Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fourth Estate acts like the Second

It's no secret that Post-Star managing editor Ken Tingley is the most self-important public figures in the area. And the area includes Queensbury town supervisor Dan Stec!

When you read Tingley's columns, it's clear that he thinks he's so much smarter than his idiot readers. Maybe he's bitter than he's not yet running The New York Times or some other important paper commensurate with his opinion of himself.

It's no coincidence that the paper's precipitous decline started shortly after Tingley became managing editor.

Usually, this arrogance is more implied, more read-between-the-lines. But a recent online exchange laid bare not just Tingley's pomposity, but the contempt and loathing he has for his paper's own customers.

The local weekly Chronicle published exchange between The Post-Star supremo and a reader that occurred in the comments section of Tingley's column on the daily's website.

A reader named "Wendy" called Tingley to task for criticizing the Queensbury school budget. She noted that she'd never seen him a board of education or PTA meeting or any other district meeting as well as expressing her support for the (then proposed, now adopted) school budget.

The comments by "Wendy" were critical but not especially harsh or nasty. I don't even agree with everything she said. But this tepid criticism obviously pricked Tingley's huge ego. He then gave her the proverbial finger.

The Chronicle published his response:

Dear Wendy:
I take great offense to your comments. For the past 20 years I have been an editor working for the daily newspaper. I am constantly dealing with the issues, problems and yes, the good news that is produced in this community.

We have taken on such issues as underage drinking, suicide and domestic abuse to educate and make our community better.

I'm guessing I have contact with more real people on a daily basis than most other people do in a month.

I write two columns a week, am a member of the editorial board and we are constantly shining a light on problems and issues.

I do not need to go to a PTA meeting or budget hearing to know what is going on because I regularly talk to many of the people involved and our reporters.

It amazes me that anytime anyone is pro taxpayer on this issue, they are accused of being anti-education. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In our editorial on Sunday, we took all school districts to task, not just Queensbury. But I agree with Mr. [Doug] Beaty that Queensbury has traditionally been a high spender.

I am involved in my community through my job at the newspaper. That's more than most people can say including yourself.


There's nothing I really need to add. The egomaniacal narcissism expressed in this screed speaks for itself.

But what's even more interesting is that in the last few days, the exchange has magically disappeared from the article in question.

Now it begs the question: did this revisionism occur because in hindsight, Tingley was humiliated by his childish outburst? Or did his corporate superiors get wind of his enormously unprofessional public attack on a reader and rightly reprimand him?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Where are today’s war bonds?

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

When President Bush says something that’s merely galling, it no longer merits a story. No one takes him seriously any more so why not reserve outrage for actions instead of mere words? But sometimes, his words are so revealing that you have to comment.

Recently, The Decider compared the current US aggressions to World War II.

"After World War II we helped Germany and Japan build free societies and strong economies. These efforts took time and patience, and as a result Germany and Japan grew in freedom and prosperity and are now allies of the United States,” Bush puffed.

Now that the two countries are merely in a rebuilding phase, perhaps he can cease his heroic sacrifice of giving up golf!

The US has occupied Iraq for over five years.

Five years into US occupation, both Japan and the Federal Republic of Germany were more or less stable countries with stable governments.

The US occupied Japan for a total of seven years and West Germany for eight. Does anyone seriously think we’ll be even close to out of Iraq by 2010 or 2011?

A real comparison with World War II would reveal far more than Bush would like. It would show exactly how illegitimate and immoral the current wars* are.

(*-By 'current wars,' I'm referring to the wars against Iraq, Afghanistan and terror)

During World War II, the entire nation was mobilized. Every man, woman and child was asked to sacrifice. Families were expected to plant Victory Gardens. Everything was recycled to avoid waste. Women left the home (which was considered a sacrifice back then) to work in factories were re-tooled to become part of the war effort.

Perhaps most tellingly, people bought war bonds. In a time when few were affluent, they made a voluntary choice to spend their money for something that they believed very important. They did this because most Americans believed that success in World War II was essential to the nation’s freedom.

