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Archive for October, 2008

“Any idiot can pick up a pen and a notebook and call himself a journalist – and many of them do.”

October 7th, 2008 by CJ Ciaramella

A couple days ago the Oregonian ran a follow-up on a story that’s been brewing for a while. The Lake Oswego City Council is drafting an asinine definition of what constitutes a journalist. The brewhaha started when a blogger for Loaded Orygun attempted to sit in on a closed executive session of the city council. Normally, journalists in Oregon are privy to these meetings, although under the agreement that they don’t report on them.

The Lake Oswego City Council wasn’t happy about some uppity blogger trying to horn in on their meeting, hence the proposed definition. This is the current draft of the city council’s requirements to be “a journalist:”

• Regular reporting on the Lake Oswego City Council

• Multiple personnel with defined roles

• Registration with the state Corporation Division

• Reporting “conducted continuously (at least weekly) and permanently”

• Publications or broadcasts that include “at least 25 percent news content”

• Media representatives would be allowed to attend executive sessions if they provide evidence that includes “proof satisfactory to the City Council that the person is gathering news,” along with a press badge, a recently published news article with their byline or an editor’s note on letterhead.

Even worse news from the Big O:

To avoid a patchwork of different city or county media policies, the Legislature might have to enact a clearer definition of “media,” said Paul Nolte, legal services program consultant for the League of Oregon Cities.

Journalists and proponents of free speech should find any attempt by government to define “journalist” unsettling. The first step to regulating and prohibiting is to define. Without a proper definition, it’s hard for the government to get its slimy tentacles around something (to wit: the Supreme Court’s sisyphean attempts to define obscenity).

Also consider: I fulfill almost all of these requirements as a reporter for the Oregon Commentator, yet I’m pretty sure I’m the exact type of person the Lake Oswego City Council (or some similar body) doesn’t want sitting in on their executive sessions. Once they figured that out, there would no doubt be even stricter requirements.

The article also quotes UO journalism professor Kyu Youm, who is a damn fine First Amendment scholar:

“Sometimes, bloggers are now able to provide some wonderful sources of information in addition to what the public may find in the traditional news media,” he said. “I think the information gatherers should not be limited to the traditional media.”

* Headline quote by Sean Scully, freelance journalist

Free Speech Prevails Over Violence

October 6th, 2008 by Vincent

Just a quick update to a  story posted here back in August. At that time, Random House refused to publish a potentially controversial novel about the life Aisha, wife of Muslim figurehead Mohammad. Random House dropped the book due to concerns voiced by an American academic who recommended that the novel not be published because of the potential to offend Muslims and instigate violence.

I wrote at the time:

I just think it’s a sad testament to how culturally spineless we in the West have become, essentially letting thugs with knives, bombs, and AK-47’s dictate what will be published and what will not. It’s espeicially disgusting that a member of the academy would rather prevent a book from being published than to write a critique of it after the novel had come out, especially since said academic would almost certainly never stand for a similar treatment of her own work.

I’m gratified to see that the novel has finally been published in the United States by Beaufort Books. Unfortunately, the British publisher, Gibson Square Books has been the target of arson and as a result may not end up releasing the book in the U.K. after all. Both publishers should both be applauded for ignoring the “advice” of academics more concerned with avoiding offense than with protecting free speech and standing up to violent religious nihilists. In a free society, publishers should never have to be concerned about violent retaliation for publishing “offensive” literature.

For all I know, The Jewel of Medina could be the worst book ever penned, full of slander and lies about Mohammad; it doesn’t matter. As Eric Kampmann, president of Beaufort said, “[I]t was better for everybody… to let the conversation switch from a conversation about terrorists and fearful publishers to a conversation about the merits of the book itself.”

That sounds about right. If The Jewel of Medina is crap, then critics will savage it. If it’s full of lies about Mohammad, then knowledgeable Muslims can educate people about what’s wrong with it. If it turns out to be a modern classic, then people will go buy it. What’s important is that they have the opportunity.

Touche, Sir.

October 6th, 2008 by Vincent

With several European states, including Iceland and Germany frantically shoring up their own financial sectors, Ronald Bailey wonders if the great “de-regulation boogeyman” is really to blame for the current economic woes after all:

Who knew that Europe, of all places, was so under-regulated? Or maybe de-regulation is not the chief cause for the outbreak of financial chaos? Just wondering. 

