Thursday, December 24, 2009

Times-Union 33% closer to oblivion

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Exhibit A on why we need real multipartyism

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

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

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tis the season for consumerism

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sick of/from lobbying

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

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

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

*Global Voices -- France: The Day Without Immigrants

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

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

*AlterNet -- Social Action in Copenhagen Rivals Seattle Protest

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

*HumanityNews -- Nigeria: YarAdua Illness Raises Succession Fears

*Africannewsfeed: Cell phones cut maternal deaths in Ghana

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mass transit popular despite clueless opposition

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Republican legislator for civil rites explains her position

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Revised commenting policy

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

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

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

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

Bhopal, 25 years on

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here..

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

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Can marriage survive these chumps?

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

NY Senate kills civil rights' bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

An open letter to the lords of the press

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

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

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

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

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

Lovingly yours,
The (Fairly) Young Contrarian

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Guinean pro-democracy march in NYC on Dec. 8

Republished with permission from Friends of Guinea blog.

From: Alliance Guinea

This is far from over - the latest news out of Guinea is a proposed deal that would have the CNDD junta heading a "national transition council" for up to 10 months and open the door for Dadis to stand in elections. At the same time, the UN is beginning the work of the international commission of inquiry into the crimes of September 28, but it's clear that more international pressure against the military and support for the population is needed.

Here in New York Alliance Guinea has joined forces with the Guinean Forces Vives in the US and our friends Kadiatou Diallo and Norman Siegel of the Amadou Diallo Foundation to form the "September 28 Coalition for Justice and Democracy in Guinea."

Together we are organizing a march and rally on Tuesday, December 8 from 11am - 3pm to demand justice for the crimes committed and support for a speedy and democratic transition to civilian rule in Guinea. At 11am we will gather in front of the Guinean consulate at 140 E. 39th St., marching then to 47th Street and rallying by noon at Dag Hammarskjold Park in front of the United Nations. See Stay tuned for a list of expected speakers.

If you live far from New York and cannot join us in person, here are two things you can still do:

1. Make a donation – help us offset the cost of the rally (permits, transport, stage & sound system costs, etc.) through our new online giving button at Check it out and pass the word – every gift counts!

2. Write a letter (again!) to your local newspaper or Congressperson/Member of Parliament and tell them about the march and how the latest news out of Guinea confirms the critical need for international pressure and support is critical to getting justice and preventing what could spiral into civil war. For sample letters and other tips, see

And if you are in the New York area and can’t make it during lunch hour on Tuesday, don’t miss for what is going to be an amazing "Musique contre la Violence" unity night in Harlem on December 9 at 8pm at Shrine in Harlem with some of the greatest masters of Guinean music living in America and guest speakers from the September 28 Coalition.

The situation in Guinea is just as dire as ever, and justice must be served and the military must go. As those of us here in the US gather for Thanksgiving this week, let us give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy and continue to do all we can to help our friends and family enjoy the same.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Senate incompetence threatens to bankrupt NYS

Bob over at Planet Albany blasts the "astonishing irresponsibility" of the New York legislature. Unusually, he's engaging in understatement.

The state is literally running out of money, he writes, and the Legislature refuses to do anything about it. The focus, especially in the Senate, is entirely on the politics of next year's elections.

That's not entirely true.

Part of the focus of the senate (it doesn't merit the dignity of a capital 'S') is using media like Twitter to engage in childish trash talk toward the only adult in Albany, Governor Paterson.

A recent Tweet: Sens Sampson & Skelos commit 2 bipartisan work 2 negotiate a responsible DRP that's better than the Gov's

Apparently the phrase "nyah nyah nyah" would've made it run over the allotted 140 characters.

If the governor tweeted, he'd probably reply, "i dare u 2 put up or shut up."

The governor recently urged the senate to either pass a deficit reduction plan of their own or let him do it. He basically told them to stop yapping and start doing. Stop preening for the cameras. Stop talking smack on Twitter. Start passing a comprehensive and responsible plan. Most New Yorkers would agree with him.

The senate blasted him for having the temerity to suggest that someone should actually show the courage and leadership to do what needs to be done.

The Tweet concluded with Senate stands at ease, which is unnecessary as they've been doing so for most of the year.

The senate may be focused only on next year's elections, as Bob suggests. But at this rate, they are doing far more to enhance the governor's re-election prospects than their own.

Update: The Post-Star ran a good editorial today echoing the sentiments of myself and many other New Yorkers entitled quite simply, "Governor gets it, legislators don’t." It notes that the governor has made it easier for local governments to consolidate and share services. I think we should take consolidation one step further. Let's eliminate the senate and go to a unicameral legislature like Nebraska has.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


On this holiday, I am thankful for those humanitarian aid workers, development workers, Peace Corps volunteers and others who are sacrificing and often putting themselves in harm's way to make our world a better place.

Monday, November 23, 2009

You can't make this stuff up

So I was listening to WAMC's The Media Project this afternoon. The commentators, including Times-Union editor Rex Smith, were complaining about news stories about animals.

And not more than a few minutes later, I saw a news article on The Times-Union's website about... a fake animal.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The public nothing

I am starting to agree with the objections of those who rage at the thought of paying so that someone who needs it can receive health care. I will use that logic to see if I, as a non-driver, can get a rebate on my taxes that subsidize the interstates.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Far right candidate needs to put up or shut up (updated)

NY23 Congressional candidate Doug Hoffman has officially lost his marbles.

A few days ago, he "unconceded" his election defeat to now-inaugurated Bill Owens after recanvassing showed that the race was tighter than originally thought. Al Gore unconceded to George W. Bush, so Hoffman's un-concession is unusual but not that unreasonable.

But his more recent comments are, at best, completely reckless.

In a fundraising letter, he is now accusing Democrats, ACORN and unions of stealing the election, of "tampering with democracy."

