Friday, February 29, 2008

You know you live in upstate NY when...

... you check the weather site in the morning and the predicted low temperature for the day is 19 degrees F and the current temperature is 17 and you think it's no big deal.

Then you notice the - sign before the 17.

And you still think it's no big deal.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why the national Dems are useless

The Democratic Party could've spent the four years after the 2000 election looking in the mirror.

They could've spent it trying to figure out how a race involving a sitting vice-president and a candidate as bad as George W. Bush could possibly have come down to a few hundred votes when it should never have been close enough for the Supreme Court to matter.

Or they could've figured out how a state that sent Al Gore to Washington many times, the people that knew him best, voted for his opponent for president.

They could've looked at Ralph Nader's three million vote total and said, "Hey, maybe we ought to be a little less corporate and a little more progressive so we can get those votes back."

The fact that they refused to do so only illustrated the points Nader was trying to make during his 2000 run.

Any entity becomes out of control and corrupt when there's no corrective process. Parties, governments, corporations, people. The Bush administration is a textbook example of this. Only outside forces (smaller parties, independent candidates, checks and balances) can can sufficiently act as that corrective agent.

The fact that the Democrats drifted even further rightward by 2004 by aiding and abetting Bush's war on civil liberties, aggression against Iraq and total surrender to corporate governance, proved not only Nader's points but the relevance of his candidacies.

They still haven't figured out that if they put forward a candidate who will fight corporate control of government, then Nader won't run because his beliefs will be addressed.

Eight years later, too many Democrats are still fixated on smearing Nader for past 'sins' (specifically, giving progressives someone to vote for) instead of trying to advance an agenda that would make his campaign redundant.

If that doesn't illustrate their uselessness, I don't know what does.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Manufacturing's race to the bottom

While not a universally negative phenomenon by any stretch, globalization has clearly created a race to the bottom in the manufacturing industry. This isn't exactly old news, this NPR story has a twist, new yet old at the same time.

The signature of the NAFTA "free trade" agreement opened the door for countless American factories to flee to Mexico, where industry wasn't burdened by government regulations demanding terrible things like clean air and fair treatment of workers. Workers in Mexico then got uppity so many factories then fled to other places, including China. But now even the costs of Chinese sweatshops are 'too high' for the sharks so many factories are being moved from China to Vietnam.

I wonder where the factories in Vietnam will move to when workers there start demanding more than two cents a day and the ability to go to the bathroom during work hours.

Note: PBS' NOW program a good dossier about how a provision in NAFTA is being used by corporations to undermine democracy.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Anti-choice 'Democrats'

I see Ralph Nader is running for president this year.

I originally had a different essay written about this but I changed it. Nevertheless, it feels like the movie Groundhog Day. Nader runs for president again. And the same tired, baseless attacks on him surface again.

He is vain. He is an egomaniac. His ego is out of control because he thinks he's the only one who has solutions for this country.

Hillary isn't power hungry. Obama isn't vain. McCain isn't arrogant. But a man who's devoted his entire life (and nearly all of his earnings) to public service is the devil incarnate.

I'm sorry but in my opinion, the belief that you can do a better job than any of the other candidates is the ONLY legitimate reason to run for any elected office.

Let me say that again: the belief that you can do a better job than any of the other candidates is the ONLY legitimate reason to run for any elected office.

His most unhinged critics are not Republicans, but people who pat themselves on the back for being liberal minded.

Nader is a spoiler. He stole votes from Dems in '00 and '04. He elected George W. Bush.

Most people realize that these are just empty lies. Lies designed to deflect the fact that the Democrats are so pathetic that they lost two elections to a candidate as terrible as George W. Bush.

(And let's be honest: the '00 race should never have been so close as for the Supreme Court to matter.)

There is a difference between legitimate and illegitimate criticism of Nader.

Legitimate criticism includes disagreement with his policies and priorities. Legitimate criticism includes saying he has the same platform as another candidate. Legitimate criticism includes questions about his ability to implement his ideas. I may not agree with such criticisms but I can accept them as fair topics of discussion within a democratic framework.

Illegitimate criticism of Nader includes saying he shouldn't run. Illegitimate criticism of Nader includes saying that he's a vote stealer or is hired by Republicans. Basically, attacking his integrity for no other reason than he's running for president.

