Saturday, May 21, 2005

In the Inbox

From: mr. Charles Brown.
24 river lane government
reserved area, Abuja.
Telephone:+234 803 881 4129

Attention please! strictly confidential!

Dear Friend,

With all due respect, i guess my letter will not embarrass you, since i have no previous correspondence with you. i strongly believed, i would not regret approaching you in this matter. i am mr.charles brown, a solicitor at law and the personal attorney to late mr. Mark Michelle, a french national. late mr.mark ichelle is a private oil consultant/contractor with the shell petroleum development in saudi arabia, herein after shall be referred to as
my client.

I have avery urgent and mutual business relationship to propose to you. on thursday june 6th 2000, my client and his wife with their three children were involved in an auto clash, all occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their lives. since then, i have made several enquiries with his country's embassies to locate any of my clients extended relatives, this has also proved unsuccessful. after these several unsuccessful attempts, i decided to personally contact you with this business partnership proposal. i have contacted you to assist in repatriating a huge amount of money left behind by my client before they get confiscated or declared unserviceable by the finance and security company where these huge deposit was lodged. the deceased had a deposit valued presently at $12,000,000.00 million us dollars (twelve million united state dollars) and company has issued me a notice to provide his next of kin or beneficiary by will otherwise have the account confiscated within the
thirty working days.

Having been unsuccessful in locating any of my late client relatives for over two (2) years now. i am now seeking your consent to present you as the next of kin/beneficiary to the deceased so that the proceeds of this account valued at $ 12 million united states dollars can be paid to you. it is not necessary to be a blood relation to late mr. mark michelle, neither is it necessary to bear the same surname with him. it is even not important for the stand-in next of kin to be a french national.

Already, i have worked out modalities for achieving my aim of appointing a next of kin as well as transfer the money abroad for us to share in the ratio of 60% for me and 40% to you. it is my intention to achieve this transfer in a legitimate way, all i required is your honest, co-operation,confidentiality and trust to enable us see this transaction through. the money transfer paper work itself will include a certificate of origin so that the receiving bank does not ask question. also the paper work will include proper certificate that the fund being transferred is from non-criminal sources. in short this will be a proper and legal money transfer with apparently no risk involved. the transaction is guaranteed to succeed without any problem.

As soon as i hear from you, i shall provide you with further clarification that you may need.

your urgent response will be highly anticipated and appreciated. Best wishes,

Mr.Charles Brown.
Telephone:+234 803 881 4129

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Hating America?

Our pal Soxblog (whose real name, we can now report EXCLUSIVELY, is Dean Barnett) has a few posts up about whether or not the media is functioning as a Fifth Column, essentially aiding our enemies in the War on Terror. We can understand where he's coming from, but we beg to differ.

A little.

First of all, let's dispense with the notion that the "media" is in any way an organization of people working in concert toward a common goal. The term "media," as Dean uses it, is effectively meaningless. All newspapers? TV stations? Magazines? He's undercutting his argument at the outset by using a hollow generalization, more likely out of the convenience of the term than to be disengenuous.

That's why people who suggest that "the media is biased" are usually ignored or dismissed, as they should be. Putting it that way suggests a conspiracy carried out by the entire group, when the reality is that many of the people working in journalism happen to have a world view that leads them to embrace a more liberal political philosophy. This includes the men and women who have been hired by news organizations to report the news. Others work as editors or bureau chiefs and are responsible for making decisions about what is published or aired (see our related post below). So they decide what stories are important and what details in those stories are relevant. That is why, on balance, the media appears to be biased. But actually it's just the sum of thousands of people making thousands of decisions each day which reflect, either consciously or sub-consciously, their own personal opinions. It's human nature, and it happens with those on the left and those on the right.

But that doesn't explain things like the press reaction to the NEWSWEEK affair or the actions of 60 Minutes II in the memo scandal. Chalking it up to "media bias" does little to help us understand the lengths certain individuals in the MSM are willing to go to, in the eyes of Soxblog, do damage to the United States.

It starts with a post-modern view of the world. There is no absolute truth. Instead, truth is something that is defined by the individual, and our truth might be different than your truth. For many of you, this no doubt sounds very odd; unfortunately, many people have accepted it as a central tenet of their lives. These include many left-leaning individuals, including those working in journalism.

