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Journalists should be held accountable like you and me: A response to Kevin Sullivan

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Due to it’s timely matter, The Commentator has decided to publish this piece online. It will also appear in our physical publication later this month. 

On Monday, January 6th columnist Kevin Sullivan published an opinion column in the Daily Emerald that left a rather sour taste in my mouth. Of course, I’m not much of one to read the Emerald regularly (because I already know how to have fun in the snow in Bend and find an instruction manual for this not necessary), but when I happened upon Kevin’s most recent opinion piece “Athletes should be held accountable like you and me” I knew a response from The Commentator would be necessary. Of course, here at The Commentator, we couldn’t agree more with Kevin’s notion that athletes are a favored bunch throughout our national universities (and especially here at UO). Kevin, we commend your effort to put these athletes in their place and ensure that everyone is held accountable for their actions.

The problem with Kevin’s piece is his insight into the Jameis Winston rape case that was closed a little over a month ago in December. Writes Kevin:

         Imagine a case of sexual assault. A 9-11 call surfaces after a month of the case being in the mainstream news but a year after the survivor first reported the rape. The survivor has already identified the man who had raped her and DNA evidence had proven that he indeed had sex with her.
        This guy was obviously convicted right?
        Wrong.

Now hold it right there, Kevin. Why should this guy obviously be convicted? Based on the story you just told, I reached the conclusion that the man should obviously not be convicted! We’re supposed to think that DNA evidence proving that two people had sex is evidence of rape? Because there’s no such thing as consensual sex, right Kev?

I’m not here to argue against the innocence of Winston […] I’m here to state the truth writes Kevin right after conclusively referring to Winston as “the man who had raped her“. Welcome to America, where all are guilty until proven innocent… good thing our justice system doesn’t operate on the same rules that Kevin does.  All I’m saying is that we have words like “alleged” so that journalists can refer to the accused without definitively calling them, as Kevin does,  “the assailant“. Throughout his piece, it is clear that Kevin has made his mind up about the Winston case. He repeatedly refers to the accuser as “the victim” and contextualizes the story in a way that makes it obvious to us all that the tenant of “innocent until proven guilty” is only applicable until an Ol’ Dirty Emerald columnist decides that it is not. And all this in a piece where Kevin calls out the media for not properly framing a story and for “poorly reported stories“. Kev, we’re all beginning to drown in the irony here.

Of course, I cannot disagree with your main point that the accuser received a lot of hate from FSU fans and the public alike. Yes, that happened, but it does not determine whether or not Winston is guilty or not. Let’s be honest this rape allegation will always be tied in with Jameis Winston’s name as well. The truth is, there just was not enough evidence to convict Jameis of anything. This doesn’t mean that he isn’t a rapist, but (without concrete evidence) we will never know what happened.  Of course, since Kevin is already sure of his verdict, we invite him to pour through the case evidence that the state attorney released.

The point is, while there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with our judicial system, it’s ethically wrong to debase the innocent until proven guilty that our justice system is based on. Kevin, until you’re ready to present concrete evidence that Jameis Winston is a rapist, we cannot refer to him as one. And when you do have that concrete evidence, we highly encourage you to fax it over to the Tampa police so the case can be reopened.

It was not only Kevin’s absurdly definitive reporting of Winston’s guilt that infuriates us here at The Commentator. It seems like it would also be relevant to point out here that the opinion piece misreported a couple things. Writes Kevin:

[O]ne insightful anchor on “Good Morning America” put it on Dec. 12, “I just want this one to go away.”
Let me repeat that.
One of the anchors from ‘Good Morning America,” the leading morning show in America, said that he wanted the story of the Winston case to “go away.”

Good thing you repeated this twice, Kevin. Does that mean we can charge you with two accounts of false reporting? Take a look at the video that is being referenced, and I think it will be as clear to you as it was to me- Stephanopoulos says “They just want this one to go away.” Of course, by changing this one critical word you completely change the intention of Stephanopoulos’ comment. I see what you did there. Clever, Kev. Very clever.

