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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just wondering ...

* Why is gas going for $2.50 a gallon at the Stewart's Shop at Albany and Foxhall avenues in Kingston but $2.61 a gallon at the Stewart's at Lucas and Catskill avenues in Ulster?

* Who, exactly, will benefit from Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.'s newly announced service through which customers can track power outage repairs via the Internet? If your power is out, chances are you have no Internet service either.

* Why are there penalties and fines for excessive on-field celebrating by players in the National Football League but not in Major League Baseball?

* Why is Jerry Springer still on television?

* Why is Kentucky Fried Chicken putting all of its marketing efforts into promoting chicken that isn't fried?

* Why is Sarah Palin's new memoir called "Going Rogue"? Wasn't that the phrase people used to describe how uncontrollable she was while running for vice president last year?

* And why, oh why, am I spending my free time before work today contemplating all these things?


Tasteless tribute

Thanks to Freeman Sports Editor Ron Rosner for pointing this out to me:

It was heartwarming to see the Los Angeles Angels (my longtime favorites) pay tribute to their late pitcher Nick Adenhart when celebrating the team's A.L. West-clinching victory Monday night.

But did they have to do it by holding Adenhart's jersey aloft in the locker room and soaking it with beer and champagne?

The promising young rookie was, after all, killed in a drunken-driving accident this past April.

Perhaps a more fitting tribute would have been to simply carry the jersey onto the field and spread it out, number side up, on the pitcher's mound.


Utter hypocrisy

So the latest noise from the right is that President Obama shouldn't go to Denmark this week to make the case for bringing the Summer Olympics to Chicago in 2016 because he should be focusing on more pressing matters at home.

First of all, he'll be there and back in less than 24 hours. I'm pretty sure the United States can manage to have its leader out of the country for a fraction of a day.

Beyond that, though, Republicans in general - and their mouthpieces at FoxNews in particular - would be much easier to take seriously if they didn't complain about everything this guy does. I mean, seriously, are they so short on legitimate beefs about Obama that they have to resort to whining about him trying to do something good for the nation's image?

And isn't odd that the nation's conservatives and all the on-air blowhards who claim to represent them never once complained about the 490 days (that's 1.3 years) that Republican George W. Bush spent at his Texas ranch during his eight year presidency, or the 487 days (another 1.3 years) that he spent at Camp David, the official presidential retreat in Maryland?

Bush spends 2.6 years - nearly one-third of his time in office - on vacation from the White House, and Fox, et. al., don't utter a single disparaging word. Obama plans one pro-U.S. business trip abroad that will be over almost as soon as begins, and the same people go berserk.

Pretty funny. And pretty sad.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sports off-Center

Note to ESPN:

There's no need to devote the first 12 minutes of your Tuesday morning "SportsCenter" broadcast to recapping the NFL game you showed the night before.

Just because a game is shown on ESPN doesn't mean it's the most important sporting event of the day - especially when the football season is just three weeks old and several Major League Baseball games being played this week have postseason implications.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mac attack

Former teen TV star Mackenzie Phillips writes in a new autobiography - released 30 years after the last time anyone paid any attention to her - that she had a 10-year sexual relationship with her father, John, a member of the 1960s musical group The Mamas and the Papas.

Phillips claims the first encounter, when she was 19 and about to get married, was rape but that the tawdry entanglement then became consensual. And to make her story just a little more juicy, she says she became pregnant somewhere along the way and that Papa John paid for an abortion out of fear that the baby might be his.

And, of course, Phillips now has taken to the talk show circuit (gabbing with Oprah, et. al.) to share all the salacious details in an effort to prop up sales of a book that otherwise would collect dust on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.

All of which raises one key question:



My no-texting pledge

For the first time, I own a mobile phone that has a complete keyboard (a so-called QWERTY setup), which is intended to ease the process of typing text messages.

So let me say, here and now, for any and all to read, that I promise to never, ever, EVER send text messages (or read received ones) while driving my car.

It's been just over two years since five teenage girls were killed in a texting-related head-on crash in the Finger Lakes region of New York, and I want no part of any practice that has the potential for - if not the likelihood of - such deadly results.

Recent studies have concluded that texting drivers are just as likely to cause crashes as drunk drivers, and we all know how devastating DWI wrecks can be. So let's not add to the already-too-high body count on our roads by engaging in yet another careless practice while behind the wheel.

I've taken the pledge. I urge everyone else to do the same.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Where was Fox?

From about 11:55 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. today, President Barack Obama spoke at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y.

Anyone sitting in front of a TV was able to watch the speech live on CNN.
FoxNews? They had some anti-Obama talking head on the screen for most of the half-hour yapping about how the president will botch the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Pardon me, but isn't Fox the network that just ran full-page newspaper ads accusing the other 24-hour cable news outlets of ignoring significant news events?


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What the heil?

Of all the signs I saw being held up at the "We hate everything about the government" rally on Saturday in Washington, D.C., the silliest - and, alas, the saddest - were the ones that depicted President Barack Obama with a Hitler-like mustache.

The protesters were suggesting that Obama, our first black president, rules like Hitler? Or that he wants to be like Hitler?

Hitler hated blacks almost as much as he hated Jews, but far be it from these self-proclaimed "teabaggers" to let the facts of history get in the way of what they see as a clever argument.


Monday, September 14, 2009

How rude!

