Monday, September 18, 2006

More Muslim Madness!

From The Independent ("Vatican experts say Pope 'unrepentant'," Popham, Peter; September 19, 2006):
As protests against the Pope continued to rumble around the Muslim world yesterday, Catholics began asking themselves if this highly intelligent man can really have been so crass as to have ignited the passions of millions of Muslims without realising that he was doing it.

If the alternative version is more credible - that he knew exactly what he was doing - then the next question arises: why? The gloomy conclusion of some Vatican experts is that there was no inconsistency in the Pope's choice of the words "inhuman and evil" - quoted from the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus - to characterise Islam. Such a negative view, they say, is consistent with all his words and actions with regard to Islam.

Their claims make for a tragic contrast with the decades devoted by John Paul II to the challenge of bringing Islam, Judaism and Christianity closer together after many centuries of hatred and bloodshed. Now all that hard work, rowing against the tide of history, seems to be at risk.
I guess I wouldn't be surprised if Pope Benedict Unit Number XVI really did want to inflame Muslims. I really wouldn't be.

But I do have an alternate theory: is it possible that many Muslims are just really, really easy to piss off? We all remember the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. Where are the "moderate" Muslim leaders to speak out and say, "You know, guys, you're going to get criticized every now and then. Especially because our religion has its fair share of nutcases. I know we're not all nutcases, and I know Christianity has nutcases too, so thankfully we're not the only ones keeping bad company. But really guys, don't you think it's time to cool it?"

A Jewish group had it right when Iran announced an anti-semitic cartoon contest. They responded with their own Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest, to mock the stupidity of the whole matter. If only other religions and cultures could learn to be self-deprecating sometimes.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Solve all your problems: go to college!

The New York Times is calling on states and the federal government to heavily subsidize college education ("Killing Off the American Future," editorial; September 16, 2006).
America’s domination of the global information economy did not come about by accident. It flowed directly from policies that allowed the largest generation in the nation’s history broad access to a first-rate college education regardless of ability to pay. By subsidizing public universities to keep tuition low, and providing federal tuition aid to poor and working-class students, this country vaulted tens of millions of people into the middle class while building the best-educated work force in the world.


The warning about American vulnerability, which has been sounded in several reports of late, was underscored yet again in a study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonpartisan research organization. The report highlights some ominous trends. As the well-schooled boomers march off into retirement, the generation that replaces them is shaping up to be less educated by far. No longer the world leader in terms of the proportion of young people enrolled in college, the country now ranks 16th among the 27 nations examined when it comes to the proportion of college students who complete college degrees or certificate programs.
Nice as the idea of subsidizing college education sounds, it seems to me that many people think that's the only problem.

What about those who get into college? It's obscene that a freshman can't read adequately. Starting in first grade, schools aren't really educating people.

And what is this about college being a mandate for everyone? College should be for people who are prepared for it. There are perfectly intelligent people in the world who should never go to college because it's not for them.

Nazinger on Islam

I'm not one to defend the words of a Catholic pontiff, but I have to say, a lot of Muslims are really thin-skinned here. From Deutsche Presse-Agentur ("Anger mounts in Muslim world over pope's Islam remarks," September 15, 2006; reposted on Monsters and Critics News):
Anger mounted across the Muslim world Friday over remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to Germany this week in which the pontiff quoted a 14th century Christian emperor as calling aspects of the legacy of Islam's Prophet Mohammed 'evil and inhuman.'


The pope's remarks came Tuesday in Regensburg in his home state of Bavaria, when he was quoting a conversation that took place in Ankara in the year 1391 between Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on Christianity and Islam.

'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached,' the pope quoted Manuel as saying.

As head of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned by law but tolerated in Egypt, was calling on Pope Benedict to apologize, the Vatican was attempting to shore up criticism of the pontiff on a day that saw a new Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, take office.

One of the first tasks awaiting Bertone, an Italian, who becomes the Vatican's new 'prime minister' will be to repair the damage caused by Benedict's remarks.
As if some Muslim, at some point, didn't have a legitimate (or in many cases, illegitimate) gripe about Christianity.

Even Protestant Christians have, by and large, come to respect the fact that their beliefs can be criticized, and have been, and will be. Nevermind that in this case, the guy in the funny hat (oops) was just quoting somebody. He wasn't saying Muslims were evil. He was saying somebody said Muslims were evil...and it was said seven centuries ago.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

LATimes: "Texas-Sized Area of Thick Ice Lost in Arctic"

Well, according to The Los Angeles Times, the area of ice lost in the Arctic last year was about the size of Texas. Nonetheless, global warming is a lie of the liberal left-wing media bent on destroying America by depriving it of cars, gasoline, fumes, and parking lots. According to the article (September 16, 2006):
About 288,000 square miles of perennial ice, which normally doesn't melt during the summer, was lost from 2004 to 2005, scientists found using data from NASA's QuickScat satellite.
I have a simple solution. Since the ice was Texas-sized, let's wedge Texas up in the Arctic to replace the lost ice surface.

