TheOlympics?summer/winter whatever?have become an encomium to obsessive behavior, moneyworship, and bending the rules to win at all costs.
Ihate it. Not that there are not Olympic athletes who are spectacularlyexcellent at what they do...there are.
Buthaving watched none of it, while reading and listening to daily reviews of allof it--and how can one escape unless one runs off to hide in a cave?--I have cometo the sorry conclusion that some of the finest athletes in the 2012 Summer Olympics may have intentionally lost initialless-interesting races in order to increase the hype for later races that weremore interesting.
Thisrealization came to me when I read that badminton teams were throwing theirgames for what the badminton teams claimed were good and moral reasons. If thatcould happen in badminton, it could happen in other games and races as well.And I am convinced this corruption did happen where highly promoted athleteswere involved.
Ihate the fact that pre-pubescent girls train all day for years doing a12-second routine over and over and over. I also hate that when these girlsstart to show signs of puberty some are given drugs that put off the maturingprocess.
Ihate the fact that the Olympics put obsessive behavior, cheating to win, moneyand adulation on a pedestal along with athletic prowess.
Thesegames, which supposedly are a testament to the greatness of amateur athletes,have become as corrupt and dishonest as games played by professional sportsteams.
No?letme rephrase that. The Olympics have become as corrupt and dishonest as gamesplayed by teams in colleges.
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This is your Moment of Clarity #160: It all seems to be coming together into one. 90% of our media is owned by only six corporations. We act like the President is the only lawmaker who matters. How much further can things condense?
The President makes a cameo appearance in this week?s episode of HBO?s ?Newsroom,? announcing the death of Osama bin Laden after an hour of journalistic jockeying over the propriety of reporting events before they are officially confirmed.
Press criticism flourishes in the real White House too. After eight years of Bush/Cheney feigned disdain, Barak Obama is openly engaged in debate over how journalists shape or distort reality.
The President, reports the New York Times, is ?an avid consumer of political news and commentary. But in his informal role as news media critic in chief, he developed a detailed critique of modern news coverage that he regularly expresses to those around him.?
In doing so, Obama is taking traditional Oval Office grousing to its logical next step in the Internet era by not only complaining about coverage but trying to shape it with Twitter town halls, a Google ?hangout? and discussion via LinkedIn as well as the usual sit-down interviews with columnists and electronic pundits.
Yet, despite all this, he has had little success in efforts ?to tell a story to the American people.? The answer may lie less in Obama?s narrative skills than the vicissitudes of journalism today.
Half a century ago at the dawn of TV, Presidents were overwhelmed by the reality that they no could longer control the public?s sense of the world along with the words that described distant events. War and disorder were now seen nightly in living rooms, tearing down the wall between political and private.
JFK took a speed-reading course to devour newspapers and magazines before televised press conferences. LBJ had three network news programs on simultaneously. Nixon made half a dozen aides watch and read to boil down what was being reported so he could be ?informed and aware but not consumed by the news.?
Now the 24/7 flood of information is at full tide, breaking down all barriers between public and private with hard if not impossible-to-separate facts, pseudo-facts and factoids.
The loudest and least disciplined figures assail our senses with babble and body rhetoric while the media are overwhelmed in their attempts to mediate, to separate sense from nonsense.
The 2012 campaign will be over in three months, ending this season?s Citizens United gusher of lies and distortions, but little will change to feed material to Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, Letterman and Leno.
It will only hurt when we laugh.
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The commercial claims that an Affordable Care Act regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide preventive health benefits like contraception undermines religious freedoms — but fails to note that houses of worship and religious nonprofits are exempt from offering birth control, or that Obama’s rule closely mirrors a measure included in Romney’s own health reform in Massachusetts. ?President Obama used his healthcare plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith,? the ad says, before drawing a parallel to the Soviet Union:
As governor, Romney greatly expanded access publicly-financed contraception through his 2006 health care reform law. The state?s Commonwealth Care, established under Romneycare, offers subsidized, low or no-cost insurance to low-income residents and provides primary and preventive care that includes ?family planning services? and prescription contraceptives. In 2005, Romney also ?signed a bill that could expand the number of people who get family-planning services, including the morning-after pill” and asked the Department of Health and Human Services to require Catholic hospitals to issue the morning after pill to rape victims.
