Wednesday, January 30, 2008

School Board Expels Teens For Kissing On Bus

We can all understand why some school boards are getting stricter in cases of sexual misconduct but this is asinine.

Because two Blythewood High School teenagers were caught kissing on the school bus, the school board decided to expel the both of them for the entire academic year, the Associated Press reported. The school is located in Blythewood, S.C.

“I saw the tape. They kissed maybe two minutes and the rest of bus ride home they leaned back on seat and that was it,” Jody Free, mother of ousted teen Dominique Goyner, told the Associated Press. “Had it been anything different, I would have said ‘OK you two have to suffer the consequences.’”

A message left for the girl’s lawyer was not returned and the school district refused to comment, except that it stands by the school board’s ludicrous decision.

All this has done is ruined two teens’ social lives and more importantly, their academic and professional careers. According to the story, Goyner receive awards for his service at the Blythewood High School JROTC and that now that he’s being home schooled, he hopes that does not hurt his chances to attend a military academy after he graduates.

Sure, kissing on a school bus, while a video camera is recording this act of passion, may not be the smartest thing to do but hey, these are two teenagers we are talking about. It’s not as if these two were having a “Lewinsky Moment.”

It seems as if the school board has a zero tolerance policy about any type of public displays of affection, which it seems to be labeled as “sexual misconduct.” We often hear in some schools that even hugging is not allowed without dire consequences.

Thankfully, it has been reported that parents for both teenagers will settle the matter in circuit court, which is a shame that that is the only place where this nonsense can be dealt with.

Let kids be kids. Allow them the freedom to express themselves as long as it’s within the line of civility. If not, such as the case of Romeo Dominique Goyner and his unnamed girlfriend, a warning is fine, but ruining two lives just results in big, fat “Fs” for members of the school board.

It’s time for the school board to reevaluate its “sexual misconduct” policy and start giving out appropriate punishments to fit the “crime.”

Monday, January 21, 2008

What Wasn’t Needed On MLK Day

This nation is suffering greatly of not being able to connect with one another. While the relationship between blacks and whites are far better now then when it was on April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, there is still those who create unrest between the races for their personal agendas.

While the Rev. Al Sharpton would rather see Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman fired for a very foolish foot-in-the-mouth moment regarding her lynch comment than to have a far more sensible solution, say taking an educational stroll in a civil rights museum, his way of causing unrest among the two races are nothing compared to what happened today.

The white separatist group Nationalist Movement held a protest in Jena, La., a town that has seen its recent share of racial drama in the form of the Jena Six incident, where six black youths were accused of beating a white boy that sparked a controversial firestorm. Not only was Richard Barrett, the leader of the Nationalist Movement, and his group protesting the Jena Six incident but also the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, reported the Associated Press.

And the New Black Panthers Party were also there with other counter-demonstrators who were protesting the Nationalist Movement, reported the Associated Press. A riot didn’t break out between the two extremist groups but it would almost be poetic if it did. But thankfully that fateful confrontation did not happen on a day set aside to appreciate the honest efforts of Martin Luther King Jr.

While many things have improved since King’s death there is much work that needs to be done but too many groups have their personal agendas. For example, Sharpton’s call for Tilghman to lose her job over her slip of the tongue. He is not helping race relations. Tilghman’s words did not have the intentions of racism. What the members of the Nationalist Movement said today at Jena did. That is true racism and that is the type of prejudice that needs to be attacked.

It’s that type of racism and prejudice that is holding back this great country of ours. Any type of racism, either from white separatists or black separatists are counterproductive and their views greatly clash with that mountain that was in a dream of equality for all.

And true racist white people like Barrett and his followers will never understand that this is our country, a country for everyone. And the black extremists need to understand that not all whites are racists. In their warped, twisted way, the two misguided groups who are preaching their hate fail to realize they are hurting the very people they have sworn to protect.

While these groups have the freedom and the right to speak and preach their hate, we also have the right to come together and protest that vile hate in the peaceful way that Martin Luther King Jr. called for.

And what’s more important is that while both the whites and the blacks peacefully protest these groups it is equally, if not far more important, that each race faces off against the radicals of their own race. The most critical blow to members of the Nationalist Movement is if whites stand up against them and tell them that their brand of help is not wanted.

And it would be a devastating upset to the New Black Panthers Party if black people told them that their militant beliefs are not for them.

The extreme views of these organizations have to be brought to light and fight the injustices they cause. They are eroding what this nation is supposed to stand for. And what is also chipping away at this nation’s pillar are the petty attacks and making a spectacle of someone who innocently used the wrong choice of words.