He does not offer one iota of evidence to back up his fantastical claims. This failure not only calls into question the credibility of his claims, but his personal integrity.

I realize that it was a fundraising letter and that he was no doubt just making sure to tick off each one of the far right's favorite boogeymen (though he did forget to bash the media). But to make such serious claims without providing a shred of evidence is not simply 'irresponsible,' as NCPR's Brian Mann claims, it's borderline defamatory.

Hoffman should either provide evidence to back up his serious accusations or retract them.

Update: In recanvasing the voting machines in Jefferson County, they discovered that there had been a recording error that benefited Hoffman to the tune of 1000 or so votes. Who's "they"? According to the GOP Elections Commissioner in the county, it was the DEMOCRATIC Elections Commissioner who discovered and reported the discrepency that ended up hurting the Democrat and benefiting the Conservative/Republican. If it's a conspiracy, it's a pretty poorly executed one. Hopefully, this divisive, clueless joke of a candidate disappears from the scene.

Economic development for consultants?

The Post-Star did a story on the Glens Falls' mayor's desire to hire a full-time economic development director at an $80,000 a year salary. It was noted that the proposed economic development budget for next year was $308,000... almost 2 percent of the entire city budget.

So apparently, the city "needs" to hire an economic development director IN ADDITION to its business/tourism director and its part-time economic development consultant.

This all is IN ADDITION to the city's Industrial Development Agency (which itself is in addition to the bi-county IDA) as well as city's Local Development Corporation.

I wish someone (maybe a media outlet) would do an analysis on what kind of return on investment these positions/bodies have generated in recent years and if the city of 13,000 needs six different entities doing economic development.

Update: Commenter Matthew adds: "The thing that was making me scratch my head was that this new guy is being paid more than the highest paid elected official by over $20K." (aka: over 30 percent more)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do mom and pop wine shops support their own extinction?

An ad on the website of The Daily News pointed out this website.

It claims It is time for New York to support small businesses throughout the state, from Upstate family farms to mom and pop wine shops.

Yet in fact, it calls for support of a bill that would allow wine and liquor sales in mega chain supermarkets, something that "mom and pop wine shops" can't be too thrilled about.

Its deceit is further evidenced by repeated use of the phrase "Big Liquor Myth" to hammer home its dubious pretense to represent small wine shops.

This group, which is backed by the mega chain supermarkets, claims that "Big Liquor" (whatever that means) is opposed to this change. But it also claims that sales of alcohol would skyrocket if this change were implemented. So why would the mythical "Big Liquor" oppose something that would see liquor sales increase?

Whether you support or oppose the sale of wine and liquor in mega chain supermarkets, this self-interested deceit is something that we could do without.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Milk processors squeeze farmers, gouge customers

It looks like the thieves at National Grid are not the only ones gouging customers. The Associated Press reports that New York farmers are getting record low payments for milk [even though] consumers are seeing just a fraction of the savings.

The health insurance debate

I wish people would stop referring to the current debate as having to do with "health care reform." To the questionable extent that it constitutes "reform," the bill winding its way through Congress is about private health INSURANCE. It has little to with how health CARE is delivered.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Laramie Project in HF

Kudos to the drama club over at Hudson Falls High School for putting on the play The Laramie Project (and I suppose, to administrators for ok'ing it). It's certainly a gutsy topic to tackle in a conservative, blue collar small town. Performances are tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm, all the the HF high school auditorium.

Ignorance or deceit?

A follow up to yesterday's essay...

Today, The Post-Star ran yet another editorial blasting Queensbury school district's spending. And the numbers, the FACTS, I've provided them several times appeared nowhere in the piece.

It's not just that they won't change their editorial position. It's that they refuse to acknowledge the existence of a very important piece of information that seems to seriously undermines their position (and if it doesn't, they should at least explain why).

At first, I just assumed they were ill-informed. They no longer have that excuse now. What they're doing, I'm sorry to say, is now a lot closer to deceit.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don't let facts interfere with your rant (pt. 823)

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

Probably more than any local school district, Queensbury UFSD has been in the firing line by the local Post-Star daily for its spending habits. Most recently here, in the blog of the paper's supremo Ken Tingley.

Yet the Albany Times-Union's Capitol Confidential blog provided numbers that told a very different story. It cited a report by the Education Intelligence Agency which compiled spending numbers for the 2006-07 school year.

The report showed that Queensbury (#142 on the list) spent $10,819 per pupil, which is one of the LOWEST spending rates in the state and is 32.3% BELOW the state average... despite generally having an excellent academic reputation.

The amount the distrct spent per pupil on compensation was also one of the lowest in the state and was 29.8% below the state average.

Good education (within the parameters of how it's defined in this country) for a low per-pupil cost. In any other context, this would be called efficiency. So, Post-Star, what exactly is the problem? I left this same observation on Tingley's blog but he hasn't responded, so who knows what his/their thought process is.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

May the VFW disappear

Let's hope, on this Veterans Day, that the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization becomes obsolete in 50 years.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Taste of Zimbabwe in Albany

I received information about a fundraiser in Albany, NY to support girls in Zimbabwe made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. It is sponsored by the Dangwa Initiative and the Rotary Club of the Empire Plaza.

A Taste of Zimbabwe will be held on Friday November 20 from 7:00 pm until midnight at The Linda (WAMC Performing Arts Studio).

It will feature living Zimbabwean music by Fafi 3 Percent, the sale of Shona sculptures and Zimbabwean cuisine.

Donation is $25 for adults, $20 for students ($35 at the door).

For reservations, please call (518) 459-2914 or email: info @

You can pay online at:

Or you can mail checks (payable to: FCNY/Dangwa Initiative) to:

Dangwa Initiative
PO Box 5125
Albany, NY 12205

For further information, you can call Teresa at (518) 221-9423

Fining people for being poor is NOT better than nothing

As someone who cares about human beings after they reach the post-fetal state, I'm left to wonder about reaction to what some are calling the HMO bailout by Congressional Democrats.