And if there is no absolute truth, facts don't have much value, do they? Instead, your own thoughts and feelings take precedent. That's why so many people thought that the exit polls were more accurate that the actual vote totals in the last election -- they just "knew in their hearts" that Kerry had won. Since the returns did not confirm that, they must be flawed. When you dispense with the concept of absolute truth, certified vote totals can't mean much.

But there is one type of truth that they wholeheartedly embrace: the "greater" truth. Perhaps the finest purveyor of a greater truth is everyone's favorite filmmaker, Michael Moore. The standard process for making a documentary is to gather facts (!) and interviews and footage related to a particular subject, and discover what the movie is about in the editing of all of those components together. Moore, on the other hand, starts with an assumption -- "Bush lied about WMD and sent our soldiers off to die in an unjust and unnecessary war" -- and then complies and manipulates footage to support that thesis. He ignores any evidence that contradicts his thesis; he's after the greater truth, which he knows "inherently." Moore is skillful enough that those watching his films begin to think he's got a point; it's only after Christopher Hitchens reminds the public of all the things that he left out or altered that his movies fall apart.

But that still doesn't address the question of whether or not Moore and those like him are out to sabotage America. Now, let's get something straight: are they hurting America? Undoubtedly. The fallout from the NEWSWEEK piece is confirmation of that. But are they acting as a Fifth Column to conduct such damage on purpose?


Frankly, they're not that smart. Remember, it's about the greater truth. They know certain things to be true: that Iraq never had WMDs, that Bush lied, that the war was all about oil, that Kerry won the election -- now it's just a matter of uncovering the information to confirm it. (Even journalists who don't believe in absolute truth know they need some facts...well, most of them.) These lapses in judgment are not conceieved as assaults on America; they're just efforts to prove themselves right.

So is the "media" a Fifth Column? Sometimes, to an outsider with perspective, it seems to function as such, but the reality is that its far too inept (as we're all finding out) to be acting in concert on anything. How do we know? Lucy Ramirez faxed us a memo from a Kinko's in Texas that said so...

Defining What is Fit to Print

LaShawn Barber has been taking some heat over her comments on the NEWSWEEK story. Here's what she said:
Whether Americans flushed the Koran down the toilet is irrelevant. Newsweek should not have reported it, even if true. It’s common sense, people. Those journalists knew how Muslims would react! Why would you hurt your own country and risk more deaths just to report this “fact?” To what end???

America-hating morons media!

Other than her last sentence, which is reflects poorly on her skills as a writer and undercuts the point she's trying to make, we don't think what she said was so outlandish. There's a difference, after all, in someone (say, the government) telling a media outlet (or blogger, for that matter) what it can and cannot print, and that same media outlet exercising its judgment in deciding those things for itself.

After all, isn't the slogan of our favorite newspaper (the New York Times) "All the news that's fit to print"? That seems to imply that some news is fit to print and some is not. It doesn't say "All the news that's true," (it probably couldn't get away with saying that after Jayson Blair anyway), so the veracity of a story shouldn't enter into the equation of whether it ought to be printed.

So what is used to determine what makes the Times? The judgment of its editors. (What pressure they must be under everyday to ensure that they don't miss any news that's fit to print!) How, one might ask, do they and other editors (like, say, those at NEWSWEEK) make those decisions?

Might they weigh, among other things, the impact this news might have on America's image abroad, or the efforts of those currently fighting in a war under its flag? Would it be proper to consider whether a detail as insignificant to most Americans as whether a copy of the Koran was torn or flushed in a toilet during interrogations aimed at gaining information that could lead to the capture of the man who masterminded the killings of 3,000 innocent Americans (well, innocent unless you're a student of Ward Churchill), ought to be printed in their magazine? Was the unsubstantiated report so vital (on the level of, say, the Pentagon Papers) that, after reading NEWSWEEK, that the American people rose up in droves to protest the alleged desecration of a Muslim holy text? I don't remember seeing that revolt reported on CBS (though that doesn't mean it didn't happen).

For that matter, I don't remember reading about these Koran allegations in the New York Times after NEWSWEEK "revealed/confirmed" them. And if the fine journalists at the New York Times didn't find the story fit to print, why should anyone be upset that LaShawn Barber doesn't?


Ann Coulter pretty much gets the last word on the NEWSWEEK story. Hilarious, and touching.

Breaking News

Antonio Villaraigosa elected mayor of Los Angeles.

Our reaction: yawn.

(More thoughts to follow. Maybe.)


