Saturday, November 18, 2006

Just In Time For Christmas!

The Saudis tried to help Bush this fall by increasing production, and may have helped save the Tennessee Senate seat and a handful of Congressional races for him, but...:
OPEC must cut again, $60 oil "moderate": Qatar

By Ikuko Kao

TOKYO (Reuters) - Qatar Oil Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah said on Saturday that OPEC will have to cut oil production further when it meets in Nigeria next month, and that a $60 U.S. crude oil price was "moderate."

"Our Abuja meeting has no choice but to accept a cut," Attiyah told Reuters, in the hardest comments yet from an OPEC official to indicate that a further reduction in supply will be required. "The market is oversupplied."

"The Doha cut was not efficient in stabilizing the market."

He said a cut could be around 500,000 to 1 million barrels per day, although it was hard to predict.
Oil reached a high of $78.53 a barrel in July, and then dropped some 25% in the ensuing months (particularly after Labor Day). However, It bottomed out at $56 a barrel, which is still very pricey and not far from the levels experienced in the wake of Katrina.

For al-Attiyah to hint that $60 might be in the middle of the target range does not bode well for those who use oil to heat their homes. Further, this immediate cut is to stem a possible oil glut in the spring of 2007, so we can expect gas prices to zoom up in May, ahead of the summer travel season.

$4 a gallon, anyone?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Music Blogging

Who - Eminence Front

Friday Kitten Blogging

Without further ado, allow me to introduce ThumbPer, the mensch, who went through the kitty equivalent of a combination bris/bar mitzvah this week. Today...he is a man. Or rather, he was, for a brief shining moment. Unlike most men, however, his got cut off BEFORE he got married, so at least he didn't suffer.

A Quick Reminder

Eleven days from today, all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive telemarketing calls.


To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone: 888-382-1222.
It is the National DO NOT CALL list. It will only take a minute of your time.
It blocks your number for five (5) years.

You can also register on-line at

You must call from the cell phone number you are wanting to have blocked.
You cannot call from a different phone number.


Epsiode V: The Empire Strikes Back

I'm not sure what to make of this, but I wanted to air it and see what I ended up writing (yea, I'm still in spasmodic coughing mode, my voice is gone, and I was uninspired in my shower this morning):
Democrats elect Hoyer House leader

By Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nancy Pelosi, set to become the first woman to head the U.S. House of Representatives, suffered an embarrassing defeat on Thursday when fellow Democrats rejected her choice of a key foe of the Iraq war as her deputy.

Steny Hoyer, a moderate Maryland Democrat, easily defeated Pennsylvania's John Murtha, a leading proponent of a quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, to become the next House majority leader.

A week after Democrats won control of Congress from President George W. Bush's Republicans, the leadership election raised new questions about the clout and hardball style of Pelosi, a California liberal.
Undoubtedly this is a blow to Pelosi's credibility (also to Harry Reid's, which I'll get to in a moment), but is it such a bad thing for her?

First off, isn't it interesting to read how the media is beating the crap out of Pelosi, when Gingrich had an even bigger melee in 1994?

Hoyer has been her deputy during the 109th Congress as minority whip. In essence, he's been elected to the same job he held earlier, only now in the majority, meaning the rank and file representatives were happy with his performance (and obviously, someone did his homework on the back end with the freshmen class).

Ignore Murtha's "ethical problems" for a moment: they were some thirty years old, and of really no consequence (he was caught on tape during ABSCAM turning down a bribe, altho he left the door open to something later, which sounds to me like a possibly smart politician who may have had it in his mind to bust the briber at some point, or a crook who's more cagey than they gave him credit for). Too, forget the "pork for votes" nonsense. Every Congresscritter does that, and it's only in the past ten years under GOP rule that process has been done behind closed doors, something both Reid and Pelosi have vowed to reverse.

Pork-barreling is a time-honored trading mechanism, and should not be shunned. I want your vote, so I promise that you can add an amendment to assist a brisdge being built in your district in exchange for your vote. No biggie, so long as it all happens out front.

All that said, the difference between Hoyer and Murtha, philosophically speaking, came down to two things: Murtha is closer in outlook to Pelosi, a fairly moderate Democrat, based on her voting record (don't buy the "crazed Frisco hippie" line), and Murtha is symbolic of the Democrats efforts to change course in Iraq.

