April 29, 2011

Members of Society of Professional Journalists Seeking to Rehabilitate Helen Thomas

By David Paulin

You can't say journalists don't take care of their own.

Members of America's most hallowed journalism organization -- the Society of Professional Journalists -- are embroiled in a nasty food fight over disgraced journalist Helen Thomas and efforts by some SPJ members to rehabilitate her. But in this fight, it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

At issue for the SPJ is whether it did the right thing by retiring its prestigious "Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement." Some SPJ members believe the journalism organization did the wrong thing. Accordingly, they intend to put forth the case for reinstating the prestigious award at the SPJ's national meeting this September.

The battle over whether to in effect rehabilitate Helen Thomas has pitted members of the SPJ against one another, resulting in an unseemly "baseball food fight," according to an article in Wednesday's Editor & Publisher by Rutgers University journalism professor Allan Wolper.

Sadly, however, it's hard to tell who the good guys are in this fight. Leaders at the SPJ who voted to retire the Helen Thomas award apparently did so for all the wrong reasons; her anti-Semitism about Jews getting out of Israel, and Zionists controlling America, was the least of their worries, according to Wolper's eye-opening account about the controversy at embroiling the SPJ -- an organization that he points out is "the keeper of a Code of Ethics that is a template for journalism behavior."

Ethics aside, the SPJ is apparently a forgiving bunch when it comes to anti-Semitism. It gave Thomas the benefit of the doubt after her first anti-Semitic outburst outside the White House last May during which she called for the Jews to get out of Israel and go "home."

Why was the SPJ so forgiving?

As Wolper tells it, it's because "the allegedly anti-Semitic remarks attributed to" Thomas were regarded as "a one-time misstep or slip-up resulting from 'questionable interview tactics,' according to an internal report by Joe Skeel, SPJ's executive director."

Then came Thomas' remarks in December at a conference of Arab journalists. She said that "Congress, the White House, and Hollywood are owned by Zionists. No question."

"That did it," Wolper relates. "The SPJ executive committee in January voted 6 to 1 to retire the award, and the full board of directors went along, 14 to 7."

Incredibly, though, the SPJ leadership wasn't upset at Thomas' anti-Semitism. As Wolper explains: "The rationale was stunning: There was a fear that future recipients would have to answer questions about Helen Thomas instead of talking about their lifelong accomplishments."

Wolper also relates that the SPJ's "decision (on Thomas), and the way it was handled, infuriated Christine Tatum, a former president of SPJ, and Ray Hanania, a Chicago columnist and coordinator of the National Arab American Journalists Association. Hanania sees the decision as an example of SPJ's alleged bias against Arab journalists, a charge SPJ fiercely denies."

Incredibly, the conduct of the SPJ's Thomas apologists gets sleazier. Wolper says they're convinced the SPJ's leadership "buckled under pressure from Jewish organizations led by Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. They cite as proof a letter he wrote to SPJ castigating Thomas, which was printed online and in Quill magazine, SPJ's monthly publication."

Wolper also writes that Thomas' SPJ apologists "whisper that Hagit Limor, the Israeli born president of SPJ, is Jewish, a not-so-nice way to hint that she might not have been as fair as she could have been. I have found no evidence to support that notion. Meanwhile, Limor, an investigative reporter for WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, has been bombarded with angry telephone calls from non-journalistic Thomas supporters."

None of this should surprise anybody who's noticed an anti-Israeli bias in the mainstream media over the years -- an issue that more than a few articles at this publication have addressed.

The SPJ, incidentally, is no stranger to controversy. Less than a month after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, it passed a controversial resolution at its national convention in Seattle telling SPJ members how to cover the war on terror. Among other edicts, it advised against using the word "jihad" and said that stories should "portray Muslims, Arabs and Middle Eastern and South Asian Americans in the richness of their diverse experiences."

On the other hand, the SPJ offered no edict about portraying Jews, Israeli-Jews, or American Jews in the richness of their experience.

No surprise there.

Originally published at The American Thinker.

Second Amendment Culture Wars: Eastern Elites vs. Gun-friendly Red States

By David Paulin

America's gun-rights debate has moved into some new territory that highlights the ideological divide separating gun-hating Eastern elites from Americans in fly-over country.

Recent events in New York City, Washington D.C., and in gun-friendly fly-over states (mostly red) demonstrate how profoundly the nation's Second Amendment debate is wrapped up with its culture wars.

