Monday, February 27, 2006

The Olympics Are Over, Hurrah!

The Olympics that ended last night and I, for one, are glad.

Not that I don't like the Winter Olympics in general, I do, but this year's incarnation of the event was ruined by NBC. In this day, with all the technology available to a network, how dare it show nothing but pre-edited events during prime time? There is nothing worse then getting tidbits of an event. I want to watch an event all the way through, see the good athletes with the poor.

If a person really likes snowboarding then he or she will be sorely disappointed by getting to watch six athletes, three of them American, make two runs each over a three hour period while having to watch men's figure skating or ice dancing in between. I was able to view one hockey game, just one. The gold medal game was played out at Saturday at 8am East Coast time. Just when everyone with a family has time to sit down and watch. A great game between two underdogs was probably viewed by 22 people in the US.

I know that during the day events were shown in their totality on CNBC and the USA network. Why weren't these networks utilized at night? My guess is NBC was scared its flagship network would lose viewers, and thus ad dollars, when people tuned in someplace else. Well, NBC received its just reward, the lowest rated Olympics ever.

(I am now going to be a hypocrite and complain about how some Olympic announcers complained.)

My other issue is with the event announcers, particularly the fools covering the ice skating. I am not a huge fan of the sport, but I understand the difficulty involved and respect the skaters. What I could not stand was Dick Buttons, Scot Hamilton and two other people so far down the announcing food chain that I cannot recall their names. With the exception of Hamilton, the other three did nothing, but bad mouth the skaters. All of them. Granted, the figure skaters for some reason had a tough Olympics with more falling down then I've ever seen. However, this does not excuse the nasty tone of voice and nitpicky analysis that took place.

What was particularly galling was listening to Buttons condescendingly state how such and such skater had no chance of medalling half way through her routine. It is obvious that everyone is not on the same level, but don't write them off. Also, spouting off about errors and points deducted for not pulling off a certain maneuver does not help the average viewer who knows little to nothing about figure skating. He made the broadcast almost unendurable and I regret not turning off the volume and just watching the video.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Not A Smart Fight

President Bush's insistence that a UAE-based company be allowed to buy control of six major U.S. ports from a UK firm is ludicrous.

For the moment I will put aside whether the company Dubai Ports World is a security risk. Instead I want to focus on Bush's stance. For the first time in his presidency Bush is willing to pull out his veto trigger and force a piece of legislation through Congress. How many other issues have come and gone without the president raising a finger in protest? But this deal, with a company that has personal ties to at least two people in his administration, is considered important enough for him to get personally involved.

With opposition to the deal lining up on both sides of the aisle, Bush is leading himself into a no-win situation. Even if he vetoes the bill Congress is likely to have enough votes to overturn the veto, making him look like a fool. There is a time in every presidents tenure when he has to face the fact that he cannot always have his way. Bush, being the son of an extremely wealthy and powerful family, is not accustomed to being told no, but it is now time he learned to listen and obey what others desire.

What makes this stance an even more serious problem is it comes on the heals of VP Cheney's recent PR disaster. Does the administration really want to be raked over the coals on two issues so close together? Granted, the Cheney situation was blown out of proportion, but the VP could have done a better job getting the word out to the press and dealing immediately with the problem instead of withdrawing behind his castle gate.

Instead of doing everything in his power to put the presidency in its best light, Bush is taking the opposite approach. He is brining on another headache, one that need not be suffered.

Is Dubai Ports World a security risk? Maybe, maybe not, but in a world where we are constantly told by the federal government to be vigilant against terrorism it is hypocritical of it to then turn around and help a company controlled by the UAE government, a nation that supplied two Sept. 11 terrorists, whose banking system was used by al Queda, and whose government officially recognized the immensely repressive Taliban government in Afghanistan.

The company could be totally legit and safe, but by why take a chance and at the same time alienate many of your supporters? The president claimed that the company was properly investigated and comes from a friendly allied nation.

