November 07, 2006


Nobody Saw Me Do It

I thought about it a few times earlier this year, especially after reviewing the names on the ballot. Today, I actually went through with it and didn’t vote.
Yes, such an abstention was perpetrated by me: a person who is certified to teach political science; a person who watches C-Span as often as others watch Good Morning America; a person who has probably politicized things that have little or no political meaning whatsoever; a person who yearns for deliberated political discourse. Wait—perhaps that last one has something to do with my frustration.
I’ve been registered to vote since 1996 and have voted in every election since that time (being neither Democrat nor Republican has meant that I have no say in the primaries). This time around I gave it considerable thought, but came to the conclusion that I’ve been spinning my wheels for an entire decade.
More recently, I’ve found myself disgusted for two reasons: (1) the magical e-voting machines, and (2) my realization that over the last 10 years, only about five percent of the candidates for whom I’ve voted have actually won an election—and those have been for my town council. In short, I might be accomplishing more by voicing my opinions on the Internet than by voting for a third party candidate.
I’ve been opposed to the electronic voting machines for quite some time, considering the negative aspects that range from minor things like initial cost and repair fees (the old-fashioned lever machines rarely broke and if they did, it was usually for a $5 cable that closes the curtain) to major negative aspects like their ease of hacking, their flaws (casting votes for other candidates), and their inability to allow for recounts. Earlier this year I did some research on the Diebold matter for an entire post on the topic, and learned that Rush Holt (D-NJ) pushed for paper trails via his bill HR 550, but the bill was halted in the House Committee on House Administration in February 2005. I then discovered that the chairman of that committee was none other than Bob Ney (R-OH), who recently pleaded guilty after it was discovered that he had been bribed by infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Coincidence?
My second reason for not having the urge to stop by the polling station today is a bit darker and probably rooted in the fact that I’m getting older, learning from things that I witness in the world around me, and I’m slowly casting aside my idealism that has given me an element of hope for the last few years. Sometimes moths are drawn to a flame and never learn no matter many times they’re burned; in my case, I think that I’ve not only learned to not get burned anymore, but I’ve possibly become burned-out.
I’ve learned that my views are in the minority of the minority because I’ve refused to adopt the talking points of both the far-right and the far-left. I don’t lay the blame for the 9/11 attacks on Saddam Hussein, but I don’t lay the blame on a giant conspiracy by Bush, Rove, and Cheney, either. I don’t deny the increase of Earth’s temperatures but I don’t subscribe to the idea that the only causes of global warming are manmade, namely the Industrial Revolution, the burning of fossil fuels, and the evils of capitalism.
I don’t think that the oil companies are innocent from price gouging, but I don’t think that the Republicans have been in charge of setting the price of gasoline for the last 80 years. I don’t think that we should invade foreign countries to “spread” democracy, but I sure as hell don’t think that you should question the intelligence of the troops who are being forced to help spread that democracy when they’re obviously more intelligent than you. I don’t think that you should comment on intelligence whatsoever if you don’t have the ability to tell jokes properly—if it really was a “botched joke.”
I don’t understand why two gay people can’t call themselves “married” if they’re monogamous and loving, but two straight people can if they’re abusive and adulterous. I don’t understand how the burning of flags can be viewed differently simply because one might be Old Glory and the other has the colors of the rainbow. I don’t see anything patriotic about the Patriot Act. I don’t think that the tobacco companies have been honest over the years, but I don’t think that smokers were innocent victims who were duped by slick advertising (cigarettes have been called “cancer sticks” since the 1930s, for Christ’s sake). I don’t understand how the same ideology that claims to support free speech is the same one that pushed for censorship of music in the 1980s and the Fairness Doctrine for half of the twentieth century. I don’t understand how the same ideology that routinely calls for smaller, less intrusive government is the same one that pushes for bridges to nowhere and laws on kinky sex.
I do understand that I’ve become an outcast when it comes to wanting to debate or discuss political and social issues. Wanting to refrain from personal attacks during a conversation on politics is passé, and abstaining from using terms like “commie” or “fascist” has unintentionally pushed me to the fringe. Suggesting that the military should only be used for the defense of the nation has probably called into question my patriotism; suggesting that books with falsified information not be shelved in a library’s nonfiction section has probably called into question ties to fascism.
I do understand that we’re a polarized country with respect to ideology. I do understand that it seems as if the bulk of voters identify with those extremes. I do understand that double-standards are commonplace in our culture. I do understand that this Election Day I was feeling left-out and burned-out. I do understand that I’m along for the ride at this point and have to make the best of it. I do understand that things could be worse because at least I have the freedom to discuss this on the Internet (for now).
I do understand that life is about learning, and I’ve learned a lot over the last few years.

