January 29, 2006


Entertain Me

...Many people—myself included—have suggested that over the last six or seven years mainstream news has completed its evolution, going from investigative reporting to a ratings weapon akin to Jerry Springer or American Idol, where viewers tune in hoping to see that their hatred for a particular politician or ideological idea is supported. One more insider confirms such a theory.
...Former CNN anchor Aaron Brown, who found himself replaced with the hipper-looking Anderson Cooper in an effort to increase viewers, recently gave a speech and reaffirmed a cynical view of the media by saying, “Truth no longer matters in the context of politics and, sadly, in the context of cable news.”
...Brown’s NewsNight saw some of its highest ratings during a four-hour episode dealing with the arrest of actor Robert Blake, but experienced worse numbers when serious news stories were aired.
...Brown also mentioned a couple of other things which have come to mar mainstream journalism: the focus on arguments instead of the facts behind the arguments, and viewers who are more interested in having their viewpoints confirmed as opposed to the actual story.
...I can’t help but think that Brown is accurate in his observations. With regard to his confirmed viewpoints theory, we have more than enough proof available to us if we watch but one episode of C-Span’s daily morning show, Washington Journal. C-Span might very well be the most objective network available on cable television, but you wouldn’t think so if you relied on the opinions of callers on C-Span’s telephone lines.
...If the morning’s guest happens to be a Democrat, Republican callers will phone in to complain that a liberal guest is evidence of C-Span becoming a liberal network. If the morning guest is a Republican, Democratic callers will phone in to complain about C-Span turning into another right-wing channel. The truth is that C-Span presents various viewpoints; the perception is that C-Span is becoming “the enemy” because they don’t provide only one viewpoint—the viewpoint of the given caller.
...Hence, most political discussion has devolved into childish bickering that is punctuated with accusations of bias when a bias might not even be present. Add to that the incessant desire by the average American to be entertained instead of informed and we have the situation that Brown describes.
...Perhaps such a situation just goes hand-in-hand with an e-mail that Brown received by a viewer who was angry with the “inadequate” NewsNight coverage of an anti-war protest in Washington. The e-mailer concluded by saying, “I hope the violence visited on the people of Iraq will someday be visited on your children.”
...It’s a dark day in the United States when the peace movement has to get their point across by using violence.

January 25, 2006


Lowlife by Palp

...As each day passes, it’s becoming more and more evident that the terms “good” and “evil” are interchangeable—especially when the situation involves juveniles. A few years ago there was the Pennsylvania story of Dennis Gumbs, 15-years-old at the time, who murdered a woman by dropping an 18-pound piece of ice from an overpass onto her passing vehicle. At the time, newspaper accounts told of people who considered Gumbs a “good kid.” Apparently the state of Virginia has its own “good kids” who murder, too. The exception is that in Virginia they ride in ambulances.
...Emergency medical technician Joshua Philip Martin was only four days into his new job when he decided to electrocute a fellow EMT with a defibrillator, killing her. What’s even more disgusting than the act itself is that Martin and his family seem to think that he shouldn’t be punished for killing 23-year-old Courtney Rhoton, who leaves behind two small children, because the electrocution was a “prank” and that he was just “playing around.”
...I wish that I were lying about some of the remarks that Martin’s family made at the courthouse following his trial, but sometimes truth is sicker than fiction.
...Martin’s mother, Diana White, said about her son, “He just made a mistake. Everybody plays on the job—even cops.” Martin’s aunt, Karen Martin, agreed and said, “He was just playing around. Anybody who knows him knows this was not intentional.” The aunt concluded by yelling, “Josh is a good kid! A good kid!”
...Since Martin’s family think that what he did was “just playing around,” and that it was a sign of his being “a good kid,” I would figure that none of the Martin clan would object to having defibrillator paddles used on them, thus strengthening the gene pool.
...Eliminating people such as these from the population might be something that is truly “good,” in the real sense of the word.

January 24, 2006


A Million Little Excuses

...In the wake of James Frey’s “memoir” A Million Little Pieces being exposed for what it really is, something almost as disturbing as Frey’s willingness to pass-off a fictional tale as reality surfaced on the consumer side of the book industry: The lengths to which people will defend someone, even when the facts mount against them.
...Over the years we’ve seen all kinds of fraud, from books to music to documentaries to newspaper stories, and we can use the Frey case as yet another example since it has triggered an onslaught of questionable rationalizations. Whether we discover these arguments through conversation or by scanning various blogs and newspaper letters to the editors, we find that we can lump the vast majority of defenses for such chicanery into three categories: 1.) View the material for what it is and ignore the particulars (as if they will nicely go away); 2.) Change the subject, possibly to something positive (although still ignoring the false particulars); or 3.) Simply resort to name-calling (which seems to be popular with many people nowadays for all disagreements).
...The first argument is that of taking the book for what it is: A powerfully-written story about becoming a slave to a substance, hitting rock-bottom, and somehow finding a way to escape. There’s no doubt that such a plot is fascinating, entertaining, and inspiring. What becomes upsetting to see is how many people will use power of inspiration or entertainment value of something to not only ignore the original intent of something—in this case a book being an accurate memoir—but to defend its fraudulency by citing its “power.” If I film a fictional documentary about something, sell it as a true story, and then have the truth come out, do I deserve to have my lying deemed “acceptable” so long as my storyline was entertaining and powerful?
...The second defense, changing the subject to something positive, has become so popular that I actually began to wonder if there was some kind of James Frey talking-points seminar somewhere. From the radio to the newspaper to the Internet, when the issue of this particular book has come up, many of Frey’s fans have quickly offered the idea that the book’s power (similar to the first argument) has inspired dozens of drug users to enter rehabilitation clinics. I haven’t seen any official statistics, but I’m certainly happy to hear that so many have decided to detoxify. I’m fortunate enough to never have had any addictions, but I know that many people have become slaves to various substances. Anytime that someone decides to go clean, it’s a wonderful thing. With that said, does it justify fooling millions of people to make a few dollars off a book?
...A similar change of topic is that of using the importance of Frey’s story to bring more attention to the rampant problem of drug addiction. It has been suggested that we shouldn’t criticize Frey for lying about his experiences, but that we should use his book as a springboard to engage in conversation pertaining to the dangers of drugs. Sure, that’s a good thing, but if you’re going to use an argument like that, two problems arise: 1.) We devalue the efforts of honest drug awareness campaigns and speakers, and 2.) We open a can of worms that allows us to apply this philosophy to other aspects of life.
...For instance, we could say that we shouldn’t criticize the CIA, President Bush, or Congress because each lied to us about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. Instead of criticizing any of them for leading us into war under false pretenses, we should use their rhetoric to focus our attention on the dangers of nuclear warfare. We would be turning a negative into a positive, and that’s the important thing, isn’t it?
...The third form of defense is the more understandable one, since it comes as second-nature for most Americans who attempt to discuss or debate issues. Name-calling has taken center stage in the James Frey saga, and by-and-large it would make a third-grader smile.
...The more civil name-callers stick with referring to the critics as “jealous,” whereas the more militant (read: juvenile) resort to “liar,” “idiot,” and the like. Such tactics have unfortunately become the American way, though; it’s the reason that I’ve disabled my comments section, and—on a more national stage—it’s why the Washington Post opted to disable their comments section on their blog, too.
...For those of you who enjoyed A Million Little Pieces, I’m happy to see that a book moved you as much as it did; good books have that power. If you were a drug addict who was inspired to enter a rehabilitation clinic after reading Frey’s book, I’m even happier; you’re one step closer to having a healthy life.
...A healthy life must be found in a mental sense as well as a physical sense, however. As such, engaging in deception isn’t a sign of being mentally healthy; defending those who commit such deception isn’t a sign of being mentally healthy, either.

