Updated: 8/21/04; 7:58:45 PM.
The Agora

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Iraqi soccer team is less than thrilledM that President George Bush is using their nation's Olympic team as a reelection tool

Ahmed Manajid, who played as a midfielder on Wednesday, had an even stronger response when asked about Bush's TV advertisement. "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?" Manajid told me. "He has committed so many crimes."

One player from Fallujah had a cousing killed by the Coalition while fighting as an insurgent. He claims this if he weren't playing soccer, he would be fighting the American too.

"I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists?" Manajid says. "Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labeled a terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are some of the best people in Iraq."

7:58:20 PM    comment []trackback []

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I Might Decide to get Pissed Off at You Too, Just For the Hell of It
You know what set me off last week.

Today, its the cable company--though for less earth-shaking reasons than hate-mongering racist speech.

When I was growing up, the Olympics were always a huge even. My dad, mom and I watched nearly every hour that was broadcast. We watched the games with the same intensity that we went to church.

The games are still huge for me--even moreso this year since they are in Athens. I was overjoyed that NBC was going to devote more hours than ever to showing events--including ones like fencing, archery and rowing that I have never seen outside of a highlights reel. I have a TiVo, so I expected to be plowing through hours of Judo, Female Weightlifting and skeet shooting.

I just figured out today that my cable company decided not to carry the Olympic coverage on Bravo or CNBC. No live fencing, or soccer or even boxing. No shot put in the ancient site of Olympia, or archery in the Panathanaic Stadium in Athens. I get to pay $60 a month to not watch TV.

They just decided that they could do that. I pay $60 bucks a month, and htye just don't carry the Olympics!

Why, in a digital world of options and competition, would a cable company just go way out of its way to piss of customers--and customers who are desirable demographically to boot? Why would they suddenly think that they can decide what I get to watch? Do they want me to go and buy a Dish? 'Cause that's what's going to happen first thing after work tomorrow.

The same company owns the paper and my internet provider too. So at least I have the satisfaction of leaving them three times--It I can't trust them to deliver Bravo on basic cable, I sure as hell don't trust them with my news or internet service.

There is bad customer service, and the there is shoot-yourself-in-the-head bad customer customer service.
8:22:09 PM    comment []trackback []

Now That's a Sign
I don't normally think that God talks to me "through my computer or the television, but I would hate to fully rule it out.

Yesterday, I caught the first few minutes the Canadian news program __The National__, where the reporter in Athens told the anchor in Canada that, given the lack of the expected crowds, he could easily fly to Greece, find a hotel room and buy tickets for events.

I casually dropped this anecdote at the dinner table. "If you can find plane tickets for less than $800, you can go."


Cheapest ticket from Detroit to Athens? __$2100__. Hard to imagine why there are all of those empty seats when apparently every single breathing human being in SW Michigan has decided to fly to Greece.


On the other hand, I'm still able to go the Athens in the Spring to check out the changes in the city without the heat and the security. And there is always Turino in 2006.
6:51:23 AM    comment []trackback []

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Random Irony in the Life Support System
My wife works for an adoption attorney. Needless to say, her computer is vital to her, her boss and her boss' clients.

Recently, her computer was so badly infested with adware that it became virtually unusable. I recommended that she switch to an IE alternative. She tried, but it was too late and the computer was still unusable.

She bought a new computer, and this week it was hooked up to the network. To give her a push towards Firefox, I e-mailed her a link to the NYT story NYT Story In Search of a Browser That Banishes Clutter, you know, the one that starts with this:

For Katherine Sandlin, a barrage of pop-up ads was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back - in this case, her reliance on Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Even before her home page could load, thumbnail-size advertisements would crowd the monitor urging her to apply for a credit card or find love online. So she asked around for other ways to browse the Web.

My wife read the first page, clicked on the link to page 2, and got a pop-up ad.
10:31:32 AM    comment []trackback []

Why Blogs Are Better
In the continuing argument "Are Bloggers Journalists?" I usually come down on the "No we aren't" side. To me, journalism implies professional education, certain generally accepted code of ethics, and, most importantly, a regular paycheck that allows a journalist to pursue his craft daily, improving his or her knowledge and sources of information constantly. blogger can be excellent reporters--nothing beats a knowledgeable blogger commenting on his area of expertise-- but reporting and journalism are two different things. Two giant caveats: many smart, thoughtful people disagree with me on this so I might be wrong and bloggers will become increasingly important in keeping journalists honest when those ideal aren't met.

