Monday, February 28, 2005

Real-time reporting

I can't type any more, because someone moved all the keys around. When I stand in the choir, my hands are doing the steno of the lyrics. I'm on lesson 26 of 32 in Phoenix theory before I begin speedbuilding in earnest -- going from somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 words per minute to 225 (205 real-time).

But tonight, I got a glimpse of what I wanted from this. I heard a story a long time ago about a court reporter who was taking a deposition at the airport (stop me if I've blogged this before). He liked planes, and he was looking out the window at the airplanes and transcribing the conversation, and suddenly he realized that the attorney was asking, "Reporter, would you please read back the last question?"

The reporter lifted his notes and found that he'd written several times, "Reporter, would you read back the last question?"

From the time I heard that story, there's been a tickle in my mind that I'd like to go there -- to the place where you're a witness, a transcriber, with a direct connection between ears and fingers and the mind engaged but disengaged in between.

At class this evening I got a glimpse of that. I know, I know, it was 30-40 words per minute, and I tangled my J's and Y's terribly and when I looked at what I'd written, it was laughable, but -- but -- I didn't skip any sentences (first time), and I could read what my notes should have said, and I began to find the silent spaces between the words where the transcription happens.

It sounds crazy, and I'm not sure I can say it so that it makes sense to anyone else. But I've done my best for someone whose keyboard keeps rearranging itself.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Barney aids crime fighters in U.K.

Aye, laddie, I'd been on White House duty for a little over four years, and the Missus had given me a new assistant to train, when I got a call from Northumbria Police.

They had seen my work in hunting terrorist cells among the White House staff and checking the Christmas tree for explosives in 2003 -- the big white ball was especially suspicious, but I got it out of the house and dealt with it. Christmas 2004, I had to do a training run on a kidnapping. I handled it pretty well, if I do say so myself, and the word got around.

The Northumbrian lad said they needed some new technology to deal with similar situations over there. The Big Guy was out of the country, and I was on my own four feet for a while. I shipped them a couple of Barney-cams.

They were quite grateful, but what could I say? Anything for Scotland Yard.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Gosh, he's really sorry now

The eponymous Wead is really, really sorry about releasing all those tapes of him talking to his good friend George W. Bush. It wasn't for the money, honest; he lost millions , he says, by not releasing the book before the election. But now that the election is over, that coverage in all the major metropolitan dailies can't hurt, can it?

I'm having trouble getting a handle on what the "right to privacy" means if it's sacrosanct for people aiming to bring suitcase nukes into the country but not for a presidential candidate talking to a "friend" on the telephone, if it applies to public library records but not to private telephone calls. The New York Times would undoubtedly say, "If we didn't print it, someone else would"; which may be true, but beside the point. It sometimes seems that the major media do see themselves as above and outside the society at large, not beholden to any standards of decency or loyalty, not bound by any constraints except their own "ethics," which, as Dan Rather has shown us, can be -- shall we say -- fluid.

The Constitution is set up to protect the press, and the rest of us, from the government, but who protects private citizens from the press, which by now has equal and sometimes greater capacity to destroy than the government? I don't believe it's a conspiracy or a cabal -- it's just ordinary people using the power that's been given them without any reflection, and "absolute power . . . ."

Bush comes off pretty well -- better than I would, if someone caught me venting with a person I felt safe around. But the deposit of trust in the world has been drained a little more. It's a scarce commodity, and Wead and the reporters may need it at some time and won't find enough of it left. So be it.

Anyway, as far as the eponymous Wead is concerned, read Dr. John Mark Reynolds.

'Free Mojtaba and Arash Day'


Arash Sigarchi and Mojtaba Saminejad are Iranian bloggers in prison for what the rest of us do without thinking about it every day.

If you want to tell the Iranian authorities what you think of their approach to human rights, here's the address of the Iranian embassy in London. (I gather that they don't have one in the United States.)

I probably don't need to say it, but I will anyway. Overloading their servers with firm but civil missives will be more effective than hate mail. Nuf said.

Monday, February 21, 2005

You've been waiting more than a century for this

(creep-out alert)

At last! On display in St. Petersburg, Russia, the organ that influenced Russian politics for the entire 20th Century.

