Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

The right to what?

From Politico:

Two-thirds say they'll do it for a year's tuition. And for a few, even an iPod touch will do.

That's what NYU students said they'd take in exchange for their right to vote in the next presidential election, a recent survey by an NYU journalism class found.

Only 20 percent said they'd exchange their vote for an iPod touch.

But 66 percent said they'd forfeit their vote for a free ride to NYU. And half said they'd give up the right to vote forever for $1 million.

What use is a right if one does not use it, blah blah blah.... this one's a little played out. The first couple of commenters got it right: It's really easy to not see a point in voting.

It's still important.

Almost Reasonable

I just read Hering's editorial on the Albany City Council, and I have to say I'm almost impressed with how sane it is. Almost.

Two things: First, ultimately, he is not charitable in his argument - he does not consider that there may be valid reasons for all the things he deplores. This is actually a really common mistake in writing that I've noticed.

Second - and this really, really annoying - there was this quote:

"There is not an argument in the world that cannot be made in three minutes."

That is profoundly anti-intellectual. Am I surprised? No. Am I annoyed and disappointed? Yes.

Actually, I'd argue that most arguments worth making take more than three minutes. If Hering had limited himself to the context of a City Council meeting, then I might be more inclined to agree. But beyond that, it's pretty obviously a case of obnoxious oversimplification.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bizarro World

Hasso Hering, in an editorial that I assume was printed in an actual newspaper:

There must be more effective ways to protect children from illegal drugs than to post this arbitrary distance. When you think about it, selling drugs to children ought to be a capital offense. Drug dealers who do this ought to be shot — with due process, of course — regardless of the distance from school. (hh)

Um, yeah. So when I asked how crazy Hasso had to be to get a response from his corporate overlords, I didn't mean it as a challenge...

Just to be as clear as possible, this is incredibly offensive - and the next time Hering complains that other people are not civil enough, I hope someone has the good sense to remind him that he's now advocated for punishment that has been deemed unconstitutional (cruel and unusual, 8th Amendment) in a public forum & on the record.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Interesting LTE in the Baro

Side Note: I guess the Baro is printing more stuff on the blackface issue after all...

I had to stop and think about the last letter on the page, the one from Marcus Hibdon.

I think he's right - the generally abysmal failure rate and failure to recruit Black non-athletes as students is a big problem.

However, I don't think we need to make a choice between noticing that and working against ignorant displays like blackface or leftover nooses. They are two different things: The latter are signs of uninformed individuals (though such ignorance is certainly the result of institutional factors), while the former is a sign of an institutional problem.

But I do think that Hibdon brings a great point to the table: Let's not forget to pay attention to structural disparities.

Monday, November 12, 2007

An Observation

Many, many of the folks who have commented on the recent use of black facepaint at OSU football games have claimed that race or racism have nothing to do with the real issue at hand, which is "just football."

As if the intersection of American football and race means nothing.

Say hello to everyone's good friend white privilege.

In this case, that means the privilege of never having to think about race and football.

The Daily Barometer: WTF?

I'm seriously starting to wonder what's going on over there.

First the Barometer has to subcontract the story about Saturday's protest at Reser to a professional reporter - what's that all about?

Second, I just read this thing which I think is supposed to be an editorial... but I'm confused. Even editorials are supposed to be checked before they are published, and this is so incoherent and self-serving I am having trouble believing no one raised any objections as it went through the editing process.

Either that or the Barometer is taking too many clues from Tim Russert.

In any case, it's not pretty:

The Barometer, though it works to facilitate discussion on campus, is not a public forum. The Barometer remains independent of the university and is able to deny publication of any material submitted.

This is the opening line of the editorial. Not only is it wrong*, but starting out with this is a big 'fuck you' to just about everyone: "We'll provide lip service towards serving the community, but you can't make us do anything. Neener neener neener!"

[*While the Barometer does not take student fee dollars, it does receive plenty of financial compensation from the university in the form of free rent and utilities and the salaries of at least three professional faculty members, including Frank Ragulsky, the Director of Student Media and the primary Barometer staff adviser.]

