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Archive for January, 2005

50,000 Fantasia Fans Apparently Wrong

January 24th, 2005 by olly

A weary, cathartic, unabashedly snobbish piece on American Idol here, from the SF Chronicle.

Just musing here. Riding a quiet, gurgling inner annoyance. Maybe what they’re doing on “American Idol” — as vindicated by the “judges” — is music. But in that it lacks passion of any kind, that it forsakes real emotion for overindulgent vocal tricks, well, then it’s not really music. Real music allows people to express themselves without the actual need to hit all the notes. That may go against operatic principles and raise a vigorous defense from people who like Whitney Houston and “pretty” voices, but it’s not up for argument. You should get a visceral reaction from music, not the sense that someone has sung lifeless pabulum to perfection. “I feel nothing from that song, but damn, she hit the high ones.”

Kudos also to writer Tim Goodman for adept deployment of the phrase “god-awful pox on humanity”. And if I’m only mentioning the piece because he cites Tom Waits and American Music Club – well, so be it. Nothing like having one’s own prejudices catered to.

“For Those Who Suffer From External Events”

January 23rd, 2005 by olly

Brace yourselves, everybody: tomorrow is set to be the most depressing day of the year, according to a psychologist from the University of Cardiff. I love this stuff:

The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action…The formula was devised to help a travel company “analyze when people book holidays and holiday trends,” said Alex Kennedy, spokesperson for Porter Novelli, a London-based PR agency.

This certainly is excellent public relations! Other than that… I knew things were pretty glum in Wales a lot of the time, but still, damn.

Grand Theft Auto as Political Speech?

January 23rd, 2005 by Sho

It might be a stretch to say that GTA: San Andreas is “high art” and significant social commentary, I mean, how many 14-year-olds are going to catch the in-game satire when they’re mowing down pedestrians in a combine? The author of this article seems to be fairly anti-consumerist, but makes some interesting points about how cleverly GTA: SA presents ideas on social inequality in the United States.

For Oliver

January 23rd, 2005 by Timothy

I know you’re an algebraist, buddy, but I still think you’ll appreciate this. [Via MR]

ASUO: “No News Is Good News”

January 21st, 2005 by olly

A couple of thoughts on the latest attempt to defund the ODE:

  • The Exec recommendation that gave rise to the decrease looks very familiar from last year. It’s based on a reader survey conducted during the 2003-2004 school year by the ODE, on its website, and it indicates that some percentage or other of the ODE’s readership is comprised of non-students. The slicing of the budget supposedly accounts for the non-student readership, although they might just as well have rolled a twenty-sided die.
  • This survey is completely useless, from a statistical standpoint, as the participants were self-selected. Moreover, there were only about a hundred respondents (D’oh! See below.) And it was on the website, if memory serves, which gets an unsurprisingly large number of readers from outside Eugene – a glance at all the random commenters they get from other states will convince you of this.
  • To reiterate: this survey was from the last school year.
  • That is, unless I’m missing something, they’re not just using meaningless figures, they’re using out-of-date meaningless figures.
  • Does this make anyone else want to just jump out of the window? Still, as my officemate put it: “Who ever heard of a university-subsidized student newspaper, anyway? It’s the kind of madness you’d only see in the liberal bizarro-world of Eugene.”

    UPDATED TO ADD: According to Moriah’s story from last year, it was 300 students. My memory ain’t what it used to be.

  • PFC Strikes Again!

    January 21st, 2005 by Timothy

    This time, the target is none other than the UO’s daily paper, the Oregon Daily Emerald. Leading this renewed charge against the free exchange of ideas? Our old friend Mason Quiroz of course.

    In a drawn-out debate that lasted more than an hour, PFC member Mason Quiroz made a motion to de-fund the Emerald completely.


    This renewed attack on the very idea of academic expression demonstrates not only that Quiroz lacks any understanding of viewpoint neutrality, but also is willing to undermine the principles of the academy in pursuit of his short-sighted goals.