Hoyer has his own ethics issues to deal with, as he is among the fattest cats on K Street, rooting around for lobbying money.

In some respects, the choice of Hoyer does not bode well for an independent Congress. Perhaps Pelosi's oversight will force Hoyer to be a bit more aggressive on lobbying reform (he has said that it's up to individual Congresscritters to police their greed), perhaps the higher profile and media attention will make him go cold turkey.

Who knows? And who knows if Murtha wouldn't turn around and start feeding more heavily at the trough. Either way, it looks like reform has taken a bit of a blow, which means that Pelosi's authority, and by extension, Reid's, since Reid himself has committed to reforming the way the Hill works, has been diminished.

And the seeds of a new Sith regime are sown...

tags technorati :

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thoughts on The "War On Christmas"

Being able to write a long, complex narrative in your head in the shower has its advantages and disadvantages.

Usually, it means I can sit down at my computer, and bang out a post with little more than a proof-read, then sit back and watch the hit counter climb.

When I'm sick with a chest cold, however, the downside is I can cough that entire post right out of my memory with one good loogie.

Which is what happened here today. Nevertheless, the essence of a marvelously witty and ribald post remained firmly attached to my brainstem, despite the whiplash-paroxysms of coughing I've endured for your entertainment.

Ah, the muse! Ah, the suffering of the artist.

But I digress: Overmedicated on dextromethorphan and green tea, I soldier on. Time to get snarky...

This week saw the unveiling of the annual Lord & Taylor holiday...pardon me, Christmas windows on Fifth Avenue. Arguably the most beautiful display in the city, it hearkens back every year to a time when things were simpler: late 19th Century New York, usually. Horse drawn carriages dumping steaming piles of bacteria-laden manure in the streets, rosy cheeked children playing in the snow or under the tree before dropping dead from tuberculosis, mater and pater dressed in their holiday finest, starched collars and laced corsets before retiring to the bed chamber where they smoke opium...Christmas. The way it ought to be!

Or so some would have you think.

The first shot in the "war on Christmas" was fired Monday also, by Bill O'Reilly, when he praised Walmart for dropping "Happy Holidays" from its greetings in favor of "Merry Christmas".

Mind you, their reasons were purely commercial. And isn't the commercialization (read: secularization) of Christmas what "moron Christmas" numbnuts like O'Reilly and John Gibson were railing about in the first place?

One can only hope that, with the midterm elections behind us and the country poised to be safely back in the hands of Democrats, the "war" will fizzle out like a bad menorah, but my suspicion is Fox is desperate now, having beaten the tar out of the rented mule that is Iraq, and left it bleeding by the roadside. They want to re-energize their viewership base, and reanimate such dormant marionettes as Greta Van Susteren, Sean Hannity (who remarkably DOESN'T have a book out to flog this year), and the token closet case, Shepard Smith.

The animatronics department over at Fox must be sleeping.

Well, we here at Simply Left Behind are firm believers in Christmas, to the extent that we receive presents, and occasionally give them. And once in a while throw a prayer skyward, particularly when we have a bit of money riding on a ball game (yea, thanks a LOT, Billy Wagner...).

Since I would not want to be engaged in the "war on Christmas" by the "moron Christmas" contingent, I want to state publicly that I have drawn up a Christmas wish list for some of my favorite commentators on the right, based on my analysis of what they really need, rather than what they want.

See, I've always operated on the theory that, if you're worried about something, it means you've had some disappointment with it in the past.
Dear Santa,

Hi! How are you this year? I hope the Atkins diet worked a little, and that Dancer won't be hobbled when you land on my roof, like last year. I felt bad that he had to go on the DL for the spring training season with a sprained fetlock, but the damn contractor forgot to staple down that piece of cap moulding on the shingles.

Anyway, I'm pretty well taken care of this year. Aside from these nagging health issues, which I don't think you can really help, about all I really want is an underwater housing for my videocamera. The new one. Not the old one. But that's almost three thousand dollars and I would never even consider asking you for that.

You granted two of my wishes last year, the House and the Senate, and I thank you for that. I know God had a bit more to do with that than you did, but I know He talked to you about it after the near-miss over Sadr City.

