Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Exxon's 19-Year Stench

Clean Energy Residue
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
As oil prices hover at a record $100 per barrel and we dish out over $3.00 per gallon at the pump, I found myself sick with sarcasm to hear this morning that after 19 years since the tragedy of the Exxon Valdez, Exxon is still resisting court orders to pay a modest $2.5 billion in punitive damages.

Exxon claims they have paid out enough. They've spent money attempting to clean up their mess... as they should. Yet, they do not believe they should be punished for allowing an employee with a colourful alcoholic history to return to the helm of a giant tanker resulting in over 11 million gallons of crude oil, spread across 600 linear miles — larger than the distance between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. Their defense, they didn't profit from that incident. But what of the continued activity? They still profit highly from that, do they not?

And to think, this is the same company that boasted of record profits in 2007—$40.6 billion. And their squawking about paying an additional $2.5 billion. What really gets me is that our society simply sits back and lets it all unfold in front of us—doing nothing about it. Just saying, "Hmmmm."

When will the people take this country back? When will the people declare a boycott on the oil companies—where no one purchases gasoline for an entire week? Imagine pulling that off a couple times per year.

Oh, how I hope to see the day that the oil companies of Exxon, Chevron, Shell go by way of the old typewriter manufacturers named Underwood, Royal and Remington.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hands Over Our Hearts and Other Thoughts

Anthem Singers
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
When attending grade school in Akron, Ohio, we learned to place our hand over our heart when reciting the Pledge of Alliegence and if you were wearing a hat, you took it off and placed it over your heart during the National Anthem. I don't recall any instruction, about placing your hand over your heart during the National Anthem nor do I recall observing anyone participating in that manner.

When I attend various sporting events now, I always see people with their hands over their hearts during the National Anthem. When did that start happening? Was Akron, Ohio somehow different than Wyoming or Montana during the 1960s?

• • •

While travelling down the highway the other day between Cody and Greybull, a Cadillac Escalade (a luxury pickup truck) passed me. Watching the rig grow smaller on the horizon, I considered a visit from the grave with a soldier or sailor who died during World War II. In telling this soul about how the world has changed since they left, I considered Christopher Lloyd's astonished and disbelieving reaction as the wacky professor in Back to the Future when McFly tells him that Ronald Reagan will become the future President of the United States. Surely this 1940s-esque American would be just as surprised to know that Cadillac is now the maker of a pickup truck.

When did utility and luxury become lovers?

• • •

A friend was recently telling me about how often he heard Coyotes howl in the night when he lived in Eastern Washington—at least once a week he said. I was thinking about his observations and realized that although I live in Wyoming, I can't remember the last time I heard a coyote's cry in the night air. What's wrong with that picture?

• • •

From Sarah Vowell's book The Partly Cloudy Patriot

If Newsweek's Jonathan Alter is correct, Bush's jockish disdain for highbrow thought is the very origin of his White House bid. "In a 1998 New Yorker piece (about Al Gore)," Alter claims, "the vice president talked about the ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, a French existentialist. Bush read the article, and later told friends it was one of the reasons he ran for president—to keep intellectual pretentiousness out of the White House." In his campaign, Bush promised to restore honor and dignity to the White House, but the promise to keep intellectual pretentiousness out is one that is likely to be kept.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Blinding Ponies

Net Ball Action
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Like Grant Gifford of the Northwest College Trail Newspaper, I too was amazed to watch the deficiency of sportsmanship in the basketball game between the Lady Trappers of NWC and the women of Little Big Horn College. But from my vantage, I'm not as quick to lump all the blame on the visitors from Crow Agency as Mr. Gifford did in his brief and shallow editorial—indeed, I thought it was a two-way street.

The young woman from LBHC who was ejected from the game certainly had it coming, but the struggle/skirmish resulting from a loose ball between her and NWC's Ashley Buckner wasn't as one-sided as the writer made it out to be; and talking with other Trapper fans about it, I wasn't the only one who saw it that way. Simply put, both players should have been ejected for the incident. As they say, it takes two to tango (or tangle).

Admittedly I wasn't in attendance when LBHC coach Dominic Gaglia was called for a technical, but coaches drawing technical fouls for remarks directed toward the referees during a basketball game are hardly uncommon. As for Coach Gaglia's inaction following the conflict on the hardwood that lead to his player's ejection; could it have been that he felt frustrated with his team's performance and attitude, slighted by the referees, or was he simply displaying his coaching "style" like that of the stone-faced Tom Landry? Did Mr. Gifford talk to the coach after the game to verify his accusations? I mean, that's what a journalist would do, right... interview coaches after the games?

I'll confess that I'm not a basketball expert, but I do know a thing or two about sportsmanship. So, as long as we're making a critique on sportsmanship, I'd like to point out a "blown call" made by the home team as well.

Having dressed only six players for their game (and we don't know the true reason for this, do we Mr. Gifford?), it seems the Little Bighorn College Lady Rams never had a chance. I suspect the only time the game was close was the opening minutes of the game. So, it's safe to say, the game's outcome was probably never in doubt.

With a dark cloud over the game following the ejection, LBHC battled the Lady Trappers with only five players—and no bench. Then, early in the second half, one of the remaining five players for LBHC fouled out, giving NWC a "power-play" advantage of five-on-four—something that is common in hockey, but not in basketball. (At that point I was reminded of the book, Blind Your Ponies by Stanley G. West. Read it.)

And maybe it's just me, but I was a bit surprised that—up by over 20 points and facing a team with only four players who were no better than any one of their own—NWC didn't make it an even fight and stand down one of their players to the side court. What a classy gesture this would have been. No doubt applause would have followed from everyone in the crowd and perhaps cleaned up some of the bad blood between the two teams from the first-half skirmish. But NWC chose to keep all five players in the game, and to add insult to injury, maintained a rotation of "fresh horses" as the LBHC team dragged on.

I'd have understood our team's decision to keep all five players in the game if it were early in the season when playing time is critical, but this late in the season and with little at stake, it seems logical for a display of good sportsmanship to trump over pummeling one's opponent—for a change.

Perhaps I expect too much.

As their lead increased, the Lady Trappers were hardly illustrations of good sportsmanship themselves. You'd think they were losing the game in the demonstrations they put up when they thought they had been fouled (and probably were) or were called for a foul that wasn't all that obvious.

Lastly, the NWC advantage of five-on-four wasn't very impressive or overpowering, and I found myself cheering for the feisty, understaffed, and outgunned Lady Rams as they battled against a superior NWC team. With the exception of the score, such scenarios are hardly favorable for any team in the same position as NWC. Should they blow-out their outnumbered opponent, it comes across as running up the score, and if they don't succeed in blowing them out... well, everyone might wonder how they even won the game. The only respectable thing to do then (especially if the score is lopsided) is to keep the player numbers even.

In closing, perhaps the LBHC team didn't secure any votes in the good sportsmanship department that night, but the Lady Trapper basketball team also failed to recognize or simply ignored a unique opportunity to raise the bar of good sportsmanship.