Good point.

Sneaky, Sneaky Bailout

October 6th, 2008 by Vincent

Remember how that bailout plan was supposed to shore up a banking system on the verge of collapse? Remember how it was absolutely necessary to pass it in Congress for the sake of the economy?

Well, unsurprisingly, lawmakers used the opportunity to ram through some other legislation. One such law that has absolutely nothing to do with rescuing the financial system is a set of new rules mandating that employers have to provide parity in coverage for treatment of physical and mental illnesses.

Interestingly, the Times article spends most of its article talking about the wonderful, bi-partisan consensus-building that went into passing the law, but spends virtually no ink explaining why this bill didn’t face a vote on its own merits. Instead, it was rather surreptitiously inserted into a bailout plan that the country was assured was absolutely necessary for the health of the economy.

Not that we should be surprised.

ACORN, a “community organizing group” with a history of election fraud problems was another one of the original beneficiaries of the bailout, and one of the major reasons that Congressional Republicans opposed the bailout the first time around. To my knowledge they were removed from the final draft.

In any case, the whole thing looks more and more like a boondoggle for taxpayers and a convenient way for members of Congress to pass legislation that would otherwise probably face more scrutiny.

E. Neil Trautwein, vice president of the “National Retail Federation”, was quoted as saying, “We built the [mental health insurance] bill piece by piece from the ground up. It’s a good harbinger for future efforts on health care reform.”

It’s a harbinger, alright. I’m not sure if it’s a good one.

Elections, 1789 – 2008

October 6th, 2008 by Vincent

Via Norm Geras, this interactive map of how the Electoral College has broken down for each election since 1789.

I rather like that in  1868 Oregon’s 3 mighty electoral votes went to Horatio Seymour, who was beaten badly by that old drunk Ulysses S. Grant. “Recreate ’68” indeed.

Sara Benincasa Has Joined Huffington Post!

October 3rd, 2008 by Amy

I’m proud to announce that one of my favorite comedians, and Palin impersonator, Ms. Benincasa, has been picked up by the Huffington Post to have her Palin videos featured in their comedy section 23/6.

While this video isn’t their funniest (it’s funny, but there are much better skits), I just loved this improvised line:

“Come on! People are going out getting raped right and left, I won’t… I can’t pay for all of that, we’ve got an arena to build!”

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

This is the best news story ever

October 3rd, 2008 by CJ Ciaramella

Seriously. You can’t make this shit up.

Eternal thanks to OC alum Ian Spencer for bringing this to my attention.

P.J. O’Rourke – Cancer Patient

October 2nd, 2008 by Vincent

P.J. O’Rourke is diagnosed with cancer; thanks God for death, whiskey.

A Swing and a Miss

October 2nd, 2008 by Vincent

In today’s Ol’ Dirty, Matt Petryni has done the world a favor by distilling the last eight years of the progressive movement’s bitterness, victim posturing, and recent Obamic messianism into what is surely going to top peoples’ lists for “Cutest Little Article of the Year“, starting thusly:

Since the 1980s, political liberals have largely been thought of as the minority. Their views were quickly discredited, their programs systematically dismantled, their diverse ranks were painted as latte-sipping demons who sought to micromanage the lives of “real Americans.” Any attempt to deny this is to deny reality… 

The liberal voice was, for the most part, silenced.

Thankfully, the revolutionary vanguard was struggling to ensure that folks like Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Jon Stewart, every pot-smoking, bedreadlocked college kid, and millions of anti-whatever protesters were spared a midnight visit from the Gestapo during these last 28 years of jackbooted oppression!

After this pouting, he intones a litany of boilerplate college progressive criticisms of the Bush Administration and Republicans in general, with a dash of hyperbole thrown in for good measure (“Our economic crisis, now front and center, will likely rival even the Great Depression in its severity.” The horror!)

But all that’s just a warm-up for the real meat of the article: Liberals only want to help, so vote for change! After informing his readership that there is no “good” way to resolve our country’s problems, he assures us that “[t]he only true way to effectively resolve the crisis we face is the liberal way”:

Liberals seek not to overburden the taxpayer with regulations, with social and diplomatic causes. They seek only to prevent the taxpayer from being burdened with the consequences of not pursuing those causes and regulations. Without levees, cities flood. Without allies, wars fail. Without regulations, greed prevails, and dangerous risks are assumed. And without environmental protections, natural resources are degraded. Without planning and prevention, consequences and costs result.