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oh, Please

The headline: Jane Fonda film banned from Kentucky theaters.

Our first reaction: come on. Please. Of course it's over what she said and did during the Vietnam War, which we assumed and was confirmed by the story.

Look, we get it that people were pissed off at what Jane did. Jane herself has apologized for the incident that led to her being dubbed, "Hanoi Jane." But people, that was 30 years ago. Jane Fonda did not direct the movie "Monster-in-Law," Jane Fonda did not produce the movie "Monster-in-Law," Jane Fonda happened to play one of the roles in "Monster-in-Law." It's a comedy -- about marriage and in-laws. It's not about Vietnam. It's not about Jane. It doesn't have a pro- or anti-war message (that we're away of). Why punish all of the other people involved with the creation of this movie -- as well as all of the people who'd like to see it (and many did/do, as it opened at number one) just because Jane did something wrong 30 years ago?

Yes, that anger is justified. But it also makes the person who possesses it petty and small. It happened a long time ago, it's been apologized for -- you don't like Jane Fonda. Fine. But this is not just Jane Fonda's movie.

And yet...this is America. Theater-owners, like any other business owners, have the right to choose what they'll sell (or in this case distribute) and what they won't. So this particular theater-owner certainly can choose not to show the film. For any number of reasons, that Jane Fonda is in it and he doesn't like her much being one of them. He can even plaster on his marquee "No Jane Fonda movie in this theater," which he did. And he attracted the attention of our old friend, the Associated Press.

Which means that there's a second side to this story. First, we're assuming that what the Associated Press is reporting is true. (If it turns out not to be the case, we'll retract this post.) It's pretty clear that this is being positioned by the AP as a red state nut going all crazy and over-reacting -- read the story yourself. The fact that it took place in Kentucky, which is included in the headline, and not, say, Vermont, seems to be considered fairly relevant to the reporter/editor. The other interesting aspect is the use of syntax. The theater-owner decides not to show "Monster-in-Law" because Fonda's in it; the AP proclaims that "Jane Fonda Film" has been "Banned from Kentucky Theaters." Well, kind of. Just two, owned by the same person. And he didn't ban the movie, he just chose not to show it. But then, that's less dramatic.

We don't feel too sorry for the owner being depicted as a bit of a yahoo -- he invited the publicity by proclaiming it from the theater marquee. It's hardly surprising that the AP took the story and ran with it. They did their part; he did his. He's getting the free publicity, after all, and a feeling among people with certain views that he's sticking it to the right group of people. (How effective one theater-owner can be in punishing Fonda for something she did 30+ years ago isn't really a big concern to them, or the AP for that matter.)

So, to recap: not showing "Monster-in-Law" because Hanoi Jane is in it is stupid. And so is calling someone's decision not to exhibit it a "ban." And somehow, none of us is surprised at any of this. Ah, America.

Dumbest HuffPost date

Can anyone tell me, are they going to bring back the draft? I have three sons -- all nearly teenagers -- and am terrified that they will. Why don't they make it that just Republican kids get called up?
The blogger? That well-regarded thinker, Kathy Ireland. Yeah.

UPDATE: Wait! It's a different Kathy Ireland. Who goes by Kathryn Ireland. (Even the model Kathy Ireland probably isn't dumb enough to post that.)

So, uh, about NEWSWEEK...

Everyone's talking about the NEWSWEEK problem. We'd call it a scandal, but it's not really that. It's more of a revelation of the inner workings of a MSM magazine, how it covers stories, the standards it uses, etc. Can we assume that other similar mistakes were made in the past? That's probably a safe bet. Have they also caused people to lose their lives? Hard to tell.

A few years ago, when Ari Fleischer said people need to watch what they say, everyone (well, stupid people) thought it signaled us entering a Big Brother phase. But really, this (the NEWSWEEK, uh, thing) is closer to what he was talking about. It's not about getting the story -- it's about getting the story right. That's the responsibility that all journalists have, bloggers included. People's lives are at stake in the war that we're fighting; it's high time that organizations like NEWSWEEK (and reporters like Mike Isikoff) started taking it seriously.

The Huffington Post

We've been reading the HuffPost like everyone else out there (don't lie!) and we want to say a few things.

First, these people are not bloggers. They're not getting comments from their readers, and unless a fellow HuffPost blogger takes umbrage at something they've written (and decided to start a little spat), there's no accountability.

