Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Master and Commander

What an absolutely terrific movie. Not only is it historically (though the story is fictitious) great, but it is a very herioc picture as well. I haven't seen a movie as unabashedly happy to play classical music for its theme as this one in quite some time. Also happy that it was more than two hours, though you really don't notice it. I've seen it twice already and could probably end up seeing it again shortly.

It is movies like this, not the Matrix Revolutions (which stunk), that the movie theatre is meant for. It's great to see a return to heroic epics, like Gladiator, the upcoming Troy, and this film that once dominated Hollywood. Like Charles Krauthammer, who recently wrote about this film as well, I only hope it can succeed for it is really wonderful and intelligent and action filled.

I have never read these particular novels, written by Patrick O'Brien, but I have read most of the Hornblower series by C.S. Forrester. I'm definantly planning to start reading the O'Brien books though. And so, if you haven't seen this picture yet, go and see it and then tell everyone you know to go and see it, it's that good.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Thanks for the Good Times
Alexander Marriott

This semester was to be my last working for the Rebel Yell simply because I will be entering my final year of undergraduate studies in the Spring and will be very busy working towards Graduate School. This will still be my last semester at the Yell, I’m just glad that it’s still my idea rather than someone else’s.

I’d like to thank everyone who made my employment at the Rebel Yell a fun experience for me, even recently. First of all, the man who hired me in the first place, Nick Mojave. Without him noticing and appreciating the points I made in a class he and I had together in the Fall of ’02, I might never have written for the Rebel Yell. He was also a great boss to work under, never giving me any problems about what I wrote and printing most of my articles, except for a piece I did on Jimmy Carter, but that was a little outdated so I won’t hold it against him.

Everyone who worked for the Yell during the Fall of ’02 and Spring of ’03 who I came in contact with was nothing but incredibly nice and gracious, even though I’m sure most of them disagreed with just about everything I wrote about.

This brings me to the transition between that administration to the new administration that took over in the Summer and Fall of ’03. One person who has always been a good friend between those two different “regimes” is Angela Flores, the webmaster, payroll chief, and part-time writer for the Yell. She is someone who certainly disagrees with most of my opinions but she has still been a good person to talk to about anything and usually sees through most of the crap that happens around here, especially in recent weeks.

Nick’s successor, Irene Marquette, was also a great boss and has become a good friend as well. Her defense of me in my recent situation was very greatly appreciated; I only hope I can return the favor someday. She was also good at going to bat for her writers in other situations as well though. A good example was the over-editing of columns at the beginning of the semester which she handled very well, as the practice was seemingly abandoned. It’s too bad the situation at the paper of late has made it so that opinion writers won’t be able to enjoy working under her tutelage any more.

There are others on the staff that have been nothing but kind and respectful including Justin Chomintra, Hubert Hensen, and Jeff Hoyt among others. Thank you all for the good times and supporting me in the not-so-good times. A very special thanks to Megan Lee who wrote an extremely beautiful and well reasoned article entitled, "UNLV Does Not Encourage Conflict," in the October 29th edition of the Rebel Yell which I advise all who haven't read it yet to get online and read immediately.

Of course there are also the readers of the Yell and my columns in particular. Most of the people who wrote Letters to the Editor did so in an immature fashion, but to everyone who took time to think out an argument, whether you agreed with me or not, thanks. I think anyone who appreciates reasoned debate can appreciate those who at least try to proffer logical arguments.

What farewell message would be complete without addressing the scandal that embroiled the Rebel Yell and I for a couple of weeks at the end of October? Not everyone who helped me that I’m about to thank agreed with my original article, in fact many of them explicitly disagreed with it, but the printing of my article wasn’t what went wrong at the Yell. Almost everyone quickly realized that no plagiarism took place and confronted the real issue, which was my unjust and fallacious firing and the continual drumbeat of totally bogus charges by the Yell against me (which the Yell has since apologized for).

Thanks are due to Brooke Ross of the Review-Journal and Jennifer Knight of the Las Vegas Sun for fairly covering the story as it developed.

More thanks to Thomas Mitchell, Editor of the Review-Journal, for defending me publicly and going through nasty and unfair attacks within the pages of the Rebel Yell.

I must thank Mary Hausch, the Rebel Yell’s faculty advisor, as well as the entire Rebel Yell Advisory Board for injecting some reason into this mess and trying to put the breaks on what seemed like a runaway train.

Of course, thanks are more than due to Dr. Michael Berliner for stepping in on my behalf even though some, like Cathy Scott, seemed to think (ridiculously) that someone would be “flattered” that their intellectual property was stolen. A related thank you is due to Sonya Healy, who was very helpful in getting me in contact with Dr. Berliner on extremely short notice.

