Thursday, April 30, 2009

Religion and torture

So a poll shows that 62% of white evangelicals and 51% of white Roman Catholics believe that torture (or whatever the euphemism of the day happens to be) can often or sometimes be justified, with only 16% and 20% respectively saying it could never be justified.

I wonder what the head of the Catholic Church thinks about that.

Unleashing the power of amber!

I've often criticized Assemblyman and former Congressional candidate Jim Tedisco for populist grandstanding. Truth is, there's no one in New York better at that than US Sen. Charles Schumer.

(Oft heard joke: "Where's the most dangerous place in Washington? Between Chuck Schumer and a camera.")

His latest crusade: pressuring IHOP to use New York maple syrup.

An excerpt from his press release:

SCHUMER URGES IHOP CEO TO OFFER NEW YORK MAPLE SYRUP AT STATE'S IHOP RESTAURANTS, MOVE WOULD BOOST BOTH NY MAPLE SYRUP INDUSTRY AND TASTE OF IHOP'S PANCAKES

In Letter, Schumer Asks International House Of Pancakes to Replicate Vermont Arrangement, Provide New York State Maple Syrup In Each New York Restaurant Location

New York Stands Ready to Unleash Economic Potential of Maple Tapping Industry, Move Would Create New Market for Tappers

Schumer: This Would Be A Sweet Deal for IHOP Customers and Maple Syrup Tappers Across the State


Then again, I suppose it's a welcome, if brief, respite from the swine flu hysteria (more on that soon).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Top 10 signs of the coming apocalypse

#4-That there aren't just random hot dog inhaling contests and other competitions devoted to the glorification of gluttony (euphemism: "competitive eating") but that there's an actual "international federation" of gluttony and something called "Major League Eating."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Now on Twitter

You can now be notified of this blog's updates via Twitter.

Just go to and follow:

http://twitter.com/mofycbsj

New email

This blog now has a new contact email address:

mofycbsj @ yahoo.com

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sigh...

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

Homophobia in action...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Barbarians inside the gate

Next time Dick Cheney or barbarians like him claim that torture (or whatever euphemism they prefer) is 'necessary,' remind him of this...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bent over fans finally stand up

The new baseball stadia in Queens and the Bronx were built thanks to nearly a combined $2 BILLION ($2,000,000,000) in tax-free bonds, which will end up costing the New York City alone about $500 million in forfeited tax revenues on top of the $150 million in state and city tax money that directly subsidized the projects.

Much like war profiteers and Wall St., the business of sports represents the socialization of risk and the privatization of profits. How much reverse Robin Hood plundering can we take?

What do the denizens of New York City get out of all the hundreds of millions in public money that's been poured into these entertainment venues?

A ticket in the front nine rows at the new Yankee Stadium can cost as much as $2625 a game. The highest priced Mets' ticket is a mere $495... though at least their lowest ticket price is $11.

By contrast, the highest price ticket to next year's soccer World Cup final is $2500. So attending the world's most prestigious single sports contest costs less than an May game between the Yankees and the mighty Kansas City Royals.

The good thing is that the fans voted with their feet. Not many of them seem willing to take out a second mortgage on their home to buy a ticket to a baseball game... to say nothing of exorbitant parking and concessions prices.

Major League Baseball's talking head Bud Selig is meeting with the Mets and the Yankees. Apparently Selig is among the many who's noticed the rash of empty premier seats in Gotham's newest coliseums.

Still, an ostrich speaking on behalf of the Yankees removed her head from the sand long enough to refuse to comment. "We’re still not talking about ticket prices," she quacked.

American sports are awash with socialistic ideas like salary caps, luxury taxes, college drafts (the worse you are, the greater your potential reward), massive public subsidies for private venues scam to say nothing of the anti-meritocratic concept of playoffs and the closed, cartel structure of the entire franchise system. Some of these restraints are designed, proponents claim, to keep expenses down. If they're so effective, how come ticket prices continue to skyrocket?

This is in stark contrast to soccer in Europe and most of the rest of the world which has none of this (except public financing of stadia in some places and playoffs in a few) and is much more meritocratic in its overall operations. Incidentally, soccer tickets in most parts of the world are still fairly reasonably priced. The notable exception is England, which has seen ridiculous ticket prices in recent years and, not coincidentally, decreased attendances for many clubs.

