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Friday, July 01, 2005

The First Thing to Do is Stop Digging

There's an old saying: "When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging." This, apparently, is a lesson the Minnesota Daily has yet to learn.

At the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year, Opinions editor Tim Burnett wrote, "What readers can and should demand is a balanced discussion...” When I read this, I had some hope that it would actual happen. The year before, accusations of a liberal bias were rampant; many students, myself included, felt that the Daily consistently endorsed the policies of the liberal sector of society while belittling conservative groups. Sadly, this year turned out to be no different:

Nick Woomer, a regular columnist, showed himself to be particularly bigoted against Christians and Republicans. The editorial cartoonist seemed (and still seems) to be unable to point his pen towards anyone to the left of John McCain. Karl Noyes, then the senior editorial board member, made it apparent that he wouldn't let facts stand in the way of trying to paint President Bush as an art-hating Nazi. Libby George, the Daily's reader representative, admitted in an end-of-the-year column that the Daily had and still has hiring policies in place that give preference to liberal applicants over conservative ones.

So, after publicly admitting that they were doing more to stifle the "balanced discussion" than to encourage it, the Daily would surely make some changes in order to discourage such one-sidedness, right? Nope, they kept right on digging. These new shovelfulls came in the form of making Karl Noyes the Daily’s Editorial and Opinions Editor.

This appointment was the very worst decision the administration at the Daily could have made, given the circumstances. Rather than recognizing the need for true balance in opinions, the powers-that-be ignored the distracting years-long dialog regarding editorial biases and left conservatives with only token-anti-liberal Darren Bernard to represent them. Less than a month after Noyes wrote an incredibly un-researched hack job on President Bush and the Secret Service (one that prompted changes in the Daily's fact-checking policies), he was given even more power to spread his venom - and he has not failed to disappoint.

Since his elevation in status, the one column attributed to Noyes was nothing more than an unveiled attack on religion and the religious. The board editorials of the last month (whose writer(s) remain unidentified) have included defense and praise for liberal bastion PBS, smears towards Republicans, frothing condemnations of Quran abuse long after such "abuse" was shown to be, at worst, accidental, and a call to close the prison at Guantanamo. This last soapbox became especially ineffective after Senators visited the jail and found it to be nothing like the torturous hellhole the media made it out to be.

So you'll have to forgive me if I don't believe Noyes when he writes "these pages are open to you.” I’ve been there; I’ve tried to “write a letter or column” (or two). I know all too well that, given my socio-political views, my letters don’t stand a chance against a vegan communist atheist’s letter to the editor announcing the next meeting of the Vegan Communist Atheists club or a pro-abortion feminist’s call to arms for her fellow pro-choice activists to hold a protest on Northrop mall against government intervention in their wombs. I suppose I’ll probably keep reading the liberal staff editorials, the letters comparing Bush to Hitler, and maybe even the incoherently biased editorial cartoons, but given the leadership at the top of the OpEd department, I won’t waste my time writing in, for I know that to Noyes, a balanced dialog only needs equal parts pro-liberal and anti-Bush.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Truth Finally Comes Out

In a column in the Daily's final issue of this semester, Libby George has revealed that the Minnesota Daily, has, in fact, been discriminating against conservative students who apply for positions there, resulting in an overly liberal editorial board.

My two cents:

1). It is interesting to note that she says she has known about this since "earlier this year," but chose not to write about it until the very last issue of the school year, when the debate will be slowed to (at most) one issue per week, and most students will be leaving for the summer.

2). It appears that Tim Burnett's claim that there aren't enough conservative students applying at the Daily was completely bogus, and he knew as much when he was feeding me (and many others) that line. I suppose it would be naive to think that, when I talked to Tim about my findings of a liberal bias, he would have said, "Well, that's probably because we work real hard at keeping conservative students out."

Anyway, I'm not going to say I told you so, but... I told you so.