January 23, 2006


Two More Reasons to be a Misanthrope

...Every so often I find it important to defend my position as a self-proclaimed “reformed humanitarian.” All too often we find ourselves reading news articles about people who have no right whatsoever to call themselves a part of the human race—well, in my opinion, anyway.
...Here are but two more examples of our society’s bottom-of-the-barrel.
Disgrace to the Race #1
...If you haven’t heard the story by now, 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown was allegedly molested and beaten to death by her stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez, who has pleaded not guilty in the case. What is truly scary is what seems to be the reasons why Rodriguez—as well as Nixzmary’s mother—has decided to plead not guilty in the little girl’s death. Rodriguez places the blame on the little girl and claims that the beatings—perpetrated using belts, pieces of wood, and bungee cords—were for her own good.
...Here is a quote by Rodriguez from a jailhouse interview:
“I would hold her up to the mirror and make her look at herself and I would say, ‘Do you really want to live like this? Look at yourself. Talk to yourself. How do you feel about yourself?”
...Police report that Rodriguez forced the little girl to strip and beat her while her mother watched after Rodriguez discovered that Nixzmary had eaten yogurt without permission (probably because she was hungry). He also allegedly dragged the child to the bathroom, held her head under cold water, and concluded the torture session by tossing her body to the floor like a rag doll.
...New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services failed miserably in the case, as they closed Nixzmary’s file even after being notified of possible abuse of the little girl as well as multiple school absences.
...There’s no doubt that some insane group of people from some segment of our population will come to Rodriguez’s defense and attempt to somehow justify his actions (e.g., he was mentally ill, he had a bad childhood, he was poor and his state of poverty caused this, etc.). If they happen to fail in their attempts to defend a monster like this, and Rodriguez is, indeed, sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence, I hope that prison guards find a way to make him a cellmate with a fellow prisoner who happens to have a bad attitude and a very large dick.
...Hide the lubricant and make sure that he gets rectal damage that would make a proctologist cringe.
Disgrace to the Race #2
...Most of my family and close friends know that I like animals more than people, so this following story helped to keep my blood at a steady temperature of 100 degrees Celsius.
...Kenneth S. Williams III, from Slatedale, Pennsylvania, admitted to friends that he imprisoned his neighbor’s cat in a small cage, drowned the feline, and concluded by hanging it from a tree in a nearby park. According to police, one of Williams’ friends said that the cat had been in the cage on Williams’ front porch.
...The cat’s owner, Amy Henry, searched for two weeks for her pet, named Cat-Cat, which had become her daughter’s constant companion. Cat-Cat was a house cat that never ran from home, and his sudden disappearance caused alarm. Henry’s daughter is said to be heartbroken over the turn of events.
...There are militant animal-rights groups around the country such as the Animal Liberation Front that might feel the need to seek some kind of justice against scum like Kenneth S. Williams III. That being the case, I figured that anyone from the ALF (or any other vigilantes who like animals as much as me) might be interested in knowing that The Morning Call, in its print version of this story, listed Williams’ address as 3924 East Grant Street, Slatedale, Pennsylvania. (I would have listed his phone number, but it seems to be unlisted—probably because of too many bill collectors or unpaid meth dealers calling.)
...Remember: I’m not endorsing any kind of violence against Williams, but let’s just say that if anything should happen to him (like caging him, drowning him, and hanging him from a tree), I would simply say, “Good riddance. It’s one less mouth to feed.”

