Saturday, August 30, 2008

South Ossetians party like it's 1099!

Following their liberation by the magnanimous Russian imperial armed forces, South Ossetians have chosen to celebrate their newfound 'freedom' by engaging a series of ethnic cleansing parties.

Human Rights Watch (obviously a huge fan of the Bush administration's great respect for the rule of law) has reported that its researchers have personally observed South Ossetians burning ethnic Georgian villages, 'massive looting' by Ossetian militias in Russian occupied territory, to say nothing of liberating 'Russian tanks systematically firing into the homes.'

Additionally: "Human Rights Watch researchers spoke with several members of the Ossetian militias who openly admitted that the houses were being burned by their associates, explaining that the objective was to ensure that ethnic Georgians would not have the houses to return to."

My initial reaction is to deplore this ethnic cleansing. But rest that if the Bush administration condemns these actions, I will retract my criticism and give these freedom parties my seal of approval!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The gaffes of St. John

If you support a progressive agenda, then support a progressive candidate.

I was amused to read somewhere that as soon as Sen. Barack Obama announced Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate, the GOP unveiled a Biden 'gaffe-meter.' This is from the party whose own standard bearer has made a current reference to a country that dissolved 15 years ago, doesn't know who is the president of the world's largest and one of its most dangerous countries and is going to sell us an Iraq strategy (well, at least empty slogans portrayed as a strategy) without knowing the difference between Sunnis and Shias.

But I guess you can't say anything about any of Saint John's gaffes on serious questions for fear of being accused of ageism and of smearing a former POW... (checks The Script) I mean, war hero... (remembers John Kerry) I mean, REPUBLICAN war hero.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beijing bans blacks from bars

If you support a progressive agenda, then support a progressive candidate.

Beijing bans blacks from bars

What three things do basketballer Kobe Bryant, tennis player James Blake and soccer player Ronaldinho have in common?

1) They're black.

2) They're each among the most talented Olympians in their sport.

3) They're not allowed into any bars while they're in Beijing.

The litany of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese dictatorship has been well documented, if not by the NBC/General Electric family of Olympic broadcasters. But for most abuses, the regime tries to hide or outright deny them. But while perhaps less severe than forced labor, arbitrary arrest and religious repression, the regime is more brazenly open about its racism. Beijing authorities have explicitly banned bar owners from serving blacks during the Olympics. Oh, and Mongolians can't down a pint either.

If the 2012 London Olympic authorities banned Asians from bars, somehow I think international criticism would be a little louder.

On a sporting note: Congratulations to Michael Phelps for his record breaking haul of eight gold medals and to Usain Bolt for being the first person to break the world records for both the 100 and 200 meters in the same Olympics. After the 100m, some criticized Bolt for slowing up toward the end. It's a mark of how amazing his performance was that he could visibly slow up in such a short race and still break the world record.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

American culture at its finest

I was watching CNN International's Inside Africa a few mornings ago; it's quality programming, which is why it doesn't run on CNN domestic. They were airing a story about the risk of a 'green famine' in Ethiopia

I think God clearly likes jabbing us humans with irony... because later that day, I read an article in the local daily about a nearby hot dog eating contest. It was a shameless exercise in glorifying gluttony. Not just the competition, but glowing FRONT-PAGE article.

I enjoy food. I enjoy good food. I even enjoy hot dogs... though no more than a few at a sitting.

But enjoying food has nothing to do with this. In fact, enjoying food gets in the way of so-called 'competitive eating.'

We're not talking about comfort or pleasure or even extravagance, but downright gluttony. And the daily had the nerve to celebrate this as though the competitors were gunning for some sporting achievement greater than Michael Phelps'.

The 'winner' (the opposite label seems more appropriate) inhaled 23 1/4 hotdogs in 10 minutes. And then he had the nerve to brag about his gluttonous prowess.

"I'm not even full," he snorted. "I'll probably go and eat some ice cream now."

It made me sick and I didn't even have a bite.

