Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sneak Preview of the Repbulican Debate

Names are hidden to protect the clueless, but here's a little bit of what we'll see this week...

Moderator: We went over our rules. Each of you will have 30 seconds and we'll allow a 15-second rebuttal from a second candidate. Question number one is for you, Candidate 1, the American presence in Iraq has lasted longer than World War II, we're on our third surge in a little more than a year to increas troop levels again, attacks against Americans are up, American casualties are up, Iraqi casualties are up... if you were president right now, what would you do?

Candiadate 1: We need to stay the course. We haven't given this latest surge enough time. Six months should do it.

Moderator: But in each of the previous surges, they were also accompanied by a six-month time estimate, and in each the situation worsened. Isn't six months really just an arbitrary time period in order to give the public enough time to forget the previous misstep?

Candidate 1: Obviously you're not paying attention to the new history. That's the old history you're talking about. The new history is that we're doing better every day. Just ask General Petraeus.

Moderator: Speaking of General Petraeus, Candidate Two, he said this week, "The level of horrific attacks like the one that killed nine US soldiers at a patrol base in Diyala province April 23 is still too high." What is the level of horrific attacks that is acceptable?

Candidate 2: Off the top of my head, I would say a level that kills fewer than nine Americans at a time. Of course, I don't want to go out on a limb and put words in the general's mouth. It's really all the democrats fault for trying to give soldiers money the wrong way.

Moderator: Doesn't the Iraq Accountability Act actually give more money than what the republicans are asking for by additionally funding hospitalization for soldiers and veterans?

Candidate 2: That's just a slick trick to pretend they support the troops. We know how to support the troops - by not pampering them with things like health care or body armor. We're already catering their meals through private contractors. Isn't that enough? Next they'll be wanting armored vehicles and night vision goggles, too.

Moderator: The sticking point with the democratic funding bill is that the president doesn't want any deadline to leave Iraq. What incentive will Iraq have to take over control of their own country if they have no deadline?

Candidate 3: You can't just give them a date for our withdrawal or else they'll simply wait and stop the attacks until we leave. Is that what you want - peace in the country for several months while Iraq brings their own people together?

Moderator: Candidate 4, Iraq has put the American economy into the worst national debt of any country in the history of Planet Earth. What will...

Candidate 4: What's with all these questions about Iraq? Don't you want to ask me about flag burning or the proper ways to hate gays and minorities, you know, our special areas of expertise?

Candidate 1: You don't hate gays nearly as much as I do.

Candidate 4: Are you kidding? I've been hating gays since before you were born. I hate them more than you and Candidate 2 combined.

Candidate 2: Well, you may have a great record on hating gays, but I'm really big on hating Mexicans. What have you done to hate the Mexicans?

Moderator: Could we please have some order?

Candidate 1: My record is very solid in hating Mexicans. Blacks, too!

Candidate 3: You love the blacks compared to me. In fact, I not only hate the Mexicans and the blacks, but I led the fight against women.

Moderator: Please, everyone, this isn't a free for all...

Candidate 2: You know, there's nothing quite as much fun as denying rights to women.

Candidate 1: That's true.

Moderator: Please calm down everyone, I have another question...

Candidate 4: Except, of course, for denying science.

Candidate 3: That goes without saying. If you have to deny anything, it's science. Unless by "science" you're talking about using taxpayer money to pay full price to pharmaceutical companies for old people's drugs. Old people - that's another group we're pampering too much.

Moderator: All right, Candidate 4, I'll change topics. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said 72 times to Congress that he didn't remember anything having to do with directing the Department of Justice to act without justice for all, but rather to direct attacks against democrats and show favoritism to republicans and their elections. Isn't that odd that he would have such a blank mind even forgetting meeting with the president?

Candidate 4: Certainly not. I've had many forgettable meetings with the president myself.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Take me to my leader?

Bubba had fallen asleep with his fishing pole still in his hand on that quiet Georgia summer night. Suddenyl a bright light accompanied by a nearly quiet "soosh" from above awakened him.

Frozen with fear, Bubba watched as a hatched opened and a little green man appeared. "Ooszw xra kame Oif. Lu tapp endorge, oaa?" the alien asked before turning a switch on his belt.

"Wait, now that should be better," the alien said after turning on his universal translater. "I am Oif. I'm a scout who has come from far away to explore your world and maybe see if I help you sort through some problems."

"I'm Bubba," he responded.

"Bubba, take me to your leader."

Bubba thought for a minute. "I'm not sure what you mean."

"Well, who's the head of this planet?"

"Lots of people control different parts of our world."

"Who controls the most?" Oif asked.