Where are today’s war bonds?

Aside from intoning politically correct catchphrases ‘Never forget’ and ‘Freedom isn’t free,’ Americans today are asked to do nothing more than slap a yellow ribbon bumper sticker on their SUV before they go to the Gap and send a message to the America-hating Evildoers with their credit card.

This sentiment was echoed by President Bush’s own former spokespuppet Scott McClellan, who said, "What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary” and that "One of the worst disasters in our nation's history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush's presidency.”

One can certainly question McClellan’s motives. One can assume that he’s merely trying to clear what’s left of his conscience regarding a once-popular war that’s now seen as a disaster; it’s funny how many sleazeballs suddenly gain a moral code once the poll numbers collapse. One can doubt his sincerity for not resigning rather than being complicit in what he himself calls a ‘Culture of Deception.’ But the comments are revealing nonetheless.

This casual attitude, the refusal to ask for sacrifice, the lust for force as a first option rather than a last, illustrates how the current wars have never had anything to do with our nation’s freedom.

And given the way both have been mismanaged, I think every American should all be grateful they have nothing to do with our freedom. Every American except for few hundred thousand who are risking their lives because of this ‘Culture of Deception’ and their families.

If it really mattered, we’d ALL be asked to make sacrifices. Not just the soldiers and their families.

If it really mattered, we’d all be asked to make real sacrifices. We’d be asked to make sacrifices more significant than a moment of silence here or an hour-long ceremony on Memorial Day there. We'd be asked to make sacrifices more significant than giving up golf.

If it really mattered, we’d be asked to take action, not merely engage in symbolism.

That we expect young kids to bear the entirety of the burden we know to be unnecessary and for the exclusive benefit of a small oligarchy of huge corporations, shows the hollowness not only of the current wars, not only of our nation’s so-called leaders, but of our whole society for meekly accepting this disgraceful state of affairs without questioning why.

Friday, May 23, 2008

America's Zimbabwe

When Sen. Hillary Clinton first announced her candidacy for president, there was optimism in some quarters. Many people believed that a female presidential candidate would be innately better than a male. Many believe that women make better politicians because they are supposedly more humane and have better people skills.

Sadly, Clinton has repeatedly demonstrated to female politicians can be just as disgraceful as their male counterparts.

Why people believed the myth of female superiority is beyond me. Granted, this is a small sample, but only three women in modern times have been elected to lead a world power: India's Indira Gandhi, Israel's Golda Meir and Britain's Margaret Thatcher.

Every one of them ruled with as much, if not more, machismo than any male. And this isn't surprising. A male leader that shows restraint is praised for wisdom (perhaps not in this country). A female leader that shows restraint is condemned for weakness.

Thus, it's no surprise that Clinton has waged a far more aggressive, obnoxious, one might say masculine, campaign than Sen. Barack Obama.

While you may not need testicles to be commander-in-chief, apparently you need to act like you do. The phrase 'more Catholic than the Pope' seems to apply here.

Too bad there is no requirement for there to be a relationship between a candidate's brain and mouth.

Earlier this week, she invoked the assassination of Bobby Kennedy to justify her continued presence in the race.

Both Kennedy and Clinton came from other states to New York for the sole purpose of becoming US Senator as a stepping stone to what they felt was their God-given right to the presidency.

But that's about all they had in common. Kennedy inspired people. Clinton divides people.

I suppose this isn't quite scandalous, even if it's a lame attempt by a corporate candidate to invoke a liberal icon. It is a historical fact that the 1968 Democratic primary season extended into June, which was her point.

But then she tried a weasely 'apology' with a transparent attempt to suck up to liberals who've never taken to her corporate campaign.

"The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy," she added, referring to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's recent diagnosis of a brain tumor. "I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and in particular the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever."

If you believe that, I have some oceanfront property in Zimbabwe to sell you.

Then, much like her Bosnia fantasies, she decided to invent history again.