Longer-lasting than the Soviet Union, harder than the "Man of Steel," holding up longer even than Lenin's body, this will give spam a whole new realm of promises for the future of man.

Freudian analysis will get a muscular boost as psychologists discuss why Russians have envied America's possession of Napoleon's. The missile defense program may need to be revamped, if it turns out that this is indeed larger.

Seriously though, if you're weak of stomach or delicate of sensibilities, don't even go there. If it weren't so funny, I'd wish I hadn't.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Some friends

It's partly to try out the Flickr photo application, partly to introduce my friends Mocha and Sadie.

Mocha, Sadie on the goHere we are on our way to an excellent adventure in the park.

We were on our way to Tryon Creek State Park, a 645-acre network of trails along a ravine on the edge of urban Portland.

It's a haven for joggers and walkers, with bike and equestrian trails, and parts of the park where you can (Shhhh) let the dogs off their leash. There, it's about a 50-50 chance of running across another dog off-leash or running across some pickle-faced volunteer park monitor telling you that dogs should always be leashed.

Sadie, Mocha on the trailIf Mocha looks annoyed in this picture, it's because we're passing within 20 feet of a creek, and she's not being allowed to go swimming.

This is the color of Oregon in the winter.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Let's go tell the LA Times!

Japanese-American Lillian Nakano writes in today's Los Angeles Times that "1942-Style Bigotry targets Muslims in the U.S. Today."

Of her 700-word column, she spends about 550 on her experience in the Japanese internment of World War II -- appropriately enough, since Feb. 19, 1942, is the day Pres. Franklin Roosevelt signed the order to move people out of certain "military areas" and into U.S. internment camps.

Unfortunately, after that 550 words, she doesn't leave much space to back up her assertions that American Muslims have had a similar experience.
Some of my fellow Americans are now being targeted because they are Muslim, Arab or Middle Eastern. When the attacks of Sept. 11 happened, I mourned for the innocent lives that were lost. But I also began to identify and sympathize with the innocent Muslim Americans who immediately became victims of the same kind of stereotyping and scapegoating we faced 63 years ago. They too have become targets of suspicion, hate crimes, vandalism and violence, all in the name of patriotism and national security.
Maybe the central sentence in that quote is explanation -- it's more about her identity and sympathy than about anything outside herself, but there's precious little outside herself in this column.

So what are the crimes aginst Muslims?

Suspicion -- There's been some of that, though the poor-victim-me stance of CAIR does more to create suspicion that Muslims are trying to assert more than their demographic control over American life than allay it.

Hate crimes -- CAIR encourages its members to report any small slight -- a discussion not entirely favorable to Muslim beliefs, asking a woman to remove her hijab for a school photo, an ordinary annoying prank that has nothing to do with religion -- as a hate crime, not to mention the hoax at Arizona State University. My own observation, though, is that in the name of diversity and "we're not hateful, not us," more outreach has been done and more air time has been given to Muslims since 9/11 than before.

Vandalism and violence -- the murder of a Sikh (not Muslim) in Arizona is the only actual hate crime I'm aware of -- though there's some indication that the recent murder of an Egyption Coptic Christian family in New Jersey might be a hate crime perpetrated by Muslims. Every act of violence is to be deplored, but I don't see "1942-style bigotry."

The next mention of today's Muslim victims falls several paragraphs later:
Yet today there are renewed attacks on civil liberties in the name of the "war on terrorism." Legislation such as the Patriot Act and the government's willingness to arrest and charge innocent people contribute to an atmosphere that could lead to future internment camps.
So the Patriot Act is like Executive Order 9066. Here's Roosevelt:
I hereby authorized and direct the Secretary of War . . . to prescribe military areas . . . from which any or all persons may be excluded, . . . .
Here's Section 102 of the Patriot Act:
(b) SENSE OF CONGRESS -- It is the sense of Congress that--
(1) the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans, including Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and Americans from South Asia, must be protected, and that every effort must be taken to preserve their safety;

(2) any acts of violence or discrimination against any Americans be condemned; and

(3) the Nation is called upon to recognize the patriotism of fellow citizens from all ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds.

Executive Order 9066 is short, and there is nothing in it about the "civil rights and liberties" of the Japanese (just food, shelter and medical care).