Too bad the hundreds or thousands of dollars wasted on this orgy of excess weren't donated instead to the World Food Programme.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

'Koran abuse' worse than ethnic cleansing?

If you support a progressive agenda, then support a progressive candidate.

I read an interesting article in The Chicago Tribune about the spin coming from the Russian and Georgian governments recently. A few interesting tidbits:

Regarding hysterical Russian claims of genocide:

"Genocide is what's happened," said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, a longtime member of Putin's inner circle. "Widespread physical destruction—with artillery shells, tanks and guns—of thousands of Russian citizens. Basically, an ethnic cleansing operation was carried out."

But when Human Rights Watch researchers talked to doctors at Tskhinvali Regional Hospital, they were told that most of those killed in the capital were brought to the hospital, and the toll was 44, a count that included combatants and civilians. Bodies were not taken to the city morgue because the fighting had knocked out the city's electricity.

"That's 44 too many, and clearly unacceptable," said Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. "But the Russian propaganda machine is clearly working very hard right now."

And regarding allegations that Georgia arbitrarily launched an unprovoked assault of South Ossetia for no particular reason, the Tribune piece reports:

Much of the information war has focused on who instigated the conflict. Russia has repeatedly insisted that Georgia waged its assault on South Ossetia unprovoked. "Who, after all, started military action in South Ossetia?" [Russian de jure president] Medvedev said at a news conference Friday. "Was it Russian peacekeepers, Russian forces or the Georgian army?"

Medvedev did not mention the barrage of shelling from South Ossetian separatists directed at Georgian villages that preceded the Georgian assault. While [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili has been widely criticized both in Georgia and in the international community for overreacting to the South Ossetian shelling, the beginnings of the conflict were not as black and white as the Kremlin has portrayed.

But while Georgia's shelling of a town drew loud condemnation from the much of the North American left, 'massive'* Russian bombardement of Georgian civilian areas merits barely a mention.

(*-Human Rights Watch's description)

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report weighed in on the situation.

It notes that both armies have used 'indiscriminate' force at various times in the conflict. It criticized the Georgians for "indiscriminate force during their assault on Tskhinvali [the South Ossetian capital] and neighboring villages."

HRW has "confirmed the Russian military’s use of cluster bombs in two towns in Georgia."

It also reported that the Russian military has 'targeted' civilian convoys fleeing the conflict for aerial bombing. It also accuses the Russian military of "Ongoing looting, arson attacks, and abductions by militia are terrorizing the civilian population, forcing them to flee their homes and preventing displaced people from returning home."

In other words, Georgia's crime was recklessness. Russia's crimes were conscious and planned. Both are unacceptable, but they are not equal, neither in intent, nor in scale.

Another HRW report accuses South Ossetian militas, armed by Moscow, of burning and looting Georgian villages. Essentially, the same ethnic cleansing that Russia attributed to Georgia... except far more fitting of such a high charged phrase.

The North American left's response to all this? Silence. Or some half-hearted apologia that tosses in a little token criticism of Russia while implying that Georgia got what it deserved for befriending Bush.

The progressive left shouldn't stick their finger in the wind, find out what the neo-cons argue and base their principles on the opposite. If the progressive left is going to claim to stand against imperialism and for human rights, it must unequivocally condemn all war crimes and all militarism, including Russia's.

Certainly, ethnic cleansing and targeting fleeing civilians for bombing are at least as worthy of outrage as 'Koran abuse.'

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blame Isaac Newton!

I was watching TV at the Y yesterday but someone else had the remote so I was forced to watch the Yankees game. Unfortunately, they were winning; fortunately, this doesn't happen as often as it used to.

But at least the announcers were tolerable this time (as opposed to the last time I'd watched a bit when they were going on and on and on about something Manny Ramirez had done several days prior... and they weren't even playing the Red Sox at the time).

Anyway, they somehow got onto the topic of instant replay. One of the announcers said something like, "I don't mind instant replay in baseball, if it doesn't take too long."

