Sunday, May 31, 2009

True Belief

What follows was published some years ago in the Desert Leaf. Things haven't changed---as the recent murder of an abortion doctor while he was in church suggests. Things haven't changed. Neither has my opinion.

True Belief and Tribunals

Terrorists are true believers. They are men and women so profoundly convinced that theirs is the one true way that they are willing to see you dead for disagreeing with them. They are frequently religious fundamentalists and they have a hard time dealing with life in a secular  society.

Open societies  make room for their citizens to hold many different religious or political views. The  social contract  upon which such societies are grounded is the simple agreement that I may live according to my beliefs and you according to yours so long as the practice of mine doesn’t keep you from the practice of yours.

As kindly old Chairman Mao once said, “Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy.”

Schools of thought may contend through vigorous debate, propaganda broadsides, or friendly  conversations. You are free to fill your neighbor’s mail with pamphlets or slip a waspish jeremiad under his door. You are not free to open his door and toss a hand grenade into his living room. That’s terrorism.

Religious fundamentalism pushed to wacko extremes destroys an open society when it tries to impose a one-size-fits-all lifestyle on its citizens. In this respect there isn’t a nickel’s worth of difference between the Taliban and anti-abortion extremists who bomb clinics, send anthrax threats in the mail, harass men and women seeking family planning advice and assassinate physicians.

Each group is at war with America and the social contract that makes our open society possible. Each group resorts to strategies of terror to effect social or moral change. In the fundamentalist’s garden only one flower blossoms and an opposing school of thought dares not speak its name.

Here in the United States  the anti-abortion terrorists have been at it longer than the Taliban. Letters to abortion rights groups and family planning centers threatening anthrax attacks were common here long before September 11th. Ditto bombings. Ditto murder.

As a result of the events of September 11 Americans have adopted a get tough attitude towards terrorism that can be appropriately applied to anti-abortion clinic bombers and anyone who finances or harbors them.  

Now that we have established the principle of  justice by tribunal we have a nifty new tool for digging out anti-abortion terrorists. The tedious old safeguards of the rights of the accused and the guarantees of a fair and impartial trial don’t apply if you are a terrorist. 

Neither do many of the quaint notions of protected privacy, the right to confront your accuser, examination of the jury by your attorney, or viewing the evidence to be presented against you prior to your trial.  

Best of all, the polls show that most Americans approve of this attack on what used to be our constitutional guarantees to a fair trial. After all, only non-citizens are going to be treated that way, and they may be, or harbor, terrorists.  

It is precisely here that the slippery slope begins.

Why should citizens be exempt? Why not apply the same standard to any persons or groups who employ the strategies of terror? By accepting the idea of tribunal justice for non-citizens we have already given up one of the central ideals by which we defined  ourselves as a just society.

We have given up the idea that any human being accused of a crime in our country has  the right to a fair and impartial trial as defined and guaranteed by our constitution. It’s a shame we have found it so easy to cast off this idea; defending it was what gave moral force to our international arguments on behalf of universal principles of justice. 

Here’s the way the tribunal system might work. We send letters to every person who has had any contact with the anti-abortion movement and  request that they report for  ‘voluntary’ interrogation. (This sort of thing was proposed by Attorney General Ashcroft in targeting some 5000 young men from the Middle East.) You donated money to a “right to life” organization? You attended a church retreat in which anti-abortion strategies were discussed? We’d like to talk to you.

Incidentally, did you know that your cousin in Benson has been accused of sending threatening letters to a clinic in Eloy? We can’t tell you who made the accusation, protecting sources you know. We’re sure you’re innocent but we’re going to hold you as a material witness.and bye bye habeas corpus.

Adopting the principle of justice by tribunal does us more harm than good in the long run since it requires that we give up one of the core principles of American democracy and is not necessary to bring the accused to justice in cases of terrorism. 