Consider how Americans on opposite sides of the liberal-conservative divide are viewing the gun-rights debates underway in at least nine state legislatures. According to Eastern elites, lawmakers are doing the unthinkable: They're debating whether to eliminate so-called "gun-free zones" on public college and university campuses; such zones exist in 22 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas is considered the most likely to pass such legislation, with a vote possible this March. Only Utah allows concealed carry holders on its campuses.

Conversely, 25 other states leave it to colleges and universities to allow or ban concealed carry holders; and so a handful of schools in the Midwest and West actually do allow concealed carry holders on campus to varying degrees. They include Michigan State, Colorado State, and the University of Colorado, schools where no concealed carry holders are reported to have been involved in campus massacres or robbery sprees. Nine of those states nevertheless introduced legislation last year to ban concealed carry on campuses, a response to shootings like the Virginia Tech massacre.

Besides gun-friendly Texas, states that may do the opposite and ban gun-free zones on campuses include Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, New Mexico, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. To be sure, abolishing gun-free zones wouldn't involve handing out Glocks to boozed-up college kids, as gun-haters fear. Rather, it would to varying degrees allow gun owners with concealed carry permits, including students, to bring handguns on campus.

In gun-hating New York, getting a carry permit involves a nightmare of red tape. But not so in Texas and most states, where it's relatively easy for law-abiding adults to obtain concealed carry permits after passing a course and undergoing a background check. In Texas, one part of the 10-to-15 hour course includes instruction in "non-violent conflict resolution" - to help ensure people only use their weapons for legitimate self-defense purposes.

Gun-hating liberals may be surprised to hear it, but it's virtually unheard of in Texas for people with carry permits to commit crimes or be involved in unnecessary shootings. They don't hold up convenience stores; don't get involved in shoot-outs at bars or after traffic accidents. Nor do they shoot people whom they feel have "dissed" them -- a common occurrence in gritty parts of Chicago and Detroit. It all underscores a fact that gun-hating liberals overlook: Culture plays a big role in gun violence. Switzerland, after all, is armed to the teeth, with members of its large citizen militia keeping military-issued weapons at home -- yet gun-related crimes in Switzerland are rare.

In the guns-on-campus debate, reasonable people might disagree about the wisdom of allowing undergraduates to keep handguns in dorm rooms. But what about college professors and staff members? Consider a strange inconsistency in Texas. In Austin, a short drive from the University of Texas' gun-free zone, is the state capitol. It's a part of the real-world: Concealed carry holders are allowed to bring handguns into the legislature and capitol building. Security guards wave them through after they present their carry permits. To date, no shoot-outs have occurred among gun-toting legislators, lobbyists, and visitors during heated debates.

Yet at the University of Texas, professors, staff, and students with concealed carry permits are prohibited from carrying their guns on campus when, say, they must walk to and from a night class and a dark parking garage. The absurdity of campus gun-free zones prompts the National Rifle Association to ask: "Should you have less freedom and safety than anyone else simply because you go to college?" Besides personal protection, gun-rights advocates note that a person with a carry permit could stop a Virginia Tech-style massacre in its tracks.

Recently, legislative initiatives to abolish gun-free zones were the subject of an article in the New York Times, an agenda-setting paper for liberal elites. It soft-peddled the obvious: Gun-free zones don't make anybody safer -- except for gun-toting criminals. If the Times thinks otherwise, it should disarm the security personnel who presumably guard the New York Times Building. Then it should put up a sign that sanctimoniously proclaims: "Gun-free Zone." But don't count on that happening; even Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. wouldn't be so stupid. Yet gun-hating liberals nevertheless portray gun owners in fly-over country as bubbas and hayseeds: people who cling to their guns and religion as President Obama put it.

Speaking of Obama, the Senate Judiciary Committee is now considering the President's controversial nomination to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Andrew Traver, 47, is being vigorously opposed by gun-rights advocates. The veteran ATF agent, among other things, has likened automatic black-market weapons to legal semi-automatic assault weapons and is involved with the anti-gun International Association of Chiefs of Police. "You might as well put an arsonist in charge of the fire department," said Chris Cox, an NRA spokesman.

Traver was based in Chicago, a city without gun shops; and yet it's got a high crime rate and well-armed gangs that Trevor, to his credit, went on the offensive against -- treating them as criminal organizations instead of neighborhood thugs.

'Outing' Gun Owners

As the gun-rights debate has heated up, the New York Times recently launched an anti-gun crusade -- running a full-page article that "outed" well-known New Yorkers who own handguns. It portrayed them as members of a strange and troubling subculture; and it was published not long after another anti-gun piece -- a female reporter's amusing account (by red-state standards) of her visits to some New York gun shops.