Fighting all forms of real prejudice is what the man who is honored today would have wanted. Let us not forget what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for and died trying to teach us how to accept one another.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Not A Cinderella Story

I don’t normally write about sports but I thought this really goes outside the arena of athletes and goes into the heart of journalism.

As a few might have heard, Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman was suspended for jokingly saying that Tiger Woods’ opponents should lynch the golf star in a back alley if they hoped to beat him on the green. Obviously, it got a lot of backlash and understandably so. Was there hate in her comment? No but it was a foolish joke and she was dealt with properly.

However, Vice President and Editor of Golfweek Dave Seanor was not. Apparently, he and the golf magazine’s editorial staff thought it would be a good idea to do a feature article about Tilghman’s poor choice of words and used a picture of a swinging noose as the cover art to highlight the feature.

And that is when the problems really started. According to, Jack Peter, an official with the PGA Tour, considered to pull $50,000 worth of advertising, even though a spokesman for the tour said that Peter did not speak for the organization and that advertising was not threatened to be pulled, according to the Associated Press.

With that hanging over the publication’s head and with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem calling the choice of cover art “outrageous and irresponsible” and tabloid journalism, Golfweek apparently felt it had to take action and fired Seanor yesterday. And shame on Golfweek for breaking down and firing Seanor for doing his job.

But instead of standing behind Seanor for his editorial decision to run the image, Golfweek thought it had to show “responsibility” for this situation and to probably counter potential future attacks from certain civil rights leaders and others. Because the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded that Tilghman be fired, but the Golf Channel had the wisdom to just suspend her for two weeks.

Now as a former professional layout editor for newspapers and magazines, I can see why Seanor decided to use a swinging noose because of its powerful image and it would certainly draw in readers to the feature and columns about the cover story. And I can only imagine it was not a decision taken lightly. It isn’t a stretch of the imagination that the editorial board, and certainly Terry Olson, the vice president and publisher of Golfweek, had a say in this and agreed that the picture should appear on the cover.

As a society, we have become too sensitive to certain issues and that sensitivity has created an extreme that is costing people their careers. Instead of creating dialogue and talking about an issue, too many people would rather have someone fired and then sweep the topic under a dusty old rug to be forgotten.

Dave Seanor should not have been fired for that cover art. Granted, an apology to those who found the controversial image offensive was correctly given out. But to fire someone who was just doing his job as a journalist is crossing the line.

And this is Golfweek we are talking about. Sure, any intelligent person can say it was a stupid call to approve an image of a swinging noose. But this is a publication about golf and golf-related stories. This isn’t a magazine by Richard Barrett, the founder of the white supremacist group the Nationalist Movement, who would have probably had Tiger Woods’ face around that noose. If that was the case, then I’ll be the first in line to attack Barrett as I have before.

This bloodlust of firing someone because it may hurt a company’s wallet or to appease the crowds that are calling for heads to roll has to stop. Instead, let’s have a real discussion about the issue at hand.

The great Martin Luther King Jr. once said that he had a dream that his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I doubt that he would agree with the cover art but I would sincerely doubt he would call for Seanor’s firing. I would like to think that the civil rights leader would rather talk about the situation then to jump to extremes.

So let’s take that important leaf from King’s book and use it wisely. Because the extreme actions that are being taken are not solving any problems.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Information On Iraqi Death Study Met With Silence

Remember that 2006 study published by the British medical journal Lancet that stated that 654,965 Iraqi citizens have died since the U.S.-lead war started? Remember the huge hostile response it got from anti-war critics and the massive media coverage it generated?

So where is that now, when it turns out that shoddy data collection and bias created this infamous report?

Many critics of the study have attacked the unknown methods used to determine the Iraqi dead, according to a recent National Journal article. For a long time now researchers have questioned just how accurate the method of collecting the information really is and a few have pondered if the study was faked. These legitimate arguments and concerns can be found throughout the National Journal article and the blogosphere.

But what is really compelling is how many of the media, especially the anti-war crowd, has used the nearly 655,000 deaths as the gospel truth and how many non-media groups have been using the lost Iraqis as a soapbox for their own agendas.

Now, common sense says that if 654,965 was the actual number of Iraqis killed since the start of the war and not a reflection of the survey the authors did for the study, then we would have heard holy hell from these groups a long time ago. Just think: If at least 655,000 Iraqis died from 2003 to 2006, that means more then 18,000 innocent Iraqi citizens would have died every month for three years!

And after two months of war, no one even mentions that more than 36,000 people have been killed? It seems hard to believe that after the numerous protest marches during the first year of the war that no one mentioned or reported this horrific death toll until the study was published in 2006.