    Quiroz goes on to state the following which, if you’ve been following the Commentator’s on-going battle with these same forces of darkness, is so obviously untrue as to be laughable:

    “I think the students deserve more than one paper, and I think the students shouldn’t have to pay $111,000 for a paper that isn’t read,” Quiroz added. “It is the responsibility of the PFC to the students.”

    Attempting to silence the two most widely-read publications on campus by slashing their funding puts the lie to that now, doesn’t it? The OC and the ODE are easily the two most popular rags on the UO campus and to take a swipe at both of them within weeks of each other is sickening.

    Granted, the ODE is only dependent upon the incidental fee for about 10% of its budget, and would probably be able to totter along all right sans that $100,000 or so, but losing that source of revenue would undoubtedly damage their ability to print, publish, and distribute. What’s more, even continuing to publish, lacking that $100,000 will damage the overall production value of the paper.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I give the ODE a lot of crap, especially about their columnists and headlines. However, I recognize that putting out a daily paper is hard work, especially while trying to go to school full time (which you must do to be employed at the Emerald), and the value of a campus daily like the ODE is more tha worth the cost.

    Not mention in the article linked above, however, is that the PFC debated a “lack of minority viewpoints” in the pages of the pages of the Emerald. On this I couldn’t agree more, but I think the PFC and I are operating on two very different definitions of minority.

    To those PSST members of PFC and ASUO Senate, minority is only skin deep. Their complaint is that the Emerald staff does not have an appropriately diverse number of phenotypes. My complaint is that the ODE editorial staff lacks sufficiently many viewpoints. Granted, it is the Opinion section, but a paper that claims to be a paper of record should endevor to have as diverese a selection of commentaries as possible. Of course there are space constraints, et cetera, but I don’t think it’d be that difficult to find a few different folks with a few different ideas. Maybe all of them are working for us, but I doubt it. Also, before any of y’all get all twitterpated about the OC’s lack of ideological diversity, the Commentator has never made any claim about being a journal of record. We are a journal of opinion, and thusly shall remain.

    Before I move on, I will commend the ODE for running a surprisingly wide range of guest commentaries and letters. I remember the Kleckner/Blanchard/Clifford days when only letters the editorial staff enjoyed were printed. So kudos to them on that, I still think the columnists could use a little bit of work, though.

    The point of all of this, really, is that the PFC is continuing its poorly thought-out and highly illegal persecution of campus publications for their content. Have the Oregon Voice and Student Insurgent been subjected to this kind of thing? Is Quiroz after the ODE because of their support for the Commentator? With the PFC’s complete lack of justification for their behavior, and their inability to understand very simple rules, we’ll likely never know the answer. However, it is certain that if these matters end up being decided by the courts, history will not look favorably on the PFC.

    Headline A Go-Go

    January 20th, 2005 by Timothy

    Today’s Winner:

    Oregon Legislature examines new bills addressing pertinent issues

    Next week the Governor is expected to sign some legislation related to Oregon policy, and the state judiciary is planning on hearing some cases involving law.

    Only $2.50 So Far Day

    January 20th, 2005 by olly

    Curses. By picking up a cup of coffee and a challah roll on the way to the office, I have already made a hash of my opportunity to participate in Not One Damn Dime Day, another one of these things that will

    complement the symbolism of those who turn their backs on Bush’s parade just as we will be turning our backs on Bush’s economy.

    This sounds like it’s going to be tricky. How can I make sure that I don’t spend any money today, and thereby do my bit to bring the economy to its knees? This point is addressed in the FAQ:

    The best way is to plan ahead. Buy groceries and other necessities the day before…

    Ah. I see.

    Our Best Shot At Reviving Polygamy

    January 19th, 2005 by olly

    I don’t think it’s online, but the vox-pop accompanying the ODE’s handgun story features this spectacular quote from grad student Corey Johnson:

    University policy should trump state law… its mission is to protect the safety and well-being of students.