Not surprisingly, getting a handgun permit in New York is hard if not almost impossible, whether it's to carry a handgun in the street or keep at home. Even so, many well-heeled New Yorkers have actually managed to get such permits. So who are these crazies? To find out, The Times culled through thousands of names of gun owners that it got from the police after filing lawsuits and freedom of information requests. It was amazed to learn that some of the city's leading citizens were handgun owners and even had carry permits. According to The Times, the list included: "Men and women. Democrats and Republicans. Doctors, lawyers, merchants and moguls. A remarkable, if relatively small, cross-section of New Yorkers."

In all, more than 37,000 New Yorkers keep handguns in their homes or carry them in the street, according to the full-page article: "Armed in New York, and Carrying Well-Known Names." The article's print edition was dominated by a photo of a shooting target: a human silhouette. And around it were 15 photos of high-profile New Yorkers with handgun permits: actors, public officials, journalists, and other celebrities.

In its quest for accountability from the city's gun-toting subculture, The Times then contacted a number of gun owners. Some were apparently outraged at being outed -- and told reporter Jo Craven McGinty to go screw herself. Others, apparently embarrassed at being outed, proceeded to blurt out some incredibly dumb comments; things no gun-toting bubba or hayseed in fly-over would ever be so naive to utter.

Consider not-too-bright Alexis Stewart, 45, a radio and television talk-show host. She was among a surge of New Yorkers who bought handguns after 9/11. Obviously embarrassed at being outed, the daughter of classy Martha Stewart gushed: "I keep it in my apartment unloaded in a safe. Wait. I probably shouldn't say that. It's under my pillow and ready to go." (Readers who don't know why it's dumb to say such things are obviously not among American Thinker's conservative readers.)

Then there was gun owner William Rosado, an illustrator. He all but apologized for enjoying his regular visits to a shooting range with his 9-millimeter Smith & Wesson. "In a weird way, it's kind of a stress reliever," he confessed. "It's something completely different than what I do for a living."

Most of the gun owners told the Times they'd never pulled their guns in self-defense; no surprise there. And nor did the paper mention that any New Yorkers had abused their concealed carry privileges -- and you can be sure such anecdotes would have been mentioned if the Times had found them. One example was nevertheless provided of a New Yorker who'd actually defended himself with a handgun. You have to wonder: How many other such cases did the Times find but fail to mention?

The case of John A. Catsimatidis, 62, was nevertheless interesting. The owner of a supermarket chain, he once used his Walther PPK to stop an armed robbery. Upon entering one of his stores, three armed robbers rushed past him, one by one. Each carried a sawed-off shotgun. (Shotguns are easier than handguns to obtain in New York City and surrounding metropolitan area.)

"Be cool, man!" the first thug told Catsimatidis. Then the second one rushed past, also saying, "Be cool, man!" As the third emerged, Catsimatidis was ready. He related: "I intertwined my arm into his arm, and I put my gun to his head, and I say: 'Drop your gun or I'll blow your head off'." When the police arrived, a sergeant told Catsimatidis: "You couldn't have shot the guy anyway; your safety is still on."

It was the perfect anecdote with which to end an anti-gun story -- one making a gun owner look like a bumbler.

Interestingly, the same edition of the Times also featured a long story with a self-defense angle -- of sorts. "It Ended in a Suitcase," as it was titled, dealt with a "strung-out" 28-year-old hooker who called herself "Jackie" and the violent 55-year-old man who killed her, a drifter with a long criminal history named Hassan Malik. It was an utterly banal crime story, the stuff of New York's lowbrow tabloids; and it certainly wasn't what the Times normally gives its upscale readers. But apparently Times' editors felt more "diversity" was needed in its crime coverage -- and so they offered up "It Ended in a Suitcase" -- an in-depth story about two losers from the city's low-life culture.

The fates of Malik and "Jackie" (real name: Betty Williams) were completely predictable given the lives they had led. Yet reporter Alan Feuer was clearly intrigued, and he naively wrote: "Why had things turned violent? And, most important, how, in 21st-century New York, was it possible for a strangled woman to be stuffed inside a suitcase and summarily deposited on the street?" Of course, no gun-toting bubba or hayseed in fly-over country would have trouble answering that question.

Malik, incidentally, didn't dispatch Williams with a gun. He used a frying pan and a VCR cord - and he claimed he acted in self-defense. A likely story. One that raises a question: "When frying pans and VCR cords are outlawed, will only outlaws have them?"