I snorted soda out of my nosing laughing. Because when you're suffering through a 4 hour, 9 inning baseball game, your top priority must be to avoid the horror of having to spend an extra 90 seconds for the umps to get a call right!

I don't care strongly about instant replay. It makes sense in baseball, if it's designed the right way. But the amount of time it would add to the game is miniscule compared to other things.

If you really care about shortening the interminably long MLB games, they should go to the high school rule where the batter is not allowed to step out of the batter's box after a pitch if it's caught by the catcher. The at-bat routine of some players may be comical, but it makes baseball games last forever... and unwatchable on TV in their full form.

If a game's going to last an extra 90 seconds, I want it to be because the umps got a big call right, not because a jacked up hitter needed to spit tobacco juice, undo his batting glove and re-arrange his jock.


Sometimes you wonder how some people get jobs as sports announcers, a profession that you'd think would require a degree of coherence.

I was watching the US-Canada Olympic women's quarterfinal match a few days ago. At one point, announcer Brandi Chastain criticized the US team for 'playing too many negative passes.' She went on to explain that if the US couldn't break down Canada in the attacking half, they should bang the ball (forward) to the corners instead of playing it backwards.

The idea of turning a soccer match into a track meet is unfortunately the accepted 'conventional wisdom' in American soccer circles. Americans tend to believe that soccer should be first and foremost about athleticism instead of extravagancies like... foot skills.

That's not what good coaching focuses on but that's what American coaching tends to emphasize.

Ok, so be it.

But then only a few minutes later, Chastain complains about the US' inability to possess the ball and says they shouldn't be impatient. If they don't have anything, they should pass the ball back to the keeper and reset the play.


I've heard her speak in person and she's very intelligent and well-spoken. Few people on Earth have won more major international soccer trophies. But if you don't know what position to take, at least pick a side and stick with it! Or better yet, keep your mouth shut.


Some people like sports announcers who are unabashedly biased in favor of the home squad. They're called 'homers.' Some of the most beloved announcers in US sports history have been homers. The most (in)famous of them being the late Cubs' voice Harry Caray.

I've never really understood the desire to listen to people who are nothing more than fans with microphones. If I wanted to listen to Joe Six Pack spout off ignorantly, I'd watch the game at a bar. The point of having TV announcers is to bring something that the ordinary fan can't get by watching on his own.

I loathe announcers who insult my intelligence. If Joe Homeboy takes a cheap shot at his opponent, I'm yelling at him for doing something stupid and costing my team. I don't want to listen to some a** kisser saying he got screwed by the officials or that he was 'unlucky.' Have the balls to say he took a cheap shot at the other guy. If I see something plain as day with my own two eyes, don't tell me I saw something else.

The Boston Bruins' old color guy Derek Sanderson was infamous for that. When an opponent took a cheap shot at a Boston player, he'd scream with outrage and demand the guy be expelled from the league and castrated to boot. When a Boston player did the exact same thing, he'd chuckle, "Boys will be boys."

I'm a Bruins' fan but I couldn't stand him. The only saving grace was that he was partnered with Hall of Fame announcer Fred Cusick, who was the epitome of class in broadcasting... except for the very end when he descended into homerism himself.

New England's soccer team has a similar odd couple: the best color guy in the league (Greg Lalas) combined with the most shameless, Kool-Aid drinking, propaganda spewing suckup in the league (Brad Feldman).

I was watching New England's match in San Jose on Saturday, though it was with San Jose's broadcasting crew. Every time a New England player went down, the SJ color man whined about it being a 'dive.' A SJ defender kicked the ankle of the NE forward who fell down. Not hard, but there was enough contact that the smaller NE player, going at full speed weaving through the defense, was knocked over. But the color guy didn't seem to notice the kick, so of course it was a 'dive.'

Get a clue!

Listen, I hate diving as much as anyone. I think it's an affront to the game. BUT... just because a player goes down doesn't mean it's a dive... even if the contact appears to be minimal.

Think about it. You're running as fast as you can, trying to stay balanced enough to closely control a soccer ball with your feet. This is hard enough to do when there's nobody around. Try it sometime if you think otherwise.

