Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SCOTUS Shows Itself

First, from the Department of Snappy Names: I contend that anything, down to washing dishes, is way cooler when you're doing it with Fabio Fognini. In real life, Mr. F. is an Italian tennis player, ranked about in the middle of the world's top 100 players. I can see his future as a "rental celebrity", where you state the time and place, and Fabio shows up, in exchange, of course, for a hefty fee. Ciao!

And from the vault of Headlines We Thought We'd Never See, I bet you missed "Prince Writes New Vikings' Team Fight Song". I never thought I'd see Prince and an NFL team mentioned in the same sentence, since Prince, last I knew, was kind of a small person. On the other hand, Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas", so I guess anything's possible.

Now, suppose you're a political office holder. Last week the Supreme Court puts a bomb in your lap. Overturning one hundred years of precedent, something, by the way, that current chief justice Roberts told the Senate he was loath to do before they ratified his nomination, the Court rules by a 5-4 margin that corporations are not only people, but have NO LIMITS on what they can spend to influence an election, right up to the end of the campaign. No matter WHAT your convictions are, won't your next phone call be to the richest corporation you can think of, with or WITHOUT interests in your district to say either, "I no longer oppose your corporate policies in any way" OR "Please use your resources to help me defeat so and so, your legislative enemy. I pledge my loyalty to you, regardless of future circumstances."?
I write this little blog, seen worldwide by maybe a dozen people. But if I'm Goldman Sachs or Exxon Mobile, is there any doubt that the message will go to millions, perhaps billions of people? Yes, we're both exercising free speech, but the Court claims there is no legal difference. My question is this: On what planet does this not give an enormous advantage to corporate suck-ups and professional sycophants struggling for their turn at the financial teat of those most able to pay for performance? No difference? Please.
I recall a smaller version of this principle from the caucus campaign of 1996. Steve Forbes, publisher and multimillionaire, came into the race for president with little public recognition. He turned that around by buying up blocks of ad time using his own money, which allowed voters to see him at his best, in which he still resembled a rusting robot with a permanent painted-on smile. His numbers soared from zero to the high teens in just a few weeks, forcing other candidates to spend all they could spare in response. TV advertising for a short time in Iowa was completely given over to ads for presidential candidates in an orgy of spending that could only expand nation-wide under this new ruling.
For years we heard the cries from the Right about "activist judges", which really meant "judges who make rulings I don't like". This particular decision was so completely activist as to far surpass anything the original parties sought.
The 5-4 margin backs up what I said a year ago in this space about the Court being Bush's most lasting legacy. You have four justices (Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito) always willing to back corporate and police power and needing just one ally to make almost anything happen. This time it was Kennedy, and they did. Don't look for these ersatz "persons" to give up power easily. I saw a cartoon which describes the situation well: a circle of Robber Barons in tails and top hats joining hands and singing "Free at last. Free at last..." Yes, free to consolidate political power in our country thanks to our own Supreme Court, acting in OUR name.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mean Men

Suspicion raises its head again towards the Bush Administration. This time there's speculation that arrests and subsequent questioning made of Blackwater (now the unpronounceable "Xe") contractors in 2007 were deliberately bungled as a favor to management. The former operatives, accused of killing innocents in a crowded Iraqi marketplace had all US charges against them dropped. We don't know how the seventeen people at the scene died, but I guess mass suicide isn't being ruled out. I guess the Iraqis won't be asking us back for another round of liberation again soon, thanks to former A.G. Alberto ("I forgot") Gonzales and his crew.

It's hard for me to imagine that anyone, especially those with any kind of Christian background, could have no sympathy for the people of Haiti. Sure, it's, and has been, the poorest nation in the hemisphere. Their government is ineffective even in normal circumstances. They don't, on the whole, look, talk, or even think like "us".
Even so, you can't think they arranged for their own earthquake with its accompanying 50,000 or so dead just so they could make OUR lives less pleasant.
Or can you? That is pretty much exactly the way Rush Limbaugh feels about the situation. Not quoting directly, he feels that cries of help that might penetrate the luxury of his South Florida complex (It's way too big to be simply called a "mansion") should be ignored, and that President Obama's determination to offer aid says more about the next election plans than his "compassion", whatever that is.
And Rush isn't alone. Pat Robertson said on his TV show that the Haitians brought all this on themselves by making a deal with the devil (That's right.) about 200 years ago, and that Beelzebub is still collecting by bringing all variety of disaster on their descendants. Robertson hasn't produced a copy of the treaty, if that's what you'd call it. Too bad. Old Scratch's signature alone would be worth some serious cash as a collectible. The devil is almost as big as Elvis.
The thing is, both Limbaugh and Robertson have lots of people who follow them, at least casually. These two are so rich they bring respectability to meanness. They don't talk to non-sycophants, diplomats or governmental officials any more. Why should they? There's a message to get out, and it (the message) is MUCH more important than the truth. If you're making calls to collect relief funds, skip over those two mean men.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