But considering the UAE's past connection with al Queda I think we should think twice before we declare such countries an ally.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Journalists at War

Here is an interesting question and answer session between Ann Cooper of the Committee to Protect Journalists and Broadcasting and Cable magazine.

While most of Cooper's points are on base she is dead wrong stating that journalists should not arm themselves when covering events in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Q. Geraldo Rivera took some heat a couple years ago when he said he carried a gun while covering the conflict in Afghanistan. What did you make of that?

Cooper: We tell journalists they should not ever carry guns. If they are traveling armed in a conflict zone, it blurs the perception of who they are. They’re there as neutral observers to see what’s going on and write about it for the rest of the world. They are not combatants and they shouldn’t do something that may make some people perceive them to be something other than an independent observer.

The problem with her statement is it only works when all sides in a conflict recognize journalists as being neutral. In Iraq and Afghanistan that is not true. The terrorists view journalists as political entities that they can use to their advantage when kidnapped or killed. The terrorists are trying to build a case that Iraq is ungovernable and so fully out of control that even reporters are killed, 61 so far I believe. The terrorists are trying to take advantage of the fact that many people in the world think a press badge is generally better protection then body armor. By proving this concept wrong the killers are attempting to scare us out of Iraq.

If a journalist feels uncomfortable travelling armed then they should not do so, but they should also not expect any level of protection unless they are moving about with U.S. or UK troops. If I were reporting from Iraq I would damn well make sure I was carrying something.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Islamic Cartoon Odyssey And The Media's Shame

Benjamin Franklin knew what he was talking about when he said this:

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Well it only took a week of riots and a couple of dozen deaths for newspapers and media organizations to decide that freedom of speech is not worth the effort.

A roundup of press restrictions at The Belmont Club indicates that press guidelines are being developed in some countries to limit upsetting Islamic sensibilities. How a Canadian university's newspaper was pulled from the rack because it contained the cartoons. How the EU wants to set up a dialogue with the media to discuss balancing freedom of speech with not offending Islamic and other religions.

What total and utter BS. You cannot have freedom of speech and worry about not upsetting people. All this proves is Muslim lunatics can force a nation to do its bidding by burning down its embassy. In the old days this would be considered an act of war and the offended country would sail its navy into the area and shell its attackers until they came to their senses. I believe huge chunks of Lebanon can be reached by the 16-inch guns on battleship USS New Jersey so I vote for bringing her out of retirement and sending her off to the Med.

Such actions by governments and other institutions simply teaches the terrorists and their supporters that the West is weak willed. If you want Spanish troops out of Iraq and a terrorist friendly government elected to power in Madrid, kill a couple hundred Spaniards and you will get your wish. If you wish to inflame Islamic public opinion incite them to riot over incorrect stories about Korans being flushed down a toilet. If you want to slowly convert the world to Muslim ideals then riot, killing a few fellow Muslims in the process, claim to be mortally offended and the world will bow to your demands.

What is the next liberty the West will be willing to give up chasing the lost hope of appeasing Muslim lunatics? Religion. Perhaps riots will break out decrying the holidays of Easter and Rosh Hashana. Maybe women's rights will fall to the wayside after a million Muslims in Iran scream that all women need to cover themselves from head to toe.

The first step on a very slippery slope has been taken. Let's hope our shoes have enough traction to stop the slide.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

USA Today Op-Ed Way Off Base

An op-ed piece USA Today's today makes the argument that newspapers should edit themselves so as not to offend Muslims.

The article was written by Souheila al-Jaddaa, a journalist and associate producer of a Peabody award-winning program, Mosaic: World News from the Middle East, according to the paper.

Al-Jaddaa has the nerve to state that Muslims are being picked on by the world at large.

But these provocative cartoon portrayals came as no surprise to many in the Islamic world. Protesters see this as a pattern of Western attacks against Islam and Muslims - especially after reports of desecration of the Islamic holy book, the Quran, at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the abuse of prisoners in
Iraq and Afghanistan; and the banning of the headscarf, hijab, in public schools in France.