Of course, why stop here? Let’s also get a source for those statistics you’re referencing. Writes Kevin: “the percentage of women who falsely report rape is very low and not any higher than any other false reporting of other crimes” I’ll forget about how terribly phrased this sentence is for a minute, so I can present some statistics:

Since 1996 “unfounded” rape accusations are reported by the FBI to be around 8%, while other index crimes have been around 2%.  Of course, “unfounded” does not necessarily mean “false allegation”. It is almost impossible to discover the true percentage of false rape accusations, but many estimate that they are higher than index crimes. Of course, I’m guessing Kevin found his statistics in “Against Our Will”. Nice. Very reliable source, Kev.

“Football should not trump […] our judicial system” writes Kevin in conclusion to his article. Let us remind you, Kev, that bad journalism should not trump our judicial system either.

Alright, kiddos, that’s all we’ve got until we hear back from Kevin. In the meantime let’s all remember that everyone accused of rape is guilty, especially if there isn’t enough evidence to prove it.

Thomas Tullis

Nanny Bloomberg Loses Another One

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Nanny Bloomberg’s “soda ban” was struck down by a New York Supreme Court of Appeals today.  The ban prevented restaurants and street vendors from selling sugary drinks like soda, tea, and energy drinks in containers or cups larger than 16 ounces. This is supposedly an attempt to fight the obesity epidemic.  Yet, the ban did not restrict coffee drinks blended with milk or milk shakes.

Bloomberg has pointed out that 2,000 people have died of diabetes since the ban was first struck down and promises an appeal.  This is typical government knowing what is good for you and passing regulations that in the end will have little if any effect on the supposed problem.  Pointing out that 2,000 have died suggests that had the ban been allowed to take effect it could have been prevented.

Obesity is a problem, but you cannot regulate it away.  Only those of us falling into the obese category can fix it.  Forcing someone to buy more than one drink is not going to do it.  Obesity is a problem, but not a disease.  You do not catch the obese germ or virus.  You become obese because you decide to take in more calories than you burn.

This is the same city that blocks people from donating to food shelters because they cannot monitor the salt content.  I am sure the homeless and those unable to provide for themselves care whether or not the food has a high salt level if the choice is that or going hungry.

There are better ways to solve problems and the government is not usually it.  As this example once again shows.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Zimmerman, Stand Your Ground, and the Racial Circus

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

A Neighborhood Watch leader follows a suspicious character in the neighborhood and after being assaulted, and having his skull repeatedly bashed into the concrete, shoots and kills the assailant.  Most people reading that would probably respond differently than the way some have responded to the media circus and lynching of George Zimmerman.  What about this situation is worthy of the hype and uproar that has been thrust upon us for the last year?  Nothing!  The same situation happened elsewhere only it was a black Neighborhood Watch person and white assailants and surprise surprise, no uproar.

The Stand Your Ground law has been paraded about as another villain in this event, yet it had nothing to do with the event.  Unfortunately, not even our supposed constitutional scholar president is able to understand a very simple law.  Stand Your Ground says that if you are legally allowed to be somewhere and someone threatens your life you are able to defend yourself without first retreating.  In other words if I pull a knife or gun on you while you are walking down the street you can use deadly force (read gun) to defend yourself.  You do not have to turn and run.  You can stand your ground, hence the name of the law.  Now in the Zimmerman case, his head was being bashed into concrete.  Retreating is not an option at that point.  This was purely self defense.  He was not able to retreat once his life became endangered.  Mr. Martin was not unarmed, he was using the concrete as a weapon.

The ugly part of this was the race baiting that went on by those in the media and the White House.  “If I had a son he would look like Trayvon.”  I seriously doubt that a child of a president would be thugged out, smoking weed, and getting suspended from school for criminal activity.  Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson just showed their ability to profit off a tragedy as usual.  Why is it that this was considered a white on black crime when Zimmerman is half Peruvian?  Oh but Barack Obama is black even though he is half white.  In the eyes of some race is the only issue and no matter what it must have played a role.  It was the fact that Martin was black, not that he looked like a thug in an area that had seen a spike in break ins, that got him followed.

