Beating a dead horse at The Post-Star
by contributor Mark Wilson
Part of a series on the troubles at The Post-Star and its parent company Lee Enterprises.
Post-Star Editor Ken Tingley is charging into the Valley of Death once again. In the latest effort to rescue up the battered image of daily newspapers, Mr. Tingley’s Sunday column contrasted newspaper reports on unfolding events in the Boston area last week with information posted to social media outlets. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, he generalized that, “the beauty of print journalism is [that] you get to check and recheck your facts. There is time to evaluate and debate the context of a news story, where it should be played and even which words should be used.”
Even if you discount the obvious embarrassment of the New York Post's two glaring front page falsehoods, Mr. Tingley seems to have already forgotten the mistake made by the Associated Press—the service that the Post-Star relied on heavily for its coverage of the bombing, siege and manhunt—when it erroneously reported the imminent arraignment of both suspects on Wednesday. Had the rumor moved over the wire at press time, it is likely that understaffed newspapers like the Post-Star would have run it. Mr. Tingley also conveniently ignores the fact that his editors, under the Post-Star brand, retweeted the AP’s announcement of the bogus news story, immediately and without independent verification or subsequent retraction.
The real lesson from last week—one evidently lost on Mr. Tingley—is that in news gathering nothing beats an eye-witness account. Sadly, it is a resource that newspapers and their hired wire services are less and less able to afford. Fortunately, if you can tolerate all the derivative nonsense, such accounts may often be found on the internet.
In concluding his Sunday column, Mr. Tingley expressed his hope that “maybe there is a place for a plodding old war horse like the daily newspaper after all.”
It is a fittingly dated metaphor: The last US Army horseback cavalry charge took place seventy one years ago on the Bataan Peninsula, Philippines. Today’s military horses are used for reenactments, parades and funerals.
Labels: corporate media, Ken Tingley, media, media literacy, Post-Star
Eliminate background checks for people who work with kids?
Please help me understand something. If I'm missing some key piece of the puzzle, educate me.
I've been a sports coach for many years. In order to get into coaching, I had to submit to a background check. In order to continue coaching, I've had to get a new background check every two years. This is required by the state for the schools I've coached at and by the league my club plays in.
I've never heard any coach or parent complain about this burden. I've never heard anyone say, "It's only going to hurt law-abiding people because the bad guys aren't going to follow the legal route anyways."
Nobody is under the delusion that this background check will reduce incidents of crime against kids by coaches to absolute zero. Nobody says, "If football imposes a background check, then the bad guys will just seek access to kids via baseball or music or scouting. So why bother?"
People realize that although the background check won't eliminate all crime, it will reduce the amount of low-hanging fruit. And the cumulative effect will reduce - not eliminate but reduce - the bad guys ability to commit crime simply by diminishing the opportunity.
Every coach I know accepts this as a reasonable burden to increase (not guarantee) safety.
I've never heard any calls to scrap this background check.
Labels: civil liberties
Tyranny, freedom, liberty and bloody hypocrites
Please refresh my memory.
Those of you who've spent the last few weeks bleating hysterically about 'tyranny,' where were you when Bush and his cronies were ramming through the "Patriot Act" and general ramping up of the national security state (admittedly with the craven complicity of Democrats)? If an armed populace is really supposed to protect us from governmental tyranny, what were you doing under the Bush regime? A few of you spoke up about this but most of you were silent or approving. Certainly no one entertained any 'Second Amendment solutions.'
Those of you who've spent the last few weeks going on about the Constitution, where have you been on the Gitmo kidnappees? What about all of Bush's skirmishes in the war against civil liberties? What about the avalanche of restrictions on voting rights (I'm pretty sure that's in the Constitution too)? A few of you have spoken up but most of you have been silent or approving.
(Just an FYI: the Bill of Rights and the rest of the Constitution applies to gun owners. Without question. But it also applies to non-gun owners. It applies to gays. It applies to Latinos. It applies to women. And it includes the 2nd Amendment but there's more... read it some time)
Those of you who've spent the last few weeks intoning about threats to freedom and liberty, what you were doing when fanatics demanded we turn the Middle East into a glass bowl or to round up all the Muslims and throw them into camps? A few of you spoke up but most of you were silent and some of you were even part of the frothing, bigoted mob.
Some of you are okay with tyranny and with infringements of liberty, freedom and the Constitution when it's others, but as soon as it *your* hobby/fetish/rights being affected, no matter how minimally, suddenly it's a deluge of indignant outrage.
But guess what. If you're going to give the finger to everyone else's desire for freedom and constitutional rights, don't be so surprised if they give it right back to you.
Labels: civil liberties, constitutionalism, hypocritical bastards
When 'Never Again' happened again
This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here.
Today marks the 19th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide during which at least 800,000 people were murdered. It was one of the world's worst atrocities of the century and certainly the worst to be covered during the age of cable news television. It occurred a year, almost to the week, after politicians and dignitaries in Washington solemnly promised 'Never again' while inaugurating the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In 2004, I wrote a long series of essays on the occasion of the 10th anniversary which gave a lot of information and background about the genocide.
They are as follows (yes, I know the images do not work):
-Ten years later
-How the genocide unfolded
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 1)
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 2)
-The genocide's orphans
and their role in the genocide
-International law and American law on genocide
-The post-genocide government
-Lessons and conclusions
Labels: genocide, intl feature, Rwanda
The Catholic Church's betrayal of Vatican II
"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.
Alternet has an interesting article
on the election of Argentina's Cardinal Vergoglio as the Pope Francis. The piece contends that the recent papacies of Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have represented a betrayal of, a 'counterrevolution' against, the promised reforms of the Vatican II council called by Pope John XXIII in the early 1960s. The piece opines that given Cardinal Vergoglio's personal history and the reactionary nature of the college of cardinals (all appointed by the last two hyperconservative popes), there is little prospect that Francis' papacy will produce any substantive change in a decaying, sclerotic institution.
Labels: Catholic Church, modernity
The one thing Cuomo and gun advocates agree on
North Country Public Radio had an interesting piece
on how mental health advocates are protesting some provisions of New York's controversial gun control law.
By rights, the concept of banning the 'mentally ill' (whatever that means) should provide a great argument for gun advocates to add to their lawsuit against the gun law. After all, the sainted 2nd Amendment doesn't include an exception for them.
If nothing else, the law bans gun ownership for that group without due process, without even defining what 'mentally ill' means or a legal process for deeming people such, merely because some random psychiatrist deems them to be 'dangerous.' This alone should force at least part of the law they hate so much to be struck down.
The right to due process is also in the Constitution. Any other withdrawal of civic rights requires some sort of legal process. We see how fail-safe this lack of checks and balances has proven with the no-fly list.
Instead, the many gun advocates have chosen to make the 'mentally ill' a scapegoat so they don't have to be the scapegoat anymore. Since the law doesn't define mentally ill or any legal process for determining it, can a shrink decree you 'mentally ill' and 'dangerous' simply because you own a lot of guns? Gun advocates should be careful about this scapegoating because it may well backfire.
So we're left with the grotesquely hypocritical situation of many of gun advocates denouncing the idea of a government registry of gun owners while they are supporting a government registry of the 'mentally ill.'
Apparently, their contention is that gun ownership isn't a crime but being 'mentally ill' is.
Update: Most gun owners I know say that the mentally ill should not be allowed to own guns. Let's assume for a second that such a situation factors in a proper definition and due process. Here's a rhetorical question. Statistically, the mentally ill are far more likely to be VICTIMS of crime than perpetrators. So if guns are a deterrent, don't they need guns MORE than the population as a whole? Why should gun owners tell them to 'just rely on law enforcement' in a way they'd totally reject for everyone else?
Labels: due process, guns, mental health
Happy (belated) birthday Peace Corps
Today is national Peace Corps Day. In 2004, I wrote this essay
(slightly modified since) in honor of Peace Corps Day. It's become a bit
of a tradition for me to re-post it every March 1.
and dads have their day. Old presidents have their day. So do labor
unions and medieval saints. Soldiers have two official days plus
numerous 'support our troops' rallies. Even bosses and secretaries have
days, according to Hallmark. So why not Peace Corps volunteers?
is Peace Corps Day. It's the 51st anniversary of the day President
Kennedy signed the executive order creating the Peace Corps.
people think the Peace Corps is a military organization. In fact, it's
the antithesis. It's an organization which sends volunteers to
developing countries to engage in such activities as teaching, public
health, environmental management and small business development.
receive a living allowance to cover their basic expenses and are
provided housing, but are otherwise not paid. They received a modest
readjustment allowance following completion of their service and a small
(10 percent when I left) reduction in federal student loans. But they
otherwise receive no further medical care or educational benefits. There
is a small movement to obtain for departing volunteers benefits more
similar to those received by those leaving the military, but it hasn't
The goals of the Peace Corps, according to the organization's website, are three:
1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans.
it to say, all three goals have been important since the organization
was created but #2 seems particularly crucial in the era of post-9/11
random invasions. Though increasingly, it feels like a "one step
forward, three steps back" routine.
There have been many books
on "the Peace Corps experience" (which is about as broad a
generalization as "the American mentality"). Nevertheless, some themes
tend to be pretty common among them.
-Go to God-foresaken country with the expectation to save the noble savages.
-Learn that they are not savages and that they are noble/ignoble in more or less the same proportion as Americans.
-Sense of loneliness in a totally alien culture.
-Learn that life without TV/computer is not the apocalypse.
-Leave with the realization that you learned more than they did.
-Sadness when they have to leave their village/city.
-Transmit these themes interspersed with a lot of humorous anecdotes.
-Commentary on the impact of American foreign policy, French foreign policy and the IMF/World Bank may be included.
Common themes for volunteers who served in sub-Saharan Africa, as I did, are as follows:
at people who call you 'toubabou' (or whatever the local language word
for 'white person' is); "My name isn't 'toubabou'," fumes the author.
"My name is John!"
-Agitation that everyone wanted you to marry their sister/brother/son/daughter or get them a visa to go to America.
-Rage at the dichotomy between the fabulous wealth of the political elite and the overwhelming poverty of the masses.
-Observation to the effect that "[nationality] are so poor monetarily but so rich in spirit/culture/community."
-Elegies about how welcoming [nationality] are to strangers.
-A brief history of the country and the legacy of European colonialism.
anecdotes about dealing with corrupt officials, musings on heat,
mosquitoes and hygeine and comical (or frightening) travel stories.
-General commentary about "the African condition" may be included.
(And just so I don't sound like a snob, I included every one of these themes in my journal and letters home)
The best book I've ever read about "the Peace Corps experience" was George Packer's The Village of Waiting.
It was a wonderfully written book in its own right. But I enjoyed it
even more because, even though it was set in Togo and I served in
Guinea, it was pretty much the story of my experience. Reading The Village of Waiting is why I decided not to write a strictly autobiographical account of my experience: it had already been done.
Just a reminder that in the history of the Peace Corps, 279 men and
women have died in service, at least one in every year (except 1986)
that the Peace Corps has existed. A website has been devoted to them.
Labels: internationalism, Peace Corps, peacemaking
State fiddles while Lake George chokes
Invasive species are becoming a significant threat to the water quality of Lake George. There are fears that further expansion of the Asian clam population will cause algae blooms that will menace the quality of drinking water that lake communities rely on and render beaches unfit for swimming, menacing the tourism that lake communities rely on.
Regional organizations Lake George Association and Fund for Lake George have recognized this serious threat but the state Department of Environmental Conservation has been accused of not spending the money and attention that the issue deserves. The LGA recently proposed the mandatory washing of all boats entering the lake but DEC put the brakes on that idea, it would study the idea when they bothered to get around to it. They added that no such plan could not be implemented in 2013. Yet, there is no indication that DEC has the intention of implementing ANY serious plan in 2013. Disgusted, the town of Bolton is trying to implement its own boat washing plan.
The Post-Star recently published an interview with DEC chief Joe Martens. In it, he said that the state would not shift any money from the part of the Environmental Protection Fund dedicated to land purchases to the underfunded invasive species program. This despite the fact that the EPF's stated purpose is not solely to buy land but also to 'develop and preserve these resources.'
In other words, the state wants to buy more land but is unwilling or unable to properly take care of the land (and water) it already owns.
I know the DEC is being gutted by the budget process and is under serious pressure by Emperor Andrew's regime to mindlessly rubber stamp hydrofracking in the state's Southern Tier. But the agency should focus first on properly preserving the land and water they're already responsible for before adding more.
I have no ideological objection to the state owning land (provided they actually pay local property taxes on it as legally required), but this is a suicidal approach. Their name is not the Department of State Land Acquisition. It's the Department of *Environmental Conservation*. Protecting the ecology is their most important job. Buying more land is secondary.
Labels: clean water, DEC, drinking water, environmentalism, invasive species, Lake George