January 20, 2006


Offensive Ass Interference

...In the new issue of Sports Illustrated, National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue offers his opinion of baseball by saying that it’s “about as exciting as standing in line at the supermarket. Baseball doesn’t test anything but your ability to withstand boredom.”
...At first, a baseball fan might be upset with such a remark. Then we count to 10, breathe deeply, and consider the source.
...This judgment is from a man whose “professional” league pushed to have running back Jamal Lewis, who pleaded guilty to setting up a drug deal, serve his four-month prison sentence during the off-season so that it wouldn’t interfere with his statistics. The only punishment that Lewis received from Tagliabue’s NFL was a two-game suspension for violating its substance abuse policy.
...This judgment is from a man whose “professional” league—around the same time as the Lewis incident—threatened to fine quarterback Jake Plummer $20,000 (in addition to a $10,000 fine from the previous week) for wearing a sticker on his helmet with the number “40” on it to honor the late Pat Tillman. Tillman, who was a teammate and friend of Plummer in Arizona, was killed in Afghanistan after turning down a lucrative NFL contract so that he could serve in the Army. Plummer eventually caved-in to the league’s pressure and removed the sticker from his helmet.
...A $20,000 fine was also issued by the NFL against running back Clinton Portis for wearing the wrong socks and shoes during a game last year. Meanwhile, the NFL issued a $17,000 fine to safety Sean Taylor—who was previously fined $5,000 for wearing the wrong socks—for spitting in another player’s face during a game.
...Yes, that’s correct: a fine of $20,000 each for a little sticker and improper footwear, but $17,000 or intentionally spitting in another player’s face.
...Considering the kind of judgment that Tagliabue has, baseball fans should take any and all of his insults as compliments. It’s similar to having a crack addict criticizing a health-nut on their lifestyle choice.

January 19, 2006


Google This

...Google is scoffing at a subpoena ordered by the Bush Administration to obtain records over searches that have been done on their search engine. Such a move might open the floodgates for government agencies to discover who was looking for what—even legally—and Google officials said that giving-in to the subpoena “would suggest that it is willing to reveal information about those who use its service.”
...The subpoena was issued by the Department of Justice under the guise of an Internet child pornography law which is not only unrelated to Google, but was struck down by the Supreme Court.
...Since my IP address is probably being red-flagged by the Department of Justice just for linking this story, I figure that I’ll add this piece of information about which some people might not have heard: If you Google the word “failure,” the first hit to come up is George W. Bush’s biography. (Ironically, Michael Moore’s Website is in second-place.)

January 17, 2006


Patriot [F]Acts

...For the last few weeks, we’ve been besieged by the ongoing warrantless wiretap issue that has been brought upon us by the Bush Administration’s “war on terror.” Spin-doctors and apologists from both sides of the aisle have leveled claims at each other, with the two most prominent arguments being that of illegalities and Fourth Amendment violations by the National Security Agency as directed by the White House, and the counter-argument that Bill Clinton got the ball rolling in the 1990s when his deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick, testified before a House of Representatives committee to suggest that warrantless searches were all right.
...A recent speech—one of his most energized and passionate—by former Vice President Al Gore has helped to perpetuate both arguments. Gore, whose own lawbreaking occurred when he solicited campaign contributions from the White House (in violation of §607 of the United States Code) called for an investigation of the Bush Administration for illegalities involving the warrantless wiretaps. In response, White House press secretary Scott McClellan called Gore a hypocrite, citing an authorized warrantless home search of spy Aldrich Ames and the Gorelick testimony.
...Having grown disgusted by the lies and half-truths from both conservatives and liberals alike, I decided to analyze as much data on the topics as possible.
...The biggest issue is the potentially illegal and unconstitutional warrantless wiretaps and electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) as directed by the Bush Administration. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which covers searches and seizures, states the following:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
...Pretty clear, is it not? One might think so, but don’t forget about that controversial bill known as the Patriot Act, which was instituted as law under the guise of helping to wage the war on terror. Critics of the act were called unpatriotic muckrakers who hated America, but they feared the widespread scope of the legislation and warned of certain clauses within the bill that might suspend constitutional rights and civil liberties which we previously had.
...Those critics were apparently correct in their assertions, though, as Section 213 of the legislation is entitled “Authority for delaying notice of the execution of a warrant.” It amends §3103(a) of the United States Code by adding a “delayed” warrant clause. For a die-hard supporter of warrantless searches or wiretaps, a “delayed” warrant can do wonderful things—especially considering the indefiniteness of the word “delayed.” Does it mean tomorrow? Does it mean 100 years from now? No one can be sure. The legislation says:
(b) Delay--With respect to the issuance of any warrant or court order under this section, or any other rule of law, to search for and seize any property or material that constitutes evidence of a criminal offense in violation of the laws of the United States, any notice required, or that may be required, to be given may be delayed if--
(1) the court finds reasonable cause to believe that providing immediate notification of the execution of the warrant may have an adverse result (as defined in section 2705);
(2) the warrant prohibits the seizure of any tangible property, any wire or electronic communication (as defined in section 2510), or, except as expressly provided in chapter 121, any stored wire or electronic information, except where the court finds reasonable necessity for the seizure; and
(3) the warrant provides for the giving of such notice within a reasonable period of its execution, where period may thereafter be extended by the court for good cause shown.
...I’m not an attorney, but it seems as if attacking warrantless wiretaps on legal grounds will be more difficult than many people realize, since the Patriot Act has, in essence, legalized the violation of the Fourth Amendment. A warrant only has to be “delayed,” and that means that it could be issued sometime between now and the second coming of Christ.
...Who is to blame for this? Perhaps we should begin with the voters, since the Patriot Act was passed in 2001 by the House of Representatives (357-66) and the Senate (98-1), and signed into law by President Bush. It expires on February 3, and Bush wants it to become a permanent law.
...Let’s conclude by looking at the argument that has been advanced by the opposing side of the aisle. When Democrats question the legality of the warrantless electronic wiretaps, Republicans counter by pointing out testimony of Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick. In 1994, she appeared before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and made the following statement:
“[T]he Department of Justice believes—and the case law supports—that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the president may, as he has done, delegate this authority to the attorney general.”
...Gorelick’s statement mentions warrantless physical searches, and that has become the standard talking-point among Democrats who oppose the Bush Administration’s warrantless electronic surveillances. The popular liberal Website Media Matters says that “physical searches are not the same thing as electronic surveillance.” Interestingly enough, Gorelick, in the same 1994 testimony, commented upon electronic surveillance and said:
“There are fewer cases dealing with physical, as distinguished from electronic, searches, but it is important to recognize that, for the Fourth Amendment analysis purposes, courts have made no distinction between electronic surveillances and physical searches.”
...Perhaps Media Matters knows more about the law than the courts do.
...Defenders of Clinton and Gorelick quickly note that no law was actually broken in the early-1990s, since physical searches weren’t included in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Authorization Act (FISA) until 1995 (placing it in §1822(c)). To be fair, such an argument is valid if we’re debating the legality of the warrantless physical searches.
...What concerns me is why any liberal organization would be defending warrantless physical searches simply because they were legal at the time. Isn’t the liberal movement supposed to be at the forefront of civil liberties? If they’re going to defend warrantless physical searches because they’re “legal,” then they’re no better than the conservatives who are currently defending the warrantless electronic wiretaps, which are apparently “legal” as defined by the Patriot Act.
...Who is right in the end? Ultimately each of us will come to our own conclusions, but for me I’m openly afraid of the use of warrantless anything. I’m also afraid of both liberals and conservatives and their respective political parties because we’ve seen that both have supported similar acts so long as their man is in the White House.