Now onto the head shake aspect.  It is sad to see how many people suck at the teat of celebrities that they blindly accept and follow what ever their favorite celebrities spout.  Zimmerman is an evil bastard and Trayvon Martin was a poor innocent thug.  No one stopped to question why this case was being pushed over numerous other cases where a black youth was killed.  They just continued on with the talking points of the hypocrites who think it is wrong for you and I to defend ourselves while they have armed security guards to protect them.

Prop 8 Problems

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

I would caution the cheering crowds that view the Supreme Court’s refusal to rule on Prop 8 to step back for a moment.  This ruling raises some red flags, and I hope that those opposing Prop 8 can understand that.

Prop 8 made same-sex marriage illegal in California.  It was voted on by the people and passed.  The Governor then refused to enforce it.  Whether or not you agree with same-sex marriage is irrelevant.  The process of direct democracy that so many on the left supposedly believe in was dealt a blow today.

If the governor does not agree with the people’s decision then he does not need to listen.  In the future, when the same people that are championing this decision are in the majority and the governor is on the opposing side, the governor will not have to listen to their votes.  That should raise major concerns for them because in getting a victory, they are also getting a defeat.

The court did not rule that same-sex marriage should be legal, only that the plaintiff did not have the standing to bring the case before the court.  If it had been brought up as a voters’ right issue it is possible it may have resulted in a different decision.

 

Neil Killion

DOMA Unconstitutional

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

While many of you may have been caught up in the joyous revelations that the Ducks will not be banned from the bowls this year, the court handed down a major decisions regarding gay marriage today.

The Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) was ruled unconstitutional in a 5-4 opinion.  The Supreme Court ruled that if you live in a state that recognizes gay marriage the federal government cannot deny federal benefits.  It does not rule whether or not gay marriage itself is legal, just that the federal government cannot discriminate against gay couples in those states that do recognize gay marriage.

Although this is a victory for same-sex couples, it is also a victory for states’ rights.  The state’s law held supremacy over the federal law in this case.  If the state recognizes same-sex marriage then the federal government cannot deny those couples benefits.  This may pave the way for other states’ rights issues in the future.

Neil Killion

Temple, Texas Cops Illegally Arrest Active Duty Soldier

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Truly a blow to democracy. Check this video.

Grisham

 

Active duty soldier (veteran of the Iraq and Afganistan wars) and Concealed Handgun Licence holder Christopher J. Grisham was unlawfully disarmed and arrested on March 16 while hiking with his son, who was earning his Eagle Scout rank. Now Temple  police have a lawsuit on their hands. Grisham has begun to raise money for his court case and his fellow gun rights-advocating Americans are not letting him down!

After two days of fundraising for his court case, he reached double his fundraising goal. Read about his fundraising campaign here. This is a prime example of illegal search and seizure by over-zealous police. This is CHL holding active duty soldier walking with his son. He wasn’t menacing. The police needlessly handcuffed and disarmed this man. I’m all for police protecting themselves, but I hope every cop in America is watching this and notes that Americans are INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY and will not have their guns taken away. As Grisham says on his blog,

No one should have to fear being illegally disarmed without warrant, especially someone who has never committed a crime in his life.

UOPD Interview with Photos

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

About 15 people gathered in the EMU Walnut Room Tuesday for coffee and discussion of the arming of UOPD. Interview here. Below, a photo essay by Oregon Commentator photographer Jazmin Avalos.

DSC_1141

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ASUO President is Again ASUO President

Monday, February 18th, 2013

On February 15th the UO Con Court effectively said “Never mind,” responding affirmatively to a motion to reinstate ASUO President Laura Hinman.