Friday, May 29, 2009 Changes Coming Monday

TucsonCitizen.Com has been publishing with the online format of the Tucson Citizen newspaper. I think it's fair to say the format has not been perfectly suitable for what is trying to become. Editor Mark Evans has been busily redesigning it.

I have no idea what it will be but, "Be the good Lord willing and the Creek don't rise," we'll be able to get a look at the Beta version on Monday, sometime around noon. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tucson's Poor Little Rich Kids

When the Lege whacks the education budget it is truly an "equal opportunity whacking." Schools in low income areas--say those serving the boys and girls who live around Three Points--get whacked with the same axe that batters the Catalina Foothills School District. Ain't equality grand?

The parents in the Foothills have launched the 30/60 program. That's a push to raise enough money in 60 days to save 30 teaching positions possibly jeopardized by the legislature's budget "solutions." The goal---hold your breath now--- wait for it--- is $1.3 million. With three weeks of the campaign left, as of Memorial Day, the campaign had raised $208,000.00. Will they raise it all? My guess is probably not.
in an e-mail to The Data Port, Mark Kipphut, President of the Catalina Foothills School District Foundation, indicated that the full amount may not be needed. Kipphut wrote:
Tomorrow night, Tuesday, is another Catalina Foothills School District Governing Board meeting (starts at 6:30 PM at the high school) and funding for teaching positions is on the agenda. We will know more after the board meeting, but between our current fund raising efforts and favorable student enrollment numbers, the number of remaining positions at risk is declining and is around 18.
I don't fault the parents for wanting the best for their children, nor paying extra for it if they can afford it, but there are too many parents across our state who can't. The children of our communities are the responsibility of each of us, they are all "our children." Tax credit gimmicks, and tax deductions for donations to schools are inequitable at their heart. So, sorry, foothills folks-- no money for you this time around.
Let's work to raise taxes until every child across the state has Foothills quality facilities and small class size.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ripping and Reading in Tucson

The expression “rip and read” is used scornfully by print journalists who are annoyed to turn on their radios and hear one of their stories being read- after a possible light rewrite- by a radio news reader.

I was a radio news reader many years ago, possibly as punishment for sin in a previous life; or perhaps it was my listeners who were being punished. 

At WUOM, the broadcasting service of the University of Michigan, we subscribed to an Associated Press wire that regularly scrolled out fifteen minute news summaries, five minute “splits,” and assorted features. We dutifully ripped and read, occasionally rewriting to suit our individual speech rhythms and providing segues between stories. We never lifted stories from Michigan newspapers and we paid the Associated Press for the content.

The modern equivalent of the worst of “rip and read” is the practice of commercial web sites (Huffington Post, for instance) using newspapers to provide their journalistic content. (For Free? I imagine so.) You know the click on the BIG HEADLINE and up pops the Washington Post or The NY Times. This practice is called “news aggregation,” and I’m not totally opposed to it. After all, that’s what most bloggers do although, we seldom make a buck at it.

There has to be a limit to it, however, or we’re going to be like the town in which everyone makes a living by taking in the other guy’s laundry.

This brings us at last to the, which will be modeled after the HufPo. In a recent post Mark Evans introduced a daily feature, his Top Ten News Digs...ten stories he thinks are particularly interesting and his comments on the stories.

I quite like the idea. We’ll get to know Evans, what his tastes and interests are and the stories he likes (or doesn’t.) We’ll look forward to his choices, or we won’t. If

his choices don’t ring our bells and whistles we’ll read elsewhere, or rant in the comments thread. If we go elsewhere in, or swell the comment thread, it’s more eyeballs for the site and better ad revenue for Gannett.

Now here’s my question: Did pay anyone for the stories he linked to? Seven of the links were to papers owned by Gannett: USA Today, and the Republic. Three stories were from the Arizona Daily Star. Perhaps the quotes from other Gannett papers were simply some sort of bookkeeping swap. I don’t know.

