Friday, September 23, 2011

The fiction of the big-time student-athlete

The Atlantic has a good piece exploring "The Shame of College Sports." Big time college athletics (by this, I mean Division I men’s football and basketball) is the biggest sham this side of that other so-called non-profit: the Olympic “movement.” No one believes the purity the NCAA tries to peddle.

What should happen is that the NFL and NBA should create minor leagues and return college athletics to their original intent as extracurricular activites rather than replacing-curricular activities. But absent that, these athletes are earning mega bucks for the universities' coffers and deserve to be paid for it.

And don’t give me that nonsense about how they get a college education. Even those big time football and basketball players who actually do want a good education aren’t really permitted to maximize it due to the exigencies of travel. For example, just ask how many gridiron and hoops games are available on your TV screen during mid-week and ask how many classes the away team's players are attending that week. Give these athletes the equivalent of four years tuition and see how many of them actually spend it on a degree.

Yes, I do enjoy watching big college football games and March Madness, but I do so eyes wide open, fully aware that it's minor league sports. I'm under no illusion that the participants in this meat market bear any resemblance to the typical college student or even the true student-athlete, far more prevalent in Division III. Yet the NCAA insists on maintaining the fantasy pretense that no one buys anyway.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

70% of Israelis want Palestinian statehood: poll

This week, Israel's lawyer Barack Obama made the case before the United Nations that the UN should not recognize Palestinian statehood and that negotiations should allowed to drag on for however long the Netanyahu government wishes to stall. This is the same United Nations that, in 1947, recognized Israeli statehood.

However, an interesting poll was conducted by the Hebrew University and published in the Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post: 70% of Israelis say their government should accept the UN decision on the question, even if it results in Palestinian independence.

That's 70% of Israelis. So whose interests is lawyer Obama representing: the Israeli government's or the Israeli people's?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Republicans’ class warfare

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

It’s a brilliant perversion of language to hear Republicans complaining that President Obama’s jobs plan constitutes class warfare. I make no commentary about Obama’s plan, though, as with most of what the president has done, it’s probably too little to matter and I’m sure he’ll end up capitulating on whatever minor improvements the plan may contain anyways.

However, GOP complaints are the height of hypocrisy. From demanding cuts to Medicare and Social Security in order to extend tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires (who already pay lower tax rates than the working class) to taking money away from ordinary working Americans to subsidize the recklessness of bankers and other financial institutions, the entire Republican economic agenda is based on class warfare. Privatize corporate profits, socialize the losses.

A result of Republican warfare against people who work for a living? The Census Bureau reported that more Americans are living in poverty than in any time in the 52 years they’ve been keeping such statistics.

It was the first time since the Great Depression that median household income, adjusted for inflation, had not risen over such a long period [since 1999].

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tips for driving like a non-crazy person

As many of you know, bicycling is my primary form of transportation. To my amazement, I was once told that some people thought I didn’t drive because maybe I’d been convicted of DWI (not correct, for the record). Around here, like most of America, biking as a form of transportation is as incomprehensible as the notion of reading a book for enjoyment.

For the second time in eight days, I came within less than a yard of being hit on my bicycle by a clueless driver, so it’s unfortunately time for a bit of a rant on the topic.

I’ll say this as clearly as I can.


I don’t care if you like it. I don’t care if you resent it. My taxes help pay for that road too so deal with it.

Being impatient and self-absorbed are qualities we easily slap on teenagers, but the truth is that adults in today’s society are just as guilty of this. In fact, their careless self-absorption is often more harmful because they have more means to inflict harm, however inadvertently.

Some argue that senior citizens should be subjected to regular re-testing to maintain their driver’s licenses. I’m starting to believe that all drivers should be subjected to this. I’ve been nearly hit many times over the years and while sometimes it’s been a younger driver and sometimes an older driver at fault, most often it’s been middle aged people. And contrary to popular belief, males tend to be worse drivers than females. Sorry guys, it’s true. If you don’t believe me, ask an actuary.

So here are a few tips I have for how not to be a complete twit while driving...

-Realize that you do not have the right of way while turning over a biker who’s going straight. You may, with every bone in your body, want to run him over so you can get to the next stop sign two seconds faster, but you really shouldn’t. The Big Mac you're so eager to scarf down will still be there.

-You are legally obligated to use your turn signal every time you turn, even when (you think) there is no one behind you. I will signal to help you out; you can do the same.

-Just as turn signals on your car are not merely decorative, neither are mirrors. You can look at them for reasons other than just fixing your hair. I'm told some drivers actually check mirrors to see if anybody's behind them.

-Even in supermarket/big box store parking lots, stop signs are not suggestions.

-If there is a car stopped and waiting to turn left and you want to go right into the shoulder to go around him, actually look before you do so.

-If you are yacking on your cell phone or texting while driving, I hope you get a ticket every single time. Truth is, you’re not nearly as good doing those two things at once as you think.

Until drivers start doing these things and actually respecting the rules of the road, I think I should start carrying a paintball gun while I’m biking.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reflections on 9/12

On this eve of the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, The New York Review of Books re-ran an excellent essay (from 2003) by Joan Didion. In it, she explores the ways in which Americans did far more damage to our own society in the post-9/11 period than al-Qaeda ever could.

Friday, September 02, 2011

What if a corporate party threw a bash and nobody came? The paper would still report on it

Today’s Post-Star had a story about a Democrat running against Congressman Chris Gibson. The Democrat held an ‘event’ at the Washington County Municipal Center... except the only person he apparently talked to was an aide to his opponent, who happened to be there on other business.

So an event held by a corporate party candidate where nobody shows up merits a story (with photo!) on the front page of the local section. But when it comes to an event by smaller party candidate (Howie Hawkins) held at a local cafe jam packed with dozens of people in which the candidate gave detailed answers to dozens of intelligent and pertinent questions from ordinary citizens? It gets only a cursory mention buried in the newspaper’s blog.

Maybe next time, Greens should hold a flash mob doing Zumba and then maybe the local ‘news’ organization would notice.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Cuomo's cowardly tax cap

I was reading an article in the Adirondack Journal on the cowardly, undemocratic property tax cap pushed through by NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

It's undemocratic because school budgets are voted upon by residents so the grand pooh-bah is saying that the unwashed masses are too stupid to be trusted with running their own affairs without conditions from the overlords; now school tax increases above 2% are invalid unless approved by a supermajority of the peons.

It's cowardly because he's imposing legal restrictions on how OTHER government bodies spend money, but not on the one he himself runs. Further, he's taking credit for the lower property tax but washes his hands of any anger at the accompanying cuts in services. Tell other people what to do. Don't tell them how to do but tie their hands (see below). That's cowardice.

But the biggest problem with Cuomo's cowardly property tax cap was summed up quite nicely in the Adirondack Journal piece.

Keene town supervisor William Ferebee, a Republican, stated: "I’m opposed to the cap. If there was a cap on state mandates, that would be a different story."

And the Keene supervisor had his comment before his town was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene.

The Minerva supervisor [Sue Corey] said she thought the idea of managing costs was a good one, but living with a cap without mandate relief is "going to be tough."

Lake George Mayor Robert Blais, another Republican, said he was opposed to the tax cap so long as it was not balanced with mandate relief.

Sensing a trend?