On One Hand

June 25, 2009

Headlines from 4:30pm Thursday, June 25

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June 15, 2009

Cable Network Website Screenshot Comparison

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It is near noon on Monday, June 15, 2009. President Obama has just finished addressing the American Medical Association calling for healthcare reform. Iran is boiling over as reformists spill onto the streets protesting suspicious election results giving incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 63 percent of the vote. Early word indicates that some protesters have been killed by police.

Here’s how the networks have the news of the day:

September 22, 2008

State of Georgia Prepares to Execute Innocent Man

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What do you call it when an innocent person is strapped to a gurney and killed by lethal injection?

Murder.

What does it mean when the decision to execute an innocent person was affirmed by a state Supreme Court and allowed to continue by all checks instituted to prevent a wrongful execution?

It means that the people who made the call to carry out the sentence are guilty of murder, that the people who strung together the flimsy and falsified case are guilty of murder, and that the state and the process that led to that decision is tragically flawed. It’s hardly arguable that the government that carries out the crime of murdering one of its citizens – one of those whom it has been entrusted to protect – continues to be a valid government.

Over a year ago, on July, 18, 2007, Troy Davis was within a day of his execution in the state of Georgia when a state parole board granted him a temporary stay to give courts time to review the case. (See more here.) The stay of execution was based on the fact that that 7 of the 9 witnesses in the original trial recanted or changed their stories, claiming they were coerced by police or prosecutors. No DNA or physical evidence linking Davis to the murder has been brought to court; instead, the conviction was made on the basis of witness testimony, which has since crumbled. The evidence now indicates that Troy Davis is innocent.

Davis is now scheduled for execution again at 7pm Eastern time, Tuesday, September 23, 2008. The United States Supreme Court is set to hear an appeal to his death sentence on September 29, 6 days after the execution will have taken place – the Georgia State Supreme Court today insisted there will be no stay of execution.

Georgia is one of three states in which the governor has no power to grant clemency, and state authorities have indicated that they fully intend to carry out the execution.

The heated election season is drawing media attention away from the crisis, which is sparking widespread controversy nonetheless. Marches have taken place in Atlanta, Georgia and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Pope John Paul II, former president Jimmy Carter, Al Sharpton, and Libertarian candidate for president Bob Barr have been part of the effort to save Davis’ life.

***Update from Tuesday, September 23, 11:43PM Eastern Time

Two hours before Troy Davis was to be put to death, the United States Supreme Court held an emergency session to grant Troy Davis a Stay of Execution. Davis first heard the news on television. In six days the court will hear his case to see if he should be on death row at all.

This is the second emergency stay Davis was given, which – weighed with the likelihood that he is innocent – is short of murder, but is not short of torture of an innocent person. If the Supreme Court finds that the death sentence so nearly carried out was indeed wrongful, one hopes that the fallout would be immense and warrant a second look at the death penalty in America.

May 15, 2008

California Court Reverses Same-Sex Marriage Ban

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The California State Supreme Court just overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, making California the second state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriage.

Those defending California’s same-sex marriage ban argued that since California already gives same-sex couples some benefits, the fact that they coudln’t get legally married was not discrimination. The 4-3 decision agreed with gay rights groups who argued that calling same-sex unions something other than marriage is akin to second-class status, and is not permitted by the state’s constitution.

Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would uphold the court’s ruling, and will also oppose a ballot initiative to change the state’s constitution to reverse the ban. The ballot initiative will likely get enough signatures to appear on the ballot this November for all Californians to vote on it.

My guess is that the ballot initiative will fail, because a similar initiative in Arizona failed in 2006 in a state that is culturally similar but on balance more conservative than California.

California is the most populous state in the United States with about twelve percent of the United States population. Cities in California are magnets for GLBT people from around the country who are seeking a more tolerant cultural environment, so I would guess that something around 1 in 5 American same-sex couples live in the state and will be allowed to marry because of the California court decision.

But same-sex marriage is often a campaign talking-point for Republicans, some of whom have visceral responses to gay marriage and surge to the polls in droves to vote on same-sex marriage ballot initiatives. This is extremely unlikely to overturn Obama’s lead in California, where he is polling against John McCain by double-digits, but the enthusiasm may ripple out to surrounding Oregon and Nevada, two crucial swing states, and culturally-conservative Ohio and Virginia across the country. It is still to be seen whether or not the timing of this court decision will result in a bounce for John McCain against Barack Obama nationwide, or if various Senate or House races will be effected by this news.

May 3, 2008

Residual Consequences – Weapons Left Over After Conflict

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MSNBC reports that a man in Virginia was killed by a cannonball built during the Civil War this February. The 140-year-old bomb, filled with black powder and lead pellets for shrapnel, was part of Sam White’s collection of Civil War relics. It exploded as he was trying to clean and restore it outside his garage.