In fact, the Obamacare rule Romney is now characterizing as an affront to religious liberties is very similar to a 2002 state law he tacitly supported. Like more than two dozen states across the country, Massachusetts required insurers that provide outpatient benefits to cover hormone replacement therapy and all FDA-approved contraceptive methods — well before Obamacare became law. The Massachusetts rule exempts ?an employer that is a church or qualified church-controlled organization? from the mandate, but prohibits institutions such as hospitals, universities, and nursing homes from denying their employees birth control coverage.
Romney, who was running for governor in 2002, remained mum on the requirement (as it was debated and ultimately passed unanimously in the Senate and in a 140 to 16 vote in the House) and pledged to maintain the status quo on family-planning related policy throughout his gubernatorial campaign.
I spent an hour yesterday considering how to tackle Stephen Marche’s calamitously awful piece for Esquire, “The Contempt of Women,” an attempt at cultural analysis in which he strawmans Girls, Sex and the City and Fifty Shades of Grey all in one paragraph, praises President Bush’s myopia, and literally cites declining sexual assaults rate as evidence of women’s contempt for men. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say so much as I didn’t know where to start, at least until Marche tweeted “The women who show their contempt for my piece on the contempt of women prove my point by virtue of their contempt. Does that make sense?” It’s the perfect encapsulation of an idea that’s shows up in culture everywhere from the backlash against Anita Sarkeesian to the defense of comics who say that women aren’t funny: that women don’t have the right to determine what’s fit for judgement, particularly if their target is something admired by men or conferring of male privilege, and when they do, their judgement is inevitably tainted by self-interest or motivated by irrational contempt rather than the merits of the case.
It is, apparently, not okay for women to want clarity about the status of their relationships and sex that is fulfilling for them as well as their partners, as Hannah does on Girls, to attempt to negotiate the terms of their relationship as Anastasia Steele does in Fifty Shades of Grey, tease the president of the United States, who is also your husband and probably comes equipped with his own set of domestic idiosyncrasies and slight annoyances, or appreciate Louis C.K.’s self-examination. The thing is, there’s a lot of stupid in our culture, and contempt for women is embedded in that very stupid. I’m not sure why women are supposed to accord a heightened level of respect for narratives that tell us we should fall for inconsiderate schlubs whose inattentiveness is a theoretical down payment in future awesome, or the idea that sexual harassment is part of video game culture, or assertions that female incompetence is adorable and endearing. If people and concepts are going to treat women with utter, logic-boggling disrespect, I have no idea why I should bring deference to a contempt-fight.
But we are in luck! Because it turns out that even if I’m not supposed to feel contempt for things and behaviors, and men are supposed to ignore me, Marche is allowed to visit judgement down on his fellow men, and they’d do well to fall in line. “I suppose I should feel compassion, or some kind of weird gender loyalty, for the guys who can’t figure this out,” he writes. “In all honesty, I don’t. There is no masculinity crisis. There’s a crisis for idiots. The Tucker Maxes of the world are doomed. That’s not the end of men. It’s the beginning.” What a relief that someone is allowed to name nonsense for what it is! I hope Marche is ready and able to serve. Because I have a list of things I’d like him to hold in contempt for me.
ThinkProgress has chronicled the ways in which the House Republican budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), targets programs that benefit the poor and middle class to find most of its spending cuts, even as it gives the rich and corporations $3 trillion in tax breaks. The budget also would hit America’s middle class in another way: by decimating state and local budgets, as a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities details.
The budget’s cuts to federal discretionary spending would cause reductions in the amount the federal government contributes to state and local governments, causing deep cuts to state programs that deal with transportation, education, housing, public safety, and the environment, according to CBPP. Those cuts would be even bigger than the reductions caused by the Budget Control Act, the bipartisan debt limit deal reached last summer that sets caps on federal spending levels. Under the GOP budget, federal funding to states would be reduced to less than half its historical average, CBPP found:
As difficult as the current spending caps will be for states and localities, the Ryan budget would impose much deeper cutbacks. Since 1976, federal discretionary funding to states and localities has averaged 1.4 percent of the nation?s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By 2021, the Ryan budget would reduce this funding to about 0.6 percent of GDP, less than half the historical average and well below the BCA caps.