The Con Court decided that Hinman’s nonfulfillment of duties, which is the reason she was pulled from office in late January, had been remedied by ASUO Vice President Nick McCain. The petition for reinstatement cited Hinman’s appointing of Pat Chaney to the elections board, followed by Chaney’s recommendations of four other applicants and finally by McCain appointing those recommendations on February 7th, during Hinman’s forced absence.

The completion of an elections board resolved the initial dispute brought to the Con Court, which was a grievance filed against Hinman by Joanna Stewart. The full Con Court opinion can be read here.

And they all lived happily ever after, despite the excruciating budget hearings and God knows what else.

Senate 2/13 [UOPD Firearms Forum]

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

We had technical difficulties. Sorry, no live blog. Police Chief Carolyn McDermed, Captain Pete Deshpande and UOPD Communications Director Kelly McIver were present.

Alright, so McIver gave us the rundown on why guns will make better Police Officers.

Senator Hedlund was the first and only person on the speakers list. He wondered what the UOPD reps thought about putting the decision to arm up for student-wide vote.

McIver argued that would be divisive. Senator Ben Bowman agreed.

Also, if we did that, warned McIver, then UOPD would just go above us and get approval from the State Board of Higher Education.

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UOPD Firearm Forum, Gun Rant

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Almost 40 (a generous estimation) people not affiliated with the newly named University of Oregon Piggy Department gathered in Great Global Scholars Hall last night and a public forum started around 6PM. The subject? The arming of UO Police Officers.

Jamie Moffitt explained that amidst budget cuts with EPD and lessened support, the growing campus community has heightened needs.

Public information officer and communications director at UOPD Kelly McIver maintained that armament is part of the mission to keep the campus safe. He also reiterated a few times that UOPD will generally refer students to the Office of Student Conduct, rather inject legal troubles into their lives.

“Police are not here to police students,” McIver urged. Fun fact according to officials: 88% percent of the suspicious persons investigated by UO Public Safety last year were people unaffiliated with the UO.

Interim Police Chief Carolyn McDermed said it’s really all about relationships. Building a relationship with the community in order to best serve their needs.

The Register Guard has a good play-by-play.

Yes, as of January 1st, 2012 the men and women public-safetying our campus are suffering an inferiority complex. Currently, the UOPD has eleven sworn police officers with thirteen public safety officers aiding them. Only a “couple of” (which I can only assume to mean at maximum but also minimum two) officers are on duty during its 24/7 operation.

In the spirit of the Great Global Scholars Hall, I must ask, “Qué tipo de mierda es eso? Súper inefectivo!”

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ASUO President Yanked From Office

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

ASUO president Laura Hinman has been removed from office for nonfullfilment. To be candid, the reasons behind the removal are disappointing, considering the bar set by ASUO scandals in recent years.

The UO Constitutional Court ruled in favor of a grievance filed against Hinman, stating that she failed to appoint an elections board by a specified deadline. The ruling can be seen here. The grievance was filed by Joanna Stewart, manager for the notorious Katie Taylor and Alex Sylvester campaign.

Vice President Nick McCain will take over the position, though a petition to reinstate Hinman began shortly after the court decision.

The ASUO executive has not yet made a statement on the matter.

The Con Court doesn’t look anything like this…why?

Edit (2/18/13): An update on this issue can be seen here.

More Like EMU ReferenDUMB, Am I Right?

Friday, December 21st, 2012

It’s 10pm on a Friday night, which might be our last night alive, but here we are again discussing the debacle that is the EMU Referendum .

Student and USSA member Lucero Castaneda (the n having one of those squigglys above it that WordPress is reluctant to allow) has filed a grievance against ASUO president Laura Hinman, claiming a biased approach to the EMU referendum. For those of you who haven’t followed the sketchiness, this post from before the EMU referendum vote and this post from after can help catch you up.

The rule Castaneda accuses Hinman of violating is as follows:

The ASUO Elections shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the best interests of the student body. The elections shall be conducted in a fair, orderly and impartial manner, and the educational atmosphere of the University shall not be compromised, by any member of the ASUO involved in the electoral process.

