Mike Kueber's Blog

August 21, 2015

An open letter to Bill O’Reilly

Filed under: Law/justice,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:43 pm
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Bill, the word for the day is “sophomoric.”  Used in a sentence, “Your reportage this week on anchor babies was sophomoric.”

Why do I think your reportage was “conceited and overconfident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature”?  The Bill of Particulars against you contains two items:

  1. False statements.  In your Trump interview on anchor babies, you paraphrased the 14th Amendment as saying, “If you are born in America, you are a citizen.”  Your omission of the critical middle clause, “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” is flagrant journalistic malpractice.  Then you imperiously declared the sentence could have only one legal meaning.  Yes, the sentence you read could only have one meaning, but what is the meaning of the clause you didn’t read?  In law, there is a strong presumption against construing a clause to be redundant or irrelevant.
  2. Two days later, you attempted to buttress your legal opinion by interviewing two legal experts – one a conservative and one a liberal – who agreed with you. In law, a judge will pit two advocates against each other and then decide.  Couldn’t you find anyone to articulate an argument contrary to your position?  What about one of America’s most popular constitutional authorities, Mark Levin, who earlier in the week spoke out strongly against your position?  What about one of America’s most respected federal judges, Richard Posner, who opined about anchor babies in a 2003 appellate decision, “Congress would not be flouting the Constitution if it amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to put an end to the nonsense.  A constitutional amendment may be required to change the rule whereby birth in this country automatically confers U.S. citizenship, but I doubt it.”

It’s not too late to redeem your reputation by apologizing to your viewers and presenting them with a full-throated argument on the meaning of “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”  Is it directed narrowly at foreign diplomats or more broadly at anyone who has allegiance to another country?

May 7, 2015

Garland

Filed under: Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 3:37 am
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The liberal New York Times Editorial Board today joined conservative Bill O’Reilly in criticizing Pamela Geller for holding a provocative Muhammed Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland.  These fine folks point out that the contest wasn’t about free speech, but rather it was about hatred and bigotry.  To them I ask, does the First Amendment only protect fair and reasonable people?

The editorial board and Bill O’Reilly seem to think that America is giving its imprimatur on Geller by protecting her contest.  I say America is not approving the substance of the contest, but it is approving her right to have it.

In all this hubbub, I haven’t heard a single commentator refer to that traditional description of free speech – “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

February 25, 2015

Bill O’Reilly vis-à-vis Brian Williams

Filed under: Media — Mike Kueber @ 7:44 pm
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If you depend on FOX News for your news, you might be under the impression that Bill O’Reilly has successfully defended himself against liberal attempts to paint him with the same broad brush that took down Brian Williams. As Bernard McGuirk stated this morning on Imus in the Morning, Williams was guilty of the mortal sin of “stolen valor,” whereas O’Reilly had shown unquestionably that his claims of war-zone reporting had not been embellished.

But fortunately, I don’t get all my news from FOX. I also get news from the NT Times, and the Times this morning included an article on O’Reilly suggesting that the charges of “self-aggrandizing rhetoric” by this “professional provocateur…. have since been substantiated by other journalists in Argentina at the time.”

My inclination is to agree with the Times. O’Reilly often brags about covering “war zones,” including the Falklands war zone in the early 80s. Well, the only Falklands war hostilities occurred on or near the islands, not 1,000 miles away in Buenos Aires. O’Reilly admits that he didn’t report from the Falklands because only one reporter was allowed on the Islands, and that reporter wasn’t him.  But somehow O’Reilly want to defend his “war zone” claim by arguing that the war was reported by all but one reporter from Buenos Aires. The response to that argument is that only one reporter, then, gets to claim war-zone reporting on his resume.

O’Reilly tries to work his way around this obstacle by discussing the dangerous post-war rioting in Buenos Aires. That’s fine if O’Reilly wants to claim riot reporting, but not war reporting. The riots in Buenos Aires were of local Argentinians protesting against their government for losing the war in the Falklands. Domestic riots do not qualify for war zones.

And getting back to McGuirk’s comment about Williams’s “stolen valor,” I fail to see any meaningful distinction between Williams falsely claiming his helicopter was hit by enemy fire and O’Reilly falsely claiming that he reported from a war zone. Both are suggesting front-line activity that never happened.