You're probably a little smaller because those players tend to be quicker. If you're going at top speed, it doesn't take much contact to knock you off balance, especially when you're trying to stay close enough to the ball and especially if you're smaller.

There certainly is real diving that occurs in soccer. But not every time a guy goes to ground is a dive. Sometimes is nothing more than the LAWS OF PHYSICS.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Satire is impossible with reality like this

If you support a progressive agenda, then support a progressive candidate.

Launching an unprovoked aggression against a foreign country under the fake pretexts of protecting security and human rights with the real objectives of seizing the country's resources and imposing regime change on a defiant government.

According to the Bush administration, such behavior 'has no place in the 21st century.'

President Bush himself called such behavior “bullying and intimidation" and demanded the invaded country's sovereignty and territorial integrity 'be respected.' He also said that such actions damaged the invading country's credibility and international standing.

By all accounts, this was said with a straight face.

My guess is that the Bush administration uses the Ethiopian calendar.

Under that system, March 2003 was in the 20th century.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Top 'diplomat' admits Russia's true expansionist intentions in Georgia

Russia's original position when it launched its aggression against Georgia was that it was merely bitchslapping an insolent little child as 'punishment.' It claimed that once the child cowered into proper obedience to its master, Russia would stop its 'defensive' action.

Perhaps realizing that its actions have revealed its words as lies, especially after basically ignoring the 'cease fire' they agreed, Russia has finally admitted what was its true desire from well before the invasion: annexing Georgian territory.

Russia's foreign minister told the press that the world "can forget about any talk about Georgia's territorial integrity" because it has unilaterally decided that South Ossetia and Abkhazia don't want to remain part of Georgia.

If this is really the case, then Russia would surely have no problem letting its occupation force be replaced by UN peacekeepers while the international body conducted a referendum so that South Ossetians and Abkhazians could decide their own futures rather than being dictated to by Moscow. (wink/nod)

Can you imagine the international outrage if under Saddam's rule, the US snapped its fingers and unilaterally declared that Iraqi Kurdistan would henceforth be an American commonwealth like Puerto Rico?

Some have asked why I'm giving Georgia's President Sakashvili a free pass. That's not true. I've stated several times that the military action in South Ossetia was reckless stupidity of monstrous proportions. I read yesterday that US Sec. of State Rice said she warned Sakashvili several months ago not to provoke Russia.

But it's true I've criticized him far less than Russia's de facto leader Prime Minister Putin. And the simple fact is that Sakashvili's sin of grotesque stupidity is far less grave both in moral terms and geopolitical implications than Putin's sin of aggressive imperialism. I view Russia's actions as a) far more dangerous to international stability and b) at best debatable in fact and totally out of control in scale. Both countries are wrong but I'm not going to pull a moral equivalency here. I'm far more critical of Russia because I believe they are far more wrong.

If there's compelling evidence from an objective source that Sakashvili is implicated in war crimes, then by all means he should be indicted. However, that 'objective' source can not be any Russian government official, especially Vladimir Putin crying 'genocide'... the same Putin who himself should've have been put up on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges years ago for Chechnya.

I understand Russia's fear of being 'surrounded' (at least on the west) by NATO countries. But on the other hand, I also understand the desire of most European former Soviet states to gain the protection of NATO membership.

It started with things like Russia meddling in Ukraine's domestic politics and poisoning the then-opposition leader; the man is now Ukraine's president and, not shockingly, isn't buddy-buddy with Putin. It continued with things like Russia's apparent cyberattack on Estonia. It's escalated with Russia cutting off energy supplies to former satellites for being pro-western, such as Poland and Ukraine. And it's reached its peak with Russia's aggression against Georgia. Well, let's hope it's the peak.

Let's not forget that places like Poland spent 45 years under Russian domination.

Let's also not forget that places like Georgia and Ukraine spent most of the 20th century as conquered lands under the formal subjugation of the Russian empire after being conquered.