That said, the last few days here at The Agora ought to serve as one case study of the way that blogs interact with the larger, non-blogging culture.

The Agora is a low-traffic blog. On my busiest day, fewer people will read what I have written than would see a bumper-sticker on a car in downtown Chicago. If wanted to, I could lie, slander, and offend, with little chance of suffering any consequences.

I may be a bottom-tier blogger, but I have learned from those who have gone before and who do it better. Like the vast majority of bloggers, I've learned from the best. When I blog, I blog from the shoulders of giants.

Thanks to them, when this small, insignificant Salon blog tussled with a giant corporation with lawyers and Senators in its pocket, it took the high road. The agent of the corporation bullied, threatened, lied and mocked.

The corporation has refused to publish a transcript or post audio of the on-air comments that sparked the issue. Even though the they claim that the audio would exonerate them.

My posts are as accurate as I can make them. When I discovered errors in my account, I not only notified my readers of the accurate version of events. I also posted the new version as updates to the original post, so that people who don't know me can judge my attempts to be accurate. My archives are open and they include many posts that I wrote in haste and now regret--but I wrote them, and you are free to judge me by them.

The agent of ClearChannel threatened to bring the full force of his corporation's legal department against me if I made the slightest error in quoting, even though he refused to provide with an accurate transcript of his comments. He also threatened to hold me up for ridicule on his popular radio, in effect trashing me reputation in my hometown (though he never did so)

No one has to fear a lawsuit from me. If you disagree with me, go ahead and say so in any manner that you choose. I won't sue for slander. [Important note: that does not apply to ClearChannel or anyone who works for them. Read what military strategists have to say about fighting on your enemy's home territory. The legal system of Toledo is my turf. I have resources and allies here that you know nothing of. Slander or sue me at your own risk.]

I have been honest with my readers, while I have been repeatedly lied to, as evidenced by the e-mails I have posted here.

When I called community leaders in Toledo, not one was surprised that Denny Schaffer made anti-Semitic remarks, not one defended him. 00

When I blogged about a local injustice, other bloggers generously linked to the post. They took time from their concerns to highlight my post, even though not one of them lives within 100 miles of Toledo. The media columnist at my local paper admitted that racist comments at the station were common, but refused to report it, or even investigate. Good politicians, quick to take the winning side of an issue in front of news cameras, didn't answer e-mails or phone calls (US Rep. Marcy Kaptur was a notable exception)

So by my count thats Bloggers: 5 Giant Corporate Scum-bags: 0
9:44:38 AM    comment []trackback []

Friday, August 13, 2004

Don't forget to check out The Hellenophile from time to time as the Olympics go on.
8:37:10 PM    comment []trackback []

The FCC is Not On Your Side
If some talk show scum-bag decides to play the bigot on your local airwaves to boost his sagging ratings, FCC won't even put your complaint in a file. You and your neighbor own the radio frequencies, but you can't stop a jackass from using them to spread hateful lies. First Amendment, you know.

But that First Amendment is a tricky beast, 'cause it with it, you can do stuff just like this:

Tiffin University is fine school located in a pleasant small town in NW Ohio. It was founded in 1888, and has a fine reputation throughout Ohio.

Tiffin University is also a big advertiser on Denny Schaffer's radio show. That was the same radio show on which Denny said "George Soros is an atheist; he hates Christians. His family escaped from Europe in 1940 posing as Christians using forged documents. George Soros COULD be the Anti-Christ."

You might want to e-mail Michael Grandillo, Vice President for Development & Public Affairs, and ask if he is aware of this.

Or maybe e-mail Dr. Paul Marion, President of TU and ask him.

Or Kristi Campbell, Assoc. Director of Undergraduate Admissions/Director of International Student Affairs, and ask her.

You might politely ask that Tiffin University sift is resources to programs that better reflect the values of the students and faculty, and that won't sully the good name and noble history of the school.

You gotta love the First Amendment.
8:24:38 PM    comment []trackback []

What I did Today
Sent "please link to this" e-mails to Dave, Avedon and Liberal Oasis.

Became depressed at the futility of the whole effort.

Watched in wonder at the hits poured in from first Rayne, then Dave, Avedon and The Liberal Oasis. (Thanks!)

