Sunday, November 24, 2002

Lou’s corner

This week, ombudsman Lou Gelfand addresses the issue of bias in The Minneapolis Star Tribune. The column appears to have been pulled from the website, but here’s what remains:

Lou Gelfand: Coverage of West Bank hostilities leaves some readers seeing red
Israeli and Palestinian loyalists agreed last week that the Star Tribune's coverage is biased. For different reasons, of course.

I love that language of moral equivalence. Change it slightly and you can see how bizarre it is.

Lou Gelfand: Coverage of Final Solution leaves some readers seeing red
Jewish and NAZI loyalists agreed last week that the Star Tribune's coverage is biased. For different reasons, of course.

Let’s take this a little further. Here’s a quote from the The Star Tribune’s assistant managing editor, Roger Buoen, earlier this year:

We also take extra care to avoid the term “terrorist” in articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of the emotional and heated nature of that dispute.

Applying that same philosophy to another era, we get:

We also take extra care to avoid the term “genocide” in articles about the Jewish-NAZI conflict because of the emotional and heated nature of that dispute.

Eric Olsen took apart a similar argument used by NPR:

Sadly, rather than appearing neutral, which may or may not be their actual goal, NPR appears to favor the Palestinians because there is no definition in any language on the face of the earth that doesn't conclude that ‘terrorism’ is the purposeful killing of noncombatants to frighten said populace into changing policies the ‘terrorists’ don't like. When one appears to be bending over backwards to achieve ‘neutrality’ and said ‘neutrality’ requires contortions, evasions and moral blinders to be maintained, that very ‘neutrality’ becomes evidence of the opposite.

There is no moral equivalence between those who desire to live in peaceful co-existence with their neighbors and those who wish to “drive them into the sea” because of their religion and ethnicity. The inability to recognize the distinction is strong evidence of bias, or worse.

UPDATE: Lou's column is back online.

UPDATE: Here's an Opinion Journal from February making much the same point.

the Minneapolis Star Tribune is willing to call al Qaeda a terrorist organization. But if you murder only Jews, you are not a terrorist--at least in the eyes of those who edit Minnesota's largest newspaper. We wish we were making this up, but it's right there in yesterday's column by Star Tribune ombudsman Lou Gelfand.

Front-page graphic detail of the rape of an 8-year-old
Mike Needs, ombudsman for The Akron Beacon Journal, reports that:

[S]everal readers thought the Akron Beacon Journal crossed [The boundary line that separates reality reporting and reader sensibilities] with a Nov. 16 front-page story that described the rape of an 8-year-old Akron girl. The information provided was far too detailed and far too unnecessary, they said.

One reader wrote: “I am completely outraged at your reporting of the most private details of the young girl's rape. You have moved beyond the realm of decency and human compassion.”

Needs doesn’t say if the girl was named in the article, but regardless her friends and acquaintances will be able to figure out who she is. The Beacon Journal’s story seems to fit into a modern trend of providing more detail about rapes under the rationale of removing “stigma.” Or, as another reader said:

...newspapers need more reporting on rape, not less. “Maybe the publication of such details will assist in educating the public as to the reality of rape as a power/dominance matter rather than a sexual one.”

There are two problems with that argument. First, rape is not merely a “power/dominance matter rather than a sexual one.”’s Bob Steele quotes from author Helen Benedict’s Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes:

Rape is best characterized as torture that uses sex as a weapon. Like a torturer, the rapist uses sexual acts to dominate, humiliate, and terrorize the victim," Benedict writes.

"To deny the role of sexual humiliation in rape is to deny victims the horror of what they have been through. As long as people have any sense of privacy about sexual acts and the human body, rape will, therefore, carry a stigma, not necessarily a stigma that blames the victim for what happened to her, but a stigma that links her name irrevocably with an act of intimate humiliation."

"To name a rape victim is to guarantee that whenever somebody hears her name, that somebody will picture her in the act of being sexually tortured. To expose a rape victim to this without her consent is nothing short of punitive."

Second, while it may be courageous for a 24-year-old victim to come forward with her story, an eight-year-old lacks the maturity to make such a decision. Publishing the graphic details of the young girl’s rape does little to remove stigma, and links “her name irrevocably with an act of intimate humiliation.”

A reader sums it up best. “The Beacon Journal has merely added to the continual degradation of our societal norms. . .”

Friday, November 22, 2002

Taxpayer-funded sex discrimination

PostWatch is exposing institutions that discriminate on the basis of sex, yet receive Federal funds.

I'm shocked, shocked!