October 20, 2006


When the Pigs Become Their Masters

...At the conclusion of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the swine in the story—which become the “leaders” of the barnyard as the plot progresses—turn into the oppressive humans who were at first their sworn enemy when the story began. Before arriving at their final incarnation, the pigs incrementally illustrate various forms of hypocrisy and stealthily cover their tracks by altering the list of their sacred commandments to fit their needs.
...In an idealistic sense, librarians are keepers of information whose knowledge management skills should be free of bias and absent of subjectivity with regard to the dissemination of that information. While it’s important to hold beliefs, it is even more important for librarians to set aside those beliefs in an effort to deliver whatever the patron wants or needs, provided that the information is accurate if it is marketed as objective, and does not promote anything that is blatantly questionable (e.g., pornography, promotion of illegal acts, etc.).
...The aforementioned idealistic view is nothing more than idealism, considering my recent discovery that there might be more pigs in transition in the real world than previously thought.
...A few days ago, while conversing with two acquaintances who both work in libraries, I heard a story that not only gave me chills, but also made me realize that the free flow of ideas and the dissemination of diverse viewpoints is something that might be of little importance to some who are in the same field as me.
...The first person, who shall be referred to as “A,” asked the second person, “B,” if and how B handles patrons who come to the library in search of books by politically conservative authors, most notably Ann Coulter.
...Person B responded that her library makes it a point to avoid purchasing books by conservative authors. If patrons happen to stop by the library in search of such books, Person B explained, with a sly smirk, that patrons are informed that the library has a limited budget and they simply were not able to buy any more books that year. Hence, that particular book—Coulter or anyone else who might be part of her ilk—would not be added to the collection.
...Since the implementation of the Patriot Act, librarians all across the country have feared possible repercussions for offering books or material that might dissent from the ideas espoused by the current administration. A common rallying cry among those of us in the library science field has become that of free thought, free speech, open dialogue, and viewing anything that might stifle diverse opinion as being a threat to not only us as librarians, but to the American citizenry as a whole. On multiple occasions, Hillary Clinton has been lauded for reminding us of Thomas Jefferson’s notion that dissent is the highest form of patriotism.
...Must we fear some left-leaning librarians as much as right-leaning politicians? Have we entered an era of library McCarthyism where librarians will pick titles simply because they affirm the librarian’s personal beliefs, regardless of whether or not the author facilitates discussion on pertinent topics? Will we see it become commonplace to have librarians decide upon works—from monographs to periodicals and everything in between—not because of their popularity or intellectual value, but because of their ideological leanings?
...If so, what does that say for us as librarians? Moreover, what does that say for the potential of censorship, simply by way of the librarian who might be handling the book purchasing?
...I personally find quite a few political pundits from both the far-left (e.g., Al Franken, Michael Moore, Bill Moyers) and far-right (e.g., Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh) to be full of hot air and intellectually questionable—if not intellectually devoid. Does this give me the right, as a librarian who will be ordering the books, to pick only those with whom I agree? Supposing that the majority of my views are libertarian in nature, should I purchase only those books that support what I believe and cast aside anything exclusively conservative or exclusively liberal?
...Is it censorship if those of us in taxpayer-funded libraries single-handedly determine what our patrons read simply on the grounds of personal political viewpoints? Or have I been too idealistic for too many years, and now I am suddenly realizing the amount of power that I might hold in the coming years? Perhaps this is also the first time that I have realized just how much power other librarians have been holding for a long time.
...No matter the answers to those questions, those of us who are working as librarians have no right to talk about the virtues of dissent, diverse viewpoints, or tolerance of differences if we, ourselves, are not willing to lend actions to those words.
...Limited viewpoints are one thing, however, while another issue—which no doubt would be “censorship” to some—is that of not offering books that are sold under the guise of being informative but have elements of inanity and even outright inaccuracy.
...As an example, I would offer A Necessary Evil by Garry Wills (New York: Touchstone, 1999), which was written to describe the history of distrust of government by segments of the American populace. It not only makes foolish connecting of dots, but promotes the notion that the United States Constitution was a carefully-crafted document written with precise language with the exception of one part: the Second Amendment. For Wills, the idea of the Second Amendment being supportive of private gun ownership has had its historical origins “spread and distorted in a wondrous way” (252).
...Wills offers a section on vigilantes—who are traditionally skeptical of government—and begins by explaining that vigilance groups rely upon the use of the Second Amendment to defend their right to private gun ownership in order to commit their acts (223). The list of pro-Second Amendment organizations listed by Wills illustrates an odd evolution. The first “vigilante” group that he uses as an example is the South Carolina “Regulators” of the 1760s (225). By the end of the chapter, however, we find the Ku Klux Klan (230), fascist supporters of Senator Joe McCarthy (236), backwoods Montana militias (240), and madmen who bomb abortion clinics (237). What?! Supporting the right to bear arms is the first step to becoming a racist authoritarian with a penchant for bombing abortion clinics?
...At other times, Wills seems to suggest that people who want small, efficient government actually want no government whatsoever. Law professor Richard A. Epstein, reviewing the book in Reason, called Wills’ logic “a cute verbal reductio ad absurdum” (56). I would argue that such an assessment is too kind.
...Epstein also pointed out that Wills throws around the name of philosopher John Locke, but unfortunately does not know anything about Lockean theory, as evidenced when the philosopher’s name is attached to situations that do not have any Lockean themes (56).
...Perhaps the most telling sign of Wills’ work, however, is his use of data on eighteenth century probate records from pseudo-historian and author Michael Bellesiles (Wills 29). In 2002—three years after the publication of A Necessary Evil, in Wills’ defense—Bellesiles was forced to resign from his professorship at Emory University and was stripped of the prestigious Bancroft Prize by Columbia University when it was discovered that he falsified the aforementioned probate data on gun ownership in his book Arming America (“Shot Down” 3). In The New York Times Book Review, Wills wrote that Arming America “has dispersed the darkness that covered the gun’s early history in America” (“Fire at Will” 29). That might have been true if Bellesiles’ data had been true.
...Nonetheless, Bellesiles’ falsification of data did not bother those who shared his political views. A five-page essay by Jon Wiener in The Nation showed that Wiener was more offended by those who discovered the fraud than by Bellesiles’ academic dishonesty. Wiener’s estimation was that Bellesiles’ overall message was more important than whether or not the message was even true. He ultimately concluded that since “no proof of invented documents” was found, Bellesiles must be innocent (32).
...Wiener is accurate in suggesting that no proof of invented documents was found, but Bellesiles was not suspected of inventing documents; he was accused of falsifying data—inventing some numbers and consciously omitting others. A committee composed of scholars from the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and Princeton University released a 40-page report explaining that Bellesiles’ work contained “exaggeration of data” (Katz, Gray, and Ulrich 17), “egregious misrepresentation” (18), and “evidence of falsification” (19). In fact, a search of the 40-page investigatory document failed to turn up the term “invented document” anywhere. According to the report, Bellesiles admitted to excluding data on gun ownership because the probate data in question “showed a disproportionately high number of guns” (18). The author did not want to see such high numbers, and in response simply ignored them. Regarding Bellesiles’ research, the committee stated: “Every aspect of his work in the probate records is deeply flawed” (18-19).
...Wiener’s Nation piece included a quote from Michael Kammen, past president of the Organization of American Historians and supporter of Bellesiles, which might have inadvertently illustrated the situation better than anything else. He stated that Arming America had “inescapable policy implications” (32). Indeed, the book does have inescapable policy implications, but would those who want certain policies changed be willing to live with knowing that the end result stemmed from fraudulent means?
...Obviously that question has been answered by both Michael Bellesiles and Jon Wiener.
...In 2005, Wiener continued defending Bellesiles’ dishonesty in his book Historians in Trouble, which highlighted Wiener’s firm belief that a vast right-wing conspiracy was really what brought Bellesiles down. In January 2005, George Mason University’s History News Network Website published a description of Wiener’s book, written by him, in which he said that the Bellesiles incident “demonstrated the power of an organized political group on the right to target a historian they identified as an enemy and raises the question of the appropriate sanction for error.” Perhaps Wiener is forgetting that the investigating committee was comprised of scholars from prominent universities—not members of the gun lobby or Republican National Committee.
...It appears that some people are simply unwilling to accept what actually occurred: Conservatives may have discovered Bellesiles’ academic and intellectual deception, but they certainly did not force him to perpetrate it; he did so under his own volition. In addition, such vehement defense by Wiener should raise the ire of his fellow liberals; it sounds as if he is asserting that falsifying data is an acceptable practice among left-leaning historians and that the real travesty is when right-wingers discover the fraud. Is this really the image that Wiener wants to project?
...In the end, we must stay diligent with respect to the books that we, as librarians, purchase and remember that our role as information managers cannot and should not give way to our more primitive urges of affirmation. Refusing to purchase a book for illogical conclusions and factual errors is one thing; refusing to purchase a book for ideological differences is something else. If we allow such an event to occur, we are no different than Michael Bellesiles, Jon Wiener, or George Orwell’s pigs in Animal Farm.
Works Cited
Epstein, Richard A. “Assault with Blunt History.” Reason 32.1 (2000): 55-60.
Katz, Stanley N., Hanna H. Gray, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Report of the Investigative Committee in the Matter of Professor Michael Bellesiles. 2002. Emory University 15 Oct. 2006
“Shot Down.” The Weekly Standard 23 Dec. 2002: 3.
Wiener, Jon. “Fire at Will.” The Nation 4 Nov. 2002: 28-32.
——. “Historians in Trouble: Why Some Get Nailed.” History News Network. 3 Jan. 2005. George Mason University. 16 Oct. 2006
Wills, Garry. A Necessary Evil. New York: Touchstone, 1999.

August 29, 2006



Cartoon by Mike Luckovich

...By now, most people have read or heard that DNA evidence has shown that John Mark Karr lied in his confession about killing JonBenet Ramsey. Since the media is more than happy to turn anyone and everyone into celebrities simply to hype worthless stories, I have a confession to make.
...I was the one who killed the famous Bocksten Man, who was found in Bocksten bog outside Varberg in 1936. Seven hundred years ago I inflicted three fatal blows on the poor chap’s head when he wouldn’t hand over his bowl of gruel. He also made reference to having dragged my wench back to his hut the previous weekend after a night of drinking.
...Anyway, I’ll be available for interviews, flights across the globe with caviar and champagne, photo shoots, signature series spears, etc. Just call my agents at Dewey, Cheatum & Howe. I’m going to be famous and the American media will be my trampoline.

August 25, 2006


Place Your Bets

...Annie Donnelly recently admitted that she stole more than $2.3 million from her employer to buy lottery tickets, ranging from lotto to scratch-off games. It should now be interesting to see how many politicians call for a ban on state-sponsored gambling games, considering that we saw an outcry from the House when the issue of online gaming was voted on several weeks ago.
...Representative Jim Leach (R-IA) appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal when the issue was in the news and blamed online gambling for ex-Lehigh University student Greg Hogan’s bank robbery incident, since he reasoned that Hogan was robbing the bank to pay off online gambling debts. Aside from that being akin to saying that women who dress in a sexy manner can be blamed if they’re raped, I wonder if the anti-gambling politicians will be jumping at the chance to demand that state government-run games across the nation come to an end to prevent another Annie Donnelly incident from occurring.
...I think that we all know the answer to that one.
Sources: CNN, KYW CBS3

August 23, 2006



For some Pennsylvanians, this is breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

...Whenever I attempt to bring a little dignity back to the population of eastern Pennsylvania, I ultimately have my efforts thwarted by losers like Josh Beury. When I read the story on the Morning Call Website this morning, I thought, “Oh, well. Another alcoholic from Nesquehoning—this isn’t really shocking. Hell, considering how many drunks there are in that area, this isn’t even news.” Then I quickly discovered that Beury’s accomplishments went national: the Washington Post, ABC News, Fox News radio, a link on the Drudge Report to the Morning Call article. In all, roughly 150 other news outlets ran the article. Yay for Beury putting the commonwealth on the map for stupidity.
...For anyone who hasn’t heard about it yet, Beury appeared before a judge on Monday to be sentenced for a drunk driving case in which he crashed into another driver and was found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.17 (0.08 is legally drunk in Pennsylvania). Unfortunately, Beury showed up drunk for his sentencing, too, and was discovered to have a BAC of 0.20.
...At first Beury tried to convince the judge that he had had only two beers Sunday night, but then confessed that he usually downs at least half a case of beer daily.
...Beury is also said to be bipolar and mentally ill. Perhaps those are more acceptable terms than calling him what he really is.