This is What a Daily Supporter Sounds Like

I got this letter from Ivan Rosales, an IT student at the University, and I was so amused at his vain attempt to defend what the Daily is doing, I thought I'd publish it here, just so everyone can see how pathetic the left's argument is. (A nice picture of the author is included.) My editorial comments are in bold.

"I saw your website claiming that the Minnesota Daily has a liberal bias. I certainly hope it does. After all, young people have a liberal bias, as much as 3 in 4 young people consider themselves liberal.

Also, 87% of people use bogus statistics to support their poor argument. Only 54% of people ages 18-29 voted for Kerry in 2005. Additionally, the Daily does not serve only the young; it represents the entire University, including all alumni.

Then, I have no problem with the Daily representing this. The “conservative bias” is currently characterized by fear, intolerance and/or greed, so, I certainly would hope those at the Daily renounce such ideologies.

He's really got the blinders on, hasn't he?

I am unconcerned whether the Daily is liberal, your argument of if the daily is liberal or not could be much more convincing if you can establish the detrimental effects of a liberal bias. After all, liberalism is historically the onset of great, beneficial social change.

Yes, great social changes like filibustering the Senate in the 60s to stop passage of civil rights laws and seceding from the Union to keep their slaves.

It’s also a fallacy to assume that the Daily should be balanced, because the discourse itself is certainly not balanced. i.e. It is actually a disservice for a media outlet to report in a “fair” fashion when it propagates misinformation: “The republicans claim today that gravity does not exist and that the fingers of god are the force of we understand as god, democrats disagree”, this is a disservice to simply “report” what each side says is true. Or a practical example in Kansas: “Christian conservatives want creationism taught in science class, democrats do not.” The “liberal bias” in the latter example could be due to the factual error in the conservative argument, namely that creationism is not science, it’s simply factually incorrect to claim it is and therefore should be taught in science courses. So, when someone reports this for what it is, nonsense, it may appear to be a liberal bias. There just happens to be a lot of factual inaccuracies and/or ideological inconsistencies in the current conservative discourse.

It seems that Ivan here is a shining example of an ignorant liberal. He doesn't understand that describing the religious beliefs of the majority of Americans as nonsense falls under the umbrella of liberal bias.

I don’t belong to either party, but I consider myself very liberal. I would like the same ideological inconsistencies attacked on the liberal side, it just happens that these glaring inconsistencies don’t surface. See, the inconsistencies
of “Compassionate Conservativism”, the “Culture of Life”, etc; it wasn’t liberals who made up that rhetoric.

Ivan

It appears that Ivan can't tell the difference between a convicted murderer and an unborn child. (When people call the "Culture of Life" inconsistent, they are referencing the fact that many who label themselves as part of said culture are against abortion but in favor of the death penalty.) It is interesting that Ivan has managed to make it this far without being able to distinguish between guilty and innocent.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

So What's Their Plan?

Why does it seem that each time an out-of-state congressman writes a piece for the Daily, it's all liberal FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt)? Wasn't the last occurrence when Sen. Harkin wrote that ridiculous piece of draft fearmongering shortly before the election?

Here's my response to a "Republicans will kill Social Security piece" that the Daily printed today from Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D, obviously - Wisconsin) .

Rep. Tammy Baldwin made a good point that everyone needs to get involved in the fixing of Social Security. However, her claim that the "two wars" we're financing (Afghanistan must be the second one, although no one talks about it anymore due to its success) are affecting the solvency of Social Security is way off. I'm going to set this next sentence apart so it's easier to read:

Social Security's problem is that it will be paying out more money than it will be taking in.

That's right, it's not because of Iraq or Afghanistan. Social Security's problem is its own success. More people are retiring than there are workers to support them.

