Saturday, February 11, 2006

Figure This: Skating is Corrupt

Emily Hughes took the number three position at the US Olympic trials. This is an undeniable fact, and a matter of record. The trials were held, a great many skaters skated, and Emily came in third.

The top three finishers were entitled to a slot on the US Olympic Team.

Except this is Figure Skating, the sport where the "winner" is chosen by a Star Chamber. Evidently the skaters are chosen to skate by the same chamber.

I am insulted by anyone who supports the decision to put Michelle Kwan on the team over Emily Hughes. I have nothing for or against Michelle Kwan, or at least I didn't until she accepted this injustice, but: Michelle didn't skate, therefore she didn't qualify. In any real sport it would be as simple as that, but Figure Skating is neither a sport, nor is it fair.

"Michelle's History" was factored in, and Emily was tossed. This is the same logic that told us that even though Bill Clinton had lied under oath, he was "really a nice guy, and a fine president," so we would have to ignore his peccadillo's. This is the same logic that kept Mary Jo Kopechne from getting her fair day in court.

It is wrong. It is wrong for the big things, and it is wrong for the little things. And, btw, when it's YOUR shot at going to the OLYMPICS, it's hardly a little thing - but even if it were a small thing, the point would still be valid.

The New England Patiots have dominated the NFL for the past several years, but this year Teddy Bruschi was injured and/or ineffective for most of the year. The Colts were clearly the best team in football most of the time - just not in the AFC Championship game. The Yankees have won more World Series than any other two teams combined, but there are also the Cubs who really WANT to win, and try really hard.

By the insane logic of the US Figure Skating Commission, any - or perhaps all - of these teams should have been granted a free pass to their respective championship. Never mind that other teams beat them on the field.

I am fiercely independent, and feel that we are a society where lawsuits are far too frivolous. Even so, if I were Emily Hughes I'd have lawsuits in the works right now, during the Olympics, against the USOC, any Figure Skating commission/official that was involved in this, and perhaps Michelle Kwan herself if I could find a way to do that. Michelle's acceptance of the slot was criminal, deplorable, and disgusting.

And, oh, look... the news from Torino today says that it seems as if Michelle can't skate after all. Her groin injury is nowhere near healed enough.

Maybe the IOC can find a way to just cancel the skating and give her the Gold Medal.

It's only fair.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


If you live in the Northeast corridor, as I do, trucks are the bane of your commute. This is true in a lot of other places, too, but give the population density here I tend to think our ring of hell is a bit "deeper" than others. There's no denying that other urban areas are just as bad - just not as large.

Most of the fatalities on the highway I drive on are caused by trucks. They provide either the impetus for the accident or the "lethal mass," or both. They crawl up hills, forcing cars to jam in behind them, or they careen down the other side, forcing drivers to hold their breath when they see that massive grill coming up on them. And don't say "well, just pull over." The cars can't - they are in gridlock caused by *other* trucks, just up ahead, that won't let the cars pass.

And it is exceedingly rare to have the highway closed by an autos-only accident, whereas semi-trailers routinely shut the whole system down.

Yes, I sure do love trucks.

As cities continue to become less and less relevant to the American Worker (that will be another blog), the commute becomes more and more relevant. The lifeblood of the US Economy is found on the highways - both electronic and paved - that cross our land.

And, to nobody's surprise, our politicians don't have a clue. To them, it's an issue of "keep our bridges from falling down," which completely misses the point.

America doesn't need the old infrastructure repaired and maintained; it needs a new infrastructure. It needs an infrastructure that reflects the economic needs and realities of the twenty first century.

