Archive for January, 2012

The Stoop

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Good for Kenji, standing up to the stoop police.

Going to Rutgers and living in New Brunswick, NJ,  we used to always sit on our stoop drinking beer. It was a college town, and kids were always on their way too or from class. So the stoops were a way for us to get interact with our neighbors. They were a place to enjoy a beautiful day. The stoop was a place to avoid the trapped in heat of a house with no air conditioning. There were days where it wasn’t an exaggeration to say that we were renting a stoop with a house attached.

I remember the way we kept the beers behind our backs. We would hide them behind out shins as the cops drove by. Once I remember we had a bottle of Jim Beam, and to avoid open container laws we stuffed the bottle into an oven mitt and drank out of that. Sure, you could say we were going a little overboard. If we had to go to those lengths to drink, it wasn’t worth it, and maybe we should have been enjoying a nice iced tea instead. All I can say is it was college and what were you doing when you were 21?

I wouldn’t have given that stoop up for all the back yards in New Brunswick. Without that stoop, I wouldn’t have known that we had an old timey country band living 2 doors down.

It’s crazy, looking back, to think that we were always split second away from a fine just for enjoying our private property. We weren’t hurting anyone. We rarely went overboard. If we did cross any lines, there are plenty of public nuisance laws that could have caught us. Why bother casting a net that will snare law abiding citizens on private property?

It’s funny that, now that I have a proper porch, I don’t spend much time on there. I’ll have a beer our there and play some guitar on occasion, but in Long Branch we don’t have the walking culture that the college town part of New Brunswick has. Being set back 15 feet from the street, where no one is walking anyway, takes much of the fun out of the experience. While I don’t live in a stoop-friendly neighborhood now, I can relate to those trying to keep it alive. Long live the stoop!

Categories: Uncategorized

The Truth Vigilantes

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m late to writing about this, so I’ll spare you the recap and assume that you’ve already read this from the public editor of the New York Times. I’ll just leave youwith my thoughts.

It really is incredible that the nation’s most respected news organization has to even ask “whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.”

What conspicuously absent from Brisbane’s blog entry was any sort of alternate model. I really would like to hear what he thinks the job of a report is if not to challenge “facts” (in scarequotes) asserted by the rich and powerful.

I understand the press’s desire to not be a referee. I really do. There are plenty of people who would be perfectly happy arguing that black is white, if they thought that they could gain power by convincing a few people. Determining “truth” is a heavy burden. You’re bound to be wrong at least occasionally, and even one misstatement could be damaging to your credibility.

So I can understand why some might be reluctant to take this on. But if this is not the job description of the journalist, I want to know what is. The only alternatives I can think of are “stenographer” or “relayer of press releases”. I’m sure that’s not what these men and women see themselves as. If it is, then the problem is much more serious than I imagined.

What I want, at this point, is for a mainstream journalist to articulate an alternate ideal.  Explain to me what you see your role as.

It’s clear from the reaction to Brisbane’s blog entry that this is clearly what the readership expects of these journalists. It’s a clear line in the sand. “The job of a journalist”, we, the public, say “is to leave us better informed about the world than we were before we began reading.” Lets not pretend this is going to be an easy job. It will not be. Even the best will fail occasionally. But goddamnit we expect our press corps to try.

Categories: Uncategorized

Worldwide SOPA

As I write this, SOPA is not yet law. It hasn’t even been voted on in Congress. Free speech advocates across the country have banded together to fight this bill. I’ve been planning a post on the particulars of the bill, but enough has been said over the past few weeks that I’m not sure what more I can add. Suffice it to say that I am against any attempt to treat people as felons for violating “intellectual property”. When ideas flow freely, we all benefit.

What scares me the most, though, is the way the idea of protecting IP at all costs has infected all levels of our government. Big Media is likely to be seen as holding the leash of government in the coming decade the way Big Oil was in the last. The State Department, for instance, is trying to bully our trading partners into accepting draconian IP protection that hasn’t even been able to pass in the US (yet).

If you’re reading this blog, you probably fall into the gaping chasm that many in our government labels “criminal”. What’s infuriating is that this criminalization of a large class of Americans is happening without what feels like a real debate. It’s conventional wisdom that something must be done, and that rather than heeding the advice of the experts, we should wield as large a club as our political capital will allow. Consequences be damned, something must be done now.

Of course, I think most Americans would say that the problem is overstated, to say the least. Rather than being a drain, the technology of the last 20 odd years has allowed creativity and entertainment to flourish (outrageous reality show of the week not withstanding).

Related reading: Dear Congress – It’s No Longer Okay To Not Understand How The Internet Works

Categories: Politics