"That would be China," Bubba said. They have the most people and they control most of our money, but they're not as active around the world as this country, the United States, is."

"Then who leads the United States?" Oif asked.

"That would be President George W. Bush. He's the one we put in office."

"Then take me to this George W. Bush. I need to speak with someone who knows all the issues facing your planet," Oif said.

"Uhhhh, maybe Mr. Bush isn't your best choice. His Vice-President, Dick Cheney, probably knows a bit more about such things."

"Very well," the alien said, "then take me to Dick Cheney. I need to speak to someone who leads, has great knowledge, and has a good heart for the people of this world."

"Uhhhh, maybe Mr. Cheney isn't your best choice. He's not known for being the most kind-hearted person around."

"Who's in charge of policing this place?" Oif asked. "Perhaps that is the person who I need to seek out."

"That would be Attorney General Alberto Gonzales," Bubba said. "He's the nation's leading law enforcement officer. He would know good people from bad people."

"Good, then let's see this Alberto Gonzales person," the alien responded. "I need to speak to someone who leads, has great knowledge, has a good heart for the people of this world, and can treat all people without favoritism. I am here, after all, to help all people of your world."

"Uhhhh, maybe Mr. Gonzales isn't your best choice. He only favors certain people - the ones who support Bush and Cheney and Rove."

"Rove?" Oif asked. "Is Rove the human who leads, has great knowledge, and has a good heart for the people of this world, and can treat all people without favoritism?"

"Uhhhh, noooooo, I don't think Rove quite fits that description," Bubba said.

Then, like a flash, it came to the Georgia fisherman. "I think you should speak to Al Gore. He actually had more people vote for him than Mr. Bush."

"Does Al Gore have great knowledge?" Oif asked.

"Oh yes. He's one of our leading experts on the condition of this planet."

"Does Al Gore have a good heart for the people of this world?" asked the alien?

"I think he cares about all life on this planet."

"Does Al Gore treat all people without favoritism?" asked the little green man.

"I don't think it matters to him where people live as long as he can preserve human life."

"And he had more people supporting him than the others?" asked a now very confused alien.

"Yes," Bubba said, "but our top judges selected Mr. Bush instead."

"If you're so unintelligent as to do that to yourselves I don't think this is a place civilized enough to warrant my help," the alien said. He quickly stepped back into his ship and sped away like a dot into the night.

Bubba watched the spaceship disappear into the night sky and said to himself, "If he needed things to change right away, maybe I should have just told him to see Nancy Pelosi. She's good at that."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bravery and Baseball

It's strange how two of my greatest heroes in life come from the world of baseball. Today celebrates the life of one of those great men - Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson was a Hall of Fame second baseman for the Dodgers, then in Brooklyn, who began his career 60 years ago today, April 15, 1947.

The story goes that when Dodgers owner Branch Rickey signed Jackie, he asked him what he would do if a racist white man threatened him with violence and called him every disgusting name he could think of.

Robinson asked Rickey if he was wondering whether or not the young player had the guts to fight back. Rickey said, "No, I'm wondering whether or not you have the guts NOT to fight back."

Robinson suffered quietly through untold abuse. When the team traveled to some southern cities, he couldn't stay at the team hotel or eat with the other players at the same restaurants.

Some southern racists on other teams refused to play against Jackie, and when forced to, tried to injure Robinson on purpose.

Robinson even had ignorant southern racists on his own team such as OF Dixie Walker who refused to acknowledge his black teammate.

Some people think Robinson was selected to be the first black baseball player because he was the greatest player in the Negro Leagues, but that's not true.

Robinson was very talented, but hadn't completely honed his skills. Rickey wanted a player who would have to earn his way up through the baseball minor league system like any other player.

After spending time with the Dodgers minor league team in Montreal, Robinson joined the big league club in Brooklyn. Robinson earned the 1947 Rookie of the Year award.

After baseball, Robinson lived his life as a speaker, a writer, and an activist; but always maintained the quiet dignity and pride he projected in his playing days.

I mentioned at the top that I have two great heroes in baseball. The other is Lou Gehrig, a man who maintained a similar dignity and pride when struggling in another battle - the battle for his still young life as a crippling disease ended it.

While Lou Gehrig showed us how to handle death, Jackie Robinson showed us how to live life.

Robinson made the Baseball Hall of Fame by his achievments on the baseball diamond, but he makes the Hall of Fame for humanity by his achievments everywhere else.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hate Radio Has Reached Its Zenith

As of today, Don Imus is gone from MSNBC and CBS Radio. Given the magnitude of the most recent event combined with his history of hate jokes, it is an unfortunate but likely justifiable end to his terrestrial broadcast career.