The Koran flushing incident was proven false, the prisoner abuse scandal had nothing to do with the prisoners religion and just because Islam requires certain types of dress does not mean a secular nation has to allow it. Al Jaddaa seems to forget that freedom of speech means exactly that. I can call Mohammed a pork eating homosexual and it is perfectly legal. The Western press is full of incidents that denigrate various religions, people and nationalities. It prints photos of artwork portraying Jesus covered in urine and feces, of political figures engaged in lewd acts, if you can think of something demeaning it's been printed.

Why Muslims feel they should be excused from being the focus of an editorial cartoon is a question for the ages. Particularly when so to many terrorists actions are done in the name of Islam.

Guess what? If the attacks around the world would stop, so would the cartoons. Muslims have nobody to blame, but themselves for how they are perceived by the world.

Al-Jaddaa also does not understand the true force behind freedom of the press and free speech. While she correctly states that a newspaper would not print certain editorial cartoons or pictures, that is a personal choice made by management. It is not controlled by the government. The KKK or Nazi Party newsletter can print whatever they wish. These are reviled by the average person, but it is allowable.

While Danish editors are free to publish such cartoons, Muslims are also free to express outrage.

There is a difference between expressing your rage and destroying an embassy. New Yorkers did not burn down Saudi Arabian embassy on Sept. 12, 2001. Al-Jaddaa does say the violence should be condemned, but by making an argument that Muslims have the right to be angry is foolish. There are more important issues in the Muslim world to be angry about.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Ground Hog Day Revealed

I was offline for the big day yesterday, but wanted to post something on the giant weatherforecasting creature known as Phil.

I've actually attended the official Groundhog Day activities at Punxsutawney and I can say it is more surreal then the movie.


Gobblers Knob is really on a hillside several miles outside town. The year I went, for work of all things, the site was packed with drunken Penn State college kids who had been there all night drinking beer. How they stood the cold is a tribute to youth and alcohol. The combination of which allows anything foolish to be accomplished.

The day was freezing and snowing, yet the rat managed to predict and early spring.

I chatted with one of the top-hatted fellows who yank the terrified varmint out of the tree stump and he said they get together the day before and hold a drawing to see if it will be more winter or spring. One is six is an early spring. (The guy tasked with pulling Phil out of his stump has to wear very thick leather gloves because the average groundhog has claws that could rip his fingers off.)

To say I was devastated would be an overestimate of how I felt. All I really wanted was to go back to the hotel because I was freezing.

One more Phil tip. He lives in a glassed in cage in the public library's window.

Democracy Wrong For The Arab World?

I've followed President Bush's thought that it is an insult to Muslims to say that democracy cannot be introduced to the Middle East. That is until the cartoon-inspired riots spread through the region during the past few days.

Muslims in several different countries rioted because a few European newspapers depicted images of the prophet Mohammad. Not even particularly negative images, just a picture, which some Muslims take to be a form of idolatry. So naturually the offended people rioted, burned Danish flags and called for various EU government to apologize for this supposed offense.

The total lack of understanding concerning freedom of the press along with the belief that everyone must follow Muslim laws regardless of their religious background is a strong sign that the average Muslim on the street might need some serious schooling before they grasp how a non-dictatorship, non-theocracy, non-monarchy operates. These rioters do not understand that they are calling for the wrong group to apologize. A government cannot apologize for an act committed by a private corporations.

The total lack of tolerance on this issue could by those offended can only spill over to other areas. Another sign was watching Fatah followers take to the streets following their loss in the Palestinian election to Hamas. While some Democrats made a scene after Bush won the last election, none whipped out their AK-47 and fired at random.

The democratic political process has simply not been instilled in the average Middle Easterner. Does anyone think Hamas will ever give up power? Of course, not. It will stay in place declaring itself the properly elected government until a coup or Israeli invades and wipes it out.

This is a problem given little public discussion