So if these countries are mistrustful of Russia's true intentions, I'd say they have pretty darn good reason. The invasion of Georgia followed by Russia's now explicit desire to annex* parts of this small country only illustrates this wisdom of this mistrust.

(*-Excuse me, I mean re-annex)

Regime change is also widely believed to be a main objective of the invasion. Russia has declared it won't talk to the Georgian government until Sakashvili reigns. Reports suggest that Russian tanks continue to advance into Georgia, well beyond the zone of conflict, despite the cease fire Russia agreed to.

Russia has spent most of this decade destabilizing South Ossetia and enabling the criminal gangs there with close links to elements in the Kremlin. They'd fabricated an excuse to meddle in South Ossetia by giving passports to every Tom, Dick and Harry in the land. They'd whipped up anti-Georgian sentiment not only in South Ossetia but in Russia itself. All these factors were carefully planned pretexts to an invasion and annexation they obviously wanted for a long time... as evidenced by the statement of Russia's foreign minister.

What exactly was Georgia supposed to do in the face of all these years of provocation and destabilization of its territory?

Bear in mind, this is a country that twice in the last two centuries has been conquered and annexed by imperial Russia.

And it's a country that, we know now, Russia has designs on it yet again.

It seems Russia was always going to annex South Ossetia and Abkhazia one way or another. They seemed content on doing it slowly but had obviously prepared to do it quickly. Sakashvili's decision gave them a chance to fast track the process. But it was something that looked like was going to happen either way, regardless of what Sakashvili did.

International opinion seems clear on what Georgia should NOT have done, but what exactly WERE they supposed to do?

When Libya sent arms to the IRA in the 1980s, Britain was furious. Arming secessionists is only one aspect of Russia's destabilization campaign in South Ossetia.

When French President de Gaulle went to Montreal in 1967 and stoked Quebec nationalism, Canada was livid. The mass outrage was provoked by three little words: 'Vive le Québec libre.' This is less than peanuts compared to what Russia was doing in South Ossetia even before the invasion.

But when Russia does far worse to destabilize South Ossetia (before the full scale invasion), Georgia is supposed to say nothing, do nothing and hope their behemoth neighbor with a repeated history of conquering it might decide to play nice?

Again, critics make it clear what Georgia should not have 'provoked' Russia by trying to re-assert control over its territory, but what exactly should they have done?

I hate to say it but some countries are going to look at this and conclude, "If Georgia had nuclear weapons, they wouldn't have been invaded."

Then, some countries have looked at the invasion of Iraq and the non-invasion of North Korea and concluded the same thing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Russia's Anschluss against Georgia

"I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul ..." George W. Bush on Vladimir Putin, 2001

Although Russia occupies a sixth of the world's land mass, apparently this is not enough for the new Russian imperialists.

While Americans are focused on their quadrennial obsession with fencing and competitive kayaking, a war has broken out half way around the world. The Russian military has invaded the Republic of Georgia, in the apparent hope of annexing at least part of the country.

A little history is order. Shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the region of South Ossetia unilaterally declared independence from the new Republic of Georgia. This declaration was not recognized by anyone other than Moscow. The region has had de facto autonomy since then. Over the last few years, Russia has stoked secessionist sentiment in South Ossetia as part of its comprehensive campaign to intimidate and destabilize former Soviet states that dare flinch from Russian domination. Just ask the Ukranians. Russian imperialism in Georgia has included the arming of separatist groups and the arbitrary attribution of passports to South Ossetians. This was done in order to create Russian citizens to invent the excuse for Moscow that its intervention in South Ossetia was 'to protect Russian citizens.'

Last week, the Georgian army was sent in to try and retake control of the breakaway region. Russia says its military intervention is solely designed to protect the Russian citizens in South Ossetia from alleged abuses by the Georgian army.

Yet the Russians have advanced deep into Georgia territory, coming within 60 miles of the Georgian capital Tblisi. This is far away from the zone they are allegedly there to protect. They also invaded the western part of Georgia.

