Thursday, January 20, 2011

A fond farewell to Elise Hu

It doesn't seem like that long ago I wrote about Elise Hu's move from KVUE to the Texas Tribune.   Now, less than two years later, the Tribune reports, Ms. Hu is moving on, this time out of Austin:

She'll leave us in mid-February to become digital director of NPR's nascent Impact of Government project, which promises to produce excellent, public-spirited work covering state government in all 50 states. We hate to see her go, because she's been so integral to everything we've done these last 15 months, but she'll do great.

(image courtesy Texas Tribune)

Even if we didn't agree politically (or so I've heard), I'll miss Ms. Hu.  I got the opportunity to meet her when I participated in a focus group watching a Texas Republican gubernatorial debate (about which I apparently at one time intended to write), and she was nothing but professional.  If she didn't care for the conservative leanings of the candidates, it never showed that night.

Ms. Hu wrote about her upcoming move on her blog:

I wasn’t (and am still not fully) ready to leave our baby, or my real-life friends that helped build it, or the city that quickly became my home. I prefer Austin’s four seasons – mildly hot, medium hot, sauna hot and surface-of-sun hot – over actual seasons. But I decided to take this leap into another public media unknown because I’m sold on what a special opportunity this is to grow and learn, and on NPR’s commitment to being on the cutting edge of web journalism, which is of highest importance to me.

Now, I know I don't agree with the political leanings of NPR, and I've written about the future of public broadcasting previously, so I won't go into any of that now.  Right now is a moment to congratulate Ms. Hu on her new position and wish her all the best in Washington.

And so, best wishes, Elise.  I have no doubt you'll do well.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who's spreading hate again?

This video has been posted all over by now, and it's already been yanked from YouTube because one of the people highlighted in it has complained about privacy rights (for a tweet?  really?), but since some of my regular readers (I'm thinking of one in particular) doesn't read many (or any) other blogs, I present this to refudiate the idea that conservatives have a monopoly on hate, while the sainted left can do nothing wrong.

Language warnings, and lots of them, apply.

Twitter Users Wish Death on Sarah Palin from JoeKenha on Vimeo.

So, let's summarize:  Sarah Palin targets (ooh, can I still say that?) Democratic House members for defeat and gets crucified for it (as a reminder, you can see her response here); other people, in as vile/vulgar a way as possible, wish actual death on her.  And yet Gov. Palin is the only one expected to shut up as a result of the tragedy in Tucson.

Give me a break.

Austinville 78704 Grand Opening: Sunday January 16

For those in south Austin looking for a fun activity for the afternoon of Sunday, January 16, check out the Grand Opening of Austinville 78704, which is located at the triangle of Lamar, Manchaca, and Barton Skyway.

But Snowed, isn't that shopping center years old?  Well, yes, but it is under new management as of the past year or so, which has led to a bit of revitalization for the area, which until recently was only still holding on to much of any traffic thanks to a fairly well-performing Thundercloud Subs.  In the past year, Thundercloud has been joined by Papalote Taco House, Juicebox & Soup Peddler, American Cleaners, and Ga Ga, while the corner lot across Barton Skyway has seen a marked improvement by going from one of the dozens of no-SSN-no-problem car lots to a combination Phil's Icehouse and Amy's Ice Cream.

They're all already open, Snowed, so what's the deal?  Well, I asked, and I found that the reasoning behind having the Grand Opening now was just to start slowly and build traffic just from word of mouth (and, I would imagine, to get any kinks out of the system--and judging from my two visits so far to Phil's and Amy's, there were no kinks to be found).

And why should I go, Snowed?  Well, there are several incentives for you to go Sunday.  First of all, 10% of all sales on Sunday are going to be donated to Austin Pets Alive.  There will be activities for the kids (above and beyond the playground always available at Phil's and Amy's), such as, I was told, a bounce house.  (So you can get the kids their sugar rush and then put them in a padded room, as it were.)

So, if you can make it, it promises to be a good time for all.  More info may be found here.

(Update:  Obviously, if you have come to this post after Sunday, January 16, you have missed the Grand Opening event, but all these businesses are of course available for your dining and shopping pleasure every day.  By the way, I heartily recommend the Brentwood Burger at Phil's.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sarah Palin responds to accusations of being an accessory to murder

Sarah Palin released a video this morning responding to the trajectory this country and its political talking points have taken since the Tucson massacre of 8 January:

Sarah Palin: "America's Enduring Strength" from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

The transcript for this video, in case it disappears again (it was gone briefly due to a technical hitch), follows (courtesy Sarah Palin's Facebook page):

Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy.

I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.

Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.

There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.

Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.

As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.

No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.

It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.

Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And let us pray for our country. In times like this we need God’s guidance and the peace He provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate.

America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.