"And the government's willingness to arrest and charge innocent people contribute to an atmosphere that could lead to future internment camps." Let's parse this sentence: "the government's willingness to arrest and charge innocent people": innocent people are often charged with crimes; that's why there is a provision for trials in the case of criminal matters and military tribunals in the case of acts of war. Do we cease investigation because justice isn't perfect? But Nakano's verbs reveal that even she has no grounds for complaint: ". . . contribute to . . . could lead to . . . future internment camps." Is it any wonder that Michelle Malkin compares these people to Chicken Little?

Speaking of Michelle Malkin, she is the final piece of evidence that the Muslim internment is on its way. Malkin, the child of Filipino immigrants, wrote a book reexamining the Japananese internment.

I haven't read In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror, but the Amazon product description is not "Those *#&$ Japs had it coming," but "This diligently documented book shows that neither the internment of ethnic Japanese--not to mention ethnic Germans and Italians--nor the relocation and evacuation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast were the result of war hysteria or race prejudice as historians have taught us."

Agree or disagree. Argue Malkin's documentation or quarrel with her premise. If she's incorrect, point it out and point out your sources. It's called debate. What Nokano and a lot of others do is to scream, "The sky is falling!" and call it dissent.

Nakano closes: "There is no justification for racism or denial of civil liberties -- not in 1942 and not in 2005."

OK, but you still haven't made your case that anyone says there is.

And Chicken Little? Pay close attention to the end of the story.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Note to commenter

Right. And the little boy who cried, "Wolf!" was just trying to "draw attention to the changing atmosphere in the pasture before it gets to wolf proportions."

The problem is that the standard of what makes for impending Stalinism has shifted drastically over the past 10 years. When Janet Reno sent AFT troops in with guns blazing to kill 70-something children in order to save them, it merited a collective yawn from the Left. If Congress decides it may theoretically be necessary to look at public library records in search for people who may be trying to blow up our cities, it's the shadow of Stalinism.

I have a blog burbling on the back burner about American apocalypticism, both Left and Right. As the song goes, "I've seen the world from both sides now, from Left and Right, and still somehow, it's paranoia's delusions I recall. I really don't know Stalinism at all."

Bill Maher's upset again

Bill Maher, recently heard from telling Joe Scarborough that "flying planes into buildings is a faith-based initiative," is upset about that survey of high-school kids.

Or maybe he's not really upset, but just in need of grist for a column lambasting people of religious values. It's too bad he didn't actually read the survey; I wonder what he would have said about the comparison between the adults' answers in the survey and the kids'.

He calls the kids Stalinists because, he said, "almost one in five said that Americans should be prohibited from expressing unpopular opinions. Actually, the numbers are that 7 percent disagreed with the premise "People should be allowed to express unpopular opinions," and 10 percent said, "Don't know." Which amounts to fewer than 1 in 10 saying that Americans should be prohibited from expressing unpopular opinions, and if the question had been worded that way, the answer might have been entirely different.

But he's not going to be detained from a good rant by mere facts. Here's the bone in his teeth:
And what's so frightening is that we're seeing the beginnings of the first post-9/11 generation -- the kids who first became aware of the news under an 'Americans need to watch what they say' administration, the kids who've been told that dissent is un-American and therefore justifiably punished by a fine, imprisonment -- or the loss of your show on ABC.
Like most of his kind, he doesn't make any distinction among a fine, imprisonment or losing his show on TV. He thinks there's something strange about having to watch what he says, even though most of us in the real world have to do it every day -- to keep from hurting our families, disgusting our friends, getting fired, deceiving people, lowering the level of discourse for everyone, and so forth. Some of us are even told in our faith-based terrorism manual that the tongue is capable of great harm, and we should keep it bridled at all times. Of course, that doesn't apply to satirists on TV.
But the younger generation is supposed to rage against the machine, not for it; they're supposed to question authority, not question those who question authority.
In other words, it's only "authority" who's supposed to be questioned--those enlightened few who have ascended to the heights of ABC TV shouldn't have to be accountable to anyone, not their stockholders, managers or viewers. And if they fall into the "anti-authority" camp, then those pesky kids should look at them in wide-eyed wonder, saying ony, "Gee, Mr. Maher! I want to be just like you someday!"