That said, it's nice to know that a tiny bit of capitalism still applies in American sports... even if the fans are the only ones applying it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Do people know their votes are being tossed in the trash?

Dealing with challenged absentee ballots in the 20th Congressional District special election continues. Democrat Scott Murphy leads by 273 votes as of this morning with over 1550 ballots left to count (or not).

Initially, Republican Jim Tedisco's campaign targeted college students at Skidmore College in Saratoga, claiming that the students improperly claimed residency within the district. Given that full-time college students live at their college more than half the year, I'm not sure how 'improperly' is defined.

According to North Country Public Radio, Tedisco's new strategy centers around challenging the ballots of people with second homes in the district.

Apparently, his argument is that people who primarily live outside the district but have second homes in the district can not be legitimate voters, but they can be legitimate Congressmen.

In his report, NCPR's Brian Mann noted that judges traditionally give wide latitude to voters (though apparently not to petition signatories). In other words, the default position is that a vote should count unless there's a compelling reason otherwise.

And that's the way it should be. New York's electoral law, which I've frequently called for overhauling, is pretty vague on all this. My personal opinion is that even if a voter has two residences, his or her vote should count as long as they've consistently voted in this district. They should only be disqualified if they voted elsewhere last November and tried to vote here in March.

If the law says voters can "district shop" in much the same way Congressional candidates can, then we can't change the rules in the middle of the game.

But what interests me is this. When a ballot is challenged by either campaign, is the voter made aware of this? Does he have any recourse? I would loathe to have my ballot challenged by some lawyer hack and disqualified by a judge without me even being made aware of this? How can voters be completely disenfranchised without even being given a chance to defend the legitimacy of their vote?! If I'm wrong, please correct me, but I am almost certain this does not happen.

I wonder if the candidates in this and other close elections would be so eager to casually challenge absentee votes willy nilly if they knew they might have to meet that voter, that potential future constituent, look him in the eye and face his contempt.

Even criminals get a chance to defend themselves before being stripped of their civic rights.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Days of Pabst and roses

Public broadcasting famously likes to brag about his it's "non-commercial." It has underwriters and sponsors, but not "advertisers."

Public radio and TV affiliates regularly ask for money. They hold fund drives to tell you how great it is that you can watch this or that splendid concert "without commercial interruption"... and then spend 10 minutes asking for your money.

As a big fan of public radio and member of three stations, I accept this state of affairs as a necessary evil.

Public radio also likes to portray its audience as more educated and more affluent, essentially of a higher class.

Yet guess who's an advertiser... er... "sponsor" of NPR.org, National Public Radio's website?

The Beast!

I'm not sure of the ethics of a public broadcaster advertising beer "sponsorships," though I suppose it's less ethically questionable than accepting money for energy or pharmaceutical drug companies (which is also seen in public broadcasting).

But this is not Sam Adams, not Guinness, not just any beer. Pabst Blue Ribbon is one of the most popular beers of cheap college fraternity keg parties across the nation.

Maybe this is NPR's attempt to counter criticisms that it's elitist.

An evolution of attitudes on gay marriage?

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

This month has seen important victories for gay rights' advocates, notably the decisions by the Iowa Supreme Court and the Vermont legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. The provoked the National Organization for Marriage (heterosexual only, of course) to move up its planned ad campaign.

I generally try to go easy on people who seem earnest (though maybe I shouldn't... see MLK quote above). But the NOM ad (which can be viewed here) provoked only one reaction. Not anger or fury or disgust, but hysterical laughter. Menacing music. Apocalyptic imagery. Sky-is-falling rhetoric. I'm sure if they believed that global warming was real, they would've blamed gays for that too. In parts of it, I honestly don't know how The Onion or Stephen Colbert would've done it any differently.

Despite such unintentional humor, or perhaps because of it, the tide toward equal rights for gays seems to be turning. New York Gov. David Paterson re-introduced a bill that would legalize gay marriage in this state. No doubt, its timing was designed to prop up his personal unpopularity.

