Saturday, February 28, 2004

Good move

Yesterday Colorado Governor Bill Owens appointed Attorney General Ken Salazar to be a special prosecutor looking into the allegations of sexual assault involving the CU football program. I agree with others that it was a good move, though not because it was politically savvy to name Democrat Salazar to the job. It was a good move because the allegations need to be thoroughly and independently investigated. From what I hear from sources close to the situation, there is both a lot more to the stories and a lot less. My bet is that when all is said and done, the most serious allegations will turn out to lack evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the football staff. Unless the investigation that comes to that conclusion is independent and thorough, it won't sit well with the people of Colorado or the country.

Of course, if I'm correct and the program will be cleared of the most serious charges that story won't get anything close to the play in the local and especially national media that the original scandal and subsequent allegations received. So I stand by my earlier suggestion that CU needs to take bold steps to change the perception that CU's athletic culture is out of control. Following Gordon Gee's lead and becoming the "Vanderbilt of the Rockies" puts CU out front on an issue that will continue to build at other major universities in the months and years to come.

At some point, maybe people will seriously consider my proposal to treat major revenue sports and non-revenue sports differently. Until that happens, intercollegiate athletics will continue in its uncomfortable relationship with the academic mission of the university.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Sound criticism of Reilly and Sports Illustrated

In his back page column in Sports Illustrated magazine, Rick Reilly broke the story on the alleged rape and sexual harassment suffered by Katie Hnida while a memeber of the University of Colorado football team. I wish Reilly had done more investigating instead of just taking dictation for his back page column. Here is a commenter to another blog (click here and scroll down) who agrees with me:

"Another fiasco is the recent Rick Reilly article regarding the University of Colorado football scandel and the alleged rape of their former female PT kicker [Katie] Hnida is another prime example of a great SI writer not checking facts--no police report was ever written or filed, it was all after the fact, and probably a little vindictive towards the coach, Gary Barnett who has more or less lost his job because of it."

Hnida's allegations are very serious and deserve more serious investigation than Reilly gave them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

He's in my seat, speaking my language

University of Colorado at-large Regent Jim Martin made a bold suggestion yesterday. Reported in today's Boulder Daily Camera, here's Martin's proposal for big-time college football:

"[Football teams] would rent out the stadium, they would pay royalties for the logo and run it for profit," Martin said. "The issue is where does it fit under the umbrella of the academic mission, and it doesn't anymore."

I'm not sure that athletics is any less a part of the academic mission of a university than theater, dance, music, or the fine arts. I can't find the quote, but I recall somebody, perhaps Tyler Cowen, saying that athletic contests are dramas where the actors don't know the outcome. Someone will have to explain to me why learning to act out written words or learning to play music is academic, but learning to play football or golf is not.

That being said, I think Martin's suggestion should be seriously considered and fully debated. If the pursuit of football glories leads to lowered admissions standards or puts people in classrooms who are not qualified or interested in being in classrooms, then the system needs to be re-examined.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

"Professor, I'd like to discuss your salary and my score on the last exam."

If I'm on the Board of Regents, can I take classes?

The groundswell is building

Including Rhoads, I have at least three supporters in the Bob for Regent campaign. One of them is a California resident, though. Shoot. Maybe my wife will join the bandwagon bringing my number of resident backers back up to three!

When the idea first came to me, I didn't think party affiliation mattered. Unfortunately I think it does matter. I am an independent, but it looks like only Republicans and Democrats get elected. If I were to run in Boulder (District 2), I'd have no shot as a Republican. Of course I think that seat is filled until 2008. If I were to run in November 2005 for the at large seat, I'd have a better shot as a Republican than as a Democrat. Those assessments have nothing to do with my views, they reflect the views of the voters in each of those regions. District 2 is strongly Democratic, the state strongly Republican.

Could a guy who's not opposed to early term abortions and not opposed to gay marriage get the Republican nomination for Board of Regents? Could a guy who thinks affirmative action is a mistake and that simply dumping more money into higher education is a poor model for improvement win over the hearts and minds of Democrats?

It's conceivable that I could win statewide under either party's banner, but it's nearly inconceivable that I could win the nomination of either party. Has an independent ever won a seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents?

Here's the basis of my platform: If you want to make a suggestion to me about university policy, I want your suggestion accompanied by a comment from your most articulate critic.

UPDATE: Upon further consideration, I KNOW I could win statewide with the red sled as my parade ride!

Monday, February 23, 2004

Count me in!!

Where do I sign up? Can I be your campaign manager? We can even enter a parade or two in the red sled.

Bob for Regent! Are you Republican, Democrat, or other?

Blogger for Regent?