Second, Arianna Huffington is annoying as hell. She happens to live in our neighborhood, so that's no surprise to us. But her little MC of the HuffPost bit is already wearing on our nerves. She also seems to have adapted a "messenger to the people" role about blogging; she's clearly trying to position herself as an expert on this emerging form of communication, and she's clearly not an expert. But what do the people know? Idiots, all of them! If only the media would truly report and inform them on...

Which brings us to our third note: stop with the "if only the media would report on..." whining. You want to expose something? Investigate it (or have your assistant investigate it). Then post on it. Then wait for feedback. If people poke holes in it, defend what you've written. Or, if you can't defend it, admit your mistake, stick your tail between your legs and realize that maybe the reason no media outlets are publicizing the conspiracy is because there was no conspiracy. And don't be late for your colonic.

Fourth: poor Byron York. He's playing by the real world rules. Jim Lampley -- a talented sportscaster -- is not. Lampley alleges something. York says, give us a break. Lampley says, you neocons never take us seriously! You're so mean! You can't actually rebut what I said, so you have to say mean things! York then notes multiple investigations that failed to find anything to support the allegations. Yes, notes Lampley, but they didn't prove the allegations were false! And of course they're going to say what they said -- they're part of the conspiracy! Now, the next time some nitwit posts something crazy, do you think that Byron York is going to take the time to rebut it? I mean, I imagine that he has a real life and obviously he has a real job and trying to convince Jim Lampley that Jim Lampley is crazy just takes too much time.

Fifth: this could be a good thing (the HuffPost). If they open it up to feedback. If these bloggers get called on their posts by commenters (and not just fellow bloggers). If they realize that it's about the quality of what they post, not the fact that they said something. And also if they LEARN HOW TO BLOG. Did none of them do their homework? Did none of them (except for the ones who already were bloggers) do any kind of research to find out the market they were getting into? Or did they just assume that they could pretty much redefine whatever it was that we people had established as the form and protocol these last few years? Yeah. Good luck.

Sixth: Nikki Finke usually has some interesting stuff in her LA Weekly column. But the HuffPost piece was sad.

Seventh: Did we mention that we live in Arianna's neighborhood? And that we're young and with it (you know, what the kids are saying these days). And that we're available to join the HuffPost blog? Yes, we're willing to join the HuffPost blog. We'll even make some cookies and bring them over to Arianna's place. Arianna, forget about that stuff we said about you earlier. We really love you and we love the Greek peoples and we love everything Greece-related and we were so going to vote for you in the recall election and you've got pretty much the sweetest gate leading up to your house in the whole neighborhood. So give us a call. We'll meet at Toscana (and we can go Dutch, that's cool). Or email us. (By the way, we're only one person but we write in the plural -- it makes it sound more official! Like we're a committee of thinkers or something!) casualobserver[at]

It's Pat!

Pat Buchanan is back this week with more controversial (!) statements, this time telling the Washington Times that conservatism is dead.
Mr. Buchanan, a former adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, says conservatism "is at war with itself over foreign policy, over deficit hawks versus supply-siders."

Unnamed phonies, he suggests, have infiltrated the movement.

There are "a lot of people who call themselves conservative but who, on many issues, I just don't consider as conservative. They are big-government people."
Let us say, first, that if conservatism is at war with itself, this is a good thing. The alternative -- standing still and refusing to take a critical look at what you really believe in and why -- is not an effective strategy for long term success. (See: Democratic Party.)

And there does seem to be a disconnect between old-school conservatives (like Buchanan) and the new breed of conservatives (which, for lack of a better term, have been labeled "neoconservatives"). Now, we're not the National Review, so we're not going to get into a big exegis on what conservatism means and the history of the movement, but we can speak about what Buchanan discussed from an anecdotal perspective. We grew up in a red state (that even voted for Dole!) in a conservative, religious household. We went off to college in Los Angeles. A few weeks into our first semester, 9/11 happened. And all of a sudden, everyone was a conservative.

When it came to the defense of our country, there wasn't much debate over the best philosophy for action. We were surprised at how many of our fellow students supported the President and the war in Iraq even in the face of left-leaning professors invoking the spector of Vietnam. These kids, for the most part, were not raised in a traditionally conservative household; instead of going to campus church services, they were in their dorms smoking pot. Socially, they were probably closer to libertarian than anything else. And as far as foreign policy, they were conservative.