* Rep. Joe Wilson heckles Barack Obama during a speech by the president to a joint session of Congress.
* Tennis star Serena Williams throws a foul-mouthed hissy fit and threatens to kill a line judge at the U.S. Open.
* Kanye West hijacks the MTV Video Music Awards and declares, during an acceptance speech by Taylor Swift, that the award Swift just won should have gone to Beyonce Knowles.

For heaven's sake, CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?


Friday, September 11, 2009

To air is human

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: In the news business, it's more important to be right than to be first.

The pitfalls of rushing to air with an unconfirmed story were glaringly evident again this morning as CNN, and then Fox News, reported a Coast Guard vessel had fired on a boat on the Potomac River between Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

CNN cited an overheard two-way radio transmission in reporting the Coast Guard vessel fired 10 shots after the boat ignored warnings to vacate the area because of 9/11-related restrictions. Fox then reported the same information, citing a Reuters report as its source. (I immediately went to Retuers' Web site and found that its information was based on — you guessed it — CNN's report.)

The reports — all of them — turned out to be wrong. Yes, the Coast Guard was conducting an exercise on the Potomac (which seems pretty brainless given the date on the calendar and the river's close proximity to the Pentagon, which was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001), but no shots were fired. The two-way radio conversation that a CNN employee heard apparently was one Coast Guard member issuing simulated instructions to another member to start shooting.

CNN was inexcusably irresponsible in reporting something it had not confirmed, and Reuters and Fox should be ashamed of themselves for simply repeating the bogus information without checking its accuracy.


You lie, Rep. Wilson

Before "You lie!" loses its news value and simply becomes the "Don't tase me, bro!" of 2009, let's at least examine whether U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson was correct when he very publicly accused President Barack Obama of fudging the facts about health care reform.

The South Carolina Republican's outburst during the Democratic president's address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday was in response to Obama's assurance that the health care legislation being proposed by the administration would not provide coverage for illegal immigrants. "YOU LIE!," Wilson bellowed in response, shocking virtually everyone in the House chamber and in homes across America, and causing the congressman's fellow Republicans in the room to cringe with embarrassment.

Obama was, in fact, telling the truth. The basis for Wilson's accusation is that several Republican-sponsored amendments calling for assurances that illegal aliens will not be afforded benefits under any federal health care policy have been rejected by the Democrats who control Congress. But that's nowhere near the same as ensuring coverage for illegal aliens, and Wilson knows it. And so do all the loudmouths on Fox News and right-wing radio who spent most of Thursday trying to defend this guy and elevate him to conservative folk hero status.

Too bad all of them, shall we say, failed to accurately express the facts.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another traffic headache

Think the new three-way stop sign setup at Wall and North Front streets in Uptown Kingston is bad? Here's an even better one: the newly installed sign that bars drivers from making a right turn on a red light from Washington Avenue onto Joys Lane (officially Grandma Brown Lane) in front of the old Friendly's restaurant, also in the Uptown area.

The result of the new rule is that traffic on Washington Avenue now backs up from Joys Lane to Hurley Avenue every time the light is red at Joys, making a block where gridlock already was a problem in the other direction even worse. (And it'll become even more disastrous when the planned new CVS store opens on that block.)

The right on red from Washington Avenue onto Joys Lane was one of the safest in town - because there isn't much traffic crossing Washington at that intersection - and prohibiting it is inexplicable ... and stupid ... and probably dangerous.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Voice of reason on the right

These two comments were made on Monday about President Barack Obama's planned speech to the nation's schoolchildren, which has become the subject of inexplicable controversy:

1. "There's a place for the president of the United States to talk to schoolchildren and encourage schoolchildren" to stay in school.

2. "It's ... really important for everyone to respect the president of the United States."

And who made these comments, you ask?
Obama himself?
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel?
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs?

No, on all three counts.

It was former first lady Laura Bush.

Thank you, Mrs. Bush, on behalf of civil people everywhere.

Now if only you could convince people in your own party - and the loudmouths on Fox News and right-wing radio shows - to not oppose everything Obama does simply because he's a Democrat.


Friday, September 4, 2009

No power in numbers

In a column that will appear on page A6 of the Sunday Freeman this weekend, conservative columnist Cal Thomas, palpably giddy, will report that President Barack Obama has a 46 percent job approval rating in the latest Rasmussen Poll.

Thomas is correct. Scott Rasmussen's latest poll, conducted between Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, indeed has Obama at 46 percent.

But what Thomas doesn't tell you is that Rasmussen is like the East German judges at the Olympics during the Cold War. His numbers are (and always have been) ridiculously out of whack when measured against the results of other major polls, and they should be discarded as slanted and unreliable.

According to the Web site, Obama's job approval ratings in various major polls over the last week or so are as follows.

CBS News: 56%
Ipsos-McClatchy: 56%
Gallup: 55%
CNN/Opinion Research: 53%
Pew Research: 52%
and, yes, Rasmussen: 46%

Obama isn't nearly as unpopular with Americans as Cal Thomas would like to believe. And citing the one and only poll that supports his argument doesn't change the facts.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Common mistake

Note to Andi Turco-Levin:

You're running for the First Ward seat on the Kingston Common Council.

Having lawn signs that urge voters to elect you to the Kingston City Council makes it seem like you don't understand the structure of the government you hope to join.

Not good.