But the mere fact that being pro-gay marriage is now seen as an issue that can BOOST your popularity is an example of how much things have evolved... or should I say, been intelligently designed.

A recent poll revealed that only 19 percent of New Yorkers opposed any form of legal recognition for gay couples. New York is certainly one of the more liberal states. But a person or issue doesn't get 81 percent statewide numbers without significant support in the fairly conservative upstate.

Tellingly, this this piece from The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on how a fourth Assemblywomen from the conservative North Country, three of whom are Republican, have come out in favor of the governor's gay marriage bill. I'm not sure exactly how many Assembly members the North Country has, but I can't imagine it would much more than four.

This won't change the dynamic of voting in Albany. The gay marriage bill already has overwhelming support in the Assembly, which passed the bill two years ago. It's in the Senate where it might not pass because of a couple of conservative Democrats, unless the leadership can pick off a few Republican votes.

But if legislators from the conservative North Country feel they can take a stand in favor of equal rights without jeopardizing their jobs via a strong primary challenge, then maybe things really are moving in the right direction.

In 2007, my local Assemblywoman, Republican Teresa Sayward, stunned observers by making a moving and impassioned speech in favor of gay marriage. She explained how her views had evolved via her relationship with her gay son. The right was outraged. The Conservative Party refused to endorse her in the 2008 election, even though she votes their position over 90 percent of the time.

The right predicted, in some cases promised, that the vote would be her political demise in this conservative district. In the 2008 general election, 32,029 people cast a legal vote for a candidate in the election for her seat.

She won 99.998 percent of those votes.

She ran unopposed in the primary too.


Update: This 19 pct. opposition to all forms of official recognition for gay couples is even more surprising considering the fact that Catholics, white evangelicals and black Protestants combine to comprise nearly 60 pct. of New York state's population. So this makes you wonder if the rank-and-file of these religious groups might be more open-minded than their leadership.


Further update: The Daily News Daily Politics' blog reports that the Empire State Pride Agenda is enlisting members of the clergy in Massachusetts to push back against claims that passage of gay marriage in New York will force religious institutions to peform same-sex ceremonies against their will.

Bob Conner at Planet Albany blog offers a different take on gay marriage and other issues that a number of Catholics are concerned about.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Congrats to Post-Star editor for Pulitzer

Talk about stories that make you do a double take.

The Post-Star's editorial page editor Mark Mahoney was named this year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize for "excellence in editorial writing."

Bear in mind, this is not some state or regional award but rather The Big One.

It's no secret that I've never been a big fan of his editorial style in general, though his editorials on open government and freedom of information are usually quite good. It would be churlish of me to withhold congratulations to him.

Mahoney is the only person from a small town paper to win a Pulitzer this year.

I wonder...

... why elections and politics seem to bring out the worst in otherwise decent people?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people really aren't out to get you

One of the books I'm presently reading is Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone by Larry Devlin. Devlin was the first CIA agent in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, arriving five days after the country's independence from Belgium and beginning of its descent into chaos, chaos that was not entirely of its own making.

I'm not inclined to be sympathetic to a CIA special operations agent but it's an interesting read about a fascinating time. His take on the events is exactly what you'd expect but his candor is impressive.

Not surprisingly for a CIA agent, Devlin didn't think much of then-Congolese prime minister Patrice Lumumba. He didn't see Lumumba as a communist but thought he was erratic and naive and thus made the country vulnerable to Soviet influence.

Devlin complained [Lumumba's] paranoia infected troops who saw spies everywhere.

But then later adds that he received several messages from Director [of the CIA Allen] Dulles advising us that policy-makers shared our view that that we should to remove Lumumba from power.

He quoted a memo from Dulles stating that CIA headquarters concluded that his removal must be an urgent and prime objective and that under existing conditions, this should be a high priority of covert action.

Devlin added that he and his colleagues were already monitoring parliament and encouraging and guiding the actions of various parliamentary opposition groups that we had penetrated. We were also using Jacques [an editor] to insert anti-Lumumba articles in the country's leading newspaper.

The author also pointed out that [a]round this time one of our agents told us that a group of anti-Lumumba leaders had prepared a plan to assassinate him but then went on to lament that Lumumba's rival, President Joseph Kasavubu, was reluctant to endorse it.