Georgia's government claims the invasion is an attempt at regime change. The country's American-educated president has cultivated close ties with the US and Europe and this has infuriated Vladimir Putin's government*, which doesn't take kindly to any country trying to leave its sphere of domination. The tension has been excaberated by the fact that Georgia's president came to power via elections that ousted the country's pro-Russian government.

(*-Belligerent Russian imperialism started under Putin's presidency and has continued during his recent transition to the prime ministership, where observers believe he remains the country's most powerful man)

This op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor claims that the conflict is not all Russia's fault. It accuses Georgia's president Mikhail Saakashvili of overestimating the value of his country's partnership with Washington. But it also claims that Russia's invasion is solely to 'protect' South Ossetia. Even if this were a legitimate reason to invade a neighboring sovereign state, then why have the Russians invaded huge chunks of Georgia far beyond South Ossetia itself?

The clear purpose of Russia's aggression is to punish what it sees as Georgia's insolence in acting like an actual independent country. The invasion is not just a message to Georgians but also a warning to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine (not that it needed any warning), Kazhakstan and any other former Soviet republic that defying Moscow's diktats will have severe consequences.

This is only the most serious and criminal example of Russia flexing its muscles. It meddled in Ukraine's domestic political situation, even trying to poison the pro-western opposition candidate who eventually became president. Russia has also used its energy supplies to punish regimes that dared show independence from Russia. It's cut off gas supplies not only to Ukraine and Georgia, but also to Poland and Belarus. These all occurred not long after disputes between those governments and Moscow.

The American aggression against Iraq has backfired against the US by encouraging, rather than discouraging, countries like Iran from developing nuclear weapons. As this piece from TIME magazine pointed out, Russia is playing a dangerous game that just might backfire in the same way.

Russia is incensed that many former Soviet republics, including Georgia, want to join NATO. Many former Soviet republics are fearful of expansionist desires in the goliath neighbor. Russia's apparent attempt to annex at least part of Georgia will remind those countries precisely why they so desperately want the western alliance's protection.

According to reports, Putin has stoked anti-Georgian sentiment in Russia itself for severals. According to a poll discussed on the BBC, more Russians view Georgia as national enemy number one than even the United States. Putin also expelled thousands of ethnic Georgians from Russia.

Russia's incessant fueling of separatist activity in South Ossetia and their sudden pious concern for human rights in that region is more than a bit disingenuous considering how brutally the Russian army crushed a separatist movement in their own breakaway region of Chechnya with precious little concern for human beings.

Washington has criticized the Russian invasion. But when it comes to condemning an illegal of aggression by a giant army against a smaller but sovereign nation designed to unilaterally impose regime change, install a pliant government and seize its resources, the Bush administration's credibility is somewhat less than zero.

What should be done is this. Georgia should accept for the UN run a referendum in South Ossetia where the people can vote on remaining part of Georgia, becoming independent or joining Russia. But it must only do so after Russian troops have completely left all of Georgia and been replaced by UN peacekeepers. No credible vote can occur while the Russian jackboots are in South Ossetia... let alone beyond.

In response to Russia's massive invasion, Georgia has recalled all of its troops home from Iraq, where it was the largest contributor of soldiers behind the US and UK. It's ironic that Georgian troops will go from participating in an imperial occupation to combating one. Maybe this will make them see the light.

I'm sure it's too much to expect the same of Vladimir Putin.

Update: In an interview with BBC World television, Pres. Sakashvili accused the Russians of expelling all ethnic Georgians from occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Further update: In case there's any doubt about Russia's hardly benign intentions, the country's foreign minister has demanded that Georgia's president resign. And Russia's (de jure) president bragged about beating what it views as an insolent little child by proudly declaring that Georgia had been 'punished.'

Yet another update: As this snipet from Foreign Policy reminds us, this is hardly the first time the Georgian Republic has been threatened by the Russian hegemon. Also this BBC report explains how the noble, peace-loving Russians respect cease fires they agree to. You'll note, yet again, how Russian violence is occurring far from the zone of conflict they pretend their intervention was only designed to protect.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

10th anniversary of East African embassy bombings

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine, Iraq, North Korea and Iran.