Blackface, the new anti-establishment protest?
According to Erin O’Connor, there appears to be a sort of mini-epidemic of blackface-related incidents on campus:

…I want to stress the highly stylized pattern that surrounds the wearing of blackface on college campuses. It's almost always fraternity brothers who do it; they almost always do it at Halloween; they always incur the righteous wrath of the campus; that wrath doesn't distinguish between dressing as tennis stars and dressing as Sambo; there is always some kind of discipline; often, in the process of doling out the discipline, administrators violate the offenders' constitutional rights; there is also always talk of institutionalized racism--the history of minstrelsy is always invoked, as are the less-than-optimal numbers of black students on the campus in question. To say that blackface episodes signify the presence of unreconstructed racism on campus is to miss the wider picture, which is that the donning of blackface is one scene in a complex campus-wide dramatization of the racial tension built into the multicultural agenda that presides over an increasing number of college campuses.

Fraternity members wear blackface not because they don't know that it will be seen as racist, but because they know it will. They are deliberately flouting campus convention with their costumes; I would argue that blackface says less about the racial awareness of its wearer than it does about his rejection of politically correct codes of conduct. The white male fraternity brother is the emblematic oppressor on campus today--he symbolizes all that the many speech codes, harassment policies, sensitivity workshops, and diversity requirements cluttering up his campus most revile. To use the phraseology of oppression theory, blackface as it is worn on campuses today might more rightly be understood as a form of resistance than a sign of neanderthalism. That doesn't make it right. But it might help explain it.

Study Finds Sex, Pregnancy Link
If you want to read some funny material, go to Bob Levy’s column in today's The Washington Post.

via Media Minded

Life repeats Woody Allen, only without the laughs
In his campy comedy Bananas, Woody Allen goes to the fictional country of San Marcos where there's a revolution. The country's new president soon becomes drunk with power and decrees that the official language of San Marcos is Swedish, that everyone must change their underwear every half-hour, and that they must wear it on the outside of their clothes so the government will be able to check. Eventually San Marcos is invaded by everyone from Americans troops to the Jewish Defense League.

If Joel Soler, director of the documentary Uncle Saddam, is to be believed, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein is a real-life version of the leader in Bananas. While the people of Iraq are not required to wear their underwear on the outside (yet), Saddam instructs his subjects on how often to bathe (once a day for men, twice for women) and how to brush their teeth. His sycophants greet him by kissing him on the shoulder in a spot about halfway between his armpit and his nipple. He maintains an elaborate art museum containing only portraits of himself. His office must be maintained at a specified temperature determined by his doctors and he is deathly afraid of germs. And this only scratches the surface.

It would be funny if Saddam’s rule weren’t so tragic for his people, and if his military adventures and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction didn’t make him a threat to the rest of the world. He may not be clinically psychotic, but he’s definitely nuts.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

This is just plain gross

My counter keeps track of the last twenty inquiries to The OmbudsGod. It's not protected so anyone can look at it -- the button is just below the Powered by Blogger button on the left. Some inquiries are interesting, some not, and some are weird. For example, someone from Tehran just found OBG by Googling "decapitating sex women pictures." Now I'm not usually one to criticize a person's sexual proclivities, but this is just plain gross.

What’s up, Joe?
I like to follow up on former National Review senior editor Joseph Sobran from time to time just to see what new frontiers of idiocy he’s exploring. Here’s the latest from his website -- he’s taken a stand on Democracy. Apparently, he’s agin it:

When the media find a Senate contest involving Walter Mondale the most exciting race in the country, it’s time to admit that democracy hasn’t quite lived up to its billing. Why is this a system we should impose on the rest of the world, when it isn’t even serving us very well? Maybe regime change should begin at home.

Conspiracy theories in the news
John Chappell posts an interview from Vanguardia with former Adjunct Secretary General of the UN, Denis Halliday. I wonder how many other Europeans think like this? Example:

Q. Why is [the United States] going to [attack Iraq]?

A. Iraq is the second-largest oil producer in the world. It's simply that. The United States wants absolute control of the oil market.

Q. Oil is an obsession of the Bushes.

A. And Bush is ready to do whatever it takes to get control over it. And once it has absolute control, you can be sure that Europe will pay a very high price for that oil.

Q. So why didn't they take over Iraq after they won the first Gulf War?

A. Bush Senior pulled back at the possibility of an explosion of the Kurdish powder-keg and an Iranian intervention. It's a very complex area, very much so.

John speculates Denis is receiving messages in his tooth fillings. If so, he and Mikey Rivero must be tuned into the same frequency.

Actually, that’s not fair. Halliday probably believes this nonsense.

UPDATE: The Blogspot link doesn't work, so I've linked to the top of John's main page. It's the piece posted at 15:55 today.

Don Wycliff on strident hyperpartisan pro-Bush zealots
While admitting that an unflattering picture of President Bush, obtained from Agence France-Presse, “amounted to a Page 1 editorial in which George W. Bush was being labeled an idiot and a clown, unsuited to the presidency,” The Chicago Tribune’s ombudsman still manages to lash out at the “strident hyperpartisanship of those pro-Bush zealots who live to hate Clinton and find evidence of media bias. The zealots probably relished 'that picture' because it confirmed their conviction that the media are against them.”