These kids (and their parents) are a big reason why John Kerry couldn't beat George W. Bush. Sure, the less solid converts went back to their old ways when things went bad in Iraq, but a sizeable number of the new conservatives stuck with the President after realizing that Kerry didn't understand the War on Terror the same way that they and the President did.

And these people, along with a large percentage of long term conservatives, aren't quite as militant in their beliefs as Buchanon would like. That's the chasm between the old and the new. Whereas Pat and Friends are very concerned with the deficit, most of the new conservatives accept that certain government programs (like Social Security) can be beneficial and certainly aren't evil. As a idealist, we'd like to see the government involved in people's lives as little as possible; as realists, we know it's going to happen to a certain extent, so let's be smart about it.

Part of it, we think, is due to the change-the-world attitude that often infects the country's youth. That makes it easier to accept that the government functioning as a safety net without thinking that the sky is falling. Is this a softening of conservative values? Perhaps, but conservatism has always been something of a fluid notion to begin with; ironic, considering the base meaning of the term, but we're not talking about revising the basic principles here. Only adjusting to what degree they're carried out.

On a recent appearance on C-SPAN's Q-and-A series, Charles Krauthammer listed FDR as the greatest president of the 20th Century (this was before the President made his remarks about FDR at Yalta), in part because he saved democracy by "softening it up." It's easy to forget how communism was sweeping other parts of the world at the time; there were certainly many Americans frustrated with the current system and enamored with the ideas of Karl Marx. At that point in time, we practiced a very pure form of capitalism. Yes, it brought the country great wealth, but there was a heartless side to it as well. When the stock market crashed, that side was fully exposed. Someone had to do something, and because FDR softened up our economic system, he was able to ward off what may have been an impending revolution, one that would have been extremely destructive and difficult to recover from.

And what Pat Buchanan laments about contemporary conservatism sounds do us a bit like the softening up that FDR did back in the 1930s. For hard liners, it's not a welcome change, but in the long term, it might be just what the movement needs.

His other concern, about cultural decay, is not something that can really be controlled or impeded politically (and certainly not legislatively). In the end, the most effective way of turning the tide is to let things get "bad" enough that the majority of Americans see that taking a libertarian point of view on these kinds of social issues is not the best idea. And usually that happens when they start having kids of their own.

Deja Vu

We're back...again. Another extended sabbatical from blogging has come and gone, and we're rejuvenated. Time to jump back in with all of those impressive thoughts that you've come to expect from the Casual Observer.

A programming note: actually, this isn't a programming note, but it sounded good so we're going with it. Over the last few months (when we've been on leave), we've been keeping an eye on the blogosphere -- from the "inside" and also from what could be considered the outside: the standard MSM-dominated sphere. At times we have gotten our news from the internet, at times from newspapers, and at times from magazines. It's been interesting to see how plugged in one needs to be to keep up with what's going on. As far as we can tell, much of the blogosphere does serve as an echo chamber (especially since the presidential election is over and no longer providing new blogging material each day), with a few stories bubbling up to the general populace and a few notable bloggers weighing in on issues in the vein of the best op-ed columnists out there.

The point is that we've got a new perspective on all of this; one that -- hopefully -- makes us a better blogger. We'll see...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

EXCLUSIVE! We are now officially a tabloid!

Our former USC classmate Arash Markazi has a piece in the latest issue of SI on Campus (yes, it's an actual magazine that Sports Illustrated actually prints that we've actually held in our hands) on Matt Leinart, who was awarded SI on Campus' U-Award. It's apparently the equivalent of Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, and it's no surprise that it was given to the Golden Boy. But what piqued our interest was Leinart's mention of the special lady in his life. No, not his mom...his girlfriend.
In fact, Leinart has been dating USC freshman basketball player Brynn Cameron since February. The two had been friends since they met in a study hall in October. "I have a girlfriend now who I'm very happy with," says Leinart, who attended a handful of women's basketball games this past season disguised in a hat and an oversized hooded sweatshirt. "I'm a normal guy, just like any other 21-year-old college student, and I'm with someone who treats me normal and that's the most important thing. It's hard to trust a lot of people right now and know exactly what they're after."
Now, you could go to the USC athletic department website to get a photo of Cameron, but only here will you find an additional, non standard-issue photo of the precocious freshman. Yes, we have sources. That are good.

