cut on the bias

keeping an eye on the spins and weirdness of media, crime and everyday life

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

HONESTY INTERNATIONAL, also known as CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), has released a report about treatment of Muslims in the US post 9/11:

The number of "anti-Muslim incidents" nearly tripled during the 12-month period ending in March 2002...

The report stressed that the individual freedoms of nearly 60,000 US Muslims were "negatively impacted by government policies" instituted after the Sept. 11 attacks...

Interesting. Where did their data come from? It doesn't say, nor does it give statistics, margin of error or any sign of basis in reality. There is, however, a survey on their website. And we know how trustworthy CAIR surveys are.

As for the bulk of the 60,000 negatively impacted,

It also includes 50,000 other people who donated money to Muslim relief organizations that were declared illegal and shut down by the US government after Sept. 11.

Ahhhh... so these people can no longer donate to Muslim relief organizations so they're harmed? Wait... they have phones, don't they? Then they can just call at the next telethon-for-terror.

And all this awful mistreatment has happened when Muslims aren't even implicated in the attacks! In fact, no one is!

...Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper quoted Robert Muller, director of the FBI, as saying US officials have not yet gathered any evidence on how the terrorists carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, despite the massive investigations carried out by the FBI.

"The hijackers did not leave any written evidence. We have not found even a single paper related to the Sept. 11 attacks during our investigations either in the United States or in Afghanistan," he said.

Yeah. We don't know how it happened. We don't know who planned it, who carried it out, why it was done. No evidence. Nada.

Pretty sad.

We're still coming for you, though, House of Saud. You can't hide behind the skirts of your religion, or the advertising money I provided you by driving my car.

Survey that.


At least Australian heiress, socialite and former housekeeper Rose Porteous thinks so:

"When the going gets tough the tough get going but this time the tough is not just going to get going but the tough is going to enjoy the toughness."

THE WTC IS STILL GONE. The Manhattan skyline was silhouetted beautifully against the sky as I drove down the hill from Bergen Avenue on Montgomery in Jersey City, heading toward Jersey Avenue in Jersey City. I always loved driving there because the World Trade Towers seemed so close and the skyline so amazing. Today, what I noticed was that the Towers are still gone.

Still gone.

Still hurts.

WHEN YOU HAVE NO ABSOLUTES, nothing is absolutely wrong. In that type of setting, all it takes is continual exposure to an idea, apparently reasonable people espousing it, and a lack of moral standards based on absolutes for an idea to gain increasing purchase. The moral equivalence pervasive in our society continues to open the door to more and more behaviors once deemed inexcusable – such as pedophilia. That’s the social mood the NY Times tries to take advantage of, in this time of scandal over abusive Catholic priests, in this article offering implicit support for the views of a professor who supports sex between adults and children (it isn't defined what age "child" covers):

[Prof. Harris] Mirkin argued that the notion of the innocent child was a social construct, that all intergenerational sex should not be lumped into one ugly pile and that the panic over pedophilia fit a pattern of public response to female sexuality and homosexuality, both of which were once considered deviant.

Mirkin claims his article is about opening “dialogue” about social taboos, and disconnecting “moral panic” from the cost/benefit analysis society makes of sex between teenagers/children and adults. He even tries to establish that "innocence" is neither a useful designation or a necessary one for children.

"Though Americans consider intergenerational sex to be evil, it has been permissible or obligatory in many cultures and periods of history," he wrote.

So has slavery, abuse of women and murderous totalitarianism, but I don’t see many defending those constructs. The NY Times and others are conflating the good – freedom of speech, openness about sexuality and its impact on people and society – with the bad – sex between adults and children. And I don’t think Mirkin’s fantasy about making it as a 12 year old with a woman on his paper route is compelling evidence that sexual activity between adults and children could be a good thing.

The article is mainly about how the Missouri state legislature is punishing Mirkin’s university for his “ideas” by cutting its budget $100,000. It’s a gesture and everyone knows it. The legislature is making it clear they despise his stance on pedophilia; Mirkin and his supporters are making it a free speech issue complicated by people with closed minds. The NY Times is on Mirkin’s side.

The ability to explore the moral, social, physical and intellectual impact of ideas and behavior is a cornerstone of a free society. That doesn’t mean that disagreeing with a particular idea, and trying to show its moral bankruptcy, is the result of a closed mind. This article pulls out most of the stops used to engineer societal agreement in modern times in an effort to equate our moral disgust with closeminded puritanism – which our society has already identified as anathema. The cues are numerous (my interpretation in parentheses):

Prof. Harris Mirkin could not have devised a better test for his controversial theory of sexual politics. (You nitwits are showing that he’s right.)

In 1999, Dr. Mirkin published an article in an obscure academic journal likening the "moral panic" surrounding pedophilia to the outrage of previous generations over feminism and homosexuality. (This behavior is just the latest taboo to come out of the closet; it has the same legitimacy as these other, now accepted, behaviors.)

As the expanding sexual abuse scandal engulfs the Roman Catholic Church, Dr. Mirkin has become an object of outrage. (The problem is really the church, not Mirkin; he’s a misunderstood innocent bystander.)

Dr. Mirkin, 65, said through a sly smile: "The article is meant to be subversive; the article is meant to make people think…” (We’re sophisticated, we understand the truth here. It’s those brain-dead moral absolutists who are the problem – we know they don’t think.)

Dr. Mirkin is being celebrated as a hero for academic freedom. (Or at least, should be. [The article is strangely devoid of any true celebration other than other academics.])

The chancellor here, Martha W. Gilliland, issued a strong statement supporting "the right to hold unpopular views”… (We’re attaching this construct to a known value, “free speech”, without passing judgment on its content. Of course, we would neither offer support or withhold judgment if the construct was, say, that feminism hurts society or that racial preferences harm minorities.)

"Today's heresy often becomes tomorrow's orthodoxy." (We’re on the leading edge, here, too bad you’re in a “moral panic”. We’ll be seen as pioneers and morally brave when pedophilia is a normal part of society, sometime in the future.)

For the record, Dr. Mirkin, who has grandchildren 2 and 7, said he had never had sexual contact with a child. Incest and rape, he said, are always wrong. He agreed that priests and teachers who touched children sexually were abusing their authority. (See? He’s a good guy, he’s managed to be around young children without molesting them, and he agrees with you pat pat that the priests are awful.)

But he questioned whether some people accusing priests these days were making up stories in search of a payday… (The claims of harm from the intergenerational sex are just exploitation of the system for money; if we looked closer we’d see that in most cases the sexual activity was a healthy part of growing up.)

…he said he believed that much of what was called molestation was really harmless touching. He said he resented that teachers were leery of hugging children for fear they might be accused of abuse. (Let’s trot out the fears that everyone has, that expressing genuine and non-sexual affection for children will be mistaken for inappropriate advances with abusive intent. Let’s soften the edges of pedophilia by making it something any of us could be accused of, just for loving physical contact.)

"This particular issue is distasteful. I don't even like to think about it," said [Chancellor] Gilliland (Would that be pedophilia, ma’am?) "We got out of the Dark Ages when we said we can challenge belief, we can investigate." (Ahhh… no, the distaste is reserved for those who would stifle debate, not those who would bugger or fondle children.)

"I don't think it's something where we should just clamp our heads in horror," he said of pedophilia. "In 1900, everybody assumed that masturbation had grave physical consequences; that didn't make it true." (That’s right, we’ll compare pedophilia with something we know everyone does, as a moral equivalent that is unrecognized as such just because we’re in a “moral panic” and unable to see clearly.)

"These things that you're sure of," he added, "you really ought to check out and test." (Because, obviously, if you check out and test pedophilia, you’ll find that it is in fact a good thing for society, for the 12 year old paper boy and who knows who else.)

I don’t advocate shutting Mirkin down. But I do advocate mocking him at every turn, showing his efforts at taking child sex into the mainstream for what they are, and exposing his intellectualization and moral condescension as tools for accomplishing his goal. And I advocate castigating the New York Times for being willingly involved – either as a credulous sycophant at the altar of “science”, or a knowing conspirator with no moral compass.

REPUBLICAN WOMAN AS PRESIDENT? Dodd at Ipse Dixit makes a great case for it; be sure to read the comments because the debate continues in there.

Monday, April 29, 2002

EUSELESS: Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, berated Britain on Monday for its apparent preference for the United States over the European Union. British officials, meanwhile, said he is full of it, the EU is a bloody mess, and somebody on that side of the pond had better be friends with the US to save Europe's sorry hide.

Sounds about right to me.

FROM INSIDE THE COLLAR: Catholic priest Thomas Buffer thoughtfully and poignantly describes what it’s like to be an honorable priest during the current Catholic scandal. And most priests are honorable, which we should not forget or ignore. Buffer also gently but clearly takes down the media for their often shallow, shrill coverage, which has done much harm beyond what was done by the scandal itself.