Baldwin said, "Social Security can be fixed without drastic benefit cuts and without creating huge deficits if Republicans drop their preoccupation with private accounts and join with Democrats to forge a bipartisan solution." However, if you read her entire article carefully, you'll notice one glaring omission: the Democrats' plan. Democrats want Republicans to drop their ideas and form a "bipartisan solution," but in order for something to be bipartisan, you'd need two parts. The Democrats have no plan other than obstructing Republican progress.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ignoring the Christian Point of View

In Wednesday's Daily, Tim Miller of the Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists seriously proposed that 'religious leaders have a bias against certain “sins,” like homosexuality, that they cannot understand,' completely ignoring the parts of the Bible that call out homosexuality as an immoral abomination. This is such a laughable assertion that I was sure there would be a letter from a Christian student the next day explaining how things really work. When no such letter appeared, I just assumed no students had bothered to send in a letter, until I received a copy of a letter that was sent to the Daily early Wednesday afternoon:

"Tim Miller's belief that religious leaders have some mysterious bias against homosexuality is way off the mark. Given that no sin is worse than another, here is an actual Christian perspective on why the sin of homosexuality is considered more serious than other sins.

If a man commits the sin of lust, to use Miller's example, he may sin momentarily, but he does not define himself by it. When a man commits the sin of homosexuality, he is in a constant state of sin, for by identifying himself as a homosexual, he is willfully acting against God's will with the full knowledge that what he is doing is sinful. Thus, homosexuality is moreso a mindset than a single act; this is why it is "singled-out," as Miller puts it. Were a man to come to church and say, "I'm a luster, and I am proud of it, because it is the way I was made," his sin of lust would be considered just as serious as the sin of homosexuality.

The main point of the matter is this: all have fallen short of the glory of God. We can either repent and ask for God's forgiveness, or we can continue in our ways, knowing full well that our actions are displeasing to God. Homosexuals take the latter path, and this is why it is such a serious matter.

Christina Tewes
Carlson School of Management"

I wonder why the Daily has decided not to publish a correct Christian point of view on the subject. I'm intent on finding out, and I hope to have more to report tomorrow. Who knows? Perhaps they decided that the best place for this campus to get its Christian theology is from an atheist.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

You Be the Judge

Below is the full text of my e-mail debate with Karl Noyes about his Secret Service column. His responses and the text from his original article are bolded for easy comprehension. Now you can decide for yourself if I was making degrading points or if Noyes thinks himself too important to respond. Text in red are points I made that Noyes has not yet responded to; be forewarned - there's a lot of red text.

--

There are a few misleading points Karl Noyes's column that I felt needed to be made more clear.

Karl: Thank you for your email. I wish my column was more carefully read but nevertheless, I can clarify a few things for you.

"The artist, Al Brandtner, had the gall to create a panel of enlarged postage stamps with Bush and a handgun lurking in the background."

If by "lurking in the background," Noyes meant "pointed at his head in an execution-style fashion..." You can see the picture here.


Karl: In my mind Bush is the focal point of attention of Brandtner's work, he is the first thing the viewer sees thus I believe it is correct to say that the gun is in the background.

To say that the gun is "lurking in the background" is wholly untrue. It is neither lurking, nor is it visually implied to be in the background. It is physically at the same depth level as the President's head. Do you think that the gun in this picture is lurking in the background? Of course not.

"Who knows how many other anti-art missions the Secret Service has conducted?"

The Secret Service is charged with investigating any and all threats on the President's life. These were not "anti-art" missions; they were doing their job. Does Noyes seriously believe what he writes?

Karl: Do you think exhibits and high school band rehearsals are threats to the President's life?

It doesn't matter if I think so. It matters if the Secret Service thinks so.

From the ABC News article about the "high school band rehearsal" you mention:

"But some students and adults who heard the band rehearse called a radio talk show Thursday morning, saying the song the band sang ended with a call for President Bush to die.
Threatening the president is a federal crime, so the Secret Service was called to the school to investigate. "

When you refer to this group as a "high school band," you are once again being misleading. The song was sang for a talent show, and not performed by the high school's band, as you imply.