If the picture didn’t confirm the bias, Wycliff’s column certainly did.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Michael Rivero and the Toronto Star

I first encountered Michael Rivero in the late ‘90s when he was a common nuisance at, which at that time was the locus of anti-Clinton activity on the web. Rivero seemed a little brighter than your average wingnut, and I always suspected that he was more a con artist than a true believer. Rivero ran a website named Rancho Runamukka to promote his conspiracy theories. He would see a U.S. government plot behind every tree, but didn't seem to share the anti-Semitism of much of the conspiracy crowd.

Rivero has since abandoned Rancho and has another website, Whatreallyhappened is a sort of clearinghouse for the conspiracy crowd, and following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 he began promoting increasingly anti-Semitic material. The material is similar to much of the material currently popular with elements of the anti-American Left, and may in fact be a source for them. It has also grown more sophisticated, such that someone inclined to believe the worst about the U.S., and not familiar with Rivero’s reputation, might easily be sucked into treating it as a credible source – at least at first.

Rivero recently hit the jackpot when media columnist Antonia Zerbisias endorsed his website as “carefully considered, well crafted and very compelling” in her column for the Toronto Star, causing something of a stir. Canadian blogger Damian Penny keeps track of Rivero and has the details on his website, but suffice it to say that Zerbisias was alerted to the anti-Semitic nature of Rivero’s site and issued a sort-of apology.

Zerbisias also denounced Bnai Brith for not contacting her before issuing a press release that said, in part:

According to sites recommended by the Toronto Star’s media columnist, Antonia Zerbisias, F. D. Roosevelt orchestrated Pearl Harbour, George W. Bush was part of a Jewish conspiracy to destroy the World Trade Centre, and the Jews were behind a rash of anthrax letters.

Zerbisias reports that:

Today [Bnai Brith] applied direct pressure on me and The Star to retract my column, to criticize the anti-Israeli portions of the site, to take my column off our web site etc.

I refused.

And The Star's ombudsman stands by this decision.
As far as I am concerned, this matter is now finished.

Note that my original column is still on The Star's web site.

The ombudsman is Don Sellar, and in his most recent column he admonished his newspaper not to use the word “crusade” because the “Canadian Islamic Congress and many Muslims” are offended.

Draw your own conclusion.

UPDATE: Check out Rivero's Letters section. His responses to his readers are a font size larger, and it's hard to tell who's nuttier. Sample:

I just read a letter on your site, from one of your many readers concerning the non-existent Israeli casualties in the WTC buildings following the attack on 911. Like many, I also found this highly suspicious, so I checked web sites with the official casualty list. Sure enough, one Israeli and he was a passenger on one of the Aircraft.

I speak German quite well and had some Jewish friends as a schoolboy, so I am able to discern 'Jewish' names better than most. I took a long, hard look at the names of nearly 3000 persons listed as casualties in the actual buildings. In all there were 76 persons with 'Jewish' names like Birnbaum or Goldstein (actually, there were three persons killed named Goldstein who may have been related) while others had less obviously 'Jewish' names.

But I could come up with no more than 76. I would say those are 95% likely to be accurate. I am aware that some Jewish people, to avoid discrimination Anglicised their names generations ago so I will have missed a few, but not too many.

Equally, It is possible the ones I missed will be offset by those I mistakenly included. Names like Morris are not always Jewish but I included a man named Morris. 76 out of 3000? I'm not an actuary, but it seems to me that a 'random sample' of 3000 persons on a New York STREET one would find a greater percentage of Jews than just 76 in every 3000. That's about one in 40.

Taken on the percentage of New York's Jewish population, 1000 in every 3000 would seem more likely. But a 'random sample' of the percentage of Jews in buildings like the WTC is far more likely to to reflect Jewish domination of the Banking and Finance industries, so it is VERY ODD that the numbers should be so low.

To be frank, there is no doubt in my mind that someone knew something was afoot and they have done everything possible to draw a veil of deceit over the truth. 3000 people murdered in cold blood.

If I'm right, take a moment to think about it and what it means for the American people.

The initial claims made by Israel and Bush referred to "Israeli" victims, meaning citizens of Israel. Use of that term specifically excluded American citizens of Jewish ancestry, and it is important to remain consistant in studing the question why died in the World Trade Towers and who may have received an early warning.

The Odigo case proves beyond all dount that early warnings were sent to Israeli owned companies, and Zim Shipping, an Israeli shipping line that enjoys a close relationship with the Israeli government, broke its World Trade Towers lease, and incurred extra charges for a high-speed move out of the building just weeks before the attacks. Rudy Giuliani also moved his offices out of the World Trade Towers just weeks before the attacks.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

A tale of two newspapers

Toronto Star ombudsman, Don Sellar, reports that the “Canadian Islamic Congress and many Muslims” have complained that the word “crusade” is offensive, even though in common usage it has no religious overtone. Given the prevalence of anti-Semitic and anti-Christian hatred commonly found in Islamic publications, you’d think they’d make an attempt to clean up their own back yard before worrying about their neighbor’s, but apparently that’s not the case. Not to worry, though. Sellar advises the newsroom that “With religion, you can't be too careful. Don't crusade.”

