Rantophilia

Cincinnati & national politics -- movies -- music -- law

Friday, January 30, 2004

A Freudian Slip, or Your Words Revealing Something That You Deny Publicly


The superintendent of Georgia's public schools is proposing that the word "evolution" be struck from Georgia's curriculum in favor of "biological changes over time." The stated reason is to help alleviate pressure on teachers in rural schools with a religious student body, who will still be able to teach evolution, but will just be able to call it something else. Conservatives, predictably, are not happy with such a dumb proposal. U.S. Representative Bobby Franklin, a Republican, made this revealing statement, "It's stupid. It's like teaching gravity without using the word gravity." Yes, Bobby, it is exactly like that, isn't it?

Monday, January 26, 2004

Government Propoganda


There's something that troubles me about the Government spending my money to set up a website intended to convince people that a law passed by Congress, such as the USA PATRIOT Act, will preserve my rights, not interfere with them. Especially one that is linked to from the main webpage of the Department of Justice. And even more especially when it features this reassuring bit of rhetoric on the webpage titled, "Dispelling the Myths":

Myth: The ACLU has claimed that "Many [people] are unaware that their library habits could become the target of government surveillance. In a free society, such monitoring is odious and unnecessary. . . The secrecy that surrounds section 215 leads us to a society where the 'thought police' can target us for what we choose to read or what Websites we visit." (ACLU, July 22, 2003)

Reality: The Patriot Act specifically protects Americans' First Amendment rights, and terrorism investigators have no interest in the library habits of ordinary Americans.

Is it just me or is the answer under "Reality" not a response to the "Myth" at all? Is it not the ability of the terrorism investigator to "target us for what we choose to read or what Websites we visit" that is the problem, not whether or not terrorism investigator are interested? We don't give the police to authority to break into people's homes willy-nilly on the assurance that they only want to break into the homes of criminals, do we?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

A Nugget of Truth


Today's Bronson column is his usual, attempting to be funnier-than-thou blah blah blah, but he does hit upon one (unintended?) bit of wisdom:

Taft says cutting taxes is an irresponsible way to run the state. He's right. Everyone in Columbus knows the proper way to run Ohio is to spend like a crack head with a stack of stolen credit cards.

So Taft is opposing tax cuts while he's leading the Ohio campaign for tax-cutter President Bush. And that worries Republicans.

It should worry Republicans, because the Bush administration and a Republican Congress has shown that Republicans are all about cutting taxing and "spend[ing] like a crack head with a stack of stolen credit cards." Doesn't Taft know that you don't do anything that might be politically unpopular in the same year as a presidential election. Silly Bob.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Truth in Campaign Reporting



I'm adding the CJR Campaign Desk to my list of links on the right here. The idea, a blog from the Columbia Journalism Review reporting on campaign reporting, is pretty sweet. And their first substantive post, about the egregious misquoting by Matt Drudge (and then others) of Gen. Clark's testimony before Congress is worth the read.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

What's 15 minutes worth?


There's something wonderfully symbolic about Bush's visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial today. He stopped by for fifteen minutes to lay a wreath on the memorial. Bush the proceeded on to a $2,000-a-plate fundraising dinner in Atlanta. White House spokesman Scott McCellan said that the visit was "a way to honor a lifetime dedicated to fighting for equal opportunity and equal justice for all people." Yes, I suppose that a fifteen-minute pitstop on your way to eat dinner with rich people who paid $2,000 a head to your re-election campaign for the privilege is "a way" to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Police use of epithets


Speaking (as a I do below) of takes by Brian Griffin at Cincinnati Blog, Brian has a different take than I do on the continuing scandal involving the likely use of "the N-word" by a police sergeant in 1999. According to Brian, this has all been blown way out of proportion:

What I have a problem with overall is the underlying theme on this issue: guilt by association. "If one guys says a word, then see, they are all racists." If this person had actually attacked or mistreated anyone because of their race, then this would be support for the contention that this man was a racist. Just because others around him don't correct him for saying a "bad" word does not mean much. If a religious person says they will pray for me, I don't like it. Sometimes they go out of their way to ask me "have you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior?" I don't say anything to say that offends me. I instead ignore them. If this police officer broke the law, then lock him up. If he said a racial slur, then call him an asshole and move on.

