On Facebook, Privacy is not a Guarantee

13 April 2009 by

By Luis Mazariegos

Recently, the Washington Post printed an article asking students what they thought of police browsing Facebook profiles for evidence of crimes, such as illicit drugs, or for preventive measures, such as breaking up a fight.

Most students, at least according to the article, weren’t happy about it in the least.

“I think it’s an invasion of the student’s privacy,” said Sarah Steinberg, 18, a senior at Robinson Secondary.

“It’s not really [their] business to be looking at students’ profiles,” said Eleni Gibson, 15, a freshman at Robinson. “Because they might see something that students didn’t want them to see.”

Though privacy is an important right to have, the issue of how far we should limit privacy in the name of security has been an essential American debate for a very long time.

The Facebook issue is similar: police say they can use it to prevent crimes and help at-risk kids who are in gangs, while some students object on the grounds that it invades their privacy.

However, the Facebook case is a bit different. People should understand that if they post something on the Internet with little or no protection, it’s just as good as leaving it on the street.

If incriminating photos or text can be accessed without the use of hacking or other illicit methods, it’s functionally the same as leaving that same picture or note on the street outside your house.

If it helps police prevent a crime from happening, all the better.

Is using the word “retard” offensive?

13 April 2009 by

By Luis Mazariegos

The recent comments by President Barack Obama about his bowling ability has earned him reprimands from just about everyone and has sparked a national debate: is it ok to use the word retard?

But of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve had a referenduum on the appropiateness of a word: we’ve had similar debates about using “gay” to mean “lame” or “stupid” and because of Don Imus, we had a discussion about whether it’s ok to use the word “ho.”

So is the word “retard” offensive? Well, in a word, yes. Words that are meant as insults are just inherently offensive – even socially acceptable words like stupid or moron are offensive.

But other than being nice, is there a special reason why the word “retard” should be completely removed?

The answer, according to the people who support this, is that “retard” isn’t just insulting, it’s also discriminatory, targeting handicapped people.

But very rarely do we see people hurling insults at the handicapped at all. Even if someone did, we would be outraged regardless of whether this person was calling the handicapped person a “retard” or a “big poopy head.” It’s not acceptable regardless.

Banning the word “retard” is just going to make us go for a sillier, more complex word that’s “acceptable.” And then that word will become insulting. It’s happened before – the words “cretin”, “idiot”, “imbecile”, and “moron” were once considered legitimate ways of describing people with disabilities, but no more, of course.

The same is happening to “retard” and will likely happen to whatever word we have to use now – even “special” is becoming pejorative. It’s what we call the euphemism treadmill, and it points to the fact that we can’t really just replace words and make them not insulting.

So instead of focusing on using the right words, people should focus on changing people’s attitudes – showing people why disabled people shouldn’t be considered equivalent to a person making a mistake. Restricting speech is not an efficient way of going about this, and not a very honorable means to begin with.

Good Morning, Dear Readers

13 April 2009 by

Happy Tuesday.  You may not recognize this handle, and that is because I’ve never posted at this blog before.  But that should change, assuming I stay motivated to promoting our cause, which can be quite difficult these days, especially when it seems that most conservatives can’t even figure out who’s leading the Republican Party.

I’d like to introduce myself.  My name is James, and I am a junior at our fine university.    I’m a transfer student from New York.  I haven’t decided yet what I’ll post most often on.  Since I am not a native Marylander, I think I may have a harder time getting excited about local politics than some of you.  (But I’ll darn well try!)   I know Nathan wants us to write about something.

I transferred to this school in my sophmore year, but have not gotten involved with the Terrapin Times (and College Republicans) until recently.  Perhaps if I’d gotten involved earlier, we may have avoided this Obama disaster. (Stop laughing, its possible!  I can be very persuasive.)  This means that I have only recently met our proprietor Nathan.  I have already been blown away by his commitment to the paper,  and his ability to express his beliefs in general.