Clinton said "it is unprecedented in history" for political activists to urge a candidate to withdraw when his or her chances of winning the nomination appear remote. In fact, such events have happened several times.

I'm surprised she didn't claim to be at RFK's side when he was shot.

But far and away the most outrageous attempt this totally disgraced candidate to remain relevant was Hillary's remarks comparing Florida to Zimbabwe.

As you may know, the Florida Democratic Party decided to hold its primary earlier than allowed by the rules of the national Democratic Party. So the national party is rejecting Florida's delegates because the state party refused to follow the rules that all Democrats agreed to before the nomination process started.

Zimbabwe, by contrast, is a country where is voting rigged by a brutal dictator and his mafia. A place where the dictatorship maintains brainwashing concentration camps. It organizes mobs that beat, and even murder, opponents. It hijacks food aid away from opposition areas. It trumps up treason charges against opposition leaders. It bombs non-compliant media outlets. It bans foreign journalists. Its brutality and stupidity has caused a thorough economic meltdown and created millions of political and economic refugees.

I'm no fan of Gov. Jeb Bush, but anyone who has the audacity to compare Florida to Zimbabwe should be immediately disqualified for any important office, either on the grounds of stupidity (if the candidate actually believes the comparison) or grotesque shamelessness (if she doesn't).

There are people starving to death in Zimbabwe. There are people being beaten by lynch mobs. The stupidity of the Florida Democratic Party is beyond trivial by comparison.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The decline and fall of the Fourth Estate

I swear I don't read The Post-Star searching for a grotesque lack of critical thinking in columns and editorials. I don't spend 50 cents as part of some masochistic hobby searching for basic spelling and grammar errors. I don't set out to look for these; I really do have better things to do. But sometimes they just grab me either by their sheer mind-numbing quality... or quantity.

The spelling and grammar errors are annoying because they are the most easily avoidable. I know people are human and mistakes will happen. I'm sure my own blog has the (hopefully) occasional error of that kind. But such errors get published far too often in Glens Falls' Hometown Daily (although they claim to be Saratoga's Hometown Daily too).

One of the reasons this is particularly inexcusable is because, unlike with this humble and barely-read one-man blog, every article in such a widely-read daily newspaper should be proofread by at least two people: the original author plus a copy editor. An Associated Press or Reuters piece should presumably be proofread by the original author, the wire service's copy editor AND a Post-Star copy editor.

So how, for example, does this sentence get published:

While most of our fellow students were eating fast food, we were chowing down on feasts of chicken schawarma, kibbi and falafel.

The word 'shawarma' apparently has seven different accepted English spellings... none of which are 'schawarma.' The research required to discover this fact took approximately 20 seconds.

(Though I will concur with the author that the food is extremely addictive!)

Worse still is this article about Sen. Ted Kennedy. In the print version, the headline on 'continued' part of the article read Doctor's say Kennedy has one year to live.

Unfortunately, most people in this society feel the need to insert an apostrophe willy-nilly in ANY word that ends with the letter s. But shouldn't we expect higher standards of people whose professional job it is to know the rules of grammar?

Or maybe I should pander to the lowest common denominator and re-write the previous sentence: shouldn't we expect higher standard's of people whose professional job it is to know the rule's of grammar?

The number of basic grammar and spelling errors making the printed paper has skyrocketed in recent years. But the quality of writing has endured a similarly precipitous decline.

Just look at this editorial encouraging readers to vote down 15 different local school budgets.

The paper's sole rationale for giving an A or an F grade to a budget was whether the budget's increase in spending was above or below 4 percent.

This might seem reasonable, provided you don't think too hard. Maybe that's why they couldn't be bothered to offer D's, C's and B's. Everything's black or white, with no nuance.

The paper claimed to be speaking on behalf of the taxpayers.

Fair enough, but...

(WARNING: CRITICAL THINKING ALERT!)

... given this, shouldn't the main concern have been the tax rate, not the spending rate?