    I couldn’t agree more. Myself, I have long envisioned the campuses of the Oregon University System as quasi-autonomous regions not subject to regulation by the rest of the state, as I think this is our best shot at reviving polygamy. Hopefully this guy is going to be running for public office sometime soon.

    “Invisible rays are being beamed into his house by his next-door neighbour to cause him injury.”

    January 19th, 2005 by olly

    One to add to the lexicon: “green ink letter”.

    Nine words! A full day’s work, I think. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to resume skulking in this basement.

    When Bad Women Go…Good?

    January 19th, 2005 by melissa

    I just caught this on Howard J. Bashman’s blog, How Appealing.

    The quote that may suggest this woman is not at all a stable individual:

    “Asked by show host Sean Hannity if she felt she bore a special burden as the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, McCorvey said she did experience guilt for a long time, but no longer. “I’ve been saved by the blood of the lamb through Jesus Christ, and so I’m just here,” she replied.”

    Sure, you may change your tune about your past and wish you hadn’t done something, but that doesn’t mean the United States Supreme Court needs to bend to your newfound religious insanity.

    Among other women I looked up to who went to the dark side: Bettie Page.

    For Erin: Good Thongs Gone Bad, because “It’s time to separate the princes from the frogs when it comes to your underwear collection.”

    Theo van Gogh Revisited

    January 16th, 2005 by pete

    Caught this story on NRO. Strangely, Drudge isnt covering this. Not strangely, the MSMs coverage is scant. Should be all over talk radio tomorrow.

    An entire family of Egyptian Christians, who had fled Egypt because of religious oppression, were horribly murdered in their Jersey City home. Mother, father, and two young daughters were all hacked to death. The father was a poster at a religious discussion message board, where he frequently got in heated exchanges with Muslims. One poster allegedly told him that youd better stop this bullshit or we are going to track you down like a chicken and kill you.

    Nothing was stolen from the house, and one daughters wrists were slashed open where she had a tattoo of the Coptic cross.

    According to this blog, the murders happened in a neighborhood that was once the Irish slum called “Five Corners, the immigrant melting pot featured in Gangs of New York.

    An open letter to the Programs Finance Committee

    January 15th, 2005 by danimal

    [Note: Entry has been dated forward to remain at the top of the page until January 2005]

    Dear Programs Finance Committee Members,

    I dont think you are aware of the delicate ground you began to tread upon when you rejected the Oregon Commentators mission statement. The word “unconstitutional” gets tossed around a little too often by laypersons, but that is where we are headed here. Indeed, I am stunned, because I’m seeing cases I studied just two weeks ago in Constitutional Law II come to life before my eyes. As a representative of the Commentator, Id just like to share my own thoughts and analysis about the situation in hopes of persuading you to change course and respect our right to free expression.

    Altogether now: viewpoint neutrality!

    The Programs Finance Committee, acting on behalf of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, is, as a program to facilitate extracurricular student speech, required by the First Amendment to fund student groups engaged in speech on a viewpoint-neutral basis. Board of Regents v. Southworth, 529 U.S. 217, 221 (2000). This means it cannot consider the views expressed by the Commentator in making decisions about our organizations funding.

    Even if the Commentator has engaged in any form of unprotected speech, it is not the PFCs job to make this judgment. To our knowledge, the PFC hasnt taken steps to secure a legal opinion about our content from the Universitys General Council, but even that would not suffice. Absent a legal judgment (civil verdict or conviction) in a court of law that we have made specific utterances of unprotected speech, the PFC has no business saying what our expressions are or are not. As my Constitutional Law Professor, Garrett Epps, often quips, Who died and made you Pope? A judgment by the PFC that our content enjoys no First Amendment protection or is not culturally advantageous is an act of viewpoint discrimination.

