Friday, October 30, 2009

How the beautiful people live

Normally, I buy The Post-Star at the newsstand every day, which may surprise readers of this blog, as I like to have something to read when I'm eating lunch. Sometimes if I'm eating dinner out, I'll buy a second newspaper. In the past, it's usually been the Albany Times-Union, but I haven't bought that recently because of the boycott against it.

I looked at the other papers. The Schenectady Gazette covers issues outside my region of interest. I deemed The Saratogian a poor use of my 75 cents (imagine a paper with less quality and content than The Post-Star that costs 50 percent more). I didn't feel like paying 6 bucks and leg and two fingers or whatever The New York Times is changing now. And there was no way I was giving a dime to Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. So I ended up getting a New York Daily News to read with my meatball sub. It's not the highest quality news organization but it has its entertainment value.

I was intrigued by a very unentertaining story about wife-beating allegations against a prominent TV news anchor. The big shot warned the judge, "I've appeared on the cover of The New York Times and TV Guide... I covered the state attorney general and the chief judge of the court," before bragging about how he knew the state's recently retired top judge.

First, the wife called 911 to accuse her husband of beating her. Now that the case has gone to trial, she's claiming she lied because she was mad at him; recantations under pressure are not that uncommon in domestic abuse cases. Though she did admit in court that her husband called her a "dumb, stupid, project bitch."

One argument in her defense was revealing, though. In recanting, she claimed that it was actually a day laborer, not her husband, who assaulted her, but that she couldn't remember his name.

"You don't ask a laborer his name," she explained. "You ask a laborer to work."

I don't quite get why showing a laborer the basic human dignity of asking his name is so taboo, why it goes without saying that she'd never do such a thing. But then again, I'm not part of the glitterati.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Democratic whining

I think that the typical establishment liberal argument against voting for the Green Party ("they won't be able to do anything even if they do get a few seats") is slightly undermined by the fact that the Dems are sniveling about GOP obstructionism even though they control the presidency and 59% majorities in both houses of Congress. Do the numbers really ever get any more favorable than this? Stop whining and start governing. Or get out of the way.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GOP intellectual bankruptcy

I heard a great example of the intellectual bankruptcy of the modern Republican Party this morning. In an NPR report on stalled efforts to extend unemployment insurance, Democratic majority leader Harry Reid blamed Republican attempts to load the bill down with amendments with partisan amendments on completely unrelated issues.

One GOP senator dismissed Reid's criticisms by pointing out that because the Democrats have 60 seats, they can do whatever they want, including shoving things through against Republican objections.

Then another Republican, Texas Sen. Jon Cornyn, whined that the meanie Democrats were now being partisan by trying to clamp down on those unrelated GOP amendments.

So if Democrats actually try to get things done, they're being "partisan." But if they try to work with obstinate Republicans, it's their own fault for not steamrolling them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An incoherent endorsement

See if you can make heads or tails out of this endorsement by The Post-Star.

The paper gave its nod for the 5th Ward Glens Falls Common Council seat to Republican challenger Heath Morris over Democratic incumbent Ben Driscoll.

The daily described Driscoll as quiet and deliberate, calmly discussing the infrastructure issues in his ward and checking off programs that could be pared to shave the city budget... He also is careful about moving full-steam-ahead with a revaluation in the city, fearful of what impact it might have on struggling homeowners, and about ripping up South Street without finding a place for the citizens they displace. He's very visible in his ward and keeps in touch with his constituents.

What a monster!

According to the paper, the incumbent seems to be doing a good job, yet the Council needs new blood.

Morris swore on his mother's grave that he wouldn't raise taxes. Amazingly, the paper admits that it's not sure how he plans to pull that off but went gaga over the vague rhetoric anyway.

Who writes this stuff?!

Oh wait, a Pulitzer Prize winner.

I'm not sure if that cheap pandering was the reason Morris got the paper's endorsement or because Driscoll doesn't shamelessly grandstand, in contrast to the late Rep. Jerry Solomon (Morris' former mentor) or another Post-Star endorsee, Queensbury town supervisor Dan Stec.

I know Ben Driscoll and I endorse him for the Council. I urge you to vote for him... unless you agree with the Post-Star that being "quiet," "deliberative" and keeping in touch with constituents are heinous liabilities.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Right-wing chicken gives finger to voters

Whoever's advising Doug Hoffman, Conservative "party" candidate for New York's 23rd Congressional district, really ought to turn in their resignations. The campaign thought it would be a brilliant idea to skip the first of only two debates scheduled for the race in order to hobnob with Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

Apparently, the right-wing candidate figured the yap show hosts would provide more sympathetic company than meanie-faced journalists asking meanie-faced questions.