I have no fantasies about surpassing him in terms of quality of posts, but maybe I can beat him on quantity.  I already know that I wouldn’t mind sniping the Diamondback when it seems appropriate, but what else would you like to see at this blog?  Perhaps a link round-up at the end of the day?   I guess we’ll just see how it goes.

Moral Depravity, Constitutional Ignorance, and the University

6 April 2009 by

The headlining story in today’s Diamondback, wholly unsurprisingly, covers the continuing porn brouhaha here on campus. Amusingly, it reads “Students push on with porn: Campus groups to host XXX film in name of free speech.”

At what point did the great contemners of decency become so brazen as openly to contort the purportedly sacrosanct freedom of speech to defend the public showing of xxx-rated pornography, despite a history of Constitutional law that explicitly denies hardcore obscenity the same extensive protection given to less prurient — not to mention wholly unnecessary and anti-communitarian — forms of expression? In the fall semester of the 2007-2008 school year, the Times, in what, sadly, was our only issue of the year, ran a front-page exposé revealing that the alleged noose hanging outside of Stamp and Nyumburu, source of embarrassment and outrage on our hyper-sensitive, politically correct campus, was, in truth a simply Boy Scout knot, the leftover string from a since-removed sign or banner.

How the Left roared in indignation! Such speech — had it in fact been “hate speech,” and not a harmless piece of string — simply could not be tolerated. To what great extent University officials went to assuage the great offended masses, to assure them that this University takes racial diversity and “tolerance” seriously, and would never defend a racist’s right to speak his mind over the right of a student not to be offended.

Now, the Left cries, “Wolf!” suggesting the the state legislature is out of line threatening to cut funding if the showing happens — on a public university campus, no less —, calling it “censorship,” an offense to free speech. What of those of us who find repulsive that students worry more about some spurious notion of free speech than about moral and intellectual cultivation? Those of us who think that certain things belong in the privacy of home or dorm room, and not in a campus theater or lecture hall, who reject the risible claim that charging an admission fee negates the publicly supported nature of a showing of obscene material on a public campus? Some of us just want to attend an ostensible institution of higher education that recognizes that education, though open debate is necessary to it, requires limits, too.

Then again, the Left on campus not only dominates, but is composed of a bunch of intellectually enervated whiners who need to grow up.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Cardin’s Delusion

3 April 2009 by

In today’s Post, our fearless senator offers what he deems to be a plausible, sound solution to the agonizing decline of the daily print newspaper. As the editor of a print-only newspaper and a curmudgeonly ol’ crank of a conservative with serious delusions of romanticism, I am more than sympathetic, and seriously hope that we see a resurgence in print newspaper output, readership, and quality, whether it relies on or spurns the Internet. Thus, it was with open-minded interest I read Sen. Cardin’s opinion today, in which he defends his Newspaper Revitalization Act, under the auspices of which newspapers could “operate under 501(c)(3) status for educational purposes, similar to public broadcasters.”

How silly I was to give a Maryland Democrat serving in the great morass of amorality and state-philia! An excerpt:

Under this arrangement, newspapers would not be allowed to make political endorsements but would be permitted to freely report on all issues, including political campaigns. They would be able to editorialize and take positions on issues affecting their communities. Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt, and contributions to support coverage or operations could be tax-deductible.

First, we have in our Senate someone so naïve as to think that curbing political endorsements would suffice to prevent de facto endorsements — of specific candidates, parties, or platform planks (“take positions on issues affect their communities” sounds awfully close, at least in some instances, to implicitly endorsing someone). Second, “tax-exempt” is just a libertarian-and-“public do-gooder”-friendly way of saying “bailout,” isn’t it? The journalists’ bailout has arrived!

The measure is targeted at local newspapers serving communities, not large newspaper conglomerates. There is little chance these conglomerates would find such an arrangement appealing because they depend on a revenue stream to remain operational. I want to make clear that this proposal would involve no infusion of federal taxpayer money. In fact, because newspaper profits have fallen in recent years, no substantial loss of federal revenue is expected.