According to the article, there were about 300,000 non-exploded cannonballs left in the fields at the end of the Civil War, some of which are deactivated in museums or have broken down over time, but some of which ares still buried in rural parts of the United States or in possession of collectors unaware that they are dangerous.

This is usually the last kind of accident policy-makers think about when considering the tragic consequences of war, but Sam White’s death is an ominous warning to future generations. If a primitive bomb made under the technological conditions of the the 1860’s could still be active a century and a half later, one might predict that superior weapons for modern wars could be killing people in accidents for millennia to come.

Consider that there are still 23 million land mines left in Egypt from World War II and 20 million buried mines in the African nation of Angola from a civil war that began in 1975. Estimates predict between 600,000 and 6 million buried mines in Cambodia and millions more in Serbia, Vietnam and Afghanistan – which, unlike Civil War relics, are nearly all still dangerous. In Libya, 27 percent of farmable land cannot be used because it is covered in minefields, and Vietnam and Mozambique lose significant tracts of land to mines. The toll is more than mere potentiality; all told, 25,000 people worldwide are killed each year by buried mines from wars that have been resolved for decades. (In 1997, most world nations signed a land mine ban in light of problems like these. The United States, Russia and China refused to sign.)

Meanwhile, the Afghani and Iraqi insurgencies have used 1970s-era American-built weapons to fight United States soldiers there. Bombs and machine flooded into the region when the American government was supplying insurgents with artillery to use against the Soviet Union or Iran in the late 20th century. Central and South American governments face similar problems with American-built weapons supplied to fight Leftist governments during the 1970s.

The most high-tech and durable weapons in the world are nuclear warheads. There are about 20,000 existing bombs in all, half of which are “operational,” which means they are ready to use. Half of those are in silos in the United States or stationed in Germany, Italy, or Turkey under U.S. military control, while almost as many are in former Soviet states. China and France each have about 400, the U.K. has about 200, Israel about 100, and India and Pakistan each have between 30 and 50 nuclear weapons. 50,000 weapons were dismantled in the 1980s and 1990s by the United States or Russia – so, while they still exist, they are unlikely to detonate accidentally. But if only one tenth of one percent of all existing warheads (which amounts to 20 nuclear bombs) were lost to the control of terrorists or were launched by human or mechanical error , the explosions could still kill tens of millions of people.

March 10, 2008

MSNBC Boots Tucker Carlson

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MSNBC is booting libertarian-conservative program host Tucker Carlson to replace his program with one hosted by political correspondent David Gregory. Gregory is a leading White House correspondent for NBC and has helped to host some of NBC’s presidential debates.

Like many liberals, I once considered Tucker Carlson a massive tool who seems snide and arrogant about his anti-populist political positions. I take particular issue with his discussions on race (he sometimes has Al Sharpton on just to call him ridiculous) and his seeming insistence that, because of Affirmative Action and “reverse discrimination,” white men are more discriminated against than women or African-Americans.

But I’m actually sad to see Carlson go. He is not a down-the-line right-winger and he opposes both the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq. His discussions with his regular guests from across the political spectrum are remarkably civil when compared to Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly bashing their guests and claiming to be far more moderate than they actually are.

MSNBC has taken a remarkable shift to reporting from a more liberal perspective, not as a way to advertise or promote a set of views, but because it has been a lucrative decision. First, Fox found that faux-news (they call it “infotainment”) and partisan sensationalism won it more viewers than any other channel. When MSNBC’s sole left-leaning program host, Keith Olbermann, became a hero to partisan Democrats, more and more people with those views gravitated towards the channel. It wasn’t long before Chris Matthews started seeming more liberal and Dan Abrams got his own program where he would be highly critical of Conservative “scare tactics.”

Carlson was a good balance for where the rest of the channel was going, because, though he is a right-winger, he can present it in a way that liberals and intelligent people across the spectrum like. He gives us a good sense of what upper-class swing voters and moderate white Republicans are thinking.

The three major cable news networks have settled themselves into clear political niches; Fox is still strongly conservative, MSNBC follows the intellectualized liberalism of college-educated Democrats and CNN is the new populist news network which draws most strongly from the elderly.

To make it a little more clear, Fox = Bush, CNN = John McCain and Hillary Clinton, MSNBC = Barack Obama.

July 16, 2007

Another Sad Death Penalty Case

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A Georgia man will be executed at at 7 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow if a final review board does not grant him a repreive. Troy Anthony Davis, convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in 1989, insists that he is innocent.

Among the board’s concerns is is that Davis’ trial offered no hard evidence, only witness testemony against him – and 7 of those 9 witnesses have since either recanted or changed their stories. Other witnesses have come forward to say they know that someone else committed the murder.