August 22, 2006


Share the Wealth

...Consider this the first foray into what will most likely become a new tradition. It’s not designed to be a weekly thing, bi-weekly thing, or monthly thing. Instead, I’ll simply hand one out whenever it seems as if it would come in handy.
...I introduce to you the first Faint Expectations Share the Wealth Award.
...I call it that because of the story which inspired the idea of much-needed surplus penises: A 24-year-old Indian businessman who is suffering from a rare condition called “penile duplication” or “diphallus.” The man—who might be unaware of the money that he could make in the porn industry—is about to have one of his two fully-functional penises removed because he wants to get married (obviously his future wife isn’t considering the potential here).
...Anyway, since this gentleman is willing to rid himself of an extra phallus, it would only be fair to identify men who are in dire need of this soon-to-be-discarded extra member.
...For this, the first awarding of the Share the Wealth Award, I’m going to name two specimens: Alfred Rava and Tim LaBouf.
...I’ve mentioned Rava in my previous post about his history of lawsuits against things like Mother’s Day tote-bag giveaways at baseball games and nightclubs offering Ladies’ Night discounts on drinks, but NBC 4 reports that Rava’s frivolous lawsuit count is actually as high at 30. Surely Rava is in dire need of some manliness to deal with things that those of us normal men consider acceptable.
...The second recipient for this initial offering is Tim LaBouf, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Watertown, New York. He and his cronies at the church fired 81-year-old Mary Lambert, who has been a congregation member for 60 years and a Sunday School teacher for 54 years, because she’s a woman.
...The letter that Lambert received from LaBouf and his henchmen pertaining to her dismissal cited the first epistle to Timothy: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.”
...LaBouf has a few male-female power issues which should be dealt with before taking the podium in a house of God. Might it be worth citing Psalm 7:14-16?
14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil, and is pregnant with mischief, and brings forth lies.
15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole which he has made.
16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own pate his violence descends.
Sources: IOL, NBC 4, ABC News

August 19, 2006


Blown Save

...Earlier this year—around Mother’s Day to be precise—we had to read about the pathetic story of Los Angeles psychologist Michael Cohn, who filed a lawsuit against the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels after he became offended when he didn’t receive a Mother’s Day tote bag at an Angels game. He wanted one, too, but the club didn’t give him one because they were reserved for women who were 18 years of age and older. Cohn didn’t understand the concept of Mother’s Day equating to women, and as such filed a lawsuit against the baseball team and the college that sponsored the tote promotion.
...After reading about it, I had figured that the suit would have been thrown out due to its sheer stupidity. I failed to keep a few things in mind, however: (1) This is America, and things don’t make much sense when it comes to the judicial system anymore (read this post for evidence of that); and (2) the lawsuit was filed in California, where laws seem to be invented by judges as opposed to the legislature.
...So, with that in mind, I wasn’t too shocked to read the following on ESPN’s site today:

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A judge refused Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit claiming the Angels discriminated against men by giving tote bags to women during a Mother’s Day baseball game.


The lawsuit, filed by Los Angeles psychologist Michael Cohn, claims thousands of men and fans under age 18 are each entitled to $4,000 in damages because they were treated unfairly during last May’s promotion. Women over 18 received the gifts.

...The only forms of compensation that should be given out in this case are pacifiers and clean diapers for both Michael Cohn and Orange County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Cannon.
...I’ll let you know if Cohn names me in a lawsuit in the upcoming weeks. I’ll just counter-sue for discrimination if he does, but doesn’t name the rest of the world’s population in the suit.
UPDATE: It turns out that shady lawsuits are nothing new for attorney Alfred Rava, who is representing Michael Cohn in this suit against the Angels.
...In 2003, Rava was part of a discrimination lawsuit aimed at San Diego-area nightclubs because the clubs offered “Ladies’ Night” discounts on drinks and didn’t offer the same for Rava and his friend (I’m guessing that Rava and his friend were going on Ladies’ Night to meet women but still got shot down—thus, they sued the clubs for their inability to garner attention from women).
...Rava’s discrimination suit squeezed $125,000 out of seven clubs ($20,000 each from six nightclubs, but a seventh could only shell out $5,000 because they ended up going out of business) and forced bars all across the San Diego region to end Ladies’ Night, which to that point had proved to be beneficial for business.
...I take back my previous comment about giving the judge and Michael Cohn pacifiers and clean diapers. It would probably be more worthwhile to give both Cohn and Rava something which both are in dire need of: a penis.
Source: ESPN

August 18, 2006


Antisocial Networking

...This afternoon I came to a conclusion. Our so-called representatives in Washington might be just as dangerous as predators that can be found on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Xanga. That’s not necessarily because they want to cause harm, but more because their clueless nature and naïveté can lead to harm.
...C-Span recently re-aired hearings that were originally held in late-June concerning protecting children from online predators, and it gave viewers a wonderful opportunity to see just how clueless our politicians really are when it comes to computer-savvy teens and technology in general.
...Congressman Bart Stupak had some of the most comical ideas: Create a special site that would be exclusively used for 14- and 15-year-olds. Yes, that’ll obviously work; teens always want to go places where adults tell them that they must go. Come on, Congressman. Teens go to sites that they perceive as being “cool”; a site “exclusively” for 14- and 15-year-olds will probably be have few teen users and be flooded with pedophiles more than anyone else.
...Since Stupak’s brilliant idea hinges upon the idea of users being honest about their age, that segues into another brilliant idea that was mentioned: Each of the representatives on the panel wanted some kind of perfect way for accurate identification verification. None of them had an idea of how to do it, but all were quick to demand it. A few of the Congressmen liked the idea of credit card numbers and charging users, but few seemed to understand that when you begin to charge people for something that might otherwise be free and off-set by advertisements, the number of users will drop dramatically. I’m guessing that most politicians don’t understand this concept because when it comes to finances, they’re accustomed to spending money that they didn’t earn.
...Not to single-out Stupak, but I was also amused by his “pornography expert” idea when it comes to who might decide what photographs are acceptable on social networking sites. A representative from Facebook explained that the Website has a group of people who determine what is allowed on their site and what isn’t. Stupak’s response was that the panel members are probably computer experts—not pornography experts. No offense, Mr. Stupak, but what the hell is a “pornography expert” and how does a person become one?
...The politicians also liked the idea of a national paid staff who can answer distress calls from instant messenger users 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A police officer who was testifying to the committee tried to explain that such a staff would have to be massive, considering how many people use the Internet at any given time, but again, he was saying this to a group of people who spend other peoples’ money, so fiscal reality meant little.
...The last idea that I thought was most impressive (for any politicians who might be reading this, I’m being sarcastic here) was to have the federal government establish standards for social networking sites. Yes, these standards would be established by men and women who have little, if any, understanding of anything that happens outside the beltway.
...Not to sound condescending, but here are a few tips for those of you who are “representing” (I use that term loosely, because I can’t name one person in Congress who represents me) us in Washington:
  • If you want to accurately identify any computer user, show up on their doorstep, interview them face-to-face, and demand a birth certificate. You can argue for using drivers’ license numbers, but keep in mind that companies will have to pay state governments since they’ll be using databases that are handled by departments of motor vehicles and/or state police agencies. They don’t work for free.
  • If you mandate the use of credit card numbers as identification, you’ll have to charge users for the sites. If you do, those sites will lose millions of users, and most of those users will probably be younger ones. Any pedophile users will more than likely be willing to shell out money to stay, so what you’ll then have is a social network with an unusually high percentage of nothing but pedophiles.
  • If you think that ordering 14- and 15-year-olds to use sites that are designed for only 14- and 15-years-old, you must be completely ignorant to how teenagers act. They don’t want to act their age; they want to be perceived as “adults”—even when they don’t act mature.
  • Similar to the first point, pedophiles can lie about their age, too. Even if you want to create a “special” site which is for 14- and 15-year-olds exclusively, keep in mind that pedophiles can very easily create fake profiles saying that they, too, are 14 or 15. What’s most dangerous here is that it’s easier to lie and make yourself younger than it is to lie and make yourself older.