Hoffman seems completely contemptuous of the idea of having to answer to the residents of the 23rd. Let's hope the voters grant him his wish.

The right-winger seems more interested in building his national name recognition for a higher profile race than actually winning this one. After recent polls were released, I thought Hoffman might've had a chance to win, but the giant middle finger he's giving to the voters should sabotage that chance.

The Conservative "party" candidate has also so far refused to commit to participating in the race's other scheduled debate.

Much like former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin who endorsed him, Hoffman seems more interested in chit-chatting with friendly right-wing media elites than having to demonstrate his knowledge of issues in the area he hopes to represent. I'm not endorsing either of the other two candidates in the race. But if Hoffman won't answer your questions, he doesn't deserve your vote.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Right-wing candidate ducks real debate

North County Public Radio's Brian Mann encouraged 23rd Congressional district candidate Doug Hoffman to attend the only public debate held in the district. Hoffman, a Republican running on the Conservative "Party" line, has become the darling of hard right social conservatives angry with the moderate stances on social issues held by Republican designee Dede Scozzafava.

Hoffman received the endorsement of former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. While that will shore up his support with the ideologues and doubtlessly help with puffing up his war chest with money from outside the district, it remains to be seen if that will be a blessing or an albatross in his attempt to win moderate voters.

Hoffman has so far ducked repeated requests to appear at the debate. He's also come scrutinty for focusing on generic national rhetoric and not having much of a clue on the important local issues that affect the district. Perhaps that's why he was comfortable engaging in sycophantic chit-chat with national yap show host Glenn Beck but is wary of having to answer questions from real human beings who live in the district he wants to represent.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Climate change awareness march in Saratoga on Saturday.

Sat. Oct. 25th at 11:00 am

The Saratoga Greens and Saratoga Healthy Transportation Network are sponsoring this action at High Rock Park in Saratoga Springs. There will be a speaker or two, then a brief march down Broadway to Congress Park where a photo will be taken to help 350.org catalog our collective actions to help our congressional representatives understand that global warming is a serious problem that cannot just be debated or ignored any longer.

For more information, contact Barb Tryptaluk @ (518) 583-4487

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ethnic cleansing in Guinea?

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..

I received this from a contact of mine who's married to a Guinean. The account is reprinted with her permission. The name of her husband has been omitted for his safety.

Earlier this evening [last week], I spoke with my [husband] in Guinea. A week ago today, the Guinean armed forces opened fire on a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration, killing at least 157, injuring over 1200 more, and reportedly raping over 150 women, in addition to using tear gas and stabbing people with bayonets. Although the UN, the EU, the AU, France, the US, and many others have issued strong statements of condemnation against the violence, no one has yet been willing to commit to a more active course of intervention. There has been minimal news coverage, especially as compared to the recent crisis in Iran, for example. Reporters have been threatened, detained, and had their equipment smashed; there has been some additional coverage of events via Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Doctors Without Borders.

Moussa Dadis Camara, the current dictator, has denied all responsibility for the shootings, citing 'out of control elements' in the military. Because one of the most outspoken opposition leaders is from the Peule ethnic group, there has been a great deal of open hostility toward this specific group. They are one of the three dominant ethnic groups in the country.

[Husband] lives in a predominantly Peule neighborhood, and he told me that for the past two nights especially, there has been increased gunfire and violence as the militia have been going through the neighborhood, randomly arresting people and taking them away. Last night, his next-door neighbors from BOTH SIDES were taken, but they left [husband] alone... He said to me that he knew it was the protection and energy work (being done by myself and my colleagues) that kept him safe, and to please continue as things are looking pretty unstable at the moment!

A couple of days ago, the military shot & killed a 10-year old boy from just down the street, and there have been numerous other shootings, lootings and rapes in the past week. I haven't seen any media reports on any of these additional crimes, and the coup government continues to maintain there were only 56 fatalities, and that most of those were from being 'crushed or asphyxiated in the crowds'. Text messaging has been suspended, the media has been throttled, and public gatherings have been banned.

At the memorial services held last Friday, THOUSANDS of people turned out looking for missing friends & relatives. This makes me question whether the military in fact started 'disappearing' people some time ago. Given what [husband] has been through in the past few months, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this turns out to be the case.

Meanwhile, in the past couple of months, the military has inducted over 2000 new militia from the Guerze ethnic group in a targeted recruitment. The Guerze are a minority group in southern Guinea who also inhabit both Liberia and Sierra Leone. The reigning dictator, Moussa Dadis Camara, is also Guerze - this is the first time a member of this group has held power (over) in Guinea, and apparently he is unwilling to let go of it. The Guerze people were reportedly heavily involved in both the recent conflicts in the neighboring countries.