The so-called health care reform bill that passed the House would add an inadequate but tolerable in the short-term public option. But since the public option is the only part of the bill that would even modestly reform health care access, it's almost guaranteed to be emasculated in the Senate, where the "progressive" party holds a crushing 59-seat majority.

The rest of the bill has some things that would make needed, but small improvements to a badly broken system. These should be passed separately. However, by themselves, they are little more than putting slightly more comfortable deck chairs on the Titanic.

There has been much outrage by liberals and progressives against Democrats who voted against this "reform" bill. But I'm left to wonder if the criticisms are serious on the merit of the bill or simply a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that Republicans and Joe Lieberman hate it.

The bill's most unconscionable provision would levy fines against people who did not have health insurance. Essentially, this provision would punish people for being in difficult economic circumstances. It would fine people for being unable to afford insurance

I can't see how anyone who calls him/herself progressive can possibly support something that would fine people for being poor.

It's not the working class who would benefit from this health care "reform" sham, from being compelled to buy garbage they can't afford. It's the private insurance companies who would see a huge boon in revenues because the government would be forcing people to buy their crap.

Insurance companies have never cured an illness, sutured a wound or repaired a broken bone. They do not provide health care. All they do is shift around money and take their 30 percent cut. How they have this much power is a testament to corporate suffocation of what was once democratic governance.

Opposing this bill on this basis is not, as often derided, letting "the perfect be the enemy of the good." It's not some trifling objection. It's fundamental.

According to Democratic rhetoric, the purpose of the bill is to make health care more accessible and more affordable. Fining people for being poor necessarily makes health care for those people LESS accessible and LESS affordable. And for that reason alone, the bill should be opposed as long as this unconscionable provision is part of it.

Update: According to Wikipedia*: It is estimated that approximately 60 percent of poor Americans are not covered by Medicaid.

(*-the source link doesn't seem to work)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Lushes (of the non-teen variety) have an advocate on the corner of Cooper and Lawrence

Editorials speak not just about the positions of a newspaper, but about its priorities. As I've mentioned on this blog many times, New York state electoral law is badly rigged in favor of Democrats and Republicans (as well as their factions: the fake parties of the Working Families and Conservative Parties) by putting obscene hurdles to participation by smaller parties and independents.

The Post-Star has often espoused as "throw the bums out" editorial line with regard to the legislature in Albany but has never seen fit to link that to broader electoral reform that would enable much-needed real multipartyism. Yet yesterday, the daily ran what is at least their second editorial denouncing bureaucratic problems of the state Liquor Authority; there have been several investigative news articles on the topic as well.

Based on their editorial judgement, having increased options to buy a bottle of Wild Turkey or Absolut seems a far more important priority to the paper than multiparty democracy.

This is particularly ironic considering that one of their other editorial crusades is against teen... drinking.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Moderate GOP legislator receives death threats by self-styled patriots

Fallout continues to rain down in the aftermath of the 23rd Congressional District of New York special election. The far right spin is that the 23rd was a victory for them that a registered Republican with a national following and funding lost a two-person race in a region with huge Republican advantage that hadn't sent a Democrat to Congress since before the Civil War to an unknown supposed Nancy Pelosi clone.

And that speaks volumes. It was more important for the far right jihadists to purge the party of infidels than to win the race with a candidate who agree with them on most issues.

That's why the far right ran not against Dede Scozzafava and the now-elected Bill Owens, but against the presence of moderates in the GOP and against the House Speaker. And it didn't work. Even in conservative (but pragmatic) upstate, the "Owen=Pelosi" smear wasn't enough to overcome the far right candidate's strident ideology, hatemongering and often bald-faced lying national backers and wilful ignorance of local issues.

Upstate NY Republican Assemblywomen Scozzafava and Janet Duprey both gave interviews to North Country Public Radio in which they wondered if there were still a place for moderates in the GOP. A third, Teresa Sayward, seems to wonder the same.

Sayward, Scozzafava and Duprey align with the Republican mainstream on most issues. But to the jihadists, politicians are judged solely on two: abortion and gay marriage. Anyone who varies from theocratic orthodoxy on either of those two issues is a "liberal" heretic to be burned at the stake. By contrast, "pro-life" frauds not only have no problem supporting pols who advocate state murder (the death penalty) or bloody wars of aggression without the slightest sense of contradiction, but do so eagerly and with startling regularity.

What's most notable is that all three of these Assemblywomen voted in favor of gay marriage during the last legislative session, Sayward famously giving an impassioned plea based on her status as the mother of a gay son. And yet none of the three received either a primary or general election challenger in last November's race. Further evidence that upstate may be conservative temperamentally but without the frothing-at-the-mouth ideological fervor that the far right wants to believe.

Probably the most disturbing part of the Duprey interview is her claim that she's received not just hate emails, but threats of physical violence. This is the edge to the far right that is extremely disturbing. According to media reports, President Obama has received far more death threats than any previous president. There certainly are strident left-wing ideologues, but they are typically derided by opponents as pacifists and sissies, not the groups most likely to commit violence to achieve political objectives. If the far right wants to marginalize the Republican Party into irrelevance, that's certainly its democratic prerogative. But it's one thing to threaten to take a politician out at the voting booth. It's quite another to threaten to just take him/her out.

And while there's certainly tension and harsh words within the Democratic Party as well, I don't know of anyone who's threatened to kill against Joe Lieberman or Max Baucus.

Update: Just to show that nastiness and vitriol is not unique to the right. From a newsletter...

We're not pulling punches. We need to turn up the pressure on any senator who might be a Turncoat Democrat who supports a Republican filibuster. It's time to bring back our hard-hitting ad pressuring Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to support a public option. If we raise $100,000 by Thursday, we can blanket the airwaves and turn up the pressure for Mary Landrieu back home before she decides how to vote in D.C.