As much as I possibly could get behind this bill, the anti-bigness populist streak in me certainly support this; however, the idea of letting government extend its hand deeper into the pants of the Fourth Estate terrifies me. The media consensus, far from being part of some vast, conspiratorial “liberal media,” is that of the status quo, of the Establishment. Ragtag local papers may, I willingly grant, be less inclined to accept the status quo, particularly at the federal level, given the physical distance separating Capitol Hill from Starke County, IN, but allowing local media to slip under the covers with Uncle Sam is just plain dirty.

On campus: “The Monopoly Myth: The Case of Standard Oil”

30 March 2009 by

The Monopoly Myth
The Case of Standard Oil


8:15pm, April 2nd, 2009 – Jimenez Room – Stamp Student Union
Directions and campus map here, and free parking is available in Lot 1: http://transportation.umd.edu/visitor/directionstocampus.html

Who: Alex Epstein, analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

What: “The Monopoly Myth: The Case of Standard Oil” In this talk Epstein argues against antitrust law by illustrating the case of Standard Oil’s legal and moral rise to market dominance. A Q&A will follow.

Description: Most of us were taught in school that laissez-faire capitalism was tried in the 1800s—and failed. Without government regulations and antitrust law, we learned, businessmen used “anti-competitive” tactics to become giant, unchallengeable monopolies. The most famous monopoly was John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust, which supposedly used its “market power” to squelch innovative competitors and jack up consumer prices at will.

But did this really happen? Did laissez-faire really fail? No, argues Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Center. In “The Monopoly Myth: The Case of Standard Oil,” Epstein will tell the real story of Rockefeller’s rise to market dominance—and explain how his success was the result not of shady practices, but of his company’s incredible ability to bring the cheapest, best oil to millions of Americans.

Epstein will argue that the case of Standard Oil raises many questions about Americans’ commonly held beliefs on monopolies, competition and government. Is antitrust law really necessary to protect us against monopolies and promote competition? Was the government right to punish Microsoft for “monopolization,” and is it justified in investigating Google and Yahoo for “anti-competitive” behavior? Epstein will address these questions and more in his 45-minute talk, followed by a question-and-answer period.

Admission: FREE. Open to students and the public

Bio: Alex Epstein has a BA in philosophy from Duke University and is an analyst focusing on business issues at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.

Please RSVP to the facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=67440589902

UMD, Home of the Diamondback. FML.

11 March 2009 by

Today, our venerable Diamondback decided that the news of the day most worthy of prominence on the front page is the wonderfully hilarious, but hardly newsworthy FMyLife.com. Misunderstand me not: Few things get me through a rough day like the Schadenfreude derived from learning about some poor soul who was “groped by a grandma” while carrying her groceries to her car. However, this, even on a university campus, is not front-page-worthy, especially when the brilliant editors opted to hide this sad article in the bottom corner of the page:

Although a recent nationwide survey of university faculty found that more would rather encourage social change in their classes than teach students the classics, university professors rejected the dichotomy, saying the two are not mutually exclusive.

The study, done by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that among about 22,000 faculty members nationwide, 57.8 percent said they thought it was important to encourage undergraduate students to become agents of social change, while only 34.7 percent felt it was very important to teach classic works such as Homer’s epic poems or Shakespeare’s plays.

FML indeed.

The Diamondback, Enemy of Civilization

9 March 2009 by

by Nathan P. Origer, executive editor

From the 27 February 2009 Diamondback, idiotic, knee-jerk liberalism as its finest.

We’re a bastion of Christianity, holding the line after centuries of battle against the raging masses of Islam. White, black and brown immigrants are sneaking across our borders in a determined attempt to erase the last waning vestiges of the European culture that our civilization was founded on. If we don’t line our borders with marines and military robots, we’ll never stop the hordes from sneaking in and sullying our country. And while we’re at it, we should probably stop all of that legal immigration too. We’ve got to stop buying into this “cult of multiculturalism;” it’s a sham.

