Monday, August 27, 2012

The Free Speech Police: University Edition

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 9:26 AM

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Universities are zealous guardians of their reputations, and in doing so sometimes fall victim to the insidious temptation to value public relations over the larger value of freedom of expression. A case in point is the practice of tightly regulating social media use by student athletes. Some institutions require athletes as a condition of participation to use monitoring software that alerts school officials when untoward thoughts become untoward posts and tweets. The lesson that university athletics departments apparently want to impart to their young charges is that freedom of expression might be a lovely concept, but not here and not for you.

According to a report in the Courier-Journal, the University of Louisville uses software to flag over 400 words and phrases in posts and tweets, mostly having to do with substance use and sex. The majority of phrases flagged by the University of Kentucky's version of the software are sports agents’ names. They do this monitoring with a product such as UDiligence, which searches social network profiles and posts (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and YouTube) for "for profanity, racial slurs, sexual connotations, and mentions of weapons, drugs and alcohol" as well as any custom keywords provided by a given school's athletic department.

Although the software doesn't necessarily require athletes to hand over their social media account passwords, it does require that they grant access. If this seems like it might be just a wee bit of an infringement on student athletes' freedom of expression, that's because it is.

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Stewart vs. DesJarlais Turns to Taxes

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 5:06 AM

I'm looking forward to the day when Eric Stewart's people sit down with him and explain to him that he's running for national office. I feel certain, based on his campaign strategy these past few weeks — and by "campaign strategy" I mean "lack of campaign strategy" — that he will be surprised by the news. But if he learns this in the next week or so, his campaign isn't completely unsalvageable.

In the meantime, though, after watching him go through "I can't say if I'm voting for the president" and "I can't support gay marriage," we're now stuck with "I can't pay my taxes."

You'd think in this election cycle, a man who doesn't pay his taxes would be hailed as some kind of conservative hero, but no. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is just pounding Stewart with this:


DesJarlais campaign manager Brandon Lewis leveled a sharper critique.

"Given our nation's fiscal deficit and his repeated financial mismanagement, voters are left to conclude that Eric Stewart can't be trusted to manage his campaign, business, or personal finances, much less taxpayer dollars," Lewis said.

I know Stewart's people think he has an outside chance of winning, so that's why they don't just go for broke in a situation like this. But people, this was Stewart's limp response: "This tactic only distracts voters from the issues that are most important to working families, which are Social Security, Medicare, jobs and the economy."

I wish he'd shrugged his shoulders and said, "Much like Mitt Romney, I've had some troubles paying the taxes I was required to. I would hope that my Republican opponent can grant me the same support and understanding he's granted the Republican presidential candidate."

I'd like to see how DesJarlais explains that tax avoidance is cool for Republicans but a character defect in Democrats.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Jacob Maurer, Official Write-In Candidate for U.S. Senate, Says His Slogan Is 'I'm not Clayton or Corker'

Posted By on Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Jacob Maurer is a 30-year-old band director at Hillwood High School, and now, an official write-in candidate for U.S. Senate. Oh, and he does not believe that the federal government is secretly constructing a 400-yard-wide superhighway from Canada to Mexico. (We asked him directly.)

It's hard to decide which might be the bigger liability for Maurer in a statewide election: His pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage views or the fact that he says he'd "fit in with the New England left crowd." But his first campaign announcement shows he's savvy enough to identify his key demographic.

"Let's see if I can get 10 people in TN to type in my name at the polls," he wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. "My campaign slogan? I'm not Clayton or Corker."

As of this writing, 34 people have "liked" that post. Assuming a third of them turn out in November, Maurer will have exceeded that expectation. And as for people who are unhappy with the incumbent, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, and embarrassed by his disavowed Democratic challenger Mark Clayton, there are certainly plenty.

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Of Campaign Consciousness and Governing Consciousness

Posted By on Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 10:46 AM

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I usually find New York Times columnist David Brooks' faux-moderate conservativism to be more insipid than enlightening, but today's column offers up a trenchant (and perhaps even original) insight into what's wrong with our campaign-driven politics. Noting that in Congress, Paul Ryan repeatedly shows himself unwilling to accept half-measures or compromise on fiscal matters or entitlements, Brooks accuses Ryan of choosing "political fantasy" over significant progress:

Ryan was betting that three things would happen. First, he was betting that Republicans would beat President Obama. Second, he was betting that Republicans would win such overwhelming Congressional majorities that they would be able to push through measures Democrats hate. Third, he was betting that a group of Republican politicians would unilaterally slash one of the country’s most popular programs and that they would be able to sustain these cuts through the ensuing elections, in the face of ferocious and highly popular Democratic opposition .... Ryan’s fantasy happens to be the No. 1 political fantasy in America today, which has inebriated both parties. It is the fantasy that the other party will not exist. It is the fantasy that you are about to win a 1932-style victory that will render your opponents powerless.

