Out with the old, in with the new at the Beacon Opinion Blog

Hey guys,

First, I want to thank all those who have followed this blog since Mike and myself launched it last semester. Your comments and feedback have been valuable.

I will be leaving The Beacon to begin a co-op with The Boston Globe next semester. My assistant Britt will be moving on to the sports page and our editorial cartoonist, busy with his BFA, will not be staying as a weekly contributor.

So that means I will no longer be maintaining this blog. That job will go to the new opinion co-editors, Chris Auclair and Chris Girard, who will begin in September. Both currently bloggers, they should have no problem taking over and improving the blog.

Thanks again and see you in September,



Congress Takes a Crucial Step for DC Representation

The results are in according to the Associated Press, and the House has made a 241-177 decision to grant DC voting representation in Congress. This legislation would increase the body of the House from 435 to 437 seats (additionally adding an extra seat for Utah as well to maintain Democrat/Republican balance). The bill now moves on to the Senate, then finally to the President (who has, once again, threatened a Veto).

I watched the debate preceding the vote on C-Span, and was pleased to see champion of such legislation and frequent Colbert guest Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) lay a verbal smackdown to the opposition. Hopefully this footage will surface online soon, because it was AWESOME. Tom Davis, a Republican of Virginia's 11th district (my home turf), also showed his support, stating that his fellow Republicans needed to "see through the fog of armchair constitutional analyses and do the right thing."

The "fog" that Davis is referring to is the argument that the language of the Constitution states that members of the House shall be chosen "by the people of the several states." Many Democrats, however, cited multiple examples where similar language has been bypassed by Congress in order to apply certain federal principles to DC citizens (i.e. Income Taxes, etc).

Furthermore, it is my sincere belief that this matter should be observed from a perspective that looks to the inherent morals and values of this country. We are a Representative Democracy. The 23rd amendment already affords DC residents the right to vote for President. There is no reason these people should not have equal say in the coequal Legislative branch. A citizen of DC is a citizen of the United States, and now for the first time in over 200 years, our government is treating them like one.


Yes, I found it!


UK Press Union Boycotts Israeli Goods

The National Union of Journalists, a 40,000 member union in Britain, has voted to boycott Israeli goods in protest of their military policies in the occupied territories.

While I understand the mindset behind such an act, I'm surprised and a little disappointed that it is coming from a journalists union. Does such a policy not compromise the objective perspective reporters are supposed to have? A journalist union should not be in the business of taking one position over another in such a tangible way.

Tragedy in Virginia

Here at the Beacon Opinion Blog, our thoughts go out to all those affected by the savage shooting at Virginia Tech.


The Presidents' Cash Out

According to an Associated Press article published by Yahoo News, the Bush family reported an annual income of $765,801 last year. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Mary, reported approx. $1.6 million. I suppose I should not be surprised, and its understandable that families in such a position would have some serious investments (we all know about Dick Cheney's). Still, I find concern in these numbers being so high.

The Presidential salary is $400k. The Vice President makes $200k. Considering the time commitment these jobs require (or SHOULD require), it seems inherently excessive that so much extra money is being collected. When exactly are they taking a break to pursue other financial interests? SHOULD they be pursuing other financial interests? I imagine they have people working for them who do all of their investing, and that they probably don't forgo their administrative duties to direct these people. However, based on Cheney's ties to Halliburton it is not far fetched to theorize that such investments may affect policy decisions.

To put things into perspective, the Clinton's actually left the White House in debt. The Washington Post reported that they were approx. $12 million in the hole (due to campaign and legal fees) to be exact. Sure they're worth a combined $60 million now, but at least they waited until AFTER Bill's Presidential term to make that money (it came almost entirely through book deals and speaking fees for non-charitable events).

It seems practical that a President's financial sources should be limited to taxpayer dollars. It would certainly help to fix the problem so many have with lobbyists and the private sector holding too much sway over the federal government.


Obama's family income came in at $991,296 last year. This number, while also high, has been fully accounted for by the newsmedia. $506,618 are from book royalties, and the rest is largely salary money from him and his wife (who technically makes more than he does). I suppose its fair to say that transparency along these lines would be adequate and perhaps more ethical than restricting income for politicians.


Fox News's love of Tony Snow

First Cal Thomas. Now Bill O'Reilly:

One of the reasons I cut the Bush administration some slack is that Snow answers my questions on and off the record. And if Tony Snow tells me something, I can bank it. He doesn't lie or mislead, ever.

Bringing the Sudan conflict one click closer

In our age of rapid technological advancement, there is naturally much commentary about its potential dangers, from tangible things like how the Internet is an effective tool for hate groups to the more vague, as in how it is eroding real human relationships.

The future of technology in general and the Internet specifically remain to be seen. But The Christian Science Monitor has reported a really fascinating story that shows how it is now easier than ever to take a close look at the world thousands of miles away without ever leaving your computer.

Even more interestingly, that world is the war-torn nation of Sudan in Africa. From the article:

"Now anyone with a high-speed Internet connection can zoom in on satellite images of any of the 1,600 devastated villages and get detailed information provided by the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington.

The collaboration is an effort to raise awareness about the three-year-old conflict that has killed more than 200,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million people by giving ordinary people access to images generally available only to spies, diplomats, and heads of state."

How truly incredible this story is. If the Internet can be used in this way, imagine how it will change our very concept of history. The genocide in Sudan can never be denied; the evidence, in the form of decimated villages, is right here on our hard drives.