Followers of Islam have no monopoly on hypocrisy, however. Sellar also reports that “the Ontario Press Council last summer upheld an Evangelical Fellowship of Canada complaint that an opinion column in the Star had targeted evangelical Christians in a way that tended to engender bias and hatred toward them.” It determined that in “the context of the column — a spirited rant about intolerance against gays — the term [evangelical] was ‘an unnecessarily hurtful reference to an identifiable group,’ i.e. evangelical Christians.” Yeah, we all know how tolerant evangelical Christians are to that other identifiable group, “sodomites.”

In a splendid display of moral equivalence, “the Star's policy manual walks on tiptoes. ‘Never hold up one religion or set of beliefs as superior to another. In other words, don't be judgmental,’ it advises. ‘Never single out a religion or religious practice for ridicule. In other words, be respectful.’”

Or in other words no religious practice, no matter how odious, may ever be criticized. Requiring women to wear Burqas, or to leap on the burning funeral pyre of their deceased husband, may not be ridiculed or regarded as inferior to taking communion at your local Church. “[D]on’t be judgmental.”

Meanwhile 235 miles away, ombudsman John X. Miller, of the presumably family-friendly Detroit Free Press, faces reader criticism about a prominent, front-page headline, "Warren Santa is charged in killing." The version on their website was even more direct, “Santa's a killer, cops say.” The story was about “why a man who'd dressed up as Santa since 1995 in Warren's holiday parade was charged with killing his daughter in a dispute over Christmas decorations.”

Miller explains that this wasn’t just a last minute slip; “There was discussion among editors about the print version of the story and headline the night it was published, out of concern that the newspaper not go overboard.” The good news is that, “While most of those editors didn't think the newspaper overplayed or sensationalized the story, they said the reactions will make them more carefully consider the sensibilities of our readers.”

Next time maybe they’ll place it on page two.

On pop-up ads and linking
The links on the left side of my website constitute endorsements. I don’t necessarily agree with or approve of the content of a site I’ve linked to, but I consider it interesting or useful enough to merit inclusion on my list. I frequent all the sites on a regular basis.

I’ve removed links before, primarily when a site became inactive, but today I’ve removed one because I can no longer in good conscience refer readers to it. The problem isn’t the content, which continues to be quite interesting, but that clicking on the link triggers multiple pop-up ads, including one that tries to reset the home page on my browser.

Blogs and bloggers come in many different flavors, some more commercial than others. While The OmbudsGod is strictly non-commercial (no donations requested or accepted), I do on occasion make small tips, especially on sites run by professional journalists. I consider blogging to be the best thing that has happened to journalism since the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine, and tipping is a way to encourage the new medium.

If you must use pop-up ads, limit them to no more than one per session, and stay away from anything that would attempt to change a reader’s computer settings. Anything more demonstrates an inexcusable lack of courtesy toward the reader.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics about people without health insurance

The great justification usually trotted out to justify some form of national health insurance, in addition to Medicare and Medicaid, is that there are 40 million Americans without health insurance. As Iain Murray points out, it is a misleading figure:

that includes people temporarily uninsured for a brief period. The number of chronically uninsured, which is what matters here, is roughly a quarter of that figure. Moreover no-one is ever refused emergency treatment because of a lack of insurance. It is chronic illnesses that cause the most trouble for the chronically uninsured and, need I remind you, the British system of universal health coverage does not do well with chronic illnesses either. Can there be any better indication of the true state of the NHS than the fact that the BBC offers private health insurance to its employees?

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Life imitates Monty Python

In the old Monty Python movie Life of Brian, the Romans and the Judeans had a sort of working arrangement. The Roman’s would always give enough notice of a search so that the Judeans could hide, and would then conduct the most ludicrous of searches, not finding Judeans hiding in the most obvious places.

Substitute UN weapon’s inspectors for the Romans and Iraqi weapons for the Judeans and you have pretty good idea of what the upcoming regimen of disarmament inspections, under UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, will be like in Iraq.

While the Bush Administration is pushing for “intrusive inspections,” Blix has stated that inspection teams should never be "angry and aggressive." And since Iraq is, according to Saddam Hussein, "devoid of weapons of mass destruction," the U.S. has called for a policy of “zero tolerance.” Nothing doing say Blix, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and such dependable U.S. “allies” as France. Iraq will be held accountable only for serious violations.

Presumably anything short of a UN inspector tripping over a hydrogen bomb labeled “serious violation, destination Paris,” will fail to make the standard. A little weaponized anthrax or aflatoxin that the Iraqis have forgotten to hide would be no big deal.

