Archive for October, 2009

And speaking of brain damage…

October 29, 2009

In the hearings Al posted about yesterday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) apparently asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to apologize to Rush Limbaugh for saying Rush’s comments about Donovan McNabb were racist:

King said he’d “scoured” Rush Limbaugh’s infamous comment that the media was giving Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb too much credit because he was black and found no racism in it whatsoever — Limbaugh, said King, was calling out the media for reverse racism. Goodell and King went back and forth a bit, but King refused to budge on his position that Limbaugh was being smeared as a racist even though he’s colorblind about race. King went on to say that Goodell was being a hypocrite by failing to criticize some hip-hop stars with stakes in NFL teams.

“I don’t think anything that Rush Limbaugh said was offensive, but with Fergie and with J-Lo, they have, between the two of them, alleged that the CIA are terrorists and liars, they’ve promoted sexual abuse of women, they’ve used the N word, verbal pornography, recreational drug use, etc. And they are owners of the Dolphins. And it’s also ironic that Fergie was approved as an owner on the very day that you made your statement on Rush Limbaugh.”

Here’s the appropriate response — for any witness — to a statement like that by a United States Representative:

“It is utterly irrelevant whether you think Mr. Limbaugh’s comment was racist, sir.  He didn’t say it about you or your race, nor were you in any way a party to it.  He said it about  Donovan McNabb; as an employee of ESPN; as part of their partnership with the NFL.  Mr. McNabb’s opinion matters.  Black Americans’ opinions matter.  ESPN’s opinion matters.  The NFL’s opinion matters.  Your opinion, sir, does not matter.  If you cannot see what is plainly before your face, that is your problem and, unfortunately, this country’s problem.  It is deeply frustrating to me as a citizen that somebody in your position is still defending comments like Mr. Limbaugh’s with arguments from the America of a hundred years ago.”

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A Modest Proposal

October 28, 2009

Just a quick note: Levi and Sarah should just go ahead and get married.  They’re exactly alike.

Using Your Head

October 28, 2009

Well, the World Series is starting. And with all due respect, I really don’t care.

As a sports aficionado, I like to rank things a lot. I’d now say that baseball is my second favorite sport. I love the strategy, the statistics, and the history. It’s a bit slow, but all in all, I appreciate baseball. But the Phillies and the Yankees? I couldn’t care less. I want to be a National League guy, but I grew up disliking the Phillies in the old NL East. And I don’t hate the Yankees as much as the average guy, but I just can’t root for them either. So I am indifferent.

Let’s talk football instead. Over time, football has become my favorite sport. It used to be basketball, but something about both the college and professional game has just lost my interest over the years. At the same time, both the college and professional football game has captured my attention. I love me a good football game.

Football was in the news today. Congress called a hearing about some very real concerns over the game of football. No, not the salaries. And no, not the steroids. Instead, there are some very real studies concerned with brain injuries coming from the game. Commissioner Goodell was taking heat in front of Congress today, doing his best to field the hard questions. You can read about it HERE.

I am interested in seeing what develops in this regard. I’m going to have a hard time loving a game if it gives people brain injuries. And it doesn’t take that many brain cells to wonder if a sport where human skulls violently crash into a variety of things may have a tendency to do so.

I do have a question myself that I haven’t heard addressed just yet, so if all you in Blog Land will tell me if it is ever addressed, I would greatly appreciate it. Well, let’s say I have two questions:

(1) Are helmets flying off football players’ heads much more frequently these days? (They sure seem to be to me. I’m saying a LOT more than ever before. The few friends I’ve asked about this haven’t really considered it before, but once I mention it, they tend to agree.)

(2) If so, what’s up with that?

I am obviously not an expert on much anything, definitely not helmet design. But I do think that the possibility of playing football without your helmet on your head – even in brief intervals – has got to do bunches to increase the possibility of brain injuries.

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C-Love’s Pop Picks

October 28, 2009

Best Music I’ve Heard: NPR is streaming the new album from The Swell Season. You might recognize them as the two lovebirds of “Once” fame. I’m also completely taken with Brandi Carlile’s Give Up the Ghost. Listen to “Dying Day.”

Best Live Music I’ve Seen: Girl Talk was completely insane, but I’m glad I experienced it. He’s a digital composer on the fly (like a highly complex more talented DJ), and his concert is one big rave. If you’re not dancing at a Girl Talk concert, someone will grab you and force you to dance. Clearly, it’s not for everyone. But it was my niece’s 18th birthday, and we had a blast.

Girl Talk in concert

Girl Talk in concert

Best TV I’ve Seen: I’m giving it to White Collar, the new show on USA.  I’m a huge fan of Psych on USA (as is Coach Al), so I figured I’d give this one a try. Matt Bomer plays a white collar criminal partnering with the FBI to solve, what else, white collar crimes. It’s like the TV version of “Catch Me If You Can.” And for what it’s worth, Matt Bomer has fabulous hair.

Also Enjoyed: The Firefly shout-out on Castle. Love me some Nathan Fillion.