We'd like to note that while we're certainly happy for Bachelor Bob, er, Leinart, the fact that he's dating a freshman still living in a dorm who is perhaps not as hot as the women he's been linked to in the past (Jessica Simpson, Alyssa Milano, etc.) confirms that the lefthander is much closer to the nerd he claims to be than the ladies man most assume that he is. And in light of how much trouble some of his teammates have been getting into, that is probably a very good thing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Please Stop With the Sexual Assaults!

Today the Los Angeles District Attorney's office announced that it would not be filing charges against USC cornerback Eric Wright in an alleged sexual assault case that had prompted Pete Carroll to suspend Wright from participating in spring practice. As a Trojan fan, it's nice to know that the talented Wright will be on the field (and not behind bars) when USC begins its quest for an unprecedented third national title in the fall. But apart from our own hedonistic desire for the Trojans to field the best team possible, this most recent incident begs the question, "Just what is it with USC players, rape, and the DA deciding not to file charges?"

For the record, we're against sexual assault of any kind. If Wright had done what was alleged, then he should have been prosecuted and convicted, regardless of the impact that would have had on the fortunes of the Trojans. But these allegations, along with similar charges made (but not brought) against running back Hershel Dennis last fall, no doubt leave interested parties scratching their heads. How does this keep happening?

First, let's make a clear distinction between these rape allegations and the incident between Dominique Byrd and Steve Smith. They don't deserve to be grouped together, especially by those looking to back up the thesis that the sky is falling on the Men of Troy. The Smith/Byrd fight was, like Pete Carroll noted, much closer to a tussle between brothers than the manifestation of real animosity between teammates. The circumstances surrounding the incident indicate that Smith and Byrd are friends, and that they had a friendly disagreement that, regrettably, ended in Byrd suffering a broken jaw. Remember, these are top-flight athletes, so it's not surprising that a confrontation produced said results. Smith expressed remorse and regret over the foolishness of the situation; Byrd has not spoken to the press (or much of anyone, thanks to his jaw being wired shut). On a team of competitive athletes, confrontations likely occur every day (which Carroll seemed to imply in his comments), and though what happened was regrettable, it's not exactly the end of the world.

Now, if the same thing happens again between two different players, then we might start to get concerned that the Trojans really do have a problem on their hands. That's why, though the Hershel Dennis saga was troubling, the Eric Wright situation was much more deeply so. One could write off Dennis as an isolated incident, an instance of a single player exercising bad judgment. But for the same thing to happen to Wright? This deserves a closer look.

That's going to be hard for outsiders to accomplish, whether they be from the local or national media. Even the beat reporters from the local dailies don't hang around the players outside of practice or games, or attend parties at USC, or have friends who live at the apartment complex (Cardinal Gardens) where both of the alleged sexual assaults occurred. We, on the other hand, do.

The first thing you should know is that most of the USC football players are not exactly beacons of virtue. They might be great guys (the ones that we've met all are), but like most college students, they engage in such activities as underage drinking and casual sex. The drinking part we've seen with our own eyes; the sex has happened behind closed doors but we've either heard about it or read it in the LA Times.

Let's break down what we believe may have happened in the Wright case. We're using the Dennis case as a precedent, where it seems that Hershel engaged in consensual sex with a woman who later claimed that she had been raped. That they had sex was not in dispute, but the DA was unable to unearth sufficient evidence to prove that it was not consensual. Also, alcohol and/or drugs were involved. Dennis told the Daily Trojan that, "the girl, she was already intoxicated." So in this case, it seems that Dennis had sex with a woman who was drunk; whether or not she was in the state of mind where she could give consent to that sex was the issue.

Now, indulge us for a moment. You're a young, beautiful woman. You're at a party. Everyone is drinking. You become intoxicated. You wake up the next morning, and the events of the previous night are murky. And yet, you know that you had sex last night (as a female friend of ours once said, "You can tell when you've had sex.") You start putting the pieces together; you talk with some of your friends about who you were with last night. You were talking with a USC football player. You left with that player, your friends tell you. People saw you enter his apartment. You woke up the next morning in his apartment. Hmmm, you think to yourself, I don't remember wanting to have sex. Was I raped?

We imagine that the woman who made the sexual assault claim against Eric Wright may have gone through a similar experience. Like the Dennis situation, alcohol was clearly involved, this time at a fraternity party where Wright and the woman met and eventually left, together. At some point, they likely engaged in intercourse. The issue, again, was that of consent.