Not to break the general tenor of collegiality and respect in the Cincinnati blogosphere, but I think Brian's just wrong. Essentially, I read him to argue that use of an epithet by a police officer is no big deal, not like actually attacking or mistreating someone. That's true, to a point. Using a racial epithet is not the same as beating someone up because of their race, but to contend that it's meaningless is offensive and silly.

Let's start with a couple of undisputed proposition: (1) what a person says represents what he thinks; and (2) "the N-word" has a long and painful history as an extremely derogatory term for black people. Here, a police sergeant apparently asked a fellow officer to get his gun say he could "lock up some niggers." So, it would seem that the sergeant in question (a) refers internally to African-Americans by a term with a long, demeaning history; and (b) thinks that his job is to "lock up" those same people. According to Brian, though, there's nothing wrong with that because the sergeant didn't break the law or beat someone up. But that ignores the unique and important role of police as protectors of all citizens and liaisons between the government and its citizens. As such, police, like teachers, firemen, and politicians, must be held to higher standards than your average joe citizen. And those standards should not allow blatant displays of racist attitudes.

Not to mention that what a person thinks, as a police officer or not, inevitably affects how that person does his job. Thus, this police sergeant's belief that his job is to imprison African-Americans calls into question whether he can enforce the laws of the land without regard to race or any other classification, discrimination on the basis of which violates the Constitution.

Moreover, Brian says that he has no problem with other officers not correcting the sergeant. But by ignoring the sergeant's behavior, didn't his superiors implicitly agree with it? Of course, if you think it's not bad behavior, then there's nothing wrong with encouraging it, but how can using a term that has a terrible history of offending a significant segment of the populace you're supposed to serve not be bad? I just don't get it.

And one final criticism: unsolicited prayers by one person for another or asking another person if he has accepted Jesus Christ as their savior is not the same as using a racial epithet. That's a ridiculous analogy.

All this is not to say that all police officers are bad or racist, but I think this incident is a good indication that the police department has been way too tolerant of these kinds of attitudes.

Another fish, same barrel


Peter Bronson likes the Boy Scouts, and he's pretty darn mad that the United Way has cut the Scouts' funding in the last couple of years. United Way says it's because the Boy Scouts can't show that they're doing what they said they'd be doing. It's unclear what they said they'd be doing that they're not doing, but regardless, that's their prerogative. Bronson tries to intimate that the decision has something about the Scouts' anti-gay agenda, but since he apparently couldn't get anyone at United Way to play along, he's stuck with the conclusion, "I believe this hurts the United Way more than the Scouts. If they're looking for "outcomes," United Way officials should get their heads out of their 'paradigms' and listen to Teddy." That's dumb. United Way can give money however they choose, and doing so based on what a group achieves seems like as good a way as any. But, whatever. Brian Griffin has his own take on this and believes Bronson is much more nefarious here than I do.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Gay Church


I'm not a very religious guy. I don't ever go to church unless my somewhat more religious sister-in-law invites me to some church event involving one of my very cute nieces. However, I was raised Episcopalian and as time has passed, have begun to identify, ever so slightly, with the Episcopal church. And one thing that I always liked about it was the fact that it was Catholicism-lite, a status that made its tenets seem somewhat vague, but the ritual involved rather strong. For some reason, that appeals to me in a church. Then the Episcopal church anointed a gay bishop, which I thought was pretty neat, and I started thinking, well, if I were to be a member of any branch of Christianity, this one wouldn't be so bad. Well, anyway, that's just rambling to give some context for why I think this article from Slate, which talks about why the Episcopal church won't come tumbling down as a result of the whole gay bishop debate, is interesting. It talks about the wishy-washiness of the Episcopal Church that is both its defining characteristic and main strength, as well as its main attraction for me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Lawyers Not "Getting" Legalese