Let's say School A raised spending 5 percent but taxes only went up 2 percent (for example, due to increased state aid). Let's say School B only raised spending 3 percent but got the short end of the state aid roulette wheel and had to raise taxes 6 percent.

According to the paper's logic, School A's taxpayers should be outraged and School B's taxpayers thrilled, even though the latter saw a much bigger hit to their pocket book.

This is Post-Star logic.

What if a school raised spending by 4.5 percent but due to local circumstances, this was the best it could do without slashing necessary programs? What if a school raised spending by only 3 percent but still had plenty of fat it could trim?

Using the 4 percent increase in spending mark as the SOLE and arbitrary criteria makes for a nice, cutesy editorial but does not inform the voters as to whether a budget is really good or bad or somewhere in between.

Like most of the paper's editorials, this one was more concerned with being snappily written than well-written, more concerned with being easy to digest than thought-provoking, filled with simplistic anecdotes rather than critical thinking or nuance.

And ultimately, the paper's repeated rants about school spending carry little credibility despite the importance of the issue. Maybe that's why the voters APPROVED 2/3 of the budgets that the paper had urged they reject.

The paper, along with Managing Editor/columnist Ken Tingley, whines and bitches and moans about how lazy school board members are. They condescendingly berate citizens as stupid idiots for not bitching and moaning more loudly.

But the paper never, I repeat NEVER, offers specific ideas. They never suggest how schools, or even any particular school, should cut programs a and b or trim money from c and d to reign in spending by x percent. They never offer a blueprint to guide the school boards they attack as complacent. They're great at berating people but never offer any solutions to enlighten the ignoramuses.

They must have a really good view from the cheap seats.

According to one of my sources, the paper is paying astronomical salaries to advertising people while most reporters (and presumably copy editors and others on the editorial side outside the head honchos) barely get peanuts. I'm told management holds little regard for ordinary reporters because they assume the journalists (with the exception of Don Lehman who, as you may notice, is assigned to pretty much every big story) are only using The Post-Star as a stepping stone to a real newspaper.

Here's my unsolicited advice to The Post-Star:

Give me decently written columns.

Give me non-superficial news pieces. It doesn't have to be Pulitizer Prize stuff but recognize that not every story has two sides. Quite often, there are more. But you might have to do a little digging. You might have to vary from the formula and 'think outside the box.' Give me good reporting that tells me the whole story in all its layers. Don't just plug in quotes to a cheap formula.

You're not The Pennysaver. The primary reason most people read your paper is because of the articles, not the ads. Make sure you do this core work as well as you can. Keep your eye on the ball and you might gain back some of the readers you've lost.

Gimme headlines' and articel's that has proper speling and gramme.r.

This is basic stuff one should expect of any newspaper you have to pay for, of any newspaper that wants to be respected in the community

Failing to provide these most basic elements is a sign of disrespect to the readers.

Maybe if The Post-Star wasted less money paying ad people for those crappy, contrived advertising vehicles (inserts) passed off as 'community features' and more money on people who can think, write and maybe even properly use an apostrophe, they might draw better journalists to their publication and stem the sharp decline of a once respected institution.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Notes from the ivory tower

The Atlantic has an intriguing essay by "Professor X" on how 'the idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth.'

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hispanics cause shortage of ESL teachers

In the highly charged debate over immigration, one of the common refrains is that someone is going to come live in this country, they should learn English.

Strictly speaking, I agree with this sentiment.

When I lived in two French-speaking countries, I knew some French before I got there but was constantly trying to figure out how to speak and write it better. It would be awful presumptuous of me to move to Costa Rica or Austria or Japan and not bother to learn how to speak Spanish, German or Japanese and just expect them to speak English. I don't feel comfortable even being a temporary tourist in a country where I don't speak the language at all.

I think when you're in another culture, you ought to respect the prevailing norms of that culture as much as possible, including language. Many Americans don't do this when they travel abroad, which is how the 'ugly American' stereotype has become so prevalent. But it's something we should do when we're abroad and something others should do while they're here. It's simply a question of courtesy and respect.