It isn’t hard to recognize spouts of racist bile as hateful blather when they’re this blatant. The ideas above are held and promoted by former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). When he came to speak at American University earlier this week, students from throughout the region came to protest Tancredo’s bigoted ideas, and we’re happy they did.

[…]

In many ways, Tancredo is useful as a rallying point – it’s clear he stands for what’s wrong.

[…]

We believe there are strong arguments for both broadening access to higher education and maintaining access to licensing. But that isn’t the point. The point is that it’s difficult but imperative to define the boundaries of citizenship. It’s easy to argue we aren’t a bastion of Christianity, but it’s harder to define what makes us true Americans or true Marylanders.

Responding to such a daft editorial is a bit like trying to reply to Billy Madison’s “rambling, incoherent response”. You know that it’s horribly wrong, but offering anything more than, “Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it” proves to be stupendously difficult. Deigning to such a low level of intellect hurts.

The wise editors of our venerable campus daily are well within their right to disagree with the solutions proffered by Mr. Tancredo; they’re even permitted to think that Tancredo is a “bigot.” They are not, however, as members of the Fourth Estate, to be making such ludicrously false allegations as they do in this piece.

To deny that the United States is a “bastion of Christianity” is to ignore the entire history of this nation. Every single president, devout or not, has been at least nominally Christian. Seventy-six percent of all Americans still identify as Christians, and the entire history of Western Civilization, beginning in the Fourth Century, is inseparable from Christianity. The Enlightenment, for all of its rejection of Christianity, nonetheless happened only because of Christianity; it could not have arisen in an equally “backward” culture. Particularly amusing is that the editors attempt to distance our nation from Christianity in a state that was established as a safe-haven colony for Catholic Christians.

Most disturbing about this silly rant is that the editors never bother to show how Mr. Tancredo is wrong. They disingenuously conflate a sincere, wholly sensible concern for the distinctly Anglo, Christian heritage of our nation, without bothering even to consider the results when this culture is submerged into a heretofore praised, but never materialized “melting pot”, with “racism” and “bigotry.” To rally against illegal immigration is to preserve a necessary definition of citizenship, imperative for the defense of what remains of our republic. There is nothing racist about suggesting that non-citizens should be prevented from entering our nation; there’s nothing racist about saying that we should limit even legal immigration, at least for a time, if even legal immigration threatens the cultural foundation upon which contemporary society so very precariously sits.

Most offensive to me, an out-of-state student who works as a teaching assistant to avoid the pains of paying tuition, the editors defend permitting immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of immigration status, defending this asinine position with the equally imbecilic contention that “there are strong arguments for … broadening access to higher education.” If we wish for a university education to retain any real value — that is, something more meaningful than the opportunity for a bigger paycheck —, then we need to be restricting access and cutting down admissions, not compelling the taxpayers of Maryland to subsidize the education of student who don’t legally belong here as it is.

Update One: Jim Antle has a solid piece on the immigration debate, and the disturbing tactics of the pro-amnesty/immigration crowd in the most recent issue of The American Conservative. (Subscription required.) A lovely excerpt:

Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza also desires a “middle ground” between the First Amendment and censoring commentators like CNN’s Lou Dobbs with whom she disagrees about immigration policy. “Everyone knows there is a line sometimes that can be crossed when it comes to free speech,” she told the New York Times last year. “And when free speech transforms into hate speech, we’ve got to draw that line.”

Apparently, suggesting that illegal immigrants should be deported to their home nations is now the equivalent of falsely shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Update Two: The basic point about immigration policy is this: Although we should be welcoming, we must be wary. The presence of foreign elements in our communities threatens the very nature of our communities as we need to perceive them: that is, as people who share roots in place and culture. It’s analgous to planting invasive species in an ecosystem where they do not belong. You might have the most beautiful flower to add to your garden, but not being part of the environment naturally, it disrupts the natural cycles of the place, perhaps poisoning an unwitting animal that happens to nibble, growing sufficiently large to prevent other plants from receiving enough sunlight, or requiring more nutrients than the soil can provide for it and the native plants. If and when outside elements can be integrated smoothly, organically, and over an appropriately long period of time into the community, all the better for the sustainability thereof. But “facilitating democratic participation,” which coerces integration in much the same way that busing did during the slow, agonizing end of segregation — which is to say in a manner wholly destructive of community in the name of a sense of equality that is risible —, is both unsustainable and a political anathema.