All of these terrible things are, of course, assumed to be the natural by-products of “conservative” boogeymen and their disastrous policies, which he goes on to limply admit that are arguably not to blame at all.

Instead of attempting to actually refute that criticism, however, Petryni simply suggests that we, as a society, “change” and start living up to our responsibilities as members of the “American community”, by which he presumably means “vote for Barack Obama”. After all, once Obama is President, things’ll be so great that taxes won’t even really be like taxes anymore — they’ll really be more like “investments”! Whether or not American “investors” will be “investing” their money in stuff like billions of dollars of bailouts for the financial industry and Detroit is left unsaid.

“What a monumental fuck-up,” indeed.

RIAA Gets Its Way at Oregon

October 2nd, 2008 by Vincent

A few months ago the State Attorney General intervened to put the brakes on RIAA demands that the University of Oregon pass along identifying information about a number of students suspected of engaging in illegal file-sharing. Unfortunately, it looks as if a judge has stepped in and sided with the recording industry, allowing the RIAA to once again try to force the U of O to give up the information.

As ArsTechnica makes clear, just having an IP that is associated with a given computer’s MAC address is not a sure-fire way of identifying a user:

Only one of the students flagged by MediaSentry for offering files for download lived in a single-occupancy dorm room. Five lived in a double-occupancy room, while nine were on the university’s wireless network.

Nevertheless, it seems likely that the students in question could be paying hefty price for (alleged) copyright infringement, even though the RIAA “says it’s not trying to bully students by jacking up the settlement cost” from $4,000 to $8,000. I know I believe them.

Your Weekly ASUO Boondoggle

October 1st, 2008 by CJ Ciaramella

I had to leave the Senate meeting early tonight. Well, not early. I’d already been sitting in the boardroom for three hours, and the Senate was not even halfway through the agenda. Besides a brief appearance by Zach Vishanoff, it was a joyless headache of an affair. But on to the real news …

As I previously mentioned, the ASUO Senate had $196,000 in over-realized requests to approve or disapprove. Part of the money was rollover from last year, and the rest was the allocated money from the denied BWA and CASL proposals. If the BWA money is not spent tonight, it will most likely roll into the general fund, meaning students would see nothing for it. There is also a chance that the CASL money will roll into the G-fund if not spent.

Unlike most of the time when the Senate gets to throw money around, though, they weren’t happy about it. (more…)

Senate Meeting Tonight

October 1st, 2008 by CJ Ciaramella

There’s a big ol’ ASUO Senate meeting tonight at 7 p.m. I’ll be reporting on it; well, at least some of it. The meeting is projected to go pretty long. This is because the Senate is doling out $200,000 in over-realized funds. You can read a partial list of the requests in the above link.

I’ll have a blog post breaking down the meeting tonight, and I’ll be “twittering” (god, I hate that word so much. I mean, I’m all for new media, but can’t you give it a name that doesn’t make my blood boil?) breaking developments and snarky comments.

Wish Granted

October 1st, 2008 by CJ Ciaramella

Dear Commentator Staff,

Please invest more time and effort into the criticism and ridicule of what is called “The Weekly Enema”.


The Brainerd lab monitor who had to stay after close so those stupid assholes could exploit the free printer for their sorry shitrag.

P.S. They wrote some dumb shit about Sudsy being renamed Spelunky or some shit. [ED NOTE:This is true.]

Thank you for your letter, Brainerd lab monitor. We highly value your concerns and feedback, and we will do our best to accommodate your request … starting now.

Yeah, we lost a drinking contest – disgrace, ignominy, etc. The Weekly Enema wrote about it (as linked above). The only thing I really feel the need to comment on is this sentence from the, err, article:

“[W]ould it kill you guys to get a keg of a nice microbrew? Like CD players and choking yourself, Miller High Life went out of fashion in high school.”

Considering that I put a whole keg on my debit card and didn’t ask the Enema staff (or anyone else) to chip in for it, they’ve got a lot of sack to criticize my beer choice. In fact, if they’re going to whine about drinking my beer, the Enema staff can (1) die in a tire fire and (2) consider any future Commentator events they attend to be BYOB. Cheers!