Does it make me a "turncoat progressive" that I don't support the Democrats' HMO bailout that would fine people for being poor?

Friday, November 06, 2009

A letter to Congressman Murphy on health care [guest essay]

by Ben L.

(also see his essay America's Great Healthcare Denial of Service)

Dear Representative Murphy,

I would like to tell you my story, which is only a small horror story in the context of this wretched system of wasteful, greedy health care in the US. Hopefully, there is a tipping point where the people make their will known for a simple, effective system. Everyone should have access to care.

This year, my health care provider (HMO to PPO) changed from MVP to United Healthcare. Since then I am left to the wolves for fighting for benefits that they promised to me and then denied. I can see no mechanism that punishes them for the denials -- only their own benefit of stealing money from their members, from providers, from institutions.

I have Crohn's Disease. It is a chronic disease that requires medication to keep my condition from going into painful inflammation.

In October of 2008, I began trying to verify with United Healthcare (UHC) what my out-of-pocket expenses would be for covering Remicade infusions (for treatment of Crohn's Disease). After many phone calls, I received assurances in January of 2009 that the procedure would be coded and billed as an office visit and I would be responsible only for the co-pay. At this time I was coordinating services through Gastroenterology Associates of Northern NY in Glens Falls (through Dr. Michael Chase) as well as Glens Falls Hospital.

In April, I received a bill from Glens Falls Hospital for $1,677.09. This was for my first Remicade infusion for the year. The relevant UHC claim is [number].

A subsequent infusion was performed on 3/17/2009 and I again was billed using this different criteria. This time patient responsibility is set at $603.24 and UHC is now saying that this is the remainder of the maximum out of pocket expense for the year. (Although, actually I have been billed for $645 more because my gastroenterologist who I thought was in-network is out of network even though there are no local gastroenterologists in network, there is a different out-of-network out-of-pocket maximum than the in-network out-of-pocket-maximum -- this has subsequently been resolved after 3 appeals with UHC and another appeal through Tribune Company who actually self-insures the plan with UHC administering).

Although the hospital expenses appear to be a difference in how the billing is coded, I have not been given any direction or opportunity or redress to get them coded in a manner that is compliant with how I was described this process would work (and what my payment responsibility would be) as consistent with what I was told at the beginning of the year. For Dr. Chase’s bill, I was told that I would be able to obtain a waiver because there are no in-network gastroenterologists, but this has been refused in appeals with UHC.

I would like to get this figured out soon as I am getting a lot of bills that I do not feel I should be responsible for with “Past Due” and “Final Notice” on them. These bills in question are:

Glens Falls Hospital service date 1/20/2009 $1,677.09
acct# [number]

Glens Falls Hospital service date 3/17/2009 $603.24
acct# [number]

I am in the bad debt file over in the hospital and have 30 days to resolve the matter (pay the debt, set up a payment plan, etc.).

Please, please, please do something to reform this system, rife with abuse so people who are sick are not attacked by predatory corporations.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Local mill leading national polluter, says group

The Post-Star reports that Glens Falls' paper mill Finch Pruyn is the nation's 6th largest polluter of cancer-causing chemicals, the leading polluter in New York state. According to the group Environment America, Finch released into the Hudson River 26,541 pounds of carcinogens, the vast majority of which was formaldehyde.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Conservative in politics, liberal with the truth

Perhaps it's no surprise that someone endorsed by Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck would, to be polite, play fast and loose with the facts... especially after a campaign where he showed so little grasp of them. But maybe Hoffman ought follow Palin's advice (something the vice-presidential candidate never quite did) and "quit makin' stuff up."

Monday, November 02, 2009

Guide to judicial candidates

Adirondack Almanack has a useful guide to local judicial candidates for the state Supreme Court* as well as a link to a statewide guide.

*-The Supreme Court is actually the lowest level (trial) court in the New York state system and its justices are elected.

"Stalinists" for "McHugh's heir"?

Over the weekend, the Republican-endorsed candidate for the special election in New York's 23rd Congressional district Dede Scozzafava pulled out of the race. The race was provoked when GOP Rep. John McHugh was tapped by Pres. Obama to become Secretary of the Army.

Scozzzafava spent much of the campaign defending herself from a barrage of attacks by Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and other far right national media types who backed her Republican-running-as-a-Conservative opponent Doug Hoffman. For his part, Hoffman was widely accused of being a generic ideologue who knew very little about and talked very little of issues that affect the district. This was fueled by his decision to skip both public debates held during the campaign, the first of which he snubbed to get cozy with Beck on his show.

Hoffman and the national far right that backed and funded him weren't running against Scozzafava and Democrat Bill Owens, who most couldn't tell from Eve and Adam. These jihadists were crusading against infidel RINOs and against satanic Nancy Pelosi. Democrats were no doubt licking their chops at this GOP self-cannibalization, hoping the party will become even more marginalized than it is now.

As Adirondack Almanack pointed out, on the day of Scozzafava's withdrawal, Hoffman said warm and fuzzy things about the woman he spent months savaging. Hoffman had initially promised to accept the wishes of the GOP party bosses in the nominating process; then when they tapped Scozzafava to be the nominee, he renegged on that promise. That history didn't stop him from piously praising Scozzafava for putting the party ahead of her own personal interests.

But then the Republican Assemblywoman endorsed Owens as the best man to represent the district's interests. As the only candidate in the race who'd ever actually had the job of representing the interests of any voters, her opinion wasn't insiginificant.

Suddenly Hoffman decided that he and Dede were no longer BFF!!!... forever being an even shorter time in politics than in adolescence.

Reactions to the developments varied on ideological beliefs. The New York Times' Frank Rich described the national activists on Hoffman's behalf as "Stalinists." Anti-abortion blogger Bob Conner at Planet Albany says that the "pro-life" (read: anti-abortion) Hoffman is the real heir to John McHugh on abortion.