Votes are never stolen (except perhaps from Diebold machines). They are earned. Anyone who says that Nader or Mike Huckabee or anyone else steals votes from an opponent is telling a bald faced lie. A lie that demeans the very essence of whatever's left of American democracy.

Democracy is too important to trivialize it by turning it into just another sporting event with a point spread. Heck, even sports are not decided on paper. So I don't care one iota if the pundits think he's going to win. It's not up to them to decide. It's up to all of us to decide.

Is he going to affect the election? I certainly hope so. I hope he's going to affect the election by putting a further spotlight on the problem of corporate control of our politicians. I hope he gets enough votes that the Democrats will finally get the message that they need for their own sake to tell their corporate owners to go packing.

I realize this is a long shot. If the Dems refused to get this message after 2000, I'm not sure it'll happen this year. But what other progressive candidate even has this on the agenda?

And if the Democratic Party apparatus doesn't get the message, I hope its members will finally acknowledge the sad reality and leave the party.

Ralph Nader represents a point of view that neither Sens. McCain nor Obama is advocating. He represents a philosophy that's diametrically opposed to Sen. Clinton's. I still might vote for Obama. I'd never pull the lever for McCain or Clinton. But Nader is filling a void and no honest citizen ought to begrudge him that.

If he gets a lot of votes, it's because his ideas are popular. If his ideas don't resonate (or aren't given a chance to), he won't get many votes. So where exactly is this crisis that anti-Nader liberals are bleating on endlessly about?

Some people say Nader is an egomaniac because he's offering people the chance to actually vote for a good candidate. How dare they! I can not express how much I resent it when people attack him (or any other candidate for that matter) for giving people another choice. It offends the core of my very beliefs as an American. How can anyone call themselves a democrat, lowercase d, when they do that? Who the heck do these people think they are to unilaterally decide who should run?

If you don't like him, don't vote for him. If you think someone else is better, then make the case for them. It really is that simple.

I know many good and decent people who won't vote for Nader. If you vote for whomever you honestly think is the best candidate of them ALL, I have no problem with that. I will never reproach anyone for voting their conscience. Just treat me with the same respect.

The problem is that many liberals refuse to do that.

In one of the forums I frequent, I read many obnoxious anti-Nader comments but this one particularly stood out:

Its because of Nader that we have had 8 years of George Bush. I do think the republicans hire him to run each time they see the elections getting close. The democrats should just have him knocked off.I don't blame them for trying to stop him. He knows he can get no where but he will take democrat votes as there are a few loonies out there who will vote for him.

I found this woman's comments incredibly offensive. I've read many anti-Nader comments, some fair if misguided, some irrational and unhinched. But this was one of the most insulting things I've read.

Look at what she said in one short paragraph. Because of the simple fact that he ran for president like thousands of Americans before him and because millions of Americans chose of their own free will to vote for him, she made the following claims:

-Nader is responsible for 8 years of George W. Bush
-Nader is a Republican employee
-Nader should be assassinated and if he were, she would excuse the murderer
-Nader steals votes from Democrats
-Anyone who votes for Nader is a loonie.

That's what infuriates me. The way many liberals attack Nader is in reality an attack against those who support Nader. It's not the fact that they criticize him but the way they criticize him.

What they attack is not his ideas. They don't even talk about his ideas because they agree with most of them and they know in their brains that his beliefs are closer to theirs than any top-level Democrat. What they object to most is the mere fact of his candidacy. His candidacy brings to light the discomfort many of them feel in an increasingly unprogressive, corporate owned Democratic Party. Nader's candidacy forces them to face this unpleasant reality. They can't attack his ideas so they attack the character of a man whose integrity is unimpeachable.

They know he's more right on the ideas than any of the major Democrats so, like some talk radio yapping head, they say his mama wears combat boots.

I should be used to this empty nonsense by now but it still annoys me. The reason why is not so much what they're saying about Nader; it's what they're saying about me. It's what they're trying to do to me. These people are calling me an idiot and a loonie. But more importantly, they're trying to disenfranchise me and every other American citizen who might want to vote for him.

These people are just as anti-choice as the anti-abortionists so many of them condemn.

I'm sorry some liberals have such a visceral objection real democracy but they're just going to have to get over themselves.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Most underreported humanitarian stories of 2007

An annual story that I forgot to blog about when it came out...

Around the New Year, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) issued its annual report of the top ten most underreported humanitarian stories. Of course, most humanitarian stories are underreported but this is a list of some of the most important ones.