Bear in mind that all this was after the country's two richest provinces had already declared independence, at the behest of influential Belgian mining interests.

So if Lumumba, who was kidnapped, tortured and finally assassinated a few months later, was "paranoid," then perhaps it was with good reason.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Real Heroes don't rape

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

I heard a disturbing interview on the BBC with the author of the book The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq about epidemic of sexual assault against female soldiers in the US armed forces.

The author cited the Pentagon's own statistics: 30 percent of ALL female soldiers in the American military (not just those in Iraq) have been raped by male soldiers supposedly on their own side.

An astonishingly high percentage like this suggests not the deviancy of a few individuals but an institutional culture that, at bests, enables widespread sexual assault both by and against those venerated as Our Heroes.

In the interview, the author told the story of a woman she interviewed. The soldier explained how she was stalked and then raped by a colleague. She said that when she went to the authorities to report the incident, she was strongly discouraged from doing so and warned that she would be "court martialed for leaving her weapon unattended in a war zone."

If these women truly are Fighting For Our Freedoms So We Don't Have To, then isn't dealing with snipers and IUDs enough to ask of them? Should they also have to worry that their own "comrades" might brutally rape them? Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but when they signed up to be in harm's way, wasn't the understanding that the harm might come from the Enemy, not from their colleagues?

Friday, April 17, 2009

The legitimacy and incoherence of the mass teabagging parties

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

The anti-tax tea parties have received quite a bit of press attention this week. There has been some criticism that teabaggers (snicker) are closely linked to various right wing groups. I've refrained from commenting on the teabagging parties in general. I don't think you have to be a Republican or a libertarian -- two groups that were at loggerheads for most of the reign of the big government George W. Bush -- to question how the government is spending tax money.

I can deal with taxes, when they are used in some way to benefit the public good. I wouldn't object to my taxes going for a more sensible and cost efficient health care system like single payer.

However, I DO object to my taxes going to subsidize a fourth mansion for a Wall St. CEO. I DO object to my taxes being used as corporate welfare for the stockholders of Boeing, Blackwater and other "defense" contractors.

Anti-tax sentiment is associated with the right wing. But probably the most famous tax protester in American history was the pacifist Henry David Thoreau.

I admit to being wary of any movement that has been co-opted by people like former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey. And I am wary of getting too close to any movement that seems so attractive to anti-immigrant bigots, theocrats and to the small-minded who believe the lie (and, worse, are offended by this "fact") that Pres. Obama is a Muslim.

Some of these people were all gung ho about government spending when its focus was subsidizing "defense" contractor greed (who are more financially sympathetic to the GOP). Now they object to it when it focuses more on subsidizing Wall St. greed (who are increasingly more sympathetic to Democrats). I can't take seriously Dick Armey's ramblings on smaller government, given his record as majority leader. Some tarred any criticism of President Bush as unpatriotic treachery that was tantamount to handing a nuclear bomb to bin Laden but now lustily call Obama a fascist/communist/socialist or whatever the epithet of the day is with as much venom as they can muster.

But the truth is that there are many libertarians out there that were just as vocal about spending and taxation during Bush as during Obama. It's just no one was listening at the time. Back then, they were dismissed as loons both by establishment Republicans and mostly ignored by Democrats and the media. Now that the Republicans have been completely swept from power and they are now completely devoid of any ideas, they are suddenly glomming on to the only idea they've had in the last 30 years that hasn't been completely discredited.

The GOP elite used treated Ron Paul and his followers like escaped mental patients. Now, the establishment has stolen their ideas and claimed them as their own.

So while some of the teabaggers aren't exactly the kind of people I'd want to get in bed with politically, it doesn't mean there aren't issues to discuss. It doesn't mean we shouldn't debate how our money is spent.

That said, some of this nonsense isn't something easily glossed over.

Take an excerpt from this piece in The Post-Standard about Syracuse (NY) teabagger Joanne Wilder.

She said she retired on disability from M&T Bank three years ago after undergoing knee replacement and back surgeries. She lives on her Social Security and disability benefits. Last year, she petitioned the bankruptcy court for protection from creditors.