Newly energized, I called the local office of US Rep. Marcy Kaptur to follow up with the e-mail I sent yesterday. I turned down the offer of an appointment with the Congresswoman. (What the Hell was I thinking?)

Read an e-mail from the FCC--they will not even file my complaint because anti-Semitism isn't obscene.

Become blazingly angry.

Called the office of US Rep. Marcy Kaptur--"I do want that appointment with the Congresswoman". If the Federal government won't keep anti-Semitism off of the publiclly-owned airwaves, then someone pretty high up the Table of Organization is going to sit down with me and tell me why, dammit!

E-mailed the Mayor of Toledo.

Read an e-mail from Denny Schaffer.

Sent Denny Schaffer an e-mail with a two paragraph history of anti-Semitism.

Read another e-mail from Denny. Called his office--it was unproductive and unsatisfying for both of us, but not as unpleasant as you might think (though it wasn't a picnic either--he did threaten to sic the lawyers on me)

O.K. I was little off of my game today, it was Friday, after all.
7:23:45 PM    comment []trackback []

Denny Defends Himself
The charge of making anti-Semitic statements is serious. Anyone so accused deserves the opportunity to defend or rebut. In three different e-mails over two Denny Schaffer did defend himself. With three different and mutually exclusive stories.

Aug 12 @ 1:12pm

Doug....I just asked the question to my guest.....You heard wrong but I appreciate you for listening..... DS

Aug. 13 @11:20am

I said it in jest that heCOULD be the anti-christ....and that is word for word.....I am not allowed to have my sarcastic beliefs?  It was in jest but good luck to you.....I am a Christian and love all people especially my savior who was a Jew....... Peace & Prayers, Denny

Aug 13 @1:21pm

Doug, I was reading from an article reguarding George Soros....I did the interview so my listeners and myself included could learn more from the the man who wrote it.  I first learned that Mr. Soros was Jewish a few hours before my show.  I find it Ironic that a family escaping the Germans by posing as Christians....the irony being a mans family who used God to escape certain death has no faith today...my heart breaks for people like him that go through life without a relationship with our creator.....this is the last time I will reply to you by email....you are reading way to deep into this and you believe I have some motive of hatred here and that is false....I am sitting at my desk right now and if you would like to discuss it further please call me right now.....419-xxx-xxxx DS

I did take him up on the offer to call him. Interestingly, he made no mention of the article he claims to have been reading from. Instead, he told told me he said: "George Soros COULD be the Anti-Christ". He played the tape for me, and yes he did say "Could be". But there was another bit that I missed:

"George Soros is an atheist. He hates Christians."

(Here's a freebie for Denny: when you are in the hole, stop digging)

He also threatened my with a law suit if I misquote him by even one word. I asked for a transcript or even a link to the audio. Since he claims that the audio proves that nothing he said was anti-Semitic, I thought he would agree. Wrong.

"I'm not going to help you out".  
6:48:35 PM    comment []trackback []

Help Me Out Here
Russ Lemmon is the media columnist the local paper, The Blade. Trust me on this, he is a good guy.

But he thinks that we can't make a difference. He thinks that ClearChannel wants controversy to boost ratings. He thinks we are in a classic Catch 22. He thinks hate speech on the radio isn't news.

The smart money says he is right. But I'm raising my son in this city, and I'm not going to concede it to the hate-mongers.

Do me a favor, email Russ and tell his that racism on the airwaves is news, and that we expect journalists to allies in protecting our communities from scum-bags who profit from hate.

6:47:49 AM    comment []trackback []

Thursday, August 12, 2004

What I did on my Lunch Hour
I just keep getting more and more pissed about the radio thing. By noon I had a really good self-righteous buzz going. Not wanting to waste all of that motivation on work, I decided to be productive on my lunch break.

Called the media columnist at the local paper to complain about anti-semitic remarks by a local radio host. I was told (politely) not to bother, nothing will change.

Call the program manager a the radio station to complain. Get stuck in phone-menu hell for 10 minutes, finally leave a voice-mail.

Call the local Jewish community center, get transfer to the unfortunate person who handles reports of anti-semitism. Leave another voice-mail.

Sent an e-mail to Atrios, begging for a link to my post.

Called the FCC. Spent more time in phone-menu hell for 5 minutes. A live person tells me how to file a complaint by e-mail.

E-mail the complaint to the FCC.