Keep in mind, he wasn't fired for saying the things he did. He was merely suspended for that. He was fired because his advertisers abandoned his program.

Like Howard Stern before him, Imus may very well have a future in uncensored satellite radio, but his situation lets us look at several points of view surrounding his dismissal.


Imus is a comedian first and foremost. He jokes, the argument goes, not much differently than Chris Rock.

Do we hold Imus to a different standard than Rock because he’s not in front of a live audience like Rock? Do we hold Imus to a different standard because he’s not black like Rock?

No, we hold Imus to a different standard because his humor is designed with the intent of producing insult in a way that actually brings harm to a segment of humanity. Rock’s humor is designed to make people laugh – period.

Intent. Rock harbors no ill intent for the people he uses certain words to describe.

It’s not the words that are said, it is how they are used.

Bullets don’t kill when they’re held in one’s hand. They don’t kill unless they’re fired from a gun pointed at another living being.


Some backers of Imus argue he has Freedom of Speech.

Indeed, they are correct. Imus had every right to say what he said – provided they were not said over the public airwaves.

Broadcasters are regulated by the FCC, and are not allowed to say certain words in any case. What Imus said is not included in those words banned from the public airwaves, but it doesn't mean they were acceptable.

Private citizens may not say certain words even simply in public because of their intent to bring harm to others. The classic example is that a person may not scream “Fire” in a crowded theater.

When people can likely be hurt, freedom of speech is suspended.


Rap music artists use insensitive words in their art, but like the “First Amendment” argument, the broadcast airwaves do not allow these rap songs to be played over public airwaves. For those that do get broadcast, that still doesn't make it right.

A growing number of people are protesting lyrics in rap songs that are harmful, and their message is getting across. The two ways they do so are verbally by speaking out against these lyrics, and economically by not buying works from these artists.

Imus was fired for similar reasons. Verbally, he was protested against, and economically his advertisers pulled their ads to prevent his show from being cost productive.


This is beyond any doubt the vilest argument of all.

The overwhelming theme of conservative talk radio and television is to promote hate speech based on white supremacy as long as it’s male, Christian, and heterosexual white supremacy. The argument is that such talk must be acceptable across the board because no one else is being punished for it.

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh has referred to Senator Barak Obama and actress Halle Berry as “Halfrican-Americans.”

Conservative talk show host Michael Savage questioned whether the Voting Rights Acts intended to combat discrimination at the ballot box was trying to “put a chad in every crackhouse.”

Conservative talk show host Neal Boortz said that Representative Cynthia McKinney looked “like a ghetto slut.”

Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck referred to Hurricane Katrina victims as “scumbags”, and told Representative Keith Ellison that he wanted to say to him, “Prove you are not working for our enemies,” because Ellison is also Muslim.

It goes on every day in conservative talk radio. The idea is produce fear of some other group of people simply because they are in some way different.

Fear is so closely associated with hate as to produce a warlike, primitive response in simple minds. That is why "ism" and "phobia" are in the words "racism" and "homophobia".

But those other groups are not really so different from their conservative hatemongers. They are, after all, fellow Americans.

Progressive talk show hosts also espouse their own viewpoints, but don't appeal in the same way to fear and hatred. They don’t fear and hate men. They don’t fear and hate heterosexuals. They don’t fear and hate Christians. They don’t fear and hate white people.

Conservativism is based on exclusion ("You wouldn't want your sister to marry one of them" - 'them' meaning a different race or similar gender) while progressivism is based on inclusion to work for a common goal as a consensus unit. Guess which is easier to manipulate and exploit among weak minds.

Imus wasn’t a conservative. Some even called him liberal although his political guests spanned the spectrum of politics from democrats like John Kerry to republicans such as Rudy Giuliani. A particular favorite of Imus’ was the very conservative Independent, Joe Lieberman.

But Imus used a slightly different tactic than the Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reily, etc. While their hate talk is serious and specific in their attacks against the groups of people they hate, Imus used humor.

Still, the intention of Imus’ humor was no less harmful.

The real unknown is how much longer we will have to wait before broadcasted hate speech begins to dwindle.

With Imus’ dismissal, America may soon see the dwindling begin.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The solution to the NFL Overtime problem

Almost no one likes the current sudden-death-overtime NFL rule for breaking ties after four quarters have been played.

The problem is that the winner of the coin toss in OT gets a HUGE advantage. If they score on their possession, the game ends without the other team having a chance to score on a similar possession (a variation of which is used in college football).