Naturally I especially enjoyed his surgical evisceration of Maureen Dowd:

…Dowd is the Old Testament prophet, hurling thunderbolts of righteous rage. She makes Dr. Laura sound like Mr. Rogers. In her column “Father Knows Best” of March 20, Dowd manages to lump together, as a single criminal class, the rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Catholic priesthood, Afghan warlords, the Taliban, and the “boy’s club running Enron.” Funny, I never felt I had much in common with the rulers of Saudi Arabia, who will not even allow a Catholic priest to say Mass in their country. But Dowd explains that all these groups are wicked because they are dominated by dominating men. Having no need for scholarly backup, she relies on her own experience of having grown up Catholic.

The good priest shows her and others for what they are, and gives interesting commentary on the state of our society in the process. Excellent.


A reporter who wrote a story about a diesel spill in his newspaper's building has been charged with failing to notify the fire department about the accident...

[Deseret News reporter Jerry] Spangler wrote a story critical of his newspaper and its building managers after diesel fumes circulated throughout the nine-story tower's ventilation system. The spill was caused by a supplier who mistakenly pumped 400 gallons of diesel fuel into a tank that already was full. The delivery was meant for a building next door.

Spangler interviewed a state environmental quality official, who told Spangler to report the spill by calling 911. Spangler said he told his supervisors of the spill, wrote his story, and went home...

How do you sit in a building full of diesel fumes, interview a state official about it, write a story and go home, without making sure the authorities come to fix the problem? What part of "Call 911" didn't he get? Obviously a man who takes his journalistic observer role seriously.

SOMETIMES TECHNOLOGY IS NOT GOOD. Since I have DSL, I can take calls while online. One of my favorite things is my hands-free telephone, which has a headset like the ones used by order-takers at your local Taco Bell, only mine has a cord. It makes washing dishes bearable. Tonight, I was surfing while talking to my sister on the telephone, using the headset. My brother logged onto MSN IM, and I started talking to him too. Then my cell phone rang - it was my mom. So I have a phone to each ear, my mom is saying "Do you want me to call back? What are you doing?", my sister is saying, "Put mom up to the phone, see if I can say hi! to her!" and my brother is typing away making rude comments about my sister.

It was nearly enough to send me screaming into the night.

SUPREMELY RIGHT: Disabled workers aren't entitled to a position more suited to their disability if it means someone with greater seniority is done out of the job, the Supreme Court ruled today. It was a 5-4 ruling, but two of the dissenters - Scalia and Thomas - were against it because they didn't think it gave the employers as much protection as it should. Not surprisingly, Souter and Ginsberg thought the ruling unfairly restrictive of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the law under consideration.

The LA Times voted with Souter and Ginsberg:

Companies' seniority policies almost always trump the demands of disabled employees, the Supreme Court ruled...

Such policies obviously being in place for the sole purpose of abusing already disabled employees.

When choice jobs go to those with the most seniority, employers do not have to upend that system to accommodate a disabled worker...the divided court ruled.

In fact, they can likely kick the disabled employee in the teeth and toss them down the stairs without repercussions.

The court has ruled for employers and against a disabled employee each time it has examined the scope of the ADA in the workplace. Today's decision is no exception, although the court did not give employers everything they wanted.

Although they probably had to grind their teeth to resist it.

I agree that people with disabilities should be employed to the fullest possible extent of their physical ability and talent. I encourage efforts to make sidewalks and public buildings handicap accessible. However, hurting your back is not sufficient qualification for a promotion, and the integrity of a merit system cannot be destroyed out of sympathy. If a person who has seniority, is qualified and is physically capable of a job isn't promoted because of a non-related disability, then that's a problem. But disability alone shouldn't lift you above the rest.

THIS IS NOT VERY COMFORTING, given the recent train accidents.

SEND A FEMALE JEWISH AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA, says Conservative Economist James D. Miller. Wish I'd thought of that.

ANOTHER KIND OF MEDIA BIAS, which journalists tend to discount but which is a big reason why many of them went into the profession, and what often keeps them there, is: The Big Story. The rush of being In The Know. Jack Dunphy in NRO gives it a glancing blow in his article about why the Blake case is no OJ, no matter how much the media wishes it was:

...the Simpson trial was the Big Show, and for a reporter who covered it it must have been like an addict's first hit from the crack pipe: a high so intense that it can never be equaled, yet against all reason he continues to seek the euphoria of that first indescribable rush. And that hydra-headed creature we call "The Media" is still in search of the sublime buzz it got way back in '95, when for nearly nine months it was almost as much a star as Mr. Simpson himself but without the accompanying risk of life imprisonment.

The journalists can make all the noise they want about how they are providing what the public wants, but they are often in the business of creating as well as satisfying their market.

GLAD TO KNOW YOU’RE UNBIASED: You just have to laugh, sometimes, at how many journalists just don’t get it. Matt Welch, who always gets it and is always fun when he gets to talking about journalism (or anything else, for that matter), gives an insider look at a book fair panel discussion where excessive self-congratulations were exchanged amongst journalistic mavens. One comment in particular caught my eye:

[Journalism professor Ann Louise] Bardach bemoaned that kids nowadays get into journalism for the wrong reasons (money and fame, dontcha know), unlike her generation, which wanted “to change the world.”

Look at that carefully. Bardach would likely be amongst the first to get huffy if someone told her that journalists are biased. But what is bias? A preferred direction of thought. What is Bardach saying here? Her generation of journalists wanted “to change the world”. Now, do you think they wanted to change the world just for the sake of change? That any change would have been acceptable? First, a desire for change in and of itself is antithetical to the concept of neutrality – “we just report, ma’am”. Second, a preferred direction of change implies an ideological preference, thus, bias. Hmmmm…

Hoist on her own petard.

Also, don’t miss Welch’s analysis of the LA Times’s “It was a dark and stormy night” writing style. Priceless.


0-10 mph (traffic jam) or traffic lights: Reading anything, crocheting (quilting requires too much concentration)

10-45 mph (light traffic): Reading popular fiction and magazines; allows for frequent looking up

45-65 mph (light traffic): Reading popular fiction, only in paperback. Magazines and hardbacks too difficult to handle and still maintain proper grip of the wheel at this speed; "important" fiction and non-fiction require too much attention.

65 mph + (any traffic): Car dancing with loud music, preferably with windows down. Especially fun in West Virginia with “he done me wrong” songs. Reading at these speeds should be done only when you're the only one on the road and you're almost done with a chapter you just have to finish and the nearest rest area is still 40 miles away.

THE SHOPPING PAGE: Somewhere in a boutique in Washington, DC... The Last Page succumbs resentfully to a friend-of-the-bride dress, with the hapless help of a Him. I love The Last Page. That girl has talent. And now a new dress. That she kind of likes, despite herself.

She even manages to explain the deeper meaning of this blog's name, all fully in context. That girl's talented.

But then you knew that already. Go read. Now. I'll wait.

CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS have been down since 9/11 because so many gave to the funds for those victims and families of victims, but articles like this show why that trend may continue rather than reverse: The United Way of Washington not only has apparently been mismanaging and misusing funds, but the management is trying to hide it. This on top of the Catholic Church scandal, and revelations of misuse of funds by international relief agencies as well as clear ideological preferences and goals accompanying their "relief" decisions. Any non-profit agency (excluding churches) which receives tax-exempt status should have to reveal what percent of its funds are used for administrative costs, and I as a donor wouldn't contribute to those with a huge, money-guzzling infrastructure.

LOCAL ENFORCEMENT OF IMMIGRATION LAWS is meeting opposition from...local law enforcement. I need to spend more time with this, but it seems bizarre to me. The situation is this: Currently illegal immigration is considered a civil matter, and those in violation can only be apprehended by the INS except in cases where local law enforcement (state, county or parish, and municipal) has entered into an agreement with the federal govt to enforce the immigration laws. Local law enforcement is resisting taking on this role for two reasons - budget and philosophy. I would understand the budget issue if they were required to proactively enforce the law. But they wouldn't - it would just be another set of violations they could toss in the mix. It wouldn't necessarily even be a "must arrest" situation - i.e. they would have the discretion to decide whether to arrest for that violation. The other reason given is that it would impede the local police from having good relations with the local illegal immigrant community. Huh?

I've never quite gotten the illegal immigrant situation in this country, and I've known illegal immigrants personally whom I liked a lot. And I thought they should have gotten here legally. I've seen a lot of pointing fingers and sage nodding on blogs lately talking about the growing immigrant populations in Europe and what a dangerous change they have wrought there. So why isn't there any pointing and nodding going on here? I think it likely that the majority of illegal immigrants in the US are hard-working people who want a better life and came here to earn it, not to live off the fat of the land at my expense (even though more often than I appreciate that winds up happening). I'm not against immigration per se; that would be rather hypocritical given that my family too were immigrants, way back when. But we need a clearly articulated, reasoned approach to immigration, we need to enforce it and we need local law enforcement empowered to help with that. If it's not a must-arrest situation, a good local law enforcement department is going to be able to do its job without spending all its time and good will hauling away illegal immigrants. But this situation was crying out for attention before 9/11, and post-9/11 we should see that it's even more important.