David Horowitz: Blatant Racist

Wow, I knew the guy was a nut, but I didn't know he was this crazy ("Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks - and Racist Too," January 3, 2001):
Slavery existed for thousands of years before the Atlantic slave trade was born, and in all societies. But in the thousand years of its existence, there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians - Englishmen and Americans -- created one. If not for the anti-slavery attitudes and military power of white Englishmen and Americans, the slave trade would not have been brought to an end. If not for the sacrifices of white soldiers and a white American president who gave his life to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks in America would still be slaves. If not for the dedication of Americans of all ethnicities and colors to a society based on the principle that all men are created equal, blacks in America would not enjoy the highest standard of living of blacks anywhere in the world, and indeed one of the highest standards of living of any people in the world. They would not enjoy the greatest freedoms and the most thoroughly protected individual rights anywhere. Where is the gratitude of black America and its leaders for those gifts?

Nancy Grace's grilling causes a woman to commit suicide

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that a woman who helped prod another woman into suicide with her show on CNN wrote a book called Objection!: How High-Priced Defense Attorneys, Celebrity Defendants, and a 24/7 Media Have Hijacked Our Criminal Justice System? From the AP ("Mother of Missing Boy Commits Suicide"):
LEESBURG, Fla. (Sept. 14) - Two weeks after telling police that her son had been snatched from his crib, Melinda Duckett found herself reeling in an interview with TV's famously prosecutorial Nancy Grace. Before it was over, Grace was pounding her desk and loudly demanding to know: "Where were you? Why aren't you telling us where you were that day?"
Nancy Grace is an embarrassment and has no grace. And her pious, condescending Southern accent is the kind that gives Southerners a bad reputation for stupidity (besides the one they already earned).

(Special no thanks to AOL's The Feed for pointing this stupid shit out.)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Police chief wife "porn"

I was very disappointed by the "porn" that The Oklahoman reported ("Wife's porn site prompts calls for chief's firing," September 6, 2006). Apparently, a police chief's wife posed nude with the American flag draped around her. Alas, my "research" into the matter yielded no porn.

Before researching this matter yourself, consider (from "Police Chief Out In Nude Wife Pix Flap,", September 8, 2006):
"My wife is 6-foot-3 and weighs 300 pounds," he [Police Chief Tod Ozmun] said. "If there is somebody that thinks they can control her, have at it. I have tried for 11 years and haven't been able to."
Point taken. Have at it!

Ozmun later resigned as police chief. Another loss for American justice!

Friday, September 08, 2006

More 9/11 Political Propaganda Coming Up

I always find television tasteless. However, one particularly tasteless form of television is the political drama genre. And one particularly tasteless form of the political drama genre is the 9/11 political drama. In I guess 2003 I watched Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story, which featured the former hard-ass mayor of New York City trapped in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, taking charge of the situation, and using his Herculean strength to kick down doors that his aids weren't smart enough to open.

This week, it turns out ABC is up to yanking people's delicate heartstrings with yet another 9/11 drama. This one is known as The Path To 9/11. A bunch of former Clinton administration aids wrote a letter to ABC complaining about inaccuracies that leaked out.

According to an article in The Times of London ("Clinton aides condemn 9/11 drama as 'terribly wrong', September 8, 2006), among these complaints were:
Ms Albright objected to a scene that she was told showed her insisting on warning the Pakistani government before an airstrike on Afghanistan, and that showed her as the person who made the warning.
Mr Berger questioned a scene that he was told showed him refusing to authorise an attack on Osama bin Laden despite a request from CIA officials.

"The fabrication of this scene (of such apparent magnitude) cannot be justified under any reasonable definition of dramatic licence," he wrote.
The senators’ letter questioned the political motivations and leanings of the programme.

"Frankly, that ABC and Disney would consider airing a program that could be construed as right-wing political propaganda on such a grave and important event involving the security of our nation is a discredit both to the Disney brand and to the legacy of honesty built at ABC by honourable individuals from David Brinkley to Peter Jennings," the letter said.
Actually, it's really not all that surprising that 9/11 material comes across as partisan political propaganda. I've seen very little coverage of the 9/11 events that really couldn't be construed as propaganda.

It is sad, however, how right-wing nuts who largely control the American media seem to like to dramatize the whole matter. Even Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 came across as something of a Leni Riefenstahl piece, even though it at least tried to be factual.