Hopefully the voters of the 23rd (which do not include Rich, Conner or myself) will finally be allowed to make up their own minds without further meddling from outsiders.

Update: Planet Albany's Conner reports that top Republicans in the state Assembly are backing Hoffman. Controlling a whopping 26.7% of the chamber's seats, Assembly Republicans are no doubt the model of 'ideological purity = electoral success' that Hoffman and his far right backers are seeking to emulate.

Yes on NYS Constitutional Proposal #1

North Country Public Radio's blog has a piece on the two proposals to amend New York's state constitution that will appear on the ballot tomorrow.

Proposal #1 is a state land swap with the National Grid power conglomerate that would provide for more reliable electricity to the Tupper Lake area.

Proposal #2 would allow prisoners to voluntarily do work for non-profits.

The Watertown Daily Times decided to endorse both proposals.

Proposal #1 was strongly pushed for by local officials. But the move also has the broad support of the environmentalist community, getting the thumbs up from the the Adirondack Council. Environmental groups support the swap because it would, in the Council's words, avoid an environmentally disastrous six-mile detour through the woods... the detour would involve road construction through an old-growth forest, 95 streams and wetlands, and habitat for the endangered spruce grouse.

Don't forget to vote on these proposals tomorrow. They're usually at the very top of the ballot.

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 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


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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

At least there's one person in NYS with the guts to make tough decisions

Not that he hasn't caused some of his own problems, but I feel a little bad for Gov. Paterson. He was wildly popular back when he was telling people what they wanted to hear. But when he started putting his talk into words, he found out that people are hypocrites. They want politicians to TALK about fiscal restraint but flip out when they actually try to PRACTICE fiscal restraint. A 'vital program' is one that helps you. 'Wasteful spending' is one that helps someone else.

Paterson is trying to address a huge budget deficit with an incompetent and crooked legislature. But all the media chattering class has been able to focus on is presidential body language, cheap shots at the governor's disability, incessant-polls-as-a-substitute-for-news and two stupid little soap operas (one surrounding the petty little melodrama of a Kennedy family member scorned and the other regarding the ambitions of a former Kennedy family member).

New Yorkers are facing skyrocketing property taxes and the media's more interested in diving the meaning of a presidential embrace.

I guess that's the difference between having the responsibility to govern and sitting in the peanut gallery.

Note: WAMC's Capitol Connection has a good half hour interview with the governor.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

120+ massacred as Guinean insecurity forces attack protesters

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..

(Reprinted with permission from Friends of Guinea blog)

Initial optimism about the new regime [in Guinea] has faded dramatically ever since junta leader Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara reneged on a promise to not participate in presidential elections scheduled for January 31.

A new political party, the Rally for the Defense of the Republic, was formed to back the military leader's candidacy. After Dadis, who unilaterally declared himself president following the death of Gen. Lansana Conté, broke his pledge not to run for the chief executive, the African Union imposed sanctions on Guinea.

Anti-Dadis has been rising ever since the coup leader's electoral ambitions became clear. He was met by huge protests when he visited Labé, the country's second largest city. And when the opposition tried to organize a rally against the regime, the junta banned it.

When the demonstration proceeded anyway, the "security" forces fired live ammunition at the crowd, reportedly killing dozens of demonstrators.

"It's butchery! There are dozens of dead," a Conakry doctor told the French news agency AFP.

Some media outlets reporting the death total as high as 87.

Another Conakry doctor told the IRIN news agency that there were 'hundreds' of injuries from bullets and beatings.

The massacre occurred on the 51st anniversary of the referendum in which Guineans voted for independence from France.

Update: Al-Jazeera reports that opposition leader and former prime minister Cellou Dalien Diallo and several other politicians were thrown in jail. A source indicated to me that Diallo was also shot during the protests. New reports suggest the death toll now exceeds 120.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Weimar and Quebec

Does anyone know of any good books on either La Révolution tranquille (Quiet Revolution) in Quebec or on the Weimar Republic? Any on the Quiet Revolution can be either in French or English. I'm looking for something that's about Weimar in its own right and not so much about it being relegated into a subsection about the Nazis' rise to power.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy International Day of Peace

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

"Socialism" and health insurance

I'm getting increasingly annoyed at hearing people who already receive taxpayer-funded health insurance or care call it "socialism" when it's proposed that everyone else receive the same thing. Basically, they want working Americans to pay, at least in part, for their health care but object to having to reciprocate. I believe something like 70 million Americans receive either Medicare, Medicaid or VA care. If you add that number to everyone who works in the public sector (federal, state and local bureaucrats, prison guards, soldiers, teachers, etc), the number of people who receive taxpayer-funded health insurance or care has to be close to, if not actually, a majority of Americans.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The health care status quo being defended

Insurance costs have increased 131 percent since 1999... That supercharged growth rate far outpaces the 38 percent increase in wages and 28 percent growth of inflation over the same period. -McClatchy Newspapers

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Local Democratic Congressman wants to fine the poor for being poor

One of the blogs at has an entry on local Congressman Scott Murphy's support for mandatory private health insurance. In doing so, the Democrat has managed a way to support just about the only thing that would actually make the present health care system worse.

Mandatory health insurance can work only within the context of Medicare for All (single payer). Anything else essentially punishes the poor and middle class for not being well off.

From what I understand, and please correct me if I'm wrong, the plan Murphy supports would fine people thousands of dollars for the "crime" of not being able to afford health insurance. In other words, you punish those who've hit hard times for the "crime" of... having hit hard times.

You'd think it was devised by Ebenezer Scrooge.

Mandatory insurance scheme does have one great beneficiary: the private insurance lobby.

Some have compared the plan to auto insurance, which is also obligatory. But there are two main differences.

Auto insurance is mandatory not to protect you, but rather to protect someone you might crash in to. The purpose of health insurance is to protect yourself.