Diversity's extremely important and I'd never argue that immigrants should give up their mother tongue. My grandparents and great-grandparents certainly never stopped speaking Italian at home or other family gatherings. Quite the opposite, I think more Americans should learn foreign languages. But especially in a diverse country like ours, there needs to be a few common reference points.

Nevertheless, what bothers me about the common refrain I talked about above is that it's premised on the assumption that most immigrants are lazy and have no desire to learn English.

I know many immigrants, predominantly colleagues from Latin America. And while some speak English better than others, they all speak some and the ones that don't speak it that well want to get better at it. I have no reason to think my acquaintances are unique.

Since most Americans are unfortunately unilingual, they have no clue about the process of learning a foreign language, especially as an adult. You can't just snap your fingers. listen to a few cassette tapes and become fluent in a language. It takes time. A lot of time. It takes time when you're doing nothing but studying that language. It takes longer when you can only study the language interimittently because you're laboring for 12 hours a day milking cows..

(Incidentally, if you call someone a leech when they're busting their butt as a dairy farm laborer, you have absolutely no clue hard this job is)

So I was interested to listen to this story from North Country Public Radio which talked about the desperate shortage of English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers.

The skyrocketing demand for ESL programs in the North Country is particularly noteworthy given the significant increase in recent years of Latin Americans working on the dairy farms of northern New York.

Maybe the Hispanic immigrants to this country are little less lazy than popular stereotypes give them credit for.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

But at least he wears an American flag lapel pin so it must be all good

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

To say that President Bush is astoundingly arrogant and elitist to point of complete cluelessness would be to state blindingly obvious.

But he seems committed to rubbing people's noses on a daily basis in his complete detachment from the reality of the decent, ordinary Americans he's shipping into the hellhole that is 'liberated' Iraq.

Last week, The Decider bragged about how he was selflessly showing solidarity with the young soldiers dodging roadside bombs in 120 degree heat. His munificient sacrifice? He gave up golf.

Suffice it to say, many families of troops killed in Iraq were irate at the president's contemptuous mockery of their relatives who made a real sacrifice, the utlimate one, in the name of Bush's destructive war of aggression.

Comments like this are something you'd expect from The Colbert Report. That this is judgment and perspective of a real human being who has complete control over the lives of well-intentioned young Americans is a terrifying prospect.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Disgust with 'real America'

I read this column by conservative writer Kathleen Parker which illustrates one of the more insidious aspects of the US political scene of the last 7 or 8 years.

If you don't live in a rural, small town, you are not part of "real America."

So-called Middle America contains the only Americans that matter.

If you live in big cities or on either coast, you are a fake American.

I live in a small town. I live in a small town by choice. The reason for this because there are certain characteristics of big cities and the mentality there which I don't like. While the pros of small town life appeal more to me, I do not remain blind to the cons.

People complain about the arrogance of Washington and Hollywood types. But claiming that people who live in rural areas or small tones hold a monopoly on true American values, claiming that they and they alone love their country, is just as pompous.

I would never claim that bigots, nativists and the inward looking and highly parochial are any less American than I. Neither they nor any subgroup of Americans gets to singlehandedly define American values.

Contrary to the politically correct dogma, Middle America is not the only America.

I realize that progressives aren't as good at pandering to such people and that's why they have so much trouble in national elections. But we're all Americans. We're all real Americans, flawed as we each may be. You're a real American because of the country you live in, not the state.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jim Kunstler in Glens Falls tonight

James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere among others, will be speaking in Glens Falls tonight.

Kunstler will be reading from his newest book World Made By Hand tonight at 7:00 PM at Red Fox Books on Ridge St., next to City Hall.

Reintegrating child soldiers in Sierra Leone

The English version of Le Monde diplomatique has a good piece (in English) exploring how former child soldiers from Sierra Leone's civil war are being re-integrated into society.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"The Adirondacks" documentary to air tonight

Tonight, PBS will air a documentary entitled "The Adirondacks" which takes a two-hour look at the largest protected park in the continental US.