9/11 political dramas have mostly tried to get off with treating George W. Bush as a knight in shining armor riding to battle to stop this horrible, horrible menace.

For some god-damned reason, after having five years to screw up, George W. Bush is still enjoying something of an advantage on the issue of terrorism over the Democrats, so a proganda piece fictionally portrays the Clinton administration's failures with dealing with international terrorism can't come at a better time. Like the times wrote:
Tim Reid, Times Correspondent in Washington, said that the row bore testimony to how politically-charged an issue the attacks continued to be, as the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approached.

"Politically, this comes at a particularly sensitive time because of the mid-term elections coming up. Clinton's side are very sensitive on this issue and the Democrats are particularly so at the moment because it comes at a time when the Bush Administration is trying to tell America that it can keep people safe from terrorism and fight al-Qaeda better than the Democrats. It is the only remaining issue where President Bush enjoys an advantage over the Democrats.

"The film reinforces what conservatives have been saying; that they were in power for only eight months before the attacks happened but the Democrats had been in control for eight years. Mr Bush and the Republicans are trying to focus the voters on their response to 9/11 rather than the war in Iraq and this film doesn't do anything to hurt that."
Of course, his response to 9/11 was to attack Iraq. But we can gloss over that little factoid too.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Democrats Are Pussies

Buried in the back of an article in the "left-wing" Washington Post ("Congress set for combative, pre-election push," September 4, 2006):
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said, "Democrats are going to make it clear that we understand that terrorism is real, that terrorism needs to be confronted and defeated and we are prepared to do that.
No, dumbass, that's not what you need to do. Stop framing this so defensively. If you want to win, point out how badly the Republicans misunderstand terrorism. It's not like you're lacking fuel for that fire. I mean, Iraq? Border security?

And where the hell is Osama bin Laden? Pumping gas at a station in Texas?

I really wish we had a few "third parties." Democrats always end up acquiescing to the whims of their more authoritarian counterparts across the aisle anyway.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New Blog

I started a new blog concerning my comments on New York State and New York City. I felt that it would make sense to separate out these posts, since they tend to overshadow the rest of my commentaries and aren't really that interesting to non-New Yorkers.

Friday, September 01, 2006

More On How F**ked Up Upstate NY Is - And Why It Hurts Downstate

The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester had a rarely lucid article on Upstate New York's problems. I disagree with a lot of the points made, and the politics, but the overall jest of it should really sound the alarm in stoic Albany. The article ("Spitzer shining light on upstate solutions, not just woes," March 27, 2006) was written by Joseph Morelle, a state assemblyman. He cites some alarming statistics:
  • Since the 1990 census, upstate's growth rate has been slower than that in all but two states. In fact, the state that was once first in population will rank fourth in the 2010 census, continuing the trend that has eroded New York's representative clout in the U.S. Congress since 1940.
  • Upstate has seen 25 percent of its young people between ages 20 and 34 leave, taking their economic potential.
  • More than one-third of upstate manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the past 15 years.
  • Really, Upstate has been in decline for over a generation, but it really was noticed in the 1990s when other parts of the country recovered from the same decline (industrial stagnation) while Upstate didn't. Consider that a century ago Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse were all prosperous, wealthy cities. Today, they barely keep their heads above water. Buffalo lost half its population since 1950, most of that loss occurred after 1970.

    I've always taken interest in Upstate's condition. I don't feel too connected to it, having never lived there, even though my family migrated down from there sometime in the mid-20th century.

    It's interesting from a socioeconomic perspective to understand just what's going so wrong with it. As a region, it could be doing very well. Even today, Upstate has relatively high incomes, skilled labor, decent infrastructure, and despite the myths, the weather far from the worst in the United States. On the other hand, the industry it once depended on has dried up, the Erie Canal is no longer an economic engine, and the region never really had a distinct cultural identity to fall back on.

    Meanwhile, New York State's government does nothing but look out for the interests of New York State's government employees, from the legislators on down. Costs are kept high, education is poor, growth stays stagnant, and the status quo continues to thrive. Children growing up in Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, or Utica have no hope of landing really good jobs after high school, even if their parents are lucky enough to retain one. They don't have the options, like perhaps even their fathers had, of going to work in a big factory and taking home a union pay.

    As Morelle says, Upstate's losing population, and that hurts New York State.
    Regardless of how upstate is described, the implications of our circumstances reach well beyond Schenectady. We do not have downstate's population or national profile, but clearly what happens here affects the health of the entire state. Our population losses slow the state's overall growth to a crawl, which means we lose ranking and political representation at the national level in relation to faster-growing states such as Florida, Texas and California.
    That's a rather important tie-in, and Florida will soon become the third largest state. If current trends continue, New York State is going to fall to fourth in population behind a muggy, penis-shaped hurricane magnet. If it doesn't happen by 2010, it will happen by 2020.