Further, auto insurance is not mandatory for everyone. It's only mandatory if you drive. If you can't afford auto insurance, then you can take your car off the road and not drive. Does this mean that if you can't afford mandatory health insurance, you can just stop breathing?

Murphy claims, "The critical thing though is that if you do that you’ve got to have affordable policies out there for people. There’s got to be an option that they can afford that is available to them."

But if you live paycheck to paycheck or are in dire straits, then it's quite possible that no policy, however cheap, will be affordable. Perhaps our multimillionaire venture capitalist Congressman doesn't have a clue what "affordable" means to ordinary, working Americans.

In this sense, mandatory insurance with fines is actually WORSE than the present system because it takes money away from something they might need (food, shelter, electricity) and forces them to put it toward something they may or may not use at some distant point in the future... and that even if they do use, they will have to pay further expenses like co-pays and deductibles.

Medicare for All works because everyone else props up those who have fallen on difficult times. Workers pay taxes which go into a pool that covers everybody.

Yes, it means that you're partly paying for someone else: children, seniors, the less well off. This is how every social program works: the cost of collective programs is spread out collectively. The taxes I indirectly pay via my rent are used to educate kids, even though I have none. They are used to pay firefighters even though I've never had to call them. My income taxes are used to provide Medicare for senior citizens, even though won't be one for decades, and highways even though I don't drive.

I don't wave my hands hysterically and scream "theft" because some day I may have kids, some day I may have a fire in my building and hopefully some day I'll be old.

There are certain things everyone pays for and everyone has access to its benefits.

Libertarians and conservatives like to claim that Medicare for All won't work because the government is evil/incompetent and can't do anything right. Let's extend that logic further. We have universal, taxpayer funded national security. Let's disband the military! We have universal, taxpayer funded public safety. Dismantle all local and state police forces and all sherrif's departments. If people want to be safe, let them pay for their own private security forces or mercenaries! I'm waiting for someone to advocate this.

Fining someone for being poor is about as despicable a thing as I can think of. It's so ludicrous you'd think it was some Swiftian parody of the sort of cruelty liberals like to impute to those heartless conservatives. What can be most heartless than this?

You'd think it was a parody until you realize that it's being pushed the Democratic Party, the organization that has the gall to refer to itself as "the party of the people."

I guess to the Democrats, there are no people other than insurance company shareholders with their corporate "donations"/bribes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Subscribe to blog updates on Twitter

You can get updates to my general blog Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian and my Africa blog Black Star Journal on the microblogging service Twitter.

Just follow the username: mofycbsj

Or go to the link:

Any time I post to either blog, I post a title on Twitter and link to the piece.

One advantage of Twitter is that I can easily repost ("Re-Tweet" or RT) articles and essays from a wide variety of other sources. I do so for pieces that I find interesting but do not necessarily have the time to compose an essay of my own commenting on it; in other cases, they are so well-written or compelling that they speak for themselves.

Some recent RTs I've shared:

"How British invented 'development' during WWII as propaganda to defend colonialism & cover up racism," from Bill Easterly, a professor and development expert with whom I've sparred on the pages of Foreign Policy;

"African famines examined," from Public Radio International's The World;

"Could we improve care by changing the way we pay doctors?" from The Christian Science Monitor online;

"Internet access and telecommuting in the Adirondacks," from North Country Public Radio and featuring an interview with Adirondack Almanack founder and contributor John Warren.

Check it out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Not quite getting the concept

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

Kanye West, Serena Williams, Congressman Liar, anti-health care reform mobs, screaming replacing intelligent debate... when Marx wrote of a "classless society," I'm pretty sure this isn't what he meant.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"

I've really become bored with the tired political theater that passes for debate in this country. Or really disillusioned is a better word.

'Intellectual' has rarely been a word to describe political debate in America, but facts, principles and critical thinking should occasionally make an appearance.

Theater is an inherent part of politics. So are emotions. A system driven exclusively by facts with no regard to the non-quantifiable gives us things like eugenics and "scientific socialism," where human life is reduced to a series of mathematical calculations. As often happens in the health insurance industry. Even social Darwinism of the type advocated by Ronald Reagan and his followers spat on the idea that humanity should be a factor in public policy decision. "There is no such thing as society," sniffed Reagan's erstwhile ally Mrs. Thatcher.

But these days, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Theater and unreasoned emotion has come to suffocate politics. No, it's not at all unique in our nation's history. These things tend to ebb and flow. Probably the nastiest election in our nation's history was in 1800, a contest between several of our sainted Founding Fathers. Still, we're at low tide in terms of intelligent national discourse.

People who consider themselves serious tend to take a very self-aggrandizing view of politics. Political junkies stuffily regard themselves as far superior to the ignorant rednecks who like Jerry Springer or the testosterone-driven teenage boys who follow professional wrestling. But is the political mentality really any different than trash TV or the soap opera WWE?

Political "debate" is all about cheap points, about transient "winners" and "losers," rather than affecting people's lives. It's about entertaining rather than enlightening. It's about appealing to their emotions rather than their brains.

The horse race aspect of politics, this little parlor game, has nothing to do with the real lives of real people. Political yap shows, pro wrestling and Jerry Springer really are three different versions of the same thing.

The main difference is that pro wrestling and Jerry Springer have no pretense to a higher sophistication.

Take this week's edition of "Figuring out what molehill can be made into Mount Everest for no other purpose than scoring cheap points in the little parlor game people with comfortable lives and internet/cable access like to engage in."

There are important things the country ought to be obsessing about. The little temper tantrum of some nitwit Congressman from South Carolina is not one of them.

The Congressman apologized for his classless outburst and the president wisely accepted his apology. Yet, defenders of the Congressman and of the president refuse to let this non-issue die.

Hypocrisy abound is why I've tuned out of most political discussion.

If a Democrat had yelled out "You lie" during a Bush address to Congress, the right would've demanded he be sent to Guantanamo for "enhanced interrogation."