...Unfortunately, I have a feeling that we’re on the cusp of seeing a “war on terror” approach to the Internet and pedophiles. By that I mean that we’re going to hear more politicians cry “safety” and label anyone who isn’t supportive of massive federal Internet regulation as being “against protecting our children” or “against safety.” This can be likened to those who currently say that dissenters of the “war on terror” and all aspects of “fighting” the war (such as the Patriot Act, for instance) as not being patriotic or even being in favor of the terrorists.

...After all, if we regulate all aspects of the Internet to the point where no one wants to use it anymore, we won’t have to worry about any of the dangers that come with it, will we?

...Internet safety has to come from educating parents and children on the dangers of predators and how to avoid them. It won’t do any good to sit around and wait for solutions from Washington. For one thing, we should be more hands-on with our personal security; for another thing, we probably won’t see any realistic solutions coming from Congress.

August 17, 2006


Thug Life

...Note: I’m out of town at present and must use an iBook G4 for all my online work. Any complaints regarding formatting abnormalities in this post should be directed at the folks at Apple. (Any complaints regarding viewpoints should continue to be directed at me.)
...I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to become a criminal. Most of my income would be tax-free, I’ll be popular with a lot of Americans who idolize criminals, and even if a law enforcement agency attempts to stop me, I’ll just have them arrested—and probably convicted—for doing their job. You don’t think that it’ll work? Tell that to Ignacio Ramos and José Compean.
...Ramos and Compean are Border Patrol agents who were found guilty in March of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, and violating a person’s civil rights. What did they do? They stopped Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila from bringing over 800 pounds of pot into the United States from Mexico, and shot him in the buttocks when he pulled a gun on them. Ramos and Compean are due to be sentenced on Tuesday and could get up to 20 years behind bars. Aldrete-Davila, on the other hand, is suing the federal government for $5 million for the “civil rights violation.”
...I’m not sure which part of this story scares me more: knowing that criminals can have law enforcement officials arrested and convicted for stopping them, or knowing that part of the reason for the conviction might have been due to alleged corruption. You see, two of the jurors in this case have come forward and said that prosecutors pressured them into finding the agents guilty. (That’s aside from an investigator from the Office of Inspector General tracking down Aldrete-Davila in Mexico to offer him immunity for testifying after the drug trafficker declared that he was forming a posse to shoot Border Patrol agents in retaliation for Ramos and Compean stopping him from delivering his illicit cargo.)
...Oh, did I mention that some of the jurors were said to have come to a quick decision because they didn’t want the trial to run too long? Apparently they had plans for spring break and didn’t want a silly trial to interfere with partying.
...I can only hope that I’m never in a situation like Ramos and Compean.

August 14, 2006


Strike Two

Bud Selig, Major League Baseball Commissioner (USA Today Photo)

...There are a few things that puzzle me. Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets? Why do criminals on death row have their arms swabbed with an alcohol pad before having their lethal injection administered? How has Major League Baseball stayed afloat considering how much they despise their fans?
...Earlier this year a fantasy sports company found themselves in court, squaring-off with Major League Baseball over the right to use MLB player names and statistics in their fantasy leagues. CBC Distribution and Marketing argued that names and statistics can’t be “owned” by an organization, even though Major League Baseball brass determined that anything and everything related to the top-level of professional baseball should be considered Major League Baseball’s intellectual property and that unlicensed use of any statistic will “commercially exploit the identities and statistical profiles” of its players.
...Last week, United States Magistrate Mary Ann Medler showed that there is still a semblance of common sense in the judicial system and ruled in favor of CBC saying that athletes are public figures, and that statistics cannot be copyrighted as they are nothing more than historical facts.
...That didn’t sit well with the Bud Selig Army, though, and Major League Baseball wasted no time in filing an appeal.
...I’m not really sure what is more disturbing in this: (1) the sheer stupidity of Major League Baseball and the players’ association by risking the loss of millions of fans, considering that it’s estimated that a minimum of 15 million people play fantasy baseball (Yahoo! has reported that they have 6.7 million registered players alone, so I suspect that the 15 million number is underestimating the popularity); or (2) the sheer arrogance of Major League Baseball and the players’ association in thinking that historical occurrences can somehow be “owned,” simply because the occurrences are related to their business.
...I ranted about this when the initial lawsuit story was reported in mid-January, but I feel the need to reiterate (I’m plagiarizing myself here.)
...Statistics are a numerical record of historical incidents. In this case, they show how many times a player came to the plate, how many hits that he had, how many RBI he drove in, etc. Similarly for pitchers, they act as a record of how many innings that he pitched, how many hits given up, how many runs that he allowed, etc. These numbers are not logos, they’re not photographs of the games, and they’re not audio/visual accounts of the games such as video that might find their way onto television or the Internet for viewing. Logos, photographs, and video segments fall into a different category, as ownership of those is more concrete than “ownership” of numbers, and subsequent profits made from their use is more readily apparent.
...While statistics are, indeed, a recorded account of what transpired in a game that is sanctioned by particular organizations—in this case Major League Baseball and the players’ association—a push to “own” such numbers might make us wonder how far Major League Baseball and the union will go in the future to control anything and everything related to it.
...Will it become so controlled that even the use of team names on blogs will be subject to licensure? Will bloggers who wish to discuss their favorite teams or players be required to pay royalties to the league and MLBPA? It might happen if those same blogs happen to have advertisements on them, as many do. It could be argued that they were “commercially exploiting” the statistics and players’ names, and even the team names.
...I’m not a public relations specialist, but you don’t have to be one to see that it’s becoming more and more difficult to be a baseball fan. I don’t mean that it’s difficult to be a fan of the sport, per se; I mean that it’s becoming more difficult to follow and enjoy the sport due to limitations that are being imposed by the very league that is supposed to promote it and encourage its popularity.
...Some things in life might be more attractive the more that they’re inaccessible, but baseball isn’t one of those forbidden fruits. Those of us who are fans enjoy it because we have access to it.
...People often wondered if sky-rocketing salaries and player strikes would be professional baseball’s undoing. Who would have thought that it might be due to Major League Baseball and the players’ association biting the hand that feeds them?

August 10, 2006


Maybe the Lock Box is Green

...A few months ago I apparently outed myself as a kook when it comes to the issue of global warming. While I’m in full agreement with the idea that pollution needs to be reduced (I don’t like breathing that shit, either) and that oil companies’ hold on the country is frightening, I stand by the possibility that the study by Harvard scientists in 2003 was correct and much of our warming trend might be natural.
...Perhaps it doesn’t really matter, though, because I can simply call myself an Al Gore-type of environmentalist. By that I mean one who talks a good talk, but when we get down to the substance of the issue, it’s apparently okay to do little more than talk.
...While scanning the USA Today Website, I found an interesting column by Peter Schweizer that offered a few telling points. For the record, yes, I’m quite aware that a column is an opinion piece, but since I had to defend myself once before for using opinion pieces as sources, I’ll make it known that segments of this column are based on fact (similar to my other blog post, too). The opinions are written by the author around those facts.
...It turns out that Mr. Gore preaches the virtues of saving the planet by adopting the “reduce, reuse, recycle” approach, but—according to public records—he and Tipper own three houses—one of which is 10,000-square-feet with 20 rooms and eight bathrooms. Oddly enough, it turns out that Mr. Gore has yet to sign up for green energy at any of his homes, even though wind power is available. Hell, even Bushie has a few of the federal buildings on green energy.
...Even more troubling is that Howard Dean and the DNC have apparently been taking notes from both Gore and the RNC and also have yet to sign up to go green. Maybe those extra two cents per kilowatt hour are too much. Either way, Dr. Dean still says that global warming “threatens our very existence.” Umm…yeah. It looks to be as threatening to the “environmentally aware” politicians as it does to those who have a reputation for not caring too much about it.
...This isn’t anything new, I suppose. All the way back in 2000 it was known—as reported by Bill Mesler at CorpWatch (and yes, that’s the same Bill Mesler who has written for such liberal publications as The Nation, Mother Jones, and The Progressive)—that Gore not only makes money off Occidental Petroleum, but helped design the sale of drilling rights in the Elk Hills of central California—even though drilling there threatened a rare species of fox, lizard, and the kangaroo rat as well as tribal land of the Kitanemuk natives.
...In that case, the sale of the Elk Hills was approved after one of the most quickly prepared environmental assessments ever seen by Peter Eisner of the Center for Public Integrity. The drilling destroyed native Kitanemuk sites and burial grounds and when asked about the people involved in the issue, tribal member Dee Dominguez called Occidental executives “cold” and “insensitive.”
...With regard to Al Gore and cohort Bill Clinton, Dominguez said, “They sold us down the river.”
...I can’t help but think that there’s something a bit more threatened in this country than the fox, lizard, and kangaroo rat: integrity.