The piece goes on to fashion a divide between "campaign consciousness" — the strident policy argument vibe one cultivates before an election — and "governing consciousness" — the mindset between election seasons that leads office holders to "navigate our divides to come up with something suboptimal but productive." Brooks tags Ryan as good on the former but lousy on the latter.

Although Brooks confines his accusation to Ryan, influential figures in both parties exhibit this tendency, feeding the paralyzing gridlock that prevents anything from getting done in Congress even when it's not campaign season. Brooks is right that way too much of the campaign discourse we endure rests on an absurdist assumption that winning the electoral college will magically activate a governing mandate. As if.

But even if there are Democrats mirroring Ryan's behavior, it can also be said that Barack Obama has (suffers from?) the opposite profile — too much governing consciousness (an inclination to capitulate for marginal gain) and too little campaign consciousness. As Thomas Frank argues in an essay getting a lot of attention, overeager conciliation undermines your negotiating leverage, inviting the very rigidity on the other side that ends up undermining your conciliatory move.

A version of this post also appears at BruceBarry.net.

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The Hippodrome: We're Playing For Nothin'

Posted By on Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 8:15 AM

This Week In The 'Drome: Amateur hour, a worked battle at quarterback, legitimate football, and more ...

Furlong was the first choice to play the Jena Malone part in that Costner baseball movie (not that one, the other one)
  • Furlong was the first choice to play the Jena Malone part in that Costner baseball movie (not that one, the other one)

Opening Face-Off

For Love Of The Game vs. For The Love of Money : It was a big week for amateurism in Nashville.

Hendersonville's Steven Fox, now golfing collegiately at UTC, won the U.S. Amateur Sunday despite carrying a 63 (out of 64) seed into the match-play portion of the tournament. With his win, Fox qualifies automatically for three of the four Majors next year.

Fox won despite being two down with two holes to play, capping a dramatic comeback and winning the title on a playoff hole.

Fox's comeback portended a pair of late rallies by the Goodlettsville Little Leaguers. Sunday, facing Petaluma, Calif. and its star slugger — the 6'3", 183-pound Bradley Smith, who looks like he's late for his shift at the body shop — the kids from Mansker's Creek scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning to secure a 9-6 win. In the U.S. winners' bracket final Wednesday, they needed another comeback and they delivered again, getting two runs in the top of the sixth once again to eke out a 4-3 win over San Antonio, which had not lost a game since The Alamo.

All of this has led to much beatific smiling and remembrances about how great it was to play "just for the love of it," and that's a perfectly fine attitude to have. Major league baseball is going through another round of steroid suspensions — including one for a player who was the All-Star Game MVP, meaning World Series home field advantage was determined in large part by a drug cheat. The NHL is staring down a lockout. We just went through 16 days of the greatest "amateur" athletics competition in the world — all of it wrapped in Nike swooshes worn by NBA players. A man regarded as a hero by many who cared about his sport and by millions who don't know a pelaton from a hors catégorie gives up — for whatever reason.

So it's great to watch Fox — who had to turn down a lunch with Arnold Palmer because the NCAA is ridiculous — and the Greatlettsvillians playing for free, I suppose.

But let's not pretend professionals are bad people just because they accept money in exchange for their talents.

No one's asking me to write stories for the love of the words, after all. No one's suggesting that a guy who doodles buildings on the back of a napkin is a purer architect than Earl Swenson, because the latter does it for money.

Watch the Little Leaguers for what they are — a great bunch of kids, having a great time, and, yes, still competing for a trophy — and by all means enjoy it. But don't pivot that into a Pollyanna-ish polemic about the virtue of professional athletes.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ryder's Rule Change 'Not an Intent To Block' a Ron Paul REVOLution

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 2:23 PM

As the GOP gears up for its impending convention in Tampa, Fla., members of the RNC's Rules Committee found some time between ordering grosses of pepper spray and hookers to prevent wily delegates in its own party from backing a candidate they actually like.