    Be that as it may, it may be worth asking, does any of our speech fall into one of the categories unprotected by the First Amendment?

    Hate Speech? What’s Hate Speech?

    Oregon has no statute criminalizing hate speech. Whatever the PFC might conceive it to be, it is not illegal, unprotected speech. I dont think I can stress that enough. The Supreme Court ruled a hate speech statute unconstitutional in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, even if it was restricted in its application to the already unprotected category of fighting words. 505 U.S. 377 (1992). The Court held that prohibition[s] of fighting words that contain messages of bias-motivated hatred impermissibly discriminate against a particular class of fighting words on the basis of viewpoint. Id. Thus, even a judgment that we have engaged in fighting words would have to be viewpoint-neutral.

    Fighting Words and Related Offences

    Fighting words are those which by their very utterance (a) inflict injury, or (b) tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942). It bears noting that the Supreme Court has not upheld a single fighting words conviction in the 62 years since Chaplinsky. In Oregon, the closest statutory offenses to the traditional crime of fighting words are Menacing and Intimidation. A potential application of each of these statutes is analyzed below.

    ORS 163.190. Menacing.

    (1) A person commits the crime of menacing if by word or conduct the person intentionally attempts to place another person in fear of imminent serious physical injury.

    Any allegation that our published content falls under the definition of menacing is doomed to fail for two reasons. First, the law requires intent. I can assure you, flat-out, that it has never and will never be our intent, as a publication, to place another person in fear of serious physical injury. Second, the law requires that the serious physical injury be imminent. Given that we publish anywhere from every two weeks to every month or so, and that, after publishing, the magazine must be distributed, picked up, and actively read before any person could attain from our words a fear of serious physical injury, the requirement of imminence is simply impossible to meet.

    ORS 166.155. Intimidation in the second degree.

    (1) A person commits the crime of intimidation in the second degree if the person:

    (c) Intentionally, because of the person’s perception of race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation of another or of a member of the other’s family, subjects such other person to alarm by threatening:

    (A) To inflict serious physical injury upon or to commit a felony affecting such other person, or a member of the person’s family; or

    (B) To cause substantial damage to the property of the other person or of a member of the other person’s family.

    As with menacing, any allegation that we had engaged in intimidation even in the second degree would falter immediately on the requirement of intent. Further, it is a long logical leap to construe any of our published statements as threats to inflict serious physical injury, or to commit a felony, or to cause substantial damage to the property of any person.

    Incitement and related offenses

    Speech is incitement if it is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to do so. Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). First, this definition requires that we speak with intent to incite lawless action. Again, we dont. Second, it requires that the lawless action be imminent. And again, due to the time delays in publishing, distribution, and consumption, we do not have the capacity to incite imminent action of any kind. The Brandenburg case involved videotaped statements made on an isolated farm and later broadcast on television. This illustrates well Brandenburgs requirement of imminence. Finally, Brandenburg requires that our speech be likely to incite lawless action. How likely is it that a reader will read our magazine and as a direct result take it upon themselves to break the law, other than perhaps to be inspired to engage in underage drinking?

    The only Oregon law that comes under the realm of incitement is essentially a traditional falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater statute:

    ORS 166.025. Disorderly conduct.

    (1) A person commits the crime of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, the person:

    (f) Initiates or circulates a report, knowing it to be false, concerning an alleged or impending fire, explosion, crime, catastrophe or other emergency.

    Since we havent knowingly initiated or circulated false reports of any alleged or impending fire, explosion, crime, catastrophe or other emergency, we have steered well clear of incitement. Although arguably we have made statements alleging the commission of a crime, these were made in quite obvious jest and therefore not asserted as fact. Further, none was ever made with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof.

    Harrassment under the University of Oregon Student Code of Conduct

    Offenses 571-21-030

    (19) Harassment on University property or at University-sponsored or supervised activities, because of another person’s race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, or sexual orientation, or for other reasons accomplished by:

    (b) Specifically insulting another person in his or her immediate presence with abusive words or gestures when a reasonable person would expect that such act would cause emotional distress or provoke a violent response.