- Sarah Palin

Already people are jumping on Gov. Palin's use of the term "blood libel".  But, as was pointed out first to me by Melissa Clouthier, the term was used first by Glenn Reynolds in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal two days ago.  Where was the outcry then?  Oh, wait, it wasn't Sarah Palin saying it then.  But is the term accurate, regardless of who used it?  Some people think so:

Falsely accusing someone of shedding blood is a blood libel – whether it’s the medieval Church accusing Jews of baking blood in Passover matzos, or contemporary Muslim extremists accusing Israel of slaughtering Arabs to harvest their organs, or political partisans blaming conservative political figures and talk show hosts for the Tucson massacre.

And who were these people?  Why, they're the Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin.  I do believe the Jews know a little something about blood libel.

So, that point aside, how was Gov. Palin's speech?  I thought it was well-written and right for this political climate.  Hopefully people will take it to heart.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Arizona tragedy: the good and the bad responses

There was a lot of good in the responses I have seen to Saturday's Arizona massacre.  Obviously, there was Daniel Hernandez, the intern who rushed to the side of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; I have read that his actions saved her life, and they were obviously heroic.  Also praiseworthy is the group that is organizing to form a blockade against the haters from Westboro Baptist Church (a church whose actions disgust me and many other is any form of hate showing the love of Christ?), who are planning to protest at the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Green.  The moment of silence held today by people from both political parties was a good gesture, as have been all the prayers for the victims and the families.

Unfortunately, the good that can come out of the worst of events is overshadowed so much by the pettiness, sniping, and politicizing to a level I don't remember seeing in recent memory.  Almost immediately there were people pointing fingers at the usual suspects, the foremost of whom, of course, was Sarah Palin.  See, her PAC (political action group, for the uninitiated) targeted 20 House districts which voted for McCain-Palin but were held by Democrats.  (The original Facebook post is here, and the comments are going nuts.)  The symbol over each of these districts appears to be cross hairs.  One of those districts belongs to Rep. Giffords.  And so, obviously, by some leap of logic that escapes me, Sarah Palin was responsible for the shootings in Tucson. 

Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller has correlated several people all jumping to the same Palin-is-responsible conclusion here.  As Mr. Treacher says, "it was only a matter of minutes before blame for the incident could be assigned."  And assigned it was, all to the same people.  (And a lot of other people seem to be looking for a roadmap to that same conclusion, including several people who have found this entry on my blog while searching for some variant of "palin incendiary comments".)

But is that really the way to handle this tragedy?  First of all, there is no evidence that the assailant, Jared Lee Loughner, paid much attention to Sarah Palin at all.  Second, thanks to the rush to judgment by the people mentioned in Mr. Treacher's article, there was a counter-push of conservatives and Tea Partiers which can be summarized as "Oh, yeah?  Well, you hate worse!"  And they have a point.  Michelle Malkin compiled what appears to be a master list of liberal hatred toward conservatives, starting with a lot of hatred toward Sarah Palin and George W. Bush and moving toward topic-specific hatred.  (Because of such hatred, this link is NSFW.)

Oh, and third, Neal Boortz reports that Gov. Palin's office is saying the symbols weren't even cross hairs anyway; they were surveyor's marks.  And so Mr. Boortz links to a PDF from the U.S. Geological Survey which uses a very familiar symbol for a "principal point".  (Of course, then Mr. Boortz shows maps from the Democrats showing targets.  Not something that looks like cross hairs--actual targets.  But then, maybe they were just organizing against Walmart.)  There's more on the whole targeting of blame toward Sarah Palin and other like-minded people from Mr. Boortz here.

And fourth?  Sarah Palin weighed in on this herself, in an e-mail to Glenn Beck, as reported by The Right Scoop.  As read by Mr. Beck, Sarah Palin wrote the following:

I hate violence. I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence. Thanks for all you do to send the message of truth and love and God as the answer. -Sarah

Yeah, she's a real purveyor of hatred, isn't she?

So how do I respond to all the sniping right now?  Do I spend several more paragraphs focusing on a Democrat who called for the Republican candidate for the governorship of Florida to be shot?  Do I wax poetic at the absurdity of those who started a petition (signed by 3910 people at this writing) for Sarah Palin to be indicted for the Tucson massacre?  Do I point out, as multiple people linked already have done, that no less than Barack Obama said, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun"?

Is this discussion even worth it anymore?  Or does the discussion of political ideas need to be changed one person at a time, starting with me?  Starting with you?

The change to political discussion, at least for me, has to come as part of a greater transformation.  I today read this post from Scot McKnight, in which he reminded me that "[t]he problem is that human beings are cracked," and in which he said:
But the problem, Mr and Mrs Pundit, is not the Right or the Left. The problem is You and Me. Let’s quit the blame and look inside.

And so my response to the Tucson massacre, as well as to another issue about which I intend to write ASAP (because my most faithful reader asked why I haven't blogged lately), is to remind myself that there are things that I need to change.  I don't think I've demonized political opposites before, but I will redouble efforts not to do so. (No, I'm not swearing off snark.  There's always a place for well-used snark.  But snark must take a back seat to civility when the two don't jibe.) 

So, who wants to join me on this journey?  You, gentle reader, must decide if you want to continue to spew hatred at Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, or whoever.  But for me, it's time for this road to end.