January 16, 2006


Ground-Rule Trouble

...For many years, critics have suggested that administrators in Major League Baseball might very well be the most fan-unfriendly of all the major sports leagues. The league has proved those critics correct yet again.
...A lawsuit has been filed by CBC Distribution and Marketing against Major League Baseball in a dispute involving the use of players’ statistics. CBC runs fantasy baseball leagues and Major League Baseball is calling for them to cease using statistics for their leagues as CBC isn’t licensed by MLB to do so. In turn, CBC is arguing that Major League Baseball can’t actually “own” statistics, as statistics are nothing more than factual numbers that are part of the public record.
...Major League Baseball’s argument is that of intellectual property rights, and Forbes has the league quoted as saying that unlicensed use of stats will “commercially exploit the identities and statistical profiles” of its players.
...I have to agree with CBC’s argument, and I also wonder how far Major League Baseball will go in an attempt to “own” all things baseball.
...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 that he gave 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 a particular league—in this case Major League Baseball—a push to “own” such numbers might make us wonder how far Major League Baseball 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? 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; it’s actually 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 shouldn’t be one of those forbidden fruits. Those of us who are fans enjoy it because we have—or rather, had—access to it.

January 15, 2006



...Family and friends of 15-year-old Christopher Penley arranged a candlelight vigil today to remember him. Penley is dead after being shot by police when he pointed a gun at them following an altercation inside the middle school which he attended. The boy, whom friends call a “good kid,” pointed a firearm at police officers when he was cornered in a school bathroom following a scuffle in a classroom with the gun. Critics quickly lambasted the police when it was discovered that the gun in question was a pellet gun that resembled a 9mm pistol.
...As we all know, when police have a perpetrator pointing a gun at them they’re supposed to politely inquire, “Pardon us, young man, will you be shooting us today with a real gun, pellet gun, or simply bluffing with a toy gun? If you are kind enough to use a toy gun, we won’t fire upon you. If you are using a pellet gun, we shall prepare for a mild sting and then rush you. If you are using a real gun, capable of death or serious injury, we will be required to fire upon you in such a fashion that your life might be taken.”
...Damn those mean cops for not taking the time to ask. How many good kids must die before political correctness trumps self-defense?

January 11, 2006


Don’t Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

...The pro-choice movement uses the mantra “Our bodies, our choice!” They might need to alter it a bit, however, because yet another state has made the decision that lungs aren’t to be included.
...In a move to save its citizens from themselves, the all-knowing members of the New Jersey state assembly approved a law to ban smoking in private establishments such as offices, restaurants, and bars. The state’s acting governor, Richard Codey, has assured the assemblymen that he’ll sign the measure. Several other states have similar laws.
...This story has a couple of frightening aspects to it. First is the idea that several states across our nation will now have final say over whether or not a person can ingest a legal substance while visiting a privately-owned business. Second, we’re seeing a transformation of the words “public” and “private.”
...There’s no other way to state the biggest problem with laws such as this: If you don’t like the smoking (or non-smoking) policy at a particular establishment, don’t frequent that establishment. No one is forcing a patron to visit a particular bar or restaurant, and the owner should be able to make a decision on such matters, weighing the possibility of losing or gaining customers based upon that particular policy. Likewise, if you're looking to work at a bar or restaurant and you don't like their policy, don't apply there.
...If the bar or restaurant owner thinks that his/her customers will be happy and might continue to patronize the business, why intervene in a manner that will hinder the flourishing of that business? After all, if the states are more than happy to collect sales tax from the businesses in question, why on Earth would they risk forcing a policy upon the businesses that might limit income?
...Next is the problem of making it illegal to use a legal substance. Since smoking is as bad for our health as it is, shouldn’t we see an outright ban of it? Sure, it would lead to increased black market sales, but shouldn’t we see more politicians calling for a “noble” push to end all sales of a vile product? If it’s so terrible that we need to ban its use, why can’t we ban the substance itself? Shouldn’t we do it “for the children”? Oh, wait—too many politicians get money from cigarette taxes to fund their pork spending. I almost forgot about that.
...Last but not least, this issue has brought to our attention an apparent change of status—if not an actual change of definition. Privately-owned businesses, bars, and restaurants were previously known as just that: private. It used to be that only buildings which were built with and funded by tax dollars for the public to use, such as libraries and courthouses, were known as public places. Many of the news reports of this pending New Jersey ban refer to bars and restaurants as “public places” now, since they might be frequented by members of the public. The reporters who wrote these articles probably didn’t do it because they have a political agenda, but like it or not, the establishments are still owned by private citizens.
...Then again, considering last year’s Kelo v. New London case, the concept of “private” ownership doesn’t mean anything, anyway. Maybe a uterus really is the only thing privately-owned nowadays.