Jeff Weise (of Red Lake) made an animation depicting himself brutally murdering about a dozen people with a handgun and then shooting himself shortly before he brutally murdered about a dozen people with a handgun and then shot himself. Do you think his "art" was at all indicative of his future behavior? The phrase "better safe than sorry" comes to mind.

"Some citizens even took a vigilante approach when they had an art show in New York closed because a portrait of Bush made out of monkey pictures and grass was deemed too offensive."

Incorrect. The Secret Service had nothing to do with this incident. The gallery manager closed the exhibit himself after seeing the painting. You can read more about the *facts* here: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04355/429620.stm

Karl: Of course the Secret Service had nothing to do with the New York incident that is why I called it a vigilante approach, outside of law, not through law.

The wording in your original column can be taken in this way:

"Who knows how many other anti-art missions the Secret Service has conducted? Some citizens even took a vigilante approach when they [the Secret Service] had an art show in New York closed because a portrait of Bush made out of monkey pictures and grass was deemed too offensive."

So in your mind, threatening a boycott is vigilante justice? From the article:

"On Dec. 8, however, the day before the exhibit opened, a manager called Turco and said a Bush supporter had threatened to boycott the market if Savido's painting was not taken down.

Turco removed the painting, but he decided to put it back up for the exhibition's opening, which attracted more than 2,000 people.

When the market manager saw the painting, he ended the party."

"Indeed, the true act of art, of creation and not of entrepreneurship, must boggle the mind of many Bush supporters. If you cannot profit or satisfy a power urge through art, why do it?"

Here, Noyes decides to use one of the logical fallacies (the false dilemma; more here: http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/distract/fd.htm ) as an argument. He expects readers to believe the Bush supporters will only commit an act if one can profit from it or satisfy a power urge, which is obviously an incomplete set of options.

"Yet, it is this ignorance of the purpose of art, or perhaps the realization that art is one of the few remaining avenues to subvert the Bush administration, that has inspired Bush’s crackdown."

The Secret Service has not arrested any of these artists, nor has it stopped the art from being viewed. Investigating a possible threat on the President's life does not equal a crackdown on the arts.

Karl: The purpose of the Secret Service visits is not to arrest artists but to create a chilling effect. Just as the tortures in Guantanamo and Iraq are meant to instill fear and take away identity rather than to gather information or punish.

So you're comparing the torture of terrorists to the investigation of threats on the President's life? The tortures in Guantanamo *are* meant to gather information and punish. Why would you say they aren't?

The main point that you're ignoring is that having freedom of speech does not guarantee one the freedom from consequences.

"While Bush is sending out the Secret Service to act like a modern-day Gestapo..."

George Bush is not checking art exhibits and dispatching the Secret Service when he doesn't care for the art; the Secret Service acts independently of the President's personal opinions.

Also, Godwin's Law applies here.

Karl: President Bush sets the tone for his Secret Service and a crackdown on artists is apparently acceptable to him because they keep occurring.

Do you know this for a fact, or are you just making it up? Also, you keep using the word "crackdown." That must mean something different to you than it does to the rest of the world. Can you explain what is being cracked down on?

"For every two-bit demagogue mindlessly spouting Bible quotes, there are youth writing poetry and hip-hop lyrics."

I like the imagery here. Religious types are "two-bit demagogues," but rappers are "youth writing poetry." Just so you know, I am personally offended. Not that Noyes cares, but I thought I'd mention it.

Karl: I do not say that all people who quote the bible are two-bit demogogues, I merely say for every two bit demagogue i.e. Pat Robertson, never implying all who read the Bible. If you are offended that I call people like Pat Robertson two-bit demoagogues, then there is not much I can do.

I'm not so much offended that you don't like Pat Robertson as I am that you use your prejudices against religion to try and make a point that Bush fosters an anti-art atmosphere.

"For every Toby Keith wailing Bush love songs, there are probably 10 underground punk bands calling for Bush’s scalp."