The Times article also pointed out fairly why O’Reilly’s faux pas will not likely lead to his demise, like Williams’s did:

  • There are other differences between the two controversies. The incident at the center of Mr. O’Reilly’s occurred more than 30 years ago; Mr. Williams’s happened in 2003. And his accusers are journalists, not military veterans as they were in Mr. Williams’s case. But the most meaningful point of distinction — and the reason Mr. O’Reilly’s job is almost certainly safe — is that he is not an anchorman, with all of the cultural weight that title carries.”

I agree. Even O’Reilly’s fans know that he is a braggart with an outsize ego. Consistent with that reputation is his oft-mentioned claim of being a Harvard man who grew up in Levittown. But while reading his Wikipedia bio, I learned that is not really true. Although O’Reilly, grew up in Levittown, he went to college at Marist, and then after a few years of teaching, he earned a Masters at Boston University. And finally, more 20 years later and after becoming a VIP, he obtained a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard.

So much for the implication that this poor Irish kid from Levittown was brilliant enough to get into Harvard. As we used to say back in North Dakota, he seems to be a legend in his own mind.

October 27, 2014

Sunday Book Review #148 – Killing Patton by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 11:26 pm
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Killing Patton is by far the most disappointing of O’Reilly’s “Killing” books. Although the writing style is similar to the other books, the subject has almost nothing to do with the killing. The book almost seems like a novelization of the Oscar-winning 1970 movie starring George C. Scott. While I somewhat enjoyed revisiting the story of the movie (in fact, I was prompted to re-watch some of the movie on Netflix), I was expecting to read more about Patton’s suspicion death. Instead, that information, all four pages of it, was contained in the Afterword, which can be summarized as follows:

  • If you have read Killing Kennedy, you know that Martin Dugard and I are not conspiracy theorists. But the death of General George S. Patton presents a disturbing picture if one fully accepts history’s contention that his demise was simply the result of an accident…. The strange death of George S. Patton should be reexamined by American military investigators. Although the trail is ice cold, technological advances could solve some of the puzzles.

Oh really, Bill. Which technological advances could solve which puzzles? Perhaps you should have written a screenplay for the TV show, Cold Cases. Thanks for nothing. But I can’t wait for the next three Killing books that are already sketched out. Not.

October 17, 2014

White privilege

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 3:26 am
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Last night, Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart got into a heated discussion over the existence of white privilege in America. I’m guessing the heat was generated for the purpose of entertaining the viewers because any rational discussion of the subject would have started with a definition of the term.

Instead of starting with a definition, O’Reilly immediately responded to Stewart’s allegation by asserting that if there is white privilege in America, then there must be even more Asian privilege because, according to a variety of measures (income, education), Asians are more successful than whites. Stewart responded with a non sequitur that the recent Asian immigration experience was irrelevant because it was completely different than the historical black immigration experience.

So off they went, with each throwing out a series of talking points instead of actually responding to each other’s points. In the end, Jon asked Bill to concede that the black historical experience (slavery, Jim Crow laws) was a “factor” (pun intended) in the current sad status of blacks in general and inner-city blacks in particular. Bill conceded that point, and Jon thanked him for showing a humility that reminded him of the new pope.

If Bill or Jon had been interested in a definition as a starting point, they might have checked with the Urban Dictionary:

  • White privilege is the racist idea that simply being white benefits people in some unexplainable way, and that discriminating against white people is not only okay, but enlightened and necessary. The excuse some extremists use to justify pretty much any level of racism, as long as it is coming from people of color.

The Urban Dictionary definition, however, seems to have been written by a white guy, so I found another definition by someone more like Jon Stewart. According to the White Privilege Conference:

  • White Privilege is the other side of racism…. Privilege exists when one group has something of value thatis denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to,rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them. Examples of Privilege – being able to:
    • assume that most of the people you or your children study in history classes and textbooks will be of the same race, gender, or sexual orientation as you are;
    • assume that your failures will not be attributed to your race, or your gender;
    • assume that if you work hard and follow the rules, you will get what you deserve;
    • succeed without other people being surprised; and without being held to a higher standard;
    • go out in public without fear of being harassed or constantly worried about physical safety; or
    • not have to think about your race, or your gender, or your sexual orientation, or disabilities, on a daily basis…

Based on the preceding definition of white privilege, even Bill O’Reilly would concede there is white privilege in America.