    Although, unlike state laws, the schools definition of harrassment lowers the culpability requirement from intention to negligence, it is nevertheless drafted quite narrowly, and in such a way that nothing the Commentator prints could reasonably be found to fall within the definition. It requires insults in a persons immediate presence with abusive words. Abusive is not elsewhere defined, but the important point is that no printed speech is made in the immediate presence of the receiver.

    Furthermore, to the extent that the Student Conduct Code exceeds the traditional categories of unprotected speech under the Constitution, it should not be applied to our content.

    Speech-related torts

    Any objectionable statements we have made were either parody or criticism of campus public figures. Therefore, it must be proven by clear and convincing evidence that we knowingly made false statements of fact, or recklessly disregarded the truth or falsity of such statements. Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988). If we have made assertions of painfully obvious untruth in an effort at parody, proving these to be assertions of fact would be a difficult undertaking. Thus Jerry Falwell failed to recover damages from Hustler for an ad parody suggesting he had had drunken sex with his mother in an outhouse. Its just that difficult.

    Summing up

    All of this analysis of possibly unprotected speech is, again, merely a thought experiment. It is our steadfast contention that the PFC acts improperly when it determines, of its own accord, that some of our speech does not enjoy the constitutional protection of viewpoint neutrality. That determination is not the PFCs to make and it is an act of impermissible viewpoint discrimination. The legal status of our speech can only be determined in a court of law.


    Daniel Atkinson

    Publisher & Member of Board of Directors
    Oregon Commentator

    Second-year law student
    University of Oregon

    Take Another Ride On LTD, You Can Get It To Go…

    January 12th, 2005 by Timothy

    Nowhere, apparently. Those of you who’re new to the Eugene area won’t remember the damnable LTD girl commercials, but as horrible as they were, they at least advertised a service that existed. Further, a service that students pay for and could actually use.

    If LTD is shut down by a strike, Lane County should refund somewhere in the neighborhood of 2/3 of the ~$500,000 incidental fee subsidy that is paid for the student bus passes. You see, my pretties, taking the bus isn’t free, you’ve just already paid for it. However, unlike most of the other crap that the incidental fee gets wasted on, at ~$25 per student per year the LTD pass is a steal compared to their retail rates. Granted, there’s some rule in place such that incidental fee money cannot be returned directly to students (Dan, Adrian?), but the $330,000 and change could be put in a holding account to be applied to next year’s LTD subsidy.

    Of course, what’s likely to happen in the (highly improbable) event that LTD does the right thing, is that money being put into the over-realized fund and used for some more solar panels on the EMU.

    Johnny’s Just Different, He’s Not Delusional

    January 10th, 2005 by Timothy

    I know somebody posted about Marjorie Taylor not too long ago, but I’m quite frankly too lazy to look it up. However, there is this darling ODE story about her work today.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I had a class from Professor Taylor my freshman year at the university. I found her to be an obnoxious, terrible instructor with little to no interest in her students. I also got the impression that her entire goal in life was to disprove every aspect of developmental psychology ever invented by a man [especially Piaget, boy did she ever hate Piaget].

    This recent work mainly gives me the impression that she’s just making shit up:

    In an article published in 2003 in Imagination Cognition and Personality in conjunction with University associate professor of psychology Sara D. Hodges and former University master’s student Adele Kohanyi, Taylor described a phenomenon called the illusion of independent agency.

    And, of course, Taylor has a very noble goal in mind:

    Ultimately, Taylor said she hopes her work will contribute to a greater understanding of the human mind.

    “I’m trying to understand the human mind and I think imagination is a very important part of it,” she said.

    Way to be specific there, Marge.

    UPDATE: It was Melissa who posted about good ol’ Marge Taylor