Annan previously distinguished himself in 1994 when, as head of the UN’s peacekeeping department, he dismissed warnings of impending genocide by the commander of peacekeeping troops in Rwanda and prevented searching the Hutu militias for weapons. The UN peacekeeping force was then reduced and an estimated 800,000 additional Rwandans died in the resulting Hutu-perpetrated massacres.

The whole thing would make for a delightful comedy, except that millions of innocent lives hang in the balance while the bureaucrats at Turtle Bay continue to impede the war on terrorism.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan nails the problem with UN weapons inspections much more succinctly than I did -- "I think I have as much confidence in Hans Blix as I do in Jimmy Carter." Exactly.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Non-partisan commentary from PBS, the taxpayer-subsidized network

…for the first time in the memory of anyone alive, the entire federal government — the Congress, the Executive, the Judiciary — is united behind a right-wing agenda for which George W. Bush believes he now has a mandate…

It includes using the taxing power to transfer wealth from working people to the rich.

It includes giving corporations a free hand to eviscerate the environment and control the regulatory agencies meant to hold them accountable…

Above all, it means judges with a political agenda appointed for life. If you liked the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White House, you will swoon over what's coming…

Don't forget the money. It came pouring into this election, to both parties, from corporate America and others who expect the payback. Republicans outraised democrats by $184 million dollars. And came up with the big prize — monopoly control of the American government, and the power of the state to turn their ideology into the law of the land. Quite a bargain at any price.

That's it for this week.

For NOW, I'm Bill Moyers.

via Andrew Sullivan

UPDATE: A reader copied me on a letter he has written to PBS management demanding that Bill Moyer's association with PBS be terminated. My own view is that rather than terminate Moyers, PBS should cease to accept taxpayer funding. In that way freedom of speech and of the press is preserved without obligating taxpayers to pay for political broadcasts with which they may disagree. Moyers is merely a symptom of the problem.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
Lillian Swanson, ombudsman for The Philadelphia Inquirer, reports on special “basic training” for journalists assigned to war zones. According to Clark Hoyt, Washington Editor for Knight Ridder (which owns The Inquirer), “we were not going to send anyone into a war zone who had not gone through the training.”

Given the likely fate of American journalists captured by Islamic terrorists, probably the most realistic part of the training came on the second day, when:

There was a boom and a flash of fire. The bus stopped and masked men, wearing fatigues and pointing rifles, got on board, screaming.

Hoods were placed over the journalists' heads, and they were led off the bus. They were forced down on the grass and stripped of their valuables - watches, wallets and wedding rings.

According to Swanson, ”The International Federation of Journalists says more than 50 journalists have been killed this year covering conflict in the world's trouble spots.” She doesn’t say how many would have been saved by this five-day, $2,535 “training.”

After reaching a sizeable round number of sales, supermarkets like to create publicity by rewarding a surprised customer with free groceries. Ian Murray, ombudsman for The Guardian, recently rewarded the reader registering this year’s ten-thousandth complaint with a copy of his riveting new book, More Errors and Corrections, which is the sequel to his original hit, Errors and Corrections. Winner John Parker was informed that he would be receiving the book, “whether you wanted it or not.”

Ian helpfully reminds Guardian readers that they, too, can obtain both volumes, for the sum of ₤6.99 each, by calling 0870-066 7850. Sounds like an ideal stocking stuffer for that special obsessive-compulsive someone in your life.

Sunday, November 10, 2002


Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

– Siegfried Sassoon, Counter-Attack and Other Poems, 1918.
More of Sassoon’s poetry may be found here.
posted at 10:45 AM

All's quiet on the OmbudsFront
With the election over, OmbudsLand is relatively peaceful this weekend. Here’s a partial rundown:

Over at The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Lou Gelfand treats readers with respect. Even when disagreeing with criticism by journalism student Gary Schwitzer, he observes that, “in principle, Schwitzer makes a good point.” That’s a polite brush-off, Gary.

Karen Hunter, with the Hartford Courant, takes her paper to task for reporting, from an “anonymous source,” the bogus information that "The FBI Has Bugged Our Public Library." The author of that howler is one “former executive director of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union,” Bill Olds, who explains, “In the atmosphere of secrecy created by the Patriot Act, my sources misinterpreted what the FBI was doing." Perhaps the tinfoil on your "sources" heads should have given them away, Bill.

Meanwhile, at The Orlando Sentinel, Manning Pynn reminds readers that just because a newspaper sells advertising to a political candidate, including on the bag in which the newspaper is delivered, doesn’t mean that it lacks impartiality. This strikes me as a rather odd subject given that The Sentinel issues political endorsements on its editorial pages – which certainly does create an appearance of lack of impartiality.

Mike Needs, The Akron Beacon-Journal’s resident apologist Public Editor, gives his employer a hickey for not publishing a photograph of an elderly woman and her son grieving over the murder of a neighbor. It seems:

They sent a message through the police asking -- no, pleading -- that the photo not be used. The son explained that his mother feared for her safety and that a photo, combined with the angst of the attack, would be too stressful.

