Saturday, July 30, 2011

Real Football

Yes, the NFL lockout is over, but the real football news is even more exciting:

Juergen Klinsmann is now the coach of the U.S. men's national soccer team. Here's the story.

Klinsmann is a former German star who coached the German national team to 3rd place at the 2006 World Cup and he was both a World Cup and European Cup champion as a player. He knows the game and has most likely been given a wide berth to choose personnel and tactics as a condition for taking the US job. He won't have much immediate impact on the first game, a friendly (if there is such a thing) against Mexico on August 10. After that game, he will begin remaking the team according to his vision and has plenty of time before the next World Cup in 2014 to put his mark on the US program.

Bob Bradley, the coach who was dismissed, did an excellent job with the men's team during his tenure, but a loss to Ghana at last year's World Cup and a loss to Mexico last month after being ahead 2-0 sealed his fate.

I hope that Klinsmann can continue the upward trajectory of soccer in the United States and show budding stars that there is a future for the game in this country.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Your Mileage May Vary

File this one under Your Government Actually Works. Today the Obama Administration will announce that by 2025, the Big Three automakers must ensure that their fleets of cars get 54.5 miles per gallon of gasoline. That's a more than 100% increase over the 27 mpg they're required to have now.

Here's the NY Times story.

So, after saving the auto industry--and hundreds of thousands of jobs-- in 2009 with a huge infusion of government money, President Obama has done what every Republican president decided wasn't important enough: to actually make some real progress in weaning the United States from imported oil.

This deal will put some muscle behind hybrid and, I'm sure, electric car technology that should have been U.S. policy since the 1970s. The problem was that Ronald Reagan, both Bush presidents and Vice President Dick Cheney were so protective of the oil industry that they decided it would be best to pursue policies that produced giant SUV's that were both gas guzzlers and a menace to other cars on the road.

In the end, Detroit saw that it had little choice. From the article;
Still, the industry’s meek acceptance of what are considered extremely challenging fuel-economy goals is a marked retreat from years past, when the companies argued that consumers would not be willing to pay for the technology needed to meet higher mileage requirements. 

And for those of you who are religious,

“The auto companies’ level of vitriol and rhetoric has changed,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, a group that works to mitigate global warming. “We welcome all epiphanies.”

Amen to that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Musical Tribute to the Debt Ceiling

Boehner and the Debt

To the tune of, "Bennie and the Jets," with all due apologies to Sir Elton John.

Hey kids, debt can't last forever
The ceiling's upon us
And we can't work together.
We'll kill entitlements tonight
so stick around.
That wail will be the left wing howling
solid walls of sound.

Say Barry and Harry and the Gang of Six,
We are so tapped out.
B-B-B Boehner and the Debt.
Oh, it's so weird and so wonderful,
The Tea Party is such a pain
No talk of revenue, just cuts for you and you.
You know we have to guard our capital gain.
B-B-B Boehner and the Debt

Hey Pres, don't be in a big rush
Maybe you're blinded,
an unrequited man crush?
Wall Street will thrive, our position will be long.
We can buy and sell K Street and the Post
To prove we're right and they're wrong.

Say Nancy, Michele, Mitt, Newt, Paul and Mitch
Oh, We are so tapped out.
B-B-B Boehner and the Debt.
Oh, it's so weird and so wonderful,
The Tea Party is such a pain
No talk of revenue, just cuts for you and you.
You know we have to guard our capital gain.
Oh, ho, oho
B-B-B Boehner and the Debt

by Bob Grundfest

Monday, July 25, 2011

Shedding Tears For John Boehner

If this post from Political Wire is true, and I have no reason to disbelieve it, then House Speaker John Boehner has quite a dilemma on his hands for the next couple of days.

The Tea Party Caucus is serious in their demands that the debt ceiling not be raised at all, and it wouldn't matter whether Mr. Boehner or President Obama was requesting that they accede to it. This puts the Republican Party, and the country, in a huge bind. How is Boehner going to get enough Tea Party members in the House and convince Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get at least 3 Democrats in the Senate to vote for the same bill?

That would be a feat that another Harry, the one named Houdini, might have difficulty producing out of a hat. Perhaps we might get a decent bill if Reid, Obama and Boehner were tied together in a straitjacket and dunked in a pool of water.

In the end, Congress will vote to raise the debt ceiling because the stakes of not doing so are too high. But the process has been so messy and prolonged that neither party can claim any moral high ground and it won't produce what the nation desperately needs: more jobs.

This is not America's finest hour.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bush 5.07-Obama 1.44

That's in trillions of dollars spent by each president.

If you want to know how the United States got into this debt mess, then look no more. This small but concise article from today's New York Times graphically shows where we went off the tracks.

George W. Bush inherited an economy that had a projected surplus and efficiently turned it into a deficit within two years. Barack Obama inherited the worst economy since the 1930's and has added far fewer dollars to the debt than his predecessor. Take a look at this graph (the source is the Congressional Budget Office, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities):

Bush's tax cuts alone cost the economy more than all of Obama's programs, including the stimulus that saved the country from a deeper, nastier Depression.

So the next time you hear someone complaining about all of the debt the present administration has heaped on the country, remind them that George W. Bush and a Republican Congress almost buried us in debt that paid for very little save for an unnecessary war in Iraq and an unprecedented funneling of money to the already wealthy. And many of the same Congressional Republicans who are apoplectic about our debt now happily voted for these programs and to extend the debt limit every time they were asked to do so.

White People

Imagine being white, 35 and under and making less than $75,000 per year. Over the past 10 years your relative income has stagnated, your raise (when you got one) was eaten up by higher insurance premiums and the rising cost of food, gas and housing, and government services have been pared back or eliminated so you're more vulnerable if something catastrophic happened to you. Most of your lifestyle was financed by borrowed money either through your credit card or your own personal ATM machine, also known as your home.