In the meantime, though fearing for his "unpopular opinions," he still gets a show on HBO and a column in the LA Times.

NOTE TO MR. MAHER: Stalin's dissidents didn't get shows on cable TV or columns in major metropolitan daily newspapers.

If this column is any indication, he might have lost his TV show because it was empty and stupid.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

You have just stepped into . . .

. . . the Twilight Zone.

So I was at class the other night, and we finished our speed drills about 6:45 or so, and I went to the break room for a cup of tea and came back and started writing sentences, and all of a sudden I felt bad. Headache, upset stomach, chills, malaise. Was I coming down with the flu? Food poisoning? SARS? The effects of skipping dinner? I ended up leaving early.

At home, my daughter was upset after talking to her sister's husband. Troubling news, great sorrow. We talked together, and I went to sleep to strange dreams and woke feeling only a little better. But it was the next day, and I had work to do, so I did it.

This morning I asked younger daughter about what time she'd heard from older daughter's husband. She said it was between 7 and 7:30 p.m. She'd been crying and tried to call me, but my phone was on silent during class.

I'm skeptical about ESP, not because I don't believe it happens, but because I don't believe it happens to me. But one of the truths in the novel Life of Pi is that sometimes several stories will fit the events, and in that case you have to pick one.

Valleys of Mariner

Photos from Mars continue to astound, this one looking for all the world like water used to pour through those gullies.

This would have been where Ransom found the hrossa.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Senate moves on the Oil for Saddam scandal

The Telegraph reports that the Senate investigation is not playing nice patty cake with the crooks and frauds who perpetrated the UN Oil for Food scam.

Sen. Norm Coleman, chairman of the investigating committee, has demanded that Secty-Gen. Kofi Annan strip Benon Sevan, who led the program, of his diplomatic immunity, opening the Cypriot up for prosecution.

Do you think Annan will agree?

If he does, Sevan may not like accepting the whole responsibility for a fraud that obviously had Annan's blessing, since Kofi's son Kojo was one of the beneficiaries. So if he's charged with this beyond-Enron crime, he might just look around to see whom he can take with him. Would Kofi make a good roommate in Leavenworth?

On the other hand, if Annan refuses to revoke Sevan's immunity, it will be tantamount to admitting his complicity.


They're both probably banking on being able to brazen it out.

Are Dems starting to get the message on abortion?

If so, it's scaring some of them into a frenzy.

The New York Times takes on the "A" word in a story about Democrats re-examining their abortion politices. A couple of nuggets:
Congressional Democrats named a professed opponent of abortion rights, Harry Reid of Nevada, as the leader in the Senate. Some Democrats supported another abortion opponent, Timothy J. Roemer, for the party's chairmanship. [emphasis added]
(Democrats also elected a former Planned Parenthood board member, Howard Dean, to be the chairman of the party.)

Ann Stone, a leader of a group of pro-abortion Republicans points out that money could be a factor: "The Democrats have to be very careful about this because they could end up undercutting themselves with the donor base. The pro-choice donors in both parties tend to be the more wealthy."

Pro-aborts are starting to bend slightly on issues that can't get them anywhere:
Another large abortion rights group, Naral Pro-Choice, is reversing course, saying it will drop its opposition to the proposed Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, a bill that would require doctors to offer anesthetic for the fetuses of women seeking abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
It's a good plan -- better for the child that's about to be killed, a strong message to the mother about what's going on, and a lose-lose for the abortion proponents -- but it's a little creepy, like demanding that child abusers use anaesthetic before burning their kids with cigarettes or drowning them in the bathtub. Still, Naral doesn't lose much (except maybe their hardened abortion base) by accepting this moderate little Roe-proof legislation, and, as they say, not fighting this bill leaves more resources to fight judicial nominees.

Are the Dems starting to soften their stance? Rhetoric is easy; actions are harder. But even the change in rhetoric could have an effect. Single-issue proabortion groups gave more than twice as much to candidates for national office in 2004 than did abortion opponents. Polls say that the pros and cons are pretty close to even, but money shouts. The hard-line abortion supporters are already threatening to start a third party--political suicide, if you ask me.