Satan Saves

...It’s usually said that Jesus saves. Apparently when it comes to murder, you’re better off with Lucifer. Consider these cases:
...On July 26, Andrea Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She murdered her five children, she said, because Satan was inside her and killing the tots was the only way to save them from the fiery depths of hell.
...Yesterday Magdalena Lopez of Indiana was sentenced to 110 years in prison after killing her two little boys with a 10-pound weight because she wanted them to “be safe in heaven.” Lopez tried the mental illness route, too, but it didn’t work.
...Remember, those of you who are planning on murdering your children: Don’t mention Jesus or heaven if you want therapy over prison sentences—mention Satan and hell.
Sources: CBS News, Court TV

August 05, 2006


Brain Freezes Before Road

(WJAC Photo)
...A few days ago my friend John (not his real name, but I’m protecting his reputation which might be sullied if anyone ever discovered that he associates with someone like me) and I were discussing what might have happened to several of the “slow” classmates that we had in high school following graduation.
...When I use the term “slow,” I’m not referring to mentally handicapped, mind you; I’m referring to those who were considered “mainstream” kids but had absolutely no common sense and were—for a lack of a better term—clueless.
...Yesterday morning, while doing my routine perusing of news headlines, I suddenly discovered where all our slow classmates went. They moved to Ohio en masse and were hired by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
...An excerpt from a WJAC report:
A Central Ohio woman said she has had the same license plate on her car for more than a decade, but now the state is calling her personalized plate obscene.
Pat Niple turned 74 years old on Tuesday. She normally ordered her license plates and renewal stickers by mail. But this year, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles returned her check, accompanied by a letter.
Niple’s personalized plates are NWTF, an abbreviation of Northwood Tree Farm—a business she owned with her late husband. It also means something else, officials said.
“Apparently, the young people use it on the computer,” she said.
Niple went to a BMV office to get some answers. A clerk had to whisper what the acronym means to some people.
BMV officials said they have a set of standards that includes no profanity or obscene language. So, Niple has to use a temporary tag until her new, acceptable plates arrive.
...Rumor has it that the Ohio BMV is now mounting a campaign to force Ms. Niple to change her surname because it’s too close to the word “nipple.”
Source: WJAC

August 04, 2006


Academic Freedom, Part II

...My previous post highlighted the case of conspiracy theorist and folklore professor Kevin Barrett, who has drawn criticism for airing his views on government-planted explosives in the Twin Towers and detonating them on September 11, 2001. I’m not sure how that plays a role in folklore curriculum, but that’s not necessarily the point of this particular column.
...For this post, the primary focus is the idea of how far the term “academic freedom” can be taken, especially when the information being presented goes beyond the realm of being thought-provoking and enters the realm of factual inaccuracy.
...This was one of Ward Churchill’s downfalls, whereby he cried “academic freedom” to defend anything and everything that came out of his mouth (or pen), including his fictional account of the United States Army distributing smallpox-infected blankets to Mandan Indians during the 1800s in his book Indians Are Us?. Oddly enough, he cited Russell Thornton’s American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492, which offered a completely different scenario, in which the smallpox were actually spread by traders on the steamboat St. Peter’s.
...Similarly, the term “academic freedom” is being utilized once again in an effort to defend factually-questionable remarks regarding the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Thus, the question arises: What constitutes academic freedom? More specifically, where do we draw the line when and if an educator—on any level, from elementary school to university professor—crosses the line that separates reality from fantasy? Better yet, can we do anything, since First Amendment rights are routinely invoked in defense of the occurrences?
...Perhaps it would be more appropriate to suggest that the lines between free speech, propagandizing, and job descriptions have become blurred. A national backlash at school boards in both Kansas and Pennsylvania showed us that creationist theories would not be tolerated if they’re presented in a factual manner within a science classroom setting, but if a science teacher cried “academic freedom,” should they be allowed to espouse any viewpoint for the sake of provoking critical thinking? Similarly, if a teacher taught a conspiracy theory as fact, would he/she be allowed to defend the material under the guise of academic freedom?
...There’s no doubt that professors and public school teachers have different levels of what they’re allowed to present in terms of curriculum, but each has—or should have—the ability to present fact as fact and opinion as opinion. Moreover, the opinion should be backed by facts in an effort to defend the viewpoint.
...An educator, no matter the level, should foster critical thinking. Critical thinking, however, happens when multiple viewpoints are presented and the student has the opportunity to come to a conclusion of their own (the “Taking Sides” approach, if you will). This was one of my biggest complaints with respect to the Jay Bennish incident a few months ago—it wasn’t really a pro-and-con approach so much as it was a soapbox approach.
...We shouldn’t be referred to as “teachers” or “educators” if our primary reason for entering the field of education is to offer a heaping serving of propaganda to students. It would be more appropriate to call us indoctrinators. If propaganda is, indeed, the primary focus of someone, they should sooner become an author or columnist in their pursuit of advancing a particular agenda.
...Education will continue to come under fire if it’s used as an outlet for propaganda, no matter if it’s from the right or from the left, and the term “academic freedom” will become not only clichéd but also cheapened if it continues to find its place as a defense for presenting viewpoints that might otherwise be brushed aside were it not for captive audiences.