I also don't get this tension between the Justice Department and the White House. Bush is CEO and President of the country, and Ashcroft is Vice-President of Justice in this organizational structure. He serves at the pleasure of Bush. End of story. And I thought Karen Hughes wasn't gone yet - so why the leaks from the White House? Sounds suspicious to me.

Sunday, April 28, 2002

MORE ON CATHOLICS and the priest sexual abuse issue. I posted a comment on QuasiPundit's site in response to a post by Tony Adragna, and he has responded. My response to his response (I know, it waxes ridiculous after a while) is posted on my writings page, because it is very long and also not precisely the type of thing I cover here. If you go read, you might want to read his original post, my response and his response first.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

KEEPING ABREAST OF BARBARA BUSH, the Abigail Adams of our generation. At least she's got a sense of humor. I wonder if the reporter got fired?

HE GOT HIS TICKET PUNCHED, and both Tony Woodlief and his professors lived to tell about it, although it was a close thing, a few times.

JUST WHEN I NEEDED TO KNOW, I found a Blogtionary to explain those little bloggish words that keep popping up that I don't know but am afraid I'll sound silly and downright clueless if I ask - like, for instance, meme. What's a meme? A self-referring stutter? Someone can't spell memo? Short for memorex? Who knew? Certainly not me. But I have been saved by Dave Worley and his Blogtionary:

meme: An idea considered as a replicator, esp. with the connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do. Used esp. in the phrase `meme complex' denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organized belief system, such as a religion. Coined by Richard Dawkins (see source2) SOURCE1 - SOURCE2

Meme, by the way, has apparently spawned a whole discipline called memetics. I have just revealed the depth of my uneducated ignorance by admitting I didn't know about it, but any sacrifice of ego is worth it for the benefit of my readers. As for finding out what Source 1 and Source 2 are, you need to go check out the Blogtionary. But then, you needed to check it out anyway. So go, already!

STINK BOMBS, BORING BOMBS, MONEY-MONGERING BOMBS: HappyFunPundit has a rundown of possible directions for military weapon research.

GOOD, BAD, UGLY: The killings at a school in Germany has brought out the good, bad, and ugly:


The rampage apparently ended when a teacher ripped off Steinhaeuser's mask and pushed him into a classroom, police spokesman Achim Kellner said. Startled, Steinhaeuser locked himself in the room, then shot himself some time later as police commandos entered the school.


Authorities believe Steinhaeuser's motive was revenge: The gun enthusiast was angry over being kicked out of school recently after faking a doctor's note in an attempt to avoid final exams, Kellner said.


"So-called 'American conditions' have reached us. We cannot let these excesses of violence become a part of our daily life," said Konrad Freiberg, the head of Germany's police union.

The teacher should – and probably will – be hailed as a hero. That was an act of bravery and selflessness. On the other hand, Steinhaeuser (photo here) was a self-absorbed, lazy young man tragically taking his own inadequacies out on others. I'm glad he's dead. Finally, Freiberg needs to seriously get a life. “American conditions” didn’t cause this behavior; more “American conditions” would make their country a better place.

And the only impact “gun enthusiast” has on this horrible massacre is in the choice of weapons and the success of the killer’s evil intent.

THIS JUST IN: SEATTLE IS STUPID - Racial preferences are under fire all over the country, and with good reason. Apparently a Seattle school district is amongst the battlefields, and the combatants are, well, showing their colors:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an injunction to stop the Seattle School District from using race as a tiebreaker in student assignments while the district challenges a legal ruling last week that held its policy illegal.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit ruled last week that the district's use of race as a factor in school assignments violates state Initiative 200, which was passed by voters in 1998 and prohibits racial preferences in public-school admissions, hiring and contracting.

Okay, sounds like the voters were heard, and the courts are upholding the law. Straightforward enough.

But the school district had said that in the absence of a direct court order, it would continue using the tiebreaker. Race is one factor used in determining which students are assigned to the district's most popular but racially imbalanced schools.

Nice example for the kiddos - disobey the law even when it's been voted on by the community, and totally in absence of any numbers showing support for the cries of discrimination. Notice that the articles says the schools are "racially imbalanced", but offers no evidence.

Of course, facts, law and democracy are immaterial to these social engineers:

The ruling was seen by many in the district as a blow to attempts to keep Seattle schools integrated.

District Superintendent Joseph Olchefske denounced the ruling, saying racial diversity is a "core value" for the district.

The 9th Circuit ruling also led popular Ballard High School Principal David Engle to resign Thursday, saying Ballard High's ethnically diverse student body would become "mono-cultural" as a result of the ruling.

In announcing his resignation, Engle invoked the memory of civil-rights activist Rosa Parks and encouraged students to act on their own moral convictions.

Still no facts, still no support. All emotion and crying buckets of horrified tears. Oh, wait, here is a little bit of data:

But Seattle attorney Harry Korrell, representing Ballard High parents who challenged the district's policy, said that calling upon "images of the old South" is little more than "posturing to scare people that the consequences of the ruling will be dreadful."

"Using the tiebreaker, Ballard is 43 percent nonwhite. If you take out the tiebreaker, it drops to 40 percent. Is that a segregated school?" Korrell asked.

Okay, I grant that the data comes from the "opposition" (or, er, the ones wanting to uphold the law). However, it's data, it's checkable, and it's totally unchallenged at least as far as this article goes. I hope this omission is journalistic incompetence, but I suspect it isn't completely. But then, why let facts spoil a good liberal chest-pounding celebration?

PUNISHMENT OR REHABILITATION? Competing ideologies of crime consequences in America will be played out this week in California. Leslie Van Houten, a Charles Manson follower in the group that killed the LaBiancas in the late 1960s, is up for parole. According to attorneys, she is fully rehabilitated and thus should be released:

Van Houten's lawyers portray her record behind bars as that of a model prisoner, noting that she has obtained a bachelor's degree, tutored other inmates, made quilts for homeless women and served as a leader in anti-drug programs and other self-help groups.

According to the state, her crimes outweigh any other consideration:

While Charles (Tex) Watson stabbed Leno LaBianca, Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel held Rosemary LaBianca in another room, placing a pillowcase over her head. Watson then stabbed Rosemary LaBianca with a bayonet, and gave Van Houten a knife and ordered her to "do something," court documents show. Van Houten testified that she stabbed the victim 14 to 16 times in the back, but believed she was already dead... her last hearing, in June 2000...the [parole] board concluded that Van Houten would pose "an unreasonable risk of danger to society" if released and called her offense "especially cruel and callous." Members added that Van Houten "needs additional time to gain . . . further insight into her involvement in this crime."

Are we a rehabilitative society? A punitive one? A mix? In practice, our court and correctional systems are a crazy quilt of responses to crime; even though in the broader perspective more serious crimes seem to receive more serious responses, a lot of factors - including notoriety - play a role. In a purely rehabilitative model, Van Houten would likely have been released a decade or more ago. In a purely retributive model, she'd never see the light again as a free woman. A mix is not a bad thing, but in our system the percent of each model in operation on any one day vacillates wildly. Given that, her attorneys make a valid point:

The "one apparently insurmountable obstacle" blocking her parole, her lawyers argue, is "that she was part of the Manson 'Family.' "

...said Van Houten's attorney, Christie Webb[,] "She's an individual entitled to consideration outside of the mythology that has grown up around this case."

That's true. But I'm retributive, myself. Keep her in.

INSTITUTIONALIZED LYING: Anti-Semitism is increasingly becoming almost a tenet of faith in the Muslim world, according to this NY Times article. It's very chilling; although I've seen before all the pieces mentioned here, put together it's frightening. It is becoming a war of religions, as much as some try to disconnect religion from politics. In Islam, religion and politics are inextricably linked.

Again, the NY Times bizarrely included this article in its Arts section. Some editor is clearly spending Friday afternoons at the corner bar.

FOUR DEAD IN NEVADA after a shooting at a casino there; it happened this morning during an annual motorcycle club gathering. Eight injured, 100 arrested, bridges over the Colorado closed.

AND THE BEAT GOES ON: One or two gunmen apparently entered two Israeli homes and shot the occupants, two at least while they slept. Four people died, six were injured. And this article does not show any sign of public outrage; were it Israelis sneaking into Palestinian homes, I think you would. You have to wait till the 11th paragraph to even find out the circumstances, after reading about Jenin in three of those paragraphs:

Israeli media said two gunmen had entered a house in Adora and fired on a sleeping couple before moving to another house and opening fire.