Preserved primarily due to the protection of a visionary clause New York's state constitution enacted in the late 19th century, the Adirondacks are the most amazing natural wonder in the eastern United States.

I may be biased, but watch the documentary and judge for yourself!

Note: Adirondack Almanack points out that this will premiere tonight on PBS stations across the country, not just locally.

Tasers

Every time there is a story about Glens Falls police tasering someone, the Post-Star's website lights up with comments, some fair, some snide. I don't believe police should be given complete impunity. That said, I don't think the local police have a bad reputation and am generally willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until they demonstrate otherwise. A lot of poststar.com visitors are too eager to attribute malice to local cops, to assume the police are guilty of misconduct before they know a mere fraction of the evidence. This reflexive police bashing does a disservice both to the police and to serious debate.

Though they are certainly better than the billy clubs of the past, I believe tasers should be used sparingly and as a last resort. And I haven't seen any compelling evidence that Glens Falls police are doing otherwise. I don't believe that police should refuse to use one if it puts themselves at risk of injury at the hands of some belligerent idiot.

For example, one of the more controversial stories was the tasering of a drunk teenager at a high school basketball game at the Civic Center. The mere fact that a teenager showed up drunk to a high school basketball game isn't a good sign. But his tasering provoked the outrage of the anti-police crowd.

I happened to be at that game, fairly close to the incident. The drunk teenager walked by me at one point before his arrest and slurred some expletive at me. He was bumping into other people left and right. He was shouting obscenities until security and eventually police were called. He was struggling with police trying to escort him out while being dragged up the very steep stairs of the Civic Center. I did not realize he had gotten tasered but should the police have risked getting themselves knocked down ten flights of steep stairs in order to make sure the obnoxious 17 year old who showed up drunk at a high school basketball game didn't have his poor little feelings hurt?

That said, certainly more research needs to be done into the effects of being tasered. Officials need to make sure that no more shock is administered than is absolutely necessary to briefly subdue an arrestee. This article from Alternet explains why. I think it's fair to assume that most people don't expect that a taser should kill or seriously injure a suspect.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No more whining

I don't usually post press releases but this one sums things up quite nicely.

From: VoteNader.org

Call it the no more whining campaign.

Don't tell us about Bush/Cheney.

We know already.

The sewage has risen to the surface.

The question is - what are we going to do about it?

The answer is - Nader/Gonzalez.

McCain/Clinton/Obama talk and talk about change and a better world.
But they are all in the hip pocket of the corporations.

Do they advocate for single payer public national health insurance?

They do not.

Do they advocate for cutting the bloated, wasteful military budget?

They do not.

[...]

Do they stand for reversing U.S. policy in the Middle East?

They can not.

All they can do is whine and complain.

And talk about an amorphous "change."

Nader/Gonzalez on the other hand, is the can do campaign.

We put our people vs. the corporations platform on the table.

And - per your request - we've just updated our issues pages with more detail.

We're working hard to get Nader/Gonzalez on as many state ballots as possible.

And - per your request - we've just launched a clickable state by state map of the country for ballot access.

[...]



If you support a progressive agenda, please support a progressive campaign.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Asleep at the switch

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

It's no secret that corporations have a stranglehold on our democracy. This is thanks to a bizarre and perverse interpretation that somehow equates money with speech. The mental contortions required to defend this are quite astounding, especially since money and speech are not equated in any other context except politics. As a result, non-citizens (such as corporations and unions) can bribe political candidates in broad daylight and in (more or less) complete legality.

But even when feeble legislative attempts are made to impose token regulations on this madness, it's often not even enforced.

This piece from the Albany Times-Union's Capitol Confidential blog offers an illustration.

Last year, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) sent evidence to the state Board of Elections (BOE) of 61 corporations that donated illegal amounts to political campaigns. Twelve months later, the BOE is still investigating the matter.

(Good government group like NYPIRG along with some media constitute the only real check on the chummy culture of corruption in Albany.)