"*Probably..." When you don't have the facts to back up your argument, a good idea is to just preface what you'd like to be true with "probably."

"By the way, another world leader didn’t like unflattering portraits of himself. His name is Saddam Hussein."

Ah yes, a valid comparison, since both leaders had artists executed when they didn't like their work. Oh wait, you mean that was just Saddam? Bush hasn't personally stopped a single artist from expressing themselves? As a "senior editorial board member," I thought that Noyes would have been aware of that, but the fact that he wasn't certainly shows how closed-minded that Daily's editorial board apparently is.


Karl: Bush has fostered and tolerated an atmosphere where anti-Bush art can be removed and exhibits closed and sanctions intimidation of artists. What is the next step?

I believe the next step would be the slippery slope into hell. Soon, anybody who professes to enjoy art will be shot on sight and all expressions of creativity will be burned. Everyone in America will be a soulless, mindless drone, and The Great Leader Bush will tell us what to think. Is that on par with where you're going?

Do you think that the Secret Service has only investigated threats into this President's life? What did they do while Clinton was president - sit around and eat bonbons? What you've done is taken an occurence that has happened during every Presidency in the last fifty years and tried to use it to promote your hatred of Bush. Good luck with that.

Karl: Do you support what is being done in Guantanamo and Iraq with prisoners?

To what exactly are you referring? Do I support the interrogation of al-Qaeda and Taliban members? Or are you asking me if I support the a few isolated incidents of prisoner abuse? Perhaps if I support Lyndie England or if I'm rooting for a guilty verdict? I don't exactly see what my support or lack thereof of the military's prisoner interrogation tactics has to do with your defense of your column.

Karl: Your support of Guantanamo or the Iraq prisoner policy has a lot to do with whether or not you are rational human being.

In other words, if someone doesn't agree with you, then they are not rational? Give me a break. You never even clarified what it was you were asking me if I supported. Here's a question: Do you support what is going on in America? Yes or no please.

Karl: I support that people have the rights to have boycotts. People can boycott all they want, the point is that government policies are fostering unjust boycotts. Sure people can boycott and protest, but I think it is pretty sad when that is used as an excuse not to debate the issue.

Unjust boycotts? You think the government should be able to tell people what they can and cannot boycott? That is ridiculous!


Karl: I think it is a travesty that the exhibit promoters in these cases gave in to them. I don't care who is suppressing art, I don't support that suppression.

So you're arguing against the exhibit promoter's freedom to have the choice of what art he displays in his own exhibit? That's unconstitutional.

Karl: As to the rest of your points, I feel they degrade the value of this argument and are not worth even addressing.


Ah, now I get it. Given this stance on addressing reader's complaints from the Daily's senior editorial board member, I now more fully understand why the Daily's editorial section works like it does. If you don't like the points made by a reader in his submission, it's just a degrading piece and it goes in the trash, right?

If you didn't take the time to read through my points, you can say so.

If you don't have the time to respond, you can say so.

If you don't feel that you can respond, you can say so.

If you don't know how to respond, you can say so.

If you just don't want to respond, you can say so.

But if you honestly believe that the points I made are degrading and not worth addressing, then God help you.

This Explains A Lot

I've been e-mailing back and forth with Karl Noyes, trying to get him to explain his recent column regarding the Secret Service. In a recent e-mail, rather than answering some questions I had posed to him, he asked me, "Do you support what is being done in Guantanamo and Iraq with prisoners?" I asked why it was relevant, and this is the answer I got:

"Hello Mr. Finke,

Your support of Guantanamo or the Iraq prisoner policy has a lot to do with whether or not you are rational human being.

I support that people have the rights to have boycotts. People can boycott all they want, the point is that government policies are fostering unjust boycotts. Sure people can boycott and protest, but I think it is pretty sad when that is used as an excuse not to debate the issue. I think it is a travesty that the exhibit promoters in these cases gave in to them. I don't care who is suppressing art, I don't support that suppression.

