September 14th, 2005

Dance For Mazzie

Vote for nobody

Election time is here again in New York City, which means that dozens of local candidates are spending millions of dollars with only one purpose in mind. To piss me off.

This may seem like a questionable use of funds to some of you, but apparently the NYC political establishment would disagree. Instead of shipping campaign funds over to the relief effort in a gesture that would certainly generate some free publicity they've decided to spend it on a more deserving cause. Automated phonebanks. Every day I'm getting calls featuring recorded messages from people I've never heard of asking me to vote for someone based purely on their recommendation. Sometimes I'll answer one of these calls, hang up in disgust, and later find I got a voicemail featuring ANOTHER of the calls in the three seconds I was listening to the first one. The voicemails are always great because the majority of the recording gets cut off while waiting for the beep, so you end up hearing something like "...and that's why if you don't vote for Diana Pied-a-terre all the babies in the world will die!! DIE!!!" That's not true, it's never anything that interesting. I wish the candidates would go negative. I wish someone would call and say "Yo, this is Ludacris here to tell you that Steve Mueller is a goat fucker, has been a goat fucker, and always will be a goat fucker. So if you want a goat fucker representing you, implying that you are also a goat fucker, vote Mueller. Otherwise vote Watson in '05. Gary Watson: He doesn't fuck goats. Ever." It'd be more interesting than a recording of Mario Cuomo demonstrating that any charisma he once had has long since left the building.

Of course sometimes a recording just isn't irritating enough, and you get a live call. These are always nice, make you feel like the politician really cares. Like the other day I got a call from someone who said "Hey, is this Ben? Ben, Mike Bloomberg asked me to call you and ask who you're voting for in the upcoming election. Can I tell Mike he has your support?" Like New York City is some town of 500 in Western Wyoming and Mike Bloomberg is the kindly old general store manager running for dog catcher, instead of a billionaire running for mayor in a city with a bigger population than at least half the states. "Sure, tell Mike I think he's doing a fine job. In fact, hold that, I'll go tell him myself. If I can get past the private security perimeter and the jackbooted thugs Karl Rove sent to "Protect him" after he came out in favor of gay marriage. You know what, ask Mike to come on over. He can park his private helicopter on the roof here and rappel down to the terrace if traffic's bad."

And that's not the worst. Some candidates actually go further than live phone calls and ugly posters. The ugly side of politics comes out sometimes, and that ugly side is...stalking.

I'm talking, of course, about Gifford Miller, a democratic hopeful for mayor, if by hopeful I mean 'longshot to be the sacrificial lamb who loses to Bloomberg*', which I do.

My girlfriend and I were waiting for a bus on Sunday when we passed a Miller 'rally.' The 'rally' consisted of about 11 people halfheartedly holding Gifford Miller signs and cheering like they'd just heard the U.S. national Badminton team came in fifth at the world championships. That is to say, not loudly. Then Gifford Miller himself showed up, and started pacing around shaking hands. 39 seconds later he'd shook all the hands at the 'rally' and so he started trying to shake the hands of random passerbys. Nobody wanted a handshake from Gifford Miller. Jenny and I were getting annoyed so we decided to walk to a bus stop further on. Gifford Miller and his band of merry men started to follow. We sped up. They did too. We detoured off to a different avenue. They continued along Broadway, but parallel to us, varying their pace to match ours. For awhile they dropped out of sight, but when we chanced turning back onto Broadway again there they were, coming up on us with their half-dozen blue Gifford Miller signs. We made a break for it and got away, but for the next couple of days whenever I went out I'd be glancing over my shoulder to see if there were any hackey politicians there. So far so good.

Today is a primary voting day and I have yet to hear a solid platform or an actual policy idea. It's all endorsement by past failed politicians and creepy mini-rallies. If this is what Democracy, real democracy, looks like, I for one welcome our Theocratic overlords. At least they have a platform, and even if it's crazy, it's no crazier than Gifford Miller. He probably fucks goats too.

*During the Miller 'rally' my girlfriend and I were accosted by a poor-looking black woman with a lotto ticket who told us to vote for Bloomberg because of all the good he's done for the schools. When as an NYC Republican you have the poor black vote, you're not exactly burning your fanny on the hot seat.

NCAA=Not Caring About Athletes

The NCAA has made a decision regarding Hurricane Katrina. No, not to donate money to the relief effort. No, not to request teams to observe a moment of silence before next week's games in honor of those lost. No, not to have the Miami Hurricanes change their name so people would stop shouting "Go Hurricanes!" in the midst of this tragedy. The NCAA has bigger fish to fry.

Specifically the NCAA has decided that students who transfered to new colleges because of Katrina will have to sit out a year in Basketball, Hockey, and Football like any other transfers would. Now the transfer rule itself is complete bullshit. It serves to tie students to the colleges they picked as 17 year old sports stars even if they find they want to go somewhere else. Ostensibly it's to prevent schools from poaching other schools' players, but so what if they did? These kids should not be indentured servants. If student X decides he hates playing on team Y and team Z will have him, he should be able to transfer. This might be seen as tarnishing the academic image of school Z, accepting a kid just so he can play basketball, but that's up to school Z. School Z can say "Thanks but no thanks, you're not up to our academic snuff" or "You can come, but you can only play if you keep your GPA up." They don't need external coercion. No, what it's really about is what the NCAA is really about, protecting the schools. As if these massive, rich, institutions need protection against the students who would DARE to defy them. As if exploiting a student to play basketball for you is a worthwhile right to protect.

Given what's gone on with Katrina, though, things look even worse.

How is a basketball player supposed to play when his court is underwater? You can't dribble in a pool of toxic sludge. Will the football players for Tulane bolt snorkels onto their helmets? What are they supposed to do? Even non-athletes are transferring out of afflicted area universities to go to places that have crazy luxuries like electricity, safe housing, and professors. Columbia took on some students from Tulane, and many other schools have done the same. These athletes can't just continue going to their old schools, they need to find new ones, and restricting them from play is ludicrous. Many of them love their sports and want a way to get outside their heads and go back to the old routine. Some have dreams of playing in the pros and need a platform for their skills. Some just need a school to accept them and give them a scholarship, and they need to be able to play to do that.

The NCAA head claimed that he was enforcing the rule to prevent "looting" of programs. As if the Athletes were flat-screen TVs rather than people. As if the coaches saying "Come play here, our field is above sea level!" were doing so at gunpoint.

The NCAA has never cared about its athletes. Not when it restricts them from getting outside jobs, not when it keeps them from making money through endorsements even as their schools make millions of jersey and merchandise sales, not when it tells Athletes that they are the property of the schools they signed on to, schools they might not ever want to see again given what's transpired.

Apparently the NCAA doesn't just require that its competitors be armatures, it requires that its administration be heartless bastards. Welcome to the 21st century version of Fiefdoms and serfs. Long may they reign.

(Oh, and let's not even get STARTED on the whole 'Playoffs would be bad for academics so let's just add an extra game' bullshit. Let's not.)