Originally published at The American Thinker

April 26, 2011

'Therapy-Dog' Sessions For Yale's Liberal Law Students

By David Paulin

A "therapy dog" named "Monty" will be offered next week to students at Yale Law School, part of a pilot program to help them relieve their "stress." All of which raises a question: What kinds of horrific stress do students suffer at Yale Law School, a place noted for its touchy-feely legal education and its overwhelmingly liberal students and faculty?

Indeed, Yale Law School has for decades been an Ivy League school offering a kinder and gentler education -- a response to student unrest and demands in the 1960s. Yale Law School was definitely not the high-pressure school portrayed in the movie "The Paper Chase;" that was Harvard Law School.

Unlike other law schools, Yale does not do mean, stressful things like officially "ranking" its students. Nor does it offer traditional grades; instead, first-semester students get credit or no-credit. And during the remaining two-and-a-half years, students are graded on a system that gives them marks such as "honors," "pass," "low pass," and "fail." Students take only one semester of required courses, whereas most other law schools have a full year of required courses.

Yet Yale's privileged law students can expect to get just about any job they desire. Interestingly (though perhaps not surprisingly), a relatively large number of Yale law grads go on to teach or work for the government. Only 49 percent become honest-to-goodness lawyers who really practice law.

So perhaps it's no surprise that Yale's law students are now getting therapy-dog sessions to help them get through the day.

Curiously, news of Yale Law School's therapy-dog program has not been well publicized, according to an article in The New York Times. "I'm surprised to hear of it," law professor John Witt was quoted as saying. "I've always found library books to be therapeutic. But maybe that's just me."

Spoken like a true academic.

Originally published at The American Thinker.
Male Cartoonist Poses as Woman to Get Work

By David Paulin

It's not only in America that political correctness and affirmative action have run amok. From Europe comes a wacky story that calls up the amusing cross-dressing and role reversals in the Hollywood movie "Tootsie."

In this case, it's not a down-on-his-luck male actor (Dustin Hoffman) pretending to be a woman to jump-start his career. It's a down-on-his-luck political cartoonist in Austria named Markus Szyszkowitz. Deciding he could turn his country's political correctness to his advantage, Szyszkowitz reinvented himself as a political cartoonist named "Rachel Gold" -- a young and attractive Jewish immigrant from Israel.

And incredibly, he became much more successful as Rachel Gold than as himself.

Posing as Gold, Szyszkowitz produced cartoons with a different style. They also had a hard-hitting liberal viewpoint, one that Szyszkowitz believes neither editors nor readers would have as readily accepted had he done them himself. He thinks this was due more to the fact that Rachel Gold was Jewish than female, owning to Austria's terrible history regarding its Jewish citizens.

Among other benefits of being Rachel Gold, Szyszkowitz became one of Austria's top cartoonist. "Rachel Gold" even took over the old job he'd lost for having offended a politician who later became Austria's chancellor.

The story of this hilarious farce is the subject of an article, "Secrets of a Woman," by American cartoonist Daryl Cagle at his website "The Cagle Post." Interestingly, it's a story that Cagle said he can relate to as an American cartoonist.

As he explains:

There are very few women editorial cartoonists, and I'm not sure why. At this time, there is only one woman who has a full time job drawing editorial cartoons for a print newspaper, out of about 75 newspaper cartooning positions in America. The disparity extends to the unsolicited submissions I get from aspiring cartoonists, who are 99.9 percent male; the same is true among the almost-all-male cartoonists around the world. Naturally, a rare woman editorial cartoonist gets special attention, just because she is a woman.

When discouraged political cartoonists sit behind a beer and complain, sometimes the talk turns to the idea of pretending to draw as a woman, to take advantage of affirmative action minded editors who might prefer cartoons by a woman, and affirmative action minded award juries who might be more inclined to give awards to a female cartoonist - but I had never heard of a cartoonist actually going through with the scheme.

Until, of course, Rachel Gold.

As Cagle notes, editors eventually caught onto Szyszkowitz's subterfuge and fired him. But he landed on his feet and today continues to do political cartoons under his own name and as Rachel Gold. Most readers in Austria remain clueless as to what's going on.

Alas, Cagle doesn't say if Szyszkowitz has became a better man for having successfully pretended to be a pretty Jewish woman in the way Dustin Hoffman's character in "Tootsie" supposedly became a better man for pretending to be a woman.

One thing that's certain: Szyszkowitz has become more successful after reinventing himself as Rachel Gold.