This blows my mind. Barbara Bonar, one of the lawyers in a class-action lawsuit against the Roman Catholic church is asking to withdraw as class counsel because of how her co-counsel characterized a named plaintiff who opted to settle his individual claim. According to Ms. Bonar, her co-counsel, Stan Chesley and Bob Steinberg, "public[ly] ridicule[d]" the plaintiff. What was the characterization? That this plaintiff was "no longer an adequate class representative." First of all, that's not strong language. Second, the term "adequate class representative" is a term of art with a specific legal meaning. It is not "public ridicule", and Ms. Bonar really ought to know better. As a fellow attorney, I'm embarassed that she'd overreact and misrepresent what's going on. Her conduct is especially egregious if her motion to withdraw has not yet been granted, because she still has a duty to represent the plaintiff class, not speak publicly and wrongly on the public record about the case.

The "N Word"


The Cincinnati Post if reporting that the City will investigate whether a police officer used the "N word" during a videotaped internal investigation in 1999. Beyond the usual rigamorale about the use of that term being hugely offensive and it being good that the city will investigate its alleged use, I have two questions.

First, assuming that the word was used, why do we not also investigate the fact that an investigation, or better, immediate punishment of the offending officer, didn't happen earlier? Not that it's a surprise that it didn't, but if we want to change the culture of the Cincinnati Police Department, we need to eradicate both over racism and the willingness to tolerate that racism.

Second, why does the Post story state midway through, "About 43 percent of Cincinnati's 331,000 residents are African-American?" Is this relevant in some way? If the percentage were smaller, would that make the statement okay? Are only those 43 percent supposed to be pissed off about this? Are the other 57 percent of us not supposed to care? I can't tell if this statement merely reflects an unfortunate truth that the non-white 57 percent don't really care so much or the editorial opinion that racism is really only a problem for the subject racial group. Either way, it's stupid.

Journalistic Standards Update


Upon reading my prior post about journalistic standards, a friend of mine (lawroark, actually) challenged my assertion that "commentary-within-reporting" just as often slants in a conservative direction. Specifically, he scoffed at my citation to Fox News, saying essentially that everyone knows that Fox News is a conservative news source, so it doesn't count. I don't buy that, because Fox News puts itself out there as a "fair and balanced" news source, so to say that Fox News does not provide an example of conservative news reporting is like saying that the New York Times can't be an example of news with a liberal slant simply because "everyone" knows that it has that slant.

And because this is merely a battle of anecdotal evidence anyway, I thought I'd share my experience watching CNN This Morning this morning. After presenting some polling data about Bush's job approval rating (57%) and the divide between people who would definitely vote for Bush (39%), those who would definitely vote against Bush (33%), and those who were undecided (28%), the reporter then starting pointing to polling data about Martha Stewart and Britney Spears. He stated that Britney Spears "unapproval" rating was 66% after she had been married for two days, "presumably because she made a mockery of the institution of marriage." Come on. Talk about gratuitous commentary with a decidedly "conservative" bent.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Blogging for America



I guess my head officially has been in the sand, but I didn't realize until about four minutes ago that Blog for America is actually the official Howard Dean blog. You see, I've seen it linked to on a lot of other blogs, but was so nauseated by the name that I couldn't be bothered to look at it. But it's a slow TV night (why has TNT foresaken me by showing NBA basketball rather than Law & Order?), so I thought I'd check it out.

It didn't nauseate me. At least, not any more than your run-of-the-mill student organization nauseated me in college. A lot of blogging that comes off like speeches you'd expect from a cute senior boy trying to pump up a bunch of starry-eyed freshman girls to sleep with him... I mean, "buil[d] the greatest grassroots campaign in history." But hey, look at me, the cynical blogger, what do I know?