The article gives the appearance of trying to be even-handed, with both sides quoted repeatedly. But the tone leans toward skeptical overall, and favorable to the Palestinians in the final analysis. One thing that is odd to me is the omissions; I’ve not followed this as closely as some, because I just get angry and feel helpless and I can’t do anything about it. I have to let it go occasionally to keep any level of perspective. But even with that, I know enough to realize that there is information this article doesn’t use that would mitigate what is said. An example is the references to Jenin; we learn that the UN is sending in a “fact-finding” team, we learn that it was the site of the “fiercest fighting” and that the Israelis “say” that many of the attackers come from Jenin. We learn that the Palestinians claim that “hundreds” of civilians died in homes “flattened” by tank fire and bulldozers, while the Israelis claim that 48 “mostly fighters” died.

What is missing? The most significant is any discussion of the reality of the Palestinian claim of dead vs. the Israeli claim. Nowhere near 100 bodies, much less many hundreds, have been found. How hard would it be, in a city that size, where the area damaged was mostly homes, to find out a close approximation of the number? Not very, if everyone was interested in truth; we knew pretty quickly a ball-park figure for the WTC deaths, even in the midst of that far greater devastation and death. Why wouldn’t we know, then, about Jenin? Could it be that the Palestinians are blocking any honest effort at making that determination?

Next, look at this sentence:

Palestinians say hundreds of civilians may have died in the Jenin camp, many in homes flattened by tank fire and bulldozers.(emphasis mine)

Notice the last phrase; does it to you, as it did to me, sound like hapless people innocently trapped in their homes while the Israeli army heedlessly mowed them down? Of course it did, without any kind of context provided. A few days ago several blogs, including this one, linked an article in Al-Ahram where an engineer in Jenin told how the houses had been booby trapped with bombs. How else do you neutralize such death traps unless it is from the safety of heavy machinery? The engineer also said that the people of Jenin, including the children, knew of the bombs. So if they knew the bombs were there, isn’t it logical that the Israelis would come? Wasn’t that the purpose – to bring them there to die? What prevented the people from leaving the homes when the Israelis came?

A good friend of mine, a smart man, one who has lived all over the world, who has a PhD in science, who is not one to be prejudiced, thinks the Palestinians are the ones who are the victims in this war. He reads what I read and he sees a beleaguered people finally saying “enough” – and that beleaguered people is the Palestinians. We’ve argued about this a few times, but we’ve gotten nowhere. We’re both scientists, we’re both compelled by data. The problem here is, the data is so tainted and there is no one we can trust. That is where journalism has failed us so completely in this.

I’m not so naïve as to believe that the information from the Israelis is unmarked by self-interest and a need to shape public opinion. I know the information from the Palestinians is tainted. The journalists are supposed to be the ones who ask the right questions, who put it all together, who do the heavy lifting in the field so we see behind the rhetoric. I’m not asking for unbiased; you know I never ask that. What I’m asking is that journalists collect information, check it, triangulate it, dig deeper, have some integrity and honesty and persistence. Instead, we have this miasma of conflicting emotions swimming with disconnected facts that rarely get resolved into truth – and when it does, we won’t know it when we see it, because it has no structure to connect it to.

But it makes good TV, doesn’t it?

UPDATE: NOT THAT WE'RE SURPRISED, but this article linked from iWon talks about the Palestinians disguised as Israeli soldiers killing the Israeli settlers, but the photo accompanying it is of a Palestinian man in his house damaged during the Israeli attacks. So do we want to take bets on whether a photo of a dead Israeli would have accompanied an article on Israelis moving in on Jenin?

Friday, April 26, 2002

CNN CONSPIRING TO SLANT NEWS? Shocking, but so Bryan Preston reports on JunkYardBlog, along with other evidence of media bias.

R.I.P. QUALITY JOURNALISM: The Last Page proves that IT’s gain is journalism’s tragic loss in this finely crafted piece about why quality journalism is dead and likely to stay that way. It is an excellent look inside what working for a newspaper really is like, how decisions are made, and why stupid things wind up on your doorstep every morning. Page is not only insightful and engaging, her writing is a pleasure to read.

My journalism experience was in the trenches of weeklies and tiny dailies; no big city dailies for me, at least as a full-time journalist. I did freelance for the Louisville Courier-Journal for a bit while in grad school at U of L. Page is so right that many newspapers snap up new eager journalists, suck them dry and care very little when they float away, empty. I think it takes both a certain personality and a good deal of fortunate circumstances to succeed in journalism and still be a person with self-respect and integrity.

Page mentions that she began at a paper paying $18,000/yr in 1997; when I left journalism in 1987, I was making $14,500. And that was a nice pay increase from where I started. At one newspaper, we were provided manual typewriters – I kid you not – for writing our articles. I brought in my own electric typewriter until we got computers a year later. I covered local government, police, water company meetings, school boards, sports, traffic accidents and Eagle Scout ceremonies. I took my own photographs – actually won an award for one – and usually also developed the film and printed the photos. When the Challenger exploded, I was in a darkroom in a rural Kentucky town, using a plastic screen to put those little dots on my photographs so they would print properly in the newspaper; I will always smell photographic chemicals when I think of the Challenger. I wrote hard news, soft news, filler news and columns. I designed pages and used an X-acto knife to edit on the paste-up page, cutting out typos and getting wax all over my hands – wax was used to stick the typeset text columns and photos onto the page (it’s all done by computers now). I learned that a thesaurus is your friend when writing headlines, and your readers don’t always appreciate a sense of humor.

My time on the front lines of journalism was hard, fun, stressful but ultimately worth it; if you read Page’s post you’ll understand why I don’t want to go there again.

TAX FREEDOM DAY tomorrow. Ipse Dixit tells us about it, and adds a challenge to the Democrats. Make my day!

I’M CONSIDERING QUITTING BLOGGING at least long enough to get email begging me not to. Meanwhile, I’m very happy that Media Minded made his way back into the fold, and that Sgt. Stryker lasted about, what was it, two or three days? without blogging. Okay, okay, I’m a realist. I’ll be blogging until the next obsession comes along, and probably even then I’ll find time to harangue at least intermittently. (Of course, if you wanted to email encouragement I wouldn’t delete it unread.)

MM, welcome back, for whatever time you can spare us. Cool sunglasses, btw.

LIFE OF A BLOGGER: Some days it's just too much.

DEATH TO EXECUTIONS? The highest court in New York State, the Court of Appeals, will soon be considering a death penalty case that could have broader implications for the implementation of the death penalty in the state. Those against the death penalty are hoping the justices will use this opportunity to strike down the state’s law for a variety of reasons, including finding it discriminatory and cruel and unusual punishment.

The death penalty is facing challenge from another court as well, also in New York:

A federal judge Thursday said he was prepared to declare the federal death penalty unconstitutional on the grounds that too many condemned inmates turn out to be innocent.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff said he would throw out the federal death penalty in the case of two men charged with drug and murder conspiracy unless the government can explain the number of wrongful convictions that wind up on death row.
He gave the government a final opportunity to present arguments before he issues a final ruling after May 31.

Citing post-conviction DNA testing that has freed 12 condemned inmates since 1985, Rakoff said that the possibility of an innocent person being executed would be ``difficult to square with basic constitutional guarantees, let alone simple justice.''

Consideration of the death penalty has two parts, in my judgment. First are the general moral and constitutional questions: Is it right? Is it constitutional? Next come implementation issues: Is it discriminatory? Is it cruel? Does our process have too high a rate of error? It’s a hierarchical decision-making process. If you decide it’s wrong, the rest of the questions are immaterial. Ditto constitutional. But you can decide that it is a morally and constitutionally appropriate penalty in our country and still believe that the way it is currently implemented is so flawed as to require its suspension until safeguards can be put in place to lessen those problems. Too often those of us who believe it is right (and I do) allow ourselves to be backed into a corner where we feel we have to aggressively support its implementation or find ourselves outmaneuvered on the “is it right” front.

Agreeing that too many innocent people are dying is not the same as saying it’s wrong to execute a guilty person.

REPENTANCE, REDEMPTION AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: The biggest discussion on the religious front right now is what to do with priests who committed sexual abuse years ago and have apparently not engaged in it recently. The Catholic bishops are uncertain, and I’ve heard public opinions ranging from, “How could they let a pedophile stay on no matter how long ago it was?” to “What about repentance and forgiveness?” In fact, whenever someone has done something truly awful, later realizes it and asks for forgiveness, a certain group always cries for consequences to be suspended because of the repentance. A good case in point is Karla Faye Tucker, who committed a heinous murder, was sentenced to death, converted to Christianity in prison and then sought clemency as a result of her change in behavior. From what I saw, it seemed likely that her conversion was genuine. She was executed in 1998.

So what’s the answer? Should forgiveness automatically imply a suspension of earthly consequences?

