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Thursday, December 18, 2003

Oh, the Outrage

Apparently, Michael Reagan is outraged that John Hinckley, Jr., the man who was found not guilty by reason for insanity for shooting Michael's father, and President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, will be permitted unsupervised visits with his parents. Both Michael and mother Nancy fear for the safety of the general public.

This is news? I'm supposed to care what Michael and Nancy Reagan think? I suppose that the Reagans are hoping to ride the wave of political indignation that led CBS to pull the Reagan miniseries off the air and force U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman to revoke these visiting privileges. Just another reason to be glad that federal judges have life appointments.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Hot Air

The Enquirer has started a new column (or maybe it's been around and I've missed it) called "Hot Air." In today's edition, the Enquirer's editorial staff take Peter Jennings to task for saying that many Iraqis believe that things aren't as stable today in Iraq as they were when Saddam Hussein was still in power. According to the Enquirer, Jennings's statements contradict a Gallup poll showing that Iraqis are happy that the U.S. is there and that they're hopeful for the future. Personally, I don't see how what Jennings said contradicts the poll numbers, but I'm not a media guru like "Assistant Editorial Editor Ray Cooklis" (ain't that a title?).

Regardless, it's the conclusion to the article that caught my eye, because they're soliciting ideas for future columns: "Have you heard, seen or read a statement by a politician, media personality or other public figure that you think doesn't quite add up? Let us know, and we'll check it out. Contact Assistant Editorial Editor Ray Cooklis at (513) 768-8525, or rcooklis@enquirer.com." I wonder if "media personality or other public figure" includes the Enquirer's own columnists. Ray is going to be getting a lot of mail from Rantophilia.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Vindication and Bravery

I'll first repeat for the record that I think it's great that the United States caught Saddam Hussein. However, I think it's ridiculous that hawks see Saddam's capture as vindication for the United States' pre-emptive strike on Iraq. (For instance, Cincinnati Blog pointed out one particular offender at Instapundit.) How is this vindication? Saddam's capture has no bearing at all on whether he was a threat to American security in the first place or whether Bush and co. actually had credible evidence that he was developing weapons of mass destruction. Really. Come on.

Following the link from Cincinnati Blog, I also stumbled upon this bit of wisdom from some guy Marc at some blog called "Stone" (read, apparently, by people Marc calls "Stoners"). According to Marc, no one appreciates how Bush's personal bravery, as shown by his Thanksgiving trip to Iraq, played a role in finding Hussein. I don't buy it. Bush did not display gut-wrenching personal bravery. He took a surprise trip to Iraq and flew in with the lights off in Air Force One. Sure, it was less safe than if he had stayed at home for the holiday, but true bravery would have been showing up in broad daylight, proudly challenging the insurgents to "Bring it on!" After all, U.S. troops don't skulk around in the dark. They walk the streets of Iraq in uniform, easy targets for those who would do them harm. Bush's "bravery" was nothing more than a well-meaning political stageshow.

Warm and Cozy

I was thrilled, given the cold, snowy weekend, to be able to cuddle up and get warm and cozy with the news that Saddam Hussein had been captured. I am equally pleased today to learn from Bush that "America is more secure as a result of his capture." I have no doubt that this is true, at least in some small, incremental sort of way. Sort of how America was safer once Milosevic was captured, or how America's security would be improved from a resolution of the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. But, I also tend to agree with the headline on the Cincinnati Post's online editorial section: "Sadam's [sic] capture: Now get Osama."

Also pleased to note that Saddam will be put on trial publicly. Still mystified, though, as to why, if Saddam can be tried publicly, those still held in Guantanamo Bay will not be. I'm sure that part of the reason is that a failure to try Saddam publicly would be a major misstep in the rebuilding of Iraw. But, I would also venture to guess that another reason for a difference in treatment is that those held at Guantanamo are considered to be terrorists whose public statements might pose some threat to the U.S, while Bush and co., despite their rhetoric to the contrary, do not see Saddam as posing a similar threat.