Still, any departure from Democrats' harsh and adamant rigidity on abortion is a good thing, as long as people aren't fooled into believing it means more than it does. Pres. Bill Clinton's dictum that he wanted to keep abortion "safe, legal and rare," is a reminder of how hollow rhetoric can be.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Benefits of being at kicking level

I know a woman, not a bad woman, but difficult, whose communication style is such that she engenders wailing and gnashing of teeth wherever she goes. She has a manner that pokes wounds and punctures buoyancy. People dread hearing her voice.

I don't believe she's aware of it. I think she sees herself as witty, compassionate, an old softy, and that part of her abrasiveness comes from her defense against her perceived softness. Another part comes from her growing up in a part of the country with a different communication style from where she ended up.

Unfortunately, she has climbed so far in her corporate stratosphere that no one, no matter how kindly or with any amount of well-meaning concern, can take her aside and tell her that she makes enemies for herself.

Those of us who can still get the withering phone call, the insult, the humiliation of our errors, miscalculations and self-delusions are lucky, though it never occurred to me before. It's easier to learn from your mistakes if people aren't afraid to tell you about them.

This is a principle that has far-reaching consequences--in politics, the media, religion, corporate life--about the use of power for self-defense and the dangers of that kind of self-protection. I suspect that some of our high-profile failures in recent years missed this little lesson from life at dog-level.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Blogroll, please! Belief Seeking Understanding

I've been at this blogroll stuff for a couple of months and have gotten well into the B's. At this rate, I'll get through the alphabet in time for my blogcentennial -- and then I'll have to start over for all the links I left out.

Nevertheless, an apple a day and all that.

Douglas from Belief Seeking Understanding admits to having achieved an 82 on a recent nerd test. I've learned some very cool stuff about the technix of blogging from this assistant professor in the graduate programs in software at the University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota.

I've exchanged a few e-mails with him and would genuinely like having him and his family for next-door neighbors -- unless I had to move to Minnesota for it.

Never mind.

So I read his blog. All the best things about being neighbors without having to live in minus-30-degree temperatures, except you can't borrow a cup of sugar.

What about 'pro-choice'?

My friend Cathy brought up a sidelight on my Name-calling and perceptions post that I didn't have a good answer for: "What about the power of a term to soften or hide what's behind an idea? Such as 'pro-choice.'"

After further cogitation, I think the principle still applies. Over the long term, it's the connotation of the word that changes, not the perception of the reality behind it.

For example, "states' rights." Federalism is the principal that decisions happen as close to the people as is practical. Unfortunately, the South used "states' rights" to justify the unjustifiable before the Civil War, and now anytime someone uses the term for something like zoning or education, it raises the spectre of the KKK.

We haven't seen that happen with "pro-choice" yet, maybe. But the reality of abortion has been hidden for these 30 years -- in doctors' offices, in people's unspoken history, and kept from public view by a complacent media. And now opinion is beginning to turn on the abortion issue -- thanks to scientific developments, ultrasound, population reversals, overreaching abortion proponents (consider the fight to the death over partial-birth abortion and the Unborn Infants Protection Act), the traumatic experience of many women who aborted their children and men who lost theirs to abortion, and the tireless and undaunted efforts of all stripes of pro-lifers.

I predict -- and I could be wrong, but let's see what happens -- that within 20 years, "pro-choice" will mean "arrogant, thoughtless, selfish to the point of not caring the outcome of one's choice." I don't think all pro-choice people are like that -- many are simply uninformed or whatever. (I also don't think all homosexuals fit the new derogatory meaning of "gay.") But sometimes the language-makers (all of us in some mysterious mix) don't care about the fine points of generalization and specificity, and sarcasm usually trumps nuance.

But there, I've gone on record. If anybody (including me) remembers this prediction in 20 years, we can have fun revisiting it.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Name-calling and perceptions

Huw Raphael Richardson and Father Joseph Hunneycutt have written thought-provoking essay about Sponge Bob, Tinky Winky, "gay"-ness and the sexualizing of children.

I recommend reading the whole thing, but it sends me off in another direction --

"Gay," even when I was a kid, meant "light-hearted" or "cheerful." It was later appropriated by the homosexual community, to the point that it was impossible to use the word for "light-hearted" or "cheerful," and even 19th-century writers drew sniggers for their anachronistic faux pas.

Now, among teen-agers, "gay" has come to be a term of derision, meaning "stupid," "moody," or "lame," and divorced from sexual content.

