plight of the Gulf state residents ravaged by BP. The government will make BP pay, and he put their money where their mouth is:
  1. The escrow fund set aside is for $20 billion initially (not a cap), administered by Ken Feinberg, who has done an outstanding job running the compensation fund for 9/11 victims. It should be noted that the $20 billion is twice the amount of the liability cap raise legislation, from $75 million to $10 billion that all Republicans opposed, including Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jim Inhofe of of Oklahoma, both of whom are in the pockets of Big Oil and foes of the environment;
  2. President Obama further insisted that BP set aside $100 million to compensate deepwater rig workers who may be temporarily unemployed by the 6-month moratorium placed on deep water drilling until the investigation of this disaster and new, tougher regulations to prevent its recurrence are in place; and
  3. The President extracted a commitment from BP to monitor the health effects on cleanup workers and the corporation voluntarily agreed to suspend its dividend payments.
This is huge and a big win for the President on the claims processing fund. Republicans in the affected states were quick to give him credit, but those straddling the right wing fringe of anti-Obama discontent continue to play politics with the crisis. Wingnut Michelle Bachmann said:
“If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there -– ‘We're not going to be chumps, and we're not going to be fleeced.’ And they shouldn't be. They shouldn't have to be fleeced and make chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest -- they've got to be legitimate claims. The other thing we have to remember is that Obama loves to make evil whatever company it is that he wants to get more power from. He makes them evil, and what we've got to ask ourselves is: Do we really want to be paying $9 for a gallon of gas? Because that could be the final result of this.”
Keep talking, you crazy demagogic witch. One thing the President is not, is an anti-corporate populist out to turn them into ‘evildoers.’ Just ask progressives, Michelle. Keep defending BP and you'll find an ally in the President. He said BP is a viable company and will remain so. He has no interest in seeing the company go into bankruptcy; but he's made clear he is on the side of the Gulf oil residents whose livelihoods are threatened. That's where he parts company with Big Oil Republicans.

Now it's on to the cleanup, and several issues have arisen there. Hopefully the mobilization of resources will proceed at a better and more efficient pace. The impact on wildlife is heartbreaking. But this is no Katrina, even though rightard Republicans will try to make it so. As they line up to defend BP and Big Oil they will become increasingly marginalized by the American people.

Talk About Condescending Arrogance, BP Chairman: "We Care About the Small People"

Unbelievable, how tone-deaf this insulting foreign imperial bastard is! BP Chairman Carl Henric Svanberg said, on leaving the White House meeting:
“We care about the SMALL PEOPLE.”
Someone please tell me: How do you say M*R in Swedish! This Swedish M*R better pay EVERY LAST CENT BP OWES THE “SMALL PEOPLE” it is destroying. EVERY. LAST. CENT.

Day 58: We Needed a Populist And got an Elitist

President Obama’s first Oval Office address to the nation was disappointing on so many levels that one has to wonder, again, if he gets it at all, even after all those trips to the region. This is an address that was given for the benefit of regional Republican oil patch governors tittering about the economic impact to their states, claimants whose livelihoods are being decimated by BP, and BP itself. So much so that BP issued a statement associating itself with the President’s remarks:
“We share the President's goal of shutting off the well as quickly as possible, cleaning up the oil and mitigating the impact on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast. We look forward to meeting with President Obama tomorrow for a constructive discussion about how best to achieve these mutual goals.”
That’s what the Brits would sarcastically call “a vote of confidence” from the skunk who crashed the garden party. Where are the specifics of the government’s response? Here are some curios in the President’s report:
  • “Tomorrow (today), I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party.”
Sounds good, right? But on closer inspection, the President sounds less the commander in chief than a supplicant chief attorney (not to be confused with Attorney General Eric Holder, who has made himself scarce since announcing an investigation of BP). Mr. Obama mentions the loaded, and loathed, legalism -- “legitimate” -- that is the albatross around the neck of every single BP utterance as to its liability. Then, in a lawyerly balancing act, the President uses another legal term --“recklessness”— to characterize BP’s actions in the totality of its response. Significantly, he does not call it criminal behavior, which probably accounts for BP’s chummy (relieved?) reply to the speech.