As to the rest of your points, I feel they degrade the value of this argument and are not worth even addressing.

thank you,

Karl Noyes"

His response pretty much speaks for itself: "If you don't agree with me, you are irrational. If I don't agree with a boycott, it is unjust, and the government should end it. If I don't agree with your argument, it is degrading."

I may post the full text of our e-mail debate later, but given that Noyes is the Daily Editorial Board's senior member, this kind of fingers-in-ears, "la la la I can't hear you" attitude explains a lot about how the Board functions.

Informed Minds Think Alike

It appears I was not the only one who saw through Karl Noyes's fantasy piece about the Secret Service as the anti-art brigade. The Daily printed a letter from graduate student Ben Ellingson today that brought up many of the same points I did in my letter, but in a much more reader-friendly manner. If you want a good summary of the misleading points in Noyes's article but don't like my play-by-play style, Ellingson's letter is a must read.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

No Bias at the Daily, No Siree

There are a few misleading points Karl Noyes's anti-Bush, anti-facts column that I felt needed to be made more clear.

"The artist, Al Brandtner, had the gall to create a panel of enlarged postage stamps with Bush and a handgun lurking in the background."

If by "lurking in the background," Noyes meant "pointed at his head in an execution-style fashion..." I've attached a picture of the exhibit, and you can read more about it at PowerLineBlog.


"Who knows how many other anti-art missions the Secret Service has conducted?"

The Secret Service is charged with investigating any and all threats on the President's life. These were not "anti-art" missions; they were doing their job. Does Noyes seriously believe what he writes?

"Some citizens even took a vigilante approach when they had an art show in New York closed because a portrait of Bush made out of monkey pictures and grass was deemed too offensive."

Incorrect. The Secret Service had nothing to do with this incident. The gallery manager closed the exhibit himself after seeing the painting. You can read more about the *facts* here: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04355/429620.stm

"Indeed, the true act of art, of creation and not of entrepreneurship, must boggle the mind of many Bush supporters. If you cannot profit or satisfy a power urge through art, why do it?"

Here, Noyes decides to use one of the logical fallacies (the false dilemma) as an argument. He expects readers to believe the Bush supporters will only commit an act if one can profit from it or satisfy a power urge, which is obviously an incomplete set of options.

"Yet, it is this ignorance of the purpose of art, or perhaps the realization that art is one of the few remaining avenues to subvert the Bush administration, that has inspired Bush’s crackdown."

The Secret Service has not arrested any of these artists, nor has it stopped the art from being viewed. Investigating a possible threat on the President's life does not equal a crackdown on the arts.

"While Bush is sending out the Secret Service to act like a modern-day Gestapo..."

George Bush is not checking art exhibits and dispatching the Secret Service when he doesn't care for the art; the Secret Service acts independently of the President's personal opinions.

Also, Godwin's Law applies here.

"For every two-bit demagogue mindlessly spouting Bible quotes, there are youth writing poetry and hip-hop lyrics."

I like the imagery here. Religious types are "two-bit demagogues," but rappers are "youth writing poetry." Just so you know, I am personally offended. Not that Noyes cares, but I thought I'd mention it.

"For every Toby Keith wailing Bush love songs, there are probably 10 underground punk bands calling for Bush’s scalp."

"*Probably..." When you don't have the facts to back up your argument, a good idea is to just preface what you'd like to be true with "probably."

"By the way, another world leader didn’t like unflattering portraits of himself. His name is Saddam Hussein."

Ah yes, a valid comparison, since both leaders had artists executed when they didn't like their work. Oh wait, you mean that was just Saddam? Bush hasn't personally stopped a single artist from expressing themselves? As a "senior editorial board member," I thought that Noyes would have been aware of that, but the fact that he wasn't certainly shows how closed-minded that Daily's editorial board is.