January 10, 2006


It’s Debatable

...One of the most interesting aspects of blogs and many other Websites is the possibility for interaction via comments. Some blogs will find themselves with few comments, while the more frequented ones will have threads with over 100 on any given topic. Sometimes comments can be not only fun, but also educational. Other times the availability of a comments section lends itself to the ugliness that has become known as “debate” in our society.
...My girlfriend and other friends with whom I had interacted on my previous blogs no longer have the possibility to leave their opinions, debate issues in an online forum, or leave a friendly “You rule!” or “You suck!” on this site.
...Deleting my other blogs and starting this new one—free of a comments section—will probably limit the traffic here, since a site with interaction is more attractive than one that just offers opinions. Such a situation is okay with me, though, because too many accolades aren’t always good. At the same time, negative comments aren’t always good, either—simply because of what seems to be occurring more and more.
...Good debate classes—whether they’re on a high school or college level—always encourage a basic idea of what makes for a strong argument and a strong debate: Stating your argument establishes the topic; supporting your argument with either concrete facts or strong subjective analysis should follow as ammunition to persuade your opposition to adopt your viewpoints (which, in all honesty, rarely occurs).
...Unfortunately, what happens more often than not is a low-brow attempt at debate that is nothing more than juvenile bickering akin to what might be found on an elementary school playground. I’ve seen quite a bit of it on various blogs: Dissenters who have ignored the issue at hand and criticized the music choices of the blogger in question; dissenters who criticize the time that the post was made instead of the substance of the post; dissenters who attack a person’s physical appearance if that particular blogger has a profile photograph; dissenters who have nothing to offer but outright lies.
...Perhaps it’s simply what passes as “debating” in America. That being the case, I’ll risk the possibility of knowing that only one or two people actually read my writing by disallowing comments here. That’s fine with me, however, because good writing (from anyone) comes from a love of thinking and venting—not a love for widespread appeal and mass-acceptance.

January 08, 2006


A Bipartisan Cookie Jar

Jack Abramoff, right, and his lawyer. (AP Photo)

...The Jack Abramoff bribery and corruption case might be one of the biggest Washington-related scandals to have occurred in my lifetime to this point. The others that stick out are the Iran-Contra affair and Bill Clinton’s impeachment. The impeachment will probably be the most talked about occurrence among the public at large because the American populace will no doubt find titillating stories of blow jobs and cigar dildos more entertaining than guns or money.
...Even so, Abramoff defrauded clients and conspired to bribe public officials. In a plea deal, he’s decided to talk to federal investigators, which has sent shockwaves around Congress. Rumors are running rampant as to how many Congressmen will be implicated in the mess: Twelve? Twenty? One hundred? USA Today reports that Abramoff’s money trail leads to more than 240 members of Congress and committees over the span of six years.
...Since Abramoff is a Republican lobbyist, and since two of the most well-known names that have been associated with him are Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Representative Robert Ney, all the recipients must be Republicans, right? Well, that’s what Representative Louise Slaughter of New York wants us to think.
...In a radio address, she was quoted as saying, “Under Republican guidance, America has truly been put up for sale to the highest bidder. Sadly, the legacy of Republican rule has been the fundamental degradation of our democratic institutions and the abandonment of our core principles.”
...Evidently Representative Slaughter didn’t get a chance to see the Abramoff list.
...In addition to many Republicans, many Democrats benefited from Abramoff’s shady dealings. Senate minority leader Harry Reid received $30,500; Representative Patrick Kennedy received $42,500; Representative Charlie Rangel received $36,000. Seven other Democrats are listed as being the top recipients for their party (the USA Today list is for the top-10 of both major parties).
...If we were to give any credence to Slaughter’s remarks, we would have to assume that only one party—the Republicans—would have its members listed as recipients. Then again, perhaps her memory is slipping; she’s apparently forgotten the 1996 case of fellow Democrat Dan Rostenkowski, who was sentenced to 17 months in prison for mail fraud, and the 2002 case of Democrat James Traficant, who was sentenced to eight years for bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion. Both incidents occurred while Slaughter was a representative in Washington. Maybe it’s just my opinion, but both of those cases degraded our democratic institutions and our core principles (if we actually have any).
...It’s obvious that the Republicans in Washington have their hands full as this is another major black mark against them. It’s also a major black mark against the Democrats on the other side of the aisle, since they had their hands in the Abramoff cookie jar as well. The difference in the case is that one party isn’t commenting about their involvement, while the other party is simply in denial and pretending that they had no involvement.
...It looks as if 2006 will be yet another year to vote third party.
Updated section:
...Apparently the “deny, deny, deny” approach is the standard operating procedure for this. When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean if Democrats who took money that was related to Abramoff should return it, Dean said that they never took it in the first place.
...What’s going to be denied next? The Holocaust? The popularity of Jerry Lewis in France? George W. Bush losing the popular vote in 2000?
...Wait—strike that last one.

January 07, 2006


Have Mercy, O Lord

...He has insisted that God would turn his back on the residents of Dover, Pennsylvania, who voted out the school board members that supported intelligent design in their schools’ science classes. He has warned Orlando, Florida, to brace for earthquakes, tornadoes, and even meteor strikes as forms of chastisement for flying gay pride flags. He has called for the assassination of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Now he claims that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke was a punishment from God for giving up land in the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank to the Palestinians.
...Robertson explained:
“[Sharon] was dividing God’s land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the European Union, the United Nations, or the United States of America. God says, ‘This land belongs to me. You’d better leave it alone.’”
...A spokesperson for Robertson said that the controversy over his remarks was sparked by a liberal advocacy group that released a transcript of the quote. Call me whacky, but didn’t the controversy start because Robertson said the asinine remarks in the first place?
...Maybe Robertson is just proof that sometimes God really does make mistakes.