    This does hurt Downstate. As reactionary states like Texas, Florida, and, yes, even California, gain political representation in the House of Representatives, it happens at a cost to our representation. While New York City and its suburbs do fairly well economically, and even manage to attract new residents (primarily through immigration), it's barely enough to replace the losses downstate. Furthermore, New York City is, contrary to popular perception, propping up Upstate with transfer payments. In that regard, a healthy Upstate that can sustain itself means more money for us to spend on our own concerns, such as education, fighting poverty, and modernizing our infrastructure.

    So what are Upstate's economic strengths? I can't really think of many. There are some excellent colleges and universities: the Rochester Institute of Technology, Buffalo State, Syracuse University, Cornell University, just to name a few. And while industrial and transportation infrastructure does exist, there's little to produce industrially and little to import or export.

    Morelle heralds Attorney-General Elliot Spitzer as the economic savior of the region.
    ...Mr. Spitzer's economic program rests on a five-pillared approach:

  • Reduce the cost of doing business: Cut property taxes and reduce the costs of health care and workers' compensation.
  • Support cities: Revitalize urban downtowns and rural communities burdened by layoffs and the decline of schools and neighborhoods that follow.
  • Focus on small business with strategies designed to help the small-business sector, where so many jobs will be created, especially for women, minorities and immigrants.
  • Infrastructure investment: Renew the commitment to improve and modernize our transportation, energy and telecommunications capacities.
  • Innovation and emerging technologies: Identify and aid the growth of strategic industries. This last point particularly impacts Rochester, a city whose optical and imaging industries enriched our community in the 20th century, and where emergent photonic, biotechnology and fuel cell firms are building the foundations for similar prosperity in the 21st century.
  • That's all nice, but it's coming about a generation too late. Upon reflection, one really has to wonder where New York was in the 1960s when the space program and computer revolution were happening. Had Albany been thinking, Silicon Valley could easily have been in the Hudson Valley, and New York City could easily have enjoyed the 1990s benefits of Sand Hill Road's venture capital industry. Early 20th century high tech firms were already located in New York State, and many are still here, including IBM. When the state saw the Erie Canal dying, and technology rising on the west coast, it should have done what it could to encourage relocation to the Erie Canal zone.

    Today, New York State does have the chance to make a grab at the infant biomedical and biotech industries, if it wakes up fast. Many of the ingredients necessary to induce research and development exist in New York State—again, right along the former routes of the Erie Canal and New York Central Railroad, the corridors where the vast majority of the state's population still lives from New York City to Buffalo. Among those ingredients:
    • an educated, literate, and diverse workforce
    • virgin land to attract inexpensive, yet environmentally sustainable, development
    • world-class universities, from NYU and Columbia to Buffalo State
    • the cultural and economic clout of New York City to attract bright minds from around the world
    It doesn't seem to me that economic success needs to depend on the many of the factors cited in the success of other states. We do, however, need to find creative approaches to dealing with problems that have plagued New York since its pre-industrial infancy. While unions certainly may have a place in the economy, we need to find a way from keeping them from becoming slow, anti-progressive bohemoths; the same goes for many of the super-firms we give tax breaks to on Wall Street, or those rare tech giants that still exist upstate. If we're going to continue to have our bureaucracy and transfer payments, they should be contingent on productivity.

    This probably means requiring those who live on public money to work, if they're able to—and this is something that unions should, in all fairness, not be allowed to interfere with. Those who do work while receiving public benefits should be expected to learn a marketable skill in the process.

    We talk about term limits for our elected officials, but it's unelected officials who in many ways affect how people live and work more than elected officails. People who work for the government should have term limits. Since obviously experience is needed in many higher-level jobs, those who are qualified should be promoted if a position is available. Those who have spent a certain number of years working a job should be required to step aside and make room for another qualified applicant who can bring new ideas to the table. Those who are unable to be promoted in their fields should be expected to find a new line of work elsewhere, even if it means a different public service position or a private sector position—they should be prepared to train for and compete for a given public service job to demonstrate they're the best candidate. Only in compelling circumstances should somebody in a public service job be allowed to have more than a fixed number of terms.

    We should also try to unite our elected officials to craft coherent policy. If possible, a state law should be enacted to require members of our delegation in the House of Representatives and Senate to be compelled to publicly testify about what they're doing in Congress to improve New York's economic health and to see to it that the state is getting fair treatment from the federal government. Those who refuse to comply should be prohibited from appearing on ballots for re-election.