Friday, June 04, 2010

Quotable: WMD in South Africa?

“Technology is not everything. Scientists came up with the atom bomb; it doesn’t mean we should have invented it.”

Marcus Hahnemann, reserve goalkeeper for the United States World Cup squad
Days away from the opening kick of the World Cup in South Africa, players gathered from around the world and five continents (six, if you count Australia) to reach a consensus seldom, if ever, found in the United Nations: the new World Cup ball sucks. Big time.

Hahnemann expressed his displeasure with philosophical overstatement; it’s not exactly a weapon of mass destruction, even if you’re a goalkeeper trying to parry, block and defend the adversary’s shots. Maybe that’s why he’s the reserve keeper. Tim Howard, the starter, was fatalistic: “I think we learned a long time ago as goalkeepers, it’s no excuse. You have to figure out the movement of the ball. If it moves too much, then you just get it out of harm’s way and don’t try to be too cute and clever with it. It’s about adapting.”

Goalkeepers, who obsess about taking cheap goals -- in Brasil they’re derisively labeled “chickens”-- were the ball’s biggest critics: Julio César (Brasil), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cláudio Bravo (Chile), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), David James (England), and Fernando Muslera (Uruguay) have all blasted Adidas’ terrible orb.

Some of Brasil’s players, whose game depends on precision passing, weren’t so happy either. Robinho said whoever invented the ball “never played this game.” Wingback Michel Bastos joked that the ball had transformed him from a mere mortal shooter into Roberto Carlos, who anchored Brasil’s left wingback position the past three Cups.

Roberto Carlos’s free kick against France from 35 m (115 feet) out made him especially famous: “The ball curved so much that the ball boy 10 yards to the right ducked instinctively, thinking that the ball would hit him. Instead, it eventually curled back on target, much to the surprise of goalkeeper Fabien Barthez (a dead ringer for Donald Pleasance), who just stood in place.” If this is what Bastos meant, it should be a surprise-laden, lively Cup competition.

Striker Luís Fabiano, whose task is to score goals for Brasil, sounded like a character from Invasion of the Body Snatchers complaining about his spouse’s odd, “supernatural” behavior. An estrangement between striker and ball in such a relatively short competition with little time for recovery and adapting can have dire consequences. Only the immortal gods of the game like the greatest of them all, Pelé, reserve for themselves the luxury of painting masterpieces of goals not scored:

So the concern with the new ball is we’ll see a whole lot more of this:

The New York Times has a nice interactive feature on the evolution of the World Cup ball. It’s not just in baseball, it seems, that the ball has evolved to become “livelier” and jump off the foot as it has jumped off the bats.

Speaking of baseball, on behalf of sports fans everywhere, memo to Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig: Give Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga his perfect game, you Republican’t jerk! Or does he have to produce his “papers” for a perfect game earned on the field and taken away in the League Office to count?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Israel’s Stupidity

Imagine what would happen if someone like Israeli Prime Minister “Bibi” Netanyahu was managing the U.S. naval blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This planet would now be overrun by insects, a few sturdy plants, and weird mutant life forms in Night-Glo oceans. There was, in fact, a lunatic military fringe led by General Curtis LeMay whose solution to just about any threat was “bomb [the enemy] back to the stone age.” As the architect of history’s most destructive air raids -- “carpet bombing” in Japan and later Vietnam –- LeMay believed in a disproportionate military response no matter what the circumstance.

Israel’s assault on a flotilla ship in international waters ferrying peace activists (many of whom are American citizens) with relief supplies to the Gaza Strip, drew worldwide condemnation and has once again placed the United States in the untenable position of having to defend the conservative Netanyahu government from actions strongly criticized in Israel itself. No one would deny Israel’s right to defend itself. But to invoke this posture by forcing a confrontation with a civilian ship transporting civilian peace activists, including women and children, in international waters is not only “unacceptable” (British PM David Cameron), “disproportionate” (French President Sarkozy), but downright stupid.

Israel claims it was “provoked” by the activists in the flotilla into taking the FUBAR actions it took. Yet no amount of “provocation” would result in deaths and shootings if Israeli commandos had not seized the civilian vessel in a botched raid. If the Israeli Navy is incapable of turning away a ferry ship in international waters, then it does not have a very effective naval blockade. Israel claims the activists were provocateurs bent on a confrontation with the IDF. If this is the case, then the activists scored a major victory for their cause courtesy of Israel’s lack of restraint.

Turkey, whose vessel the Israeli commandos seized, had even harsher words. Its foreign minister called the Israeli raid “banditry and piracy” on the high seas and “murder conducted by a state.” Turkey used to be one of the few remaining Muslim nations friendly to Israel, and had been playing a constructive role mediating between Israel and its regional foes, such as Syria. Now, according to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this “is a turning point in history. Nothing will be the same again.”

Way to go, Bibi.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

When Love is Never Having to Say You’re Sorry, What’s the Flip Side?