Friday, December 12, 2003

I usually hate to get into a discussion of abortion, because it's such a thorny issue and I have trouble coming down solidly enough for most people on one side or the other of the debate. But, Scott D. Stephens's letter to the editor in today's Enquirer is pretty ridiculous:

The article "Morning-after pill may go over counter" (Nov. 25) was missing one very important word - abortion. The last sentence of the article mentions that if fertilization has occurred, the morning-after pill prevents the egg from implanting. Therefore, the new life that began at fertilization dies because the drug keeps it from implanting into the uterus. This is abortion.

I find it confusing that those federal health officials are even considering putting this drug on the shelves. Why would someone take a drug that alters their normal bodily function and increases their risks to other health factors, like abdominal cramping and menstrual irregularities, because they might be pregnant?

Now, I'm not saying that his view that the morning-after pill is the equivalent of an abortion is patently ridiculous--it's a colorable argument with which I don't agree. What I don't get it the implication that federal health officials should refuse to put the morning-after pill on the shelves because Mr. Stephens is mystified why a woman would take a drug that has unpleasant side-effects because she thinks she might be pregnant.

This argument is a perfect capsule of why I dislike your regular anti-abortion activist. After all, there are two questions here: (1) when does life start? and (2) what rights do women have to determine what happens in their bodies?

The first is essentially definitional and philosophical, and I don't expect to sway anyone from their deeply held view on that issue.

The second, though, is where the anti-abortion crowd, especially the men, get all paternalistic and particularly annoying. They can't seem to fathom what pregancy means to a woman and don't understand that they can't fathom it. So, they expect the government to regulate pregnancy, and therefore a woman's body, based on bogus arguments like Mr. Stephens's about potential side effects. They don't get that they don't get it--that pregnancy means something to women that it doesn't mean to them and that, at the end of the day, they don't have the same claim over what's happening in a woman's body as the woman herself.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Some Letters

As it appears I may be out of town for a few days next week for work, I figure I'd better blog now while I can. A few letters to the editor is today's Enquirer caught my attention.

First, Chris McKeown of Montgomery writes to say that instead of teaching the police how to deal with unruly people, we should teach "young people" to respect the police. Seems Chris has a different view on the interaction between police and the public than I do. In Chris's world, if you don't give the police the proper respect and then the police cause you physical injury, then you're to blame. That's wrong. Respecting police is good; then again, respecting everyone is good. But just like disrespect does not give me the right to attack anyone, it doesn't give the police license to use physical force. End of the day: the public is not here to serve the police; the police is here to serve the public.

Next up, Gregory Thompson of Mason writes in complaining that supporters of the boycott are hurting Cincinnati. He says that boycotters should "grow up and realize that racism is not everywhere they look" or the press should stop reporting on the boycott. Gregory, racism exists; seeing it is not a sign of immaturity. Moreover, the boycott is news, so what the boycotters have to say is news. The press exists to report on all news, not just the news you like.

Finally, Fred Schroeder of Finneytown writes:

For once, Peter Bronson has it right: "Sensational, biased news stories stink" (Dec. 4). I can only hope he will apply this observation to his own future writings.

Props to Fred. Still overly loquacious, I could learn from him.

Thursday, December 04, 2003


Apparently, Keith Richards essentially is calling Mick Jagger a sell-out (or whatever they call a sell-out in England) for accepting a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth. According to Keith, that's not "what the Stones is about." Right, the Stones really is about playing shows to a bunch of middle-aged folks dancing arthritically to played-out renditions of "Satisfaction" and "Sympathy for the Devil" on seats for which they paid a hundred bucks. The rebellion lives on.

Bad Bronson

Today's Bronson column is titled, Sensational, biased news stories stink. To crib a joke from Friends: "Hi, kettle, this is Peter Bronson. You're black." Having listed a number of pretty silly international news stories on Nathaniel Jones's death, here's what Bronson has to say:

Such ridiculous reporting is too warped to be excused by mere ignorance and mistakes. It looks deliberately distorted to fit a biased agenda: Those racist cops in Cincinnati are killing black men.

Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.

This story never would have made it past Dayton if the suspect had been white. It never would have traveled past Columbus if the cops had not turned on their own patrol-car camera to record the entire thing.

Time after time on TV, the cable news reporters rerun the tape, drooling over the "good video.''

But they nearly always leave out the most critical part - when Jones ignores the cops' commands to stay back, lunges at Officer James Pike, slugs him and tries to grab him in a chokehold.