Recently, NYPIRG relased evidence of another 118 violations to the bipartisan (not to be confused with non-partisan) BOE.

The BOE is supposed to enforced the law but “They still haven’t done anything about it,” said NYPIRG’s legislative director Blair Horner, one of the true white knights in Albany.

A BOE spokesman whined that their workload has increased in the last few years as the number of electronic reports has skyrocketed. But if they are not going to bother enforcing the law, even when a watchdog group does a lot of their legwork for them, then what purpose does the state Board of Elections serve?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hillary's appeal to middle America: blacks are lazy!

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

How desperate and despicable is that egomaniacal (expletive deleted) Hillary Clinton?

We've long known she's corporate owned. But she's now stooped to a new low, even for her.

The woman of privilege recently claimed that Obama's support was "weakening" among "hard-working Americans, white Americans."

It's a good thing she added that clarification. Because she wouldn't want to leave the impression with saintly "middle America" that she thought black Americans were hard working.

Democrats should ask, if they haven't already, if they really want someone so divisive and contemptible as their nominee.

As I've said before, I was never a huge fan of hers before the campaign but I didn't hate her.

I do now.

Is there any question now she's willing, more so that even the ordinary politician, to put her own gargantuan ego ahead of the good of not only her party but her nation? How in Heaven's name can anyone still see her as having a shred of honor?

Liberals like to think that such pathetic garbage is the unique provenance of the Republican Party. And it certainly is more popular in the GOP. But some Democrats obviously aren't above appealing to such naked bigotry in order to help their poll ratings.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Skateboarding and imagination

I don't skateboard, but my 'little brother' does. So I take him to the skate park usually once a month or so. He's not very good but he enjoys it.

One of the things I like about the skating culture is that it's free-spirited. And, perhaps surprisingly given the reputation skating has in 'respectable' circles, the culture strikes me as fairly collegial. It also requires perseverance, something that's not a bad thing to learn in a country where instant gratification is a central value.

Kids today spend so much time in front of screens that many of them have no idea how use their imagination. And forget this generation gap canard. It's little different with adults. Witness how my colleagues treat me as quite the oddball because I often lie on the grass and engage in the eccentric activity of reading a book or... even more incomprehensibly, just relaxing and looking at the sky.

So the other reason I respect skating as an activity more than a lot of people is that really stimulates creativity and imagination. It's an fascinating fusion of being around others and expressing yourself.

I was thinking about this yesterday when my 'little brother' and I were walking home from the skate park and stopped inside the local children's bookstore.

In addition to books, they also have various toys for sale and for use. One of the ones they have for kids to play with is a simple racing car track. Not for battery-powered cars, but just for the small metal ones like Hot Wheels.

A little kid sat down at this track and picked up one of the Hot Wheels and with a befuddled look, asked his mom, "How do you start this thing?"

I chuckled a little bit, until I realized how sad it was.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Thank God he didn't give away his jockstrap

(Credit for the title goes to my brother)

I know he's married to a woman who used to be a bubblegum pop band, but I can't say I've ever 'gotten' the hysterical schoolgirl crush that so much of the world seems to have on celebrity brand (and occasional soccer player) David Beckham.

He's always been a mediocre soccer player, except for his ability to cross the ball or take a free kick. He's not particularly good looking. In sharp contrast to other sporting brands like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, Beckham is not particularly charismatic. When you hear him talk, he sounds like he's reading a script (which he probably is) most of the time and like a doofus when he's not.

It's one thing to fight over a million dollar baseball, the premise of which is absurd enough. But even by the standards of lunatic sports fans with no perspective and parents who act like children, this is still pretty lame.

They must be in cohoots with the travel agencies

You gotta love European soccer.

Their Champions League final has Manchester United and another English club (London's Chelsea) playing each other in Russia.

While the UEFA Cup final has a Russian club (Zenit St. Petersburg) playing in... Manchester, England.

