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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rush-ing to judgment

Almost immediately after President Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor for a Supreme Court judgeship on Tuesday, I had to get in my car and make the nearly five-hour drive from my parents' house in Rochester to my house in Kingston. So I turned on the radio to hear what the right-wing noisemakers were saying (this is how I stay alert during long trips on the Thruway) and quickly found the self-important, egomaniacal, oh-so-proud-of-himself Rush Limbaugh shooting off his mouth about how terrible Sotomayor would be for the high court and the country.

Don't get me wrong. I respect Rush's convictions. He's a rock-ribbed right winger who disdains the liberal agenda, and that's his prerogative. But his attacks on the Democrats he so dislikes are largely personal, frequently unjustified and often based on supposition rather than fact. That is, if you have a D after your name, Rush hates you and shouts from the rooftops that he hates you - regardless of whether he's ever met you or done any research about you.

Bloviating about Sotomayor, Rush simply ticked off the right-wing talking points: She a "liberal," a "radical," an "activist," an "anti-constitutionalist" and, merging a couple of those, a "radical anti-constitutionalist." (Is "anti-constitutionalist" even a word?) But he offered almost no factual evidence to back up his name-calling.

And Obama, according to Rush, is "the most radical president in history." Of course he is, Rush - just like every other Democrat to occupy the Oval Office, right?

And then Rush took Obama to task for, as a senator, voting against recently appointed Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts solely on the grounds that they were nominated by a Republican (George W. Bush).

Excuse me? It's OK for Rush to blast Sotomayor simply because she was nominated by a Democrat, but it's not OK for then-Sen. Obama to have voted against two men nominated by a Republican? Yeah, that makes sense.

This is why Rush's show should be categorized as comedy (and bad comedy, at that), rather than commentary. He is, in every sense of the word, a joke.

And by the way, Rush: Sotomayor's original nomination to the federal bench, in 1992, was made by REPUBLICAN President George H.W. Bush. Funny, but I never heard you mention that on Tuesday.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Unanimous consent

In more than 21 years at the Freeman. I've developed a pretty good ability to accurately predict the outcome of local elections. And when I get one wrong, I usually can figure out why.

But Tuesday's budget vote results in the 18 school districts we cover have me absolutely baffled.

Given the recession and the fact that 17 of the 18 budgets called for higher property taxes, I figured at least half would be defeated by fiscally fatigued voters.

But, go figure, all 18 budgets were approved - and all by comfortable margins. And numerous separate spending propositions across the region also passed without exception.

It turns out that, after more than 21 years at the Freeman, I still can be surprised.


Fake feats

Alex Rodriguez has hit a home run in each of the New York Yankees' last four games.

Am I supposed to be impressed? For God's sake, the guy is an ADMITTED CHEATER - forced to confess earlier this year (because he'd just been outed by Sports Illustrated) that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.

Alex Rodriguez is emblematic of everything that's wrong with baseball today, but mindless fans and embarrassingly biased play-by-play guys like Michael Kay and John Sterling act as if he's the best thing to happen to the game since Abner Doubleday.

Unless Major League Baseball makes A-Rod pee in a cup after every game and provides conclusive evidence to us, the fans, that he is not currently using steroids, then there's no way to take seriously anything he does on the field.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Two years and counting

On this, the second anniversary of my blog (hard to believe, I know), here are a few observations that have nothing to do with the second anniversary of my blog:

• I happened to catch the end of the Friday night and Saturday afternoon Yankee games on TV - both of which the Bombers won on walk-off hits - and let me tell you, I've seen lower-key on-field celebrations by teams that just won the World Series. Hey, New York, you're a barely-over-.500 team and it's still May. Get over yourselves. But then again, perhaps you should do as much partying as possible now, because if recent history is any indicator, you won't have anything to celebrate come October.

• I notice Rep. Maurice Hinchey, the Hurley Democrat who voted against almost every nickel of proposed war funding while Republican President George W. Bush was in office, voted last week in favor of spending billions of dollars for the U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know Mo is happy to finally have a member of his own party, Barack Obama, in the White House, but how does that translate into the congressman suddenly supporting combat activities that he's opposed for most of the past eight years? Changing positions simply because of a change in White House control is playing politics with the lives of our troops, and that's inexcusable.

Freeman editing colleague Tom Wakeman and I have noticed, while reading stories in recent days about this year's school board candidates, that an alarming number of people seeking to become trustees in the area's districts have spouses who work for the districts. Have these people never heard the phrase "conflict of interest"? Hopefully the voters have.

• And lastly, a note to Kingston Mayor James Sottile: It's one thing to decide there will be no enforcement of the city's parking meter rules between 4:30 and 6 p.m. daily, but you really should have kept that fact to yourself. Telling Freeman reporter Paul Kirby, who promptly included the information in a front-page story, means you can be pretty sure no one will be feeding the city's Uptown, Midtown and Downtown meters during that 90-minute period. And that's sure to result in a significant loss of revenue at a time when Kingston can ill-afford any more financial problems.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Politics unusual

You know the old saying: Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Why, then, is the beaten-down Republican Party using Dick Cheney and Karl Rove - two of the most unpopular people from one of the most unpopular presidential administrations in history - as its most visible spokesmen?

Evey time I turn on Fox News, there's Rove, bloviating about how bad President Barack Obama is for America. And every time I turn on, well, almost any news channel, there's Cheney, bloviating about how bad President Barack Obama is for America.

Don't these guys, and the party they represent, understand they're a large part of why the Republicans got their butts kicked in the 2006 midterm elections and the 2008 presidential vote? Do they really think their continued noisemaking on cable TV news shows will lead to a different result in 2010 or 2012?

Obama has a 65 percent approval rating, according to the latest Gallup Poll. President George W. Bush, thanks in large part to Cheney and Rove, left office with an approval rating in the low 20s.

If these guys spend much more time on the air, telling people exactly what they don't want to hear, the Democrats can start engraving the invitations for the 2012 inaugural balls today.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Favre from finished

In a Feb. 11 post, I wrote the following:

New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre announced today that he's retiring from professional football -- the exact same announcement he made 11 months ago. My guess is he changes his mind about a month from now and signs with a team desperate for a field general and willing to fork over a bundle of money.

Today comes the news that Favre is talking with the Minnesota Vikings - division rivals of Favre's longtime team, the Green Bay Packers - about returning to the field this fall.

I told you so.


Monday, May 4, 2009

School's out!

The Associated Press reported over the weekend that about 250 schools in the United States have closed or plan to shut down - some for as long as two weeks - to put the brakes on the dreaded (read: ridiculously exaggerated) swine flu threat.

250 schools? For God's sake, that's more than the total number of swine flu cases that currently exist in the entire nation! In other words, some schools that are completely unaffected by the illness are, for absolutely no reason, denying their students an education.

School officials are using phrases like "abundance of caution" in justifying their decisions. "Abundance of paranoid hysteria" would be more like it.

And one can't help but wonder: With an estimated 1 million cases of seasonal flu occurring in the United States each winter, how come these same schools don't close for weeks at a time every December, January, February and March?

This really has to stop.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Shop now, beat the rush

Don't forget to buy an adequate supply of surgical masks to protect yourself from the approaching swine flu catastrophe.

You can store them with all the batteries and bottled water you bought in preparation for the Y2K disaster and all the duct tape and plastic sheeting you bought in hopes of surviving a post-9/11 chemical attack.