By contrast, the Society of Friends, or, as they frequently call themselves, "Quakers." The word "Quaker" started as a term of derision, but the people accepted the term, and the derision part of it is simply a historical curiosity. That's what a reputation for pacifism and freeing slaves will do for you.

Similarly, the word "Christian" probably started as a term of mockery. It's had its ups and downs over the centuries -- sometimes as a generic term for an ethical person, other times meaning an imbecile, but the early Christians adopted the term proudly.

The point? Changing the language doesn't change perceptions. It's easier to change perceptions and watch the meaning of the words change.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Cue music

Another one bites the dust!

Note to corporate journalists: your in-house fact-checkers may be toadies, but that no longer preserves you from consequences. Other people have begun to pay attention, and there's enough of a community out there that it has some effect.

ScrappleFace is asking who's next?

Why sorry?

The visitor is a swarthy Spaniard who lives in our area, originally from the southern tip of Spain. He's tall and robust, in his 30s or 40s, with a full beard.

When he came in, two of my co-workers said, independently of each other, "I heard they thought you were a terrorist on the way into the country from Mexico. On behalf of my country, I apologize."

I said that they thought my dad was a terrorist, too, when his artificial knee set off the metal detector.

My question is why should this guy immune from being searched, just because he happens to look like a member of the Taliban.

UPDATE: I posed that politically incorrect question to my co-worker, who replied, "Well, he's from Spain, and he's got a Spanish passport, and he's been working in this country for years, and . . . ."

Right. Spain doesn't have any trouble with terrorists.

Understand: the man in our office is not a terrorist, of that I'm confident. But he wasn't beaten up, he didn't miss his plane, he wasn't arrested. He said they didn't even do a very good job checking his baggage -- they missed a couple of cameras he had. In exchange for some of the time he'd have spent in the waiting area reading a newspaper, he received a story to tell his friends when he got home.

Of course, I suppose, in the structure of the story itself, being taken aside to have your baggage checked would be the belly of the whale, and seeing that the security people missed something would be the return with the elixir.

Or maybe not

I want to start a blog for techies and call it "Geek-seeking missals."

Too bad I don't know squat about technology.

You can have the title.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Whoa, it's like, just shut up, you know?

A lot of people are rending their garments over a new study released last week showing that high-school students think the First Amendment is, like, really overrated.

I first heard about it in the lunch room at work, where a very nice lady from another department thought that I, being in the news business, would be shocked and horrified. My first question was, are these the same students who don't know what century the Civil War was fought? Oh, wait, those were college students.

My second question was what were the questions. If you're as curious as I was, here's the survey.

A few of the questions were pertinent to the students' views and attitudes:
40. The First Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution more than 200 years ago. This is what it says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Based on your own feelings about the First Amendment, please tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: The First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.
12% Strongly agree
23 Mildly agree
19 Mildly disagree
25 Strongly disagree
21 Don’t know
(Don't get me started on the phrase "Based on your feelings about the First Amendment . . . .") A quick pass with my trusty calculator tells me that 35% agree with that statement, and 44% disagree; 21% "don't know," and they're probably at least being honest (or they didn't want to take the survey).

Now let's look at that question from another direction: 35% agree that it "goes too far . . . ." Of the other 65% are a certain number, uncounted, who think it goes not far enough and some who think it's OK the way it is. It's a loaded question, loaded for the press release.

But what's the "right" answer ("based on your feelings")? Of the high-school principals, 24% thinks it goes too far, and 29% of high-school faculty agreed. They're not substantially below the students, and that glass is either a quarter full or three-quarters empty.
41. Overall, do you think the press in America has too much freedom to do what it wants, too little freedom to do what it wants, or is the amount of freedom the press has about right?
32% Too much freedom
10 Too little freedom
37 About right
21 Don’t know
This question is so vague that I'd have to go with the 21% who didn't know (I wonder if it's the same 21% from the prior question). "Too much freedom to do what it wants": and what, pray tell, does "it" want? "The press" is hardly a monolithic enterprise. It includes Dan Rather and the Wall Street Journal; the National Enquirer and the blogosphere; the paparazzi and Simon and Schuster. Should the press have the freedom to invade the privacy of a private citizen? Commit libel? Change the outcome of an election by promulgating forged documents? Certainly, there are elements of "the press" that "want" to do these things. Ought they be covered in the First Amendment?
For each of the following statements, please circle if you agree or disagree that someone should be allowed to do it...