Now that I'm all caught up in the goings on at my alma mater, maybe we should launch a Bob for Regent campaign here on Coffee With Rhoads. There's an at large seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents up for election in 2005. Aside from running a fictional research group and posting to this blog, I do have some time to spare to serve good ol' CU. If the people are clamoring for my help, who am I to turn them down? They are clamoring aren't they? Well maybe they'll clamor at some point. Can we interest them in clamoring?

Chickens not yet hatched

As Rhoads mentioned, things are looking good for the Princeton Tigers after this past weekend's Ivy League hoops games. It sure would be nice to not NEED a win at the Palestra on March 9th, but for a team that needed overtime to beat both Harvard (at Jadwin!) and Columbia the first time around . . . the season's a long way from over.

Go Tigers

The Princeton Tigers proved themselves to be capable of some big comebacks as they swept the weekend series at Jadwin Gymnasium, overcoming a 14 point deficit to defeat the Yale bulldogs on Friday nght and erasing a 9 point fist half lead by the Brown Bears to capture Saturday's game. The two wins by the Tigers (8-1, 15-7) give them a commanding lead in the Ivy League men's hoops race, as the same Brown Bears were able to defeat the Penn Quakers Friday night in the Palestra. If the Tigers can just keep up the intensity in Jadwin against the two New York teams (Columbia 4-6, 8-15 and Cornell 6-4, 11-13) this weekend, and then take the show on the road to Hahvahd (3-7, 4-19) and Dahtmouth (1-9, 3-21) the following weekend, they will be able to roll into the Palestra on March 9 knowing that even a loss to those pesky Penn Quakers (6-3, 13-9) will not take the Ivy crown from them this year.


Saturday, February 21, 2004

Something's missing in the CU football scandal

Something's missing in the ongoing CU football scandal. This began with allegations of CU's football program using sex and alcohol as recruiting tools–wild parties, strippers, provision of alcohol to minors. Those charges were newsworthy. Some of those allegations appear to be true. The coaching staff took disciplinary action against some players as a result.

Then allegations of sexual assault began to make headlines. The first such allegations stemmed from a recruiting party in 2001 where a CU co-ed says she was sexually assaulted. This is not news. The Boulder Police and DA looked into this and decided not to file charges. The co-ed has sued the university. The facts in the case are in dispute and will have to be resolved in court. But not in a criminal court because the DA declined to even file criminal charges in the case.

Then another police report of sexual assault involving a female employee of the athletic department was brought to the attention of the media and to CU administrators. This was newsworthy because it came on the heals of the other allegations and because Coach Gary Barnett was quoted in the police report. Therefore, he knew about this alleged sexual assault but didn't tell his superiors. He should have informed his superiors. His failure to do so was a mistake. However, the police have known about this case for over two years and again have not filed charges. If the allegations are true, and they very well may be, the evidence is lacking for charges to be filed against anyone.

At the same time, former CU kicker Katie Hnida came forward and told stories of verbal and physical harassment by the CU football players while she was a member of the CU football team four years ago. More seriously she also alleged that a member of the team raped her while she was at his home watching television with him in the summer of 2000. This is news because Ms. Hnida had not made such specific allegations in the past. She had claimed to have been mistreated while at CU, but had never offered specific details. That changed when she decided to tell her full story to Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated. Instead of going to Boulder Police or to someone in the CU Administration, Ms. Hnida went first to a columnist for Sports Illustrated. The columnist wrote her story for the magazine. He called several people for comments, but didn't appear to investigate the claims in much detail. He took her story as true and went to press. Her allegations may very well be true. But again no evidence has been put forth in her case and so far no charges have been filed. From what I've read, Ms. Hnida's story is disputed by the vast majority of people who have chosen to go on record. If the date rape occurred (and I have no reason to think it didn't), the circumstances of the rape don't appear to implicate the football team. Unfortunately, Ms. Hnida has chosen to withhold the name of the alleged rapist, a decision which implicates every member of the team at the time, all but one of whom is unequivocally innocent of the charge. I should point out that until proven guilty in a court of law, the lone alleged rapist is also presumed innocent.

The day after Gary Barnett was placed on administrative leave, another allegation of sexual assault by CU football players was revealed. This one was from August of 2002. This is not news to the Boulder Police. The incident was reported at the time and has been under investigation for a year and a half. No charges have been filed. The alleged victim claims that her attackers were members of the football team. Her evidence? The color of their skin. Two football players were under investigation. One has been cleared. One is still under investigation. Eighteen months. One cleared. No charges against the other. The allegations could very well be true, but no charges have been filed.

So what do we have? We have very serious allegations of sexual assault by CU football players. We have insufficient evidence so far to file a single criminal charge. We have allegations that CU's football program, not individual players but the coaches or staff, use sex and alcohol as recruiting tools. There is scant evidence of this. Some players appear to have violated team rules against such behavior and violated the law by providing alcohol to minors. They have been disciplined. Perhaps the coaching staff should have known about this. Maybe the coaches did know about this, but again we have no evidence that they knew.