August 02, 2006


Academic Freedom, Part I

...It’s not identical to the Ward Churchill case (Churchill was the Colorado professor who gained notoriety by verbally abusing 9/11 victims and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, but was ultimately brought down by two cases of plagiarism, falsifying historical incidents, lying about having Native American heritage in order to receive preferential hiring treatment, and two cases of copyright infringement), but it is shaping into another battle in the world of academia as the term “academic freedom” is once again being bandied about.
...Kevin Barrett, a folklore and Islamic studies professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has come under fire recently for his views on—similar to Churchill—the 9/11 attacks. Barrett, however, is receiving criticism for saying that “[t]he 9/11 lie was designed to sow hatred between the faiths” and that if 9/11 discussions don’t cover the “compelling evidence” that the attacks were “an inside job,” there isn’t much else to discuss.
...Barrett insists that the Twin Towers collapsed due to controlled demolition blasts under the watch of the U.S. government in an effort to generate popular support for increased growth of the military industrial complex. He also claims that Osama bin Laden is dead and has been replaced by a look-alike, but his group, The 9/11 Truth Movement, isn’t fooled.
...Similar to the Churchill incident, critics are calling for Barrett’s dismissal, while supporters are saying that this is another case of a college professor coming under fire for personal beliefs who nonetheless has a right to academic freedom. Barrett has said that his views on the September 11 attacks are discussed in his classes.
...In an effort to cut to the chase, I’ll say that it’s my firm belief that this is a situation which must be officially determined by the administration of the University of Wisconsin and no one else. They hired Barrett; they have to decide if he stays or if he goes.
...With that said, do those of us outside the school have a say on the issue in general? Of course we do. We have the right to free expression the same as Barrett. That’s what allows us to question a few of the things that he and his group are saying.
...The first question pertains to Professor Barrett’s basis and background for the idea that strategically-placed explosives were used to bring down the Twin Towers. Milwaukee news channel TMJ4 interviewed Barrett and he claimed that the buildings collapsing is the proof that crashing planes didn’t bring the World Trade Center down. Barrett’s group insists that there was molten steel at Ground Zero, and since jet fuel and office paper would never generate enough heat to melt steel, it must have been a government-sponsored explosion. This, fellow 9/11 Truth Movement member Tom Spellman says, is evidence that “probably six or eight people—with backpacks on their backs—carrying the material in 40-pound packs and maybe making 10 to 12 trips” helped to destroy the landmarks.
...There are two problems with this theory. First, news footage from Ground Zero doesn’t show any molten metal. Second, in March 2005, Popular Mechanics published a special series entitled “9/11: Debunking the Myths,” in which they point out that while it’s true that jet fuel, which burns at 800° to 1500° Fahrenheit, isn’t hot enough to melt steel, the steel frames of the Twin Towers wouldn’t have been required to melt for the towers to collapse—they would have simply needed to lose their structural integrity.
...In the report, Farid Alfawak-hiri, senior engineer of the American Institute of Steel Construction, stated that “[s]teel loses about 50 percent of its strength at 1100° Fahrenheit.” That temperature falls within the 800° to 1500° range, and doesn’t even take into consideration that the towers contained burning rugs, curtains, and furniture in addition to the jet fuel and paper.
...Popular Mechanics also reported that Vincent Dunn, a retired New York deputy fire chief and author of The Collapse of Burning Buildings: A Guide to Fireground Safety, has never seen melted steel in a building fire—only twisted, warped, bent, and sagging steel.
...No offense to Professor Barrett, but his background is in folklore and Islamic studies. I think that I’m going to trust Popular Mechanics, a retired FDNY deputy chief, and a steel engineer on this one.
...A second concern in this issue is Barrett’s interpretations of incidents (which goes hand-in-hand with his conspiracy theories). Like him or hate him, Fox News blowhard Bill O’Reilly was accused by Barrett of having called for the professor’s murder on O’Reilly’s television program. In a letter to Rupert Murdoch, Barrett said that O’Reilly “stated on national television that he would like to see [Barrett] murdered and thrown into Boston Harbor.”
...Aaron Nathans of The Capital Times obtained a transcript of the O’Reilly Factor episode in which the host was said to have made the threat, but the quote doesn’t seem to back up Barrett’s claim. According to the transcript, O’Reilly stated:
“But here’s the problem that I see at Wisconsin. There’s no leadership there. There’s no leadership in the Board of Regents at the university. This guy would have been gone at Boston University, my alma mater, in a heartbeat. The chancellor there, John Silber, this guy would be in the Charles River floating down, you know, toward the harbor. It wouldn’t happen. But here at the University of Wisconsin, there are no standards. This guy can go in and say anything, not back it up, and get paid by the taxpayers. And I’m just stunned.”
...I’m not a regular Bill O’Reilly viewer, but that doesn’t sound as if he’s calling for Barrett’s murder. If anything, it’s making John Silber sound like a tyrant.
...In the end, the big-wigs at the University of Wisconsin will have to determine whether or not Barrett’s ideas are what they want taught in a classroom on their campus. This will no doubt come down to a debate over the concept of “academic freedom,” but how far does academic freedom go?
To be continued.

August 01, 2006


Gross Domestic Product

...America exports various things: motor vehicles; aircraft; food; iron and steel products; electronic equipment; industrial machinery; and chemicals. We’ve also delved into exporting democracy to a few countries, but that’s a column for another time. Earlier this year, Toronto’s mayor, David Miller, claimed that we were exporting guns and a culture of violence to our northern neighbors, thus aiding in the murders of Toronto residents. (That must have made them feel better, considering that their strict gun control laws were made to look as useless as they really are.)
...Now we’re exporting ignorance and our ability to be easily offended.
...American diplomats in Belgrade have forced a café, located across the street from the U.S. embassy, to change its name. It had been known as “Osama,” which means “secluded” in Serbo-Croat, but the café’s owner insists that he named it after a local homeless shelter. He explained, “I had no intention of offending Americans. It is just a word in Serbian.”
...This is reminiscent of the sad story of Stephanie Bell, a teacher at Williams Elementary School in Wilmington, North Carolina. She used the word “niggardly” during a discussion on literary characters a few years ago, but a student became offended, and subsequently the child’s mother was offended, too. Even though “niggardly” is a synonym for “stingy,” the school’s principal, Susan Hahn, reprimanded Bell for using “poor judgment” for her choice of vocabulary. Would that be similar to the poor judgment by that school board in the hiring of Hahn? One wonders.
...In the end, Bell had a black mark on her permanent record and had to attend sensitivity training, simply because she was more intelligent than the principal and a parent. That’s not to mention the Belgrade café owner, who now realizes that the United States’ chief export is our ability to be offended by everything.

July 31, 2006


Fun with Screenshots

...If anyone notices odd links to news stories on this site, I’m going to be experimenting with an idea that Legally Insane gave me. Instead of linking directly to the Websites, I’m linking to screenshots of the sites which I’ve uploaded to another Blogger account (each account is limited to 300MB, and the screenshots can be around 180KB, so a second account should prove useful). The URL can be seen in each screenshot, so you can go to the URL if you want to read the full story if it happens to be cut off on the screenshot.
...The main reason that I’m doing it is because news links have a tendency to disappear after a certain amount of time. The secondary reason is that perhaps these screenshots will be able to bypass any search engine filters that might be used in other countries.

July 28, 2006


Intermittent Responsibility Disorder

Robert Lee Vincent, Sr.

...I’m not planning on making it a habit to turn Faint Expectations into a clearinghouse of wanted posters, considering how many wanted criminals there are in this country, but when I came across this story I quickly realized that the perpetrator in question might have a solid defense.
...Law enforcement officials in Gaston, North Carolina, have issued a murder warrant for Robert Lee Vincent, Sr., of Garysburg. Vincent is wanted for allegedly murdering a 12-year-boy after the boy’s father and Vincent had engaged in a verbal altercation along the side of a North Carolina highway. While the men were arguing, the little boy and his mother stepped out of the family’s vehicle hoping that it might calm the situation. Instead, Vincent allegedly grabbed a shotgun from his pick-up and shot the 12-year-old in the head.
...It might be argued that Vincent was the real victim in this incident, since it was announced in early June that people who might otherwise be said to have “road rage” and need to take responsibility for their actions are actually victims themselves, suffering from “intermittent explosive disorder,” which affects 16 million Americans, according a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
...In early June, Dr. Emil Coccaro, the chairman of psychiatry at the University of Chicago’s medical school, said, “People think it’s bad behavior and that you just need an attitude adjustment, but what they don’t know…is that there’s a biology and cognitive science to this.”
...Ronald Kessler, a health care policy professor at Harvard Medical School, added, “It is news to a lot of people even who are specialists in mental health services that such a large proportion of the population has these clinically significant anger attacks.”
...What’s the condition called when a person becomes frustrated by seeing a new disorder diagnosed whenever someone perpetrates an irresponsible or criminal act? Moreover, is there a name for the condition of thinking that intermittent explosive disorder is a convenient way for the pharmaceutical companies to market a new drug and have psychiatrists prescribe it?
Sources: WRAL, MSNBC