Even Iraq Body Count, which has opposed the war, has problems with the figure that study authors came up with. The group has said at the time of the release of the study that 45,000 Iraqis have died. And the group actually gets that number from calling morgues, cross-checking facts from media reports, as opposed to going into a few neighborhoods that have a strong anti-American bias or stuffing $20,000 down their money belt and shoes, as the National Journal reported that study authors actually did.

But while many Bush critics have accused the president of lying about the reasons for getting into the war and how they want truth and honesty from the Commander and Chief, these same people either don’t know or don’t care about the bias in this study.

For example, while the authors of the study states: “We declare that we have no conflict of interest,” they fail to mention that anti-Bush critic George SorosOpen Society Institute helped fund the study, as reported the National Journal. In addition, the publication reported that one of the authors of the controversial study, Les Roberts, ran as a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives seat of the 24th Congressional District in New York and has stated he was against the Iraq war.

So, let’s put a little spin on this. Let’s say that Vice President Dick Cheney’s old company Halliburton partly funded a study that said only 200 Iraqi citizens have died because of the war and that one of the authors ran for office as a Republican and was a supporter of the war. Hollywood actor Sean Penn and every other critic of the war would be screaming bloody murder about this and so would I. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the media would take a renewed interest on this subject.

But instead, we only have silence from those who gave such grand attention to this study that caught the world’s keen interest. Whether nearly 655,000 or 45,000 Iraqis were killed, either number is far too high and shows what the insurgents and terrorists are capable of. But let’s add two more casualties to the list: Objectivity and fairness.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Why Hillary Lost To Obama

There are a lot of reasons and speculations as to why Senator Hillary Clinton lost the Iowa caucus to Barack Obama last night. It could be that many Iowa voters remembered her attacks on the Illinois senator or her alleged planned sneak-attack about how he went to a Muslim school while he was a child in Indonesia. Maybe the voters just remembered that Hillary’s people wanted her supporters to ask staged questions to the New York senator.

Or maybe even though for a long time she was leading in the polls during most of the campaign, the real reason why Sen. Hillary Clinton lost was because she lacks the one thing that her husband and former American president still has: Charisma.

Yes, charisma. It’s the one thing that served Bill Clinton well during his political career, especially during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Even during the height of the scandal and when he was being impeached, public opinion polls were still pretty much in his favor.

Hillary is a strong woman and that has many Democrats and Republicans either calling her an empowered leader or a cold-hearted witch. And these are just the average citizens saying this. And her frostiness does show.

In her first video when announcing she was going to run for president, she said she wanted to have a “chat” with the American people. However, she didn’t come off as a friend down the street but just a slick politician who wanted to use soft words and phrases to ease voters into a false sense of security.

Sadly for her, people saw right through that. No matter how many times she may smile and say things like “so let the conversation begin,” that insincerity still shows on her face and that is something that can’t be hidden. Hillary Clinton simply does not have her husband’s Southern Charm and it’s blatantly apparent.

While Bill Clinton was seen as a man of the people, Hillary Clinton is seen as just another smooth politician who is out to get as many votes as possible. He can connect with them at a level that Hillary simply cannot. Obama does have the old Bill Clinton charm and he worked it well in his efforts to win the Iowa caucus.

Maybe it’s time for the New York senator to take a page from her husband’s old playbook. The race for the White House is still a long way off but it’s never too late to improve your image, especially with the New Hampshire primary just days away.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What’s The Big Deal About The Iowa Caucus?

As Iowa is under the nation’s political microscope this evening, one has to wonder the great significance of the caucuses in the Hawkeye State.

Essentially, the Iowa caucus is a great indicator of who will become president of the United States of America, some say. But besides the fact that Iowa is a state with a small population, the voter turnout for the caucus is small as well. It hardly seems fair that a less-than-diverse state has so much power in this political process. And many share this view as well.

Also, as far as an indicator as to who will be the next president of the United States, the Iowa caucus is not that great of an indicator. In 1988, then Republican Senator Bob Dole received more votes in the Iowa caucus then George H. W. Bush but it was Bush who not only won the party’s nomination but also won the White House seat.

Or better yet, in 1992, Democratic Senator Tom Harkin seemed like a shoe-in as president as voters selected him but in the end, it was Bill Clinton from Arkansas who the country voted for.

Sure, it’s going to be exciting to see what is going to happen this evening and especially next week during the New Hampshire primary. Basically, the caucuses are political playoffs and political junkies will be tuning in to see all the excitement.

However, the Iowa caucus should not be viewed as a definite outcome to such an important race but merely what may happen. But let's remember that the real power in selecting the next leader of this free country does not come from people from one state but the people from all 50 states.