Hm. He claims a worldwide reporting conspiracy to cram the Jones tragedy into a larger story: "Those racist cops in Cincinnati are killing black men." But that story's right, at least in part: "cops in Cincinnati are killing black men," after all. Something like eighteen since 1995, in fact. I guess Bronson has a problem with the "racist" part? But I don't read that in any of the stories. It's just something that one might imply from the surrounding facts: eight years, eighteen black men dead, no white people dead. And Bronson knows that. So, instead, he'd prefer that the rest of the world keep its grubby little hands off of Cincinnati, stop reporting the facts, and just leave us alone to stick our heads in sand.

Hm. How about, "This story never would have made it past Dayton if the suspect had been white." I assume he means Nathaniel Jones when he says, "suspect," though all Jones was suspected of initially was passing out in front of a White Castle. Beyond that, I think it's a little speculative to say what would have happened had Nathaniel Jones been white. Recent history says that he wouldn't have died. But if he had been white and he had died, I don't think anyone knows how the press would have reported it. See above: it's been a while since that's happened in the 'Nati.

Or the "the most critical part - when Jones ignores a cops' commands to stay back, lunges at Officer James Pike, slugs him and tried to grab him in a chokehold." Oh. I didn't know that we knew that Jones was trying to grab Officer Pike in a chokehold. It looked to me like he was stumbling around, flailing wildly, maybe high and certainly confused. I suppose that could be interpreted by some as an attempted chokehold. Or it could be interpreted that he was high, confused, and stumbling around. But Bronson speaks with such authority. It's like he knows for a fact what Jones was trying to do. I guess I'll have to borrow Bronson's Ouija board sometime to confirm the report.

Now, I'm not saying that what the cops did was wrong, and I'm not saying that it was right either. That's not my point. My point is that Bronson decries biased reporting out one side of his mouth while engaging in it from the other. Of course, he'd probably say that he's just a columnist, not a reporter, so he's not bound by just reporting facts in an unbiased manner. Fine, I suppose, though that seems like something that should be done on an editorial page or a blog. But regardless, editorial license doesn't excuse intellectual dishonesty.

Monday, December 01, 2003

National News

In also chiding the Associated Press for quoting Nate Livingston, the Cincinnati Blog makes this somewhat sketchy comment:
What I think is the same story in the LA Times lists John Nolan as the writer. He has personally caused this case to become a big story by giving attention to individuals and groups that are racist and bigoted, who care not about fact, but instead are out to gain attention for their black separatist cause.

I don't know if he means to say this, but Brian Griffin over at CB certainly implies that Jones's death is not "a big story." I beg to differ. How is this not a big story?

Another Death at the Hands of Police

Of course, I saw the article about the death of Nathanial Jones in the Enquirer this morning, but was particularly inspired to blog it now that I saw the story on Yahoo!'s front page. Regardless of the outcome of the investigations, this is certainly another black eye for Cincinnati. I can imagine that upon reading the article, someone not living in Cincinnati could come to the conclusion that the Cincinatti police kill black men all the time. Unfortunately, that is not far from the truth.

(As a not-so-serious aside, why did John Nolan quote Nate Livingston, Jr.? Come on. It's not like John Nolan doesn't live in Cincinnati. It's not like he doesn't know that Livingston is a crackpot.)

Investigations of Jones's death are already underway, and I think that's a good thing. Like any instance of police violence here in the near future, this is a test of the viability of the collaborative agreements. But by hiding behind "police protocol" to justify police actions, Mayor Luken, Roger Webster, and Chief Streicher are ignoring the real issue: the perceived unfairness in the application of that protocol.

I imagine that police protocol permits officers to use discretion and apply a range of tactics, some of which are less brutal than the nightstick. Such discretion is crucial, but its application seems suspect. After all, I have trouble believing that Cincinnati police are never faced with belligerant whites or white people who flee from the police. Yet, those people do not die. So, the question seems not to be whether the police acted within their discretion, but, assuming that they did, the question is whether the police use that discretion fairly. And that's something that the collaborative agreements show to be the more difficult problem because it cannot be addressed through well-drafted protocols. It's an issue of police culture, one that the Mayor, the Chief, and people with a political stake in policing seem afraid to address, but one that will not be resolved until those individuals able to address it get a backbone.