So I don't want to be greedy and ask for anything for me. But I do have a list for a few folks that I'd like you to consider. I know you don't visit them know that whole "making a list, checking it twice" business probably has you skipping the bad kids...but maybe these presents will help them become "good" again:

1) Bill O'Reilly -- A life-size G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu grip. I know that, around this time each year, Bill gets kind of randy, and is in real need of some lovin'. Since no woman would dare touch his splotchy body, and since he's square dead set against same-sex unions, I figure a, um, marital aid...or more correctly, martial aid...would help ease his loneliness, created by a mother who made him feel ashamed of who he really was, and turned him into an chest-puffing, wannabe-from-Westbury-but-calls-it-Levittown-because-its-not-as-Jewish blowhard. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.

2) Ann Coulter -- A pony. Ann, I know you were highly disappointed back up there in Connecticut with your daddy, and all. He felt that since he had provided the best for you that money could buy, he could stop being a father to you. It must have come as quite a shock when he missed your fourteenth birthday party-- you know, the one where you and little Susie played post office by yourselves?-- in order to pork the Gunderson's maid in the guest house, so I figure a pretty little white pony, with pink bows in its mane, ought to make up for lost time. Oh, and for your dad, a lifetime pass to any AA meeting. I can't imagine why he felt the need to self-medicate so often when you got older...oh, before I forget...Santa, if you're going to give her a pony, could you also include Catherine the Great's, um, harness? She might need like that...

3) Sean Hannity -- Sean, for you, I'd like to wish that we could go back in time, and you could confront that Latino biker gang that, um, you know....the bar on Northern Boulevard? I bet you were pretty scared, but I think if you had a man next to you, they would have left you alone. Too, you calling them "spicks" probably didn't help matters much. Maybe you could have finished college and done something with your life?

4) John Gibson -- What do you give the man who has nothing? A penis. Maybe this way you'll stop envying the rest of the world.

5) Pam Atlas -- It's no wonder you took on the mantle of "objectivism", dear, seeing as your major assets are your tits. Maybe your mouth. Sure is purty. Ms. Geller, knowing that you're Jewish and therefore at the forefront of the "war on Christmas," according to Gibson (The War on Christmas argues that "a cabal of secularists, so-called humanists, trial lawyers, cultural relativists and liberal, guilt-racked Christians, not just Jewish people..."), I have to give you something special.

A date with John Gibson. Before Santa grants him his wish.

6) Rush Limbaugh -- Now here's a challenge: how to give a thoroughly corrupt, whiny, jiggly tub of goo a Christmas present. I mean, when the truth of his private behavior comes out (and you wonder how much hush money he's had to pay out), Mark Foley will be able to run for Speaker of the House. He makes Jabba the Hutt look like Suzanne Somers! Rusty, like Hannity, I'm going to grant you a chance to travel back in time. Remember when your hamster died, and you got really upset? Well, I wish for you a mother's hug, rather than what really happened: your dad smacking you across the face, yelling, "You want something to cry about? I'll give you something to cry about! David, get me my belt!"

7) Finally, to the crew of Orcs that did not make the list by name, I wish for you a high colonic followed by a blow job from the gender and/or species of your choice. I figure as badly as you suck, you ought to take lessons.

Thanks, Santa! Have a very Merry Happy Christmahannukwanzaakah!

, ,

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hump Day Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers Explain How Dubya Rose From Nothing To Become President of the Free World!

Democrats And The Middle Class

The Religious Right got skanked by the Republicans, who failed to pass even one significant piece of "values" legislation since the Reagan era: no ban on abortion, no prayer in schools, no specific national gay marriage ban.

The Democrats have spent the past few years wooing back the middle class to their party. Has it worked, or will the middle class be as skanked as the Religious Right was?
Democrats won, but did the middle class?

By Andrea Hopkins

HOPETOWN, Ohio (Reuters) - Jenny Bagent considers herself a Democrat and knows she should be thrilled her party won control of Congress. But the mother of two is skeptical life is suddenly going to get better for ordinary Americans.

"Maybe I'm just too cynical. We hope things will change, but I'm not banking on it. Too many of these people have never even been middle class," said Bagent, 38, a hospital clerk.

The people she's referring to are America's newest Democratic lawmakers, who swept into power in America's congressional elections promising change in Iraq and new policies to help ordinary Americans.
Ms. Bagent raises an interesting point: one of the problems with politics in America is the amount of money needed to fund a campaign, which means that those who can afford to, run.