The final arbiter of the disputed definition needs to be Wikipedia:

  • White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people in the same social, political, or economic circumstances. The term denotes both obvious and less obvious unspoken advantages that white persons may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice. These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely.

The Free Dictionary definition of privilege is, “a special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste.”

Based on these definitions, I believe Jon Stewart is correct. Black individuals in America suffer from, and are forced to overcome negative generalizations and stereotypes, whereas white individuals probably benefit from positive generalizations and stereotypes. This type of privilege exists even in the absence of racism.

August 28, 2014

The New York Times on white privilege and whether we are all racists

NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wondered if everyone was a little bit racist. Prompted by the Ferguson incident, Kristof started his column, titled “Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist?,” by admitting that we really don’t what happened in Ferguson, but he went on to assert that we do know the following:

  • But here’s what evidence does strongly suggest: Young black men in America suffer from widespread racism and stereotyping, by all society — including African-Americans themselves. Research in the last couple of decades suggests that the problem is not so much overt racists. Rather, the larger problem is a broad swath of people who consider themselves enlightened, who intellectually believe in racial equality, who deplore discrimination, yet who harbor unconscious attitudes that result in discriminatory policies and behavior.

If Kristof’s train of thinking confuses you, join the club. Although he begins by asserting “widespread racism and stereotyping,” he quickly walks that back to “unconscious attitudes.” And then, when he describes the various studies that provide evidence of the unconscious attitudes, he fails to explain why these unconscious attitudes exist, such as there are a plethora of psychological studies showing that people are inherently suspicious of people different from them.

Kristof seems to think that if everyone tries to be more sensitive to the issue, it can be willed away. He concludes his column as follows:

  • Yet an uncomfortable starting point is to understand that racial stereotyping remains ubiquitous, and that the challenge is not a small number of twisted white supremacists but something infinitely more subtle and complex: People who believe in equality but who act in ways that perpetuate bias and inequality.

The problem with Kristof’s prescription is that it ignores the scientific fact and common-sense understanding that people behave based on their life experience. It is also a fact that young black males, especially those who present themselves like gangsters, are more likely to commit crimes and violence that almost any other distinguishable group. What sentient human being would not consider that fact?

When Kristof advises people to behave in a politically correct fashion, he reminds me of the Marx Brothers’ line – “Who are you going to believe – me or your lying eyes?”

p.s.,

Shortly after Kristof’s column, the Times published a similarly-themed column by Charles Blow titled, “Bill O’Reilly and White Privilege.”  In the column, Blow takes O’Reilly to task for arguing that the problem in the black community is internal (black behavior), not external (white privilege). O’Reilly’s argument:

  • Last night on ‘The Factor,’ Megyn Kelly and I debated the concept of white privilege whereby some believe that if you are Caucasian you have inherent advantages in America. ‘Talking Points’ does not, does not believe in white privilege. However, there is no question that African-Americans have a much harder time succeeding in our society than whites do.

O’Reilly also pointed out that Asian-Americans have achieved success despite their obstacles, which included a different language, but he also noted that the black experience was unique:

  • One caveat, the Asian-American experience historically has not been nearly as tough as the African-American experience. Slavery is unique and it has harmed black Americans to a degree that is still being felt today, but in order to succeed in our competitive society, every American has to overcome the obstacles they face.”

Blow explained away the Asians as “model immigrants” based on immigration policy, which he said resulted in high-achieving people being selected for immigration. [What an novel idea!]

Then for a solution, O’Reilly makes two points, according to Blow:

  1. In arguing that it isn’t, O’Reilly goes on to raise the seemingly obligatory “respectability” point, saying: “American children must learn not only academics but also civil behavior, right from wrong, as well as how to speak properly and how to act respectfully in public.”
  2. Then he falls back on the crux of his argument: “Instead of preaching a cultural revolution, the leadership provides excuses for failure. The race hustlers blame white privilege, an unfair society, a terrible country. So the message is, it’s not your fault if you abandon your children, if you become a substance abuser, if you are a criminal. No, it’s not your fault; it’s society’s fault. That is the big lie that is keeping some African-Americans from reaching their full potential. Until personal responsibility and a cultural change takes place, millions of African-Americans will struggle.”