July 27, 2006



...Microsoft helps to block anti-government blogs in China; Google censors its search engine there; Yahoo! turns over user information to Chinese authorities—including two journalists who were eventually prosecuted.
...These stories have been in the news for several months, and more recently Amnesty International has released a report entitled Undermining Freedom of Expression in China: The Role of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google, which offers 32 pages with a scope from freedom of expression in general to the role of Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google.
...Over the last few weeks I’ve internally debated my role in the censorship issue, as my blog host is Blogger: a Google affiliate. I’m a huge supporter of free speech, but has my use of Blogger facilitated the growth of Google, helping them to gain a foothold in China, and ultimately helped to imprison two journalists who were guilty of one thing: harboring dissent and talking about it?
...To ask bluntly, have those of us who use Blogger, MSN Spaces, and Yahoo! 360° essentially helped to put these people behind bars for engaging in an act which those of us in the United States take for granted?
...Or is this just our ability to take advantage of our situation, whereas those in China aren’t as fortunate? We live in a country where we can criticize our local, state, and federal governments; we live in a country where we can criticize asinine laws and illegal pay raises; we live in a country where we can debate issues in an effort to come to some kind of solution. Even if a solution is never attained, we have the right to vent our dissent and not have to worry about facing the possibility of winding up behind bars.
...Are these nothing more than examples of why we should consider ourselves some of the luckiest people on the face of the Earth? Are they examples which lend themselves to suggest that we should criticize the Chinese government instead of Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft? After all, it could be argued, these companies aren’t the ones making the laws—they’re only obeying them.
...With that said, it could also be argued that users of Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft have helped to aid and abet in the silencing of voices which have raised crucial questions and offered pertinent criticism. Have we indirectly helped to put them where they are now? After all, no one forced these companies to take advantage of the growing Chinese economy.
...I don’t have an answer, which is why I referred to this as my dilemma in the comments section of the previous post. I’m usually unwavering in my beliefs, but this one has me torn. Is it because I don’t want to feel guilt knowing that I use at least one service from each of these companies, or is it because I realize that I’m extremely lucky to be a citizen of a country which has better free speech guidelines and other countries have censorship levels that might never change—no matter which company sets up shop there?

July 26, 2006


War for Peace

...In late January, former CNN NewsNight anchor Aaron Brown discussed the state of television news and feedback from viewers. As an example, he mentioned an e-mail which was sent to him by a peace protester who disliked the “inadequate” coverage by Brown and NewsNight of an anti-war march that had been held in Washington. The e-mailer explained, “I hope the violence visited on the people of Iraq will someday be visited on your children.”
...Yesterday in Australia, Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams, giving a speech to schoolchildren, proclaimed, “Right now, I would love to kill George Bush.” The children cheered.
...Apparently this “war for peace” idea is catching on. Even the peace movement likes it.

July 24, 2006


Crooked Grind

(Photo by Cara Grae Meling)

...In a recent “This I Believe” segment on NPR’s All Things Considered, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk discusses being proud of his career and also describes how skateboarding is viewed by many people who aren’t members of the skateboarding community: “It was a kids’ fad, a waste of time, a dangerous pursuit, a crime.”
...While Mr. Hawk probably didn’t break any laws throughout his skateboarding career, it’s necessary to say that many people view skateboarding as a crime only when it’s perpetrated in a criminal manner. And yes, those of us who choose to live in the real world are fully aware that skateboarders have committed crimes—namely vandalism and trespassing, but sometimes worse.
...A few months ago a new Subway was erected in my hometown. As soon as the cement was dry on the steps and ramp leading to the front door, several local skateboarders made sure that they had christened it by riding their skateboards over it, grinding their wheels into the steps and leaving chunks behind for the owner to pick up the bill. The local police had to patrol more than usual just to make sure that the kids weren’t destroying more of the private property.
...In June, a town a few miles away was the scene of a similar situation, where a new woodworking shop was built, complete with a brand new set of steps and lengthy ramp—almost identical to the local Subway. Before you knew it, that town’s skateboarders decided to lay claim to those steps, leaving chunks of concrete in their wake, too.
...Finally, as I had mentioned earlier, sometimes skateboarders do things that are worse than vandalism, and unfortunately this time it hit closer to home than I could have imagined. Three years ago, a family member’s high school friend had been experiencing routine problems from three skateboarders in his neighborhood. His house had a large brick wall in front of the sidewalk with steps to one side leading to the home, and the three skateboarders had decided to call the brick wall their own, using it for tricks and destroying it a little more each time that they used it. He and his wife had been growing frustrated with threatening to call the cops, and even when they did call, the kids would make sure that they were out of the area by the time that the cruiser rolled by.
...Then one day things took a turn that he hadn’t expected. It was another afternoon when the three kids were using his brick wall as a ramp, loosening a few bricks and knocking out a few more. This time he decided to let them know, face-to-face, that their parents would be getting a bill for the repairs to the wall, and that he had called the police yet again. What happened next, no one would have predicted.
...One of the kids picked up his skateboard and used it to sucker-punch the homeowner, leaving him unconscious on the ground with a fractured skull and broken jaw. No one was sure if he would recover, but over time he has.
...None of the kids were prosecuted because the homeowner’s memory had been affected by both the blow to the head from the skateboard and the fall to the ground. The only witness didn’t see the actual attack—only the kids running away from the scene (and it wasn’t even enough to make a positive identification).
...It should not be assumed that I’m suggesting that all skateboarders break the law. Instead, I’m suggesting that an unusually high percentage of skateboarders are willing to break the law—mostly by trespassing and vandalism, some much worse—and thus give the rest an extremely bad image.
...With all due respect to Mr. Hawk, those of us who view certain acts of skateboarding as crimes don’t do so simply because we don’t like the act of skateboarding; we do it because too many skateboarders are actually committing crimes.
Source: NPR

Dressed to Oppress

Tarzan (© 2003 Les Edwards)

...After all the discussion (what little there was), after all the name-calling, and after all the mud-slinging, it turns out that the entire issue of Hazleton’s immigration ordinance is probably a moot point.
...Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency that is in charge of deporting illegal immigrants, almost always orders state and local law enforcement to ignore illegal immigrants unless they’re charged with a violent crime or subject of a federal detainer.
...Now I feel as if I’ve wasted valuable blog space on my analysis of semantics from three days ago. I could have been spending more time settling on the right loin cloth pattern for any future super-feminist revolution. Any suggestions?

July 23, 2006


Unhallowed Ground

(Photo by A.J. Nelson)

...When the story of the Westboro Baptist Church began to gain momentum a few weeks ago, I was nearing the end of my first summer semester of graduate work and couldn’t make time to say anything about it. I’m still busy, but this morning I came across a headline in the Washington Post that has me wondering if the ACLU is now equating harassment with free speech.
...To preface this, the Westboro Baptist Church is the group whose claim to fame is chanting anti-homosexual slogans and holding signs reading “God Hates You,” “God Hates America,” and “God Hates Fags” at funeral services of slain military personnel from the Iraqi War. The fundamentalist group was eventually banned from protesting “in front of or about” any location where a funeral is held, from an hour before the service to an hour after the service ends. Offenders will be hit with fines and jail time.
...To conclude this preface, it’s also no secret that I’m skeptical of the ACLU as a whole, simply because of their continued support for violent sexual predators and child molesters. Yes, they’ve made a few good calls on issues like protecting medical records and even a few gun control laws, but it seems as if more and more they take one step forward and two steps back.
...This morning while perusing the Washington Post I found this headline: “ACLU Sues for Anti-Gay Group That Pickets at Troops’ Burials.” At first I was a little shocked, but that feeling wore off after about a nanosecond. The organization is saying that the Westboro Baptist Church’s First Amendment rights are being violated as the Missouri ban is being imposed on the basis of the messages’ content.
...Tara from Soul Blessings made an excellent point regarding the ethical side of the protests by saying:
The soldier did not start this war we are in. In fact, due to the current economy, many have even joined the military prior to this war as a means of financially surviving. Either way, soldiers serve a purpose, a deeper means. They put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Maybe we are wrong for being over in Iraq, but how is it justifiable for anyone to stand outside of a soldier’s funeral and criticize them for dying for our freedom? Furthermore, how can someone justify their own protest when they are arguing someone who is not even capable of defending themselves? Seems like a bit of a cop out to me. The energy could be directed in a much more positive and productive manner than picking at the deceased.
...I’m going to go one step further and argue that this isn’t even a free speech issue—it’s an issue of harassment. Allow me to explain.
...The Westboro Baptist Church members aren’t organizing protests in their local public parks or on their public streets as a general protest. They’re targeting specific individuals—fallen soldiers—and their families at funerals, which aren’t intended (since intent is important to the ACLU) to be “public” ceremonies. Let’s put it another way: If a member of the Westboro Baptist Church or ACLU were walking down the street and found themselves approached by groups of people with protest signs and screams, following them wherever they go, it’s not free speech; it’s a targeted form of harassment and stalking which would fall under already-established laws pertaining to such actions.
...This would also be true if anti-ACLU or anti-Westboro Baptist Church folks decided to protest at the funerals of members from either organization who might have passed away. Staging general protests of either group is one thing; only showing up at graveside services of deceased ACLU or Westboro members would be something else.
...With that out of the way, I thought that it should be noted that I came across an interesting piece of information via Common Dreams while researching this topic. It turns out that speaking freely isn’t something that the ACLU wants its own members to enjoy. From a May 24, 2006, New York Times story by Stephanie Strom:
The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing new standards that would discourage its board members from publicly criticizing the organization’s policies and internal administration.
“Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement,” the committee that compiled the standards wrote in its proposals.
“Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising,” the proposals state.
...Protesting at fallen soldiers’ funeral services—where family members aren’t even necessarily supportive of the cause for which their loved one died—is nothing more than harassment. The Westboro Baptist Church has gone beyond protesting issues or causes by singling out specific people in situations where family members have little choice but to endure the taunts. As Tara pointed out, the primary target can’t even offer a defense because they’re dead. As such, they’ve crossed the First Amendment line and may have very well entered the realm of harassment.
...As for the ACLU, their primary objective is becoming more and more blurred. They’ve always been greeted with criticism from conservatives, but—especially considering their own in-house directives to keep quiet when board members harbor dissent—it should be difficult for liberals, libertarians, and anyone else supportive of the Constitution to withhold unfavorable reviews, too.

