Sunday, February 28, 2010

Michael Josephson: Character Counts: The Essence of sportsmanship

  In the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, six-time medalist Eugenio Monti from Italy was favored to win the gold medal in the bobsledding pair event. After his team’s last run, it looked like they were going to make it.

  The British team, led by Tony Nash Jr., still had a chance, but before their final run, Nash discovered a critical axle bolt had broken on their sled. They were done.

  Without hesitation, Monti removed the bolt from his sled and rushed it up to Nash’s team. They were able to continue, and their run was so strong they won the gold medal.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gene Policinski: When First Amendment freedoms conflict, which would you pick? 

  Balancing — or pitting — First Amendment freedoms against each other is tough work. Akin to asking a parent which child is the favorite, seeking to favor one or two of the five freedoms — religion, speech, press, assembly or petition — over the others creates an inherent contradiction.

  But that’s exactly the dilemma for First Amendment advocates, along with the U.S. Supreme Court and Washington state lawmakers, presented by a lawsuit and legislative debate over whether or not names on a petition ought to be made public. And unlike parents, nobody gets to resolve the question by saying, “I love them all equally.”

  The issue involved is itself especially controversial: the proposed repeal of Washington’s law that extends to domestic partners most of the legal rights of married couples. Supporters of repeal gathered nearly 140,000 signatures, but the move failed last year at the ballot box.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Joe Bageant: Round midnight: Tortillas and the corporate state

Ajijic, Mexico

  Near midnight and I am making tortillas on an iron skillet over a gas flame. Some three thousand miles to the north, my wife and dog nestle in sleep in the wake of a 34-inch snowstorm, while the dogs of Ajijic are barking at the witching hour and roosters crow all too early for the dawn… while my good Mexican neighbors along Zaragoza Street sleep.

  Yet here I am awake and patting out tortillas, haunted by the empire that I have called home most of my life.

  I like to think that, for the most part, I no longer live up there in the Unites States, but southward of its ticking social, political and economic bombs. Because the U.S. debt bomb has not yet gone off, Social Security still exists, and the occasional royalty check or book advance still comes in, allowing me to remain here. And so long as America's perverse commodities economy keeps stumbling along and making lifelike noises, so long as the American people accept permanent debt subjugation -- I can drink, think and burn tortillas. Believe me, I take no smugness in this irony.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gary Palmer: Controversial ad is ultimate “feel good” story

  An unusual thing happened in the weeks prior to the 44th Super Bowl. As you know, Super Bowl ads have become just about as anticipated as the game itself. But this year, one ad in particular created a level of controversy unlike any other Super Bowl ad.

  It was a serious ad about a choice a mother made to go against her doctors’ advice to have an abortion to protect her health.  Instead, she had her baby. That baby was Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the University of Florida and perhaps the most recognizable collegiate athlete in sports history.

  Tebow and his mother Pam were featured in the ad sponsored by Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Christian family ministry. It sparked responses from so-called pro-choice and feminist groups that offended even members of the liberal media.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: Don’t cry for me, Sarah Palin

  Typically I can deal with any situation by mucking it up with some humor. It simply makes everything more palatable. But I can no longer suffer the incessant, hypocritical whining of Sarah Palin.

  I supposed it started with the fabricated “sexism” issue. Running as the vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 2008, every time any well-meaning citizen, media pundit or damn near anyone brave enough to open their mouth, questioned any of her positions on various issues or dared to share even the most innocuous observation of her, she and her cohorts all joined hands, flashed their fangs and started screaming that everyone under the sun was being “sexist” towards her.

  Asked a question about her view of the role of the vice president - sexist! Asked where she attended school - sexist! Asked about her tenure as governor of Alaska (all two and a half years of it) - sexist! Asked what she had for breakfast - sexist!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: The FaceBook hangover

  Navigating FaceBook always seems to hold the strangest surprises, occurrences of inexplicable behavior and bizarre postings as well as photographs which would shame many Mommas throughout the world. I sincerely value the avenue of communication FaceBook provides along with its astounding technological shits and giggles, but you have to wonder what some FaceBook users think they’re accomplishing through their strange actions.

  I, therefore, humbly beg the following questions and offer these unsolicited opinions on the phenomenon known as FaceBook… and it’s apparently neurotic users.

-No one really gives a damn about your fish, farm, stinky cross-eyes weasels, Guido Jersey Shore mafia,  panting chinchillas in heat or other games you play on that website. It’s like masturbating--such activities are intended for yourself and no one else. Some things you just don’t need to share… like a fart for example.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gary Palmer: Questions that need to be asked

  According to some of the latest polls, a majority of Alabamians have decided that legalizing bingo casinos is now a good idea.  Interestingly, according to one recent poll, only 2.5 percent of Alabamians rank legalizing bingo casinos as a top priority for the 2010 Alabama State Legislative Session.

  Accurate polling results depend on eliminating biases that could possibly skew the results. For example, bias can be introduced into a poll by directing a majority of calls to a certain group that the pollster knows will lean in a certain direction. Bias can also be introduced in the type questions that are asked, how they are asked and even the order the questions are asked.

  On the issue of legalizing gambling, if the question is phrased in the context of taxing and regulating an activity that is already taking place or the entire issue is framed as a matter of jobs and revenues, the response could be biased.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Saul Landau: A Really inconvenient truth

  Al Gore didn't even touch upon what the world needs to do to avert a global warming catastrophe.