I'm troubled by all the allegations. I'm trouble by an apparent pattern. I'm troubled by the football recruiting culture at CU. I'm also troubled by the fact that the allegations are treated and reported as if they were true before the evidence warrants so much as a single criminal charge.

I'm more troubled by the fact that the sort of culture that has been exposed at CU is not unique to the University of Colorado. According to the owner of a "gentleman's service" that claims to have provided strippers to CU football players for twenty years, CU is not alone. The man says he's provided strippers for CSU in Fort Collins and for UNC in Greeley. He also says that he has an outlet in Houston, TX that has provided strippers for Rice University and the University of Houston. If his claims about CU are to be believed, we must also believe that four more universities do the same thing. I haven't noticed much coverage of that. Oh and by the way, while many people find young men paying strippers distasteful, it is not illegal.

Since I'm a native Minnesotan, I should also point out that the University of Minnesota is having similar problems with strippers and recruits. Last month news broke in Minneapolis that recruits were being taken to local strip clubs by their hosts. Unfortunately the University of Minnesota had a far more serious incident a couple of years ago. On a recruiting trip the the U of M, a young man was shot and killed in the wee hours of the morning outside a Minneapolis night club.

The charges of sexual assault by CU football players are very serious. The charge that a former female member of the CU football team was the victim of date rape by a member of the football team is a serious charge. The revelations that CU football recruits are taken to parties where the theme is sex and alcohol, and are either taken to strip clubs or stripper are brought to them (like at several other publicly named schools) are disturbing. The reporting of all of the allegations as if they are fact makes CU look very bad. Public allegations of one kind bring similar allegations to light. All this puts CU and CU football on the front page, the lead story on TV and radio, and the subject Today Show and Good Morning America interviews.

I'm more troubled by the fact that the sort of culture that has been exposed at CU is not unique to the University of Colorado. Whatever comes of Gary Barnett and the CU football program, I hope it's just the beginning of some serious thinking about the role of athletics within U. S. universities.

I love college sports as do millions of people just like me. It's time we come up with a way to make college sports work better than they do now. Let's let the investigation of CU proceed. Let's get the facts on the table. Let's make a well-reasoned decision about what to do in this case. Then let's begin a serious debate on college sports, the NCAA, rules for Division IA, the difference between major and minor sports, gender equity and everything else that plagues college sports. If that happens, this scandal will have been worth it.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Hnida and CU football

Getting most of my information from national sources like ESPN TV and radio, I've neglected to read closely the stories in my local paper about Katie Hnida's allegations as told to Rick Reilly. Looking at this story from the Boulder Daily Camera, Hnida's allegations look more complicated than I thought.

The most serious charge is the charge of rape. According to the Daily Camera story, Hnida alleges the rape happened in the "summer of 2000." Hnida claims the alleged rapist, unnamed, was a member of the football team. She claims the incident happened during the summer while she was at his house watching TV.

Hnida also alleges that she was verbally abused, harassed, and physically assaulted by football players during practices. These charges directly point to the football coaching staff. What happens on the football field or in the team house is certainly under their control to a very large extent.

So how do these two allegations relate to each other? The alleged rape occured during the summer and at the home of a football player. If this football player was one of those allegedly harassing her, why was Katie Hnida at his house watching TV? I have to conclude that this individual was not previously harassing her. How then is this the responsibility of the CU football coaching staff? It's not. Not any more than it's the responsibility of the CU-Boulder Chancellor, the Admissions staff, the Boulder Police or anyone else. It's the sole responsibility of the man who allegedly raped Katie Hnida.

Second, unlike the alleged rape, the alleged abuse, verbal and physical, was done in the presence of many other people. Practices were attended by very many people, not all of them players and coaches. From the Daily Camera story, none of those people back up Katie's version of the facts. One player, also a kicker, says she was treated roughly at times, but that none of the sexual harassing happened. Other players flatly deny what she said happened. If things did happen as she claimed, this is one heckuva coverup.

Rick Reilly appears to believe Katie. He just passionately made her case again on ESPN SportsCenter. I believe Katie thinks she is telling the truth. Unfortunately that doesn't mean it happened the way she describes it now. Lacking a single corroborating witness, someone, anyone who she confided in at the time, Katie Hnida's allegations against the team during practice and thereabouts are less than convincing. It's not hard to believe that for many reasons she didn't confide in anyone, but that leaves a case of her word against the word of coaches, players, trainers, and others who could have witnessed the alleged behavior, but won't admit to witnessing it now.

I have to tentatively hold the position that Katie Hnida's allegation of rape may or may not be true, but is not relevant to the football program. Her allegations of harassment and abuse during practice are relevant to the football program, but at this time lack evidence to support them.

Perhaps the independent committee investigating the CU football program can get to the bottom of the charges leveled by Katie Hnida and others against CU football players and the program.

