Thursday, December 24, 2009

Times-Union 33% closer to oblivion

I noticed that the Albany Times-Union is jacking up the price of its daily edition by 33% to $1 effective next week.

With newspaper sales plummeting due to rapidly deteriorating quality and changing readership habits, doubling the price of such a product in only a few years hardly seems like a wise business decision.

The only sense it makes is if it's intended to drive T-U readers toward the paper's decent website. The website no doubt generates less ad revenue than the print edition but also has significantly lower costs.

People involved in the physical production of a print newspaper are far more likely to be unionized than the tech people who maintain a website. So perhaps it's also an attempt by the paper to finally break its unions by directing people to the website. The Albany Newspaper Guild is urging a boycott of the daily as part of its dispute with the paper.

T-U editor Rex Smith, a regular participant on WAMC's Media Project, has steadfastly insisted that newspaper websites are a drain on resources. But the situation is pretty sketchy. Why would they further alienate their paying customers with yet another price rise when a free, supposedly money-losing alternative, is easily available?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Exhibit A on why we need real multipartyism

Apparently, the US Senate health "reform" fraud retains the provision fining people $750 for not being able to afford or choosing to not buy health insurance while rejecting the provision creating a public option that might actually make insurance affordable for a lot more people. This proves yet again that a) it's not just the GOP who is sticking to the little guy and b) why I don't belong to either of the corporate parties. An honest, pragmatic analysis can only conclude that neither is a vehicle for progressive ideas.

Update: This bill is a bit like mandating all Americans eat prime rib and organic vegetables twice a day as a "plan" for eradicate hunger.

Further update: Both The Progressive offers a critique of the Democratic 'reform' fraud. So does the group Physicians for a National Health Program. While left-wing opposition to the bill is usually pooh-poohed with phrases like 'the perfect is the enemy of the good' or most inanely 'If both extremes hate it, it must be good,' the critiques are a little more substantive. Like me, PNHP most objects to the atrocious mandate that individuals be forced to buy an overpriced, inadequate insurance policy or else face a hefty fine, a provision no doubt adored by the private insurance lobby.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tis the season for consumerism

I wonder if I'm the only one who's noticed that the people/media outlets who lecture us about how the spirit of Christmas is about being kind (as though you should only be so in December) tend to be the same ones who shove down our throats the overwhelming importance of spending lots of money on crap this time of year supposedly is to our national economy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sick of/from lobbying

Facts of the week: "The bill for lobbyists [on the 'health care' issue before Congress], television ads and political donations [sic] has topped $375 million --- or enough to pay the entire insurance tab for about 30,000 families a year,' reports CNN Money. Meanwhile TIME reports there are now 2.3 drug industry lobbyists for every member of Congress." -The Progressive

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Periodic Twitter update (Dec. 1-14, 2009)

Note: This is a new series of blog entries highlighting selected stories from the Twitter feeds for my blogs Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian and Black Star Journal. This is for the benefit of blog readers who do not subscribe to Twitter. However those that are interested are encouraged to subscribe the Twitter feed to get all stories by going to and clicking 'follow'.

*Global Voices -- France: The Day Without Immigrants

*AlterNet -- A Look at the Shady Morals of NY State Senator Hiram Monserrate Who Opposed Marriage Equality

*Doctors Without Borders -- Interested in humanitarian work? See what it’s really like. LivingInEmergency next Mon, 12/14

*AlterNet -- Social Action in Copenhagen Rivals Seattle Protest

*Adirondack Almanack -- What's Wrong With Leg-Hold Traps?

*HumanityNews -- Nigeria: YarAdua Illness Raises Succession Fears

*Africannewsfeed: Cell phones cut maternal deaths in Ghana

*BBC World Service Africa: Reports of arrests, torture and killings of civilians suspected of opposing Guinea's injured junta leader

*BBC World Service Africa: A French mining firm is accused of dumping radioactive waste in Gabon

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mass transit popular despite clueless opposition

While the clueless Post-Star yet again editorializes against mass transit, the Times-Union reports that the northeastern routes on Amtrak had a record-breaking Thanksgiving period.

The Post-Star's hostility to public transportation manages the neat trick of being both small-minded and elitist at the same time.

Gas taxes only cover something like 60 percent of the cost of construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. That means the other 40 percent comes out of the general fund. That means that I, as a non-driver, am subsidizing roads for the cars of the Post-Star's editorial board members. I am subsidizing their choice to rely on a car so they can exercise their "right" to drive two blocks to get a six-pack of beer but they have the audacity to deny me the choice of reliable, relevant public transportation?

Wise public policy is should use public money to subsidize the MOST efficient option. In the Post-Star's bizarroworld, money is hemorrhaged to subsidize the LEAST efficient option. Sadly, this bizarroworld pretty much describes the America of the last 60 years.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Republican legislator for civil rites explains her position

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While 57 percent of New York's legislators as well as the governor supported a marriage equality bill that 51 percent of New York's citizens support, unfortunately the vote was not distributed in such a way for the bill to pass.

In debate on the senate floor, Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz expressed his opposition stating that his religion wouldn't permit him to support the bill. Hearing his remarks, I was left to wonder if Sen. Diaz's religion permits him any independent thought. I try to be respectful of people of faith and their beliefs, provided they don't use their faith as an excuse for their inability to open their minds or more generally for inhumanity toward others.

If gay marriage opponents had any substantive reasons for their opposition -- and by this I don't mean reasons I'd necessarily agree with but a coherent, rational line of argument anchored in what the law is supposed to be based on -- then I might have a little more respect for the opposition. I just haven't seen anything resembling a legitimate case put forward. The Bible says wives who don't obey their husbands should be stoned to death. The legislator who tried to enact that legal change would no doubt be stoned himself.