Long Live Animal Farm

...In George Orwell’s classic novel Animal Farm, the barnyard inhabitants decide to rebel against the oppressive farmer Mr. Jones. After the rebellion, the animals have full reign of the pastures, fields, and dwellings, and the pigs—the most intelligent of the lot—decide to run the show. They eventually establish seven commandments by which all the animals will live, but soon find themselves breaking the commandments. No matter, for the pigs stealthily alter the commandments when the other animals aren’t looking as to abide by the rules.
...The administration at DePaul University was taking notes.
...Last fall, DePaul sponsored a lecture and workshop guided by Ward Churchill, a professor at the University of Colorado who found fame by calling the victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack “little Eichmanns,” the U.S. military “cowards,” and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright a “malignant toad.” He was later accused of plagiarism by a fellow college professor, given a special pass in Colorado’s hiring practices, produced a painting virtually identical to another artist, had his Native American “heritage” called into question when the tribe to which he supposedly belonged insisted that he was nothing more than an honorary member, and had yet another professor discover that he falsified historical incidents.
...DePaul’s College Republicans decided to protest his visit, and produced flyers that listed Churchill’s quotes. DePaul big-wigs didn’t like the idea of a protest, and at first dishonestly hinted that the flyers would be unnecessary, as the event wasn’t definite. The administrators then drew up a rule banning “propaganda,” and quickly deemed the anti-Churchill flyers as such. School authorities also hastily issued a warning stating that events could not be protested.
...The matter was brought to the attention of the First Amendment advocacy group the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which placed enough pressure upon DePaul stiffs to finally persuade them to change their anti-free speech measures, even though the process included the school’s president, Dennis Holtschneider, actually lying about the existence of the propaganda rule. The Mussolini-in-training Holtschneider actually had the nerve to refer to DePaul’s “respect of freedom of speech” and “variety of viewpoints.”
...For years we’ve been told that colleges and universities are places to exchange diverse opinions and contrasting viewpoints. All the while, many of these same academic institutions have been at the forefront of silencing views that might not fit the mold of what they want to hear. DePaul is yet another example.
...While I probably disagree with many of the things that DePaul’s College Republicans have to say, I wholeheartedly support their right to speak their mind—just as Churchill can speak his. Once we decide to quash one view, we open the doors—if not the floodgates—to quashing many views, until the views of those who are in control are the only ones that can be heard.
...In this case, DePaul University welcomed a professor whose academic ethics are practically non-existent. Indeed, the school’s College Republicans were probably more concerned with Churchill’s radical viewpoints, as opposed to his corrupt methods for self-advancement, but with that said, an opposing viewpoint was almost suppressed in a sad attempt to achieve one-sidedness.
...The school’s Website states that “[y]ou can learn something about DePaul University from the facts.” We have thus far, and it seems that a more appropriate statement would be, “All voices are equal, but some voices are more equal than others.”

January 04, 2006


C-Span for Dummies

...Whether you like or dislike either of them, political pundit Bill O’Reilly and pop-culture icon David Letterman squared-off on the January 3 episode of Letterman’s Late Show on CBS. While the exchange, which grew a bit heated at times, covered some of the usual current popular topics (e.g., replacing the word “Christmas” with “holidays,” Cindy Sheehan, and the Iraqi War), an incident occurred which helped to show the perpetuation of ignorance.
...When I use the term “ignorance,” I really mean it in the terms as it’s defined: without knowledge, or uninformed. It shouldn’t be assumed that I’m throwing such a strong word around as liberally as many people throw around other popular terms (e.g., “commie,” “fascist,” etc.).
...At one point in the talk between the two talk-show hosts, Letterman informed O’Reilly that he believed that 60% of what O’Reilly says is “crap.” Letterman admitted that the figure of 60% was a rough estimate, but what he said next was more disturbing than the opinions that either man held on the particular issues. O’Reilly wanted Letterman to discuss the things with which he disagreed, but Letterman explained that he didn’t watch O’Reilly’s show—he just reads what other people have to say about him.
...Here is where we see the rearing of the ugly head that is ignorance—actually, make that trendy ignorance.
...It has become popular to ignore something which bores you, but simultaneously criticize it because you hear and see others criticizing it, too. Pretending to be informed has taken the place of actually being informed. Following like sheep is now more popular than questioning where the shepherd is leading the flock.
...Such trendy ignorance can come from people with differing beliefs and ideologies. Conservatives who may have never listened to Randi Rhodes will lambaste her and call her a communist; liberals who have never listened to Rush Limbaugh will be quick to refer to him as a racist or fascist. Either way, such opinions will be welcomed with open arms by peers—most of whom are lacking exposure to those with whom they disagree themselves.
...It’s more than likely that many viewers of such variety shows like the Late Show are viewing the programs for their entertainment value. Unfortunately, when issues of public policy or politics are discussed, the audience in question—who likely know more about professional wrestling or American Idol as opposed to who their House representative is or why the Electoral College is in the Constitution—feel informed on the important issues simply because the host is offering witty one-liners on them. They might know everything about Lindsay Lohan, but won’t have a clue as to who Brian Lamb is. It’s no matter to them; they’ll still feel like a current events insider.
...Sadly, there is one thing that is worse in such a situation: Those who are fans of the variety/entertainment show hosts will quickly say that their host was the winner of the given debate. Such is the case with the Letterman-O’Reilly sparring session; bloggers who are fans of Letterman declared him the winner of the quarrel, saying that it’s a weak argument to suggest that a person should actually know what his/her rival says to realistically disagree with it.
...I suppose that this is going to be the case when pop-culture and public policy mix. Those who watch Stacked or Nanny 911 will consider themselves as knowledgeable as those who listen to NPR or watch C-Span; those who watch David Letterman, Jay Leno, or Conan O’Brien will view themselves as informed as those whose political information comes from Rush Limbaugh or Randi Rhodes; those who never miss Elimidate will consider themselves as well-versed in current events as those who never miss Washington Journal.
...They’ll always feel that way because their friends agree with them.

January 03, 2006


The Run and Shoot

...Former Ohio State running-back Maurice Clarett turned himself in to authorities today after being sought by police for allegedly robbing a couple of their cell phone after brandishing a gun. It’s probably good that he turned himself in because, considering his speed, the police would have eventually caught up with him anyway.