European officials obviously received geography assistance from the folks who placed American Throwball teams Indianapolis Colts in the South Division, Dallas Cowboys in the East and St Louis Rams in the West.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The role of women in Rwandan politics

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 besides fake debates over fake patriotism.

The Rwanda Project of the Hunt Alternatives Fund has some interesting literature on its work in that country. The project particularly focuses on enabling females to more fully participate in society. It notes that since the 1994 genocide, Rwandan women have made remarkable contributions to rebuild their society. They also made unprecedented political gains, achieving near parity in the legislature's lower chamber.

It notes that female parliamentarians in the country have drafted the only substantive bill to emerge from the legislative rather than the executive branch, a far-reaching law to combat gender-based violence; spearheaded efforts to eliminate discrimination and enhance human rights protections; and fostered cross-party and male-female collaboration through the Forum of Rwandan Women Parliamentarians and by involving men in efforts to craft legislation.

The website includes reports on women's involvement in defending the rights of children, promoting anti-domestic violence legislation and supporting female participation in local politics.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Maybe The Post-Star's afraid to let their reporting speak for itself

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

The corporate media is hypersensitive to criticism, isn't it.

Not all criticism, mind you.

It loves the simplistic 'the media is too liberal/conservative' dichotomy. If both extremes hate you, goes the logic, you must be doing Pulitzer-esque work. It allows them to abdicate any responsibility for substantive analysis.

The kinds of criticism the corporate media doesn't like is accusations that it's shutting out diverse voices. This criticism is stone cold true. Just look at the amount of free corporate media coverage given to the Annointed candidates (McCain, Giuliani, Romney, Obama, Clinton) in comparison to the media's Untouchables (Ron Paul, Alan Keyes, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel... and that's not even including smaller party candidates). They choose who's message 'deserves' to be heard and then when the rest complain, the corporate media holds its hands up and sniffs, "The public just isn't interested in them."

If you're an ordinary TV watcher and you see tons of reporting and yapping head analysis on the Annointed Ones and next to nothing (except maybe the occasional hack job on 'the quirky campaign of...' and rare yapping head edict that 'So and so can't win') about the Untouchables, then what do you expect? How can a candidate resonate with the public if the public is virtually never exposed to that candidate's message?

The recent visit of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader to Glens Falls exposed this hypersensitivity yet again.

A gentleman named John Thomas of Hartford, NY wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the quantity and quality of coverage given by The Post-Star to Nader's visit. Mr. Thomas felt that both were inadequate.

He complained that the visit of TV personality Rachel Ray got more coverage than the visit of a presidential candidate and one of the most influential Americans of the 20th century. This is factually correct. Ray got more coverage.

Now, it's no secret that I'm a Nader supporter, although I don't know John Thomas. But what bothered me most was how The Post-Star could not resist adding a snotty little Editor's Note to Thomas' letter.

The Editor's Note sniffed that Nader's visit got 'ample play' in the paper. That 'ample play' was a brief preview story and a small recap at the bottom of the local section.

Translation: Naderites should get on their hands and knees and genuflect to the brick red building that they deigned to give Nader any coverage at all.

Well, that's the paper's opinion.

Thomas' letter expressed a different opinion.

Isn't this the very purpose of the letters to the editor and editorial sections?

The letters express the opinions of readers. The editorial expresses the opinions of the newspaper.

Editor's Notes to letters to the edtior are very uncommon in this paper. Usually, the daily only includes them if the writer makes a factually false statement or to clarify something in the letter that may have been murky. Sometimes, it's used to note that the letter writer has some personal connection with the issue discussed.

The general rule of the paper seems to be to let the letter writers have their 15 minutes, so to speak.

None of these applied to Thomas' letter. He didn't say the paper offered no coverage. He said Nader should've gotten more than Rachel Ray.

Yet the paper felt the need to rebuke Thomas for expressing (and very mildly at that) his not demonstrably false personal opinion... which is the whole purpose of the letters to the editor section.

Makes you wonder why the paper is so hyperdefensive.