Meanwhile, the wealthy upper classes have enjoyed double-digit raises not only in income, but through tax cuts that enriched their pockets and cost you in lost services. CEO's, whether they ran a successful company or not, made heaping piles of money and became cultural stars of both the large and small screen. When the bubble burst, they got a bailout. You were too small, so you were allowed to fail.

This scenario was brought to you by the Republican Party and the conservative ethos that has taken it over in the years since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. Present day Republican leaders would rather smash themselves into brick walls rather than end tax breaks for oil companies and multi-millionaires and believe that if you need government services, like unemployment insurance, well that must mean that you're a lazy socialist with anti-establishment tendencies.

This situation reminds me of the hazing scene in Animal House where Kevin Bacon is grasping his ankles and being paddled mercilessly in order to be part of the nasty fraternity. Like the battered middle and working classes, through gritted teeth he proudly asks while being hit, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"

White voters, then, must be ready to bolt the party of Lincoln and find refuge in a system that will allow them to thrive, but protect them when things go bad, right?

Not so fast.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Lost My Job Through Facebook

Well, not me personally, but I could see many people, especially young people, relating the story of how they didn't get the job they wanted because of what they've posted on social media sites.

Here's the article:

So the question is, "What's online now that's going to bite your tuchus later on?"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Could You Find the Periodic Table on a Map of Asia?

Are you tired of reading about how much you don't know, or never learned, or how far behind your child's education is compared to the rest of the world? No? Well you are are luck. According to two new studies, students in the United States are once again lagging behind in both science and geography. How can we fix this?

Diet and Health

A friend sent me this link, which illustrates the extent to which fast food and popular restaurant chains will try to lure us in. Eat them if you dare.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Weight Loss

Here are a couple of great resources for losing weight. Yes, I know that you've probably heard enough about our national weight problem and maybe you're not one of the people who needs to see this, but I'm guessing that most of us could stand to lose pounds for aesthetic and health reasons.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On Education: Part I

I have been a high school history teacher since 1984, and have spent the past 23 years in the New Jersey public schools. This is my first post about education and I will return to it from time-to-time as events unfold.

On Tuesday, July 12, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's administration released the figures on how much more state aid school districts will receive for the 2011-2012 school year.  To see the actual breakdown, visit the link below.

The Governor's Office also released a statement about how the aid should be used.

“The additional education aid included in this year’s budget is an opportunity to reduce property tax burdens by lowering local property tax levies for this fiscal year or the next and move closer toward real reform in our schools," said Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts in a statement.
“The administration strongly encourages using this additional aid to lower taxes and make the important step toward new and effective management of our schools that focuses on improving student achievement, rather than increased spending.”

Herein lies the biggest problem with  how Chris Christie, and most other radical Republican governors, view education funding. There is no rational connection between giving taxpayers money back and making schools more effective.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Be Still My Heart

I woke up to a dream this morning:

Michele Bachmann's polling surge isn't just for the early primary states: A Quinnipiac University poll released this morning shows the Minnesotan is now in second place nationally, taking 14 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney's 25 percent. Bachmann's support has more than doubled since June 8, when she was in sixth place with 6 percent of the vote. From 

And here all of this time my hope was that Sarah Palin would be my true love this election season. Now it turns out that Ms. Bachmann is the conservative's darling and has an outside shot at disrupting the coronation of Mitt Romney. We all know that the conservatives loathe Mitt, not least of all because many don't consider Mormonism to be a true Christian religion. But that bit of sober reasoning pales when held up to the larger mirror of  mainstream Republican dogma: discrimination against gays and lesbians, denial of a women's right to choose what she does with her body, destruction of the public schools (or any public system in my humble opinion), and a willingness to bring down the economy on the alter of false fiscal morality.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's Nice to Share

Republicans dug in deeper against adding tax revenues to any deficit reduction package Monday, suggesting that just voting for a debt ceiling increase qualifies as “shared sacrifice” and even taunting President Barack Obama by saying that if he feels compelled to pay more taxes, “he can write a check anytime he wants.”

You really have to love the otherworldly quality of our right-wing minded citizens,  now seemingly led by Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia. It seems that sharing the pain only requires the Republicans to actually vote to raise the debt ceiling, as that would cause them so much pain, sweat and angst you'd have to raise health care premiums to cover the run on private hospitals and insurers that would certainly follow.

This is truly the summer of our discontent: a blooming, weed infested, pollen-spewing garden of destructive ideas, disregard for the victims of irresponsible economic policies such as tax cuts and subsidies for wealthy companies, and a patent obliviousness to the suffering that would ensue if we cut social programs in an economic slump. Both parties can certainly share in the blame for how we got into this mess, but the Republican plans to clean it up are simply unsustainable and mean-spirited.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Your Move

Here's what I like about Obama:

Just when you think he's going to get steamrolled by the radical Republicans, he turns around and ups the ante. Boehner, Cantor and McConnell all thought they had the president in a corner but it's pretty clear by now that the American people want deficit reduction, but they want it done responsibly. Most people want Social Security and Medicare and the mortgage interest deduction, plus they want wealthy people and corporations to pay their share. It seems that only the radicals want everyone to have the freedom to lose all of their money to an unregulated market.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Budget Politics

It's strikes me as childish for the Republicans to react with such shock (shock!) at the president's response to their budget talks walkout.

Imagine wanting to find some revenue from ultra-wealthy people to help with the debt crisis.
Imagine wanting to spread the burden around.
Imagine wanting to protect the middle class from impending doom and collapse.

The nerve.

Obama has finally shown some backbone and that rankles the radical right to their very core. They are playing an extremely dangerous game with the economy and need to be called out for their ideological madness.