Buzzfeed reports that Tennessee committeeman and Memphis bankruptcy attorney John Ryder proposed a successful measure that changes the convention's floor rules in order to prevent an insurgent candidate from rising to the fore. In layman's terms, Ryder is effectively cock-blocking any chance that Texas Congressman and libertarian demi-god Ron Paul (who hasn't resigned his candidacy) might embarrass the party once again for being too god-damned popular, because organic democracy is an atavistic throwback to the barbarism of the 19th century, a century wherein much of the party's current ideology resides.

The Republican National Committee's Rules Committee voted to require written certification that a presidential candidate has a plurality of delegates from five states in order to get a space on the convention ballot — a move intended to provide a warning in the event of floor movement toward an insurgent candidate.

Tennessee committeeman John Ryder push [sic] the rules change to eliminate "distractions" on the convention floor, in an effort to "try to create a more streamlined convention procedure, that better reflects the realities," he said.

"The focus is to get away from some of the residue of the 19th century," he added.

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Kiwi Goes Cuckoo? New Zealand Man Arrested After Odd Local Tow Truck Incident

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 1:06 PM

One of the stranger ledes you'll read today, courtesy of Pierce Greenberg in the City Paper:

Nashville police arrested a New Zealand legal rights advocate on Tuesday after allegedly finding him drunkenly running after a tow truck, screaming “I love that car!”

The car wasn't his.

Vincent Siemer, 56, is the man behind several controversial websites that seek to expose “corruption” of the judicial system in New Zealand. He was sentenced to six weeks in jail last year after publishing a “suppressed” court judgment on his website, according to The Dominion Post in Wellington, New Zealand.

Full story here.

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Sen. Jim Summerville Doesn't 'Give a Rat's Ass What the Black Caucus Thinks' [Updated]

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 11:44 AM

State Sen. Jim Summerville doesn't hide his feelings.

Are you one of his neighbors, irritated by his at-large dogs? He'll take out the magic markers, draw up a sign, and post it on his fence to let you know what he thinks about that. Wondering where he stands on Chick-fil-A's support of anti-gay organizations? Chicken sandwiches for everyone!

Now, in an email obtained by Pith, Summerville puts his feelings about another matter in, uh, black and white terms.

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There Will Be No Exceptions: The GOP's Abortion Agenda

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 6:13 AM

I'll admit that I have a tiny — and I mean very tiny — amount of sympathy for Todd Akin. His position — that there should be no exceptions for rape or the health of the mother, should Republicans be able to put an abortion ban in place — is the party position. The party platform has no such exceptions. The Republican vice-presidential candidate holds nearly identical beliefs to Akin.

And yet, many in the party are calling for him to step aside. He's got to be confused as to why stating the position of the party, perhaps inarticulately, should be met with such hostility by the party. Why don't they want the general public to know they are for a complete ban on abortion? Are they nervous women won't vote for them if we know?

I feel another tiny little bit of sympathy — again, very small — for so-called pro-life women who thought until this week that the only kinds of abortions they could ever imagine themselves needing would always be available to them, if they should be raped or find a pregnancy endangers their lives. After all, they are the exceptional women, not like the rest of us sluts who are always lying.

And, sure, let's be honest, the ones among them who can afford to go out of state will always have those options open to them. Still, it must be kind of a shock to learn that even you are not good enough to warrant an exception. (I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If you're banking on making a career of being the woman who's "not like those other girls," you should know that we are all, eventually, "like those other girls," no matter how hard we try.)

Here in Tennessee, specifically, there will be no exceptions. They're going to amend the state constitution to give legislators the right to decide if you've been raped bad enough to need an abortion. (Short answer: no.)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

As All Hell Breaks Loose, Blackburn Insists GOP Convention to be 'Optimistic' Event

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2012 at 5:10 PM

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The Republican National Convention an optimistic event? That sounds like a bad joke at this point with soon-to-be Hurricane Isaac churning in Tampa's general direction and the media consumed with talk about rape and pregnancy and Congressman Todd Akin. But that's the promise from Tennessee’s very own Congress(man) Marsha Blackburn, co-chair(man) of the party’s platform committee.

"What you're seeing with the Republican Party is a widening of the tent. It's like the sides have been lifted up," she says, clueless as ever.

In the face of all the outrage over Akin’s ignorance, Blackburn's committee met yesterday and proceeded to do its best to spotlight yet again the party's contempt for women's rights. The New York Times says the draft platform "puts the party on the most extreme fringes of American opinion."

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