At least the photo didn’t go to waste -- Needs got an entire column out of it.

The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Pam Platt draws a lesson from the TLC network’s show, Trading Places.

I don't think Hilda and Doug, two of the designers who work on ''Trading Spaces,'' could be less interested in the likes and dislikes of the folks whose homes they invade like Normandy.

Sure, they ask for nominal input and get it -- ''Our friends don't like dark colors, they don't want you to touch their furniture and they love their ceiling fan,'' the worker bees are likely to buzz.

In the next instant, the two diva designers are likely to blithely reply, ''OK, great, thanks. We're going to paint these walls black, we're going to shellack (sic) the furniture and that ceiling fan is history.''

In other words, no one listens, and no one is heard and sometimes someone ends up with straw glued to their walls. No kidding.

So when readers want to ''trade spaces'' with me -- that is, phone or email to talk about what's junking up journalism in general and this newspaper in particular, and what needs to be cleared out or spiffed up -- I try not to go all Doug or Hilda on them when they share their likes and dislikes.

Connie Coyne, OmbudsLand’s very own Hilda, dismisses a reader’s complaint about a piece promoting Eminem in The Salt Lake Tribune. She informs the reader that back in the ‘50’s Her parents:

were sure my generation would wind up in the eternal flames because we were dancing to Little Richard, Elvis Presley and -- gasp -- Jerry Lee Lewis (who, as I recall, was married at one point to his 13-year-old cousin).

Hilda’s advice to the reader? “if you don't like the subject of a review, don't read it.”

With advice like that, who needs an Ombudsman?

Saturday, November 9, 2002

Gender Equity at Penn: women get tenure, white men do not

Associate Professor Erin O’Connor reports on the continuing pursuit of Gender Equity at the University of Pennsylvania.

If tenuring patterns in my own department are any indication, white men have been aiding the cause of "gender equity" by getting fired quite a bit over the years. The double standard is as palpable as it is unspeakable. But the bottom line is that women get tenure in my department and white men, more often than not, do not. The disparity has nothing to do with differential levels of accomplishment. Again, more often than not, the men who lose their jobs look as good or better on paper than the women who get promoted. Has this ever been publicly acknowledged? No. We aren't talking about the fact that the graduate program has become a sorority either. Not talking about the problem means, of course, that it does not exist, and so does not need to be addressed. It also means we do not need to ask if this is happening in other departments. And it means that we can all pat ourselves on the back for the great equity work that is being done locally, while at the same time continuing to bitch about the institutional oppression faced by academic women and minorities. Not healthy, not honest, not, quite frankly, conducive to imaginative teaching or inspired scholarship.

It's not just men who are getting screwed by the current academic climate. It's everyone. But last December, when Penn announced its plans to create "concrete incentives and disincentives" to promote the hiring and tenuring of women, no one made a peep (except those who feel that even this is not enough).

The one thing a University typically listens to very closely is its pocket book. Alumni, especially white male alumni, may wish to consider this report when asked to contribute to their alma mater. A few lawsuits by white males who are denied tenure would also be helpful.

via Discriminations
posted at 6:22 PM

Soviet émigré, Jaime Glazov, conducts a symposium for Front Page Magazine on anti-Americanism. The participants are Paul Hollander, Stanley Kurz, Dan Flynn and Victor Davis Hanson. Kurz, Flynn and Hanson all comment on the religious, or almost religious, nature of anti-Americanism. Hollander disagrees:

I would not call anti-Americanism a faith -- it is too negative for that, in fact it is nothing but negativity, rejection and hostility. I agree that in some instances it might reflect failure to find meaning and happiness, but it has many shades and types and not all of it can be said to be a reflection of such states of mind or feeling.

It’s a good symposium and well worth reading.

Thursday, November 7, 2002

Losing Endorsement

The Washington Post’s ombudsman, Michael Getler, autopsies The Post’s list of endorsements, and makes an important point:

...Maryland-based independent pollster Carol Arscott, for one, believes that endorsements "mean less and less every year now, especially with Republican voters, and the further outside the Beltway you get, the less they matter."

As ombudsmen frequently remind readers, there is a “wall” between news reporting and editorials. Getler assures us that:

I can say with confidence that the "wall" between editorial and news seems intact and secure at The Post. But you can't blame readers who are not students of journalism for suspecting otherwise.

He’s probably right. The editorials don’t drive the news reporting, but they do reflect the overall culture of the newspaper. Recent biographies of the two candidates for Governor of Maryland drive home the point.

James DiBenedetto, writing in his weblog, The Eleven Day Empire, reported on the difference in coverage for Republican candidate, Bob Ehrich, and for the Democratic candidate, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend – who The Post endorsed:

While the Kennedy! piece opens with this sentence:

She always wanted to do what was right.

