Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Check Out the "Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2011"


My March 10, 2011 piece, "How Unions Make a Nation Competitive," was featured in Vagabond Scholar's "Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2011." If you haven't already, be sure to check out this roundup, which offers a lot of great articles from many of the Web's top progressive blogs. And also, be sure to check out Vagabond Scholar itself, which is one of our favorite liberal blogs. Here's to a great 2012 for all progressive bloggers everywhere.

Why Jesus Would Call Tim Tebow a Hypocrite

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

--The words of Christ, as quoted in Matthew 6:1, The Bible, New International Version.


Denver Broncos football star Tim Tebow seems like a nice, likeable fellow. It seems harsh to say anything negative about him.

But for years, Tebow has been outspoken about his Christian faith, instead of keeping it (as millions of Christians do) as a personal, private matter. Indeed, with his extremely public displays of prayer, Tebow wants the whole world to know that he's a Christian. And frankly, if you take a look at the actual words of Jesus Christ, it becomes clear that Christ regarded people like Tebow as hypocrites.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers the following definition for hypocrite: "a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings."

Now, let's turn to the Bible and look at the actual words of Christ in Matthew 6:5-15. This is one of those Bible passages that I've never, ever seen any mainstream or evangelical "Christian" quote.

In fact, the vast majority of "Christians" always carefully tiptoe away from this passage and just try to pretend it doesn't exist. It shouldn't really surprising why. The passage very clearly questions the need for organized church services---and, for that matter, churches, period. Given that churches are an enormously profitable (and tax-free) cash cow that sustain the gigantic industry known as organized religion, it shouldn't be surprising that most "Christians" ignore Matthew 6:5-15.

Matthew 6:5-15 quotes Christ's actual words and reads as follows:

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

The fact is, Christ very clearly disapproved of public displays of prayer. In fact, he specifically called people who do so "hypocrites."

This year, Tebow has captured endless headlines and publicity for his trademark habit of "Tebowing" (kneeling and praying) during key moments of football games. As a result, tens of millions of NFL viewers have repeatedly watched Tebow pray during football games.

It's difficult to imagine a more high-profile, public way of praying than "Tebowing." Tebow is not content with simple prayer in private. Instead he turns it into a "Hey, look-at-me!" public spectacle, before the television cameras.

Whatever one thinks of this spectacle, it's clear that Tebow is completely ignoring Christ's own words about how to pray. Once again: Jesus said when you pray, you should go into your room and close the door and pray in secret. To do otherwise, as Jesus notes, is to be an attention-seeking "hypocrite."

Speaking of hypocrisy, Tebow recently signed a contract that will pay him tens of millions for playing football in the years to come. Whatever one thinks of the inflated, obscene pay packages that today's pampered athletes make, there's one thing that is clear: once again Tebow has been ignoring the words of Christ that condemn wealth.

In Mark 10:21, Jesus states that the only way a rich person can enter heaven is to sell all his assets and give the money to the poor. And in Matthew 19:24, Jesus says that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, "You cannot serve both God and money."

These are three Bible passages that quote Jesus and that specifically condemn mega-millionaires like Tebow. The Bible, in fact, is full of passages that condemn wealth (which is the reason that the early Christians, as described in the Book of Acts, lived a socialist lifestyle).

Tebow may well regard himself as a fine, upstanding Christian. But his version of "Christianity" in fact has little to do with the actual words of Christ.

And it's also clear that Christ himself would have regarded Tebow as a hypocrite.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Film Review: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Another Unnecessary, Inferior Hollywood Remake


Once again, Hollywood takes a perfectly fine foreign film and thinks it can do better, simply by throwing an enormous amount of money at a remake and hiring top actors and an acclaimed director. I'll bet the catering budget alone for this bloated, unnecessary remake was bigger than the entire budget of the Swedish original.

What Hollywood can't do, though, these days, is originality. I very rarely even bother to go to the movie theater. Most U.S. movies are terrible. The only movies I watch are the occasional indie film, as well as European and, especially, East Asian movies. It's not because I'm an elitist, or a hipper-than-thou fanboy. It's simply because I'm bored stiff by 99 percent of what Hollywood does.