She said she did not have to pay federal income taxes last year because her income was too low.

"I don't want to see this country turn into a welfare, nanny state, where we stand in line for groceries, and we're in welfare lines, and in socialized medicine lines," Wilder said.


So maybe the best spokesperson for personal responsibility is not someone who reneged on her debts.

Maybe the best spokesperson for lower federal income taxes is not someone who doesn't even pay any.

Maybe the best spokesperson against the welfare state is not someone who is entirely dependent on that oldest of welfare state programs Social Security.

And in a nutshell, this embodies the hypocrisy shown by a great many people who claim to be in favor of small government or against the welfare state. I live in one of the most conservative, anti-big government regions of New York State. But the region is also poorly and heavily dependent on PUBLIC sector jobs as teachers and prisons guards.

Teabaggers are pretty vocal around here. So when New York's governor proposed closing two big prisons in the North Country now underutilized because of (gasp!) falling crime (at least the petty kind), you'd think he'd be widely praised in this small government-loving area. In actuality, many of the people who participated in the tea parties were also lobbying to keep the prisons open. The sad part is that many of them don't even realize their incoherence.

There's a serious argument to be made about how our tax money is being spent, but many of the teabaggers have far to little credibility to be the ones making it.

Update: Surprisingly, it turns out the teabagger Ms. Wilder is only the second . Don't let the door hit you on the way out. #1 goes to the folks chanting in favor of Texan secession while waving American flags.

See the Adirondack Park while you can

USA Today had a piece listing "10 great places on Earth you don't want to miss." They were chosen by Holly Hughes, author of Frommer's 500 Places to See Before They Disappear.

The third place listed:

Adirondack State Park

Upper New York state

Established in 1892, this 6 million-acre park encompasses more than 3,000 lakes and ponds connected by 1,500 miles of waterways. "The effects of acid rain, encroaching development and harmful invasive species are taking a toll here," Hughes says. "But much of the park's heart has been kept inaccessible to vehicles, preserving a slice of wilderness. The best way to appreciate it is to canoe through its quiet rivers and forested lakes. You'll see white-tailed deer, beaver, and, if you're lucky, you may spy a red fox or even a moose." 518-846-8016; adirondacks.org

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Re-elect Congressman Hawkeye in '10!

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

I have a message to all bloggers commenting on the 20th Congressional District special election. NO ONE CARES WHO YOU PREDICT WILL WIN!

The election is already over.

The votes are already cast.

The spinmeisters can't affect anything.

So whether you're spinning for Tedisco, relentlessly spinning for Murphy or journalistically neutral, PLEASE STOP.

(And if my appeals have any influence, I also beg 'news' outlets to stop doing almost daily stories about polls showing how unpopular Gov. Paterson is. Overreliance on polls and predictions is for the lazy.)

I have no problem with people commenting on the process of the voting counting. But these insufferable predictions are empty and pointless.

But if they can make a difference, here's my informed prediction: the race will end in a dead heat. A new election will be ordered. And Hawkeye, the old Glens Falls pro hockey mascot, will stun pundits by winning a write-in campaign.

So please keep your predictions to yourself until all the votes be counted, at least the ones not challenged by the two campaigns.

The reason these predictions are not just annoying and self-serving but potentially dangerous is this: the last thing we need are the partisans pushing for one of the candidates to bow out with a very narrow deficit and thousands of votes left to be counted.

Republicans tried that tactic in 2000 and Democrats spend the following eight years paralyzed with bitterness about it. It wasn't healthy for anyone.

A note about ads and about comments

This blog subscribes to the Google AdSense program. The theory being that maybe after a decade, I might be able to make a few dollars as a result of the 7 people who generously spend their time reading this blog.

One anonymous commenter* asked why s/he saw an ad that read: "Support Joe Bruno. Voice your support for Joe Bruno! Read the Truth."

Joe Bruno, of course, is the former longtime leader of the New York Senate's Republican majority who was recently indicted on public corruption charges.

The ads are not chosen by me. They are automatically generated by Google based on keywords of the content of the blog. Since I've used the word 'Republican' quite a bit in regards to Congressional candidate Jim Tedisco, I presume this is how this ad was linked to my blog.