I think the answer in the Bible – in both words and context - is clearly “no”. Forgiveness, while it has implications in this life, is about eternity. Some behaviors are so damaging to others in this life that even someone who is repentant can rightly be kept from having the opportunity again. One example is when one person in a marriage is sexually unfaithful; the other person may forgive, in a spiritual sense, when the unfaithful partner is truly sorry, but that doesn’t mean the trust in the relationship can be regained. Giving forgiveness doesn’t obligate the innocent partner to take the unfaithful partner back. Neither does it prevent reconciliation; only the injured can make that determination.

The case of sexual abuse is even more serious in this instance because a forgiveness that includes a restoration of full privileges puts vulnerable children at risk and undermines confidence in spiritual leaders. It’s important to note here that while Catholic priests are the center of this particular storm, religious leaders of all faiths, of either sex, are in a position of trust with children that could easily be abused. The potential for harm both to children and to trust in religious leaders dictates that the strongest measures be taken to ensure purity: All the priests who can be proven to have committed abuse – by a legal standard, even though the case may now be beyond statutory limits – must be removed. In an organization with the size, wealth and power of the Catholic church, any priests removed who have truly shown a change in behavior can find other duties that do not involve the trust and leadership role of a priest. Those whose crimes are still within the statutory limits should be turned over to the authorities and the Catholic church should cooperate fully.

Forgiveness and suspension of consequences are separate processes, and extending the first does not necessarily mean extending the second. The Catholic church needs to send the clear message that protecting children is more important than protecting the careers of priests, even those with long and mostly illustrious careers.


An anti-affirmative action activist in California is on a crusade to make the government color blind.

Ward Connerly, who helped end affirmative action at the University of California and in the state’s hiring practices, now wants state officials to stop collecting racial data entirely at taxpayers’ expense.

"In my view, government should not be asking, ‘What is your race?’ any more than, ‘What is your religion or what is your sexual orientation?’" he said.

The “balance” provided in the article was quotes from people who are for affirmative action and who see this lessening of data collection as undermining their ability to track “progress” in that area. That’s an ideological objection, just as this is an ideological proposal. What I want to know is, to what extent will we “stop collecting…at taxpayers’ expense” ? There are legitimate reasons, especially medical but also, in my judgment, sociological, why it’s important to have that kind of information. Ideologically, I’m totally behind the “color blind” concept. But we have to be careful that we don’t overreact by asserting that race has no impact on any decisions the government, or society, needs to make. For example, there are medical conditions which are more prevalent in some populations than others. It’s important in understanding those conditions that we separate out whether it’s race, culture or geography that’s have an impact, so we can go about resolving whatever the problem is.

On the other hand, the task of picking which race or ethnicity each person is has become more difficult through mixing of groups. That’s not a bad thing, but I think we need to restructure how we ask those questions. Maybe a better question would be, what was the race of your parents? Or even go as far back as grandparents. How do you answer “what race” if one set of grandparents were native American/African-American, and the other set was Italian/Asian?

Often researchers will use data sets collected for other reasons as the basis for their analysis; the census data is a hugely rich source of data for a wide range of analyses having nothing to do with the original purpose of the census. Government data sets are particularly rich for the exact reason that they collect so much. We need to assess the range of purposes for a data set before we start limiting the richness of the data.

We can always make the computer colorblind for specific selection tasks (like hiring), rather than eschewing collection of ethnic data altogether.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

BECAUSE I CAN, I've started posting some of my poetry - older stuff, for now - on a new site, inside my mind. I'm no Emily Dickinson, but it keeps my mind busy.

WELCH ON BLOGGING: For those of you who didn’t read it yesterday, here’s the link to Matt Welch's discussion of newspapers, blogging and the Internet. Excellent.

NUN TOO TRUTHFUL: A Russian Orthodox nun who also just happens to be George Stephanopoulos' sister has been taking time away from her duties as teacher at a school for Palestinian girls to report second-hand information about Israeli atrocities:

"I'm not spreading propaganda," George Stephanopoulos' orthodox-nun sister vows, but Israeli soldiers last week "defecated" on the floors of a West Bank medical clinic they raided.

However, her track record is not strong:

An e-mail alert she dispatched 10 days ago about Israeli soldiers raping Palestinian girls was later deemed apocryphal, the priest told WorldNetDaily. Stephanopoulos was the victim of a Palestinian boy's e-mail hoax...

Nearly all of Mother Maria's reporting comes from Palestinian sources. She has not herself witnessed the alleged Israeli atrocities.

Sources say she has also been urging family members to make their bank accounts available to officials of the Nigerian government who want to give them millions of dollars.

(Okay, I made that last bit up.)

Thanks to DailyPundit for the link.

JOURNALISM PROFESSORS SHOW LIBERAL BIAS. In other news, it is revealed that Ronald Reagan was a conservative.

TAKING IT TO PAKISTAN: US military has been conducting covert operations in Pakistan in recent weeks, according to the Washington Post.

Just in recent weeks? If we've not been doing this for recent months, then we're stupid.

SAUDI GOVT CRACKS ON PRESS: Apparently after the fire in Mecca where the young girls died because the religious police kept them from leaving the burning school, the "Saudi" Arabian press became more vocal and actually criticized the government. That lasted a matter of weeks:

...a couple of weeks after the burst of openness, the government yanked the leash and the kingdom's newspapers reverted to their old, docile form.

And what does this flow of media look like in "Saudi" Arabia?

The main sources of news for most Saudis are satellite channels, such as the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera. Satellite dishes, though illegal, are widespread. The Internet is another source of news for Saudis, but their government heavily censors it -- about half a million sites, many of them pornographic or maintained by the opposition, are blocked on any given day.

The press restrictions are part of wider controls on all forms of literature, public artistic expression, and academic subjects.

The authorities prohibit the study of evolution, Freud, Marx, Western music, and Western philosophy, and prohibit the criticism of Islam or the ruling family.

I complain and fume about the political leanings of most American media, about the shallow coverage that is often the order of the day, and the race to entertain rather than inform. It's flawed, just as our democracy is flawed. But for all that, we have an absolutely amazing media compared to anything else in the world, with thousands of journalists who truly are dedicated to "getting the word out". Even when we complain, we know that eventually the "truth", whatever that is, will be spoken by someone and we just need to figure out who it is. In "Saudi" Arabia, as other places in the world, the "truth" is actively suppressed.

I think we need to send the military, but just to protect the media. Let the Saudi ruling family try to maintain power in the face of endless "Entertainment Tonight" features on their lifestyles, Court TV's incessant airing of their justice system, the religious police followed for a few weeks by a "COPS in Arabia!" film crew. Sic thousands of little journalism students full of themselves and their right to any and all information on every public official in every little camel watering hole in the country. Let Maureen Dowd look down her nose daily at the Saudi princes ("Abdullah took me aside the other day and said, 'I wanted to add you to my list of wives but I knew you'd soon have them forming a sex labor union'. I said, no, this is one case I'd preach abstinence."). Get King Fahd on an airing of "Crossfire" and let Carville eviscerate him in public. Let the Defense Minister try a Rumsfeld on a pool of piranha political journalists. Let Peggy Noonan gently and with mesmerizing prose show that the emperor has no clothes, and it's surely an ugly sight.

We'd soon have a bloodless coup.

BURNED OUT STARS OUTSIDE HOLLYWOOD? Scientists announced yesterday that some cooling stars are at least 13 billion years old; no information was available about whether this is older or younger than Barbra Streisand. Our own Bryan Preston of JunkYardBlog was orchestrator of the press conference where all this was announced, and he has some pertinent comments about what happens when journalists (or at least headline writers) try to think without assistance.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

IF I WAS A FEMINIST I would complain that my boss gave me roses today in celebration of Administrative Professional's Day (was that invented by Hallmark?). If I was a Feminist, I would say, "I am not an administrative assistant or a secretary! I am a Real Professional! I demand respect! Take these roses and shove them somewhere!"

However, since I am not a Feminist, I do not have to look for Oppression behind every flower, and I do not have to be Offended or make the assumption that he is an Obviously Condescending Male who thinks that because I am Woman I am Clerical, and that Clerical is Inferior.

Since I am not a Feminist, I can accept the roses as a much deserved thank you for a Job Well Done, and I can be graciously appreciative.

They are very pretty roses.

CNN REGAINS CREDIBILITY: After a slide in the ratings, CNN - long known for thoughtful, unbiased hard news coverage - accomplished a coup in the reporting world and earned an exclusive on one of the most hard-hitting stories aired in recent memory:

The Robert Blake murder case may not rival O.J. Simpson's in television attention, but it's already caused a surprising ratings bump for CNN and a flareup of tensions in cable's hottest rivalry.

CNN had its biggest prime-time audiences of the year last Thursday after the former "Baretta" actor was charged with shooting his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, to death last May outside a Los Angeles restaurant...

CNN paid the airfare for Bakley's sister, Margerry, from her Knoxville, Tenn., home to Los Angeles, and guarded her against advances from other reporters Monday. CNN featured Bakley interviews on Paula Zahn's morning show, its "Talkback Live" daytime show and "Larry King Live."