The best of Hollywood these days may be polished and technically accomplished. And there may be some good acting, here and there. But there is no real originality. And most importantly, there is little soul.

Today's Hollywood moguls only focus on a bland movie-by-committee approach that cynically has no other aim than to appeal to as many customers world-wide as possible. It makes for very lucrative business----but lousy art.

For me, the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has its moments. But overall, it's just another depressing example of a Hollywood industry that is creatively bankrupt. Hollywood has become a parasite industry that just leeches off the ideas of other cultures. (Thank God for off-the-wall films like Tokyo Gore Police and Martyrs that are so extreme and uncompromising that it'd be impossible for Hollywood to remake them).

I realize that there are a lot of Fincher fan-boys who lap up everything he does. But to me, he's overrated.

For me, The Social Network was dull. Just the story of a bunch of pampered Ivy college kids without a care in the world, going to endless parties and expensive clubs.

Hmmm, interesting. When I worked my way through college, my life wasn't anything like this. Just a lot of brutal 16-hour shifts, misery, and constant worry about finding the money to pay the electric bill. And I was hardly the only one. (Actually, the struggles of working-class kids in college would make for a much more interesting film, in my opinion).

Oh, and I know a thing or two about building a popular Web business, too. The Social Network isn't anything like what I went through (or what anyone I know in the biz went through) in building a Web site business. There was little partying, or hanging around in clubs with beautiful models. Instead, there was just an enormous amount of tedious, grueling work, hunched over a computer terminal far into the night. No alcohol---but enormous amounts of coffee.

To be sure, my Web business is a mosquito, compared to the all-conquering behemoth that is Facebook. But I know enough about the biz to know that The Social Network is a fantasy (and an overrated, crap movie as well that is nothing like the real world of building a successful Web biz from scratch).

And as for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo---it's a totally unnecessary and inferior Hollywood remake of what was a perfectly fine original Swedish film.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Facts That Republicans Have A Hard Time Grasping: No. 1 In A Series


Republicans these days inhabit a world that is different from the rest of us. Their world is a hermetically-sealed unit through which certain facts can never penetrate. Argue with Republicans all you want, but you will never break through this barrier.

This is one reason you simply can't argue with Republicans on many issues of the day, from Global Warming to the missing WMDs in Iraq. No matter how many indisputable facts you toss into your argument, you'll simply never get anywhere.

In my experience, the Republican will simply deny the existence of facts. If that's not possible, he or she will claim that your source is unreliable (even if your source is rock-solid numbers from, say, the U.S. Treasury Department). If all else fails, the Republican will simply start screaming and shouting his point of the view (as though simply raising one's voice enhances one's argument). Finally, as a last resort, the Republican will simply try to change the subject, or just walk away.

I saw the above tactics in action during a recent argument with a right-wing friend. He was peddling the standard GOP line that "Obama's 2009 stimulus was a failure and a waste of taxpayer money." I pointed out to him that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the stimulus increased the number of people employed by between 0.4 million and 2.4 million. The CBO also noted that the stimulus raised GDP by between 0.3 and 1.9 percent in the third quarter of 2011. In other words, the stimulus was a success and it prevented the Second-Great-Depression-in-the-making that Obama inherited from Bush from ever happening.

My right-wing friend disputed the CBO report. The CBO, he claimed is a Liberal partisan group and in any case, their numbers are suspect. (This is probably what Rush has been peddling to his audience lately).

Earth to GOP: the CBO is hardly "partisan." Basically, it's the government's own statistics agency and its numbers are widely used by both the Republicans and the Democrats. The CBO is a mainstream government agency that is about as partisan as the phone book. All it does is crunch numbers, compile them and then release them to the public.

It speaks volumes about the GOP mindset that my friend would even attempt to attack the CBO as a "partisan" and "non-reliable" source. I mean, if a mainstream government agency like the CBO is unreliable, then who, exactly, is a reliable source?

While he bashes the CBO as "partisan" and "unreliable," my friend, during his arguments, routinely quotes anything and everything Rush Limbaugh says as the absolute gospel truth. If Rush said it, it must be true. Yes: this drug-using, obese, fact-challenged, racist, serial liar is a "reliable" source---and yet a mainstream non-partisan statistics agency like the CBO is "suspect."

