Archive for the ‘National News’ Category

What I Think About Sam Brownback

May 31, 2007

In today’s New York Times, Kansas senator and Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback explains, in an op-ed titled, ‘What I Think About Evolution,’ his stance on Darwinism.

“In our sound-bite political culture,” he begins, “it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves.” Ironic, considering Brownback is the hardcore, pro-life, anti-gay, ‘rebuild the family’ candidate on the right, a veritable sound-bite in a starched shirt, but understandable as the senator gaffed earlier this month in Green Bay, his own sound-bites going awry (turns out, dissin’ Brett Favre in Packerland won’t earn you any points).

Though Brownback composes an intelligently designed op-ed, muddying the waters of random mutation, natural selection and divine intervention, seeming at times to agree with the postulates of Darwinism while suggesting that God still plays a role, the devil is most certainly in the details. To use a Brownbackian football reference, the senator employed a bend-but-don’t-break defense, at last revealing his goalline stand:

“Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique to the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.”

Translation: anyone who says we descended from monkeys is a Godless liberal working to supplant Christian ideology with scientific mumbo-jumbo. Mr. Senator, the Natural History Museum is literally one mile from the Dirksen Senate Office Building and, as your federal-tax-paying constituents are footing the bill, admission is free. Go there; check out the Chimpanzee skeleton; that’s great grampy Brownback.

Chimpanzees are patriarchal troop hunters. Unlike their egalitarian Bonobo relatives, the Chimp is autocratic and fiercely territorial. They are war mongering and are often engaged in combat with rival tribes. Do Chimpanzees ‘reflect an image and likeness unique to the created order’? Of course not. Their image, likeness and behavior are similar to that of a Conservative Republican.

Unfortunately, politics is just that. Instead of working to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, make prescription drugs and college more affordable, fix our broken democracy, bring healthcare to the 46 million people without coverage or ensure that our troops have the funding, equipment and leadership they deserve, our elected officials are looking out for number one. Nancy Pelosi only cares about being the Speaker of the House two years from now. John McCain would speak at the groundbreaking of the Guantanamo Bay testicular-electrocution ward if it meant being elected President. And Sam Brownback will continue to pander to the ignorant dregs of Conservative America, inspiring a race to the bottom.

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The Fourth Hand

April 18, 2007

I just finished reading John Irving’s The Fourth Hand. While it is worth noting that I have previously read both The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany, found each to be better than The Fourth Hand, and recommend that you read both, The Fourth Hand is especially significant today–two days after the Virginia Tech shooting.

The Fourth Hand is a story that follows a cad of a television field reporter who loses his left hand to an Indian circus lion while on an assignment. The reporter, Patrick Wallingford, later falls in love with the widow of his hand transplant donor. The book has fewer layers than Garp or A Prayer for Owen Meany, and is without the adroit literary architecture present in most of Irving’s work. However, its commentary on the era of sensationalist ‘all-news-networks’ and their exploitation of national tragedies is particularly pertinent this week.

The following is from a Facebook group, posted by a news outlet on Monday:

“Hi everyone. My name is Karen Park. I am working with Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) in New York City. We are looking for (korean) people from VT who knew Mr. Cho personally, had a class with him, was his roommate in previous years, etc…

We would also like to know if anybody has any photographs or video clips of him or with him. We are interested in only showing his face and so we will blot out the faces of other people in the photographs.

Lastly, if anyone is willing to do a brief on-camera interview with one of our correspondents in Virginia or a telephone interview, please call us immediately…”

On Monday night, Brian Williams did the NBC Nightly News broadcast from the Hokie campus in Blacksburg. Tucker Carlson, MSNBC’s chief political pundit, was also there. Hoards of reporters have descended on Blacksburg, looking for the “he kept to himself” sound bytes and B-roll of the hysterical, sobbing friends of victims; ESPN is reporting on the canceled Hokie spring game and how the ‘innocence’ of college sports will bring us back together. Even the all-sports-news network struck gold:

“you realize there are 32 people who aren’t walking down to the football game.”

In The Fourth Hand, Wallingford is at the anchor desk the week of JFK Jr’s plane crash over Martha’s Vineyard. He curses both the local news and all-news networks for taking telephoto shots of the victims’ friends and family, and the networks’ proclivity to stretch a tragic story into a multi-week feeding frenzy. Wallingford would chastise Brian Williams for his reporting with all the gravitas and feigned verisimilitude of having been in the classroom with the victims, and the way the press will scrutinize the writings of Cho Seung-Hui and opine that someone should have seen it coming.

The Fourth Hand is about a man who loses his hand and finds his soul. Needless to say, it is a work of fiction. Our aggressive all-news culture will ride the Virginia Tech story like they did Imus and Duke and Anna Nicole Smith; they will be relentless. There are 28,000 students at Virginia Tech and, by the end of this week, each will have been solicited for an on-camera interview, photographs of Cho Seung-Hui and more information about the thirty-two victims.

On the fourth or fifth day of non-stop reporting following Kennedy’s plane crash, Wallingford sits in the anchor’s chair watching—with millions of viewers worldwide—a network montage of Kennedy Jr.’s life. The montage ends—with the image of John-John saluting his father’s funeral procession—and the camera is back on Wallingford. In lieu of his usual signoff (“Goodnight, Doris. Goodnight, my little Otto.”) Wallingford says, “Let’s hope that’s the end of it.”

Far From Exonerated

April 12, 2007

CBS Sportsline’s Mike Freeman wrote an article yesterday entitled, “Duke case shows: Hurtful stereotypes come in all colors.” In a piece certainly crafted with nothing more than ratings in mind, Freeman melds the two most incendiary race-war stories into a sensationalist, gushing amalgam.

Ok. Let me tell you why I object to this article. Notwithstanding this shameless attempt to do double-duty, reporting on both the Rutgers and Duke stories, there is a stark difference between having sexual assault charges dropped and being exonerated of moral turpitude. These guys weren’t otherwise saintly victims of circumstance. They were not simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; they live their lives in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing.

Porn-style photos of two exotic dancers — one of whom was the accuser — emerged from cellphone camera downloads. Heated exchanges between players and dancers occurred. Racial slurs were heard. And in an ‘American Psycho’ reference, a repulsive e-mail message depicting the skinning of strippers was sent by a player, Ryan McFadyen, who, to his credit, has since apologized.

  • Selena Roberts, New York Times

These are not good people; and comparing them to the women of Rutgers is a slap in the face to an upstart program that personifies the emerging parody in Womens’ College Basketball.

But they are not rapists. Fortunately, these guys had the financial wherewithal to prove it. However, in a country where poor defendants are still given unqualified public council in death penalty cases, I won’t lose a wink of sleep over three trust-fund punks with tarnished reputations.

I have certainly veered here, but here is one last, brief observation. The news—yes, this is going to be a general, clichéd observation—has gotten way too sensationalist. That this even begins to pass for responsible journalism, “Donald Imus spews his hurtful and hateful words, using the airwaves as a verbal noose,” is an indictment of all mainstream media (doing my best Drudge impression).

I’d like to see Mike Freeman suspended for 2 weeks for over-sensationalizing two non-stories.