“Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex position.”

–HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher


The Democratic debate last night was a good reality check: given how openly authoritarian Trump-TV (Fox “News”) is — a combination of butt kissing (e.g., Jeanine Pirro calling Trump “almost superhuman”), goose-stepping “patriotism” that trashes almost everything America is supposed to stand for, and punching down (encouraging knuckle-draggers to blame immigrants — people even poorer and more powerless than they are — for their misfortunes), it’s easy to give CNN a pass, as CNN is at least openly hostile to Trump.

Last night provided a timely reminder that CNN, though not as awful as Fox, is still pretty damn bad. The moderators spent most of their time trying to provoke fights between the candidates, the low point being moderator Abby Phillip — after Bernie Sanders, in a he-said-she-said denied saying that a woman could never win the presidency, and offering corroborating evidence going back decades — immediately asking Warren, “Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” As if that was a fact, not a dispute about what was said in a conversation between two people, with no witnesses.

To call Philip’s question/accusation grossly unprofessional is an understatement. CNN should have fired her on the spot.

Beyond that, the moderators appeared entirely unconcerned with military spending taking up 53% of discretionary spending, and with the U.S. spending as much on “defense” (largely on weapons and overseas bases, not even counting military-incurred debt servicing) than the next eight countries combined. Nope. They were concerned with the cost of “Medicare for all” — universal healthcare coverage.

The moderators’ questions all concerned the cost of such coverage. Never mind that the U.S. is supposedly the richest country on the face of the Earth, that every other industrialized country already has universal, free healthcare, that 87 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured, that the U.S. has worse healthcare outcomes (e.g., infant mortality) than all of those other industrialized countries, and that U.S. per-capita spending on healthcare is at minimum twice what the other industrialized countries spend, sometimes considerably more.

No. The moderators’ concern was with the “cost” — never mind the potential savings to average Americans nor what the astronomical cost is now.

They didn’t ask a single question about how much average Americans would save under Medicare for all. Not one.

Nor did they ask what possible advantage there is in having a parasitic middle man (the insurance industry) that drains off $100 billion a year in profits, and that incurs vast administrative expenses for providers in dealing with the nightmarish tangle of private insurance coverage. (Tellingly, one of the questions was about what would happen to the “workers” in the “insurance town” of Des Moines if a single-payer plan eliminated their entirely parasitic jobs.)

As for CNN, the disgraceful performance of its moderators points toward this great advice: “Follow the money.” CNN is a corporate entity designed to maximize corporate profits. While there are some good reporters and editors at CNN, it’s utterly unrealistic to expect the network to act as anything other than a corporate tool designed to preserve the economic status quo and corporate profits.


“At the moment when I saw our beloved father, Stalin, I lost consciousness.”

–Delegate to a 1930s Soviet Communist Party conference


(Across the Void, by S.K. Vaughan. Skybound Books/Simon & Schuster, 2019, $27.00, 371 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

The Library Journal review of Across the Void reveals that the author is “a pseudonym for an accredited film writer and director.” This explains why Across the Void reads like an expanded screenplay, and why it serves as an excellent illustration in printed form of the contempt with which Hollywood holds science fiction fans.

Vaughn’s novel is a decently written if cliched damsel-in-distress sci-fi thriller/mystery — injured astronaut with no memory of what happened to her awakens on a crippled space ship — that’s marred by, among other things, scientific illiteracy. Two examples: 1) the crew supposedly spent a week on the surface of Europa, an intensely radioactive environment, where an hour’s exposure would be extremely dangerous and a day’s exposure would cause severe radiation sickness and death; and 2) howlers such as, “Unfortunately, the star fields 621,000 miles in all directions are unidentifiable, . . .” a statement so nonsensical that it’s not even wrong.

(Why the odd figure 621,000? The author evidently realizes that a million kilometers equals 621,000 miles, and probably thinks American readers are too dumb to know that. Never mind that “621,000 miles” makes no sense at all in regard to “star fields.”)

There’s also an unnecessary flashback to open the book, a bit of bathos (in the relationship of the astronaut and her estranged husband — who of course comes to her rescue), and some heavy-handed passages designed to reveal character and/or wow the reader, none of which helps. Nor does the author having nothing of interest to say about damn near anything.

I only read the first 50 pages or so of this one, so the remaining 300+ pages might comprise a sci-fi masterpiece. But somehow I doubt it.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (large pdf sample here). He’s currently if sporadically working on the sequel to Free Radicals, an unrelated sci-fi novel, and a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity (24 Reasons to Abandon Christianity, which will appear in 2020).

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover


“People like the idea of freedom of speech until they hear something they don’t like. When people say, ‘He crossed the line,’ I say, ‘I didn’t draw a line, you did.’ It’s relative. It’s subjective.”

-Ricky Gervais, quoted in CNN’s “Golden Globes reunion with host Ricky Gervais has a whiff of desperation.”


Image  —  Posted: January 4, 2020 in Christianity, Humor, Livin' in the USA, Politics


McCovey Chronicles reports that the best broadcasting team in baseball will be back in 2020: Kruk & Kuip, Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, will be back this coming season and probably thereafter. I hope that they’ll go on until they, or I, drop. As Brian Murphy put it on McCovey Chronicles, “we get to enjoy two friends just talking baseball for a little while longer.” Both of them were better-than-average major leaguers with a dry sense of humor, and their friendship is almost palpable. Their broadcasts feel like you’re sitting in your living room talking baseball with two friends who are more knowledgeable than you. Not in a condescending way, but just knowledgeable, and funny.

Probably the best baseball comment I ever heard was one Kuiper (the play-by-play man) made ten or fifteen years ago. The count was 3 and 2, and the batter fouled a ball off the back of the plate. It hit the catcher square in the balls. He went rigid and toppled over, in agony. After maybe 10 or15 seconds of dead air, as the catcher writhed, Kuiper said, deadpan — despite the count — “One strike, two balls.”

The other bit of good news is that the second-best MLB broadcasting team will be back next season, Jon Miller and Mike Flemming, on the radio side of the Giants. They’re well worth listening to.

Even when the Giants are halfway (I hope) through a rebuild, and will almost certainly suck, coming in well under.500.

Tune ’em in and enjoy.

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Sour Grapes Department: There’s no longer Spring Training baseball in Tucson. It’s all up the freeway to the north in the hellhole known as “Phoenix.” Seats there for Spring Training games — yes, Spring Training — commonly go for as much as $50, and they’re often sold out.

Here, the Pecos League (independent — Tucson Saguaros, and other teams in AZ, TX, NM, CA, and Mexico) starts in May, and box seats are $7.50. Yes, $7.50, with dollar-beer nights every Thursday. The ball is roughly somewhere between high A and low AA, and is fun to watch — guys playing for the sheer joy of it or in a last attempt to catch on with an MLB organization.

I know which I’ll pay to see: obscenely high prices for near-meaningless Spring Training games a horrible drive and a hundred miles up I-10 or a couple months later the homegrown product.

Hope to see you at some Saguaros games. I guarantee it’ll be fun. Maybe 105 at game time (just before sunset), but fun nonetheless.