Such is the alternate universe in which Republicans live.

Trying to inform these people about basic, fundamental facts that challenge their Rush-twisted world viewpoint is like trying to teach a shark to appreciate Mozart.

One of the hardest facts to try to get a Republican to accept is that the GOP in reality is NOT the fiscally conservative party that it sells itself as. In fact, the Democrats are America's fiscally conservative party as this chart (see below) clearly reveals.

Despite this, the GOP succeeds in continuing to sell their party as America's "fiscally conservative" party. By simply repeating this lie, over and over, they've managed to convince tens of millions of America of this---not just Republicans, but millions of independents, and even many Democrats.

Go to any encyclopedia and look up "Republican" and you'll consistently find the GOP described as America's "fiscally conservative" party. It's incredible that this image endures, despite decades of hard evidence to the contrary.

In this case, not only are Republicans oblivious to the facts. But so is virtually everyone else in America, from encyclopedia authors to the mainstream media. By simply repeating their mantra of "we support fiscal conservatism" over and over, the GOP has managed to pull the wool over everyone's eyes.

I'm sure that future historians, when they survey the wreckage of the collapsed American empire, will marvel that Republicans managed to fool so many people for so long.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Marc's Jukebox: The Anti-Nowhere League: "Let's Break the Law"



Sometimes a society passes bad laws. And bad laws deserve to be broken.

For example, take the law that enabled New York City's Michael Bloomberg to send in his heavy-handed cops to break up OWS's peaceful protest.

That was a bad law. And it was meant to be broken.

So was the law (the 2002 Iraq War Resolution) that enabled Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the NeoCon goons to launch their war of aggression against Iraq.

U.S. soldiers were obligated by U.S. law to participate in this war. But what they should have done is laid down their weapons and refused to fight. (Actually, some of them did just that---and they, in my opinion are the true heroes in the U.S. military).

The bottom line is that if the law of the land is a bad law, then We The People not only should break it, we have an obligation to do so.

Fighting against the oppression of the oligarchy that currently rules this nation is going to inevitably involve breaking some laws. I suspect that OWS is only the beginning. And the more the working class is oppressed today, the higher the odds that the People's Revolution that inevitably follows will turn violent someday.

Speaking of breaking laws, the British punk band The Anti-Nowhere League are a crew that I want on my side of the barricades, come the revolution. Actually, I'm not sure how politically aware these guys are. But there is definitely no mistaking their sincerity to the cause of creating mayhem in the streets, as a listen to their song, "Let's Break the Law" reveals.

The Anti-Nowhere League initially made a splash in the U.K. in 1982 with their classic album, We Are...The League, which soared up the independent charts that year. The album had many classic tunes, including a high-octane cover of Ralph McTell's "Streets of London," a celebration of the downtrodden, the oppressed, the lonely, and the forgotten members of society.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Today's Nazi Of The Day Award Goes To Rush Limbaugh


Today marks the inaugural edition of our Nazi of the Day Award. The first recipient of this award is: Rush Limbaugh.

True, any one of the right-wing talk show hosts that pollute our nation's airwaves with their toxic bile could be eligible for this award. (For example, Mark Levin is a truly creepy, twisted fascist who actually makes Limbaugh sound like a moderate and reasonable fellow at times, by comparison).

But let's face it: Herr Limbaugh is in a different league by virtue of the fact that he's been doing this so effectively and for so long. His racist, bigoted, Nazi ramblings long ago short-circuited the outrage meters of Liberals (and for that matter, anyone who isn't seriously mentally disturbed).

It's gotten so bad that Limbaugh can call First Lady Michelle Obama "uppity" and his use of that racially charged insult is only good for a moderate 12-hour news cycle before it is forgotten.

Quick question: in the past half-century has anyone ever used the word "uppity" in anything other than a Ku Klux Klan-like context? Has anyone ever used the word "Uppity" who wasn't a angry white bigoted male who was slamming African-Americans? If so, I've certainly never heard about it.

But using racially charged language is what Limbaugh excels at. His brief, after all, is to act as a matador of sorts for the Rich and Powerful in America. As a matador, he waves a red flag as a distraction to trick millions of gullible angry white working class people into voting against their own interests.