The GOP budget would cut Medicaid funding for states by 34 percent by 2022; it would make 22 percent cuts to state and local budgets in other areas, causing a reduction of $28 billion in state funding by 2014 and a total of $247 billion in cuts by 2022, CBPP found. That would cause decimating cuts to state education programs like Head Start and Title I (high poverty) schools; housing programs that provide rental assistance to the poor; health programs like the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) grants and Community Health Centers; and public safety programs that help hire police officers and firefighters.
“In theory, policymakers could spare state and local funding and take all of the required cuts from purely federal areas of non-defense discretionary spending,” CBPP writes. “In reality, there is no chance that would occur, as it would entail extremely deep cuts” to programs like veterans’ health benefits and Social Security that aren’t likely to get the axe.
The Great Recession’s crunch on state and local budgets is already dragging down the American economy: in the last three years, more than 680,000 public sector workers, including hundreds of thousands of teachers and public safety officials, have lost their jobs, the worst three-year period for government job losses on record. That has increased unemployment and made it harder for states, cities, and their residents to recover from the recession. Rather than providing a “Path to Prosperity” for states, as Ryan asserts his budget will, the GOP’s insistence on deep spending cuts would only exacerbate the pain they are already feeling.
?The average American out there, by big percentages, wants to cut defense by twice the sequester amount,? he said, citing recent polls.
?We need to stop with all the superlatives about the thing and be rational about it and involve the American people on it,? Bartlett said. ?It?s their country. It?s their kids that will have to fight the next war. They have a right to be involved, don?t they??
Indeed, polls have found that a large majority of Americans want to cut military spending. The baseline U.S. defense budget has doubled in the last decade and U.S. military spending represents 40 percent of the world’s total and 70 percent when combined with U.S. allies. But Bartlett’s reasoned position puts him at odds with HASC chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), who regularly tries to scare the public about reducing the Pentagon’s budget.
Defense industry contributions may explain, at least in part, the difference in opinion. According to OpenSecrets.org, defense contractors have given McKeon nearly a half a million dollars, while Bartlett has received just over $100,000.
While Bartlett notes that the sequester is probably not the best way to cut military spending (CAP’s Lawrence Korb has some ideas on some alternative methods), he’s right that it won’t be a “devastating” blow to the military or the nation’s defense. The Congressional Budget Office said recently that it would merely bring Pentagon spending back to 2006 levels.
There’s a new reason to get upset at bad drivers.
In the video below, Kelly Olsen, an electric vehicle driver in Santa Monica, shows that drivers of conventional vehicles are parking in EV charging spots around the city. There are a limited number of these chargers available, so this makes it nearly impossible for EV drivers to charge their cars in a spot close to where they need to be.
It might not be dangerous, and it’s not quite as bad as parking in a handicap spot, but this behavior is up there with the worst of driving etiquette.
Olsen coined the term “ICEing” — short for Internal Combustion Engine — as way to describe the problem.
I personally like the term “watt blocking,” which references a more personal form of obstruction. Whatever we call it, my guess is that this problem will only get worse before it gets better.
Germany’s constitutional court has ruled that same-sex couples who have entered into “registered partnerships” are entitled to the exemption from the country’s land transfer tax just like straight married couples. Increasingly, Germany’s conservatives are arguing that long-term same-sex relationships exemplify conservative values, including members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. Germany’s Free Democrat coalition has been arguing that same-sex partnerships should have all their taxes lowered to the level imposed on married families.
Earlier this year, a Virginia federal judge ruled that “liking” a page on Facebook is not protected speech under the First Amendment. The judge ruled that Deputy Sheriff Daniel Ray Carter was not wrongfully fired for “liking” the Facebook campaign page of his boss’ opponent. Facebook is now supporting Carter’s appeal, arguing that expression on Facebook is the “21st-century equivalent of a front-yard campaign sign.” It is well established that actions intended to convey a message, such as wearing an arm band or burning a flag, are protected by the First Amendment.