Friday, December 28, 2007

Sentinel a self-described car crash!

A friend who for some bizarre reason reads the Worcester Business Journal forwarded me this semi-interesting interview with Chuck Owen, the publisher of the Sentinel.

Most of it's boring business-speak, but there are a few telling bits. Shall we quote them? We shall!
People go to stock car races not so much because they want to watch it go around and around and around. They go to see the car crash. We're reporting on certain pieces of news, news that people may not like, and they may call it negative, but it gets people to respond, to clean up, to take an active role in their community.
Well, what an enlightened approach to news reporting! I've never heard anything like that before!

Okay, I have. But it's usually used as a derogative way of describing the pathetic state of news reporting. Bragging about it is a touch bizarre.

Now, he's probably right that people go to stock car races for the crashes. But that's a fucking stock car race! Its primary purposes are to entertain rednecks and to sell advertising space!

The Sentinel, on the other hand, is a newspaper (albeit a poor one). Its purpose is ostensibly to inform people about the news, not to entertain them with fiery crashes and traumatic head injuries.

Now, I can't claim to have watched sports reports about stock car racing, but my bet is that they tell you about more than just the crashes. No doubt certain crashes are mentioned, but I'm willing to wager that they also tell you about who won the race, maybe some of the tactics, maybe some analysis of the flow of the race itself, et cetera. Which I guess makes them more newsy than our local paper, which only cares about the crashes.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to reporting on negative things. If anything, I think the media is too timid about doing so (when's the last time you saw a war photo in a newspaper that actually conveyed the horrors of war?). But it can't be your only focus, and it can't exist in a vacuum. You need context or these sorts of stories are both misleading and pointless.

Sure, you can run your depressing stories like "A Family's Christmas Nightmare". But while a family getting robbed of its hard-earned XBox 360 and Video iPod does indeed suck, you've got other families out there who didn't get robbed because they had nothing to steal.

Do those families not have nightmares too? When you can't even consider pricey electronic gifts because you're struggling to figure out how to both heat your home and feed your kids this month are you not newsworthy?

No, you're not. Not for the Sentinel, at least.

It's not sexy to suffer from complicated societal ills. There's no car crash moment in slowly wasting away. There's no easily identifiable burglar to demonize when the whole system is at fault. So your problems aren't going to be in the paper. Sorry about that!

How about the assertion that this negative focus "gets people to respond, to clean up, to take an active role in their community"?

Well, it's bullshit. Going back to the car crash analogy, what role does the average citizen even have? I'm not a doctor, I'm not a fireman, I can't fix cars. It's a one-time event that's responded to by the people best suited to respond to it. If anything, these stories give people a feeling of helplessness. That the world is rough, but that they can't really do anything about it.

What we really can do something about are those bigger context-laden stories (the ones that don't get reported because they're not sexy). You know, big issues like poverty and homelessness and suffering. They're things that take a lot of people doing a lot of work to really make a dent, but they're not dramatic.

And if they don't get reported on, they're not even visible problems to a lot of people.

So there you have it. The Sentinel will start giving a shit about you and me just as soon as something exciting (and terrible) happens to us. If you're slowly starving to death or something, don't look to them for help. It's just not car-crashy enough.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Move along, nothing to see here.


I had a post sort of half-written about this dumb Sentinel article and how they keep trying to create controversy where none belongs and then I got rambling about religious intolerance and zero-sum game theory and blah blah blah.

Then I realized just how fucking bored I was with the whole thing, so I stopped.

But I used this picture of Zombie Jesus that I found somewhere and sort of liked it, so here's a totally useless post just so I don't lose it.

Oh, but I did like this article, because of this quote:
[R]esidents who live near Kirby's bar [Hooligans] said they have a videotape of a fight outside of Hooligans that they want the commission to view. Tony Reyes, who lives at 35 Day St., said the tape shows a fight outside of the bar with blood and people urinating in public.
I want to see that videotape, because it raises so many questions!

Was the urination part of the fight? Was it used as a weapon? If not, how could these people manage to pee with a fight going on right near them? I have trouble if someone parks himself at the urinal next to me when I'm about to go. I can't imagine being able to pee with the danger of flying fists and blood heading my way.

Report more on this, Sentinel! Important questions have been raised!

Holy Zombie Jesus things are boring lately...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nazis and Arabs and Dickbags, oh my!

One thing I'll give the far right credit for; they're remarkably predictable. Predictably wrong, yes, but predictable.

You know what they're going to say well before they say it. You also know it's going to be dumb, but that every idiot right-winger out there will repeat it until it almost develops an air of legitimacy. There aren't a lot of original ideas coming out of that ideology, but there are a lot of lies.

What am I getting at? Who knows? But local radio dickbag Chuck Morse has a new blog post up that you could have seen coming a mile away.