Let's take a look at what the law of the state of California says with regard to the issue of consent as it relates to sexual assault:
Consent: Positive cooperation in the act or expressing an intent to engage in the act pursuant to an exercise of free will. The person must act freely and voluntarily and have knowledge of the nature of the act or transaction involved. A person who is giving consent cannot be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, unconscious, passed out, coming in and out of consciousness, under the threat of violence, bodily injury or other forms of coercion, and cannot have a mental disorder, developmental disability or physical disability that would impair his/her understanding of the act. [Emphasis added.]
It seems clear, then, that if the alleged victim in either the Dennis or the Wright case was drunk when she had intercourse, she has been sexually assaulted, in the eyes of the law. We don't dispute that, but the reality is that at colleges and universities, intoxicated women have sex all the time, and rarely are claims of sexual assault or rape made. Often it is those women who are the instigators of the act. That's not to allege that happened in these two cases, but it's worth noting that it's not uncommon. What's certain is that once alcohol enters the equation, things get murkier. Buf if these were both cases of men having sex with intoxicated women, they seem to be fairly cut-and-dried, at least according to state law, as long as the prosecutor could prove that the victim was intoxicated. So why were charges never brought in either case?

The most likely hypothesis is that each of the accusers decided not to testify in court, something not uncommon in sexual assault or domestic violence situations. Another possibility is that the accusers (whose identities we do not know) may have been under the drinking age. Would that have had an influence on the prosecutor? It's hard to say. But if the central tenet of the case was proving the accuser was intoxicated, and that accuser was under 21, it may well have complicated the case. A third possibility is that these assaults never happened; that the women were in full control of their faculties and thus able to grant consent in both instances, yet for some reason they felt compelled to make these allegations ex post facto. We don't put much stock in that theory, though when the accused has some level of notoriety (as in these instances), it's not completely unheard of.

So what is a Trojan fan to take from these two regrettable incidents? First, that no matter what Pete Carroll tells his troops, they're probably going to keep finding their way into trouble. And second, if those players want to insulate themselves from facing similar allegations in the future, they ought to stop having sex with drunk girls.

UPDATE: An article in Thursday's LA Times seems to confirm much of what we had postulated:
According to the district attorney's charge evaluation worksheet, prosecutors were considering charges of forcible oral copulation, forcible sexual penetration and rape. The worksheet said the 18-year-old student who made the allegations against Wright was intoxicated on the night she met Wright at a party. When the alleged victim left the party, Wright put a blue pill he said was Ecstasy in the woman's mouth, the report said.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Ann Althouse asks, we answer

If Jesus wore a t-shirt, what would it say?

Monday, April 18, 2005

New Calvin Klein Ad Campaign Announced


Our Favorite Jacko Post

Just when we start complaining that there's nothing interesting in the news, Drudge flashes a Michael Jackson headline. Finally, something surfaces about which we've got plenty to say.

Geraldo Rivera -- yes, the Edward R. Murrow of our day -- apparently alleged on Los Angeles radio station KFI that the current case against Jackson is destined to fall apart when it finally goes to trial. Now, it's not that we'd doubt something Geraldo told us, but considering Jackson's past pay-offs and continuing bizarre behavior, we're going to wait until all the facts are in before making a judgment for ourselves.

Speaking of Geraldo's assurances that Jackson is innocent (of these particular charges, it should be noted), we've been bothered since this fiasco began by the "outpouring of love and support" from Jackson's fans, who say that they just know in their hearts that the King of Pop is innocent. Echoing the critical thinking skills of the left-wing die-hards in Evan Coyne Maloney's recent short documentary on inauguration protestors, the only evidence these Jackson supporters cite is their own love of his music. They transfer that love of a Jackson product over to Jackson himself -- a dangerous but not unprecedented behavior.

From O.J. Simpson to Kobe Bryant, fans of troubled celebrities have always rushed forward to maintain their hero's innocence, with little regard to the evidence or, more importantly, the victims of these alleged crimes. Perhaps Simpson and Bryant are poor examples, as both were exonerated (more or less -- neither was convicted of a crime) in the court system, but it's not as if their fans knew before the end of the trial that would be the case. Similarly, even if these charges against Jackson do not result in a conviction, the quality of his music will not be the reason why.