The site also features a link where you can get the address of some poor soul of a Democrat in "rural Iowa" and write him or her a letter about why he or she should vote for Dean in the primary. All those lucky rural Iowans (15,380 of them!) who might get a special pen pal! Or how about the large graphic that reads, "Thank you, Harkin!" and celebrates the fact that $846,893.12 has been raised from 13,392 contributors? The graphic also features two baseball bats and a lot of stars that could be mistaken for those you see dancing around the head of a cartoon character that's just been hit in the head with an anvil, or the knee with a baseball bat. I'd hate to meet this "Harkin" character in a dark alley. 13,392 "contributors" indeed!

Still, my favorite part has to be the astounding number of "Unofficial Dean Sites." These include "Deadheads for Dean," "Punx for Dean," "Rock for Dean," "Optimists for Dean" (no pessimists for Dean), "Security Moms [?] for Dean," "Dykes for Dean," "Gays for Dean," "Out for Dean -- LGBT," "Jews for Dean," "Christians for Dean," "Progressive Christians for Dean," "Mormons for Dean," "Mormons for Dean 2," "Mormons for Dean Blog," "Women for Dean," "Women4Dean," "Crushies for Dean" and "Deanybopper" (for those who want to give wet, sloppy kisses to Dean... and vote for him, too), "Republicans for Dean," "Libertarians for Dean," and my favorite, "Translate for Dean," which recruits polyglots "to translate Dean flyers into other languages," such as French, Swahili, Urdu, and Sign Language.

Of course, on a side note, if Don Parcells of Cleves had his way, then people who speak a foreign language (such as Sign Language, I guess) wouldn't be allowed to be vote at all, much less become citizens.

Oh Dear God!



What has the world come to when the ACLU stands by its principles and is willing to support someone normally so antithetical to their beliefs as Rush Limbaugh?!?!

Oh, wait, it's the ACLU; it has a history of standing up for its beliefs despite the distastefulness of its clients. Hm. Maybe there remain a handful of outposts of actual conviction in this world of cynical partisanship. Nah, who am I kidding, the ACLU is just a bunch of latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, body-piercing New York Times readers who should go back where they came from.

A Return



A friend of mine has begun blogging again, so I'd like to point people in the direction of his site, lawroark. I expect that I will agree with very little of what he posts, but if there weren't people in the world who were wrong, how would we know for sure if we were right?

E-mail



Boy, am I blushing now. After months of soul-searching as to why the only e-mails I ever receive are panting advertisements for footage from the "P4aris H1ilt0n sexx taape," I just realized that I failed to post my e-mail address. It is rantophilia@yahoo.com. I also have listed it on the right. I will now await the deluge of spam as little web programs copy Rantophilia's e-mail address to their lists and hope for the occasional thoughtful commentary from readers.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Journalistic Standards


A friend of mind forwarded me this article from the National Review because he though it was an interesting take on Gen. Wesley Clark. It might be, but by the time I got through the first section on journalistic standards, I couldn't really bear to read the rest.

Here's what Jay Nordlinger, managing editor of the National Review, had to say:

May I begin with a brief comment on journalism? Won't be too boring, I promise. A Reuters report out of Washington yesterday began, "Looking to draw more Hispanics behind his re-election bid, President Bush on Wednesday will propose a temporary worker program to help millions of immigrants work legally in the United States, officials said."

Notice that the very first words of this news report are commentary: "Looking to draw more Hispanics behind his re-election bid . . ." That is sheer speculation, or analysis, if you like. It may be perfectly correct. But it is the lead in a news item.

The next sentence begins, "Facing a possibly close election next November, Bush is reviving an issue put on hold . . ."

More commentary ? in the news story of a wire service! Journalism is becoming badly degraded, when we can hardly tell the difference between straight newsies and opinionists (like me). There should be a great, great, great gulf between Reuters and Impromptus. But there is much less of one than there should be.

Up to this point I agree--there should be a line between those who report the news and those who comment on it. Of course, one could argue that even in reporting so-called "straight facts," there is an element of editorializing as well by virtue, for instance, of the choice of facts that one chooses to report. Regardless, though, blatent editorializing should not start off articles that purport to report the news.

But then Nordlinger finishes his commentary this way (with my emphasis added):



And does this commentary-within-reporting ever slant the conservative way? Not ever, that I can tell. It's a one-way street. But whether it's one- or two-, it's still wrong, and dismaying. As someone who loves the world of media, I lament the crumbling of the wall 'tween news and opinion.