It's not really worth following that link, because most of his post is misdirection, but here's the opening paragraph from the charmingly titled "Iran Report echoes American approach to the Nazi Holocaust":
Israel government minister Yitzhak Cohen, responding to the US Intelligence report concluding that Iran’s nuclear weapons program was shut down in 2003 stated: “The manner in which the Americans relate to the intelligence report on Iran is similar to the way in which they viewed reports they received during the Holocaust on railways transporting hundreds of thousands of Jews to their death at Auschwitz," [sic]
Well, if Israel says something, it must be true, right? They never do anything bad!

After that paragraph Morse goes on to babble about Nazis and ignore the whole issue of Iran. I suspect Morse has never heard of Godwin's Law or Reductio ad Hitlerum, but he pretty much embodies both of them. The man loves a good (and by good I mean logically fallacious) Nazi analogy!

Because that's the whole post. He doesn't really make any arguments about Iran, he just quotes shit about Nazi Germany and expects his readers to jump to the conclusion that Iran is the same thing because of his headline. Which is dumb.

Morse's only real mention of Iran boils down to this:
Author Kenneth Timmerman claims that Thomas Fingar, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council which issued the report, harbors political motives for publishing what his sources in the Middle East call “a deliberate disinformation campaign” cooked up by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who laundered fake information and fed it to the United States through Revolutionary Guards posing as diplomats in Europe.
Oh, so it isn't Morse's idea at all. It's Ken Timmerman's! Timmerman, by the way has an awesome web site. I love the banner at the top and the horrible flashing things everywhere! Also the lack of any evidence for his delusional claims!

Anyway, the basic idea here is that people who are set on invading Iran are unhappy about the NIE report that indicates that "Iran halted work toward a nuclear weapon under international scrutiny in 2003 and is unlikely to be able to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 to 2015."

Oh, that sounds like good news to me! But it's bad news to the warmongering right, because it means they don't have a good excuse for invading Iran.

Mind you, if the report said "OMG Iran is totally going to bomb us tomorrow!" these same people would be cumming in their pants. But since it didn't their only recourse is to try to discredit it. Shame they didn't do that with the totally crap reports about Iraq's make-believe WMD program, but it's not like they're actually interested in the truth in either case. They just need a way to push their agenda and this NIE makes that harder.

Now, the parallel I've just made between the intelligence on Iran and the intelligence on Iraq is a totally obvious and relevant one to make. I think any half-conscious follower of politics would make the same one.

Morse doesn't. He sees some parallel with Nazis. I mean, everyone knows Nazis were bad, so obviously if there's a parallel then it means that this report must be bad too, right?

To quote Dickbag:
In April 1944, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler escaped from Auschwitz and subsequently issued a report in which they estimated that the number of Jews killed in Auschwitz between June 1942 and April 1944 was about 1.75 million.
Incidentally, that report actually was wrong. Current estimates put the total number of people killed at Auschwitz at about 1.1 million, 90% of them Jewish. Still a horrible thing of course, but facts are facts...

Morse goes on to babble about history and how we really should have done something about Auschwitz when we heard this report (which I'd agree with in theory, but I'm hardly an expert on WWII-era military tactics), and blames it on this dude McCloy. He closes with:
McCloy's motives in ignoring and in covering up the Nazi genocide are not known, nor are the motives of State Department official Thomas Finger and his coterie in their present attempt to obscure what appears to be a program by another genocidal leader to build an instrument of mass death, to be used against the Jews.

Let me put Morse's argument (if you can call it that) in a nutshell here.
  1. When the US got intelligence about Auschwitz in WWII it should have acted on it.
  2. The US just got intelligence about Iran saying it's not the nuclear threat we've been led to believe.
  3. Because of 1), we should ignore 2) and bomb the fuck out of Iran.
  4. QED
Make any sense to you? Because it doesn't to me!

Okay, maybe that's not fair. I left out Morse's number 2.5: "The people who made the Iran NIE are big liar-pants, because some crackpot says so!" But what the fuck does that have to do with Nazis? Oh, nothing! What does it have to do with reality? Also nothing! What does it have to do with pushing an agenda no matter what the truth is? A whole lot!

I don't know if the NIE is right or wrong. Nor does Morse. Nor does anybody except the people running (or not running) the nuclear programs in Iran.

What I do know is that when you get down to it, neither Morse nor any of these other right-wing warmongers really give a shit if the NIE is right or wrong. They want to bomb Iran, and no amount of evidence suggesting that's a bad idea is going to change their minds.

Oh, and Nazis were bad.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The War on Paganism!

Here I was, sitting back and trying to simply ignore the whole "Holiday Season," sitting at work, watching people slip around hilariously on the ice outside, when my peace was disturbed!

I blame the time-traveling Mr. Lincoln for forwarding me this Sentinel editorial, no doubt in an effort to get me riled up. And riled up am I!

The editorial is written by Sentinel editor/douchebag Jeff McMenemy and is entitled "Tree controversy shows what the world is coming to."

Oddly enough the piece doesn't really explain what the world is supposedly coming to. Is it Armageddon? Cultural awareness? Orgies on every streetcorner? Also, are you really supposed to end a sentence with a preposition like that, Mr. Editor? Shame, shame!