America is a nations of immigrants” is little more than a deceitful canard when we start to talk about Hispanic immigrants, illegal or legal — or any non-Europeans. Why? No, dear offended, politically correct reader, not because Europeans are better, but because American culture(s) developed out of European cultures, whereas Hispanic culture, although in part rooted in Spanish culture, has followed an significantly different trajectory. Eastern Europeans were still from the Continent, and, strange as they may have been, still came from similar cultures, particularly in the age of the great empires. Comparing a Ruthenian from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to a Salvadorian just ignores all too much.

Gov. O’Malley, Constitutionally illiterate

9 March 2009 by

by Nathan P. Origer, executive editor

From today’s Washington Post:

For many months, because of federal inaction, the states acted alone to combat the rising tide of foreclosures across our nation. The plan recently announced by President Obama is a welcome effort that will help keep families in their homes. As critical details are worked out, it would be useful for federal leaders to look to the experience of states in crafting solutions.

Put the original Articles of the Constitution under your microscope: You’ll find no mention of a Federal right, let alone responsibility, to take action to “keep families in their homes.” Read, then, the Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

[My emphases. – NPO]

Federal leaders should not “look to the experience of states in crafting solutions;” if truly they are leaders, they will leave the task of crafting solutions to the states, where lie both right and responsibility, per the Constitution, and ability, rooted in the states’ — and municipalities’ — governments’ proximity to the specific problems homeowners in their jurisdictions face. A governor possessed of more sense than this halfwit, who believes that spending fifty-seven million dollars on land preservation (itself not a bad idea; at the roots of “conservation” and “conservative” both is the same word, “conserve”) while his state’s budget is in such disarray that he has pushed successfully for state-employee furloughs, would abjure Federal intervention because of the obvious ineptitude of Washington, as well as the Constitutional issues at hand. If only!

Hip-GOP

4 March 2009 by

by Luis Mazariegos

Can RNC Chairman Michael Steele turn the Republican Party’s image around with a hip-hop makeover?

Recently, Steele promised an “off the hook” marketing blitz that would apply core conservative principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings” (whatever that may mean).

He cemented his path by calling the stimulus plan “bling bling” for Democrats the other day. I kid you not.

Though on the surface this may all seem a tad ridiculous, there might be something worthwhile here.

It’s no secret that the Republican Party is trying to distance itself from the George W. Bush era – and with good reason. Bush’s spending choices and war in Iraq have made him unpopular among certain blocs of conservatives, such as those who value fiscal responsibility over everything else. 

Not only that, but the Republican’s loss last election showed that unless they can appeal to younger voters and minorities, the future won’t hold better results.

And though culturally the Republican Party and hip-hop may seem miles apart, the similarities in ideology are striking.

Yes, rappers are against gun legislation and distrusting of big government’s ability to help people, hallmarks of conservatism. But most importantly, rappers are, above all, capitalists. There just aren’t very many socialist rappers. “Share the wealth” will never become a hip-hop catchphrase like “get that dough” is. It seems that hip-hop is, in reality, permeated by conservative or maybe more precisely liberterian ideals.

So yes, Michael Steele has not handled it quite gracefully. His comments mostly drew ridicule and sharp criticism. Comedian Stephen Colbert mockingly challenged Steele to a rap battle. Democratic strategist Brad Woodhouse said that  “with gaffes and an attitude like this [Steele will] just lead the [GOP] into another drubbing at the polls

In truth, calling the stimulus package “bling bling” is an oversimplification if not a bit sophomoric. But it does, to an extent, get the right idea across to a certain few people.

And it’s this kind of language, if done correctly and by the right person, that could end up attracting just the right demographics to win an election.