Yesterday, there were commemorations in East Africa to mark the 10th anniversary of the bombings of the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

My father was driving me to the bank that morning when US National Public Radio broke the story of the bombings. I remember being worried because I knew a friend of mine and her mother were visiting Kenya at the time. Apparently, they had been in the embassy for some reason left something like half an hour before the attacks. She said they were so close that they heard the explosion from their taxi but had no idea what it was until later on.

This was effectively the first al-Qaeda attack on US interests; though it's important to remember that of the hundreds who died, almost all were Africans. US President Bill Clinton responded by flexing American military muscle and bombing an aspirin factory in Sudan. It was yet another example of US military action abroad being based puffed up machismo and the desire to 'do something' rather than rational decision making and the desire to do something that actually made sense.

Some regional press accounts on the anniversary...

-The East African Standard had some first hand accounts of what happened in Nairobi on that day.

-The Kenyan Nation has a photo essay.

-The Nation also mentions how the present Kenyan government has promised more vigilance in dealing with potential terrorism.

-Tanzania's Daily News has an account of the ceremony in Dar es Salaam.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

ESPN: the vaccine against caring about sports

In case you missed it, here is the entire transcript for the entirety of ESPN's (non-event) programming over the last two weeks, just in case you missed it.

Brett Favre? Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. BRETT FAVRE!!! Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. BRETT FAVRE!!!BRETT FAVRE!!!BRETT FAVRE!!!

BRETT FAVRE!!! Brett Favre? Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. BRETT FAVRE!!! Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. BRETT FAVRE!!!BRETT FAVRE!!!BRETT FAVRE!!!

BRETT FAVRE!!! Brett Favre? Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. BRETT FAVRE!!! Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. BRETT FAVRE!!!BRETT FAVRE!!!BRETT FAVRE!!!

BRETT FAVRE!!! Brett Favre? Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. BRETT FAVRE!!! Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. BRETT FAVRE!!!BRETT FAVRE!!!BRETT FAVRE!!!


I never thought this would happen but I now hate the NFL more than the NBA. It's not mere disinterest but active loathing. Bear in mind that I don't hate football or basketball, just the professional versions.

Though I loathe neither as much as the ESPN hype machine.

ESPN is increasing its coverage of soccer and that's a worrying sign. I'm afraid they'll ruin that just like they ruin everything else that they overhype. And given their coverage of any match that Mr. Posh Spice plays in... or even sits the bench... my fear certainly isn't unwarranted.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Reality check

Many people are in the habit of consuming information reported on by mainstream media news organizations with a critical eye. But it's just as important, probably more so, to do when consuming information 'posted on the Internet.'

My friend Jim at the Critical Bookworm blog reposted a claim he'd heard. In fairness, he wasn't insisting it was the absolute truth, but it's an interesting case study.

Jim passed along the following tidbit he heard: Apparently, it's been noticed that roughly 100 negative reviews of Nancy Pelosi's book have been scrubbed from existence on Amazon.Com.

The claim came via an email to him citing a website citing another website. That alone made me suspicious.

Why were the negative reviews supposedly scrubbed and by whom? Were they attacking her or her politics or panning the substance her book? Were only critical reviews removed? Were they allegedly removed by Pelosi herself or by Amazon?

Skeptical, I checked out the web page for this book that he linked to and EACH of the last ten reviews at that moment were 1 star out of 5. They give her such accolades as:

"Poorly written, lackluster story"
"She should be indicted"
"Another pile of leftist bs"
"A whine fest"
"...made me puke"
Pelosi is a "clueless, spoiled rich girl"
"lacking any substance"

There were only 42 total reviews. 31 of them gave the book the lowest 1 star of 5 rating. Only 9 reviews gave her 5 stars out of 5.

Though it did publish a 5 star review saying that the poster's first review of the book was removed.