By contrast, the Iraqi journalist who called Bush a pig and threw a shoe at him was virtually canonized by the US anti-Bush movement.

The interests of ordinary people seems be absent from political discourse. Even when ordinary people engage in that discourse, they blindly follow the talking points handed down to them by the liberal and conservative establishment, talking points designed solely to distract the masses from what's really important. And it's not just the ignorant and poorly educated folks who allow themselves to be distracted by this nothingness.

"A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." -From Macbeth.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

An informed public requires an informed media (with correction)

A follow up to my earlier essay "They want us to pay for this junk":

In a finger wagging column dated Tuesday, September 08, 2009, the Post-Star's fearless leader Ken Tingley wrote: President Obama will be speaking to the nation tonight at 8 p.m. I like it when presidents address the nation. I think it is important. I think it is our civic duty to sit there and listen. And unfortunately, it is a good bet that more than half of us will be watching something like a Seinfeld re-run. And, yes, there is something wrong with that.

I thought it was the most fundamental duty of journalists to get the facts right.

Pres. Obama may well be one of those watching Seinfeld re-runs tonight Sept. 8, because his address to the nation will be on Sept. 9... tomorrow night.

Correction: I've been informed that this was the result of a technical error. Specifically, that the date stamp reflects when the piece was published to the website, not the date it was published in the newspaper. The phrasing in the piece was presumably written based upon the print publishing date. Hopefully, this is a glitch that the paper's web staff can address. Apologies for the erroneous assumption. Thanks to the source who provided this information.

A dialogue with the irrational

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

Irrational, n.: lacking in reason: contrary to or lacking in reason or logic

I happened to on the Facebook polls section answering a few here and there. It never ceases to amaze and scare me how much vitriol is out there, even more so considering how much of it is based on misinformation and a frightening lack of critical thinking. Poll questions like "Do you agree with the president's plan to ban guns?" I couldn't find it, but I'm sure there's one asking, "Do you agree with the president's plan to make school children chop up aborted fetuses and sprinkle them on top of their salad while they chant Satanic and communist slogans?"

One of the poll questions I responded to asked if you agreed with the decision to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from "government schools." I made the mistake of responding in the forum that this was a bogus question because it hasn't been banned. Some random guy sent me a private response. The result was honestly the most mind-numbing exchange I've ever been a part of.

I've come to believe that the important thing is not what you think but how you think. It's not about your ideology. What's killing this country is the complete deterioration of critical thinking skills, a deterioration aggravated by the fact that there's now an increasing contempt for such skills. "Debate" is no longer about facts or even a logical argument. It's about snark. It's about scoring points on trivialities.

There's all this happy talk about finding common ground and transcending partisanship. But when you can't even agree that facts matter, then how can you ever hope to reconcile differing interpretations of and values applied to those facts?

It's not this guy's ideology or hyper-religiosity that bothers me. What bothers me is his complete rejection of the idea that facts matter, his complete refusal to provide the tiniest scintilla of evidence (even from the media outlet of his choice) to back up his hysterical and dubious allegation, despite his insinuation that this was common knowledge.

I tried to be gentle at first, giving him the benefit of the doubt. But it become clear that he was clinging on to his willful ignorance, which I feel is one of the worst sins.

Here's the mind-numbing exchange, verbatim...

T: The Pledge of Allegiance was removed from the government ran school system because it "offended" too many other religions! Well guess what, to stinkin bad if your offended! This country has been blessed from God for so many years because of how we have supported israel. (Genesis 12:3) And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Me: I have not heard this. Do you have a link to a news organization for this "story"?

T: i have an even easier way for you to find out. how bout you look for yourself. call up a local elementary school in your district and simply ask them? they dont allow it anymore because of an african-american lady that complained about it! im sorry, i dont have a name to who this lady was, but they (the government) allowed the school system to take out the Pledge of Allegiance out of public and i believe even private schools. check it out man, im a christian conservative and i wont lie about something like this.

Me: In other words you can't provide evidence because it's not true. As I figured.

T: well man believe what you want. if you choose to be blind to the truth then thats your choice. you should at least look into it if you want to prove me wrong, but thats your choice. The return of Christ is very, very near friend. if your into the bible and Gods word at all, or have an open-mind to it, read the bible. the bible talks about the ending times and what will happen during this time period. we are living in the moment of what the bible talks about! but, dont take my word for it, check it out yourself! i recommend the King James Version (KJV). take care and God bless!

Me: If this had any relationship to reality, this would've created a HUGE firestorm of media publicity. I live in a very conservative area where every far right molehill is made into Mount Everest. Nothing has been said about it here. To say nothing of the fact that the government can't dictate these things to private schools, which is why religious schools exist in the first place. It's possible it may have happened at one individual school but it's NOT nationwide. I don't expect you're lying. I do expect you're badly misinformed by some hysterical rumor someone else started to get people riled up about nothing. YOU check it out. You're the one making the wild allegation you can't back up. You're the one who will believe something without a single shred of evidence and calls other people "blind to the truth" because they don't believe every wild rumor they hear. Like I said, just because some random person on the Internet that I've never met says something doesn't mean I'm going to automatically believe it's true or that he's fully informed. If you try to back it up, then I'd consider it. I have plenty of reason to believe you're misinformed, but you haven't given me a single reason to believe you might be right. It's that simple.