E-mailed the Anti-defamation League

(Technically, around this time my lunch hour ended)

From a box under my desk, I dug out a small poster I made after Paul Wellstone's death. Across the top is the quote: "Never separate the life you live from the words you speak". Below that is picture of Paul speaking at a rally, then a quote from a Janis Ian song: "You can't reap what you don't sow; you can't plant on fallow ground; So let us fill this empty Earth with hope, until the rains come down".

After looking at the picture of Sen. Wellstone for ten minutes, it occurs to me that I have one Representative and two Senators. Ten minutes later, I have assurances from three different congressmen that as soon as I mail the detail of my complaint, they will ensure that it will be dealt with appropriately.

Called a second local columnist. Got her private e-mail address.

Noticed a staff attorney looking at me funny.

Went back to work.

Granted, I didn't accomplish much, but I haven't felt that good about work in, like, ever.
9:45:03 PM    comment []trackback []

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Racists at Clear Channel
Like everyone else, I've heard about the hateful things said about George Soros. The anti-semitic slurs were appalling, but I only heard about them second-hand. I was disturbed, but in a detached, intellectual way.

This afternoon, on live radio, local talk show host for WSPD Denny Schaffer, make the most blatantly anti-semitic statement I've ever heard (no transcript or audio available, but this almost exactly what was said. Thoughts were strung together, with nothing separating them):

George Soros is an atheist.

His jewish family escaped Europe in the 1930 by masquerading as Christians.

George Soros is the Anti-Christ.

He said this at 3:30, during the afternoon drive on one of the most popular radio stations in Toledo. And he just made one of the most hate-filled statement imaginable. Even now, four hours later, I am revolted and nauseous beyond words.

I never studied much about the historical phenomenon of anti-semitism, but even I can recognize the familiar and centuries-old pattern: Jews are godless; they can move amongst us without detection; they are the implacable enemy of everything we stand for. Schaffer didn't even try to dress it up, or couch his racism in euphemisms. He just . . . said it.

I'm guessing that it won't surprise anyone that Schaffer works for Clear Channel, and I'm guessing that tomorrow afternoon this racist jackass's job will just as secure as it was before he said these things.

Lies, hate and racism: just points in a business plan for Clear Channel.

[Update 8/13 In a phone conversation with Denny Schaffer, he confirmed that the statements were made, though he did dispute my interpretation. He played the tape of his comments for and there are two substantive differences fro what I quoted above:

Mr. Schaffer said "George Soros could be the Anti-Christ" He feels that this version inoculates him against charges of anti-Semitism. I disagree, but make your own judgement.

I also missed a clause in one the quote I provided above. "George Soros is an atheist; he hates Christians".

I was threatened with a lawsuit if I misquote so much as a single word of Mr. Schaffer's statements. When threatened, I requested a transcript, to ensure accuracy, Mr. Schaffer refused. Since he felt that his inflection on the word "could" is important in judging his meaning, I suggested that he post the audio on the internet. Again he refused]
7:58:59 PM    comment []trackback []

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

SEATTLE (Reuters) - More than two dozen mothers staged a breastfeeding "nurse-in" at a Starbucks Corp. store in Maryland over the weekend in an effort to get the world's largest coffee shop chain to adopt a policy allowing breastfeeding in all its U.S. stores. [Reuters: US Domestic News]

Nothing about being a new father surprised me more than my near-instant transformation into a militant breastfeeding advocate. I only wish that I was a Starbucks customer so that I could boycott the chain until they implemented rational policies (just what the hell do they think those things are for?)

Lorig Charkoudian, who organized the event, said on Tuesday that she began her quest a month ago when she was nursing her 15-month-old daughter at the store in Silver Spring, Maryland, and was asked by a Starbucks employee to cover up with a blanket or breastfeed in the bathroom.

She protested and, after eventually reaching the regional vice president, got Seattle-based Starbucks to recognize a Maryland law that allows mothers to breastfeed their children in public.

Starbucks spokeswoman Audrey Lincoff said in a statement that the coffee chain "quickly apologized for her negative experience" and reminded employees at its Maryland stores to comply with the law.

Charkoudian argues that Starbucks should have gone a step further and allow breastfeeding at all its 5,882 coffee shops in the United States.

The boiled down story: a Starbucks employee tells a mother to feed her child in the bathroom. The company does not immediately institute clear policies allowing mothers to feed their children in a comfortable place of her choosing.

Corporate family values
8:21:32 PM    comment []trackback []

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