42. People should be allowed to express unpopular opinions.
51% Strongly agree
32 Mildly agree
5 Mildly disagree
2 Strongly disagree
10 Don’t know
There's what the First Amendment guarantees, and 83% agree, and the "don't know's" have dropped to 10%. Somebody tell the political correctness police.
43. People should be allowed to burn or deface the American flag as a political statement.
8% Strongly agree
8 Mildly agree
11 Mildly disagree
63 Strongly disagree
10 Don’t know
We have 74% of these students saying that burning or defacing the flag is not OK. You can certainly carry on a lot of First Amendment-guaranteed speech without setting fire to the symbol of the guarantor of that freedom, and there has been much discussion about the issue over the past couple of decades. Even though there's a strong majority here, and even though I think Elvis has already left the building, I don't see this attitude as evidence of the rise of the Third Reich.
44. Musicians should be allowed to sing songs with lyrics that others might find offensive.
40% Strongly agree
30 Mildly agree
14 Mildly disagree
7 Strongly disagree
9 Don’t know
Looks like we're back to a strong majority -- 70% -- supporting free expression. The principals don't quite agree with their charges on this question -- with 43% in favor and 56% against. Faculty fall between them -- at 58% for and 41% against.
45. Newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of a story.
24% Strongly agree
27 Mildly agree
22 Mildly disagree
14 Strongly disagree
13 Don’t know
Again, it's an ambiguous question, but a plurality came down on the pro-press side. Still, if the kids are thinking about wartime, that might be an explanation for the close count. Would Ernie Pyle have revealed secret U.S. operations during WWII? Is that prior restraint or self-censorship?

Predictably, 80% of faculty and principals agreed that newspapers should be free of government censorship.
46. High school students should be allowed to report controversial issues in their student newspapers without the approval of school authorities.
30% Strongly agree
28 Mildly agree
18 Mildly disagree
11 Strongly disagree
13 Don’t know
Here 58% think they should, doubling the "disagree's" and tripling the "don't know's." The faculty are a tighter split, at 60% opposing administration censorship and 39% in favor of it (fewer of the faculty didn't know).

But the principals (the ones who get the calls from school boards, attorneys and parents) came down firmly on the side of prior restraint, with 78% of principals favoring censorship.

There's your survey in a nutshell: people of all ages are guided more by their own interests than by exalted principles (or principals either).

For my part, I still don't think the question is specific enough. Should student newspapers have the right to print controversial stories guaranteed by the First Amendment? Yes. Should they have the right to publish insufficiently researched or unnecessarily inflammatory pieces or libel? No. Does the question make any sort of distinction between journalism and using the press as a club to beat up your enemies? No.

After that the questions go into matters of opinion about other people's attitudes or facts of law, which vary from state to state and from year to year, and about their own connections with the journalism profession. These are high-school kids, and frankly, I can hardly keep up with the legal status of flag-burning and Internet pornography laws.

So, no, I don't think the sky is falling. They're teen-agers. If you teach them something, they'll learn it.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Second Life

OK, here's the creepiest trend I've heard about in a long time.

I caught the promo on NPR on the radio this evening. Apparently, it's a chance for middle-aged ladies who are unhappy with their lives to go back and get a virtual do-over--not a make-over but a do-over.

One more piece of evidence that Snow Crash has elements that are not just science fiction but prophecy.

Update: Somehow I got the wrong URL in the promo link above and sent people off to Sheepcrib. By all means, check out Sheepcrib, but it doesn't have anything relating to Second Life.

Error fixed, and I'm feeling sheepish.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Fear and rage in South America

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shows what a pathetic loser he is.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice issued some substantive charges against Chavez's regime:
She called Mr. Chavez a "negative force" in Latin America and accused him of meddling in the affairs of his neighboring states. Colombia, for example, has complained that Mr. Chavez is sheltering Colombian Marxist rebels.