There is a sense that these carefully crafted words mask an agreement reached with BP a priori of the President’s meeting with its chairman of the board. Hardly a Trumanesque or Rooseveltian response to an outlaw corporation. President Obama’s rhetoric is far removed from Franklin Roosevelt’s crie de guerre against concentrated corporate power: “They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. … They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.”

The President’s speech didn’t quite measure up to FDR and Harry Truman (who summoned steel industrialists to the White House and read them the Riot Act). At best, it was a Clintonesque triangulation of the government-corporate partnership with a mild wrist-slap. The President, it seems, would rather convince corporate CEOs of the advantages of cooperation and compromise on the big issues, such as healthcare and financial reform, in ways that are advantageous to them rather than assume a confrontational populist posture a la Harry Truman.

This would explain President Obama’s curiously anti-progressive behavior, his much too easy concessions to corporations, e.g., ditching the public option; the backroom deals with Big Pharma and other industry sectors; and the White House’s arrogant public dissing of labor unions and netroots progressives for their sacrilegious support of Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter against corporate Democrat Blanche Lincoln. Interestingly, Big Dog Bubba Clinton made a lusty, Palin-like libidinous pitch on Lincoln’s behalf –- with an extra-long, extra-tight hug –- propelling blushing Blanche over the top.
  • “I have authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, clean beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims –- and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.”
It’s day 58, Mr. President. Those of us on the outside looking in have been pleading from the very beginning for a more robust, muscular response to this disaster that involves our military. Weeks ago, Florida Senator Bill Nelson asked for military involvement in a letter to you. Why is the National Guard only now being deployed?
  • “In the coming days and weeks, these efforts should capture up to 90% of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that is expected to stop the leak completely.”
Really? Based on whose estimate? Because if it comes from BP it’s worth less than a barrel of crude. This is the corporation that has consistently and brazenly lied about the amount of oil spilled, its cleanup, the extent of the damage to the Gulf, and claimed falsely that its latest oil capping attempt would slow the volcanic eruption of oil to a “a trickle.”
  • “From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation's history.”
Not good enough, Mr. President, not by a long shot. As RFK used to say, “we can do better,” and we must. For starters, our national interest is not aligned with the interests of BP or any profit-making entity, nor should it ever be. Secondly, the effort must match the enormity of the crisis; simply being the “largest” effort in our history when it amounts to plugging holes in a dike sounds like CYA.
  • “Now, a mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise. I saw and heard evidence of that during this trip. So if something isn't working, we want to hear about it. If there are problems in the operation, we will fix them.”
Okay, Mr. President. Here is the short list (not counting the compensation and claims issues that the escrow fund -- if BP agrees to it -- is supposed to fix):
  1. Serious health problems with cleanup workers that amounts to chemical poisoning. BP has not provided necessary protective equipment because the optics of hazmat suits looks bad for the corporate image. The syndrome now has a name -- “Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance”-- and is far more widespread than reported cases, because workers need the BP temporary cleanup jobs to feed their families;
  2. The latest offer, from Sweden, to deploy tankers with the capacity to skim millions of gallons off the surface of the ocean, a proven technology, has been rebuffed. The official explanation for not using this technology is that the oil is too dispersed; how can that be if the slicks can be seen from space? Where are the resources from other countries, as well as other oil companies -- tankers, skimmers, etc. -- that are not funnelled through BP? I suspect the reason is economic, and is linked to liability -- out of sight, out of mind -- for BP; the same reason that motivates this criminal entity to cover up the results of its crime (dead animal carcasses) in the middle of the night, and forbid media access to blighted areas that are not sanitized of animal remains;
  3. Why are ideas from private entrepreneurs shoved down the BP black hole in a bait-and-switch scam in which bogus phone banks only pretend to take contact information? Where is the government oversight and control of this and multiple other BP scams to limit its liability and protect its investors?
The public is still awaiting a report from the “team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation's Secretary of Energy.” Nobel awards, blue ribbon panels, and commissions are no substitutes for effective action. Dr. Chu has so far distinguished himself as the most timidly retiring U.S. government scientist responding to a major technological challenge since J. Robert Oppenheimer actually retired from government after McCarthy accused him of being a communist.