Hat Tip: Editor & Publisher

Originally published at The American Thinker.
Alaska Lawmaker Victim of Latest TSA Outrage

David Paulin

An Alaska lawmaker is the latest victim of an absurd TSA outrage. State Rep. Sharon Cissna, a 68-year-old Democrat, refused at Seattle's airport on Sunday to submit to the TSA's full-treatment - a hard-core pat down. She refused, she later explained, to be humiliated by the "invasive, probing hands of a stranger."

So she skipped her flight.

Now she's heading to Alaska via ferry, car, and light plane. She's expected to arrive Thursday, according to an article about her ordeal in the Anchorage Daily News. Cissna had been in Seattle for medical treatment and has been excused from Alaska's legislature through Wednesday.

Cissna looks like an all-American grandma. So how come vigilient TSA personnel singled her out for extra screening beyond a full body scan and metal detector? It's because she'd had a mastectomy, explained her chief of staff Michelle Scannell. Apparently, a body scan turned up scars or a prosthetic device.

Three months earlier, Cissna had run into similar problems with the TSA and suffered the indignity of a full pat down. On Sunday, she decided she'd had enough -- even though it meant missing her flight.

As she was surrounded by police, TSA agents, and airline personal, Cissna said she repeatedly told TSA agents she would "not allow the feeling-up and I would not use the transportation mode that required it."

"Facing the agent I began to remember what my husband and I'd decided after the previous intensive physical search. That I never had to submit to that horror again!" she said. "It would be difficult, we agreed, but I had the choice to say no, this twisted policy did not have to be the price of flying to Juneau!"

It's doubtful, of course, that Rep. Cissna's fellow passengers felt safer from would-be terrorists because the lawmaker wouldn't be travelling with them. But at least they got to watch yet another absurd example of what TSA's critics refer to as the agency's "security theater."

Don't expect politically correct liberals to rush to the lawmaker's defense. For that, she would have had to be wearing a burka.

Originally published at The American Thinker.

Crazy in 'socialist' Seattle: Bending the Law for 'Social Justice'

David Paulin

Forget about equal protection under the law in hip Seattle. One of America's most liberal cities is turning a blind eye to some crimes committed by minorities. In addition, legal and illegal immigrants are getting off for offenses for which American citizens would be prosecuted.

How can Seattle overlook one of the cornerstone's of the U.S. Constitution? It's because of its “race and social justice initiative,” reports Fox News.

Outraged, Seattle police officer Steve Pomper has started an uproar by writing a column in his union newsletter titled: "Shut Up and Be a Good Little Socialist." Officer Pomper explains: “When somebody comes in with a policy like that, it doesn't allow us to treat people with equal justice. It’s socialism."

Clearly, political correctness and leftist ideology have clearly run amuck in Seattle's Alice-in-Wonderland world. Now, African-Americans can expect to get off for traffic offenses for which whites would be prosecuted.

That's considered "social justice."

The reason is because African-Americans in the past were "disproportionately" charged with some traffic offenses -- and those higher arrest rates are blamed on the law's inherent social injustice! That's what Seattle's "race and social justice initiative" aims to combat.

For example, when a motorist is charged with driving on a suspended license for failing to pay a fine, the law calls for the person to be charged with driving on a suspended license in the "third degree." But therein lies a problem in the minds of Seattle's city leaders, for as FoxNews.com reports:

"City Attorney Pete Holmes says 44 percent of the people prosecuted were African American. Holmes believes that’s because blacks and other racial minorities are more likely to be poor than whites and unable to pay their fines. He also says it’s a waste of city resources to prosecute those cases, so his goal is to reduce prosecutions by 90 percent.

“If we start to learn and understand that one of those institutional causes of racism is actually in the criminal justice system, it’s our obligation as prosecutors to address it,” Holmes told Fox News' Megyn Kelly in an on-air report.

Immigrants -- legal and illegal -- also have become a privileged class in Seattle that's above the law. They're getting lighter sentences for crimes than American citizens due to concerns they might be deported, according to Kelly's report. This includes things like "alcohol-related" offenses.

It doesn't stop there. Seattle also has tweaked its hiring practices to promote "social justice": Jobs requiring college degrees are considered "racist" because more whites have college degrees than minorities.

To ensure Seattle's police enforce the law with "social justice" in mind, officers are getting hours of "sensitivity" and "racial profiling" training -- and many are not happy about that.

“Shut and be a good little Socialist”: It's an apt description of what's happening in Seattle. In his anti-communist classic "Animal Farm," George Orwell put it another way: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Only in Stalinist Russia -- and in hip and liberal Seattle.

Originally published at The American Thinker.