Liberty and the Constitution

This post by Randy Barnett over at The Volokh Conspiracy may be of interest to Rhoads. In prior discussions Rhoads has professed an interest in holding strictly to the words of the Constitution. He may also be interested in buying, or borrowing from my personal lending library, a copy of Professor Barnett's new book, Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty.

Galloway is surely nuts

I can't resist linking to this post by Michael J. Totten on former Labour MP George Galloway (he's still an MP but the Labour Party booted him). You gotta read it to believe it. You still might not believe it even after you read it. (Link courtesy of the usual suspect, the InstaLinker.)

And one more thing about good ol' CU

I heard ESPN football analyst, and former football coach, Mike Gottfried on ESPN radio's Sports Brothers radio show this afternoon. Gottfried contended that Gary Barnett is getting something of a bad deal. I agree with Gottfried to a point, but not completely.

First, Barnett's comments about Katy Hnida's kicking ability were a big mistake. The issue at hand is about sexual assault, not about football skill. Nobody should be surprised that President Hoffman took issue with Barnett's comments.

Second, Gary Barnett is on record, a police report in this case, as saying that he would support his player 100% regarding an alleged rape in 2001. Gottfried pointed out that Barnett says there is more to the story than what is included in the police report and that Barnett is saying what any football coach would say, and should say. According to Gottfried, when a coach recruits a player he promises to stand by the player in good times and bad. An allegation of rape is certainly a bad time and no coach should toss his player under the bus when he's been accused of a serious crime. This doesn't mean that if found guilty the player shouldn't be punished, but the coach should back his player until that time.

Given Barnett's stance, though, it seems wise to remove him from his job as head football coach while an independent committee investigates the football program. A coach who has gone on record saying that he'll back his player 100% may be perceived as also willing to cover up other troubles within his program. This is not to say that there is any reason to believe Barnett would do that, in my opinion, but it is not crazy for President Hoffman to take steps to avoid that perception. When in the course of twelve hours President Hoffman learned of derogatory comments by Gary Barnett regarding Katie Hnida's irrelevant athletic skill AND of his vow to support his player 100%, she did the wise thing in placing him on paid administrative leave.

If this is a mere formality before firing Coach Barnett, I think it is a mistake. If the independent committee finds more evidence of wrong-doing, specifically things that Coach Barnett or his staff knew about or condoned that were improper or illegal, then by all means he should be fired. If, however, it turns out that these are hideous but isolated incidents, Coach Barnett should not be fired.

Sexual assault is a serious problem, not just within the CU football program, not just in Boulder, but everywhere. Thankfully, incidents of sexual assault are not as common in Boulder as in many other places in the country. I doubt any campus is free from that crime and nobody is likely to stamp out the problem once and for all as much as we'd all like to see that happen.

As Mike Gottfried pointed out, Gary Barnett is a tough disciplinarian. He has always been known to run a pretty tight ship. That apparantly wasn't good enough. But just over an hour down the road from Boulder, another school runs a pretty tight ship. The United States Air Force Academy had a very public sexual assault scandal recently. They recruit and admit only the best and brightest to that school. High school graduates have to be nominated by a member of Congress from their home state, pass a rigorous physical training test, and be of high academic and moral character to get in. Yet, they had a sexual assault scandal.

The argument that Coach Barnett recruited these players so he should be responsible for their moral character falls flat under the revelations from the Air Force Academy. At some point, the players themselves must be held accountable. Furthermore, Coach Barnett isn't uniquely responsible for the football players admitted to university. If he recruited players that were known to be sexual assault risks (which I don't think there is any evidence of), why did the admissions office let them in? Perhaps heads should role at Regent Hall, too.

CU scandal continued

I just heard a disturbing account of the latest allegation of rape, the sixth according to the radio report, by members of the CU football team. According to two talk radio hosts in Denver (as always, consider the source), the police report from today's latest allegation says that the victim claims to have been at a bar where she was assaulted by two African-American men. She didn't know the men, but assumed they were football players.

There is no excuse for the sexual assault. The purpetrators should be found and prosecuted. There is no excuse for assuming they were football players because of the color of their skin. The piling on has begun in earnest.

Vanderbilt of the Rockies?

Maybe it's time that may alma mater, the University of Colorado, makes a move to become the "Vanderbilt of the Rockies." When I was in school at CU, some people called it "The Berkeley of the Rockies" or "The Princeton of the Rockies" or something along those lines. The Berkeley references may have been political as much as academic, but the implication was usually that the school was good despite it's off the beaten path location.