No Double Standard Left Behind

...Imagine a baseball league where every pitcher in every starting rotation of every team was able to pitch just as well as every other pitcher. Each team would also have a lead-off hitter as good as the lead-off hitter of all the other teams, and the rest of the lineup would consist of hitters on-par with all the field players from the other teams. Not only would they be equal, they’d be great.
...What? We could never have such an egalitarian situation? Of course we can: We can require it by law.
...For years we’ve heard criticism by conservatives of institutions that “promote” equality, including the graduated income tax, affirmative action, equal opportunity programs, and various public assistance programs. The critics are actually correct; these socioeconomic institutions have helped to do little more than stigmatize a desire for wealth, encourage reverse discrimination, and entice poor people to remain in poverty.
...Unfortunately, since 2001, many of those same conservatives who have castigated such measures of radical equality have themselves been quick to jump onboard the egalitarianism bandwagon with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
...Let’s think about it: the NCLB law that made President Bush famous (read: infamous) among public school teachers the country over is designed to require students across the United States to show steady improvement on standardized tests in order for their given school district to meet its adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets. By the year 2014, all school districts must have a student body that is able to pass the examinations at a proficiency rate of 100% (at grade level or above) in order to be in compliance with the law.
...To illustrate examples of such AYPs, we can look at New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
...In New Jersey, the adequate yearly progress for standardized testing of 11th grade students in language arts increases from 85% during the 2007-08 school year to 92% in 2010-11, to 100% in 2013-14. The AYP for mathematics is 74%, 86%, and 100% for those school years, respectively.
...Across the Delaware River we have Pennsylvania, which has reading proficiency rates set at 63% for 2008-10, 72% for 2011, 81% for 2012, 91% for 2013, and 100% in 2014. For those years, respectively, in mathematics we see proficiency rates of 56%, 67%, 78%, 89%, and 100%.
...A rate of 100% is rather egalitarian, isn’t it? Such a percentage clearly calls for all children to be intellectually equal. Differences will not—actually, cannot—exist; the NCLB law says so. How is this possible?
...For those of you who are out of high school, I ask you to think back to when you were in school. Did you have any peers whom you knew would not be college-bound, simply because their intellectual capacity would not allow it? Do you have a recollection of fellow students who found their place on the football field instead of the classroom? Do you recall having other students in the same classroom who out-did those students of limited intellect? I do.
...In fact, when I was in high school we had four basic intellectual tiers: those who couldn’t graduate on their first attempt, those who graduated and went right into the work force because they weren’t accepted into college, those who got to college and failed out, and those who completed a four-year degree. A few of those in the last tier moved on to graduate school.
...How could such a thing happen if we were intellectual equals, as NCLB supporters would have us believe? How is it possible to find four distinct intellectual levels when many of these students were in classrooms with the same teachers?
...The argument by NCLB supporters then places blame on the teachers in question. When students fail, it’s not their fault—it’s the teachers who have failed. Hence, we see standardized testing on a regular basis for them, as well as for the students.
...That might make NCLB supporters feel good about their efforts, but it also makes NCLB opponents question the real motivations for support of such legislation. Is it just a coincidence that the direct targets of the NCLB law are members of a union that is supportive of a competing ideology? If anything, it sounds quite similar to the sham that is the gun-control movement, only it’s on the other side of the aisle and the bullets are now number two pencils. Their mantra could be “Students don’t fail—teachers do.”
...The No Child Left Behind Act doesn’t “make” anyone more intelligent or intellectually-proficient just because it mandates that it must happen. The concept of “let it be written, so let it be done” might work wonderfully in the Bible, but we can’t part the seas or turn water into wine in a classroom in 2006.
...So far the NCLB law has done nothing but forced teachers to remove projects, term papers, and field trips from their lesson plans and replace them with assignments that promote rote memorization in order to pass the standardized examinations. These are projects that might deal with students’ family heritage; they’re term papers that would help both research skills and writing skills; they’re field trips to museums that allow students to see things up-close instead of on the pages of a text book.
...Human beings are not the same. We’re different in many ways, including intellectual ability, and no law that forces equality will actually create equality—no matter if that law is liberal or conservative in nature. No Child Left Behind legislation has been shown to be nothing more than a weapon in an ongoing political war of ideologies, but sadly the casualties won’t involve the ones waging that war.

January 02, 2006


Automobile Control, Inc.