Ah, the old bugaboo of the liberal press! First off, I doubt the factual assertion that "commentary-within-reporting" never slants "the conservative way." After all, there is Fox News. Let's be real. But more interesting, I think, is the implication that the two examples Nordlinger cites are slanted in a non-conservative, or liberal, way.

The first sentence of the offending news report reads, "Looking to draw more Hispanics behind his re-election bid . . .," and refers to Bush. In other words, the reporter is saying that Bush is looking to get more Hispanics behind his re-election campaign. Is this a liberal opinion? Can't a conservative agree?

The next offending sentence begins, "Facing a possibly close election next November . . . ." In other words, the reporter is implying that the 2004 election might be close and that this possibility influenced Bush's policymaking. Once again, is this a liberal viewpoint? Must a conservative believe that Bush's policies are not driven by his desire to be re-elected?

According to Nordlinger, the answer to these questions is, "Yes!" But this editorializing doesn't advocate anything that's traditionally "liberal" or "conservative," it's merely cynical, implying that Bush institutes his policies with an eye towards pleasing various constituencies. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's fair to say that cynicism can be found on either the left or the right (as I'm sure a review of news stories from the Clinton administration would make clear).

So, why does Nordlinger start crying wolf about the liberal press? I imagine it's for a number of reasons. First off, it's easy. It's a Republican trope that always bears repeating. Second, it's another Republican trope to imply that liberals are the only cynics. In Nordlinger's world, conservatives (who I think are probably synonymous with Republicans according to Nordlinger) are the party of ideas and bold initiatives, while liberals (read: Democrats) are merely contrarians and cynics who enact programs because they're popular and convenient. Third, it's a theme of Republicans that Bush is the archetypal ideologically driven conservative who cares nothing for polls or specific constituencies, but does things because they are right and proper.

The implication that Bush may be acting out of some sort of survival instinct or Rove-driven political strategy, rather than overarching concept of what is "good," apparently is antithetical to Nordlinger's view of "conservativism."

In other words, under Nordlinger's logic, the article's cynicism is anti-Bush, which equals anti-Republican, which equals anti-conservative, and which is therefore "liberal."

Personally, I think Nordlinger is full of shit.

Adventures in Space



I guess we're supposed to compare him to John F. Kennedy. I suppose we're expected to be united by a quest that does not differentiate between rich, poor, liberal, conservative, Democrat, or Republican. I bet he thinks we'll throw aside any "petty" rivalries and turn our eyes upward to the great beyond, to space: the final frontier, and more specifically to a little red speck just above the horizon, and root for our astronauts to do what no man has been done before

Well, wait, no. I wish that I believed that. I wish that I really thought that was the motivation behind Bush
announcing plans to visit the moon and Mars was about bettering ourselves and uniting behind a common cause to move the nation forward. Because exploring space is something I think we ought to be doing. I remember, during a poorly-planned winter backpacking trip across Europe, walking through the streets of Prague with a close friend and talking about the future of out country. And we were worried about continued dependence on foreign oil and excited by the potential of the internet to allow free exchange of knowledge. I also remember talking about how we shouldn't forsake our exploration of space, because the space program represents a genuine opportunity to think beyond ourselves and our small world. It stands for expansion of human knowledge and the search for knowledge for knowledge's sake. It is the perfect application of science with no potential for direct economic benefit. As a one-time science geek, I think it just feels pure.

So, I'd love to see us go to the moon again or to Mars. But I'm pretty damn confident that Bush isn't going to get us there. While Bush may think it would be neat if we went, I think that he doesn't really care about us going. Instead, this proposal smacks of two things: (1) another attempt to succeed where his father failed; and (2) and blatent ploy for re-election. Bush Sr. proposed similar moon and mars missions in 1989. But these proposals "went nowhere fast." Bush Jr. may now be trying to recapture that glory.