In light of the current scandal, rather than shooting for academic acclaim, CU should focus on athletic face saving. CU should consider, among other things, reorganizing its athletic program along the lines that Vanderbilt has, where Gordon Gee essentially dumped the athletic department last September. That doesn't mean Gee scrapped intercollegiate athletics. It means that Vanderbilt’s athletics program is no longer more or less autonomous, operating independent of the greater university. Gee’s reorganization brought intercollegiate athletics under the vice president of student life or some such thing. A change along those lines might be just the change needed at CU, both to address legitimate concerns regarding the current scandal, and to address concerns that the athletic department is becoming all-consuming.

One of my favorite suggestions for intercollegiate athletic reform was put forth by Eugene Volokh last year (available here). Professor Volokh argues for running Schools of Athletics much like universities run Schools of Law, or Schools of Music. Universities could acknowledge that their current athletic departments do fine jobs of teaching players to be football players, for example. These Schools of Athletics could implement whatever requirements they thought were necessary to meet their acceptance and graduation requirements. Just as a law school student doesn’t have to run the 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds or take english literature courses, neither would a football player have to take the LSAT or courses in anthropology. If a student in the School of Athletics wanted to take some courses from, say the College of Liberal Arts, he would have to meet the requirements of any other student seeking to take a course in that school.

Go read Professor Volokh’s whole essay for yourself. He makes his case better than I can. As a former student-athlete, I think his argument has merit.

My personal suggestion is that universities and colleges should quit pretending that all sports are equal. Having played a non-revenue sport in college, I know the difference between tennis and football. Paying customers. Football has ‘em in big numbers. Tennis doesn’t in all but the rarest of places (and then for only a few dollars per match). It seems silly that universities with big, popular revenue generating sports run deficits in their athletic departments because they have to fund scholarships, travel, recruiting, training staffs and so forth, for sports that bring in zero revenue. I understand that Title IX comes into play here. But I’m not singling out women’s sports for unequal treatment. I’m differentiating between sports that generate enough interest and passion among the people of this country to lead them to freely pay their hard earned money to watch the games, and those sports that draw almost no fans, paying or otherwise.

This isn’t an easy proposal since I was one of those non-revenue athletes who received a college education for my efforts on the tennis court. I know countless people who played non-revenue sports in college and who coach them now. These are all fine people. They love what they do and are committed to their sport, to their players, and to their schools. I just question the wisdom of over 100 Division IA football playing schools devoting millions of dollars to recruiting people to come and play tennis (and golf, and run track, and ski, and swim, and so forth) for old State U.

I hope there is some way to improve and to keep big-time college sports alive and well. As I wrote above, millions of people love these sports. I am one of the millions. I love college sports. I go to games and watch them on TV. I always have and I hope I always will. But, I happen to think it’s silly that people who want desperately to play basketball for a college are forced to take classes that don’t interest them in order to do so. The paternalistic opinion that this experience is good for them doesn’t cut it for me. If it’s so good for players to be around a college, let them be around a college. But don’t force them to take classes. Don’t encourage the university admissions department to lower its standards to let them into the classes. Don’t displace students who truly love the classes just like the players truly love their sports. How silly would it be to force a law school student to play on the basketball team, displacing a dedicated basketball player?

Perhaps some combination of Professor Volokh’s idea, combined with my idea of returning non-revenue sports to the “average” student is a winning combination. Professor Volokh’s idea offers a way for schools that want to compete in big-time, big-money sports to do so. My plan allows them to save money on the other sports and allows average students (non-recruited athletes) to experience college athletics like I did.

My parents have to be thrilled that I didn’t take up this cause BEFORE they were saved thousands of dollars in tuition payments.

I encourage anyone interested in this topic to read two interesting books. The first book, Reclaiming the Game , is co-authored by a former president of Princeton University. It addresses the role of athletics at elite schools that do not offer athletic scholarships. The second book, Intercollegiate Athletics and the American University, is written by a former president of the University of Michigan, and looks at the role of athletics in a big-time college athletics program. Both books are well worth the read, even if I don’t agree completely with the conclusions of either one.

UPDATE: Sorry for all the bad links in the first version of this post. I'm new to the game. Rhoads had to come to the rescue. That's why we have a Chief Technology Officer at the mythical Bateman Research Group. Thanks, Rhoads.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

CU Athletics scandal

The University of Colorado has called a news conference for 10:00 PM tonight. A news conference timed to coincide with the start of the late local news must be big news. Details have not been released, but I don't think it's about a big donation.

UPDATE: Football coach Gary Barnett was placed on paid administrative leave. The proximate cause was comments he made about the athletic ability of alleged rape victim Katie Hnida. has all the details.

AP and Alabama

Here's a summary from Sir Pithalot of how the AP has handled the Bush National Guard story. It seems no evidence is evidence, but evidence is not evidence. These people need to read up on the nature and reliability of human memory. (link courtesy of Instapundit, the human linking machine)

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

That's funny

Rhoads linked to a story in the Memphis Flyer and joked that I would probably say it's a lefty rag or something like that. Well I don't know if it's a lefty rag, but they bill themselves as "the mid-South's alternative news weekly" and the Flyer is a member of the Association of Alternative News Weeklies. How many "alternative news" sources aren't lefty? But anyway...