The ten were...
-Displaced fleeing war in Somalia face humanitarian crisis

-Political and economic turmoil sparks health-care crisis in Zimbabwe

-Drug-resistant tuberculosis spreads as new drugs go untested

-Expanded use of nutrient dense ready-to-use foods crucial for reducing childhood malnutrition

-Civilians increasingly under fire in Sri Lankan conflict

-Conditions worsen in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

-Living precariously in Colombia's conflict zones

-Humanitarian aid restricted in Myanmar (Burma)

-Civilians caught between armed groups in Central African Republic

-As Chechen conflict ebbs, critical humanitarian needs still remain

Note: You can support MSF's excellent work by clicking here.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Serbs gone wild!

Serbian mobs in the capital Belgrade attacked embassies of the United States, Croatia and other countries that recognized the independence of the new Republic of Kosovo.

Now, Serbs are implementing a plan to sabotage Kosovo into submission.

This is the same Serbia that executed a mini-genocide in Kosovo in the late 1990s.

It's a mystery why Kosovars wouldn't want to remain part of such a beacon of civilization.

A tortured sex scandal

Alternet had an extremely unsurprising piece about the twisted priorities of the corporate news media.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain made comments endorsing the use of torture.

But of course, the corporate media felt the public would be best served by the titilating details of an alleged sex scandal involving the Arizona senator several years ago rather than the anti-civilization comments of a man who has a decent chance of becoming our next president.

To the corporate media, I say thanks (yet again) for nothing.

But the reaction to the sex scandal was equally predictable. Republicans hysterically attacked The New York Times for its alleged hit job on McCain. (The right didn't seem to mind when the sex scandals were about Bill Clinton)

Huckabee supporters complained that the article came too late to influence the GOP nominating race. But had The Times released it earlier, it would've been attacked for... influencing the GOP nominating race.

The paper, for its part, claimed that it held on to the story because it wasn't ready until recently. Alternet opined that the daily held the story because it was afraid of conservatives.

Sure the right-wing noise machine is attacking The Times, because that's their raison d'etre. Never mind that the paper endorsed one John McCain for the GOP nomination. But the noise would've been ten times worse had the story been released earlier and somehow energized the impotent Giuliani campaign.

Others believe that the McCain campaign leaked the final details of the story so it would run now.

Some speculate that they wanted this sex story to drown out his pro-torture comments, but I find that highly doubtful. If anything, the pro-torture comments would have solidified his standing among the far right of his party, which has a problem with civilized behavior.

More likely, the rationale for such a leak, if it occurred, was to whip up the conservative persecution complex to gain sympathy (and money) for McCain. Because for as much as the far right may mistrust McCain, there is little that rallies conservatives more than an imagined slight by the 'liberal media.'

Running as a saint martyred by the evil media is a risky strategy, but not unprecedented. Hillary Clinton wouldn't have a campaign without it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Crooked Democrats

I wrote earlier about the Democratic [sic] Party's equivalent of the electoral college and the rigged presidential nomination process which may well lead to Sen. Hillary Clinton's undemocratic ascension to the party's top slot.

A few people pooh-poohed me as being paranoid. Republicans play dirty, not the saintly Democrats.

Matt's Totally Biased Commentary has a salient reminder of just how crooked the Democrats can be. Rather than fight a battle of ideas with Ralph Nader, Greens and other alternative forces, the Democrats try to bankrupt them.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dr. Wal-Mart

Dr. Rahul K. Parikh wrote an interesting essay in arguing in favor of 'retail health clinics' in places like Wal-Mart and Target.

Many medical groups, like the American Academy of Family Practice and the American Academy of Pediatrics (to which I belong), have published position papers opposing retail clinics. Their basic argument is that retail clinics run counter to the concept of "a medical home," a place where patients receive care for any and all of their problems.

But Dr. Parikh argues that this trend will force medical doctors to innovate.

To understand why that's the case, look at the business-as-usual model of medicine. Anybody who wants to run a competent medical practice -- from the country doctor to the tertiary care hospital -- must measure success in terms of access, quality and cost. It's safe to say traditional medical practice is struggling to succeed here. Access is unpredictable for almost any practice. Most of us simply don't have the ability to provide round-the-clock care, short of the mediocre phone service of an on-call doctor or the chaotic, overcrowded emergency room. Costs keep rising and being shifted to consumers in the form of higher premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

Although it's almost impossible to infer that the mainstream medical establishment's opposition to these clinics is anchored in more than a little snobbery. Low class people shopping in low class establishments are inevitably going to be given low class care. Assembly line shopping = assembly line medical treatment.