Castaneda wrote; “The EMU Renovation Task Force…engaged in a heavy-handed pro-yes campaign on the EMU referendum. This is clearly indicated in the memo between the Task Force and the political consultant firm they hired, RBI strategies.” Click here for the memo.

She also says that Hinman’s membership in the EMU Renovation Task Force establishes her unfair inclination on the issue. The example provided is the ASUO’s education campaign, which Castenado says contains “slanted language and pro-renovation opinions presented as fact.” Students wishing to learn about the issue were directed to this website; judge for yourself.

Castaneda then cites Hinman’s selective approach to student involvement:

Campus outreach during the week of the referendum disproportionately targeted Greek life. No student union or other student group with space in the EMU was notified of the referendum, yet several fraternities and sororities were visited by members of the ASUO Executive and encouraged to vote in the referendum. Why would [Hinman] go out of her way to travel to the homes of students belonging to fraternities and sororities to encourage them to vote, but not attempt to contact students already present in the EMU? The reason is that [Hinman] perceived Greek students to be more likely to vote yes, and students belonging to groups within the EMU more likely to vote no.

Castaneda suggests that, because the methods to achieve a “yes” vote on the EMU renovation appear to be biased, a second vote is in order. “The most logical remedy is to invalidate the results of this referendum, and hold a second referendum on the same question, this time under the jurisdiction of a duly appointed elections board.”

Nike, Intel, Oregon & Friends

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Students and faculty at the UO know the power Nike has in Oregon. Even Google knows it. The sports empire has its well-fitted and flashy foot in the door of Oregon’s economy but, like the athletes it equips, faces heavy competition. Intel, a company that employs more Oregonians than any other, is disputing a bill that would give more tax breaks to Nike. Not-so-coincidentally, the bill being supported by Nike cuts out Intel.

The bill allows companies to lock in their tax structure so changes in their business won’t result in tax hikes. However, it doesn’t apply to companies that saved over five million dollars through the Strategic Investment Program. Last year Intel saved 22 million dollars thanks to the SIP.

The process behind how the guideline was added remains a mystery, but it’s clear that this is a skirmish for Oregon’s monetary favor between two titans. Both Nike and Intel promise expansion within Oregon in the near future, but this bill could directly affect their incentives and progress. In turn, Oregon jobs and industry. Governor John Kitzhaber has stated that he doesn’t support the SIP based exclusion, but what form the final legislation will take is still unclear.

What is clear is that’s one fine piece of mustache.

“Perceived” Rights and Smoker Ethics

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

After getting off of work in the dungeon that is the Knight Library basement, I stepped into the afternoon rain. I pulled a pre-rolled cigarette from my pocket (Bugler brand – mangy, disgusting Bugler) and lit it. Standing off to the side so as not to spread smoke, an elderly woman shot me the evil eye before stopping in front of me: “There’s no smoking on campus. Go smoke across the street.”

I stared at her until she left.

This kind of situation has become all-too-common since the Healthy Campus Initiative, in partnership with the UO Health Center and the administration (with a special guest funding appearance from the ASUO), implemented a campus-wide smoking ban at the beginning of the Fall. The idea of a smoking ban isn’t anything new; the Smoke Free Campus Task Force (SFTF) issued a report in 2008 that sought to

tak[e] up the matter of campus smoking policy with the understanding that the issue is fueled by strong personal convictions for perceived personal rights, both the right to be free from the effects of secondhand smoke and the right to choose to smoke cigarettes (STFT Report, emphasis mine)

The rest of the report either references student support from polls drawn from other universities, or flat-out neglects student responses in order to reference various studies, policies, and polls from other universities. Under “Synthesis of Survey Findings of UO Faculty, Staff, and Students,” the report states that

Many survey respondents are ready to support the move to a smoke free campus… [and] also were confident that this could be accomplished with designated smoking areas… (Ibid.)

Oh, hey, there’s a reasonable point. But no! The STFT simply cannot concede, because “enforcement becomes very difficult and compliance suffers as a result.” You don’t say.