Meaning, they're likely rich to begin with.

There's also a sleight-of-hand going on here, semantically speaking. As Geoffrey Nunberg points out in his book, "Talking Right", people from an huge range of incomes identify themselves as middle class, even if economically only a fraction of them are. People surveyed with incomes of between $20,000 and $500,000 tend to identify themselves as middle class.

I don't make $500,000, I make much less, and I identify myself as wealthy. I recognize "middle class," economically, as somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000 to $80,000 for a family of four.

But there's another definition of "middle class," and this is the one that the Dems are trying to court: the "values middle class."

That class cuts a broad swath through society. I think this story at Reuters was planted because, courtesy of Mr. Doggity (who really should have his own blog, or at least guest blog here), comes this blogpost, quoted in e-mail:
Reid Immediately Calls For Middle-Class Tax Cuts

“For too long, Americans have watched as Washington has ignored their needs, and concentrated on special interests instead,” said Reid, Monday on the Senate floor. “Families have struggled with high health care costs… only to see big drug companies get billions from Congress. Ranchers in Nevada have struggled to fill their tanks with gas… only to see Big Oil companies get tax breaks. In the weeks and months ahead, Democrats will focus our energies on the real challenges facing America, and take concrete steps to protect the country and help working families get ahead.”

Reid proposed that the post-election Congressional session be used in part to extend critical middle-class and business tax cuts including the following:

*Deductions for college tuition
*Deductions for state and local sales taxes
*Deductions for out-of-pocket expenses incurred by teachers
*For business, extending the Research and Development, Work Opportunity, and Welfare-to-Work tax credits

Reid pointed out the fact that, despite the GOP-controlled Senate moving heaven and earth in the last two years in attempts to pass the "Paris Hilton" Estate Tax Cut for the wealthiest Americans, they have allowed tax breaks benefiting the middle class and working families to languish and expire.

And, after a campaign season that saw the GOP trying scare every voter in America with talk of Democratic tax hikes, the Republicans' refusal to extend these cuts would -- in an ironic bit of truth -- effectively result in a GOP-instigated tax increase for middle-class families next year.
They have the majority now, although it's not veto-proof, and should be able to enact at least a skeleton program of these tax cuts.

I'd like to throw one more idea out to the Democrats for consideration: A cut in the employee-portion of the Social Security payroll tax, shifting the entire burden onto corporations. Here's how that would work:
Take the employee share of Social Security payroll taxes and make employers pay it, while giving them an additional offset against the 401(k) eligibility formula.

What this would do is give more in-hand money to workers right away, AND give companies an executive incentive that is not tied to stock performance to offer to management: 401(k) formulas say that executives can only defer pay into retirement plans based on a formula that ensures the 401(k) is set up for their workers' benefit, and not the executives. By taking that extra 7.5% or so, you expand the pool of money that executives can base their own deferred compensation on, with minimal effect to their bottom line.
As Dogg says, tongue-in-cheek, "Nice. More proof that Dems are the party with no ideas!"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Little Christmas Cheer

I heard Alec Baldwin was decent on SNL this past weekend, but then again, SNL hasn't been good since, ohhhhhhhhhh, I don't know...Harry Shearer left? So there's not a whole lot that Alec could do that would suck as bad as the show does.

How Lebanon And The US Are Alike

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Tuesday he would try to keep his depleted government afloat and resist demands by Hezbollah and its allies that would amount to "tyranny of the minority".

Siniora, who has lost a quarter of his 24-member cabinet since Saturday, said he would pursue dialogue despite the collapse of all-party talks and Hezbollah threats of street protests to bring down the anti-Syrian majority government.

He told Reuters in an interview that the majority was ready to expand the cabinet, but demands by Hezbollah, backed by its Shi'ite Muslim ally Amal and Christian leader Michel Aoun, for more than a third of cabinet seats were unacceptable.
When I studied PoliSci in college, way back in the Carter administration, I read John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. Included in that book is the phrase "tyranny of the majority".

"Ochlocracy" is another term for it. Essentially, what Mill argues for is the preservation of individual liberty by government as a prevention of ocholocracy, or mob rule. As Mill puts it:
Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own.
Note that this includes not just the political majority, but also the social majority, and has been the foundation of libertarianism as well as liberalism, two sides of the same coin (and something libertarians go nuts at when you mention it to them...try it and see).