Yet every time I visit my primary care physician in a traditional setting, I feel like I'm on an assembly line. As I'm shuffled from the desk to the waiting room to the scale to another waiting room to the examining room, I'm probably 'handled' by as many different people as work on a Prius. No one knows my name without looking at my file. I don't bother explaining in any detail what's wrong until the last person, the person that matters, gets in.

These clinics are poor substitute from what's really needed in America: universal health care. But in the interim, they offer two things that are desperately lacking in many parts of the country: access to medical professionals and at a reasonable cost.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Racism in sports

Authorities in England have probably done more than any sporting nation to attack racism. Certainly authorities in places like Italy and Spain could take note. Fans in both countries have been known to make monkey noises directed at black soccer players. Sections of Lazio (in Rome) 'supporters' sing songs in honor of the murderous Balkans' war criminal Arkan. Spain is where some idiots launched disgusting attacks on black Formula 1 driver Louis Hamilton. This happened in Barcelona, one of the cultural capitals of Europe, supposedly one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. The tolerance of Spanish and Italian societies for this garbage is what's truly shocking.

Eastern Europe is reportedly much worse.

English soccer officials have no doubt taken the problem of hatred seriously, unlike most on the continent. But sadly, it's reared its ugly head again.

The Israeli manager of the London club Chelsea has received disgraceful anti-Semitic death threats against both him and his wife as well as a package containing white powder.

There's nothing wrong with losing yourself once in a while in sports. And I realize that being a supporter or fan has an inherently tribal dynamic. But that doesn't mean supporters or fans have to act like primitive savages.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

'Merchants of trivia'

Matt Taibbi is a terrible writer. From Hunter S. Thompson to William Grieder, Rolling Stone magazine has a long tradition of good political journalism. How these folks think that a hack like Taibbi is a worthy heir to these men is beyond me.

I accept that advocacy journalism has a point of view. But a decent advocacy journalist can present the facts in a way in which any reasonable person will draw the appropriate outrage.

Not Taibbi. He thinks that shoving it down your throat mercilessly and tossing in a few fucks and bullshits into the text makes for quality journalism. His non-stop over-the-top ranting is tiresome.

But while Taibbi couldn't write his way out of a paper bag, he can observe.

In one of the January issues of the magazine, he has a fantastic piece entitled Merchants of Trivia.

Well, the writing is his usual crap. But if you can suffer through his hackery, the points he makes are excellent. It's an up close look at how the insufferably trivial way in which the corporate media covers the presidential race (and by extension, politics in general).

Taibbi writes: Give an army of proud professionals nothing but a silly horse race to cover, and inevitably they'll elevate even the most meaningless details of that horse race to cosmic importance.

This is how you end up getting candidates bludgeoned to death on the altar of such trivialities as "rookie mistakes" and "lack of warmth"; it's how you end up getting elections decided because candidates like John Kerry are unable to overcome adjectives like "looks French" and "long-faced Easter Island statue."

Iowa and New Hampshire are the worst for the avalanche of media trivia, simply because the candidates and the media are there for so long. But it hardly stops there.

Horse race 'journalism' has completely sapped any meaning out of political coverage. Alternet has a good piece on that as well.

Instead of talking about the candidates' positions on health care or Iraq, the media's yapping heads obsess about meaninglessness like who tough enough, who cried or who has momentum.

I suppose it never occurred to the lemmings to talk about why we should actually care that so-and-so has momentum. It doesn't occur to the lemmings because they don't care. They are too self-referential.

Their only concern is themselves. They were embarrssed when they declared Obama the next big thing and then Hillary won New Hampshire. And then two minutes later, they declared Hillary a virtual shoe-in and then Obama wins a bunch of primaries. Now Obama's back to being one step away from 1600 PA Ave., so I suppose he'd better watch out.

Does any of this help you cast a more informed vote?

Didn't think so.

But at the end of the day, the corporate media doesn't care about this. Reporters are lazy and horse race 'journalism' is an easy template to follow. Explaining the nuances of McCain's and Huckabee's social security plans is hard. Talking about McCain's 51-37 percent lead amongst left-handed, near-sighted albino dwarfs with a stuttering problem is a lot simpler.