[Husband] spent today in the garage, working on getting the car ready to drive across country to Mali - about a 20-hour drive if road conditions are good. He will have to find & bribe someone in the military to get him past the checkpoints, but once he is out of Conakry, he should be OK. (I hope)

The majority of the military & police forces have succumbed to brutality and violence, and continue to carry out atrocities daily, with seeming impunity. My husband is terrified that he will not live to see me again. Because of the recurrent gunfire at night, he has been unable to sleep properly for several days now; his health has taken some pretty big hits this year, and he's very aware of being pushed to his physical limits. There have also been rumors that the water supply had been deliberately contaminated, which could set up conditions for a pandemic. Business has mostly remained closed since last week, and food supplies are becoming scarce.

If Guinea destabilizes into an ethnic war, both Sierra Leone and Liberia are likely to be drawn into the conflict. Both of those countries have only very recently recovered from their own civil wars (if you haven't seen the film Blood Diamond, it gives a relatively accurate depiction of how bad it could get).

Personally I'm praying for divine intervention - perhaps in the form of international peacekeeping forces conducting an aggressive investigation into accountability and command structure of the military forces in Guinea. Whatever it takes. One wonders if this is merely going to be the latest in a long string of tragedies that could have been averted if only the international community could find the political will and sanity to mount an intervention free of any regional agenda. Rwanda, Darfur, Somalia... how many Africans have to be killed before the world cares?



Note: NPR had a pair of stories this week (here and here) on the reported widespread sexual violence against women by the forces of disorder.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Being in the military is not about individual rights

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

Apparently, the question of gays in the military is again a topic for discussion. The solution is a no brainer: sexual orientation should not be a factor in determining a serviceman's (or woman's) ability to do his job. "Don't ask, don't tell" is a fraud and a failure.

Being a soldier is not about the culture wars. It's about putting your own personal biases aside and work for the benefit of the nation and the unit. To exclude competent and talented soldiers just because their sexual orientation makes small-minded colleagues uncomfortable is not in the best interest of the collective good.

The military has a shortage of Arabic speakers but is expelling Arabic-speaking service personnel who happen to be gay. How this advances national interests is incomprehensible. It's not just that they should have the right to serve, to be judged solely on their competence, it's that we need them to serve.

Soldiers need to put aside their personal prejudices, be it against gays, blacks, Latinos, women, intellectuals, left-handers or whomever, and focus on the success of the mission. Soldiers may have the right to not like gays, but they shouldn't have the right to expel them. Dealing with unpleasant people and situations is an inherent part of the job. It's not a profession for pansies.

It boggles my mind that soldiers are expected to be mentally tough enough to face enemy snipers and IEDs trying to blow them to bits but are "uncomfortable" taking a shower near colleague who happens to be gay. These macho tough guy Heroes are single-handedly responsible for our freedom, so we're told, but are afraid of a few fairies? And the military's pandering to their bigotry at the expense of national security? Give me a break.

Can you imagine the military catering to a soldier who refused to serve in Iraq because he found the heat "uncomfortable"? The idea is ludicrous. Yet they ban talented soldiers to cater to the personal preferences of bigots.

If servicemen can't handle serving with talented comrades who happen to be gay, it's the homophobes who need to put aside their biases and adapt or quit.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Energy efficient bulbs

How much do the energy-efficient compact florescent light bulbs make a difference? I recently switched all my light sockets (except for my bedroom, in which I can't use them) to those bulbs. Fall is my lowest energy-usage period but I used 35% less electricity this September than last September... which was my previous lowest energy-usage month in the past two years.

I'm not sure it matters given how National Grid thieves will probably gouge me out of any savings anyways, but it's interesting.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The peanut gallery vs the hot seat

Did you ever notice how pretty much every critic of the governor says, "While we understand the state's difficult financial situation and the need to cut spending, we just think that (our unique and irreplacable group) should be the singular exception."

Apparently, it's a lot easier to "understand" something that to be in a position of responsibility and actually be forced to make decisions for the greater good.

A further example of National Grid gouging

A further illustration of what I wrote about here about gouging by the National Grid thieves.

My most recent electric bill:

Supply charges (cost of the power I used): $9.45

Delivery charges (cost of delivering the power I used): $33.08


If the pizza place tacked on a $30 delivery charge to bring you your $10 pizza, you wouldn't order there any more. But then again, pizza places are subject to competition.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Disgrace

I saw a headline this morning about President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Instinctively, I assumed it was from the satirical Onion but was dumbfounded to find out it was true. Even leaving aside the near certainty that he'll escalate us deeper into the morass in Afghanistan, what the hell has he done to advance peace?! I mean besides not being George W. Bush or Dick Cheney. Jimmy Carter deserved the award for his tireless efforts of peacemaking over several decades, both during his presidency and after.