Best Movie I’ve Seen: September Issue, a documentary that follows the making of the September issue of Vogue. A good portion of the film focuses on Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief and supposed inspiration behind “The Devil Wears Prada.” But the far more interesting character is the Creative Director Grace Coddington. She’s phenomonally talented, hilarious, and the only one doesn’t fall at Wintour’s feet. She’s the Stanley Tucci to Anna’s Meryl Streep, if you will.

Also Enjoyed: Where the Wild Things Are. It was a little slow, but the visuals and music kept me interested. Does anyone else think Max looks exactly like a young boy version of Ellen Page?

Best Book I’ve Read: I’m currently reading and loving Three Cups of Tea. It tells the true story of Greg Mortenson, a mountain climber who became lost and wandered into a remote village after a failed attempt to summit K2. He was so touched by the hospitality of the people there, he promised he would return and build a school. He kept his promise and went on to build 130 more schools in Central Asia. I’ve been thinking lately about certain people who impact society so significantly, and it has struck me that these earth-shakers don’t have any specials skills that the rest of us are lacking. Unless you count passion and a singular purpose as skills. They’re just people. It’s both inspiring and convicting.

Lieberman to Reid: You My B*tch

October 27, 2009

Remember a while back, when Joe Lieberman actively criticized and campaigned against the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate?  Called him unfit to be commander-in-chief?

I said at the time that if Harry Reid didn’t punish Lieberman in some way, he would make it very difficult to maintain discipline in his caucus.  (Similarly, with Ben Nelson.)  If actively campaigning against your own party’s* presidential candidate doesn’t get you disciplined, what could you possibly do that would?

Not to be all “told ya so” and everything, but…

Lieberman has now come out against the health care reform bill that Reid is sending to the floor for a vote.  He says he doesn’t like the bill, and is perfectly willing to help the GOP filibuster any bill he doesn’t like.

Because Reid did nothing before, he can now make no credible threat to Lieberman (or the more ambiguously wavering Dems, like Blanche Lincoln).  The only tool he’s got is trying to buy Lieberman off, which presents two immediate problems:  a) it’s tough to buy a senator when you’re bidding against the insurance industry, and b) whatever Reid has to give him, it’s going to be bad.

If you’d shown a little spine in the past, Harry, you’d have more options now; and Joe’s vote, if we can get it at all, wouldn’t cost us good legislation down the road.

(* Yes yes, I know.  But Lieberman still caucuses with the Dems and holds committee chairmanships as a Dem.)

The Semi-Public Option

October 26, 2009

The big news today is that Harry Reid decided to include a public option in the version of the health care reform bill that will come up for vote in the senate.  A big win.  Plus, the version he included is the “opt-out” public option — the one that starts as a national program, but individual states can opt out of if they’re stupid they have objections.  Also a win, relative to the “triggered” public option or “opt-in” public option.

Nevertheless, I think Josh Marshall gets carried away in this post:

But by making it an opt-out rather than an opt-in, you start with a truly national program. That’s the key. The default is everyone is in. Even if you had 1/3 or even, conceivably half the states (or half the total national population in however many states) opt out, you’d still have enough heft to make it have the desired effect. And presumably you’d have by far most of the population in the program.

I could definitely be wrong about this, but it is my understanding that the public option being proposed — whether it’s triggered, opted into, or opted out of — will not have everyone in by default, nor will it ever have anywhere near “most of the population” in it.

The public option being proposed is available only to those whose employers do not offer a private insurance plan, and who cannot afford to buy a private plan on the individual insurance market.  Even with all the states participating, it’s going to be quite small.  It will be a “national program” like Marshall says, but the default is not “everyone is in.”  Only a small percentage of people will even be allowed the opportunity to get in.

That’s a problem, because one of the keys to making a public option work is the ability to negotiate better rates with providers, and you can’t do that if you don’t have enough policyholders.

Am I wrong about the nature of the public option they’re voting on?  Is it available to the general public, or at least a bigger chunk of it?  Anybody know?

What It Is, Is Football

October 25, 2009

I don’t post about sports much, even though I follow 3 teams pretty closely.  Here, I go all Lou Holtz and remind the Miami Dolphins and Arkansas Razorback football teams of a few things.  (Imagine I’m spraying all my “s”‘s.)

Some football definitions:

  1. Quarterback: an offensive back who throws the football to other players on his team.
  2. Receiver: an offensive end who receives, that is, catches, a thrown football.
  3. Defensive Player (any position): a person who makes contact with, and causes to fall down, players on the other team.

If you can’t throw the ball to persons on your team, you are not a quarterback.  You can be taller than Gao Ming, have a stronger arm than Dan Marino, and be a better field general than George Patton, but whatever that makes you, it isn’t a quarterback.

If you can’t catch the ball, you are not a receiver.  You can be faster than Usain Bolt, have better moves than Barry Sanders, and run better routes than Jerry Rice, but whatever that makes you, it isn’t a receiver.