Next, the editorial mischaracterizes the debate:

There are two sides of this debate. There are community members who have been offended by the Barometer's coverage of the "Blackout Reser" event and there are community members who are offended that their school spirit has been called into question.

I have an aversion to claiming there are two sides to an issue. There are almost always more, and I really don't like seeing the Barometer reinforce the she said/he said model of journalism, where every conflict is placed into a neat, preexisting narrative that never has more than two sides and is almost always unrealistic.

But more importantly, I'm not sure anyone is calling anyone's 'school spirit' into question. More like we are calling into question folks' refusal to listen to and learn from people of color, or to take seriously any claim that might require either introspection or a change in behavior.

Furthermore, I'm not sure "coverage" is the right word - it's more like the lack thereof combined with a set of responses from the editorial staff that seem transparently self-serving.

Material submitted by those not affiliated with the Barometer must be less than 300 words, submitted as a letter to the editor and deemed fit for publication.

Uh, unless this is a previously unannounced change in policy, the Barometer has previously run op-eds that are well over 300 words in length by students, staff and faculty alike. Either this is new or a lie - and I'd like to know which.

Some consistency here would be nice - I have long had the sense that the Barometer wants to have their cake and eat it too by claiming independence from the university community while still claiming to be the source of campus news. Frankly, it's not possible to do both - either the Barometer is a member of the campus community, meaning that it genuinely responds to community concerns, or it's not**, in which case it should stop claiming such status.

We are doing our best to continue the discussion respectfully.

Because opening an online forum in which all comments are a priori approved is the height of taking responsibility for creating a respectful space. From what I've seen, there's no communication going on there whatsoever, just extended rants that don't address each other. I believe it would be possible to create a moderated forum in which respectful, constructive discussion could take place. The Barometer has not done that.

If you, as a member of the community that we cover, feel offended or hurt by any material in The Daily Barometer, we urge you to first contact us.

We cannot represent students unless they first represent themselves to us. As of yet, we have not been asked to respond.

I don't want to discount the possibility that this will work, but I am highly skeptical. Perhaps it's because every time something like this happens, the Barometer asks people to come to the mountain, rather than actually reach out and make an effort to listen - and when people do attempt to reach the Barometer staff, they find it closed off, cliquish and unwilling to really listen (I am speaking from both personal and second-hand experience). It smacks of a sense of privilege about their place in the community, privilege that I think is increasingly assumed and not earned.

And of course there is the obligatory plug, the one that accentuates just how much the Barometer wants to be independent of any responsibility to the community and yet have the community rely on them:

As students, as student editors and those who continue to strive toward the goals of being a well-read, relevant publication, we hope that you would come to us first.

**If the Barometer is not a member of the campus community, if it is not the campus paper, then it should be truly independent of the university, which means it needs to handle its own accounting (which is currently done someone who is paid at least partly by student fee money), it needs to pay rent for use of the on-campus space, it needs to pay its own utilities, and it needs to pay the salaries of its advisers if it wants to keep them. The Daily Emerald down at the University of Oregon does all those things and is, therefore, truly independent of the university. The Barometer is not, and should not be allowed to claim that status.

I've been waiting for years for that conversation to happen.

***Final note: Another way to look at this is that the staff really has no idea of how the public views the paper. If I were the newspaper, I would start a campaign to educate the campus community on the basics of journalism. It might serve to soften the response because all too often, it seems like the staff is doing what they think is right based on journalism standards - standards the larger community is unaware of.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On being called a coward by Hasso Hering

...well, not directly. He does pull the old "some" canard, which should be a journalism no-no. Moreso he is going after LT and the idea of anonymous blogging in the first place.

Anyway, this editorial is getting old, but I've not really had a chance to think about it or weigh in, and I wanted to.


The Lebanon dispute about a web log or blog is essentially about cowardice.

[recites some context about LT and Kim Fandiño]

This is the universal problem with the online universe. On some sites it is easy to post commentaries anonymously. You can say anything, true or not, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. [Italics added.]


Did Hasso really just ignore libel and slander laws, not to mention laws governing harassment, to make his point?