Only 5 of the 69 Republicans in the legislature supported the equal rites bill but one who did was my assemblywoman Teresa Sayward. When the state Assembly debated the civil rites bill in 2007, Sayward stunned observers by giving an impassioned speech in favor of marriage equality, citing her experience as the mother of a gay son. Today, North Country Public Radio aired an interview with Assemblywoman Sayward on the topic.

Many critics of marriage equality say that they support civil unions for gays, but just not marriage. An April poll showed that only 19 percent of New Yorkers opposed any form of legal recognition to gay couples. So the position of "no to gay marriage but yes to civil unions" people would seem mostly semantic.

But the difference is not semantic. No civil unions law in the country provides rights identical in every way except name to marriage. Nor am I aware of any civil unions bill in the New York legislature that would do so. Assemblywoman Sayward points out that there are countless rights you get with marriage but not with civil unions. Marriage and civil unions are not at all identical in every way except name.

Many contend that the state should get out of the marriage business and just give everyone civil unions. I happen to agree with this in theory. Many claim that marriage is an institution of God, not of Man. If that's the case, then it should be limited to institutions of God (religious organizations) not institutions of Man (government). But until that happens, that institution of Man must treat all its men and women equally. Equal obligations must mean equal rights.

Although conservative groups generally give her a 90%+ rating, I'm still surprised Assemblywoman Sayward did not receive a primary challenge by the far right. She may well in 2010, especially after the outside groups from the far right mobilized to help successfully torpedo the Congressional candidacy of another pro-civil rites assemblywoman from northern New York.

But I admire Assemblywoman Sayward's guts. I don't vote for Republicans very often. And I never vote for candidates who run unopposed. She is an exception. I admire her courage in following her conscience, although perhaps you could say Sen. Diaz did the same (although I'm not sure if he's following his beliefs or his religion's). But more to it, I think she's a great role model for politicians. Yes, she's a conservative. Yes, she's a Republican. Yes, she's a Roman Catholic. But first and foremost she is a human being and a mother.

My friend Matt often bemoans the lack of real human beings in public office. It's rare in a crass business that we see a politician voluntarily reveal his or her humanity for all to see. It's a risky thing to do in a cutthroat business. And in this case, a heroic one.

Update: Adirondack Almanack offers a different take on the assemblywoman.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Revised commenting policy

The old commenting policy of this blog rejected publication of completely anonymous, unsigned comments.

The new commenting policy of this blog will publish anonymous, unsigned comments on the condition that they do not make serious allegations against a person or entity. If you wish to make serious allegations, then you should sign your comment.

If you have a serious allegation but wish to remain anonymous, please contact me via email with details and I may investigate in a journalistic fashion and report on it as appropriate:

This blog will continue to reject comments that are potentially libelous or defamatory or that appear to be spam/ads.

Bhopal, 25 years on

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 and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here..

On the 25th anniversary of the Union Carbide poison gas leak catastrophe that killed thousands of people in Bhopal, India, BBC's From Our Own Correspondent has an essay on the human tragedy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Can marriage survive these chumps?

I'm glad that domestic abuser Sen. Hiram Monserrate, convicted of slashing his girlfriend's face with a piece of glass, decided that loving gay couples didn't deserve to get married while his violent criminal self still can. With moral degenerates like this responsible for defining marriage, the institution is surely screwed.

NY Senate kills civil rights' bill

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I guess three adult actions were too many for the much-maligned New York senate to perform in a single day.

First, they FINALLY passed a deficit-reduction plan after months of stalling, blaming the governor and other pathetic excuses. Then, they passed a bill reforming the opaque and corrupt state public authorities.

But when it came to a vote on gay marriage, viewed by many as the seminal civil rights' issue of our time, that was a bridge too far for the little men and women of the chamber. The equal rights' bill was defeated 24-38, with none of the chamber's 30 Republicans voting yes. When the same bill passed the state Assembly earlier this year, it did so with 5 of the 41 Republican members.

With the most recent poll showing the majority of New Yorkers (51-42 percent) supporting the legalization of gay marriage, it will be interesting to see if the senators' opposition to civil rights will be felt either at the ballot box or in fundraising appeals.

It is also uncertain whether the chamber will consider a move to ban Hispanics or Catholics from marrying, or perhaps reverse the legalization of interracial marriage?

An open letter to the lords of the press

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dear media bigwigs who read this blog,
I'd like to state for the record that I'm not the least bit interested in Tiger Woods' driving or sexual habits. And while I ignore the tabloids and their identical twins on cable 'news,' I'm annoyed that news outlets that pretend to be serious continue to tell me that I should care.

I heard through the grapevine that the Nobel Peace Prize winner, obviously wedded to Benjamin Franklin's definition of insanity, has just ordered 30,000 more troops be sent to Afghanistan to beat their heads against a stone wall in the hopes of a different result; this cartoon sums it up well.

Call me a Philistine but I think the celebrity golfer's personal life is a little less important than all this. I know there are voyeurs interested in Tiger's private life, just as there are people obsessed with Jon and Kate and the Balloon Boy family and Farmville. You can report on these things if you want but please relegate them to where they belong: the entertainment section. Don't pollute the serious news sections and outlets with this tripe. I enjoy soccer, but it'd be a bit obscene to put it on the front page next to a story of Afghan civilians killed in a bombing raid.

I'm confident you'll heed my counsel and change your priorities... at least until the White House gatecrashers appear on Oprah.

Lovingly yours,
The (Fairly) Young Contrarian