Maybe it's a psychological ploy by the Nobel committee. Maybe they hope that Obama will be so embarrassed by this completely undeserved accolade that he'll actually try to live up to it. A long shot, I know...


Update: I've read that nominations had to be in by February 1 of this year. So he was nominated and "won" the award based on the first 12 days of his presidency?! His inaugural speech was nice... but not THAT good.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

In the land before polls...

I wonder what things were like before polling cannibalized public discourse. How did voters decide who to vote for without knowing what the horde thought? How did journalists operate before they had the crutch of doing poll "analyses" whenever they didn't feel like doing real reporting? Does anyone remember those days?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Does anyone actually believe anything anymore?

Conservatives rooting against Chicago for the Olympics because it might be seen to benefit President Obama, Congressmen criticizing the president while abroad, Congressmen interrupting presidential speeches to call him a liar... all of these things would've been treasonous and unpatriotic five years ago and punishable by a one-way trip to Gitmo.

Similarly, presidential secrecy, the likely prospect of insane escalation in Afghanistan and defense of the worst aspects of the war against civil liberties... these would've provoked liberal fury against the White House five years ago but now we're told ad nauseum that we need to "be patient."

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that virtually no one actually believes anything any more (including smug liberals) and are so vapid that they're only interested in scoring cheap political points against the "other" side.

It's not a coincidence that most political links and rants tend to be more concerned with attacking the other side than defending its own side. Defending your own side requires that you actually care about DOING something. Attacking the other side is a lot more convenient, because it's easier to destroy than to build.

The saddest part is that if you are an American who actually believes in something and who won't give your side an unlimited blank check for things you'd crucify the other side for, then there's a good chance you are a closed-minded ideological fanatic who believe that anyone not your political clone is the spawn of Satan.

Didn't we used to be able to balance having principles with treating others like human beings?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Ten Commandments of Blogging

By Dr Krish Kandiah, Churches in Mission Executive Director, Evangelical Alliance

Ten cyberspace commandments are to be posted online to give bloggers a moral edge in a virtual age.

Based loosely on the real Ten Commandments from the Old Testament, the revamped version for guidance in online communication emerged from an event reflecting on the ethics of today’s most popular form of public comment.

The commandments are intended to cause bloggers to consider the social impact of their blogging.

1. You shall not put your blog before your integrity.

2. You shall not make an idol of your blog.

3. You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin.

4. Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog.

5. Honour your fellow-bloggers above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes.

6. You shall not murder someone else’s honour, reputation or feelings.

7. You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind.

8. You shall not steal another person’s content.

9. You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger.

10. You shall not covet your neighbour's blog ranking. Be content with your own content.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Non-shock of the year: National Grid gouges customers

The Post-Star has an article on how the crooks at National Grid are gouging customers. The global conglomerate that is the region's monopoly electricity deliverer is jacking up delivery charges to compensate for falling electric and natural gas prices.

National Grid regularly sends out informational literature to customers encourage them to cut costs by taking energy saving measures. That meant they were using less energy and providing less revenue to the utility. National Grid decided to jack up the delivery part of their bill to compensate. After spending time and money to take those energy saving measures, they see no benefit in their electric bill.

In other words, the utility is punishing customers for following their advice!

A Moreau resident's bill showed her family of four had used $177.68 worth of natural gas and electricity in the preceding month, but the "delivery charges" for those commodities totaled $303.97.

Delivery of her power cost 71 percent more than the actual power. For that markup, the bill should come in a gold plated envelope.

My own most recent bill was even worse: delivery charges were MORE THAN DOUBLE the cost of the actual electricity delivered! Imagine buying a $300 stove from Sears and having them charge $700 to deliver it.

Maybe National Grid has to gouge customers to pay for their worthless, incompetent customer service or for the power going out every time there's a decent rain or snow storm (which never happens in upstate New York).

I will post my own National Grid horror story here at a later time, after I compose the letter to the state Public Service Commission and Attorney General's office.

In the mid-1990s, some officials in the city of Glens Falls pushed for the creation of a municipal power company, like the one run by the similarly-sized town of Massena, NY. Not surprisingly, Niagara Mohawk (which was bought by National Grid) saw a threat to their lucrative business and waged a massively expensive and somewhat deceptive PR campaign against the proposal.

Despite the cost, the PR campaign was a good investment... for them at least. The public utility was voted down in a referendum and they were free to continue gouging customers... and municipalities too.