FoxNews, an upstart yet surprisingly resilient competitor, cried foul and retaliated with a unique perspective of its own:

Shepard Smith, a Fox anchor, made an on-air reference Tuesday to another network having "bought and paid for" access to Margerry Bakley.

CNN said it doesn't pay for interviews but that - like other networks - it helps with travel for interview subjects.

"I'm sure (competitors) would have done it if they could have gotten her," Ryan said.

...Smith brought Denise Brown, sister of Simpson's slain wife, Nicole, on for an interview to discuss the Blake case.

The FoxNews audience was happy to learn that the network had a proper perspective on the factors to be considered in determining newsworthiness when deciding that it wouldn't cover the story as intensely as the OJ case:

The Blake case is about "a guy who ... played a tough guy and a woman you wouldn't want to be near," he [Shepard Smith] said. "I'm not sure it sells."

In a startling turn of events, Dan Rather got it right:

Broadcast networks have done nothing special to mark Blake's arrest; the case merited a 20-second voiceover report by Dan Rather on the "CBS Evening News," for instance.

Some sources, however, suspect that the reticence is due more to the unavailability of Margerry Bakley and Denise Brown than a philosophical aversion to celebrity crime coverage.

In other news, unnamed industry insiders indicate that Rather will host a debate between a Marie Claire editor and a really hot IEF in a bustier on the impact of terrorism on lipstick sales.

"Buy Tropical Mango Freeze all-day shine or the terrorists will have won" will be the slogan of the debate's sponsor, an as-yet unrevealed cosmetics manufacturer.

PAST SIN MAY BE OK: American cardinals of the Catholic Church have apparently decided that sexual abuse in the future is a no-no, but if you did it already, well, you know, we hadn't made it clear it was wrong and all, so hey! it's okay, man, don't worry.

American cardinals meeting with Pope John Paul II reached consensus on a "one-strike-you're-out" policy that would dismiss any priest involved in a future sex abuse case, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick indicated Wednesday.

The Washington archbishop said, however, that there were still some questions about whether a similar tough policy should be applied to cases that occurred in the past and have now come to light.

Next up: American cardinals to decide that murder by priests is ok as long as it happened prior to this conference; future murder by priests will be frowned upon, and the priest responsible may be transferred to duties involving inanimate objects only or, if murder involved mutilation, dismemberment or multiple victims, encouraged to resign. Authorities to be notified only if body cannot be hidden or melted with lye (a la last Sunday's Law & Order).

NEWSFLASH: NPR BIASED: On my way to work this morning I listened to a piece on the devastation in Palestine as a result of the Israeli incursion. Here's what the website has up about it; the audio isn't up yet, but likely will be later:

Palestinian Damage

NPR's Anne Garrels reports on an international donors conference that opens today in Oslo to discuss humanitarian aid for Palestinians. Palestinian officials say that the need is great in the wake of Israel's three-week offensive in the West Bank. (4:48)

This doesn't begin to give the gist of what Garrels' report was about. She sounded tight-lipped and angry, apparently at the damage done, and the entire piece was on all the infrastructure damage, on how the children were frightened, how Arafat when he was "released" would find that the Palestine he had to govern had no infrastructure to govern with. There was no discussion of the Israeli deaths that occurred as a result of Palestinian activities, nor the deaths of Israeli soldiers. She estimated the damage in dollars to each of several cities - no commensurate estimate of damage in Israeli commerce, never mind lives lost - and she listed a variety of other "impacts", such as the number of people who were out of work.

I think the media do have a responsibility to cover the impact of this conflict on the Palestinians, but I want the information to be accurate and in context. This piece was at the very least misleading by not providing context. For example, the figure on how many Palestinians are unemployed did not say how many were unemployed prior to the latest Israeli incursion, or what the average unemployment has been over the years. Without that context, we have no way of judging whether the current level is a little higher or a lot higher; the implication was that it is a lot higher due to the incursion. While it could have been just bad journalism, it seemed to me to be a very biased piece served up for the purpose of encouraging support for millions of dollars in aid to Palestine through this international donors conference. I recommend you listen to it, when it is posted on the Web, and judge for yourself.

And by the way, I looked up "incursion" because I suddenly realized that is the word I had heard mainly in the media, and I wondered if it had ramifications that I didn't realize. I wanted to know before I used it here. The first definition is: An aggressive entrance into foreign territory; a raid or invasion. I think it fits, as long as we don't assume "invasion" means an unjustified offensive.

GRITTY TALE: As a southerner, I'm a major advocate of corn in just about any form: on the cob, fried, boiled, grilled, baked; in soup, stews, chili; made into cornbread, hominy, grits, mush (or its more fashionable cousin, polenta). I came across this commentary and article on the subject of grits - also known as The Food Of Gods - on the NPR website. Check it out, and if you want one of the best foods known to mankind, make the Garlic Cheese Grits. Back home, that makes it onto the menu for everything from breakfast to Thanksgiving dinner.

PINK COLLAR GHETTO? Geneva Overholser laments the lack of women at the top of media management in the Columbia Journalism Review:

…after some strong progress in the 1980s, women's rise to the top reaches of the field had stalled, so that "women today fill about thirty percent of senior management jobs, the same as several years ago." As for the highest positions -- president, publisher, and ceo -- a survey of 137 newspapers with a circulation over 85,000 showed only 8 percent held by women. Moreover, the study cited retention problems with women and various "ceilings" that they seemed to be hitting (becoming managing editors, for example, but not top editors).

She recognizes that women are increasingly dominating journalism, but points out that it’s only at the lower levels:

Certainly, women now increasingly dominate the (low-salaried) entry ranks. But in the choicest assignments -- and at the top -- they are scarce. Indeed, the industry begins to look disturbingly like one of those "pink color" ghettos -- a trade shunned by men, except for those who run it.

Overholser is playing that one-note feminist plaint we hear so often – women are underrepresented in numbers at the top, compared to their preponderance at the bottom, so there must be discrimination happening. This conclusion is based solely on numbers; no one’s done a scientifically sound study on what’s happening. As a former reporter, I can attest that the life of a journalist, at least until you get to the lofty heights, is not conducive to family life. Maybe what we’re seeing is women exercising the “choice” among the options in life that the feminists initially claimed was their goal. And now the feminists are complaining.

How shocking.

BLOGGER IS GETTING ON MY NERVES! It's been down repeatedly over the last few days, and it just phantom-posted an entry - I hit "post & publish", it appeared in the "current" section of the posting page, I went to see if it showed up on the site... and it didn't. And when I got back to the posting page, it was gone from there too. Yes, I had written it in Word but erased it because it appeared to have posted. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

FASHION AND WAR - HAPPY TOGETHER: The women's fashion magazine Marie Claire is up for high praise today in the LA Times for it's savvy mix of news and lipstick:

Marie Claire is the title that women's rights activists often mention when they talk about what publication has done the most to interest women in feminist causes over the past few years...Marie Claire looks no different from any of the lip-glossy women's titles. But if you scan the cover of each issue, skimming down the current issue's pitch for articles such as "Men Confess: What Makes Him Commit--or Not" and the usual "sexy swimsuit" roundup, you'll find a cover line that seems out of place. It's a Day-Glo green banner that reads, in color-me-radical language "World Campaign: Stop War Criminals From Walking Free," a tease for the page Seymour now turns, exposing an ad for pills that purport to "Increase Breast Size ... Guaranteed!"

...After Sept. 11, scores of readers wrote in that they were the only women they knew who were well-versed about the Taliban, thanks to the magazine's previous coverage.

Marie Claire is proud of its dual focus, but they try to listen to their readers too:

Seymour...says they're not exactly looking for a movement rag, just a smarter beauty magazine.

"They're saying, 'Don't throw it in my face--I don't want to look like an intellectual egghead freak,'" Seymour says.

Some feminists are philosophical:

Though some feminists recognize the duality, it doesn't faze them. "A willing reader can handle reading about women in Afghanistan and still have the quick tips for firming up for before bathing suit season," says Jennifer Baumgardner, co-author of "Manifesta," a book about young women and feminism.

Some, like Andrea Dworkin, author of "Heartbreak: The Political Memoirs of a Feminist Militant", are less so:

There's something about being assimilated by beauty culture that is nothing but hostility to women," she says. "And I don't know why they need it."

This IEF (intellectual egghead freak) found the link via Romenesko.

UPDATE: While this IEF has not been assimilated into the beauty culture, due to a chronic inability to grow long nails and an aversion to eyebrow tweezers, I wish to make it clear that I think many women can be both an IEF and quite lovely. For an example, please see Virginia Postrel.

BOBBY KNIGHT: LOSER - The erstwhile Indiana coach continues his kind, loving and put-others-first ways.

INSIDER GRADING: Apparently at least one newspaper is being accused of bias from inside its own gates (see post below for media whining about readers complaining). The New York Observer's Off The Record column reports this:

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez is calling out the paper for what he deems a pro-Israel bias in the paper’s Middle East coverage.