*-Reminder: Although this blog's commenting policy bans unsigned comments for reasons I will not re-hash yet again, it does NOT ban anonymous ones. Nor does it require you to be a member of Blogger to comment. If you wish to leave a comment signing only a first name or nickname or pseudonym of your choice, you can do so by clicking on Post A Comment and then under Choose an Identity, click Name/URL. The URL part is optional. If you do it this way, I only ask that you use the same nickname/pseudonym each time you post for the sake of continuity.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New citizen blogs

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

One of the great things about the website of The Albany Times-Union, timesunion.com, is its blogs' section which now contains a new sub-section devoted to Capital Region Voices.

Glens Falls' (and Saratoga's too, depending on where you pick it up) "Hometown Daily" limits its blogs to people who already have columns or articles in the paper. Basically, it gives more space to people who already have space.

What's nice about timesunion.com is that, while it does have some blogs for editors and staff members, it also offers a platform for ordinary people whose voices aren't already represented in the print edition. It presents readers with new, alternative voices, something badly lacking in mainstream journalistic enterprises.

One of the excellent new blogs is written by the widely respected and admired Albany social justice advocate Dr. Alice Green.

Another new one is authored by local political activist, baker and friend of this blog Matt Funiciello.

Firing blanks

Perhaps the best argument in favor of expanded gun ownership is that maybe ordinary people need firearms to protect themselves from the gun fanatics.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy birthday Adirondack Almanack

Friends over at Adirondack Almanack are marking the fourth anniversary of their site. The Almanack is one of the few independent blogs I read regularly as it offers the best online concentration of news and features about the Adirondack Park.

The blog was created by Chestertown writer and historian John Warren. But Saranac Lake residents Mary Thill and Mark Wilson (a regular commenter on this blog) joined The Almanack team earlier this year to offer a different perspective.

Wilson authored the quirky and much followed Adirondack Bracket, a local spoof of college basketball's March Madness. Stewart's defeated the Northville/Placid Trail in a controversial final.

The Almanack has indicated that they will be adding "contributors in departments more closely focused on outdoor sports, environmental policy, history and culture, entertainment and events, and politics in the Adirondack region."

The Almanack definitely worth following if you don't already.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Number crunching

According to the latest state board of elections numbers, Democrat Scott Murphy is leading the special Congressional election vote count by 25 votes over Republican Jim Tedisco out of over 155,000 cast. The numbers may have changed yet again by the time you've read this.

Apparently, the Tedisco people are upset that ballots from soldiers in war zones might not arrive in time to be counted. Tedisco insists idea that American citizens might be disenfranchised on a technicality is 'shameful' and an 'embarrassment.' His hypocrisy is exactly what you'd expect from someone with Tedisco's used car salesman-like reputation.

But there's something that's bothered me about this whole recount thing. We've seen probably over a dozen different vote counts publicized. And this is just from the relatively non-controversial voting machines. There is human error involved and that election night voting totals processed by tired poll workers might change as their work is re-checked is understandable. I get this.

But common sense suggests that AT SOME POINT, officials should be able to check the voting machines twice in a row and get the same totals. If you tried balancing your checkbook 10 different times and got 10 different results, wouldn't you keep doing it until you were able to replicate one of them? If the totals keep changing from static machines, then how can anyone be sure that the final total is the right one?

In a close election, the count from the voting machines is supposed to be the easy part. If "results" change this often from unchanging voting machines, what's going to happen during the counting of absentee ballots, when the two campaigns are going to use the flimsiest excuses to try to get opposition votes disqualified?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Medical conscience discussion

One of the interesting ethical questions of late is whether doctors should be able to refuse treatments and pharmacists medication based on their moral or religious code.

This issue in the US, not surprisingly, is usually framed around issues relating to abortion. This fascinating piece from Radio Netherlands Worldwide shows that this issue is far broader than simply abortion rights vs anti-abortion. It's very much worth a listen.

I'd also be interested in what readers think.

Should doctors, nurses and others who give treatment be able to refuse certain practices based on their moral or religious code?

Should pharmacists be able to refuse to dispense medication for the same reason?