Yes he did.

Lies by intentional omission (because even I believe Hering knows what libel is) are still lies, and have no place in a newspaper.

The Internet thus becomes a perfect tool for weasels who like to slam other people but are too shy to tell the world who they are. They may be the same kind of people who throw stuff at bicyclists from a moving car, knowing that their victim cannot catch them. Figuratively, they are pleased to wound people while remaining safely out of sight.

Hasso calls them weasels. I call them the Founding Fathers. See, for example, Publius and the history of the Federalist Papers, which provided some much-needed context for the Constitution and were printed anonymously.

Notice how he also implies that it's somehow a crime if anonymous words wound someone - never mind the truth or falsity of said words. If Hasso can't look you in the eye, you obviously have nothing worthwhile to say.

Moving on:

At Lebanon’s school board meeting this week, a lawyer said he represented the blogger or bloggers in this case and was ready to defend his, her or their rights of free speech, or words to that effect. Wonderful! Let’s drag the noble First Amendment down to the level of the anonymous blogger, why don’t we!

Nobody doubts that citizens have the right of free speech, no matter what their opinions. But the principle of free speech implies responsibility too. Bloggers who refuse to bear responsibility may make people wonder whether free speech is such a good thing. (hh)

Har. See my point about the Federalist Papers. Also, Hering should do some - any - research on this topic; anonymous speech, including blogging, has significant protections under the First Amendment. For Hering to so openly mock this idea implies that (a) he has no clue as to the history of protected, anonymous free speech in America and (b) he's a fucking fascist idiot.

Also (c) that people say stupid shit all the time using their real name. Responsibility, which is definitely not the same thing as people knowing one's identity, is no guarantor of quality. Hering should know better than anyone.

Worse, (d): That Hering, a newspaper editor, doesn't believe all that strongly in free speech. His claims regarding responsibility are a poor cover for his manly anger at someone's refusal to...what? Duel with pistols at dawn? It would be comical if he weren't so serious.

"Coward?" "Weasel?" Really? I know I frequently use, um, sophomoric terms, but I'm a crappy blogger; he is a newspaper editor, and should leave the ad hominem attacks where they belong - which is not on the editorial page.

This is by far the worst editorial I have ever read by Hering. He is either forced to lie to make his point or is completely ignorant about a fundamental aspect of public speech in this country. Either is completely unacceptable for a newspaper editor; can SOMEONE over at Lee - be it at the DH, GT, or corporate - sit up and take notice?


What would it take?

Hasso Hering, Professional Educator

It's been a long time since any of Hering's columns have made me laugh without also making me angry. So good on you, Hasso.

That's not to say I agree with Hasso's latest; in fact, I think it does a marvelous job of reaching his usual standard of incoherence and/or irrelevance. I am waiting with baited breath for someone above him in the Lee Enterprises hierarchy to notice.

It gets better - this column is on what should be taught in schools. Let's look at Hasso's list:

Teach them what? Well, how about reading, writing and enough arithmetic and math to know if their computers or calculators are kidding them when they want to know how much tile to buy to cover the bathroom floor.


Our own history is crucial but not enough. Our students must know something about the world as well, including its geography and history.

People are hard pressed to have a conversation, let alone enjoy life, if they haven’t been exposed to music, literature and the arts, preferably by learning to play an instrument and attempting a painting or a sculpture, even if it’s only an earthen pot.


Whether it’s Spanish or Chinese or Arabic, by 2030 it may be crucial to know at least one or two other tongues.


Schools need an identity, one that lets children and teenagers know they are part of something larger, something that has a wholesome and valued tradition. Athletic competition can provide this as long as it also reinforces virtues such as sportsmanship, meaning manners and ethical conduct.

What Oregon needs are young people who are optimistic instead of glum about the prospects of the country and their own selves. They can have that confidence if their schools teach them well.

Wow... that list is indicative of the cutting of pedagogical theory...from the 1950s. Possibly earlier. Very Eurocentric. One suspects unapologetically so.