Castro resigns

Now here's something many people thought they'd never see. Cuban strongman Fidel Castro is stepping down as head of state after nearly half a century in power. I don't expect this will fundamentally change the Cuban system. His brother almost certainly will replace him. However, the departure of the world's longest serving head of state is certainly big news.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Congratulations to citizens of the world's newest nation: the Republic of Kosovo.

Selected, not elected?

I heard a rather interesting fact on the news yesterday. Apparently, even if either Sens. Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton won every single elected delegate remaining in the race (which is virtually impossible since the Democrats allocate them proportionally), neither would have the majority need to win the nomination. So that means the "superdelegates" will decide the race.

"Superdelegates" are basically Democratic elected officials and other establishment figures. They were created to make sure the party establishment had a modicum of control of the unwashed masses that make up their rank-and-file.

I believe that if either candidate has a comfortable lead going into the convention, the "superdelegates" won't overrule the will of their voters. It would cause an uprising in the party and probably kill them in November.

But if the vote is relatively close, these appointed figures will decide the race. Which is precisely their raison d'etre, don't forget.

And given Hillary's status as an establishment tool and her husband's status as as person to whom surely a lot of favors are owed, I have no doubt that in a close race, the "superdelegates" will tip the balance for Hillary... regardless of who won more of the elected delegates.

Essentially, "superdelegates" are the electoral college of the Democratic Party. And they could easily give the nomination to Hillary even if Obama was the deserved winner.

All the people who voted for Obama will feel like their vote was stolen by party insiders. It's a big risk and would split the party. But will a party that's under the control of lobbyists have the guts to against the person who's far and away the lobbyists' favorite candidate?

If not, then the party that has spent the last year eight years whining that the current president was selected not elected may well have a nominee of their own who'll be exactly that.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ethanol push hurts the poor?

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization warns about the impact of skyrocketing crop prices.

It estimated that Africa will see a 49 percent rise in their cereal import bill. International wheat prices have skyrocketed by 83 percent in the last year.

Poor countries will pay a record total for cereal imports, despite a fall in the total amount they will import.

The Christian Science Monitor ran a good piece exploring to what extent the skyrocketing food prices have been affected by the global push for ethanol and other biofuels.

An economist at Iowa State University estimates that one-fifth of all the acreage in the US now devoted to the crop will grow corn destined for ethanol, rather than food. Soybean prices have also been affected by this trend.

With huge amounts of crop-growing land in the US devoted instead to energy, it's no surprise that food prices are through the roof.

So we're taking food out of the mouthes of poor people to devote to an energy inefficient fuel.

Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

North Country Public Radio had a series about a more intelligent approach to biofuel.

It may have trouble catching on, as Iowa is more important for politicians to pander to than Northern New York. But at least, this is an approach that doesn't jack up food prices for those who can least afford it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The oddball stories entry

-Scottish man orders illegal weapon by internet. Police find child porn on his computer during search.

-Sex offender wins MA lottery. The resulting publicity was greatly appreciated by police in CT, where he was convicted but whom he never informed he was moving out of state.

-The owner of a sex club in Leicester, England, is complaining that construction at a nearby theatre is hurting his business. "We've written to the [city] council three times. They haven't even acknowledged us. Anyone would think they were embarrassed that we happen to run a swingers' club opposite their expensive big theatre," the owner speculated, while demanding compensation for supposedly lost business. He added, "It's filthy, dirty, messy and we feel like we're being caged in." Seems like a perfect fit for his clientele!

-And The Scotsman daily has everything you never wanted to know about sex and the Scottish. Let's just say that the first paragraph of the story includes the word 'chocolate.' You were warned.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Top ignored stories of the year has an excellent piece on the top 25 censored stories of 2006-07. While the corporate media was bombarding the citizenry with an avalanche of triviality like Britney Spears and random-kidnaped-middle class-photogenic-white girl-of-the-month, many real stories were ignored.

Such as:

-The Military Commissions Act of 2006 elimination of habeas corpus protection, the most basic, fundamental liberty in any society that calls itself free. It was the lynchpin of western civilization going back nearly 800 years.

-The same act granted impunity to US war criminals for actions taken in the previous ten years.

-How human traffic built the US embassy in Baghdad. The enduring monument to US liberation and democracy in Iraq is being built by forced labor. Contractors subcontracting to the US State Department are using bait-and-switch recruiting practices to smuggle Asian workers into brutal and inhumane labor camps—in the middle of the US-controlled Green Zone.