How could I not thank Gary Peck and the Nevada ACLU for seeing an obvious attempt to stifle free speech and disregard any semblance of fairness and due process? His tireless efforts working on my behalf were very welcome and I’m indebted to him for that.

Dr. David Fott also needs to be thanked for going out of his way to offer me advice, suggesting the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) which, although they didn’t get directly involved since the ACLU was already working on it, was very interested to see that my situation was resolved successfully.

And I couldn’t forget Alan Stock and Heidi Harris, whose efforts in this entire mess were nothing short of heroic. Their radio program was greatly responsible for the immediate publicity of my firing, and the subsequent contact I was able to make with the ACLU. They are just two more people I can’t thank enough, but I can at least try.

And so, now that my run with the Yell is coming to a natural conclusion all I can say is that it was an overwhelmingly positive experience that provided me with all sorts of opportunities and a chance to develop my writing skills. I can only hope that it was a good experience for almost everyone else who was involved, either at the paper or among the student body. Thanks. If you still want to read my writing you’ll be able to see more articles in Capitalism Magazine ( Goodbye.
Liking Us When We’re Dead
Alexander Marriott November 15, 2003

In the days immediately following September 11, 2001 the outpouring of support from the governments and people of Europe was overwhelming. Americans living in or visiting Europe at the time remember the various Europeans hugging them on the streets and offering them whatever help they could.

Today, a little more than two years later, the situation over almost all of Europe is markedly different. Europeans and their governments are now hostile, not to Americans they say, but to President Bush and his “cowboy” attitude. What’s different?

On September 11, 2001 the United States of America were suddenly attacked by Islamist terrorists who were funded and harbored by certain governments in the Middle East and had managed to move through the Western world without getting caught. Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed in those attacks, and it was their deaths that caused the outpouring of “support” from the people of Europe.

What were the countries of Europe and the people living in them expecting us to do after such an attack? Given the last fifty years of constant appeasement and meaningless bombings and missile strikes and the even more pathetic non-responses from the countries of Europe, notably Italy and France, they probably expected more of the same. Like the Rothbardian “Anarcho-Capitalists” and other like minded Libertarians and Communists in this country, it was generally thought that we, not the terrorists, were responsible for the attacks because of some perceived “meddling” we had done in the past.

I remember the Latin American history teacher I had saying on the morning of the attacks that we should expect nothing else than these attacks when we “terrorize” the rest of the world. So what did they expect and want us to do? Simply, to admit our fault and makes “amends” by withdrawing from world affairs, and in the case of the Rothbardians, dismantle the government, but in the case of the statists, they wanted us to hand over all of our wealth to the people killing us.

Enter the evil “cowboy” George W. Bush. In some of the most inspiring moments of his presidency, from the days after the attacks up to and including the “Axis of Evil” speech, he laid out the case for defending ourselves in a way that has been lacking since our problems in the Arab world began. Not giving the terrorists money or sending them aid workers, but killing them was to be the goal. When this was expressed for a change the opinion in Europe became alarmist and hostile.

The sophist philosophers residing in Europe and the United States scoffed at the “simplistic” notions of good and evil that the American President spoke of. People who were on the brink of total nuclear annihilation by the Soviet Union not more than fifteen years ago suddenly thought wars of self-defense were no longer justifiable. Gore Vidal wrote a book claiming the whole Afghanistan war, and even the September 11 attacks, were part of larger conspiracy to get the oil in the Caspian Sea.

There were a few standout leaders like Tony Blair in England, Berlusconi in Italy, and many of the smaller Eastern European former Warsaw Pact countries. But the majority of countries in Europe and, at least according to polls, the majority of Europeans have been opposed to American attempts to defend herself from her enemies. Luckily their opinions are irrelevant in the determination of American policies (at least they should be), not only because these Europeans and their governments are wrong, but because they only like us when we’re dead.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

“The Reagans” Gets Moved from TV to Cable
Alexander Marriott November 9, 2003

Now that the made for TV miniseries about Ronald Reagan’s presidency called The Reagans has been moved from CBS to Showtime the rewriting of history about the controversy has already begun. According to the left, the fact that CBS moved the miniseries to Showtime is the result of a right wing censoring effort to stifle free expression and artistic effort. What?

Apparently it’s lost upon certain leftist pundits that only the government can censor people. But beyond that, the objections raised by many people, not just right wingers, but historians and others who have studied the Reagan presidency, is that the people who produced the movie made up things about Ronald Reagan to portray him as negatively as possible. The objection was that a man’s character was being defamed; it was not simply that people who didn’t like Reagan were making a movie about him.