Also, I believe the Albany School District - according to Hasso - asked for values, not subject areas. All he did was recite a list of subject areas (math, "the science on which our society is built," history, reading, writing, literature, the arts, foreign languages) with the inclusion of 'school spirit' as a value.

This is insulting to anyone even remotely involved with education. Hering should have devoted his editorial space to a column or op-ed by someone with ANY knowledge of pedagogy or the role of schools in modern society. That might have been interesting, or at least relevant. What Hering wrote is absolute rubbish on the merits.

Besides, as mentioned, he just talks about subjects, not values. 'School spirit' might be a value, but it's becoming increasingly clear that it's not really sustainable or even a good idea (as it serves as a model for learning patriotism).

Instead, why don't we teach students to think critically about themselves and the world? Why not teach them to have the ability to learn, so we don't necessarily have to teach them all about the content, but they can - with some guidance and advice - teach themselves and keep learning far after they leave school? I know that the 'lecture' model of learning does not work well for me, and I know I'm not alone. Also, those are values - and applicable to all subject areas to boot!

Anyway, Hering also reveals his ignorance in other ways besides ignoring the parameters of the assignment:

What Oregon needs are young people who are optimistic instead of glum about the prospects of the country and their own selves. They can have that confidence if their schools teach them well.

I suppose it never occurred to Hering that there might be even a shred of good sense behind the glumness of young people. Obviously, they just need better indoctrination socialization! That line also reeks of a linear model of history in which one's own can do no wrong. Eurocentrism what?

Also, because optimism TOTALLY trumps corporate globalization and the creation of a feudalistic service economy. Who knew Hering was so New Age?

I hope the Albany School District's employees got a good laugh out of this. That's about all it's good for.

Game, Set, Match: Reader 1, Barometer 0

A letter in a recent Daily Barometer....

Egregious Errors

In the Barometer's October 26 editorial regarding the October 5 article "Student section... color selection" and Renée Roman Nose's October 26 column "Blackface: what's your opinion?" the editorial staff apologized for their ignorance regarding the historical use of blackface and asked for further discussion on campus and in the Barometer.

To quote: "To all students, we challenge you to contribute and participate actively, with open minds, to the campus conversation. [...] It is important for a thriving student media that all students participate in the conversation. [...] We actually do want to hear what we do wrong. We want to improve as we strive to act professionally in working toward career goals."

I was happy to see that the Barometer staff was desiring a continued discussion regarding this issue.

However, on Wednesday night I was informed by my friend and Barometer columnist, Luke Sugie, that the Barometer would not be printing a column he submitted because the editorial staff had decided they would no longer be printing op-eds regarding the October blackout at Reser Stadium.

The Barometer made an egregious error by printing an image that renders blackface, but it seems that instead of continuing a dialogue as promised on October 26, the editorial staff has instead decided to censor their columnists.

This decision marks not only an affront to those who care about injustices - both current and historical - against people of color, but also an affront to public discourse. The answer to a bad decision isn't to silence discussion of it, but instead to foster more discussion.

I hope the Barometer reverses its policy of not printing op-eds regarding this issue - for the sake of democratic discussion, for the sake of dialoging about racism, and for the sake of the professionalism of its staff.

Michael J. Faris
Department of English

Just to be clear, it's a common defense among newspaper editors that 'the answer to bad speech is more speech' (see here). In this case, apparently the Baro felt that censoring someone was a better idea than printing criticism of the paper.

And for the record, whoever posted the letters online apparently did not bother with anything as mundane as checking the formatting. Sad.

Defining Political Parties

Thom Hartmann said at one point that he thinks more and more folks are defining politicians, and hence political parties, by a new criteria: Does the politician in question favor humans or corporations?

Democrats don't look so good in that light:

Democratic legislators have introduced a bill that will tie university financial aid funding to universities imposing stiff penalties for file-sharing, and to universities subsidizing student subscriptions to failed DRM-based systems like Napster and Ruckus. This is about as ugly as pork-barrel politics can get: politicians are so in debt to four of five ailing giants from the entertainment industry that they're prepared to deny low-income children access to a college education if universities don't punish kids for listening to music and piss away money on a useless service that no one wants to use.


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