Thy Will Be Done

...This is a sign from above. It must be.

July 21, 2006


In No Uncertain Terms

...I wasn’t sure how—or if—to expand upon the issue of the illegal immigration ordinance in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. I don’t object to anyone, from any country, moving here, there, or anywhere in a pursuit of a better life, as long as it’s done so legally. While I recognize ethnicity, I don’t use it as a determining factor of judging a person’s character or work ethic. Considering the number of white Americans that I’ve lambasted over the last two years, I could probably be called anti-white or anti-American more than anything.
...With that aside, over the last week a few more topics pertaining to the Hazleton story have arisen: six neighboring towns are considering similar ordinances to deter Hazleton’s illegal immigrants from settling there after leaving Hazleton; Governor Ed Rendell, no doubt risking the loss of many union votes in the upcoming election, has made it known that he’s opposed to Mayor Lou Barletta’s new law, calling the crackdown “mean-spirited”; and a local newspaper has called for all enforcement of immigration legislation to come from Washington—not from state or local governments.
...As such, I figured that instead of taking the now-common approach to this debate—where one side says that illegal immigrants need to leave and the other side cries racism—I decided that I would rather focus upon something that might be hindering the entire discussion: We’re disagreeing over the definition of “illegal.”
...Not to become a slave to strict definitions, but it should be noted that the online FindLaw Legal Dictionary offers a rather terse entry for “illegal”: “contrary to or in violation of a law: ‘illicit’ and ‘unlawful.’”
...When we apply such an adjective to the term “immigrant,” we can—or rather, should—see a distinct difference between immigrants—who are legal residents and workers—and illegal immigrants, who are in America without any official documentation or, for lack of a better description, without anyone knowing that they’re here. Analogies to such definition differences include gun possession, whereby illegal possession of a firearm is vastly different from legal possession, and driving a vehicle, whereby people driving with valid drivers’ licenses are vastly different from those who drive with expired or suspended licenses.
...Somewhere along the way some of us have turned “legal” and “illegal” into synonyms. Thus, a heated debate has ensued.
...The editorial staff of the Pennsylvania newspaper The Morning Call has said that “Hazleton’s image has become downright ugly, and the ordinance—not crime—is to blame.” They also took aim at Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who is pushing for state legislation to require that Pennsylvania businesses implement an already-existing voluntary federal system which verifies Social Security numbers of prospective employees.
...In their editorial, the paper’s staff provides a reasonable example of what I mean when I submit the possibility of interchangeable definitions. Morganelli was quoted as saying, “The fact of the matter is that their illegal entry automatically leads them to additional illegal and criminal acts, such as the utilization of fraudulent identities and cards,” to which the editorial staff responded with, “Mr. Morganelli's statement reflects an assumption that all illegal immigrants in Northampton County commit crimes.”
...It appears that they’re failing to see that being an illegal immigrant is a crime, simply due to the status of “illegal.” Morganelli evidently is referring to such a status, otherwise he wouldn’t have used the word “additional” in his statement. Furthermore, due to the illegal immigrants’ status as “illegal,” their identification and cards have to be illegal by definition. After all, one cannot be here illegally but have their identification or cards be legal. It’s possible to be here legally with illegal documentation, but to have it the other way around would be contradictory.
...The July 21 editorial concluded:
Far-reaching immigration reform in Washington is preferable to a patchwork of state or local laws, including the one proposed by Mr. Morganelli. It’s better to wait until the federal stalemate is resolved than to rush in with ineffective and polarizing local and state measures.
...That’s nice in theory, but if federal legislation were so efficient, we wouldn’t have reached the point of the Hazleton ordinance in the first place. Besides, patchworks of state and local laws are sometimes necessary; let’s not forget about last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. New London, which made the use of eminent domain easier than ever.
...The Kelo ruling inspired many states to toughen their laws pertaining to eminent domain, as property owners across the nation quickly saw increased potential of land confiscation from not only their local school districts, but also from Wal-Mart and developers eager to build an infinite number of strip-malls and townhouses. The Morning Call editorial staff might be opposed to those state laws, too.
...Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is sticking with the ethnicity card in this fray. He voiced his opposition to Barletta’s new law, calling it “mean-spirited” and said:
“The only ones I want to hear speaking up and complaining about immigration are the Native Americans who we screwed. A lot of this is being pushed by politicians who absolutely want to keep your eyes away from real stuff. They feed off hate and divisiveness.”
...I’ll completely agree that Native Americans were victims of reprehensible acts. I’d go even further and say that two of the biggest black marks on United States history are the treatment of Native Americans and the institution of slavery.
...With that said, does past treatment of Native Americans somehow disqualify us from debating present-day handling of illegal immigrants? I’d argue no, because if we do, we can continually use the Native American argument whenever any immigration issue arises.
...I’d sooner assert that this is Rendell’s spin to cast a negative light on the concept of local control—on anything. It’s no secret that Rendell looks unfavorably upon communities having a say on what they do. In 2004 he said that he’s “not for letting anything be decided by referendum” when asked about the possibility of municipalities having a say over potentially-hazardous sludge being dumped in their backyards.
...Is Rendell correct in suggesting that some of those in support of Barletta’s ordinance are full of hate, divisiveness, and mean-spiritedness? It’s quite possible. Pennsylvania has its fair share of residents whose attitudes might mirror those of the south during the civil rights era. James Carville once said, “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.” Having lived in Pennsylvania for most of my life, I’d find it difficult to disagree.
...Does this automatically mean that everyone supportive of recognizing the word “illegal” in “illegal immigrant” is mean-spirited or full of hate? I’d adamantly say no. The text of Hazleton’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance doesn’t contain anything pertaining to race, ethnicity, Mexico, Hispanics, or the like. Yes, most of the illegal immigrants in Hazleton are from Mexico or Central America, but if the ordinance has the potential of punishing illegal immigrants from Canada, Vietnam, Korea, Russia, et al., it’s difficult to deem the act “racist,” “bigoted,” or anything similar. The definition wouldn’t apply.
...Rendell is not the only one to view the ordinance as having racist intent, however. Ethnic organizations stand by the charges of racism, since the majority of illegal immigrants are Hispanic. The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund has joined with the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU to sue the city on the grounds that “the ordinance erodes the federal government’s power to regulate immigration.”
...Either way, the rhetoric is escalating and becoming coarser. One example, an entry entitled “The First Nazi City in America” by Juan Santos of the Guerrilla News Network, states:
Everyone will have to register their nationality with the government. No one will be exempt. People of certain nationalities will be targeted for removal. Those who look like they might be from those nations will be marked as suspects, constantly subject to harassment, official and unofficial.
There’s only one thing the “immigration debate” is about: It’s about white nationalism.
Official Amerika will never admit that the matter of “national origin” and “immigration status” is little more than a thin excuse for ethnic suppression and ethnic cleansing.
...We’ve come a long way from debate class.