However, it appears even more likely to me that he's trying to succeed in another place his father failed: re-election. What better way to rally a divided country than to distract them from budget deficits, unemployment, terrorism, health care, Iraq, and the bevy of other problems either created or exacerbated by Bush than a bold proposal, or at least one that is "broad and open-ended, more in the nature of 'a mission statement' rather than a detailed road map and schedule?"

NPR reports experts' estimates that going to Mars would cost around $1 trillion. And in some circumstances, I'd call that $1 trillion well-spent, but I know that that money never will be spent, at least not on space. Because of Bush's policies, America can't afford it. Already Bush is telling us that his administration is going to rein in spending in order to cut the deficit in half in a few short years. But now he promises to send us to Mars. Come on. And he wants to make his tax cuts permanent. Give me a break. Bush's mouth is writing checks that our wallets can't cash. And it all sounds good. I'd love to believe it.

Still, I'll happily stay earthbound as long as there's duplicity at the helm.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Back-scratching


So, during a recent ego-shriveling escapade, I googled "Rantophilia" to see how far and wide word of my blog has (not) spread, and I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that a new Cincinnati website called Cincy Stories kindly links to Rantophilia (among other Cincinnati blogs). And, because I think it behooves us all to nurture our little blogosphere in Cincinnati, I thought I'd check it out and report my findings.

Cincy Stories solicits amateur writing about "a specific Tri-State location" and publishes the submissions for reader perusal. It also features an area for Cincinnati "secrets." All in all, a rather intriguing premise. The content so far is somewhat scarce, and the writing is definitely amateur, but that's perfectly fine, because Cincy Stories seems to be aiming more to be a time capsule of Cincinnati moments than a cheesy high school literary magazine. I'll have to keep my eye on it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Egad!


Apparently, because I think that neoconservatives have achieved a strangehold on the policies of the Bush Administration, I am an anti-Semite. Hm.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Fitter, Happier, More Productive


Men's Fitness has named the fittest and fattest cities in the country. Cincinnati does not rank in the top ten on either list, which actually is impressive, since both Cleveland and Columbus are among the fattest. Giddy-up.

One day, though, I'd like a magazine to do a survey of the cities with the greatest usage of hair coloring products and the highest percentage of artificial tans. I imagine that Cincinnati would rank in the top ten on both counts. As a city, we're not fat, and we have orange skin and bleach-blond hair.

Bar Codes and Other Immigration Controls


Yahoo! is copying an article from the LA Times today about the new system that purports to "keep tabs" on people (mainly non-white) visiting the U.S.

Now, I find the whole thing troubling as a policy matter (I don't think a country that wants even to claim to "keep tabs" on anyone is the best way to confound those who wants to scare us), but this program fails even to do what the government seems to claim that it does. According to Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT -- come on, enough with the cutesy acronyms) serves two purposes: "to increase security and to improve the integrity of immigration control."

But really, does it do either? US-VISIT records the fingerprints of some of the people who come into the U.S. and will soon also check some of the people who leave. But even assuming that all the people coming in and leaving can be filtered through this program (which would be impossible, given the inevitably porous nature of our borders), this system would appear to neither "increase security" nor "improve the integrity of immigration control."

On the security front, the only benefit appears to be the marginal increase in the ability to identify people whose fingerprints already are recorded on whatever database the U.S. uses. But, to use the September 11 hijackers as examples, the government already knew that many of them were in the country before the attacks. How would fingerprinting have made us any less susceptible?

And looking past whatever "improve the integrity of immigration control" means literally, it appears that Hutchinson is referring to the ability to determine who is overstaying their welcome and violating any visa restrictions. Okay. I guess if we know who came in and for how long they're allowed to stay, we will know if they're staying too long. But this system makes it no easier to find them. And I don't see how it improves on the old system, since I thought that we already kept track of visas that we issued.

I just don't see the point. I don't even see some nefarious Orwellian point. It just smacks of stupid, pointless policy that will do little to help us and only infuriate other government who see the policy as an affront to their citizens (and rightly so).

Update! Brian Griffin at Cincinnati Blog has his own comments on this topic.