Archive for April, 2009

On Facebook, Privacy is not a Guarantee

13 April 2009

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.

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Is using the word “retard” offensive?

13 April 2009

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

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

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

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.