RIP Vonnegut

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

The world lost one of its funniest and most irreverent voices with the passing of Kurt Vonnegut. I'm not going to describe his wit and brilliance for you. He can do that himself:

"Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the Universe."

* * * *

"The best jokes are dangerous , and dangerous because they are in some way truthful."

* * * *

"Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or conservative."


The possibility of progress

One last shot, says William F. Buckley:

"The effort to stabilize Iraq is making strides, if Gen. Petraeus is to be trusted. But one wonders how many politicians, looking at the next elections, can shake themselves free from Weltschmerz long enough to greet, with gratitude, the possibility that time, finally, is working in behalf of the great endeavor to maintain an element of freedom in that critical area of the Middle East."


Absolutely Unacceptable

This Chicago Tribune article makes me ashamed to be an American. This type of homophobia is disgusting. Our illogical policy of disallowing gays in the military has gone on long enough.


Dumb and dumber

Has Bill O'Reilly lost his mind? That's the only conclusion one can draw after watching his spitting, trembling exchange with professional goofball Geraldo Rivera. It gets really good about 2 minutes in until the end.

Jesus Christ.

Harris versus Warren

After taking on Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan and countless others, Sam Harris was invited to debate Rick Warren, pastor and author of the ridiculously popular Purpose Driven Life. The conversation was for Newsweek. Thanks to my Dad for the tip. Here is the link. And from the conversation:

It is intellectually dishonest, frankly, to say that you are sure that Jesus was born of a virgin.

WARREN: I say I accept that by faith. And I think it's intellectually dishonest for you to say you have proof that it didn't happen. Here's the difference between you and me. I am open to the possibility that I am wrong in certain areas, and you are not.

HARRIS: Oh, I am absolutely open to that.

WARREN: So you are open to the possibility that you might be wrong about Jesus?

HARRIS: And Zeus. Absolutely.


There's no doubt where you're born influences your initial beliefs. Regardless of where you were born, there are some things you can know about God, even without the Bible. For instance, I look at the world and I say, "God likes variety." I say, "God likes beauty." I say, "God likes order," and the more we understand ecology, the more we understand how sensitive that order is.

HARRIS: Then God also likes smallpox and tuberculosis.


I just picked some of the exchanges that I liked or thought were funny. Some will find Harris smarmy, but I think that is too easy a dismissal. This entire article is absolutely worth a read.

Uh-oh, Rudy

The National Review unequivocally takes Giuliani to task for his "bizarre" stance on public funding for abortions. Courtesy of the Editors:

"Instead, we are sorry to say, he has mostly gone into reverse. Since his announcement, he has said that, in his mind, a strict constructionist judge could as easily rule to keep Roe as to scrap it. He has continued to misrepresent pro-lifers as seeking to throw pregnant women “in jail.” He has refused to rule out signing federal legislation codifying Roe should it be presented to him as president. And, most troublingly, has reiterated his longstanding support for taxpayer funding for abortion."

So what now? I am actually surprised that, given the opportunity in the past few weeks to clarify his stance, Giuliani has continued to stress that he is a pro-choice moderate. I suspect the campaign has decided at this point that it is better to be seen as strong and unwavering than a pro-life flip-flopper. Romney is struggling, and it is no doubt due to his almost daily reversals of position.

This isn't going to get any easier for Rudy. He's a Weekly Standard conservative, not a National Review one. But we'll see what the voters ultimately say.


The opinion section's 2008 picks

This week in the opinion section, I asked most of my usual contributors and staff writers to come up with a brief statement about who they liked among the current 2008 candidates or rumored candidates and why. The article is here, although it's formatted in a rather confusing and ugly way, so I suggest you check out the PDF.

Although the 11 people who agreed are far too few to draw any conclusions about the Emerson body, I was very surprised to see that not one chose Barack Obama. Two, however, did pick Hillary Clinton.

Under the bridge downtown

When do justified concerns about the safety of a community turn into hysterical mob-mentality? When sex offenders are involved.

CNN is reporting that a number of child molesters in Florida are being forced to live under a bridge because the state's strict regulations have left them with little other options. From the article:

"The Julia Tuttle Causeway, which links Miami to Miami Beach, offers no running water, no electricity and little protection from nasty weather. It's not an ideal solution, Department of Corrections Officials told CNN, but at least the state knows where the sex offenders are.

Nearly every day a state probation officer makes a predawn visit to the causeway. Those visits are part of the terms of the offenders' probation which mandates that they occupy a residence from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m."

Sex offenders are probably the most hated and feared people in the States today, as evidenced by the attitudes towards them when they attempt to reintegrate into society, the attention they get in the media and the laws that we allow our state and local governments to pass.

They are difficult to defend, but this situation is simply unacceptable. I am also opposed to Jessica's Law because I believe it punishes people beyond their jail time and probation, stigmatizes them for the rest of their lives and puts one category of crime way, way above all others.

We must never as a society let our instinctual reaction to a crime or type of criminal let us come in the way of our obligation to humane and fair treatment for all.


Hyperbole Alert

"Nobody dislikes Tony Snow. By acclamation, people who know him say the White House press secretary is the most decent, kind and encouraging human being they have ever met."

--The always credible Cal Thomas.

Fawning over the president's press secretary? Is this journalism?


Hold the phone

Newspapers are dead, they say? Not so fast, pundits and so-called "experts"!

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