  This op-ed was originally published in Progreso Weekly on February 3:

  “The decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record, new surface temperature figures released Thursday by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration show… 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern temperature measurement began. The warmest year was 2005. The other hottest recorded years have all occurred since 1998, NASA said.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nina Hachigian: Stop already with the China hysteria

  The news coverage of the U.S.-China relationship is getting more hysterical by the day. The Washington Post last week ran an editorial accusing the Obama administration of spending its first year “going out of its way” to “cater” to Beijing. Moreover, the editorial concluded, this approach backfired, and now China is more aggressive than ever, “busting with hubris,” and testing to see how far it can push the new U.S. president.

  The Economist’s coverage was nuanced, but its cover this week shows a giant, smoking dragon looming over a tiny Barack Obama, who appears to be pleading for a rational chat. The New York Times has run a series of pieces suggesting the administration is kowtowing to Beijing, and Robert Kagan and other conservative commentators accuse the Obama administration of appeasing dictatorships and abandoning democracies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jacob G. Hornberger: When the military serves as police

  What happens when the military is used in a police capacity? You get a “war on terrorism,” one in which people think that the laws of war now apply to the situation. But in actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. What you actually get is a criminal-justice problem that inevitably goes horribly awry, causing the problem to escalate into a deadly and destructive horror story.

  Consider the war on drugs. Most everyone concedes that drug dealing and drug possession are federal criminal offenses. Drug offenses are listed as crimes in the U.S. Code. People who are caught violating them are arrested, indicted by a federal grand jury, and prosecuted in U.S. District Court. The Bill of Rights requires the government to accord drug defendants all the rights and guarantees of the Bill of Rights, including trial by jury and due process of law. Incompetent, irrelevant, and illegally acquired evidence is excluded from the trial. The defendant is presumed innocent and must be found not guilty unless the government provides sufficient evidence to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty. Cruel and unusual punishments are prohibited. The defendant has the right to remain completely silent, before, during, and after the proceeding.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: Crashing the Tea Party

  I’m always down for creating a stink. As a teenager I crashed a George H. W. Bush rally, and playing off his broken promise, “Read my lips: No new taxes,” I donned a cute yellow hat with a red feather and a Pinnochio nose. In college I took on the governor of Alabama concerning his proposed cuts to higher education to the point where he threatened to shut down the college newspaper which employed me.

  But there’s a definitive difference between the rabble-rousing I engaged in back in the day and the current groundswell of venom emanating from the “tea parties.” We believed in something. We advocated issues. Sadly the tea-baggers just want to hurl threats and insults, belittle the president of the United States and essentially slash and burn every politician, effort and idea they encounter. It’s the Attilla the Hun approach to politics, and it serves no purpose other than to vent misguided, uninformed anger.

Gary Palmer: The Shaping of the American mind, a new report from ISI

  In the United States, there is tremendous emphasis placed on education, and rightly so. To remain globally competitive, it is essential that we graduate students well-educated in core subjects such as reading and mathematics.

  But are we failing to educate in other areas? As the latest report from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) indicates, when it comes to teaching fundamentals that should unite us and strengthen us in our roles as citizens we have failed. ISI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization that was founded in 1953 to advance a better understanding of the economic, political, and ethical values that sustain a free and humane society.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Renee Lee: Drunk and bitter on Valentine's Day

  I'm not opposed to love. In fact, I love love, especially the sex part. It's not even that I hate Valentine's Day. But like every event in our society that contains even the slightest hint of sappy sentimentality, it has been done to death. (Can you say, "Titanic?")

  For example, as if it weren't enough that some person or persons came up with the concept of setting aside an entire day dedicated solely to the celebration of lust and adoration, this same person (or persons) decided that this day needed a symbol. It was decided that the best symbol would be a bastardization of that big, red, thumping blood-pumper in the middle of the human chest. Of course, since the natural appearance of this vital organ doesn't exactly evoke feelings of lust (unless you're into such kinky stuff as barfing on your partner), it had to be "prettied up" by taking out the lumps and slapping on some ribbons and bows.

Charles C. Haynes: When the Bible goes to school, the tug-of-war begins 

  Fights over the Good Book in public schools have a long and ignoble history in the United States — from 19th century Bible Wars (when riots broke out over whose version of the Bible would be read in the morning) to current conflicts over Bible electives.

  Now three-in-one-month legal developments in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee add fuel to the fiery rhetoric from all sides about when the Bible should come through the schoolhouse door.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Joe Bageant: The Annotated Obama

Jocotepec, Mexico

  I've managed to sit still through a few state of the union speeches, through the remarks of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, one Bush (the pappy, I never could gut out one of The Dub's ) and a Clinton. Brother Clinton finished me off, made me give up on state of the union speeches altogether.

  Still, there was the off chance (okay, vain hope) that Obama might come out swinging in the wake of the Massachusetts massacre and the Supreme's recent sale of Congress to corporations. As in: The senator from Wal-Mart now has the floor. So I poured myself a stiff one and fell into a deep cush recliner in front of a mongo brain-wrapping TV screen. Not that I would ever own one, mind you. I watch it at my friend and fellow writer Fred Reed's house. That way he gets the rap for being a torpid brainwashed American pig.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gary Palmer: Our Goal: To Uphold the law

  Every year, a massive gambling syndicate engages the Alabama State Legislature in a well-funded effort to give legal legitimacy to a despicable trade. And for the past couple of years, flagrant support has come from an unlikely source… the Christian Coalition of Alabama.

  Randy Brinson, the president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, has attempted to make a “Christian” case for passage of gambling bills. In 2007, Brinson supported a bill to legalize electronic bingo gambling at existing dog tracks in Alabama. Apparently, back then he rationalized that the best solution was to legalize the illegal activity at those four places so that it would be easier for the state to shut down illegal electronic bingo gambling in other places.