In other words, laws are there to protect me from the mob.

During that term, I wrote an alternate opinion on this theme, that those laws also imply a "tyranny of the minority," in that protecting the rights of anyone, we open the door to the inclusion of any particular philosophy, and the exertion of those rights can wreak havoc on society and politics.

Sure enough, we saw it here in America, with the rise of the Christian Coalition and the Religious Right: a minority which assumed the mantle of a majority and behaved as if it truly were the ruling majority.

Ruling, yes. Majority, no. For a brief period in American history, the Religious Right held sway over the national dialogue, politically, but also socially. How? By the consolidation of power, philosophies, and funds, influence disproportionate to the numbers of people who truly were in that faction was obtained. In creating another political locus in America, American politics was forced to pay attention to the demands of those people located at that locus.

Too, now, this is playing out in Lebanon. We see Hamas, funded by Syria and Iran, creating a large faction that will tilt the balance of power in Lebanon to a fundamentalist regime, aided in that effort in large part by the ham-handed policies of Israel in southern Lebanon.

As with the Christian Coalition, it doesn't take much for Hamas to draw undue influence to its point of view: a few well-placed photos of the damage Israeli missiles did, and suddenly the very moderate government that the US had been assisting is in deep trouble of being taken over by zealots.

Nevermind that the damage those missiles did is as a direct result of the actions of Hamas prior to that point. As with the rise of the religious right in this country, it's never the first foul the referee (e.g. the body politic) notices, but the retaliation, particularly if said retaliation comes from the person (or faction) you expected to commit a foul in the first place.

It does not bode well for American Middle East policy, that Lebanon is having such internal dissension. Lebanon is a key component of any buffer for Israel, and the fall of democracy in Lebanon would be far worse than the fall of the Shah in Iran was.

A smart President would send an envoy over that has some familiarity with this kind of internal strife, perhaps a former President who battled this kind of "insurgency" in his own administration and held it to a draw, if not beat it back...hmmmmmmmmmmmmm....can't think of anyone....*koffkoffClintonCarterkoffkoff*...can you?

Blogging Update

Yesterday was an....event, to be sure.

ThumbPer was neutered, and had an ingrown nail pulled. What I anticipated would be a half-day vet visit (he hadn't eaten since the night before) loomed as an overnight stay.

Since I took a vacation day to accomplish this, I was more than a little pissed. Too, I was developing yet another flu (although it could just have been a reaction to the flu shot I took last week).

Around 7 PM last night, however, the vet called and said it would be OK if I picked him up, but the hospital closed at 8, so in the middle of the pouring, driving rain, I hopped into my car and drove to the hospital, parked at a hydrant, and grabbed ThumbPer and split.

I couldn't figure out why I felt drunk, tho, since I basically stayed under the covers all day, since I was too tired to do much of anything, and it was too rainy.

I get home, open the cat carrier, and as I'm bending over, suddenly feel a wave of nausea overtake me. Hmmmm...not good.

ThumbPer is fine, and this morning was up and about early, barely limping, and eating like a horse.

Dad, however, is running a 101° temperature, sitting in his over-airconditioned office, eyes oozing...well, something, and his chest in the grip of a massive traffic jam.

So how was your day?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Un Peu Danse

Iraq allies urge Bush to turn to Iran, Syria

By Claudia Parsons

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - President Bush was under pressure from some of his closest allies on Monday to turn to arch enemies Iran and Syria for help in stabilizing Iraq amid Iraqi government paralysis and fears of all-out civil war.

A suicide bomb that killed 11 Iraqis on a minibus and news that at least nine U.S. and British troops died in the previous two days kept the pressure on Bush as he met the bipartisan Iraq Study Group on Monday to talk about changes in Iraq policy.

Monday's violence, which also underlined Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's problems trying to curb the bloodshed, followed attacks which killed more than 100 people on Sunday including a suicide attack on police recruits which killed 35 in Baghdad.

Bush has said he is looking for "fresh perspectives" on Iraq after his Republican Party received a drubbing in last week's mid-term elections, losing control of both houses of Congress.
Yah huh.

"Cut and run"? Not quite. But it is negotiating with terrorists.