Ehrlich's bio begins with a description of the exclusive (read: elitist, plutocratic, rich, white) country club where Ehrlich is found hosting a campaign event:

Hounds are baying in the twilight. A chestnut mare gleams in a paddock. In a verdant valley in northern Baltimore County, a gubernatorial contender is being feted at Maryland's oldest fox hunting club, the Green Spring Valley Hounds. The sign at the end of the unpaved lane leading to this rarefied enclave is so discreet it is marked with initials -- "GSV" -- because if you have to ask how to get here, you don't belong.

A paragraph later, we're told that:

Inside a white tent, lanky men with chiseled features and family trust funds line up to pay homage.

And while the first words used to describe Kennedy! were "good" followed by "philosophical" and "careful", Ehrlich is first described thusly:

Ehrlich -- whose luck, pluck and football prowess catapulted him from his parents' modest rowhouse to prep school and Princeton...

Good, philosophical and careful versus luck, pluck and football prowess.
There's a full page more of this on the inside pages of the paper, but you get the idea...

I guess it could be worse, though; they did at least find something vaguely positive to say about Ehrlich.

Still, it clearly pales in comparison to the Kennedy! article, whose basic premise is that Kennedy! is too good for the voters; lumpenproles like the Maryland electorate are unworthy of Saint Kathy, but she'll deign to take office as a matter of noblesse oblige.

“Good”, “careful” and “philosophical” Townsend relied heavily on the politics of divisiveness, as when she declared:

Slavery was based on race. Lynching was based on race. Discrimination was based on race. Jim Crow was based on race. Affirmative action should be based on race.

Ehrlich relied heavily on the politics of inclusion, as when he selected Michael Steele, an African-American, to run for lieutenant governor. Townsend’s supporters responded by distributing Oreo cookies at a political debate to send a message about blacks (like Steele) who don’t follow the Democratic Party line.

A lot has changed in America since 9/11/01. Threatened by an outside enemy, who kills Americans without regard for race, we have grown together as a nation. Ehrlich reassured supporters during his campaign that, "the first time the race card doesn't work will be the last time it is used."

Despite The Post's biased coverage and an endorsement of his rival, the race card didn't work. Let’s hope that Ehrich's right that, at least in Maryland, this is the last time it will be used.

Ombudsman Don Wycliff and religious tolerance
The Chicago Tribune’s ombudsman, Don Wycliff, has stated:

ask any American for a thumbnail sketch of himself and it's a good bet his religion will be among the items he ticks off. And why shouldn't it be? I can't think of too many things that have been more influential in my world view and intellectual formation than my religion…

How then do we handle a clash of cultures when a religious tradition treats women differently than men?

Here’s the setup from a column entitled “Everyday Ethics:”

The courteous and competent real estate agent I'd just hired to rent my house shocked and offended me when, after we signed our contract, he refused to shake my hand, saying that as an Orthodox Jew he did not touch women. As a feminist, I oppose sex discrimination of all sorts. However, I also support freedom of religious expression. How do I balance these conflicting values? Should I tear up our contract?

According to Wycliff, columnist Randy “Cohen's answer, in short, was yes, tear up the contract.” Further information is provided from a Rabbi that:

Orthodox Jews, both men and women, are forbidden by their modesty ethic to touch a member of the opposite sex. It works both ways.

Wycliff observes that:

Orthodox Judaism, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims and God knows how many other religious groups have restrictions and categories and orders premised on sex, sexual orientation or some other characteristic that, by strict secularist lights, is simply and unacceptably discriminatory.

He concludes by stating that:

my head tells me that Randy Cohen has it right, that in the last analysis separate really is inherently unequal and inequitable, that "resolutely secular" is the only viable approach to these matters in a pluralistic society.

Does this mean that Mr. Cohen and Mr. Wycliff will no longer be doing business with Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons and Muslims?

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Anti-war moderates just don’t get it

Ronald Radosh sees in the current anti-war movement a disturbing parallel with that of the Vietnam War. Just as the earlier anti-war movement was organized by the pro-communist left, the current movement is dominated by pro-Iraqi leaders. He asserts that:

the anti-war moderates don’t get it. Their only criticism of the anti-war movement is that it will not be able to stop the drift toward war with Iraq. Writing on the Web site of Mother Jones magazine, Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism at New York University, asserts that this movement "is far too weak and provincial to stop the coming war." What he seeks to build is a "more substantial antiwar movement," and he is saddened that the pro-Saddam orientation of the present movement can only stand in the way of that task. Mr. Gitlin is aghast that the present movement is indicative of "the Old Left at its worst," and he is correct to oppose it. But what upsets him is that with leadership by the likes of [Ramsey] Clark and the Maoist C. Clark Kissinger, "the antiwar movement is doomed."

What Mr. Gitlin, a centrist radical, implies is that the goal of the movement, to stop any planned invasion of Iraq is worthy; the only wrong thing is the movement’s current leadership. If only they stopped comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler, something Mr. Clark did at the March, then perhaps involvement would be worthwhile.