While this certainly doesn't disprove the allegations, it's hardly what you'd expect from what's implied to be a whitewashed web page conspiratorially edited to permit only hagiographic reviews.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I'm not sure if this will make it into their recruiting materials

As a Clarkson University alumnus, I was intrigued by this bit from The Watertown Daily Times: Clarkson University, Potsdam, and St. Lawrence University, [SUNY] Canton, both received high marks for their environmental efforts in the 2009 edition of the Princeton Review's "Best 368 Colleges."

It's the first year that the New York-based educational services company has evaluated schools' "green ratings," based on their environmental practices, policies and course offerings. On a scale of 60 to 99, Clarkson scored a 95, while SLU scored 87.

Though I was equally interested to notice some other distinctions 'awarded' to Clarkson.

The primarily engineering and business school ranked third in the country for "This is a Library?" and 12th for "Least Beautiful Campus." The university also was voted No. 15 for "Least Happy Students" and No. 19 for "Class Discussions Rare."

Clarkson's library is certainly an embarrassment and aesthetically, it is an ugly campus.

The primary function of the university is to produce obedient, focused drones for mega-corporations like Boeing and IBM. So perhaps it's not surprising they are so grumpy, apathetic and not prone to vibrant discussion.

The assistant to the president for strategic advancement said that Clarkson's bad ratings were actually a good sign.

She explained, "Overall, I think students from technical institutions are often more candid in their responses, and I think that fits with our academic environment and the curriculum we have."

This displays the kind of mental gymnastics that an African information minister or Bush administration spokesperson might admire.

So maybe there is some creative thinking going on at the university.

Are there any adults in the house?

There is no one in Albany more slimy than Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco, which is saying something given the place. This opinion is corroborated by a friend and former colleague of mine who once worked with him. I know the Assembly GOP don't have a lot of members to choose from for the leadership role, but isn't there anyone less completely shameless than the Schenectady Republican?

In fairness, Tedisco doesn't have much to actually do as head of a tiny GOP conference within an overwhelmingly Democratic chamber. And by grandstanding and posturing, Tedisco has gotten more press than any Assembly minority leader in recent memory.

The downside is that this showcases, rather than hides, Tedisco's complete lack of any political beliefs whatsoever. Basically, he'll take whatever position is going to get him in front of the cameras.

On Thursday, Tedisco blasted Assembly Democrats for showing "very, very little interest in truly cutting spending and the way Albany does business."

He added, "We cannot tax, we cannot spend and we cannot borrow our way into prosperity... The reason, I think, partially, we had 20 late budgets in a row is because that spending level didn't get to the point that [Assembly Speaker] Sheldon Silver wanted it to be."

About half of those 20 late budgets he refers to occurred before Silver became speaker. Of course, the general thrust of his comments is not wrong but given Tedisco's always shaky grasp of facts, I feel it incumbent to clarify this.

Reading this, you might think Tedisco holds a traditional GOP 'downsize government' position.

Yet only a few days earlier, Tedisco warned Democratic Gov. David Paterson against cutting the number of state bureaucrats to deal with the impending budget crisis.

Tedisco said, "If he [Paterson] thinks there's a bloated state government in terms of the numbers that are working here, he's got to show us why it's bloated."

So cutting spending is an absolute imperative to the Assembly Republican leader... so long as no state bureaucrats are touched.

Or maybe this was just a case of a desperate, principle-free politician in an irrelevant office saying whatever he needed to say to get the press to pay attention to him. The latter obviously works, but really only succeeds in making Tedisco look like a buffoon.

Friday, August 01, 2008

James Kunstler to speak in Glens Falls on August 7

Social commentator and critic of our country's unsustainable sprawl, James Howard Kunstler will be speaking at the Rock Hill Bakehouse Cafe in Glens Falls on Thursday August 7. The talk will start at 7 PM and is sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.

Author of The Geography of Nowhere (which I'm presently reading), Kunstler will read from his most recent works The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century and World Made by Hand and will engage in a brief question and answer session.

Fans of Rock Hill's regular Thursday Open Mic night should note that this week's version will be pushed back to 8:30 PM.