-The scam of rebuilding Afghanistan. Much of the US tax money earmarked to rebuild Afghanistan actually ends up going no further than the pockets of wealthy US corporations. Paychecks for overpriced, and often incompetent, American “experts” under contract to USAID go directly from the Agency to American bank accounts. Seventy percent of the aid that does make it to a recipient country is carefully “tied” to the donor nation for further fraud and exploitation.

-Toxic chemical poisoning can be genetic. Research suggests that our behavior and our environmental conditions may program sections of our children’s DNA. New evidence about how genes interact with the environment suggests that many industrial chemicals may be more ominously dangerous than previously thought. One researcher points to a revolution in medicine: “You aren't eating and exercising just for yourself, but for your lineage.”

-America's drinking water is contaminated by corporations and the military. Corporations, municipalities, and the US military are using America’s waters as their dumping ground —often with little or no accountability. The average major facility discharges pollutants in excess of its permitted limit by over 275 percent, nearly four times the legal limit, while more than 40 percent of US waterways are already unsafe for swimming and fishing.

-A popular movement in Latin America is challenging US exploitation of those countries. In Latin America, massive opposition to US economic domination has demanded that populist leaders and parties take control of national governments, building powerful alternatives to neo-liberal exploitation.

-But calling all of US trade policy neo-liberal isn't quite accurate. The US likes to protect subsidies of its own. The July 2006 Doha round of WTO negotiations broke down over the contentious issue of farm trade and the unrestricted opening of markets to agricultural products. In a last-minute proposal, one not included on the original agenda, the US insisted that all trade agreements include a special “Peace Clause” that would make its use of illegal farm subsidies immune from prosecution by the countries affected.

-There's no evidence linking Osama bin Laden to 9/11. At least according to none other than the FBI.

-And speaking of frauds, you know that war with Iran that the neo-conservatives want so badly? One of the fake justifications for that war is a comment by Iran's president that he wants "Israel wiped off the face of the map." But there's one little problem: he never said it. I don't expect this to be a hindrance to the war machine. Saddam Hussein's lack of weapons of mass destruction, an absence many people commented on BEFORE the invasion, didn't stop the far right from aggressing that country. But when they try to perpetuate their next aggression based on a fraud, don't say you weren't warned.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Populist pandering (pt. 2485)

It's bad enough you have Congress sticking its nose in Major League Baseball's steroids' scandal. Because the sanctity of Barry Bonds' home run record is of much higher import to the average American than the messes we've created in Iraq and Afghanistan, spiraling health care costs or any of a hundred other things our elected representatives should be dealing with instead.

But at least steroids is a controlled substance.

So what excuse does Republican Sen. Arlen Specter have for spouting off about how the NFL handled the New England Patriots' Spygate affair?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

How to save soccer from the crybabies

Coaches, players and fans whining about referees has been part of sport since the beginning. But the insufferable snivelling is reaching epidemic proportions, especially in England's Premier League. Teams never lose fair and square any more. They are never outplayed, outcoached or outworked. They only fail to win because of the officiating. Grace is no longer a part of the sport.

Given that each team is given 3 points in the standings for each win and 1 for each draw (tie), here's my plan to give a red card to the crybabies:

-When a manager says "My lads worked their socks off. I couldn't ask any more of them" after a 4-0 pasting, deduct 2 points from his team's total. And give him the book "Managing soccer for dummies."

-When the ref is accosted for a call or non-call by anyone other than the team captain or the player actually involved in the incident, deduct 3 points from the team's total for every person involved. And bitchslap each one of them.

-When a manager blames the ref for a bad result when his team played like crap, deduct 5 points. And force him to buy stock in the company that owns Pampers.

-When a manager or a player whines about a penalty where his defender rugby tackled a forward or a non-penalty where his forward fell to the ground like he was shot because he tripped on a blade of grass, deduct 3 additional points beyond the 5 above. And force him to wear a clown's nose, glasses and wig to the next match.

-If a manager says "The other team simply outplayed us today," credit his team 2 points. And buy him a pint for his candor.

-If a manager or team captain says, "We just didn't show up today," credit 4 points. And give a jacket to compensate for the lack of hot air blowing.

-If a manager concedes to the press, "I was simply outmanaged today," just hand his team the championship straight away. And give everyone else in the room a trip to the hospital to treat them for severe shock.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Let them eat cake

Below are a few recent comments by arrogant bureaucrats smugly dismissing the concerns of people paying their salaries.