In an age when people commute from suburban neighborhoods into suburban offices, which is not only the norm, but a continuing trend, public transportation simply doesn't work. The logistics can't be made practical. So what *should* we do?
1. Skew the tax structure to grossly favor rail transportation over trucking for any trip over 100 miles, and any trip into a major metro area. For the most part, trucks should be used only for local deliveries to/from the train depot.
2. In general I am dead-set against job programs, but there's no denying that they are here to stay. If we're going to pour federal and state dollars into jobs programs and such, perhaps we can funnel some of that money into expanding the rail system to accomodate this? We won't only need new rail lines, we'll need modern depots that allow rapid loading and unloading of containers. Rail-heads should be viewed like airports and seaports - public works. Unlike make-work situations, this public work will actually add value to the US Economy.
3. Take the same labor force and have them build truck-only roads into and out of every major metro area, going at least 50 miles out. Even with a dramatically expanded rail system, semi's are here to stay. Let's get them away from the commuters, and onto their own roads. Why is it that we stopped building highways in the 1960's? Our population has tripled, and our roads have barely grown. What, was Ike the only person who saw the critical nature of having enough roads to grow an economy on? Semi-trailers have no business being on the same road as cars at any speed over 40 MPH. Segregate them. You'll save lives, you'll save time, you'll save fuel, and you'll boost the economy.
4. Instead of having Detroit fritter time on Hydrogen cars (see my post "Wanna buy an H?"), perhaps we can incent them to develop "smart cars," "smart roads," "highway caravans," or some other such game-changing technologies? If you want to beat Japan, this is the kind of innovation it will take. Give me a road and/or car with enough intelligence to allow me to join a caravan of other cars, take my hands off the wheel, and enjoy a computer controlled ride until my exit. Let the computer set the pace such that I get there on-time, and yet we use as little fuel as possible. I'm not talking about robot cars or science fiction, I'm talking about one of several ideas that are already being discussed. No company in the world has the money to do this alone - it will be a public work, and it should start in suburban NYC, NJ, Boston, DC, LA, and other areas of commuting hell.

You want to fix the health care crisis in this country? Boost the economy to the point where medical costs aren't a problem. You want to address the Social Security crisis? Same answer - give the post-boomers an economy that can handle the load. You want to give people welfare, or do you want to teach them to build things like roads, bridges, rail depots, etc.?

My fear is that this dream of mine is a foolish nirvana, because people like Ike don't exist anymore. Ike built roads, without breaking the taxpayers back. These days people like Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry build things like the "Big Dig," and bankrupt us.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The World's Greatest *What?*

The Rolling Stones call themselves the World's Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band, and they have every right to do so. They can call themselves the World's Greatest Lemon Tarts, too, but they won't be that, either.

We can get into the why's and wherefore's later, but to me the Stones aren't even in the Top 5.

Issues With GW Bush, Part I

As the sun comes up on the East Coast the whole United States breathes a sigh of relief that we didn't hear Mick Jagger say what the woman in "Start it Up" makes a dead man do. That was very nice of ABC, wasn't it?

Now, about the repugnant ads for Grey's Anatomy, was I the only person who saw those? You know, the ones with Doctors making out in the linen closet, a woman with blood and gore all over her face (screaming), someone hollering something about a "Code Black," a scalpel going into an opened body cavity, etc. They replayed this ad every chance they got. It must have been on seven or eight times.

We don't want to hear "dead man cum" tucked into a song, but seeing blood and gore on a shrieking woman's face every 20 minutes is fine?

Children watch the Super Bowl. That was the problem with Janet Jackson, and it's the problem with ABC in general. More importantly, it's a HUGE problem with the FCC.

So now I know that ABC has some new "family" show coming out. The ad had the daughter and mother talking about how there is no sex after marriage. The daughter was wearing braces, and was pubescent. We won't even talk about the parents of the child actor that was in that PG-13 scene. What's more bothersome is that all over America young children watched this swill. Seven year old girls saw hospitals as insane asylums, again and again and again. Nine year old boys were once again told how lousy being married is, and/or that they'd better get their sex now.

Where is the FCC? How is it that ads aren't rated for adult content, still? This isn't something that GW Bush would have to ask congress to approve - it's simply something he could do himself. He talks about technology, technology, technology, but does he have a clue that the VChip is already out there? Does he know that most Cable/Satellite boxes now have it built in, and can be programmed?

If those ads were rated PG-13, my set top box would have blanked them out and I wouldn't care that ABC is a septic wasteland. But that's not how it happened. Instead, we get to see ads with nearly R-rated violence and sexual content with no way to stop it. It's the last part that bothers me. Can't the FCC at least give me a way to stop it? Can't they rate ads?

Of course they can, but they won't. Why?

Ask the boss.