In an April 10 memo obtained by The Observer, Mr. Gonzalez writes: "I am making a plea to the editors and my colleagues on the news staff to stop the unbalanced, anti-Palestinian coverage that has been filling our newspaper every day for the past two weeks."

And what does he base this on?

Mr. Gonzalez then tries to prove his point. He says the paper ignored humanitarian criticism of Israel by the International Red Cross. He chides the paper for putting more emphasis on, and showing more sympathy for, Israeli casualties, and faults the News for not reporting the beefs of international news organizations who have been barred from Palestinian refugee camps.

"With all respect," Mr. Gonzalez goes on to write, "to those of you who feel strong emotional or religious attachment to Israel’s plight, our newspaper’s overall coverage is doing an enormous disservice to our readers and to journalistic principles by not presenting both sides fairly."

I've not followed the Daily News coverage, so I can't say whether Mr. Gonzalez is correct. But I think he needs to check into the veracity of the International Red Cross before he uses them as a source, and perhaps look into why journalists might be held back from entrance into some areas.

NEWSPAPERS ON THE WAR FRONT: Newspapers around the country are finding that their coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is getting angry response from their readers, according to this article in Editor & Publisher. This quote gets at the general attitude of the media in response:

"It's scary, this idea that one group or another could turn on journalists," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Many people, she added, have probably given up on the idea of peace and become terrified -- "and one of the easiest things to react to is the media."

I think Ms. Dalglish is rather naive if she truly finds it shocking that people are going to react negatively to journalists when they perceive the coverage of such a divisive issue as biased. This is not a matter of how often the words "liberal" and "conservative" are used, although that's important in a discussion of ideological bias. This issue is a matter of life and death, literally, to many people, and the United States is a primary player in the situation. The main disseminators of information about the situation are the print, broadcast and Internet mainstream media, for all that we bloggers and others give important commentary on events. There is already a perception in this country that the media are biased, and you've seen here and on other blogs how the media has often seemed to "take sides" based on the preponderance of its coverage of the conflict. The US media has long had the protection of a free society, and this kind of relatively mild objection (given what journalists in other countries face) seems to have sent them in a tailspin.

I think they should "listen to the American street" and look more closely at their coverage. Is it possible that they are being used by one side or the other, that they're not carefully checking information before publishing it (see: Jenin), that they're responding to the need for speed rather than holding out for thoughful accuracy? If they do that analysis, and determine that they are doing the very best possible job, then they need to stop whining and keep filing their articles. Wartime journalism is not for the fainthearted.

And that throw-away comment on "given up on the idea of peace" is a good example of why people might get angry.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

CONSERVATIVE MISNOMER: Matthew Hoy has a nice takedown of today’s Paul Krugman column in the NY Times, but I have to take issue with part of it:

…"conservative Republican" is becoming a misnomer. Republicans were the ones pushing to change welfare, they want to privatize Social Security, add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare -- these are all changes. Conservatives, by definition, want to hold tight to the status quo.

First, an agreement – “conservative Republican”, in its true definition, is becoming an misnomer. However, apparently unlike Hoy, I think this is a bad thing. That leads to the disagreement – the definition of conservative is not holding to the status quo in the manner Hoy seems to indicate, i.e. an intractable unwillingness to change regardless of the situation. Even Webster’s says conservatism is about “preferring gradual development to abrupt change” – that’s not intractability.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m concerned about the blurring of the two parties in the middle, with each reaching for the same undecided market share while thinking their historical base would remain fast. The conservatism evidenced by that arm of the Republican party is not the conservatism of Ronald Reagan; it wasn’t, until recently, the conservatism of George W. Their type of conservatism isn’t conservative at all – just as true conservatism is not about political constipation.

True conservatism says, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. It says, identify the principles that have made us a strong and honorable people, and let’s stick close to those. It says, don’t chase the flash and dazzle, don’t race to change, but consider, and move thoughtfully, and remember that it’s better err on the side of the individual, not the government. A true conservatism isn’t afraid of change, but it doesn’t change to be fashionable or in response to polls. Conservatism also doesn’t mean tight-lipped and puritanical, just because it isn’t trendy.

Whether conservatives want to “hold tight to the status quo” depends a great deal on what the status quo is. Democratic control of the Senate is the “status quo”; racial preferences are the “status quo”; hedonism in society is the “status quo”. I assure you true conservatives are not holding tight to those.

HISTORY OF JENIN: Joe Katzman at Winds of Change has put together a lengthy piece on Jenin and how the battle there and its aftermath fit into the overall scheme of the Israeli/Middle East conflict over the decades. Apparently this went up last week, and was linked around, but I didn't see it. I found it very helpful in giving the news reports context; it was updated today. Worth a read.

WELCOME, UGLY NORA: Hanging out on my referrer logs, as of course I tend to do from time to time, I came across an unfamiliar name – Ah, I think – has someone linked me? So off I go to check out this new-to-me blog, having found some wonderful reading that way in the past. It was even better than I had ever hoped! The very first sentence of her (his?) most recent post:

I want my blog to simply and clearly refute every post at Cut on the Bias. I want my blog to be funny and grand and leave no argument unchecked.

How cool is that? It reminds me of when my brother was editorial page editor of his college newspaper, and wrote a column that steamed the liberal students. Being good little liberals, they promptly staged a candlelight vigil in protest, which of course resulted in my brother appearing on all three local television news programs. When he called me, the conversation went something like this (paraphrased, Alan, don’t email me and say I misquoted you):

Him: “I’m being vigiled.”

Me: “Huh?”

Him: “I wrote a column that upset the PC set and they’re protesting. It’s my first candlelight vigil!”

Me: “Excellent! You’re well on your way to commentary success!”

Him: “I’ve been on all three television stations. I wore that Harris tweed you got me to one of the interviews.”

Me: “Which bow tie did you wear?”

I had been flagging a little in the blogging department, the sheer time and energy involved some days feeling a bit much, but I feel revived! Ugly nora, thank you for the encouragement, and the sure knowledge that somewhere out there, I’m annoying someone on a regular basis. If you ever need a clarification on some point so you can make sure you’re properly debunking it, my email box is always open. It is, after all, a free country.

Let me close with some more of ugly nora’s wisdom:

How anyone can badmouth Jesse Jackson is beyond me.

We're waiting to see what else is beyond you, ugly nora! Have fun!

UPDATE: Apparently ugly nora either is or knows someone named dan haar, who's hotmail account is the email address. Hmmm. I guess "he" is how I should refer to ugly nora. I don't even want to speculate on how dan became nora. And what kind of investigative reporter am I anyway, to only now think to look at the email address given?

THIS TOTALLY BITES: Media Minded, my inspiration in this line of media bias denouncing, has declared himself done with blogging. MM, say it ain't so! Take a few days, hang with Techie Girlfriend, clear out some cobwebs, take care of those nagging issues that have gone by the way during your blogging months, then come back. It just won't be the same without you.

ATTENTION, CLASS, Charles Hill at has today’s history quiz, wherein interesting patterns emerge if you pay careful attention. It’s subtle, though.

UPDATE: Reader Donald Korn sends a reminder for the history lesson:

Petty Officer Robert Dean Stethem, a US Navy diver, was killed in 1985 as he was planning to return home from Greece aboard TWA Flight 847. The flight was hijacked to Beirut, Lebanon, and Stethem was shot in the head, his body dumped on the tarmac. The Lebanese hijackers held 39 other people hostage for 17 days, demanding that Israel release several hundred Shiite Muslim prisoners.

Never forget.

INTELLECTUAL RIGHTS AND ETIQUETTE: Wendy McElroy of iFeminists has a thoughtful column on FoxNews today, which marches along with my earlier post on feminism. A sample:

You have the right to form an opinion and to express it. You do not need a diploma, permission from your spouse, dispensation from the Church, or a birth certificate listing the "correct" sex. Simply by being human, you have a right to reach conclusions and state them. For example, men have a right to independent opinions on "women's" issues like abortion.

Check it out.

THE REAL AL GORE: Self-understanding is a wonderful thing, as this photo at The Angry Clam shows.

WEAK MINDED PREMISE: A new book takes up old themes in claiming that modern women are harmed by attitudes based in Victorian views of women’s frailty. A review in today’s NY Times of The Frailty Myth by Colette Downing says:

…the myth of female frailty has not disappeared, and the misinformed, gender-biased attitudes that keep it alive have also strengthened another unfortunate myth, that of the mannish woman, loosely defined as any woman who excels in sports or "man's" activities. Both fictions, the author writes, have kept many women from using their bodies — either by reinforcing the notion that they are weak by nature, or by the threat of ridicule, of being "reduced to little more than sideshow freaks" if they proved that they weren't frail by becoming too athletic.

