Saturday, June 26, 2010

BP and You

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know by now of the magnitude of the BP oil disaster in the gulf. This is the largest environmental debacle in US history, and it threatens to eventually affect every shoreline from Mexico to Canada, with the entire US East coast in the balance. It was shoddy drilling practices that led to the problem, and British Petroleum was responsible.

So how has BP reacted? First by dragging its feet in getting equipment into place to clean up the spill, then by lying to the President, Congress, and the American people about the magnitude of the problem, then by lobbying to get a judge who has financial interest in the oil industry. Finally, they have spent millions of dollars and countless experts in their fields to develop…wait, here’s the punch line…an advertising campaign which they are plastering on the most expensive TV ad time to describe the responsibility they are displaying in the face of this “situation.” They should be giving those millions of dollars to the fishermen whose lives they have ruined or to all of us consumers who will bear the brunt of absurdly high food costs resulting from this devastation.

Let’s face it—these people should go to jail! Everyone from BP’s CEO to their Board of Directors to the people responsible for the ad campaign should be locked up in a prison with Louisiana’s most dangerous inmates, who will be encouraged to plug their holes daily.

So what can you do about it? Aside from donating to charities to help those financially ruined by the disaster, you can boycott all BP products and affiliates. They include AMPM (Convenience Store Chain), ARCO (retail gasoline brand on the US West coast), and Castrol, as well as any company whose name starts with BP. Then, pay attention to who votes for what in Congress in the next few months and vote against any bastards who side with BP or other oil companies in deflecting responsibility for this environmental nightmare.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Obama’s Energy Policy

I have been a strong supporter of Barack Obama for quite some time, and I think that overall, he’s doing an excellent job as President. However, dating back to mid-2008, there is one issue that has bothered me, and that is his energy policy.

The key to this policy is energy independence, and for a variety of reasons, it makes sense conceptually. The less we rely on the Middle East for our energy demands, the more likely we will be to guarantee our own security and protect our economy. The problem is that the President has adopted a sort of throw-caution-to-the-wind posture, embracing options for “clean coal,” nuclear power, and oil drilling. In fact, just prior to the latest environmental disaster in the Gulf, Obama had approved a plan to relax restrictions on offshore drilling, leading some to believe that the “drill baby drill” people had gotten to him.

While he has reversed that policy in the wake of the BP debacle, it’s not clear whether Obama is ready to reconsider his approach. The truth is that while the BP oil spill is a terrible nightmare, it pales in comparison to the damage that could be inflicted by a nuclear mishap, and there is very little evidence that “clean coal” is any better for the environment than any other kind of coal.

What eludes me in all his tough talk against the oil companies is why Obama has not put an all-out effort into increased, safe, carbon-free and waste-free energy options such as wind, water, and solar. Let’s face it, if any of those options cease to exist—if the sun, for example, should burn out—we will all be dead anyway.

So, why not take the equivalent of the money we spent on the war in Iraq and spend it on developing cost-efficient solar power, with effective battery solutions for storing that power? In Bush’s case, the answer was simple—he didn’t want to buck the oil companies, which were among his greatest financial supporters. But Obama is supposed to be different—a man of change who is independent of the big oil money.

In the long run, if we can harness the power of the sun, wind, and water, and store it successfully to draw upon as needed, we will permanently solve our energy concerns and become truly energy-independent.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Few More Thoughts on Professional Sports

Sorry I’ve been writing so much lately about sports, but TV shows are changing seasons, and movies and Broadway this year have mostly sucked. So, here are a few more thought about sports.

The World Cup
This may sound very American, but soccer bores me. They play entire games with no score or a 1-1 tie. Can’t they make the goal bigger or something? Then there’s the “heading” of the ball…how much abuse must their brains take? Finally, and in the proper deference to “Invictus” and Mandela and all, I hope they never hold the damned thing in South Africa again, not as long as the fans there keep blowing those vuvuzelas—the incessant buzzing horns you hear in the background. Maybe the same person who invented instant replay can invent a device that eliminates that obnoxious sound.

Sports Commentators
We should get a chance to pick our commentators through popular vote. I just finished watching the NBA Finals—congratulations Lakers fans (even if you are a bunch of surgically enhanced airheads). Anyhow, back to the point…has there ever been a worse color commentator than Mark Jackson? Let’s face it, he was at the middle of the pack as a player, and he’s just a moron as an announcer. Aren’t there enough bright, articulate NBA veterans around that we shouldn’t have to suffer through the playoffs listening to this fool’s endlessly uninspired droning? We only got to hear Magic Johnson for a few minutes per night, but we had to listen to Mark Jackson for hours…what’s wrong with that picture (literally and figuratively)?

MLB Commissioner
Can’t we get someone better than Bud Selig to be the Commissioner of Major League Baseball? It’s not enough that he was an owner of an MLB team (Milwaukee Brewers) or that he owned that team and was acting commissioner throughout the steroid era, but he continues to make ill-advised, gutless decisions, like calling the 2002 All-Star game a tie and failing to recognize Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. At least we in American League cities can revel in his decision to award World Series home field advantage to the league that wins the All-Star game, but if I lived in Philly, I’d be pissed off. If we could resurrect Kenesaw Mountain Landis (look him up youngsters), I would favor it, but maybe we could do the next best thing and find a more impartial, decisive leader for a sport that is in danger of becoming irrelevant.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Problem with Sports Officiating

A Detroit pitcher is denied a perfect game by a bad call on the last out. A day later, in the first game of the NBA Finals, almost every possession for each team results in a foul call, a week after Dwight Howard is allowed to elbow opposing players at will. Stories of bad officiating resound almost daily, fostered in part by advances in technology that give TV viewers a more accurate grasp of the on-field action than those actually participating in it. Maybe we need to change our paradigm regarding professional sports officiating.

Let’s face it, professional athletes are millionaires, some making upwards of $20 million per year. At the same time, billions are bet on these events, yet we stick with the decades-old concept of the often fallible, occasionally corrupt referee, judge, or umpire having the final say on important calls or non-calls.

I know from judging karate tournaments that it’s not always easy to make the right call, even when you are trying your hardest and there is little or no money at stake. So why, when there is so much on the line, do we leave the decisions up to often-underpaid officials when the rest of us can see, on instant replay, every time they make a mistake?

The NFL took the first step with replay challenges, and the other sports have adopted replay on a limited basis, but it is still up to the officials on the field or court to decide when and how to use it, often slowing the game to a crawl while they do so. We need a 21st century solution based on current sensibilities and technology.

Why not have a replay booth above the action or even in a central, monitored location, where officials see what we see, with the option of reversing calls in real time? Rather than having officials stop the action to run off the field or stick their heads under a makeshift tent, these replay mavens would always be there, keeping an eye on the action and attempting to guarantee consistency from game to game and play to play. Given the millions of dollars spent each game on players and broadcasting, wouldn’t it make sense to spend a few more dollars to assure that the fans are getting what they are paying (a great deal) for and expect?

It’s time for the professional leagues/associations to not be constrained by the old ways and to completely rethink how these games are officiated. Only then will we all get from sports what we want and deserve.