An Associated Press Story posted on MSNBC.com reports that the board could commute Davis’ sentence to life in prison, delay the execution to make time for more reviews, or allow the execution to proceed.

The defense team says a law passed in 1996 to limit the lengthy appeals processes that go on before executions has inhibited them from bringing all the evidence to courts. The law states that new evidence cannot be brought to the final review board; only evidence from the trial and subsequent appeals can be used to see if the conviction was wrongful based on the information available then. But many of the witnesses came forward to recant their testemony only recently. It is also the responsibility of the defendant to prove that “no reasonable juror” would convict him based on new evidence, which the defense team says is an impossibly high standard.

But last week a judge refused to grant a new trial, and so Davis has failed all appeals except for this one final review board.

Meanwhile, U.S. Representitive John Lewis, a Democrat from Atlanta, said “nobody should be put to death based on the evidence we now have on this case,” and said the execution would stain the country’s reputation at a time when “we are trying to convince the whole world that our way is best.”

Troy Davis is African-American, and has won the attention of some civil rights groups. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is among those who are speaking out on his behalf. Anti-death penatly groups have also rallied to Davis’ cause, along with some advocates of the death penatly who say that this case isn’t the right application of it.

***Update from July 18: The Georgia Paroles and Pardons Board has granted Davis a 90-day stay of execution so they can decide whether or not to commute Davis’ sentence to life in prison. But they cannot relase Davis or exhonorate him, only commute his sentence on the grounds that the sentence is too severe.

December 6, 2006

CU Tube

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LINK

Published in The Campus Press

Students Take Advantage of Digital Innovation

Matt Pizzuti
Staff Writer

In the running for Time Magazine’s Best Invention of 2006, there was a vaccine being used in hopes of preventing cervical cancer, a robot that can rescue soldiers on a battlefield, a machine that sterilizes fresh fruit and vegetables with ozone-infused water and a long list of quirky and innovative gadgets. But Time’s top spot went to YouTube, an online resource where anyone with Internet access can view, store and show off digital videos for free. CU students are taking advantage of this resource to let their work be seen.

Greg Rosenthal, a junior geography major, said he uses YouTube because it’s a more detailed way of conveying information than writing in a blog.

“It’s a pretty novel way of sharing my experiences,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said he doesn’t know if he agrees with YouTube’s selection as Time Magazine’s top invention, but he acknowledged it has made a serious impact.

“I’m not sure if I’d call it the number one invention,” he said. “If given a choice between (YouTube and a cancer vaccine), I think the vaccine has more impact in a global sense than YouTube.”

Rosenthal said videos from YouTube have let him see political ads and cultural phenomena he wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

“A friend of mine showed me campaign ads that are really bizarre,” he said of a YouTube clip from a campaign ad from North Carolina just before the midterm elections.

Another YouTube user, John Gessner, a senior marketing major, said he uses YouTube solely for entertainment.

“I can’t think of any time I’ve used it for information purposes,” Gessner said.

Gessner said he uses YouTube to watch TV shows, and looks at it four to five times a week.

“I’ve been on it a lot more recently, watching funny videos,” Gessner said.

Gessner said he likes using YouTube but he can’t see how it got the recognition as the invention of 2006.

“YouTube’s cool and all but it’s nothing extrodinary,” he said. “I don’t really consider it an invention.”

Gessner has uploaded one video on YouTube, showing a group of friends drinking, which has received over 400 views, he said.

“Over the summer we sort of had a reunion of a bunch of high school buddies, and we got ridiculously drunk,” said Gessner, who recorded the group’s antics and posted them on the website.

Rosenthal said he has uploaded videos from CU football games he took from the stands, and got video of Farrand Field on 4/20 last year, where Rosenthal says he caught on tape the man who was seen kicking down a sign on the field. He said he has seven subscribers to his profile, notifying them whenever he puts a new video online.

But “there are some people who have thousands of subscribers,” Rosenthal added.

Rosenthal said an added advantage of YouTube is that it is a free service, and that he wouldn’t use it at all if it charged a fee.

“If they ever make it a pay site, that would be the end of it for me,” he said.

December 2, 2006

Ref. I Rally Draws Hundreds

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Published in The Campus Press

Ref. I Rally Draws Hundreds

Matt Pizzuti
Staff Writer

Protesters gathered in 20-degree weather on the steps of the state capitol building at noon on Saturday to support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) rights in light of the defeat of Referendum I.

Word of the rally, which was originally organized by four CSU students, spread to other colleges in the state through Facebook and GLBT-rights organizations such as Soulforce.

Although student organizers previously said there could be thousands of attendees, the rally drew far fewer demonstrators, which many at the rally attributed to the cold weather. Estimates of the number of people at the capitol ranged from 100 to 400.

Speakers came from a variety of organizations that support GLBT rights.