And that is the great error of the new antiwar movement. They may not agree with Mr. Clark when he says any invasion of Iraq "will be genocide again," but they, like him, are also opposed to an invasion. Since Mr. Gitlin presents no alternative to invasion for removing Saddam from power, and no suggestion how he can be forced to disarm, in effect his argument leaves Saddam firmly entrenched just as calls for unilateral American withdrawal in Vietnam assured victory for the Viet-Cong.

The moderates, like the extremists, seem to prefer to vent their anger at the danger supposedly posed by the Bush administration, while ignoring the very real danger posed by Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

via Discriminations

Fire and Brimstone!
The New Zealand Herald reports that:

CANBERRA - The "lucky country" is unlikely to be so fortunate in the next 100 years as Australia's big cities sprawl even further and the warming Earth dehydrates its resources, hammers health and lashes the continent with a 21st-century equivalent of fire and brimstone.

Two new studies, on population growth and climate change, predict the nation will have a harder time preserving its standard of living as plague, pestilence and disaster increasingly become part of life.

Repent, ye sinners!

More on the D.C. anti-war protests

Lex Alexander, proprietor of Blog on the Run, sent me an email observing that:

Re the DC protests: Granted, I have found no particular reason to doubt that the event was organized by people inimical to U.S. interests and perhaps even puppets of Iraq.

But ...

Could such a group, in and of itself, have mobilized between 100,000 and 200,000 protestors from as far away as Nebraska and Florida?

Whatever the motives of the organizers, I think a lot of people showed up who were sincere, if misguided. The alternative is to believe ANSWER has a lot more power than anyone ever suspected, and there's just no evidence for that.

He’s quite right. I’m reminded of the well-meaning people who were drawn into peace movements led by Soviet front groups like the U.S. Peace Council. Front groups use their superior organization to latch onto dissatisfaction and to use it. There’s never been a shortage of useful idiots.

UPDATE: The Mother Jones website asks their readers:

Millions of Americans from all points of the ideological compass have expressed deep ambivalence about the Bush administration's rush to preemptive war. Now, a popular antiwar movement is stirring. Can the current leadership of that movement -- and the message they carry -- attract the support of those millions of quiet antiwarriors?

I agree with much of this reply, especially the observation about a segment of the left cutting "loose from the 'national dialogue.'":

Yeah. I'm aware of some of the people behind the current anti-war movement. I find it disturbing. Sadly, I see no possibility for an anti-war movement that does not include these people.

There is a segment of the left that seems to have permanently taken leave of reality. They live in a closed world, an insular world in which only supporting theories are tolerated, and the mental distance between their mindset and that of the rest of society has been growing even more rapidly since September 11th. They've cut loose from the "national narrative", or whatever you want to call it, and are now off in some other bizarre wonderland filled with assumptions strange and bizarre to the rest of society.

Think about the kind of conspiracy theories circulating. Heck, Gore Vidal is now bizarrely asserting that the Bush administration knew about Al Queda's plans and deliberately took no action to stop it. What universe does he live in???? He sounds like a freaking lunatic!

Seriously, these people look like raving psychos to the rest of us, ranting about imperialist plots and capitalist conspiracies and spouting wierd sounding marxist rhetoric.

It would be depressing if it wasn't so scary.
The foam at their mouths is so thick that I'm almost frightened into supporting the war.

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Election irregularities update

Below are some early reports of voting irregularities. I’ll attempt to update them as more information comes in. If you are hearing reliable accounts of irregularities in your area, email me at The OmbudsGod:

► Boston: Reports of union officials entering voting booths and telling people how to vote.
► Georgia: When placing vote, and touching the screen for a Republican candidate, the box is incorrectly checked for the Democrat candidate. Other related problems.
► Montgomery County, Maryland: Word “Democratic” appears improperly in the header on all ballots.
► Duval County, Florida: Technical problems preventing ballots from being counted.
► DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe issues statement accusing "officials at the Republican National Committee and in Republican campaigns across the country [of] leading a coordinated strategy to intimidate voters and suppress the vote."
► Miami: Voter reports to AP that when he reviewed his touch-screen ballot, he saw his vote for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride show as a vote for incumbent Republican Jeb Bush.
► Seattle: Thousands of voters have not received their absentee ballots.
► Arkansas: Democratic judge enters ex parte order extending voting hours in heavily Democratic Pulaski County only.

11/6/02 UPDATE: So far, despite the cries of the vanquished, by Ameican standards this appears to have been a surprisingly clean election. Nevertheless, I'll continue to update with any new reports of irregularities.

11/7/02 UPDATE: Matt Drudge points us to some newly reported irregularities:
► Broward County, Florida, discovers additional 104,000 votes.
► Shannon County, South Dakota: Reports that election workers were altering ballots, purportedly to make them more readable. (The correct process is to create a duplicate ballot if a ballot cannot be read by machine and to preserve the old ballot). National Review reports that Shannon County has been the focus of allegations of fraudulent voting practices and that last-minute extraordinary returns gave the election to Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson.