A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Forgive the Foxworthyism, but. . .

. . . if your friend says he's calling you on a cell phone, and you ask him how much his bail is. . .

My conscience compels. . .

. . .me to pick up on this story, as I've been somewhat vocal about the decriminalization of marijuana in the past. I'm still agnostic with regard to harder drugs, especially ones like heroin and methamphetamine, whose effects would be irredeemably nefarious regardless of legality. Whereas, marijuana has always struck me as drug that had far less a negative impact on its users than the system erected to protect them from it. But, the recent murder of four Canadian Mounties has me in a bit of a moral quandry.

My first inclination upon reading of the story was to blame the War on Drugs for the loss of four good men doing their jobs trying to protect the lives of their fellow countrymen. I was about to fire off a quick reply to that effect at Lucianne.com when I felt the twinge of conscience. I suddenly recalled all the times I'd excoriated left-leaning LDot posters for dancing on the graves of soldiers whenever new deaths are reported in the media. It seems to me that I ought to at least be consistent in that regard, even though I view the War on Drugs and the War on Terror as completely different in so many ways as to not warrant comparison. The Mounties were four honorable men with families and jobs to do, and their work was as often thankless as it was dangerous. They deserve better than to have their bloody shirts waved by activists or writers in a ghoulish attempt to make a point on a broader issue.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Great news. . .

. . .about Tony Snow's cancer surgery reported over at Lucianne.com. It seems the operation was a complete success, and I couldn't be happier for him. Lucianne reports that Tony attributes a good bit of his surgery's success to the prayers of his many fans. Prayer sayers attribute it all to God. Me, I like to think we all had a hand in it -- including Tony.

There are some great comments on the Lucianne threads. I bet Tony never knew he had so many friends.

Monday, February 28, 2005

As a blogger. . .

. . .I have to thank God that I don't rely on First Amendment scholars to defend my right of free speech -- particularly when I read idiotic pieces like the one printed in the Naples Daily News today, written by Paul K. McMasters. Mr. McMasters is billed as the "First Amendment ombudsman at the First Amendment Center, in Arlington, Virginia." That sounds like a lofty position to me, though I suppose it could just be a title in search of an owner -- a job to be filled by one of the trustees' daughter's dear friends, or some such. One would hope so in this case, as McMasters seems to bear no stripe normally attributable to someone with even a passing knowledge of what the First Amendment is all about.

McMasters suffers from an affliction that strikes just about every indignant dullard with something to say and an empty auditorium: a kind of Jesus complex that allows him and those like him to convince themselves that he's being nailed to the cross by the very people he seeks to save. "I am trying to educate you fools," they lament. "And for my efforts, I am crucified!"

Today, McMasters is trying to save us from the supposed poisoned fruit that grows on the tree of free expression -- alternately known as intemperate speech and uncivil discourse. According to the man with the lofty title, free speech is something best left to experts like himself, and not to be trifled with by the great unwashed out here in the blogosphere. His reasoning appears to be that people who are not sufficiently trained in the art of self-expression hold too much influence over those who are.

Citing the cases of recent "victims" of the blogosphere's speech mob, McMasters bewails an imagined abridgement of the free speech rights of Eason Jordan and Ward Churchill and attempts to shame bloggers into silence as their malefactors. At the risk of being presumptuous, I'll venture to speculate that McMasters is trying to point out to us that what happens to people like Jordan and Churchill can just as easily happen to those of us who express ourselves on the Internet -- that anyone who deigns to express unconventional thought is subject to being hounded out of the public square by a rabid group of doctrinaire dolts dead set on never having their perceptions challenged in any meaningful way. And, that is precisely where McMasters gets it all so stupidly wrong.

In fact, McMasters creates an entirely new right and injects it into the First Amendment -- a right to a steady income as a product of one's free expression. Admittedly, that's an incredibly appealing new right, and I'd be tempted to write a concurring opinion if I were on the bench presiding over a case where such a right were under debate. After all, I've been expressing myself free of charge for quite a while now, and it frosts my butt considerably when I consider how much money Ward Churchill has made doing the same thing -- especially when I consider that he did it based on manufactured credentials intended to create a veneer of credibility.

Oddly enough, Churchill's fraudulent credentials are a point that McMasters manages to evade completely in today's piece. In all his chastising and grandstanding over the professor's suffering, there's not a single mention of the fact that he built his career on a tissue of lies, and that those lies and his damaged credibility might have been contributing factors to his being pushed out of the town square. That fact alone should have been sufficient grounds for forcing him out of a tenured position at any community college in the country, much less a major state university. But, Churchill managed to establish himself as an expert of sorts for many years based on those lies because nobody bothered to check out his story. And, had he been a little more careful in his choice of analogies, he might have continued on until he decided to voluntarily retire and live on a relatively fat, taxpayer funded pension.

So, contrary to the assertions of the First Amendment ombudsman, the lesson to be gained from the Churchill episode isn't one of free speech. The lesson is one of lies coming back to haunt those who grow too comfortable in positions achieved as a product of those lies. It's also a lesson about the arrogance of people who have gotten used to never being challenged in any way -- whether intellectually, factually, or in terms of entitlement. Mr. Churchill has learned that Fat City isn't a permanent address for anyone: not even tenured professors.

McMasters also rises to Eason Jordan's defense in a brief, but revealing statement:

"Off campus, a blog-mob targeted CNN's chief news executive, Eason Jordan. Questions about Eason's questionable remarks about journalists' deaths in Iraq were raised in the "blogosphere" and refused to go away until Jordan did. He resigned from CNN on Feb. 11."

What, exactly, is McMasters' beef with this? The sentence is accurate in that it states that "[q]uestions. . .were raised" that "refused to go away." But, the ultimatum wasn't that Jordan "go away." The ultimatum was that Jordan actually answer the questions. And, it was Jordan's unwillingness to account for his statement in any way that led him to "go away." There was also the consideration of the backdrop of CNN's erstwhile cozy relationship with the Hussein regime which provided the news organization with friendlier access than that given to other news organizations who were reporting from the region. As shady relationships go, this would seem to be a much bigger deal than that of Jeff Guckert/Gannon's softball questions and daily access to White House briefings -- regardless of his sexual proclivities and online activities.

Nevertheless, McMasters' goal doesn't appear to be a defense of those who have been ostensibly wronged, which he demurs off-handedly, pleading ingnorance as to whether or not they got what they deserved. He also manages only a bare mention of the ordeal Larry Summers faces at the hands of academia, in which his greatest defenders are found in the blogosphere. Rather, it is an indictment of the nature of the blog itself. The First Amendment ombudsman seems to feel that the activism of bloggers threatens to hound people out of the public square, and to constrict the boundaries of that square until only a few uniform voices may occupy it at any time. This is another area where McMasters gets it completely wrong.

Bloggers are doing nothing more than the work that people like Churchill, Jordan, Summers, and Dan Rather are handsomely paid to do -- and they're doing it for free. They manage to do all of this from their homes (or wherever their computers may be), and often in their spare time. How anyone can come to the conclusion that the public square is shrinking under such circumstances is a mystery to this particular blogger. The truth of the matter is, the boundaries of the public square have been obliterated. Those who have found themselves on the wrong end of the free speech weapon have just as much access to the square as I and every other blogger on the planet have.

And, that's the crux of the problem when you get down to it. Folks like Jordan, Churchill, et al are used to having that public square to themselves, and they resent that it's doors have suddenly been flung open by a bunch of guys in their pajamas, writing. Bloggers haven't grown accustomed to the affluence afforded by the work they do. They simply do it. Bloggers don't need to concoct phony histories and genealogies before they can insert themeselves into the marketplace of ideas, and can only be hounded out of that marketplace if they choose to do so. Those who have found their ideas devalued in recent months still have access to that marketplace. Granted, it may not be as lucrative as being a news executive or a tenured professor, but they can always become bloggers.

I think they might find it a purifying experience, as well as an intellectually challenging one, if only they'd get over their sense of entitlement to captive audiences and all the trappings that come with the notoriety of their positions.

Apologies. . .

. . .for the sparseness of blogging over the past week. I've had a few things on my plate, such as trying to get the hang of T accounts in my accounting class, as well as a test on which I managed to score a 76 -- the lowest score I've posted since starting school.

I only have about six weeks of class left, and it's time I started thinking about what I'm going to do when I'm finished. I'm weighing some options; namely continuing on at another school to pursue a degree, or jumping into the job market, or perhaps both -- which will leave me very little, if any, time for writing/blogging.

I hope to update with a longer piece this afternoon or evening.

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