The question, Mr. President, is not one of prayer. It’s one of survival; it’s whether there will be any fleet at all of fishermen to bless next year. Hail Mary is the last resort. Rendering unto Cesar what is Caesar’s –- executive action –- is the first. The night before your speech, Touchdown Jesus was zapped by a bolt of lightning, and burned to the ground. If you believe in the power of prayer, then someone may be trying to tell you something, Mr. President. And we, the people, are way ahead of you. Time to catch up. Quickly. Your presidency depends on it.

Dedicated to Rachel Maddow and World Cup Neophytes (or Snobs) Everywhere

On Monday’s show, Rachel introduced her World Cup segment: “So traditionally, America is less psyched than the rest of the planet about the World Cup. Low-scoring games, no hands, referees in shorts. You can go ahead and ignore this year's World Cup action if you like, but you've got to know if you are ignoring it, you are missing out.”

Rachel, I understand how watching a bad football game (it is football, for the simple reason that it is played about 80 percent with the feet, as opposed to a certain blood sport for big fat guys in pads and helmets) can influence your perception of it for a long, long time. But referees in shorts?

That I don’t get. Is there a rule that says referees must wear long pants in order to be considered authority figures? One of the best aspects of real football is a firm but unobtrusive well-refereed game in which the maximum authority on the field remains practically invisible. That type of refereeing is certainly more dignified than watching guys in zebra outfits making bogus game-changing calls by throwing little yellow flags.

The “low scoring” thing is silly too, when you consider the way games are “scored” … three points for kicking an oblong ball through two poles, two points for dropping a ball through a hoop, three points for an outside shot, and so on. I’m just saying, Rachel. The first baseball game I ever saw, Rick Reuschel a.k.a “Big Daddy” was pitching (Keith knows about him). I remember looking at that portly, pot-bellied dude and thinking, “that’s an athlete”…? He sure didn’t look like this:

But then I overcame my initial impression of pitcher-as-couch potato and came to appreciate and love baseball. It’s got to be good when so many of its stars are Latino! Still, I had to figure it out by myself. I’ll bet you watched your share of thrilling 1-0 games that were far more memorable than 10-zip blowouts.

In World Cup history, as in all sports, not always the best team wins. One of those teams was Brasil’s 1982 squad. This one’s for you, Rachel. This is why it’s called the beautiful game. If you can’t appreciate the majesty of this game, as the old Brasilian song goes, you must be bad in the head, or sick in the foot: (For best results, watch in full-screen mode.):)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pic of the Day: After U.S. Game, Brits Finally Make Their Mark in South Africa

England’s star forward Wayne Rooney (right) and teammate relieve themselves between rounds of golf after their disastrous World Cup 2010 debut against America.

Best World Cup Headline (So Far) As Brit Tabloids Feast Mercilessly on Goalkeeper: “HAND OF CLOD”

This is a clever take on Dieguito Maradona’s hand ball goal which knocked England out of the 1986 World Cup and went viral throughout the world (before the advent of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter) as “The Hand of God.” Here is today’s winning headline, followed by a pretty funny one from, believe or not, Matt Drudge:

And the video of the goal. You decide:

Poor Robert Green. The guy is taking it all in with characteristic British stoicism, knowing this is something that he’ll carry for the the rest of his life. One feels for the guy, when he says: “I’m 30, I'm a man, and you have hardships in life and prepare for them. I’m strong enough to move on. At a younger point in my life it would have affected me more.”

England’s coach has a decision to make, which is pretty straightforward but not simple: Don’t bench Green for the next game. These things happen, and benching a starter for failing on a single play, especially one that has gained such notoriety, risks burning him as a professional forever. It’s not even good for the team’s psyche. They know this better than anyone, and from their perspective benching Green is a slap on their failure to pick him up by not scoring the go-ahead goal. They had more than a half of football to do it.

So if England’s coach Fabio Capello is a man of honor and character he will not bench Robert Green. Besides, Green’s reserve David James, 39, has problems of his own: The British fans have dubbed him “Calamitous James” for precisely the same type of failure committed by Green against the United States. The News of the World described the game as “Shock ‘N’ Draw.” And the Sunday Times observed laconically that Clint Dempsey’s goal was “one disastrous spill the Yanks won’t complain about.”

Heh. Gotta love the World Cup!