Jean Hodges, the Mountain West director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), urged concerned citizens to speak out about equal rights.

“We will not be bystanders,” she said.

Hodges said that as a grandmother, she felt the need to speak out because her son and his partner of 10 years do not receive the same legal rights that she and her husband do.

She said that in 12 of Colorado’s 64 counties, Referendum I, which would have given domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples in Colorado, won more votes than it lost. She added that it only lost statewide by a few percentage points and could stand a better chance of passing in 2008.

Jeremy Shaver, a spokesperson from the Interfaith Alliance, an interfaith organization to challenge the Christian Coalition’s political policies, said that those who voted against domestic partnerships did so out of anxiety about change. The anxiety should be addressed through discourse and not diminished as ignorance or bigotry, he said, but that GLBT people cannot let go of their own values or give up on their rights.

Ginger Meyette, a PhD student at the Unversity of Denver, also spoke and encouraged people to come out of “whatever closet they may be in whether they are straight or gay,” so that voters are “voting for a specific person’s rights and not some abstract thing.”

Other speakers included several beat poets, a pagan priestess and rally organizers.

A number of CU students were in the crowd, forming a significant proportion of the people at the rally. Rebecca Weiss, a junior integrative physiology major, said she went to the rally to support equality for all people and “to let the government know it’s not okay to withhold rights based on someone’s race, gender, or sexuality.”

She said that ensuring all people equal rights is the responsibility of everyone, not just GLBT people.

Weiss was at the rally with Gaddy Noy, also a junior integrative physiology major, who said he wished more people were at the rally.

“This is kind of ridiculous that we actually have to get together to get people to realize that we’re all equal,” Noy said.

But Tyler Jordan, 18, of Fort Collins, who is one of the protest’s organizers and will be starting at CSU in the fall, said he was excited about the rally’s turnout.

“It’s overwhelming to see people come out,” Jordan said. “This is the first time we’ve ever done anything” like this.

Jordan said he was impressed with the turnout considering that they started planning the rally right after the election and only had a few weeks to put it together.

CSU sophomore Mike Clarkson said he thought the weather reduced the number of people who showed up at the rally.

Clarkson drove from Fort Collins to Denver for the rally, bringing a friend and his father.

“It could have been better but I’m glad that the people who are here are here,” he said.

Sarah McCall, a senior and women and gender studies major at CU, said that she thought the turnout was high, considering the cold.

She said she thought there were 300 to 400 people at the rally.

“It’s really hard to get people out on a cold Saturday, especially college students,” she said. “I’m really impressed.”

The CSU students who organized Saturday’s rally are planning to carry that momentum into a nonprofit group called “Colorado Youth for Unity and Equality,” which is intended to make youth who support GLBT rights more visible through other rallies and demonstrations.

“The mission is pretty much what we did today – to try to help educate the public and get more youth involved,” Jordan said.

November 29, 2006

Facebook helps spread message of protest

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Published in The Campus Press

Students plan to gather Saturday to rally against the defeat of Referendum I

Matt Pizzuti
Staff Writer

College students from across the state are planning a rally sparked by the defeat of Referendum I on the steps of the state capitol building at noon on Dec. 2.

The rally was first organized by a group of students at Colorado State University, but information about the rally has spread to other schools across the Internet with a facebook group called “Biggest Protest in Colorado.” The group now has over 2,700 members.

“We want to give everyone a little hope who might be down about the failure of Referendum I and passage of Amendment 43,” said Christina Martinez, one of the protest’s organizers listed by the facebook group and a senior at CSU.

Martinez said it’s just a rally, but it does have a unique theme.

“Our theme is unity and equality through visibility.”

Referendum I was an initiative on the Nov.-7 state ballot that would have established same-sex domestic partnerships in Colorado. The referendum failed, but Amendment 43, a state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage, was passed.

Martinez said the group has collaborators at the University of Northern Colorado and the Metropolitan Sate College of Denver. The rally is being sponsored by a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) pro-rights group called Soulforce. She said she hasn’t made any official contacts at CU Boulder yet, but knows students from CU are going to be at the event.

“It’s just been spreading like wildfire,” Martinez said.

She said she is expecting more than 1000 people at the rally, and has talked to people as far as Arizona and Wyoming who want to attend.

Stephanie Wilenchek, director of the GLBT Resource Center in Willard Hall, said the resource center at CU only recently found out about the plan over fall break, and is still working out its involvement in the event.

According to Wilenchek, the resource center should have a more specific plan later in the week. Fliers about the event were already printed in the office.

“We’re just now trying to get the word out,” Wilenchek said.

Martinez said the group hasn’t arranged for transportation from the various universities to Denver, but interested students are using the facebook group to arrange carpools.

The facebook group’s main page lists the names of organizers at CSU and asks that demonstrators keep the event peaceful.

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