But how does Limbaugh achieve this feat of manipulating his audience into voting for the party of billionaires? It's simple. He does it by shamelessly scapegoating African-Americans.

Hence, tens of millions of Limbaugh's listeners are convinced that the source of all their problems is that the government supposedly is stealing their hard-earned dollars and handing it out to lazy black people who don't work.

Never mind that America's social safety net for the poor is already embarrassingly threadbare for a First World nation. Never mind that millions of low-income people never receive a dime of welfare in this country. Never mind that corporate welfare and welfare for the rich and powerful is vastly more costly than our nation's skimpy programs for the poor.

I've long believed that, for all his hundreds of millions of dollars in income, Limbaugh has the easiest job in America. All he does is sit on his fat ass and spew lies into a microphone for three hours a day.

The Pig-Man does zero research and zero fact-checking. Of course, none of this matters, as his audience laps it all up with a spoon. They dismiss Media Matters and other fact-checking sites that expose Limbaugh's many daily lies and his blatant racism.

"It's all a Librul conspiracy to hurt Rush," the Ditto-Heads claim.

But while Limbaugh has an easy job, one thing he does do very well is the way he skillfully dances around the "N" word. Although he doesn't actually ever use the "N" word to demonize blacks, he very artfully dances around saying the word "n*gger" on the air.

In doing so, Limbaugh can use the language of the KKK in calling First Lady Michelle Obama "uppity" and then claim with a straight face that he is no racist. (This, despite, an established decades-long track record of making outrageously racist and bigoted statements).

You know, on a certain level, I think I actually have more respect for the likes of the KKK than I do for Limbaugh. After all, the KKK openly admits its racism. It doesn't try to hide anything. Give the KKK credit for one thing: they're honest and upfront about it. By contrast, Limbaugh truly sickens me the way he uses KKK-like language and then disingenuously claims that he not a racist.

So in addition to being a racist, he's also a liar.

Oh, and he's also a Nazi. In fact, I have no doubt that Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels would find much to admire in Limbaugh's technique.

After all, Limbaugh is scapegoating African-Americans in much the same manner that Goebbels scapegoated the Jews.

Just as Limbaugh manages to convince his gullible audience than black people are somehow to blame for their problems, Nazis like Goebbels managed to convince millions of people that the Jews were the cause of many of Germany's woes. (The "stab-in-the-back legend" in which people like the Jews were blamed for Germany's World War I defeat is a good example of the latter).

Like Goebbels, Limbaugh is spewing his toxic nonsense in a decaying, declining nation. And I believe that, as was the case in the Third Reich, it's a situation that could eventually turn tragic.

After all, the more Limbaugh convinces his audience to vote against its own interest, the more we'll see the U.S. increasingly turn into a Third World nation. And the more the latter happens, the angrier and more bitter Limbaugh's audience will become. It's a vicious circle---and I believe it could someday lead to serious violence. These people are already heavily armed and they're very bitter and angry.

After all, America already has a sinister history of racial violence (although most Americans remain unaware of tragedies like the deadly 1921 Tulsa race riot).

Thanks to the legacy of three decades of increasingly extreme GOP policies, the U.S. today is a fading power. America's corrupt political leadership and the criminals run many of our largest corporations and financial institutions have driven this nation into the ground. Although the Top One Percent have never been a bunch of angels, I believe that today, they're more corrupt than ever. And, tragically, they now exercise total control over our government more than they ever have in our nation's history, thanks to Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United.

In previous decades, America's rich realized that while it's OK to gorge themselves at the banquet table, it's smart to occasionally brush off a few crumbs onto the floor for the rest of us. Today's wealthy elite don't even bother to do that. I mean, why bother when you have the likes of Limbaugh to poison the minds of millions of working-class people and to persuade them to vote against their own interests?

As Bill Maher once said, democracy doesn't work when people vote against their own interests. So, in addition to his other crimes, Limbaugh is playing a key role in the dismantling of democracy in America. Clearly, Limbaugh, with his outspoken support for wars of aggression, stolen elections, state-sponsored torture, and his contempt for democracy, would feel right at home in the Third Reich.

So there you have it: today's Nazi of the Day Award goes to Rush Limbaugh. I'm sure that Adolf Hitler would be proud.