"We are very concerned about a democratically elected leader who governs in an illiberal way," Miss Rice said of Mr. Chavez.
I could understand anger, outrage, condemnations against the "Cowboy in Chief" Bush and his meddling secretary of state (whether justified or unjustified), but Chavez dips into his adolescence for a reservoir of spleen that reveals more about him than about Rice:
In his Jan. 23 speech, Mr. Chavez said Miss Rice "keeps demonstrating complete illiteracy."

"It seems that she dreams about me. I can invite her on a date with me to see what happens to her with me. She said that she was sad and depressed because of Chavez. Oh, daddy! She should forget me. What bad luck this lady has. I don't want to make that sacrifice for my nation," he said, according to Venezuelan reports.
For what it's worth, the women of Venezuela are angry, too. Unlike American feminists, for whom the Democratic Party alone confers victim status.

State of the Union address

I caught part of the SofU on the radio last night and wondered how much I missed. Fortunately, Grace did one of the finest jobs of live-blogging I've ever seen, right down to the utterances of the Opposition afterward. I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

Must have been the influence of Clemmie the Wonderdog.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Why we get so mad at our kids

I've discovered that it's at least partly because they put me in touch with myself.

Oldest daughter, the one I'm worried about, very nearly missed an opportunity to take a trip she really wanted to take. Some people had made great sacrifices to make this possible, and through her own folly, she almost missed it.

I got a phone call at 3:30 a.m., asking where she was (she was supposed to be catching a ride to the airport). When I went to bed last night, I thought she was going to be in a predictable place at that time. She wasn't. If she didn't arrive soon, her ride would have to depart to the airport, and she would miss the trip.

Her clothes for the trip were sitting on her bed, and her suitcase was sitting empty on the floor.

What to do?

If I were a "good" parent, I would go back to sleep and let her take the consequences of her folly. If I were a "good" parent, I would pack her suitcase for her and go out looking for her. If I were a "good" parent, this never would have happened to begin with. If I were a "good" parent, I wouldn't be having these questions; I would just know what to do and do it.

Let her miss the opportunity? Suddenly, like an actor rehearsing for a role, I'm experiencing every possibility I've blown through my own folly. Like the traffic crash I caused in high school. Like the time my un-backed-up hard drive died, losing all my fiction in progress. Like the time I missed my plane and had to take a later flight, inconveniencing the people who were going to pick me up at the airport. In fact, all of those moments when I've realized that there was no command-Z undo available (how I wished for a command-Z, even back in the '70s, when Apple hadn't been invented, much less the Macintosh) come rushing back as one huge "Oh, sh*t," that I project onto my daughter. I "know" how she'll feel, because I know how I feel.

I'm angry at her for her folly, and for reminding me of mine.

Well, she scraped herself together. My 3:30 a.m. phone calls served only to wake up the parents of her friends and eventually to let me know she was scrambling for home. I did get to call the woman who is taking her to the airport to let her know that the girl would be there just in the nick of time.

I never had a chance to talk to my daughter. She slipped in, tumbled her clothes into the suitcase and slipped out, without ever knowing her near miss. Now she's on a plane (I hope) on her way to her destination. What she's left behind is not as important as what she took along.

Does she know how close she came? I hope so, and I hope not.

I'm like a rat in a cage, who doesn't want to touch that electrified wire any more. I want her to touch the electrified wire so that she'll learn from it, and because -- if I'm honest -- it's not fair that I have to touch it and she doesn't. I want there not to be an electrified wire, but I know that while this one was just a jolt, the next might be deadly.

After the phone call, I lay back on my pillow and felt my heart pounding as hard as if it had all happened to me, not just second hand, not just a near miss, but really happened. Really missed the plane. Really missed the trip I, as if I were she, so urgently wanted to take. Really blew the plane ticket and the kindness of these people. It was 4 a.m., and I had to get up in another two hours, and I had at least two hours of stress to lose before I could sleep.

I put some quiet music in my headphones and tuned in and dropped out.

Why am I telling you all this, when there are GI Joe dolls to rescue and controversies brewing and important events happening?

Well, for three reasons. 1) This is my blog, and for whatever it's worth or not worth, this is what's spinning around my tiny little mind. 2) If anybody reading this has experienced something similar, maybe it will be a comfort not to be alone. 3) I'm going to write a book about this someday, and I want to store the memory on something more permanent than my hard disk.