Actually, any views of women being physically “frail” have been limited to the upper classes; women of the working and servant classes have always had to work, and very hard. And in my judgment, women are more involved in sports than ever before and admired for it. The tone of this review makes it clear that the author has a feminist agenda:

Fortunately, the notion that women are unable to achieve the same levels of physical development as men is being challenged. Strength and physical skill have much to do with training, and the potential for improvement, Ms. Dowling notes, "has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with know-how."

Yes and no. Women are intellectually capable of any tasks that men do; physically, women are capable of more than most probably do. But saying “the potential for improvement… has nothing to do with gender” is patently false. Women’s bodies are constructed differently, and the majority of women just have less muscle and/or body mass than the majority of men, which means they cannot do the same level of physical tasks. That’s just biology, not some nefarious paternalistic scheme to keep women down.

I think the greater damage is done by the feminist call to similarity with men, to erase differences. We would do better to explore what the natural differences are and both honor and encourage them, while at the same time creating an atmosphere where everyone, male and female, feels able to pursue his or her talents no matter what they are. It’s the same plantation, just the other end of it, for women to be told they need to show “male” qualities to be acceptable. Who says that more women participating in sports is a sign of progress? In my judgment, the goal is for every woman to feel she can if she wants to, but won’t be characterized as weak and socially harmed if she doesn’t want to.

There are natural differences to how women and men engage the world, physically, intellectually and emotionally. That’s a good thing. Women bring something to the table that men don’t – and vice versa. We’re hindered from understanding how those complementary traits can fit together to make a whole greater than the parts – and I think they do – by this insistence that women will be downtrodden until they all can play baseball.

SHAMEFUL REACTION: Why is it that France is "shamed" by the successful candidacy of Le Pen? I don't know a lot about French politics, and I'm not going to comment on Le Pen's views. But I think if the leadership in France reflected Le Pen's views now, and the vote had been for a more liberal government, would we be talking shame? Look at some excerpts from a NY Times article:

"It is the honor of our country that is at stake."

...Signs of shame were everywhere in France today. "NO" was the headline on the front page of the leftist newspaper Libération, a terse summary of the widespread incredulity that a man whose politics have been consistently marked by anti-immigrant bigotry could do so so well.

Le Monde published a column entitled simply "The Wound." Written by its publisher, Jean-Marie Colombani, it said: "France is wounded. And, for many of the French, humiliated."

The "shame" is on the part of the liberals; the "humiliation" is theirs too. I think what bothers me is the discounting of voters that the "shame" theme implies. Some see this as a legitimate protest:

"This vote is the first to sanction the political class for not listening," said Laurence Parisot, of the IFOP polling institute.

I think that's the better attitude. If there's shame, it belongs to the people who'd been heedless of an entire group of people, who are speaking through this election. France is so quick to say the US needs to listen to the "Arab street" - why do they explode in recriminations when the "French street" says something they don't want to hear? The article notes that too:

Like the United States, France feels that its values hold a universal message for mankind. It has been quick in recent years to hand out moral lessons to other European nations, like Austria, that have voted heavily for rightist candidates, making its sense of humiliation today that much harder to bear.

Liberals usually try to paint themselves as speaking for "the little guy". I think this shows the falsity of that construct. How will France handle this little wake-up call? I don't know about the long run, but so far, the response has been shameful.

UPDATE: According to the LA Times:

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Le Pen's besting of Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was "very sad," adding that in the runoff election, "we trust the French people to reject extremism of any kind."

"Socialist" Jospin? Sounds to me like they just did.

Monday, April 22, 2002

KENTUCKY COOL: Just found a blog tonight by a fellow native Kentuckian, although he – lucky guy - still lives there (even if it is Louisville). Ipse Dixit is smart, funny and has a regular photo caption contest for the competitive among you. Check it out.

MEDIA BIAS EXCHANGE: Regurga-blog weighs in on the media bias debate, answering issues raised by Geoffrey Nunberg about whether the mainstream media label conservative groups "conservative" more than liberal groups as "liberal". Interesting reading, and some good links.

GUNNING FOR MANUFACTURERS THROUGH COURTS: A NYC council member is seeking to limit access to guns in NYC even more by opening the door to lawsuits against gun manufacturers who don’t follow a “corporate code of conduct”. David Yassky, a former law professor and aide for Chuck Schumer when he was a congressman, received money from 189 attorneys and others of his "social class" in his successful campaign for Council, and filed an amicus brief in the US vs Emerson case encouraging a finding that in the 2nd Amendment, “bear arms” meant for military use only. From the NY Times:

MANHATTAN: BILL WOULD LET GUN VICTIMS SUE A City Council member proposed a bill yesterday that would allow gunshot victims to sue gun manufacturers that do not conform to a corporate code of conduct. The council member, David Yassky of Brooklyn, is a former Congressional aide who helped draft the federal Brady Law and the assault-weapons ban. Mr. Yassky wants gun manufacturers to agree to stop selling weapons to dealers who resell to other dealers who will offer customers more than one gun a month. He also wants manufacturers not to sell to gun shows, which have relatively little supervision, or to dealers found to have sold more than 20 guns used in crimes in one year. Michael Cooper (NYT)

In its endorsement of Yassky for council member, the NY Times said,

David Yassky, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, was Charles Schumer's firepower when Mr. Schumer, now senator, was in the House of Representatives.

I’ll be watching this one. If it passes, would it be "next stop, Senate"?

UPDATE: I skidded past the "gunshot victims" part of the bill in my first pass through, but that is a huge concern. Just who qualifies as "gunshot victim" - anyone shot? Or just those accidentally shot? Does this open a whole area where criminals shot in the commission of crimes can go after gun manufacturers for damages? The mind boggles.

END DOES NOT JUSTIFY MEANS: The Supreme Court has agreed to look at the extent to which RICO can be applied to organizations who use violence in protests and civil disobedience. This aspect is crucial:

The court limited its review to two legal questions about application of the RICO statute and federal extortion law. It will not consider the legality or constitutionality of abortion itself, nor wider questions about the political or religious messages of the abortion protesters.

I'm not for widespread usage of RICO, but I do think the Court needs to make it very clear that protesters have to limit their actions so no active harm is done. And we need to make sure that the law and its interpretation are applied equally to groups on both ends of the ideological continuum - since it is usually the extremes that disintegrate into ugly violence. Thus, anti-abortion protesters who damage property and environmental protesters who release lab animals or wreak havoc with logging equipment or toss paint on someone's fur coat should be treated precisely the same.

JEWS WHO ARE AMBIVALENT ABOUT ISRAEL: Jonathan Gewirtz at ChicagoBoyz has a great post explaining how some Jews - mostly observant, religious Jews - are ambivalent about the state of Israel, and why. It's worth remembering that everyone Jewish isn't reflexively pro-Israel as per status quo; there's some dispute about how the state should be run to most closely either reflect Judaism or separate church and state for a more representative country.

UPDATE: The post Gewirtz has on his site primarily consists of an email from a friend. Said friend says my understanding of the post is a little right and a little wrong. He explains in detail just what he meant, in the comments section of this post, so instead of my trying to figure it out again, I ask that you please read his comments. And the problem rests with me trying to understand anything at 6 a.m., rather than any fault with his writing skills.

THANKS, HOWARD! Today's Washington Post has a nice, breathlessly cute column about blogging from Howard Kurtz. I'm happy to say that mine is one of the more breathlessly inane quotes. The sad part is, most of the quote comes directly from my blog, so I can't claim misquoting or even the startled awe of someone suddenly finding herself talking to HOWARD KURTZ (after all!) on the telephone. Just a few quibbles, Howard - there is some serious commentary going on in the blogosphere - as I noted to you; there have been mainstream impacts - as I noted to you; and there are purposes beyond just a I-haven't-anything-better-to-do-so-why-not that some of us do this - as I noted to you.

A friendly column though, as I said, expressing Howard's somewhat condescending fond-uncle perspective. Welcome to all three of you who find my page via the column, and yes, I do now know that Tucker Carlson is the fourth on Crossfire, that he has a long and distinguished conservative journalistic career, and he wears a cute bowtie. Please read the full post to see that Howard's editing of my quote took out some fairly pertinent discussion of Crossfire. And please read my other postings, where I sound much more informed and much less inane.

UPDATE: Well, I sound a bit huffy above, which wasn't my intent but that's what you get for posting at 5:30 a.m. when you were up reading until 3:30. WELCOME to everyone who's visiting from the Washington Post; thanks again to Howard for the mention. For those of you new to the blogosphere, I highly recommend all the blogs listed on my links to the left. Bookmark some of us and, when you have a little time, link around, dig deeper into the archives of the various blogs, and see all you're missing from some truly excellent folks. Most of us have our specialties of one sort or another, and I've learned an amazing amount in the few months I've been around this corner of the Internet. I'm happy to have some small part in it.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

GREAT MINDS: Matthew Hoy takes down the Jimmy Carter op-ed in today's NY Times that I had a few things to say about below. Matthew's a bit more intellectual and historical about it than I am.