I read the story. One guy says he heard somebody with connections was coming. He wanted to see the guy but never did. Later learned the guy was Bush. Other guys didn't remember seeing Bush, either. Therefore, Bush never showed. Sure. Bush never showed up for his couple of hours of service that weren't mandatory anyway. He was AWOL. Even if you accept the memory of that guy, it doesn't show that Bush wasn't there, nor that he was obligated to be there, nor that he wasn't there. But it's a great story.

Have a look at the links and stories here, here, and here if the story really interests you.

George W. Bush volunteered for the National Guard. He chose to be a pilot in the Air National Guard. He served. He was honorably discharged. All the records show that the above are true. Some story.

"But Mr. President, where were you on June 3rd, 1973?"

That's OK. This nonsense may actually be helping Bush. Funny how that works.

Oh, and did the press go after Clinton and make him defend his, um, lack of military service during the Vietnam War? Not according to the conservative Media Research Center. But then, they're probably cherry-picking their reports. Because they're conservative.

Evidence of AWOL??

You want evidence of GWB being AWOL from the Texas - err - Alabama National Guard? OK, how about this article from yesterday's Memphis Flyer? I mean, even though the liberal media is running this story doesn't mean that it doesn't have any merit. And I disagree that GWB shouldn't have to defend this even though he got an honorable discharge. In fact, perhaps he should defend the fact that he got an honorable discharge. Bush had money and influence, and those things can buy honorable discharges, just like they can buy not-guilty verdicts in trials.

And by the way, Bill Clinton had to defend the fact that he choose to dodge the draft by taking a Rhodes Scholarship (as opposed to a Rhoads Scholarship), and the liberal media didn't let him off very easy on that one either. I remember.

Moneyball comes to L.A.

Rhoads and I both enjoyed Moneyball very much. Speaking for myself, I'm not much of a sabermetrician, but I do enjoy the application of reasoned analysis to baseball. Since reading Moneyball I've enjoyed following the fortunes of the A's, Jay's, and Red Sox, three teams headed by sabermetrics-type GMs. Now I can add the L. A. Dodgers to that list. They have hired former A's executive Paul DePodesta to be their new GM. Looks like good times ahead for the Dodgers.

I'm still a fan of the Twins, though. Growing up in Minnesota will do that to you. If only they'd leave the Plastic Palace they call home.


A leave of absence isn't being AWOL. Being AWOL isn't being a deserter. The charge of Bush possibly being AWOL has no substance and, aside from being tossed around in the press, was tossed around during Colin Powell's testimony before Congress. Powell nearly lost it. Michael Moore used the term "deserter" and wasn't corrected by a retired four-star general (Wesley Clark).

When a man serves in the National Guard and leaves with an honorable discharge, the burden of proof is on the chargers, not the chargee, to back up the claims of AWOL, and "desertion." The burden of proof is not on Bush to prove his innocence. Unless you're a partisan Democrat or a member of the media with those biases.

Tell the families of those men who chose to enter the Guard, specifically the Air National Guard, and who died serving in Vietnam that those men "avoided service" by joining the Guard.

If that was Bush's intention, he made a foolish choice. If he used political connections to avoid serving in Vietnam, some evidence for that charge would be nice. Absent that it looks like another meaningless ad hominem attack.

Labels and the press

Good to see Rhoads had a minute to chime in.

If leftist is associated with Communism, then I could see why Rhoads wouldn't like that label. Liberal seems a bit too mainstream for the views of The Nation, but maybe we can hash that out as time goes on.

Rhoads alluded to the media bias issue. I'll let Mark Halperin of ABC News speak for me, as he did a couple of days ago in a surprising admission on ABC's web page, The Note. Follow this link for the full piece, but I'll snip a section that gives you the idea. Halperin wrote:
"Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.

They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are "conservative positions."

They include a belief that government is a mechanism to solve the nation's problems; that more taxes on corporations and the wealthy are good ways to cut the deficit and raise money for social spending and don't have a negative affect on economic growth; and that emotional examples of suffering (provided by unions or consumer groups) are good ways to illustrate economic statistic stories."
Halperin gives a few more examples, including the press corps' biases about the war in Iraq. These biases are generally labeled liberal biases, or the biases favored by the Democratic Party.

That these biases exist in the press and in academia (click here, and here for discussions of academia) is not surprising, nor are the biases particularly subtle. But those who share the biases can understandably not see them.

Steven Pinker's Blank Slate contains a lot of interesting reasons why this is the case.

Sorry about the silence

Wow! I have missed a lot over the weekend.

Well, first of all I want to say "hats off" to "the lion" - Mr. John Daly for his big win this past weekend at the Buick Invitational. I didn't get to watch it, but I am happy for big John. Keep on "grippin' it and rippin' it" Mr. Daly.