See, folks, this is about the dance. You can bet that, back in September, this was already being worked out between the administration and Maliki, and furthermore, Bush is cynical enough to have allowed the Republicans to fight with one hand tied behind their backs in order to get in place a Democratic Congress (at least a House) who would be far more compliant with him on this point: we're basically ceding responsibility for the fate of Iraqis to the hands of those whom Bush and the Neo-Cons would normally deride and denigrate in order to score cheap political points with his base.

What this also does is put an enormous burden on the Democratic Senate now: in order to approve any deal that involved Iran and Syria, the Dems will have to be portrayed as "terrorist sympathizers."

How to combat this?

Part of me is tempted to name any treaty that the Senate is asked to ratify "The Bush Doctrine". And in point of fact, he just must be ego-drive enough to bite. Any peaceful accord that gets American troops out on his watch will be an enormous feather in his cap (o/~ and he called it Macaroni...o/~).

Better, the Dems should hem and haw on this, in the hopes that Ahmenidejad screws up, as appears likely. Worse, that Sadr incites further violence as a means to draw attention to the "agreement", as opposed to falling in line.

Ah, the dance of politics. Quite a-muse-ing...

We Interrupt This Blog

Due to DSL. HD camcorder, and cat-neutering issues, I will likely not be posting today.

Well, except to say that I won't be posting today. I had to hijack someone's WiFi to do even this much. Heavy rain seems to screw with my DSL connection and we've had some downpours here in the city these past few days. I dislike hijacking someone else's WiFi, because I know I wouldn't want them hanging out on mine all day.

So hopefully, I'll speak later to y'all!

Sunday, November 12, 2006


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If watching soap operas is your passion, then fantasy game designer Erica Salmon is betting Fantasy Soap League will become your sport.

The Walt Disney Co.'s (NYSE:DIS - news) SoapNet announced the Web-based fantasy site on Friday at its annual Super Soap Weekend in Florida in a bid to attract women aged 18 to 34, and add a social dimension to the six-year-old soap TV channel.

The game works along the same lines as fantasy football, in which real-life players are chosen for virtual teams and results are based on statistics from actual games.

Fantasy Soap players will pick three male and three female actors and five "soapy moments" from nine U.S. network soaps, and score points depending on what the actors' characters do.

Taking off clothing, waking up from a coma, getting an organ transplant, day dreaming or "monologuing" -- when an actor stands alone in a room talking to himself -- are each worth a hefty 50 points in Fantasy Soap League.
Oh. My. God.

You know, this is just stupid enough that, in America, it will make a mint.

Now, I've played fantasy baseball. I understand the concept: you pick a team of players based on a pre-determined budget, and everyone starts out with the same budget. In other words, socialistic sports betting. The players who put up the best stats are the most valuable, but also cost the most so eat the most out of your budget, and you get to feel like a club owner (except of course, it's not like in real life, where you have to deal with a limited budget versus a handful of teams that can spend like there's no tomorrow).

And when it moved onto football, I thought that was stupid: football is such a team game, and everyone marches in lockstep down the field, and so how can you determine the value of a center (fumbled snaps? missed blocks?) or free safety, since so much of their performance is determined by the play of everyone else on the field. There really are no individual statistics in football.

And yet, it took off, partially because most of middle America is too fat and lazy to do anything on a Sunday afternoon...or Monday night...or the occasional Thursday...except to sit there with a piece of paper in one hand and a beer in the other, remote control perched precariously on the sweat-stained armrest.

You know, rather than actually go out and PLAY the game ("But my hannnnnnnnds are colllllllllllld!")...

So I guess it was inevitable that the other major sports would develop their own fantasy leagues. Hockey, basketball, soccer...I imagine in Canada there's even a curling league or two.

But soap operas? Like it's not enough that you sit around day in and day out watching other people live lives of glamour and fortune, dressing in glitzy clothes, living at ritsy addresses in swank little towns, that you now have to bet on what happens next?

Two points to this: I've watched enough soap operas (professional curiousity as well as courtesy to actor-friends who appear on them) to know that if you can't write the next line in your head, you ought not to be watching them in the first place, but out taking a remedial creative writing course for first graders, and second, fantasy leagues work because the games they cover are live and unscripted! There's a human element that you cannot predict precisely, which allows for Jose Reyes to one day win a league batting championship when he usually hits below .300.

Religion used to be the opiate of the masses, and TV was to inform their opinions and shape the national dialogue. We live in a country where the opposite has occured.

And I want my country back.