Go to sleep earlier so that you can grow and be cleverer.
-South Africa's energy minister waving away criticism over a spate of electricity blackouts in the country that will host the soccer World Cup in two years time.

Grow up!
-US homeland insecurity secretary Michael Chertoff (who's below the secretary of transportation in the presidential line of succession) attacking critics of new border crossing rules who worry about the dramatic economic impact of the changes on border regions.

[John Strough] probably should have taken his medication before the meeting.
-Queensbury (NY) town loudmouth/supervisor Dan Stec blasting a fellow town board member for raising ethical doubts about the search for a municipal insurance provider. Because the phrases 'ethical doubts' and 'Queensbury town board' are never used in the same sentence.

Feel free to add your own (with attribution if possible)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Hillary: the Wal-Mart years

Common Dreams has a good article on how then-Wal-Mart director Hillary Clinton remained silent as the world’s largest retailer waged a major campaign against labor unions seeking to represent store workers.

Not surprisingly, her official biography makes no mention of her half dozen years on the board of directors of one of America's most anti-union corporations.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Although most of you know this, I will start this essay by saying I'm not a Democrat. I am a progressive, a group which used to be influential in that party but has become virtually irrelevant.

But I am an American and I am following closely the race Democratic presidential nomination. Although I'm not a Democrat anymore, whoever they nominate has a very good chance of becoming the next president.

I thought the Democrats had some good candidates. I liked what Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich had to say, although they never had a chance of winning in today's corporate controlled Democratic Party. I had issues with John Edwards, but I appreciated the fact that he was the only major candidate who actually talked about poor people as though they were human beings to the same degree as middle class folks. He talked about them like they were actually part of this country. He was the only one that acknowledged their existence. I think this was useful.

Of the two remaining candidates, I prefer Barack Obama. I know that will displease some people who are Hillary Clinton fanatics and others who think I shouldn't like any Democrat. But although some of my preference for Obama is based on a mistrust of Hillary Clinton, there are aspects of Obama that I actively like. So please hear me out.

I was reading this article about how Obama went to Martin Luther King Jr's church in Atlanta and condemned the homophobia that many blacks hold. He said that bigotry was bigotry, no matter who was engaging in it. He said that you shouldn't get a free pass for gay bashing or anti-Semitism just because you're black. He countered that blacks should be MORE sensitive to others suffering from immoral discrimination. Humanity and empathy are not a zero sum gain. He said this in a black church.

I contrast this with Hillary Clinton's vote in favor of giving President Bush a blank check to launch his unprovoked assaults against both Iraq and the Constitution. It's my suspicion that Hillary truly believed that these were bad ideas but didn't have the guts to cast the right vote. I believe she was afraid that Republicans would tar her as soft on "national security" and she didn't want to give them that. Because she did the wrong thing to appease them, I'm sure they're going to take it easy on her come summertime if she wins the nomination (rolls eyes).

And that's exactly what's wrong with Hillary Clinton. She's spent seven years as my senator desperately trying to not give the Republicans ammunition for the presidential bid we all knew would happen eventually. Even though the most politically unsavvy person knew that they were going to pillory her anyway, no matter how conservative her voting record as an elected official was.

I say good for Barack Obama. Guts means saying what's right to an unfriendly audience. Cowardice is voting for the wrong thing not because you believe it's right but because someone might call you meanie names.

If one's most important experience is cowardice when it most matters, then maybe that's not the kind of experience one should want from their prospective commander-in-chief.

I will not vote for anyone whose objective is to win Ann Coulter's support, however backhanded it may be. I will not vote for a corporate tool for president, regardless of whether there's a D or R or Z or X or V after their name.

The corporatists desperately want Hillary. So Obama is the only chance to prevent the them from completely emasculating what little progressivism is left in the Democratic Party. Eight years of Clinton II will surely finish what Clinton I got rolling.

Obama's the only chance to get a semi-decent candidate out of one of the major parties. If you're a Democrat and don't want your party to become as corporate-owned as the Republicans (they're pretty close as it is already but Hillary would seal the deal), then please vote for Obama.

But my preference for Obama is not solely based on the fact that he's not Hillary Clinton. I actually think he might make a decent president.