We should add say that we're also fans of Jackson's music, but that doesn't make us Jacko apologists. We find this situation very sad -- our sympathy goes out first to the victims (if indeed they prove to be) and we also find ourselves feeling sorry for Michael, though certainly not enough to excuse this kind of (alleged) behavior. He was a celebrity by age 9, but even before that he was a singer first and a little boy second. He never went to school -- the kind of school that you and I attended, where we developed our social skills -- a day in his life. His father, as has been documented, was not the most kind. Being a superstar kept him from having any semblance of a normal life, preventing him from being able to go out in public and imprisioning him inside the world he was forced to create. Remember, this was not the life that he chose, but one that was chosen for him.

And then there is his ghastly appearance. An accident in 1984, when his hair caught fire while filming a commercial for Pepsi, may have been what led him to plastic surgery (it's unclear whether he had gone under the knife earlier), which obviously for Jackson has become an addiction. But he also suffers from a rare skin disease called vitiligo, best described as "albino spots" caused by loss of pigmentation. This is a very real condition (several of our family members have it) and one that can be particularly destructive psychologically, especially for a black man and one whose job involves being in the public eye. Additionally, the 46 year-old Jackson also suffers from lupus, according to a source who worked with him on his landmark music video, Thriller.

As to whether Michael Jackson is guilty or innocent, we're not sure. But one thing is certain: his life, which we once thought was the quintessial American success story, is actually an American tragedy.

Original post date: January 26, 2005

The Real Jeff Greenfield?

Has CNN's Jeff Greenfield learned his lesson? Glenn Reynolds links to a Howard Kurtz article that quotes Greenfield as one of the few defenders of blogs among members of the MSM.
CNN analyst Jeff Greenfield likes many blogs and doesn't much worry about "the baked-potato brains who say you're a media whore. . . . On the whole, I'm real happy to know there are a lot of people watching with the capacity to check me. I don't think that's chilling. It's just another incentive to get your facts right."

As for "smear artists" on the Internet, Greenfield says, "The freedom that it gives anonymous twerps to spew out invective -- that they don't like the way you look or think you're an idiot or a child abuser -- that's just part of the process."

But Greenfield hasn't always been a cheerleader of blogs. We quote from our February 18th post about a speech Greenfield made at UCLA in the wake of Eason Jordan's resignation from CNN, to which Vodkapundit linked with the comment:"CNN's Jeff Greenfield: It's the fault of blogs. Huh?" An excerpt from the post:
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From an article in the UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin:
Speaking about American media in a 45-minute speech, Greenfield refrained from analyzing specific incidents of bias in the media, and instead asked people to look inward to determine the root of the alleged problem.

"Are you part of the problem?" Greenfield rhetorically asked.
Finally, someone (from CNN, no less) willing to stick out his neck on the subject of MSM bias and point the finger students?
Greenfield also spoke about the public['s] aversion to reading material that goes against their own core beliefs. To many people, Greenfield explained, "unwelcome info is proof of bias."
Especially CNN executives, who have an aversion to reading the latest ratings showing them getting spanked by, say, FOX News...because that unwelcome information is clearly biased!
Greenfield cited the profusion of various media sources, from satellite news to Internet Web logs, as partially responsible for creating an atmosphere of unaccountability where people struggle to find trustworthy sources.
That's interesting. Blogs creating an atmosphere of unnaccountability? Tell that to Dan Rather. Or Eason Jordan. Or Trent Lott. If anything, the blogosphere and satellite networks like FOX News are the ones holding the rest of the media responsible -- and it's that irresponsibility exhibited by the MSM that has sent people looking for trustworthy sources in the first place. But Greenfield doesn't seem to get that. Big surprise.
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We're not quite sure what changed Greenfield's mind, but it's worth noting he wasn't such a staunch defender of the blogger eight weeks ago. We'd posit that Greenfield changing his mind on blogs -- specifically why -- is a bigger story than someone like Adam Nagourney getting his feelings hurt when Mickey Kaus writes mean things about him. It seems, however, that Howard Kurtz does not read our blog and thus, missed out on the big story. (Ed. note: like Greenfield, Kurtz is also employed by CNN...not that there's anything wrong with that!)

UPDATE: Alert reader Mickey Kaus emails to tell us that "at the Dem convention Greenfield was very high on blogs." He thinks the comments we noted were an abberation in the wake of the Eason Jordan scandal. If that's the case, this might just be an even more interesting story than we first thought. Greenfield changes his mind on blogs faster than a blogger in his pajamas can post on it!