Certainly very few, if any, of the people who make movies about Adolf Hitler like the
man. But what purpose is served by making things up about him and in his case why would you have to? If you disapprove of the subject of your historical film it is because you’ve made value judgments about that character’s actions and beliefs. The truth is what you based your judgments on so why alter reality when presenting the truth to everyone else? Perhaps the producers of this film aren’t confident that simply dramatizing the truth will create the anti-Reagan feelings they are seemingly desirous of.

One need not be a fan of Ronald Reagan to see the problem in what CBS was doing. Just because you are guaranteed a fundamental right to free speech doesn’t mean you have the right to libel and slander people or make up new historical information. None of the people who worked in the White House with Reagan seems to have been contacted for research purposes or for getting some idea of what the dialogue of the President was like. Instead we hear that in the miniseries the former President curses quite a bit, refers to himself as the Anti-Christ, and is highly indifferent in the Old Testament sense to the people suffering from AIDS in Africa.

Wait! The arguments from the left continue. Former President Kennedy is unfairly “demonized” all the time in movies, why do these movies get to air and the Reagan picture does not? Perhaps, before they get on TV and jabber, these pundits should research a little on Kennedy. In his excellent biography of the former President, A Question of Character, historian Thomas Reeves documents all sorts of indecent and impeachable offenses committed by President Kennedy that range from drug use to sleeping with dozens of different women including a Soviet spy. These actions made him susceptible not only to being an unwitting ally of the Soviet Union, but making him beholden to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who knew of all these events and used that knowledge to make himself untouchable.

These are documented facts of history; the dialogue of The Reagans is just made up. But wait, yet another argument. Dialogue in any historical drama has to be made up because there is no stenographer present to transcribe the exact words of the many conversations the President has. This is certainly true, but does this give the writers of movies license to just make up anything they want? If this is true then they could just write in dialogue for Ronald Reagan to the effect of, “I hate black people and I wish we could just have them all killed.” Even if you think Reagan was a racist you can’t just attribute statements and ideas to him that aren’t backed up by some sort of evidence. Either go by the historical record, which is very rich considering most of the people who served in the two Reagan administrations are still alive, or keep your opinions to yourself.

The way this story has played out is really telling of the left and how they view the world. Because CBS realized they weren’t going to get away with making things up and moved the movie from TV to Cable (apparently it’s ok to lie about people if you have to pay to watch it) it is called “censorship.” They utter absurdities like, “If the speech in the movie is false then the way to combat it is more speech.” This effectively gives license to everyone to say or print whatever they want about anyone with nothing to worry about. It’s one thing to call someone an idiot because as an unsupported statement it is just a hollow ad hominem attack that anybody would recognize as such. But when people fabricate “facts” to support their assertions and there is no consequence, then the onus is effectively put on the victim of the lie to defend himself from any made up absurdity.

The fact that CBS was caught in the act is promising, but the fact that the miniseries is still being aired is troubling. It’s indicative of not only how liberal CBS is, but how little they care for reality. Hopefully, since President Reagan is still alive, someone will file a lawsuit on his behalf against Showtime when the movie airs (assuming there is no disclaimer stating that the movie is a fictitious account of Reagan’s Presidency) to show these people that smearing someone’s character and lying about them is unacceptable and will be punished. However, given what happened during Bill Clinton’s presidency, lying doesn’t seem to be a big deal anymore.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Perversion of Justice
Alexander Marriott November 8, 2003

Gary Ridgway has pled guilty to the murder of forty-eight women, making him the worst serial killer in American history. His expected punishment? Life in prison without the possibility of parole.

What kind of justice is this? What is the point of the State of Washington having a death penalty if a man like this doesn’t get it? According to the Associated Press Tony McNabb, a detective working the case said of the plea deal, “We're just glad to have played a part in this and to answer some of the questions for victims' families.”

So this is what justice comes down to, answering the questions (i.e. what happened to my relative?) of the families as opposed to ridding mankind of this monster. It seems odd that some of the relatives of victims are perfectly comfortable paying taxes to make sure Mr. Ridgway lives out the rest of his life in relative comfort compared to the poverty many around the world live in for doing nothing other than being born in crummy countries.

What is the meaning of this policy of giving lighter sentences to those who admit they are guilty as opposed to those who maintain their innocence? It is said sometimes that it is the money; guilty pleas are cheaper than trials. This is undoubtedly true, but who cares? It should be up to a jury or judge to decide if this admission of guilt deserves any leniency, rather than accepting any cop outs by prosecutors. The whole point governments are set up in the first place is to deal properly with human waste like Ridgway, not worry about the potential costs of doing their jobs. Vigilante justice would do a better job at this point and if that’s the case, what’s the point of even having a government?