If the impacted Gulf states had a BP billion for every time its colonial Maharajah CEO Tony Hayward opened his mouth to apologize for something stupid and outrageous he said … First, it was the proverbial “tiny” drop in a “very big ocean.” So tiny, in fact, that it can be seen from space in all its sickening killing zone bigness. This is a NASA photo of the BP Gulf disaster –- the grayish-beige is the BP oil hemorrhage spreading death and destruction in every direction. This is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions that could threaten life itself on this planet:

Then, in the midst of BP’s crime Hayward whines about wanting “my life back,” anticipating the 15% cratering of BP stock, perhaps, and the loss of some of his significant personal fortune:

What about the lives that were lost on that rig, Mr. Hayward? What about the livelihoods of millions of Gulf state residents irreparably damaged and destroyed, and what about the wanton destruction and killing of millions of animal and marine species, for generations, by BP’s criminal corporate greed? Tony was quick to apologize. Again.

It’s difficult to select the single most despicable thing Hayward has said, but this one, because it is so callous and disdainful of the human lives of the oil cleanup workers -- slowly poisoned by chemical toxins released into our environment by BP to die of untreatable disease and cancers, out of sight and out of mind -- is the cold BP calculation of the worthlessness of human life when pitted against the “life” and survival of BP as the corporate entity right wing extremists on the Supreme Court have declared to be a “person.”

Food poisoning? Hayward’s calculated disinformation was dismissed by an expert on foodborne illness, Dr. Michael Osterholm, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “Headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds — there’s nothing there that suggests foodborne illness. I don’t know what these people have, but it sounds more like a respiratory illness.” Despite BP’s propaganda, which tries to paint Corexit as an upscale beauty product –- “a second ingredient is used in a brand-name dry skin cream and also in a body shampoo” (does BP plan to market Corexit shampoo?) –- the label tells a different story:

Corexit 9500 is a solvent originally developed by Exxon and now manufactured by Nalco of Naperville, Illinois. Corexit is four times more toxic than oil (oil is toxic at 11 ppm (parts per million), Corexit 9500 at only 2.61ppm). In a report written by Anita George-Ares and James R. Clark for Exxon Biomedical Sciences, Inc. titled “Acute Aquatic Toxicity of Three Corexit Products: An Overview,” Corexit 9500 was found to be one of the most toxic dispersal agents ever developed. And it becomes even more toxic when mixed with the higher gulf coast water temperatures.

Activist attorney Mike Papantonio reported that the Davis-Bacon Act which sets prevailing wages in the locality for government contract workers was suspended, and BP has been hiring Mexican labor at below the minimum wage for the cleanup. These workers are being deliberately denied protective clothing and respirators, required for work around hazardous materials, because the “optics” of workers dressed in space suits would be bad for the company’s image.

This comes on the heels of BP hiring Dick Cheney’s former press secretary, Anne Kolton, to head up its PR effort. It wouldn’t surprise if one of Kolton’s first decision in her new role was to condemn those Mexican laborers to horrible premature deaths by denying them protective gear.

Cheap labor. Expendable human lives. Out of sight, out of mind. That is the corporate way. Is there any chance, Mr. Attorney General, any chance at all, that we can put Tony Hayward in leg irons and handcuffs? We’ll take “community work” for the corporate executives responsible for this epic disaster. They should be forced to work the cleanup side-by-side with their expendable laborers, without protective clothing and gear. Tony Hayward would be forced to seek asylum in the British Consulate.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Sister Sarah Was Projecting, Here's Your Chance Rich!

ravish [ˈrævɪʃ]
vb (tr)
1. (often passive) to give great delight to; enrapture
2. to rape
3. Archaic to carry off by force

O Sarah, I think I see Rich Lowry clambering up your berms, panting, promising, pleading to be the “leadership&action” to your “ravished coast”to “ask forgiveness later” for adulterous sin.

Here is an example of correct usage, from this blog: “Fingers crossed, for the sake of economically devastated residents and our ravaged ecology.”

Now go fulfill Rich’s ITILF fantasy. Idiot.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Tribute

Today as we honor the military service of Americans who died from all wars, we should heed the voices of those who have experienced first-hand the horrors of war:
I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.

~George McGovern

When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die.

~Jean-Paul Sartre

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.

~Dwight D. Eisenhower
You can always tell an old battlefield where many men have lost their lives. The next spring the grass comes up greener and more luxuriant than on the surrounding countryside; the poppies are redder, the corn-flowers more blue. They grow over the field and down the sides of the shell holes and lean, almost touching, across the abandoned trenches in a mass of color that ripples all day in the direction that the wind blows. They take the pits and scars out of the torn land and make it a sweet, sloping surface again. Take a wood, now, or a ravine: In a year’s time you could never guess the things which had taken place there.

…To me it has always seemed that God is so sickened with men, and their unending cruelty to each other, that he covers the places where they have been as quickly as possible.

If the common soldiers of each army could just get together by a river bank and talk things over calmly, no war could possibly last as long as a week.

~William March, from Company K (1933)