If you can’t hit somebody and make them fall down, you are not a defender.  You can be bigger than all outdoors, stronger than Hercules, and have a better vertical than Michael Jordan, but whatever that makes you, it isn’t a defender.

Young men, talent and athletic ability do not make anybody a qb, receiver, or defender.*  Talent and athletic ability can make you a good or even great qb, receiver, or defender.  But you have to be a qb, receiver, or defender before you can be a good or great one.

(* They’re not saying “boooo!”  They’re saying “Doctor Looouuuuu!”  Okay, they’re saying “Boooo, Dr. Loouuu!”)

The Wizard of Os

October 24, 2009

Sometimes I feel like I go out of my way to offend people, but I promise that’s not my goal in life. Well, not most of the time.

Os Guinness spoke at the law school a few days ago, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to listen. He is a brilliant orator, and as he held forth on the dastardly “speed” at which our culture lives, I thought he struck an important chord. He had terrific things to say.

(I also thought that his appearance and his accent combined to make him sort of a mixture between Ted Kennedy and Benny Hill, but that is beside the point.) 🙂

Anyway, this is my attempt at saying that I really enjoyed listening and that I thought his topic, delivery, and message was great. The fact that I’m going to criticize his speech as potentially idolatrous may sound like I didn’t enjoy myself.

As a former preacher, I’m not fond of critiquing another person’s lecture on what they said or didn’t say. No one’s perfect. But I want to use Mr. Guinness’s impressive speech to highlight a larger problem I perceive in this religion called Christianity. Here it is in a nutshell: People are fond of saying stuff about the world taking Christ out of Christmas, but I think “the Church” has already taken Jesus out of his very own religion.

Oh, we like bloody Jesus as someone who paid off our debts. And we have the warm, fuzzy Jesus who looks like Mr. Rogers putting on his sweater. But Jesus as a life teacher–as someone who proposes a way of living life–is MIA. It just isn’t there. And we don’t even miss it.

This was glaringly evident during Mr. Guinness’s talk the other day, but I don’t think many noticed. Here we are at a Christian law school listening to a Christian speaker talk about how to approach the world in a Christian way as Christian lawyers. And Mr. Guinness nailed it. He really did. He honed in like a laser on a massive problem in our world, and he expounded beautifully on how this is a problem and presented ways to live differently.

But he never once pointed to the example of Jesus’s life as a way to approach it. Not once.

And we don’t miss it.

Please listen to me – I’m not criticizing Mr. Guinness. I’m saying that this is normal. We don’t even expect our Christian teachers to point to the “way” Jesus lived to teach us how to live our lives.

Again, Jesus is good for a bloody reminder of sin and that we should play nice with others, but we don’t even comprehend that the way Jesus lived would have any bearing on the size of our house or the busy-ness of our day planner or the amount of food we consume or the amount of time we spend watching television. Or anything else that makes up our “real” life.

I am convinced that this is central to what Jesus had to say. Jesus proposed a “way” of life and had the audacity to propose following his lead. This is critical to following – looking his way to see “how” to live.

If I die an old man and accomplish nothing else in life than getting a few folks to start noticing that Christian teachers aren’t offering this, then my life may have been worth the trouble.

A Neocon, Then and Now

October 23, 2009

It seems there’s been a recent attempt to claim Irving Kristol was not a neoconservative, at least on foreign policy.  It’s in an article in The New Republic, which is hardly surprising.

Personally, it strikes me as very wrong-headed, for the reasons I’ve discussed before, and which Matt Yglesias expresses more briefly in his reaction to the article.

That is: Irving was a militarist and an American exceptionalist, just like his son and the rest of the current crop of neocons.  He looked at world problems and saw the American military as the solution.  Anything that constrained the American military’s free play was bad.  That included things like diplomacy, negotiation, compromise, international law, etc.  The solution to any foreign policy problem was Americans killing people and destroying property that didn’t belong to them.  Rules were for other nations.  Which is to say he wanted an American hegemony.

In all of that, he is indistinguishable from today’s neocons, who are his direct heirs.

Abuse Is in the Eye of the Beholder, I Guess

October 21, 2009

Liz Cheney, Dick’s daughter (the one with political ambitions of her own), says White House criticism of Fox News is “censorship” and “abuse of power.”

Um, right.

First of all, as Al and DeJon probably have fresh on their minds right about now, criticism is not censorship.  If the White House wanted to censor Fox News, they’ve got very effective tools at their disposal for doing that (until it gets to court and they have to stop).  They aren’t using those tools.  They’re just saying publicly, “Hey, you know what?  Those guys are kind of a joke.”

Second, Liz Cheney supported and is still going to the mattresses to defend her father’s White House policies.  She has specifically defended her father’s policies of plucking American citizens off the street, in secret, with no charges, no attorney, no phone call, no day in court, and imprisoning them indefinitely on nothing but the president’s say-so; and of eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant.

Criticizing somebody is an abuse of power, but chucking them in prison indefinitely without a trial isn’t?

Lady, you must be outside your mind.