T: you can believe anything you want. if you live in a conservative area, then your very lucky! i unfortunately dont. the state i live is very liberal and communist! i dont like it at all, but the whole country is socialist now because of the president and his administration. if your younger brother still says the Pledge of Allegiance, quite honestly im surprised! government run schools, or "public schools" teach bs info about global warming, evolution and the big bang theory! they brainwash the youth because there easy to brainwash and the parents dont always know what is being taught! The Pledge of Allegiance HAS been taken out of the majority of public school systems across america! to say that every school has across america, well that i dont know! i dont believe i said that in the first place, but IF i did, i miscommunicated that info! to sit and argue with you all day is a waste of my time and im sure your time. debating i dont mind doing, especially with liberal commies! im glad to hear that where you live they haven't taken the Pledge of Allegiance out yet. however, i warn you about this, they way the government is on this massive power overhaul now, i wouldn't be surprised if they pushed for that in your area in the near future! i hate saying that, but it would not surprise me! one other thing quickly, i dont mind being PROVEN wrong if they fact are there and i do enjoy debating. i also support God and His word and believe in the freedoms in which our founding fathers fought and died for. for all that and MY opinion, i am very well hated because of my right-wing terroristic views of the country i love! take care once again, and my God be with you and yours!

Me: Until you back up your wild claims with actual evidence, further discussion is pointless since you don't seem to believe in the importance of actual facts. If there really is a god, I hope he blesses you with a little wisdom.

T: well maybe if you took an extra approach to prove me wrong and see what im talking about by researching or looking information up on the internet, you would have an idea of what im talking about. and there is a God! and wisdom he teaches comes from the bible! if you choose to deny Christ, then thats your choice! but, if you do not accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your saviour, you wont spend eternal life in heaven! you can knock me down all you want, i honestly dont care what you think about me. but the facts are there and speak for themselves! i gave my life to the Lord some time ago. if you want to learn Gods word, or open yourself to Gods word, then open the kings james bible and read! the facts are there my friend, but you must open yourself to his word. you want facts, then read this (John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoseoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:15) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Me: Basically you know you're wrong and cant prove it because its not true but are afraid to admit it. It's pride. But you should try to overcome this sin.

Me: Actually I'm curious... I heard on the Internet that Christian extremists are killing gays, chopping them up and eating the pieces. Can you disprove this?

Note: This was tongue-in-cheek to make a point. This hyperbole, you'll see, obviously eluded him... thus further illustrating my point about his unquestioning nature.

Me: Oh and it must eat at you that the guy who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance didn't include the word God in it (despite being a Baptist minister) AND was an avowed socialist. And unlike you, I can actually offer some evidence. From the right wing website Lou (The Pledge's author) "Francis Bellamy said that one purpose of the Pledge of Allegiance was to help accomplish his lifelong goal of making his cousin’s socialist fantasy a reality in America." Bellamy "understood perfectly well that the first step along the way to his socialist utopia was a consolidated or unitary state, just like the one Bismarck had created in Germany through "blood and iron," and the one Abraham Lincoln championed in the U.S. Monopoly government, in other words, was a necessary first step on the road to socialism." You're defending socialism. Who knew?!

T: well obviously your trying to make a mockery of me and thats fine. i could honestly careless what you think of me or ANY bible believing and/or God fearing christians out there! if you choose to listen to the liberal medias version of "facts", thats your choice! i however choose the truth! and the truth comes from the word of God! i do not support socialism in this great country, but we are now, with this new government. i dont mind debating issues with people, i really dont. and yes your right, facts should be supported to back up what a person is talking about. and i try to get facts to support what i say, when i say there facts. but, it dont sound to me at all that you have many facts yourself! am i trying to make a fellow american upset? no actually im not! and the Pledge of Allegiance does have the word God in it. "One nation under God", does that ring a bell? Check it out for yourself. Apparently you've never said it before yourself? and about the apparent christian extremists eating and chopping up gays? ive never, ever heard that before. am i saying i dont believe it? not necessarily, but i listen to christian conservative radio everyday, and conservative radio, and i have never heard anything about that. thats horrible if thats taking place. but i will say this to you, ALL sins must be repented and confessed to the Lord Jesus Christ! no sin is greater than another! want facts? open the king james bible and start reading friend! id recommend you start reading in the book of John. if you choose to not believe what the word of God says, you must take that to God! take care and may God be with you!

Me: First, the Pledge as it was originally written in the late 1800s did not contain the word God. It was added by politicians in the 1950s. That's a fact you can look up (though I'll be happy to provide a link). You say that the "fact" about the Pledge being banned is all over the Internet yet you can't provide a source, mainstream or conservative. Frankly, I feel sorry for you. You believe whatever you hear without question, without investigating. That's what makes people, liberal conservative or whatever, to be brainwashed. It's not what you think, it's how you think. And it's obviously that critical thinking is something you oppose.

T: you can say whatever you want about me. put me down every way you want, i dont really care! i stay tuned into politics because I LOVE MY FREEDOMS, and i will NOT go down without a fight! you choose to listen to what you want, and i will choose the facts! i hate putting it that way, but so be it! put me and my views down all you want. im plenty used to that from the lefty communist side of this country! its unfortunate, but true! take care fellow american, and again... may God be with you and yours! i continue to pray for those that are lost, and you may be one of those i pray for! the return of Christ is very, very near! do you know Christ as your saviour? you keep ignoring this subject about God. the return of Christ is very near... do you know Him as your Lord and saviour? take care and God bless!!

Me: You have offered no facts. You've refused to provide facts every single time I ask.

T: yeah ok! once again, may God be with you and yours!

Me: It's weird how you're defending a Pledge that talks about unity ("one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for ALL") while yelling so mch about how much you hate so many Americans.

T: ok, now you are really trying to get under my skin! when did i ever say that i hated americans? illegal people in this country i dont like because the liberal government is allowing them to take away hard-earned tax dollars from AMERICANS, and waste away when they dont even pay taxes! AND AGAIN, you change the subject! you seem to really enjoy arguing... whatever lol. if you want to ignore the TRUTH about Jesus Christ and his return, thats your choice. ill pray for you. God bless!

Me: Every meesage you sent me has been a rant about how you hate Americans who are communists, Americans who are socialists, Americans who are liberals, Americans who aren't Christian, blah blah blah. You basically seem to hate every kind of American who isn't exactly like you. You're a hateful person and I want nothing more to do with you. Good bye.