The debate is usually framed as Christian medical professionals being forced to do things their religion objects to. But I'd like to turn that on its head. If your answer was yes, would your position be affected by any of the following hypothetical situations?

-A Muslim EMT arriving the site of a car crash, sees that the seriously injured victim is wearing a cross necklace and deciding it's against his beliefs to treat the victim;

-A rape victim getting a doctor who refuses to treat her because he believes her scantily clad dress and drunk state was immoral and that thus she was at fault for her situation;

-A gynecologist so strongly opposed to teen pregnancy that s/he won't treat a pregnant teenager unless the girl agrees to have an abortion.

Please leave your thoughts on these issues.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tales of the Apocalypse

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

According to Morality in Media [sic], one of the battalions in the Theocracy Brigade, the fact that Iowa Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage occurred on the same day as the deadly shooting spree in Binghamton was no coincidence.

According to another always reasonable conservative Ann Coulter, any problem in society, including rape and murder, can actually be traced back to single moms.

Thus... getting married causes mass murder. Not getting married causes mass murder. Getting divorced causes even more mass murder.

I think I'll remain a bachelor!

Though it did give me an idea. I know many conservatives deny the reality of climate change and its human component. But I think many of them could be persuaded if told that climate change was actually caused by gay marriage!

We already know that gays caused Hurricane Katrina. So blaming them for broader climate change isn't much of a leap.

All citizens are equal, but some are more equal than others

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

Planet Albany blog reports on a predictable turn of events.

Republican Congressional candidate Jim Tedisco spent weeks being silent about his henchmen disenfranchised 7000 American citizens who wanted to vote for Libertarian candidate Eric Sundwall. Now suddenly, Tedisco has had a change of heart and is outraged at the possibility that military absentee ballots might not be counted.

Electoral law was to be followed to a T, no matter how absurd and undemocratic, when it meant disenfranchising citizens that wanted to vote for one of his opponents. But now when it comes to a group that he thinks will be largely supportive of him, electoral law is to be thrown out the window.

As one of the 7000 who was told my voice was irrelevant, I have some sympathy for the citizens who are soldiers and want their votes counted but would be happy to see Jim Tedisco (as well as Laurie Kelly Sickles and liar Don Neddo) tarred and feathered. The ONLY reason I want Scott Murphy to win is because it will keep this disgraceful embarrassment who embodies everything that people hate about politicians from representing me. The ideal situation would be for Murphy to win one vote, the vote Tedisco couldn't cast for himself because he doesn't live in the district.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I'll have cotton candy for dinner

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

If I see one more "news" story on Gov. Paterson's poll ratings, I'm going to puke. I understand that the media is addicted to polls in the same way boys are addicted to Mountain Dew or Red Bull. I understand that the technique of lazy editors and reporters treating polls as news stories instead of doing real work isn't going away any time soon. But it's pathetic how polls and horse race "analysis" seem to be suffocating actual journalism on stories and issues that actually matter to ordinary people. Aside from Paterson, his rival Andrew Cuomo and their staffs, what real people are truly affected by Paterson's 19 percent rating in the latest poll a year and a half before the election? Polls are basically part of the infotainment plague infecting the news media. They are a distraction. Sound and fury, signifying very little. It's nice to have a little dessert with your meal. But when dessert becomes your main course, then it becomes unhealthy...

Monday, April 06, 2009

When 'Never Again' happened again

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

Today is the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide during which at least 800,000 people were murdered. It was one of the world's worst atrocities of the century and certainly the worst to be covered during the age of cable news television. It occurred a year, almost to the week, after politicians and dignitaries in Washington solemnly promised 'Never again' while inaugurating the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Rwanda's New Times newspaper has an editorial on the commemoration.

Global Post has a good three part series...

-Part 1: Many Rwandan survivors only now starting to confront their trauma
-Part 2: One community works for forgiveness
-Part 3: TBA

In 2004, I wrote a long series of essays for my Africa blog Black Star Journal on the occasion of the 10th anniversary which gave a lot of information and background about the genocide.