No matter what the administration does, what programs it implements, what funding it pulls or pushes, students will push against it. Lord knows the Commentator will. The Healthy Campus Initiative tried to remedy this student disconnect with the “STFU” posters, a internet-conscious campaign that seemed to confuse people more than encourage quitting (check out this post about the issue from our very own Editor Emeritus Sophia Lawhead).

Another argument is that it unfairly targets lower-income UO workers. Even those filthy hipsters at the OV agree with us on this point. Making workers go off campus for a 15 minute smoke break is not only inconsiderate, but damaging to already-strained labor relationships.

“All I wanted was a non-fat, cream-jizzed latte with peasant tears in it!”

So why bring up this almost-5-year-old report, you may ask? Because Frances Dyke and company never really cared about what students thought. The UO has become a brand, and it needs to sell itself in order to keep flagging state funding and private donor contributions steady. The publicity surrounding the ban has relentlessly focused on the “progressive” aspects of the program without attending to the opinions of students or faculty – and if so, only through narrow data samples used to prop up their point.

But the effects of secondhand smoke are serious. I completely understand the goal behind the smoking ban. Cigarette butt litter continues to be a problem, and has only been exacerbated by the ban — take a look at the 13th and Kincaid entrance to campus if you don’t believe me. Families with young children and people with respiratory problems are also rightfully concerned.

The only way to fight this ban, then, is to implement a personal smoker code of ethics to demonstrate smoker commitment to a healthy campus and personal freedoms. Here’s mine:

  1. Always smoke away from buildings and large groups of people, and/or areas of great traffic.
  2. Stop inhaling and pull the cigarette as far away from passing families with children.
  3. If someone asks you to smoke off campus, politely decline or simply don’t say anything at all. You’ll be finished if and when they call DPS.
  4. Put butts out and make sure they’re extinguished before throwing them away.
  5. Throw butts in the trash.
  6. If an officer asks you to put your cigarette out, assess the situation. Fines suck, but so do the deprivation of “perceived personal rights.”
  7. Overall, recognize that your activity is looked down upon. Take pride in this.

It’s not perfect, but it works for me. The Commentator will continue to fight this arbitrary ban with articles, letters, appeals, and upcoming events like Tobacco Appreciation Day. But the ball is in smokers’ courts. We at the Commentator will do our best to point out the massive cavalcades of bullshit directed at students who make the choice to smoke. This smoking ban is just another attempt at nannying the student populace; the administration never does anything without direct benefit to them, and they’ve fucked smokers to bolster their public image under the pretense of “knowing what’s best.”

The whole campaign feels like yet another pat on the head, another assumption about our intelligence, actions, and responsibilities. But we’re not kids anymore. We’re adults, students, workers, and yes, smokers. So smoke ’em if ya got ’em. It’s going to be a long, long battle.

Pay Attention: EMU renovation and Social Host Ordinance

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Two (or three) things students should be aware of these coming weeks:

  1.  A supposedly “informative kickoff meeting” for the EMU referendum vote will be taking place TOMORROW (WEDNESDAY), November 7th at 3pm in the Mills International Center. Learn more about the renovation and how you can get involved. The ASUO Executive’s plan for the following week of voting will be addressed, as well as how students will be educated and informed. Students can’t have a voice if students don’t attend!
  2. The Eugene Social Host Ordinance can lead to a $1000 fine for having gatherings of five or more with alcohol served or consumed, noise complaints, littering ect. There is a petition to oppose it. There will be a rally in the EMU amphitheater on November 19th, 6:30pm and those opposing the ordinance should certainly show up at the Eugene city council meeting at 7:30pm in the Bascom-Tykes Room at Eugene Public Library (100 West 10th Avenue). They need 100 students in order to show the city council that the student body opposes this ordinance. There will be limited transportation provided for students to reach the Eugene Public Library. Anyone interested in helping campaign for this event should contact Senator Lamar Wise in the ASUO.
  3. And, oh yeah… you have about 2 hours to vote in the general elections. That’s important, I suppose.