Secondly, I don't have time to respond to the deluge of stuff from Bob, but I would like to comment on a couple of things.

As far as labels go, you can call me a "liberal" if you so choose, but to call me a "leftist" is going over the edge. I think that "leftist" tends to be associated with Communism and so forth, and I am by no means associated with Communism. I hope that's OK with you, Bob.

And the reason that people keep harping on GWB's Air National Guard record is twofold. One, he hasn't explained some significant gaps in his service time to many people's satisfaction. I mean, he left Texas to work on a political campaign, and hasn't shown a lot to indicate that he did anything much other than work on politics during this LOA. Two, for all his patriotic banter these days, it is obvious that he used his family's significant political influence to get out of going to Vietnam. Not that that is such a terrible thing, since there was very little good or right about the Vietnam War, but he should at least own up to it, since there were thousands and thousands of Americans dieing for an unjust war because they didn't have what he had. He had the money and influence to avoid going and he did. Good for him.

Time to go to work now. We will have to get into the whole "liberal media" thing later.

Monday, February 16, 2004

More on gorillas in academia

Is the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and equal opportunity employer? Not if you hold conservative views. Here's Robert Tagorda's take on the latest anti-conservative bias in Cambridge. Not that there's anything wrong with that. More good stuff at Robert's blog on a variety of topics.

Democrats writing the news

Are the Democrats who edit and write news stories always biased? No, but the some recent examples show it's hard for them to keep their personal biases out of news stories, and out of the decisions they make regarding what is news.

First, Glenn Reynolds notes the anti-Bush slant an AP news story about President Bush attending the Daytona 500. Here is a followup post on what the Columbia Journalism review thinks of the AP story.

Second, have you noticed the John Kerry intern affair story on your network news division programming? It's a sleezy story unsupported by evidence, so they've exercised their editorial judgement by not going with the story until there's more to it. Good choice. Is it a consisent choice? Not judging by their coverage of similar charges against the first President Bush. Matt Drudge takes a look back. (Of course thanks to InstaPundit for the link to Drudge.)

At least these people don't overtly bill themselves as Fair and Balanced. That makes their lack of fairness and balance more tolerable, I guess. Especially if you, you know, agree with their biases.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

The big political divide

This map graphically depicts the divide between the political left and the political right regarding the books they read. I haven't read any of the books on the map, but Rhoads really enjoyed Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken. You'll find that book in a decent sized hub on the left side of the map.

I'm more likely to enjoy the books on the other side of the great divide, but none of them have attracted me enough to read them. I'm currently reading The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker. According to Amazon, people who bought that book are more interested in the brain than in politics, though the book addresses social and political issues. Maybe somebody will do a social net that includes that book, or the two I read before that Chaos by James Gleick and Synaptic Self by Joseph Ledoux. Looks like I'm trapped in a brain net at the moment.

When I break free of that net I'm going to read Restoring the Lost Constitution by Randy Barnett which I bought last week. Randy Barnett is a contributor to one of my favorites, The Volokh Conspiracy. With any luck, that book will show up in a book map next year.

Liberal, conservative, leftist, libertarian

Rhoads and I sometimes quibble over labels, so why not bring that here, too.

Based upon Rhoads' first two listed favorites, The Nation and Sojourners, I'd have to label him leftist or left wing.The Nation and Sojourners both represent the left wing of the political spectrum. Here are some sources for this determination from a Google search (I checked the first few and since they confirmed my prior understanding I stopped there, not surprisingly). Mere "liberal" fails to capture his favorites, so perhaps it's fair to label Rhoads a religious leftist. Maybe he'll chime in with a self-evaluation.

My favorites reflect a libertarian perspective. On foreign policy matters, though, my favorites clearly represent a departure from many libertarians, particularly the Libertarian Party. Based on my favorites I'm tougher to label on the left-right continuum. On civil rights I tend to be quite liberal. On social issues I am quite liberal. One taxation and government spending I'm conservative, that is I think less of both is better. In my view of constitutional democracy I'm perhaps conservative, in the sense that I think the U.S. Constitution means what it says and is not a "living or evolving" document. It would be tough to call my perspective "the right", since I disagree with people like Pat Buchanan so consistently. I'm not at all religious so the religious right shares little with me. Given the disagreements I have with Rhoads and his favorite sources, I can't be a leftist. I accept it as obvious that the major news media are liberals, maybe I am on the right side of the spectrum. You can see the trouble I'm having.

Someday perhaps people like me will reclaim the label "liberal" that for hundreds of years described our viewpoint. We're fans of open societies, of change, of dynamism as Virginia Postrel would say. Hardly conservative. But there you go. I'll settle for "presumptive libertarian" as my self-label.