I just can't resist the urge to start this week with Sarah Palin. According to someone in the McCain campaign, Governor P was surprisingly calm upon receiving the news of her choice as VP candidate. When asked, she calmly said that it was "God's will." This, if true, causes me to wonder whether she was, at that moment, thinking of Bush's alleged claim as governor that "God wants me to be president" OR that she was using the moment to cast herself in the role of Joan of Arc. BTW, in this space exactly six months ago I said she was bound for FOX News and a book deal. I got the order wrong, but that's all. Of course, I was not alone in making that prediction.

Our little city is sort of famous again, this time for last Saturday's 6.5 earthquake. I was in a well-built church at the time, and while we all felt some shakes, we didn't get a clear idea of local damage, and may not for awhile. The meeting that was about to start went ahead with the only interruptions coming from cell phones.
But to answer the question "What's shakin'?" completely, you have to look around at home, where we took a little hit. We lost a mirror, but thankfully it wasn't the big one we just had fixed last year. A little Hummel figure still strums a mandolin, but does so without a head. A large bookcase pitched forward making its repositioning in the home both easier and more likely. Our flimsy arrangement of two liter water containers went down like bowling pins and, with a few other things, found new spots on the garage floor.
But it was the bathroom, specifically, the one I normally use that had the most damage - not to the bathroom itself, but to the bottle collection housed within. Notice I didn't call it a collection of "rare" or "antique" bottles. Mainly they were just bottles with unusual shapes or colors bought mostly at the now-defunct flea market by the bay or at local garage sales. The collection came to around fifty, and half of those may be gone. Maybe it wasn't too smart to put them above the shower and in the bathroom window, but space in the room was getting tight. The plastic animal collection fared better, though the silverback gorilla no longer surmounts the burned out lightbulb above the sink and the two sharks may need a new spot in which to pretend to swim. I'm happy to say no tennis equipment, current or vintage, was damaged. I'm pretty sure the books are all still readable. And so, as we always tell ourselves no matter what degree of horror we are enduring, we can say "We were lucky. It could have been worse."

Monday, January 04, 2010

As the New Year Begins...

I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression, but I admit to having watched a few football games (I think they're called "bowls") the past few days. I noticed first that the tattoo segment of the economy must be doing very well as judged by what's covering the players' brawny arms. And did anyone else notice that those black patches worn under the eyes by players can now be altered to transmit a readable message to viewers? I saw a couple that referred to Bible verses. I guess that's better than promoting a bar or surfboard shop. I suppose it's just a matter of time, though, before someone puts tattooed arrows on his face which point to the black patches. That is, unless the NCAA starts making new rules.

Some of us aging tennis players were recently discussing the subject of Tiger Woods and his current round of sex addiction therapy. We wondered if such therapy might make use of pictures of famous but not necessarily very attractive women. Janet Reno, Madeleine Albright, Clinton-hater Linda Tripp and former Israeli PM Golda Meir were mentioned. We decided that we want no part of such therapy if it can possibly be avoided.

Now, try to imagine that you are representing a huge company which is negotiating to buy the assets of a smaller one. On the other side of the table, representing the targeted company, is a huge, shirtless green man. He's angry, and his anger is directed squarely at YOU. At one point in the negotiations he brings his mighty fist (the size and consistency of a bowling ball) down on the table, which shatters it into little bits of kindling. "Hulk not want to join silly Mouse company!" he thunders, in a voice loud enough to carry into the next county. "Hulk need MORE MONEY!!" I'm not sure that this little scenario bears any relationship to reality, but what is undeniable is that The Disney Company just finished its purchase of Marvel Comics for $4.24 billion. Maybe Wolverine will get his own Christmas special on ABC-TV next year.