The problem with extending the game is that the longer the game is played, the more chances there are for injuries by players whose play gets sloppier with exhaustion as the game goes on.

The college football variation also creates a ridiculous amount of scoring that plays havoc with statistics - both real and fantasy. (Don't think gambling/fantasy football doesn't drive significant profits for the NFL and sports media - it does and they know it.)

So here's how to deal with the problem of luck governing overtime.

NEW RULE - The team that FORCED THE TIE (i.e. scored last) KICKS OFF IN OT. Pure strategy; no coin flips involved. It will also give incentive to go for the win over the tie by the team coming from behind in regulation.

Example #1 - A team trails 24-17 and scores a TD with 5 seconds left in the game. The odds are now better to go for two and the win in regulation than to go for one and kick off in OT.

Example #2 - A team trails 24-21 with three seconds to go on at the opponent's 3-yard line. The odds now favor going for the TD rather than the FG to tie.

Example #3 - A team has driven to the opponent's 15-yard line with under a minute to play trailing 24-21. No longer will you see three line plunges or kneel-downs to bring the clock to three seconds and kick the short FG to tie. The odds strongly favor a team actually trying to win the game instead of (yawn) killing the clock. If they score quickly, you'll have the added excitement of the other team desperately trying to score in the last seconds of the game.

Take Bush up on his offer

Ever the pursuer of compromise, I have come up with a solution that will satisfy the conditions set forth by President Bush for Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to testify before Congress, and still allow Congress to determine what input these two administration officials and other White House staff members had regarding questions surrounding the 2007 Department of Justice Attorney purge.

To review, President Bush’s conditions for the interviews of White House officials are as follows:
1) No subpoenas may be issued to testify before Congress.
2) No interviews may be conducted in public.
3) No recordings or transcripts may be kept of the interviews.
4) Interviewees are not be sworn in to tell the truth.

Not only should Congress accept these conditions, they should leap at the opportunity to follow the president’s request to the letter. They may never again get such a blind acceptance of pursuing these interviews in a manner consistent with the administration’s already accepted principles of justice.

How? It’s very simple.

Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and, especially, Alberto Gonzales should be interviewed at Guantanamo Bay under the direction of interviewers at that facility in conditions that have already been determined by this administration and, especially, Alberto Gonzales, to be proper under United States and international law.

As Attorney General, the nation’s chief law enforcement official, Alberto Gonzales has already written memos outlining the unique advantages of having such a facility and practices in place at Guantanamo Bay. Harriet Miers, the president’s personal legal advisor, has also given her blessing (isn’t that a wonderful word?) to these types of procedures.

Note that the president has given no restraints on the location of these interviews. Nor has he specified the amount of time over which the questioning can take place.

As for the presumed innocence of those being interviewed, well, that hardly matters.

Most of the interviewees at Guantanamo Bay have been released after being interviewed over a period of time because it was determined they, too, were not guilty of wrongdoing. That certainly didn’t stop officials at the facility from engaging in – shall we say – rather extensive interviews.

Having the interviews conducted at Guantanamo Bay also gives interviewers the opportunity to determine guilt without the necessity for trials, lawyers, and such.

The president has clearly shown a disdain for allowing his administration’s officials from participating in these types of legal workups. Surely the president can appreciate avoiding such messy and public displays of what some in opposition to the president might call “the rule of law.”

And suppose the interviewers at Guantanamo Bay determine guilt by one or more of the parties being interviewed. We can eliminate yet another step of traditional legal activities known as “sentencing hearings.”

No, it’s one-stop shopping for these participants.

As for appeals, well, that would involve lawyers, which we have already determined to be an unnecessary and distasteful component to such matters.

You may be wondering about Due Process, which is a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution in the 5th and 14th Amendments. Due Process is our method of guaranteeing certain procedures that must be followed to ensure fairness for the accused we presume to be innocent.

Of course, Alberto Gonzales, with the blessing (there’s that wonderful word again) of Harriet Miers, has already determined that the United States Constitution isn’t in effect in Guantanamo Bay.

In fact, Alberto Gonzales has previously determined that much of the United States Constitution isn’t in effect in the United States, either. Did you know that the United States Constitution does not guarantee the right of habeas corpus, which is the alleged right to know what an accused person has been charged with in criminal court? Gonzales’ opinions are so perceptive as to outweigh the forefathers of America as well as the history of Western Civilization dating back to the Magna Carta in 1215.

So you see, having these interviews in Guantanamo Bay is COMPLETELY within the bounds of United States law and the president's infallible political philosophy. We should all thank the president for setting guidelines that allow us the opportunity to properly interview these witnesses under conditions the interviewees have already graciously agreed to.