Why not divert some of the ridiculous spending jails do, like providing cable, exercise yards, libraries, etc. and redirecting it to prosecutors so they don’t worry about how much doing the right thing might cost? This would probably be construed as cruel and unusual punishment though.

The Founding Fathers messed up on that point, they said there shall be no cruel and unusual punishments, but they didn’t define what that meant, assuming everyone already knew. Obviously they didn’t consider the death penalty cruel or unusual or they would have gotten rid of it when the country started.

But one can almost guarantee they would have thought that putting rapists and murderers up in comfortable lodgings at the expense of the victims or their families to be cruel and unusual.
Prisons should be returned to the model of the 19th century, let the prisoners build the prison, let them make their own clothes, let them grow their own food, let them break rock, let them be miserable.

Of course there is another fallacy involved here, wherein defendants have an unlimited “right” to an attorney at taxpayer expense. Again, if that is what was meant by the Founding Fathers, why didn’t they ever uphold this “right?” Simply because it isn’t a right at all. Legal services don’t float in the air, they must be provided by other men, and if you can’t pay for them someone else must. To say such a thing as legal services is a right is to ignore or be ignorant of what individual rights are.

It is due to this misunderstanding that endless appeals have become commonplace. Hence the dumb statistic always pointed to be death penalty opponents showing that giving the death penalty costs more than locking people up for life. The thing that is ignored is the incredible expense that both of these propositions cost.

Back to Gary Ridgway, a man who, according to the Associated Press, stopped by the gravesites of his victims to have sex with their bodies. His case presents a dilemma to death penalty advocates all over the country, for when prosecutors argue that John X, who killed one person, should be given the death penalty the taxpayer funded defense lawyer can point to Gary Ridgway who killed forty-eight women and got life in prison. If Ridgway isn’t given the death penalty, they will argue, why should anyone else?

Of course they are putting a quantifiable value on killing people, the more you kill the worse you are, whereas all murderers are violating the same principles and are all equally evil. But what does this matter anymore? The Justice system seems too worried about perverting itself at this point.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Ethics in College
Alexander Marriott November 3, 2003

Now that I am back on the job I have a few things I would like to say.

Unlike some, I will not name people in connection to what I intend to charge given that I have no direct evidence tying particular individuals to it.

What has taken place over the last few weeks was partly the doing of certain professors and authors who thought it would be fun to try to ruin the career of a student opinion writer, namely me, because they didn’t agree with his views and were apparently unable to rationally argue why. Fortunately for me they failed for a rather obvious and simple reason, they were wrong.

But what are the broader implications of what happened to me? Well, it means that some of UNLV’s professors are so unethical and irrational that they are willing to personally go after you and attempt to destroy your reputation whenever they see you have disagreed with them.

It means that instead of arguing the points you believe are correct, you must always worry that your professors will not miss the opportunity to disagree with you through your grades. Because if they were willing to try to ruin my chances of going to graduate school and pursuing a career as a historian then messing with grades based on subjective whim is not out of their range of unethical behavior.

It is sad that some professors think they have the right and the duty to smother debate through any means available. It is even sadder that they will not admit who they are so that everyone can know exactly who thinks it is perfectly good and moral to attack students and conspire to ruin them.

My case was just one that was public, think of all the students over the years who have probably been given lower grades merely for having different opinions. These types of actions are disgraceful and only create an atmosphere of stifling fear for anyone who may dare to think for themselves and not accept some of the garbage they are taught in certain classes.

There are great teachers at UNLV. Some truly fantastic people teach here, it is true. But the mere fact that the teachers who were partly responsible for the debacle that befell the Rebel Yell do not step forward only ruins it for the rest of the teachers here as well as the students.

All students have to be on alert now. In any class they take their teacher may be an unethical opportunist who is only out to stifle thought and persecute those they do not agree with. In that environment students will only do what they think their professors want them to do and say what they think their professors want to hear. This does not constitute a learning environment; it is approaching the level of a gulag. But instead of physical labor that means nothing the students must perform mental labor that means nothing.

Ethics are lost in college. People don’t think they should defend their opinions or engage professors in argument on interpretation, theory, or anything else. The reason is because of things like what happened to me, the students are afraid. Learning by intimidation doesn’t work and only destroys the desire to learn, and that may actually be the goal of those who tried to ruin me.

It is no surprise most colleges have no classes in Ethics anymore. Not too many professors seem to have any these days.