...In a previous essay I offered data from the Centers for Disease Control showing the apparent superficiality of strict gun laws in the United States. The topic was one that merited more investigation, and a few things became both puzzling and interesting with regard to our country’s gun-control movement.
...We’ve heard that the fight to ban guns is designed to save lives, most notably the lives of young people. On the Brady Campaign’s Website, a “fact sheet” is offered with statistics on the number of children killed by guns in 2002.
...After comparing these statistics with the statistics of deaths by other means, a pertinent question arises: Is the gun control movement actually based upon preventing death, or is it based upon something else? The numbers might make one wonder.
...Reports by the Centers for Disease Control showed that 2,893 children and teenagers were killed by firearms in the United States in 2002. Of those deaths, 167 were unintentional. The statistics from the CDC that are cited state that firearms are the second-leading cause of death—automobile crashes being the first—for people 19 years of age and under. The number of people aged 1 to 19 who were involved in those first-place automobile crashes was 7,550 (65.7% of all unintentional deaths of 2002 for this age group). In the end, 4,657 more children died on the highways than did at the end of a gun barrel.
...This makes us wonder if the gun control war is being fought to win the battle against children dying, or just to win a political battle against ideologies that have traditionally supported private gun ownership.
...After all, if the primary drive of the gun control movement is to see fewer children die, why haven’t the same people come out in opposition to automobiles? Since they’re using statistics to illustrate their reason for opposing guns and gun ownership, why would they stop with the second-place killer? Why not oppose something that is killing over twice as many children?
...Let us suppose that it’s the intended use of the inanimate objects in question—in this case the automobile versus the firearm. Vehicles are intended to transport people and items; firearms are intended to take lives. Vehicles can kill, but since they’re not designed with the primary purpose of killing, they might deserve a pass. Firearms are primarily designed to kill—people or animals—and therefore are more a target (no pun intended).
...With that said, fighting evil intentions isn’t a bad thing. We have laws against conspiracy to commit crimes and even attempted murder (an intention that didn’t reach fruition). Those laws come in quite handy against those who intended to do harm to others.
...Let us stay with the supposition that intentions are the primary factor in the war on guns. We should still ultimately find what really allows for all the crime that is perpetrated by people with firearms: A willingness to carry out intended harm toward others.
...It has, indeed, become clichéd to suggest it, but people don’t kill others because a firearm “forced” or “caused” them to do it. If that were the case, we could unequivocally say that all murders using knives were “caused” by the knives—not the person wielding the knife; we could unequivocally say that all baseball bat beatings were “caused” by the bat—not the person swinging it; we could unequivocally say that all strangulations were “caused” by hands—not the person who was willing to do the strangulation. How do any of those weapons “cause” a heinous crime without the willingness to do harm and the inherent evil intentions of the person in possession of that particular weapon?
...Throughout all of this it might be a minor note to point out that historical evidence shows us that banning tangible things has not only failed, but has also bolstered the criminal element and black market profits (e.g., the “noble experiment” of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and our failing “war” on drugs). It is, though, a note that is important to mention.
...In conclusion, if those who are presently involved in the gun control movement are truly concerned with the actual number of children dying, statistics show that there are inanimate objects that are far deadlier for children than guns. On the other hand, if their primary concern is intentions, it might prove more beneficial to fight the widespread willingness and intentions of people who commit crimes using whatever weapon that might be available to them.
...Obviously a fight such as that—one against human nature—would be an uphill one, but wouldn’t it be a more honest fight than the current one which seems to be rooted in image and emotion?

Lower Learning

...Being a graduate student allows one to make a few observations of the up-and-coming undergraduates who happen to infest the school. Please allow me to address these nuisances.
...If you’re an undergraduate who is in your university’s library “doing work,” don’t sit around and talk about your social lives, your cell phone plan, or your silly little car as if the library is the local watering hole. In case you haven’t heard, a library is a place for quiet. Some of us are trying to study and do research for our classes because we actually give a damn about our grades. Go to the cafeteria.
...Secondly, don’t talk about nonsense during class while the professor is giving his/her lecture. College is not high school, and some of us don’t care about your social lives, your cell phone plan, your silly little car, your favorite brand of bottled water, how hot the quarterback is, or where you are burned because you spent too much time in the tanning booth. Besides, ultraviolet radiation causes cancer; go to the library instead and read a book.
...Speaking of silly little cars, you’re not special because your spoiler, exhaust system, and paint scheme each cost more than your entire car did when you originally purchased it. They’re still Neons, Mitsubishis, and Civics, and you can’t polish a turd no matter how hard that you try. Neither ground effects nor European-styled tail lights will help. Hopefully your Abercrombie & Fitch- and Hollister-mobiles will soon become passé, but if you want to drive a real car, buy a muscle car from the late-1960s. “Performance” means having horses under your hood—not rice paddies.
...Finally, for all drivers, remember this: If you’re in a long line of cars going slowly up or down a winding hill due to an overweight truck at the head of the line, it’s not going to do any good to ride the bumper of the car in front of you. The drivers can’t go any faster because there is a line in front of them. Use applied physics and a little common sense and come to that conclusion.

January 01, 2006


Oh, Canada

Perhaps they’re still upset over Wayne Gretzky being sent to Los Angeles in the 1980s or the fact that Rush became a popular band here before they did in their native land, but either way Canada has found a new scapegoat for their social ills: The United States.
Canadian officials theorize that the United States is exporting its culture of violence and they’re the first ones to feel the brunt of it. The city of Toronto, for instance, has had 78 murders in 2005, and 52 of those are gun-related. Toronto’s mayor, David Miller, figures that it must be the fault of us silly Americans.
Miller was quoted as saying:
“It’s a sign that the lack of gun laws in the U.S. is allowing guns to flood across the border that are literally being used to kill people in the streets of Toronto. The U.S. is exporting its problem of violence to the streets of Toronto.”
So, according to Mr. Miller, Canada has gun laws that protect its people, but the gun laws in the United States have created a problem in Canada? If the strictness of Canada’s gun laws are so successful, why aren’t they preventing the gun crimes from happening no matter where the guns originated?
Let’s put it another way: If strict gun laws are failing in the land of maple syrup and Molson, what makes Mr. Miller think that they’ll be so much more successful if they’re implemented here?
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that stricter gun laws don’t have an impact on gun violence, according to statistics that were compiled by the Centers for Disease Control’s Task Force on Community Preventive Services in a report from October 2003. The report was called “a systematic review of scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of firearms laws in preventing violence, including violent crimes, suicide, and unintentional injury.”
Much to the chagrin of gun control proponents, the CDC’s task force “found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes.” To be sure, the term “insufficient evidence” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s evidence of ineffectiveness. If strict gun laws were as successful as gun control supporters would have us think, however, why on earth would the CDC even come close to “insufficient evidence”? It should be overwhelming evidence, should it not?
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with the intelligent design debate a few months ago, scientific data mean little—if anything—to certain segments of our society. With intelligent design, science was the enemy of the right-wingers. With gun control, science is the enemy of the left-wingers. Either way, the end result is absurdity.
Yes, the culture of my fellow Americans is one of violence. Why is that? I’m not certain, but we see it and read about it on a daily basis. Cities across the country are setting records for murder, and many of the incidents of violence are borne of things pettier than robbery or revenge.
Blaming another country for your own problems might make you feel better—especially during an election period—but it does nothing other than creates more problems. It also shows that the only “exporting” that the United States is guilty of is the exportation of the “blame someone else” philosophy.