Labels don't capture everything, of course. But they exist because they are usefu. In this case, Rhoads' label may help me to understand his' contention that the mainstream media are not biased in a liberal direction. From the perspective of his favorites, the mainstream media are not to the left at all. So from Rhoads' perspective, if he shares the perspective of his favorites, the mainstream is to the right. If it is the case that the major news media are in the mainstream (which I think is the case), though left of center (which I think is the case), Rhoads could indeed fail to see a "liberal bias" from where he views it. Fox News Channel, being mainstream and center-right in my opinion, must be so far to the right as to be nearly incomprehensible to him.

On seeing the gorilla

Here is an interesting explanation for the ability, or lack thereof, of people to see certain things. In this case it's not about visual perception. It's about perception in reading. We all tend to agree or disagree with things we read. We also, I think, tend to read more the things we agree with. Daniel Dennett has proposed a law that explains this phenomenon:

Dennett's Law of Needy Readers

On any important topic, we tend to have a dim idea of what we hope to be true, and when an author writes the words we want to read, we tend to fall for it, no matter how shoddy the arguments. Needy readers have an asymptote at illiteracy; if a text doesn't say the one thing they need to read, it might as well be in a foreign language. To be open-minded, you have to recognize, and counteract, your own doxastic hungers.

Dennett calls this an extension of Schank's Law, which is itself interesting. Have a look at many more interesting laws at The Edge.

UPDATE: For anyone else who went to public schools like I did, "doxastic" means "pertaining to belief" according to this online source. didn't have it. I had to Google the word.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Consider the source

I have missed a lot in not regularly reading Rhoads' favorites. Here is a link to Sojourner where they link to stories on Iraq that readers may have missed. The particular story that caught my attention is written by former U. S. arms inspector Scott Ritter. Here's a link to one of my favorites to learn a bit about where Scott Ritter is coming from. It looks like Scott went silent on children's prisons in Iraq in an attempt to avoid a war to free, among many others, those children.

What gorilla?

Why is it that American liberals have so much trouble seeing some obvious things, like the lack of intellectual diversity in liberal arts departments at elite colleges? Could it be that they're missing the gorilla in the picture? Test yourself to see if you're missing something obvious by clicking here.

Where there's smoke...oh, wait, there's not even smoke.

With Princeton safely atop the Ivy League basketball standings this evening, perhaps Rhoads will have a minute to go read one of his favorites, The Nation. Maybe he can explain why David Corn keeps publishing unsubstantiated allegations against the President of the United States? George W. Bush serves in the Air National Guard, receives an honorable discharge, tracks down and presents his pay records thirty years after the fact, and now does the same with all of his service records yet the political mischief continues.

So what's Coffee With Rhoads anyway?

Now that Rhoads has come aboard and listed a couple of his favorite sites, it seems like a good time to explain what we're doing.

Most of the group blogs that I'm familiar with publish material from contributors with similar viewpoints. Coffee With Rhoads departs from that format. As you can see by the first few favorites we've each listed (with the exception of my link to Princeton Hoops, a passion Rhoads and I both share), Rhoads and I come at questions of political philosophy from different perspectives. While there must certainly be some overlap in our conculusions, much of the time we'll differ, both in the conclusions and in how we arrived at them.

Rather than just continuing to trade phone calls or emails as we've done for some time now, Rhoads and I decided to borrow an idea from Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. Kornheiser and Wilbon have taken their arguments from the halls of The Washington Post to ESPN television's Pardon the Interruption. No TV for Rhoads and me. Instead we've come up with a print version of a mythical radio show we have hosted for years now, Coffee With Rhoads.

I hope that this blog will contain enough lively, civil banter to keep us (and anyone else that chooses to stop by and read our banter) entertained and educated. Time will tell.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I'll kick this off with a positive note regarding Princeton basketball. While the Tigers played poorly against the Quakers on Tuesday night, the Princeton System looks to be healthier than ever. Having watched Joe Scott's Air Force team in person and on TV, I'm very impressed with the Falcons and how they run the System. Northwestern is doing reasonably well, too. Neither school has a history of basketball excellence, and both face tough academic hurdles (more about academic hurdles and college athletics later!).

However, Coach Scott has a significant advantage - Air Academy prep school. Air Academy's basketball team runs the Princeton System. Somebody can correct me if this is wrong, but I think I heard that all but one of the current starters played at Air Academy. This means that even the freshman have some experience with the system. Over time, if Coach Scott stays, this could mean that the Air Force Academy will have a leg up on all the other Princeton System teams. Well, if the possible extra year of experience offsets the, um, downside of mandatory service in the USAF for all the players. Hoops and flying aren't necessarily a natural match. But there you go. Being forced to recruit only smart, athletic, and dedicated young men for the team isn't all bad.

Congratulations on a job well done, Coach Scott. It ain't Princeton, but it makes us Princeton hoops fans proud.
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