What about the Star stories? Did the Star make a buck or two?

And simply as a point of information I’d like to know if Gannett has a prior financial agreement with AP to link to any copyrighted AP story. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

The New Tucson Citizen: Food Fight! Food Fight!

Tucson Journalism

The Data Port is going to be covering the development of Tucson as it transforms itself from a newspaper site to something entirely different. Exactly what, how different, and whether it's worth the while, remains to be seen.

News junkies and others interested in the destiny of journalism should take an interest in this transformation as it offers us a laboratory case study of what I suspect will be happening more frequently in the future.

An entertaining little wrangle popped up almost immediately when editor Mark Evans wrote: Reports of the Tucson Citizen's demise greatly exaggerated.

This generated the following exchange between Evans and Arizona Public Media reporter Robert Rappaport.

Mark Evans:

This morning, driving in to work at the TUCSON CITIZEN, the rip-and-read Arizona Public Media reporter said the Tucson Citizen was shut down.

If I was editing those reporters, I would have changed the copy to say "the Tucson Citizen has ceased printing a newspaper but continues to have an online presence and a skeleton staff."

The lights are still on. The computers still work. The site, is still up. We may be a work in progress, but we are still at work.

Hey Mark,

Arizona Public Media HAS mentioned the online site, but it was not included this morning, except I did say the "PRINTED EDITION." Let's face it, Gannett is keeping the name, but the Tucson Citizen is dead. The website is nothing more than a self-serving blog with built-in "viewers" from the previous newspaper site.

Heck, I even have a blog and talk about your site. Perhaps you should read it. FYI...the free promotion stories for this website are done, although I really do wish you good luck.

Robert Rappaport, Arizona Public Media


The Star, the AP, you and others have mentioned in previous news reports and some on their blogs, that Tucson Citizen's web site continues.

Thanks for that.

However, in your news report this morning you inaccurately said the Tucson Citizen is "shut down." That's wrong. For the listeners who may not have heard your previous reports or read your blog, you've now misinformed them about the status of

If you wanted to editorialize and say "effectively shut down" or relay any of your above opinions about what's left here, that would have been fine, as long as your listeners knew it was opinion and not news.

Additionally, I didn't know that reporting the news on Arizona Public Media equaled "free promotion stories."

In the interest of fairness, I suppose I shouldn't have called you "rip and read." I take it back.
Now, will you treat us fairly in the future?

Mark Evans originsal story here
The Comment Thread here

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tucson's New Police Chief "Glad He Came Out"

Went to Woody's Monday night for an LGBT gathering. It was a meet-and-greet with Tucson's new Chief of Police, Chief Roberto VillaseƱor. Lots of familiar faces, including the Mayor of South Tucson, a famous blogger/political candidate, Karen Uhlich, Rodney Glassman and a fair assortment of our town's movers and shakers, gay and straight.

Lots of credit to the Chief who "worked the crowd" like a pro, listening to comments about perceived issues and questions the community might have about the state of Police/Citizen relations.

At the end of his short address to the group he said something I thought was interesting because it indicates how tricky language can be. Thanking everyone for inviting him he said, "I'm glad I came out tonight" and the first two or three rows in the bar simply exploded. Laughter rippled back through the room. Puzzled, the chief asked what he'd said. It was explained to him. He was good natured about the whole thing, but it indicated that the Chief's visit was a two-way learning experience.


I am not one of those people who knock Starbucks. I think the coffee is terrific and my local has been a second office. When I'm not trying to work it's where I go to watch the passing parade or read the paper. The young people who work there seem to love it and it's been my understanding tht even part-timers have health insurance.

Still, I firmly believe in the right to organize for union representation. I thought the following was interesting:

Brave New Foundation has launched "" an online video and campaign. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks touts Starbucks as being at the forefront of progressive corporate responsibility: except of course when it comes to allowing its workers to organize. 

To view the video please visit,