In this time of America's tattered international reputation, it's even more important to have a president who actually has a worldview. A worldview beyond "let's bomb the hell out of (devil country of the month)." A president with a worldview will be better able to challenge advisors. A president without a worldview will swallow whole hog whatever bill of goods advisors are trying to sell. Witness the last eight years.

It's important to have a president that can truly engage with other countries, rather than acting like we have a God-given right to their subservience. If a candidate thinks she has a God-given right to the female vote or the Latino vote or the gay vote, then that Bushesque sense of entitlement will carry over into governance and foreign policy.

What I like about Obama is that when he addresses foreign policy questions, he actually betrays that most mocked of emotions in political circles: empathy. He actually tries to put himself in the shoes of other people. I don't doubt that's related to the fact that he's lived in a developing country (Indonesia) and has roots in another (Kenya).

There's no doubt in my mind that as president, his judgment would be wisened by this humanity... something that has been sorely lacking in the White House for a long time and something that none of the other candidates have had the guts to show on foreign policy questions whatsoever.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hell hath no fury like the parent of a wannabe prima donna athlete scorned

The high school hockey hazing scandal I reported and commented on earlier still hasn't made the local paper's print edition, but through no fault of the daily. The Post-Star has contacted several of the parties, including one of my sources, but are having trouble getting anyone to talk on the record. And this is understandable. The victim's parents wants to protect their kid from further harassment. The perpetrators' parents presumably don't want their family name dragged through the mud... though if charges are pressed, this will happen anyway. The administration is trying to cover its rear end over what appears to be gross negligence over the course of several years.

However, while the paper hasn't got enough information for a print story, it has posted some information on its high school hockey blog (both here and here). The school district in question, as some readers of my blog have already figured out, is South Glens Falls.

I'm not going to re-hash the whole issue again. But I will say this. In the paper's hockey blog, I made the following prediction:

The worst part about it is that when the Post-Star is finally able to publish this article, we all know exactly what’s going to happen: the persecution complex. There will be tons of letters blaming the evil paper for slandering the town and attacking the poor innocent perps. The real victim (kid who was subjected to it) is going to get even more crap than he is now. Worst of all, the perps are going to be treated as martyrs. There’s going to be mass amnesia about who actually did something wrong, who had wrong done to them and who was exposing the wrong. You can take it to the bank that this lunacy is what’ll happen.

That was the third comment on that particular entry. The following ten comments contain several examples proving me right... even before the print article has been published.

There was plenty of idiocy in these comments that I won't bother re-hashing. But there is one that I can't ignore.

I read many political blogs and forums. I've read hundreds of crazy, assinine, mind boggling comments over the years. I've received the occassional screed comment on this blog. I have a pretty thick skin for that sort of thing. But this comment by someone calling themselves "SGF Parent" made me lose it:

The student who was “victimized” was also a participant. Don’t you think ALL students involved should be suspended? That would include the one who spoke out…otherwise this punishment is discriminatory - and what kind of lesson does that teach our children?

So let's recap: the victim was also a "participant" so he should be suspended for being victimized? The kid who spoke out* against both the school's athletic code of conduct and the law should be suspended too?

(*-according to my sources, the kid who spoke out was not the victim.)

Just think about this for a second.

A kid who was repeatedly assaulted should be punished for being repeatedly assaulted.

A kid who spoke out about this repeated illegal activity should also be punished for speaking out about this repeated illegal activity.

Now if your jaw didn't break when it hit the ground and you're still conscious, what is your reaction?

My reaction is that the perps should be thankful they were only suspended and had their asses thrown in jail for their felony behavior.

If this scumbag is telling his/her son that this sort obscene anti-social behavior is perfectly acceptable, that the son can assault people repeatedly and then say it was the victim's fault, then the parent should have his/her children taken away and should not be allowed to reproduce anymore.

One of the reasons some kids commit suicide (or go Columbine) is because disgraceful human beings like "SGF Parent" excuse, or even justify, the sort of repeated degradation suffered by this South High hockey player.

As far as I'm concerned, "SGF Parent" and those who share those sentiments can go hell. Maybe the conduct down there will be more to their liking.

Update: According to sources, the South High coach apparently did quite a bit of investigating on his own about the shenanigans that had gone on even before he took over and continued. But he was hamstrung by the odd structure of the program: parents and fundraising finance the team. So the coach's authority to reprimand players was undermined by this funding structure. Additionally, I've learned that parents of a few of the perpetrators are livid at their children... which I suppose holds out a little hope that sanity might prevail.