Saturday, July 17, 2010

MSM Fail

Thank you, Jake Tapper, for bringing this important story to light. Did the President Go to the Wrong Ice Cream Store?"

I will sleep better tonight knowing that ABC is on top of this.


Here are two stories that brought a touch of warmth to my cold, cynical heart.

A married couple dies within hours of each other. "Lou, I love you. I had a wonderful life. I'll see you in another place."

Author John Scalzi writes about the passing of the family dog. "And both times I did the same thing. I petted her head, slid out of the chair and on to the floor, and held my dog while I cried, letting her be the one to share both my joy and pain, so I could go on to what I had to do next."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shocking Grandma

I have written about stuff like this before. A cop in Oklahoma tased an 87-year-old woman who wanted to commit suicide.

And so we meet Lona Varner, an 87-year old woman from the central Oklahoma town of El Reno, bedridden and respirating with the aid of an oxygen machine. In late December, her grandson called the police in fear that Ms. Varner was in the process of suicide. But the cops discovered that she retained an acute desire to take anyone who tried to stop her into the Void with her.

Newser reports that Ms. Varner kept a knife underneath her pillow and pulled it when the police entered her home. “If you try and get the knife,” she warned, “I will stab you and kill you. I killed four Japs in World War II, and I would not bat an eye killing you.” An ugly remark at an ugly moment, to be sure.

It was followed up by compounded ugliness. One of the officers reached for a Taser and used it on Ms. Varner, burning her to the point where she would require hospitalization. According to her lawyer, the police also “treated the frail woman brutally, ripping the flesh on her arms as they grabbed her.” Police have the right not to be harmed, without question. But is there a policeman alive who can’t disarm an 87-year old bedridden woman without the use of a stun gun?

One of the reason that stories like this make me mad is that it makes people (such as me occasionally) who carry Tasers look bad. The Taser is a great tool, but like any tool it needs to be used properly. And using it on an bedridden 87-year-old woman on oxygen is not the proper use of it, not when she only has a knife. If she had a gun, it could probably be justified. But this woman didn't. If an officer gets a cut on his arm getting a person like this under control, then he can chalk it up as part of the job.

Does that suck for the officer? Well, yeah. But it is the job of law enforcement to serve and protect. That carries risk. And this officer did not protect this woman. As Ackerman writes in the article "[t]here’s something about non-lethal weapons that encourages abuse." It's because they are easy to use. Point, shoot, and your target is on the ground, muscles locked, and screaming in pain. Anyone carrying a Taser needs to learn that they can't be used anytime the officer feels like it. There has to be justification. And you can't tell me that a bedridden old lady with a knife is a serious enough threat to justify an electric shock.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fear in the Media

Greenwald has some questions about standards in the media.

So common is this appellation that a NEXIS media search reveals that the word "disgraced" appears extremely close to the phrase "Eliot Spitzer" (within two words) a total of 394 times:

The problem is that conservatives don't get the same treatment.
By blindingly stark contrast, ever since he got caught hiring prostitutes to wrap him in diapers while campaigning on the basis of Family Values, the word "disgraced" appeared within two words of the name "David Vitter" a grand total of 4 times -- all from small blogs:

[Newt] Gingrich was so described a grand total of 5 times, none from major news outlets:

Alberto Gonzales, who was forced to resign as Attorney General in the wake of a major Department of Justice scandal, and who was revealed as one of the earliest authors of pro-torture memos, has had that term applied to him a grand total of 17 times.

Glenn wants to know "[w]hat accounts for this extreme discrepancy." I think it boils down to fear. The media is scared of being portrayed as having a liberal bias, so they go out of their way to demonize people on the Left while soft-pedaling conservative politicians. The noise machine from the Right led by Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity make MSM media outlets cower in fear, worried that attacks from them will diminish their quickly dwindling audience. They don't realize that their extreme cowardice demonstrated in issues like this and their changing the use of the word "torture" is a bigger reason for their decline, not attacks from right-wing bloviators.

Polanski Won't Be Extradited

Switzerland announced today that they will not be extraditing Roman Polanski for his crimes committed here in the states. This is ridiculous, but not really surprising unfortunately. I struggle to understand it, though.

Why do so many stars support him? Why do so many people think that just because he is a great filmmaker (and he is) he should get a pass? Why does the horrific murder of his wife and unborn child mean he can commit a crime and get away with it? Why is the fact that he has been living in self-imposed exile from the US (to hide from the authorities) count as "punishment enough"?

I am appalled that anyone can support him. I have enjoyed his films, but seeing him get a standing ovation at the 2002 Academy Awards made me squirm. The applause was clearly not for the film, but for him as a person. He committed a crime; he should pay the price. If there were problems during the trial, that is what the appeals process is for. He pled guilty!

The other thing I would like to briefly address is the victim's wish that Polanski be forgiven and the case dropped. I can't imagine what this must be like for her and I have no doubt that she would like to put the entire matter behind her. The problem is that doing so only adds incentive for other criminals to run. Why stick around and potentially go to prison when you can run for thirty years and hope that all will be forgiven? Even if you do end up going to prison, that's a few decades of freedom to enjoy.

This whole case is a travesty of justice and we all lose when this happens.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

But They Do It, Too!

Conor Friedersdorf discusses Glenn Beck and political discourse with Matt Lewis.

It's a good talk, but I really have to take issue with one thing Lewis says. At one point, after Friedersdorf says that he thinks it's a problem when people on the Right like Beck demonize the Left and make them out as being not people they disagree with, but people allied with our enemies. Lewis then says that it's not much different than what liberals were doing when Bush was around. In other words, "B-b-but they do it, too!"

You know who else makes arguments like this? Kids. My daughters do it all the time and I smack them down every time. Just because someone else has done something wrong, I say, does not mean it is okay for you to do it. I know other parents don't let their kids get away with this, either. So, why is it okay for adults to get away with this? Why can't Lewis or anyone else debating something one side or the other has done in politics instead say, "You're right. They shouldn't be doing that and I don't support that." Doesn't that sound more mature than pointing fingers at other wrong-doers?

I also wish that Friedersdorf had been stronger on the dangers of making someone you disagree with politically into the scary other. These people-one-step-removed-from-Hitler are people that we have to live with, work with, and, yes, compromise with. We don't live in a nation where one group always gets what they want. We have to be able to live together and accept that no one (no matter where you may be on the political spectrum) gets to have everything they want in terms of policy. And, if by some chance you (yes, you) get a piece of legislation that you think is perfect, just wait. Control of Congress will change and your favorite legislation will get changed, watered down, or repealed.

So, instead of making political opponents your enemies, how about we respectfully disagree, work on persuading them of the rightness of our actions (rather than the wrongness of theirs), and learn how to work together like adults.

Yeah, I know that sounds about as likely as "Imagine," but that doesn't mean it's not something we should strive for.

HT: Andrew Sullivan

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