They are as follows (yes, I know the some of the images do not work anymore):

-Ten years later (an intro)
-Pre-genocide history
-How the genocide unfolded
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 1)
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 2)
-The genocide's orphans
-Hate media and their role in the genocide
-International law and American law on genocide
-Post-genocide justice
-The post-genocide government
-Lessons and conclusions

Thursday, April 02, 2009

More tragicomedy in Albany

Sometimes when I read the political news, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the hypocrisy.

In the 20th NY Congressional district special election, Republican Jim Tedisco, who was trailing Democrat Scott Murphy after election night by 59 votes, is now apparently ahead by 12 votes, according to Politickerny.com.

Updated: After more re-counting Friday, the race is apparently now an exact dead heat.

"We want total openness and transparency, and let the chips fall where they may. We feel secure when the ballots are counted we will win," Tedisco said. The transformation in The Grandstander's attitude in now demanding that no voter is disenfranchised is remarkable. I'm sure many wish the Eureka moment had come three weeks earlier, when his henchmen were disenfranchising thousands of citizens.

Even more amusing was the spin put on the race by the national GOP. The Times-Union quoted National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, "Jim Tedisco has closed the gap in a district that has come to exemplify Democratic dominance in the Northeast in recent elections."

Democratic dominance?!

As Planet Albany blog pointed out, the 20th is the most Republican congressional district in New York state.

How much so?

As of last November, Republicans had a 70,000 voter ADVANTAGE in the district's enrollment.

A 70,000 advantage in enrollment translated into (so far) a 12 vote lead for a well-known state politician against a businessman who was completely unknown in his own town of residence.

If a matchup of two candidates with these respective qualities can result in a virtual dead heat in a district with these enrollment demographics, then it shows how thoroughly discredited the GOP brand is after eight years of Bush-Cheney... even in a place that's been represented by Republicans in the House of Representatives for approximately 114 of the last 120 years.

This is the last place in New York state that should be under 'Democratic dominance.'

But there's plenty of hypocrisy in our state legislature too. Both Governor David Paterson and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith came to office on the promises of reform and transparency and then proceded to shove through what most everyone has called the most secretive budget process ever in New York... no small insult given the recent history of the place.

Of course, the shoving through is not quite done yet because two Democratic senators have been in and out of the hospital. With a narrow 32-30 majority and no lieutenant governor to break any ties, Smith needs every single vote to pass the budget bills. He just better hope he can increase his majority post haste, in case the one indicted for allegedly slashing his girlfriend's face with broken glass is convicted.

But Senate Republicans have been even more hypocrtical. First, they were whining about the slow pace of democratization of the chamber by the Democrats... a chamber the GOP controlled non-stop for over 40 consecutive years. Now, they're snivelling about the allocation of budget resources, again blaming the Democrats for acting like... them.

Senate Republicans are unhappy that they're getting just $8 million of the $85 million available for member items in their chamber. That is about the same level the Democrats received when the Republicans were in charge, a top Senate Democratic official said.

You can't make this stuff up.

Accordingly, The New York Daily News (a surprisingly decent source of reporting on state news) is running a series of Albany entitled State of Shame. The most recent piece is here and it has links to previous pieces.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bold predictions

The Congressional special election, minus 1/3 of the candidates, was held yesterday. With all the precincts counted, Democrat Scott Murphy led Republican Jim Tedisco by 25 votes out of almost 155,000.

Despite microscopic margin, bloggers are brazenly declaring that their guy is sure to triumph. Poststar.com's Will Doolittle confidently declared 'Murphy will win.' Planet Albany's Bob Conner was less categoric but more bold in predicting that Tedisco was 'likely to win a clear majority [emphasis mine] of the absentee ballots.'

Obviously, it's possible that either of them might be right. But in a race where special election day voting resulted in a margin of a mere 0.017 percent difference between the candidates, I'm not sure how anyone can be as confident as either commentator.

An elections' expert tells me that, barring the proverbial October Surprise, absentee voting generally mirrors the Election Day results. But the key word here is 'generally.' Given the microscopic margin, it would take only a tiny shift to change the final result.

Not accounting for write-ins, if Tedisco wins 50.1 percent of the absentee ballots, he loses the race.

If he wins 50.2 percent of the absentees, he wins... by two votes.