Anyway, McMenemy is apparently a Teutonic Pagan and wants to push the trappings of his crazy-ass religion (I can say that because my girlfriend is a pagan) on the rest of us. To wit:
I don't understand the world today sometimes. [Unicow's note: this is both self-evident and a really sucky sentence.]

Case in point being the decision made by Samoset Principal Donna M. Pierce early last week to take down the school's giving tree -- which was used to collect donations to give to less fortunate people in Leominster -- because she received several complaints from parents and school employees who said it wasn't fair to put a religious symbol in the schools during the holidays.
Holy crap he's a bad writer. Not to mention a misleading one. Did people really think it wasn't "fair" to put up a religious symbol (in this case a Pagan one) in a public school? I'd bet they thought it wasn't constitutional, which is unrelated to fairness. McMenemy clearly has no qualms about pushing his nutty nature-worship on the rest of us, but the Constitution of this country isn't real big on that kind of behavior.

He goes on to say:
Pierce later agreed to put the tree back up after a huge public backlash.
Hmm. Do you think Mr. Pantheism there reads his own newspaper?

Because there was this story which explained pretty clearly that...
A parent put up the tree Friday to the "surprise" of faculty members and students, who had been working on a display that now includes Hanukkah and Kwanzaa symbols, as well as Christmas decorations, Superintendent Nadine Binkley said Wednesday.

"A parent came in and put up the tree without consulting anybody," she said. "It was an individual parent who chose to do it as opposed to a unified effort from the school community."
Oh, what a huge controversy! The school took down something that was erected too soon only to put it back up when it was due to go up anyway! Oh no!

So, some parent comes in and does something that could be argued to promote religion in a public school setting if left standing alone. Instead of leaving it there, it's taken down until such a time as the planned and coordinated Xmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/Whatever decorations can get put up and thereby avoid potential establishment clause issues (displays for religious holidays are okay in public schools only if you give equal time to all comers, and don't promote any religion). Horrible!

[Another note: I was going to make an establishment clause / Santa Claus joke here but decided against it. You're welcome.]

(Also, if you're curious about what is and is not acceptable when it comes to religious holidays in public schools, the Christian Legal Society has some information here.)

Actually, what the principal did makes a lot of sense. But it's not controversial and doesn't fit into McMenemy's preconceived "War On Pagan Traditions That Are Explicitly Warned Against By The Bible."

I mean, only an idiot would freak out over schools following their own schedules, right? Or is he advocating anarchy in our public schools now? What if the parent had put the tree up in September, Mr. Goat-worship? Should we just leave it up and thereby abandon all order? Think of the children!

If McMenemy had left it at that I wouldn't have been too bothered. I mean, he's just one dumbass among many. But for some reason he had to get nasty:
The correct thing for Pierce to do would have been to thank everyone for their concern, and then politely tell them the tree was staying up, and suggest they could lessen their chagrin by donating something to put on the tree.

That way these thin-skinned, politically correct left wingers -- because you know we Republicans love Christmas -- might actually do something helpful for once in their lives.
What the fuck?

"We Republicans love Christmas?"

Okay, I'd like to think that was tongue-in-cheek, and McMenemy just doesn't have the writing skills to convey sarcasm. But I don't think it was, which just means that Jeff McMenemy is an unbelievably huge asshole. Hey, fuck you, Jeff!

I get told by people all the time that Xmas is about giving and brotherhood and all that (hey, wasn't Jesus into brotherhood too?), and you come in defending it with the most stupidly divisive statement I've ever read? Fuck you again!

What, Democrats don't love Xmas? That'll come as news to an awful lot of people. Now, I hate Xmas, but I hardly speak for all Democrats (and my hate has more to do with the secular annoyance and conspicuous consumption than the let's-pretend-Jesus-was-born-in-December-even-though-he-wasn't religious tripe anyway).

And to suggest that the left-wing doesn't do anything to help the needy? What world have you been living in? Fuck you yet again! Fuck you and all your animal-sacrificing buddies!

I wasn't opposed to having Xmas trees in schools before (when done correctly, in a way so as not to promote religion), but now I am! Just to piss off Jeff McMenemy.

People like McMenemy are so keen on destroying the First Amendment and breaking down the separation between church and state (and make no mistake, that's what this is really about), that they become blind to what's actually going on.

In reality there's no controversy here. There's no sign of "what the world is coming to." It's a non-story that the Sentinel has tried to turn into a controversy by having three stories and two opinion pieces about it (so far). All that's really here is some right-wind fucktards freaking out over nothing, and using it as an excuse to attack people who they disagree with.

I may not subscribe to McMenemy's neo-paganist beliefs, but he's welcome to them. Trying to stir shit up for no reason isn't cool, though. Nor is it in keeping with his supposed belief system. Nerthus would be very disappointed!

ps Also, nice job pushing your pro-death penalty agenda in the same editorial thing, Jeff. 'Tis the season for giving (lethal injections)!