Blow then turns the table on O’Reilly and seems to compare him to Al Sharpton:

  • No, Mr. O’Reilly, it is statements like this one that make you the race hustler. The underlying logic is that blacks are possessed of some form of racial pathology or self-destructive racial impulses, that personal responsibility and systemic inequity are separate issues and not intersecting ones. This is the false dichotomy that chokes to death any real accountability and honesty. Systemic anti-black bias doesn’t dictate personal behavior, but it can certainly influence and inform it. And personal behavior can reinforce people’s belief that their biases are justified. So goes the cycle. But at the root of it, we can’t expect equality of outcome while acknowledging inequality of environments. Only a man bathing in privilege would be blind to that.

Finally, something we can agree on. There is a cycle between anti-black bias and the black personal behavior. O’Reilly’s solution is for cultural change in the black community while Blow seems content to merely vent against O’Reilly. At least Kristof has a plan, albeit a Pollyannaish one for non-blacks to will away their unconscious bias.

October 30, 2013

Sunday Book Review #108 – Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Filed under: Book reviews,Religion — Mike Kueber @ 8:29 pm
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Killing Jesus is Bill O’Reilly’s follow-up to bestsellers Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy.  Both of those books were excellent; Killing Jesus not so much.

Coincidentally, I recently read Reza Aslin’s bestseller, The Zealot, and O’Reilly’s book pales in comparison.    Aslin’s book is about historical Jesus, and although it relies heavily on the Gospels, the book is quick to reject passages in the Gospels that don’t jibe with their in-depth historical context.  By contrast, O’Reilly’s book, which is self-described as “a history,” is not much more than a narrative consolidation of the Gospels put in a superficial historical context.

An example of the different approaches of Aslin and O’Reilly concerns the birthplace of Jesus.  O’Reilly assumes the birthplace was Bethlehem because that is what the Gospels say.  Aslin, however, based on a variety of factual issues, concludes that Jesus was actually born in Nazareth.  He suggests that the Gospels misstated this fact so that the location of birth conformed to some earlier biblical prophecies.

O’Reilly recently wrote an illustrated children’s version of Killing KennedyKilling Jesus already fits that mold, with light, popular reading, but it provides almost nothing in terms of in-depth thinking or insights.

July 3, 2013

Bill O’Reilly in his ivory tower

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 10:38 pm
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While blogging about Jamie Foxx and Trayvon Martin, I neglected to mention that Bill O’Reilly on his show last night suggested that it was inappropriate and perhaps racist for anyone to take sides in the Zimmerman trial.  According to O’Reilly, we don’t currently have the facts and therefore can’t know what a jury should do.  That is why O’Reilly is not rooting for an acquittal or a conviction.

Although I understand O’Reilly’s point, I disagree.  I usually take sides with incidents involving a home invasion.  Even without knowing all of the facts, I quickly start rooting for the homeowner to be found innocent of excessive force.  Same thing with a small-business owner who shoots a robber or burglar.  And this position doesn’t depend on race.  In fact, I might be even more sympathetic to a minority homeowner or small-business owner who shoots someone while defending his property.  I imagine each one has a Horatio Alger story, and I don’t want to see it end badly.

O’Reilly takes pride in looking out for the little folks.  Let’s hope that his position here, which seems to ignore the sensibilities of little folks, is an anomaly.

Come down from that ivory tower, Bill.

November 14, 2012

Dennis Miller resigns himself to….

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:39 pm
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On the day of the presidential election, I blogged about whether this election would be the Armageddon.  In my blog posting, I declared that, although I had previously rejected the doomsday scenario, my mind had been changed by a Krauthammer column that suggested this election would be transformational, like Reagan’s in 1980 and FDR’s in 1932. 

The day after the election, Dennis Miller appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show and poignantly lamented end of America as he knew it.  Among his insights:

  • Romney is a good man and he was not the problem.  They demonized him.  “Mr. Romney, I’m proud of you.”
  • This election is where this country is at now.  This is not America’s proudest moment.  We’ve gone a long way toward being the European model. 
  • If you are humping to make $45k, you can now get close to that handed to you by the gov’t.
  • I like America the way it was; it’s not going to be that way anymore.
  • Single women aspire to be someone like Sandra Fluke.  That doesn’t resonate with me.
  • I’m not going anywhere; America is still the best country in the world. 
  • Do I ever think it will go back?  No, I don’t.  This is it; it’s the new majority.  I’m a good citizen; I’ll pay any tax they ask me to.  I’m not a cheater.
  • It’s not the America I knew from 18-58.  Is that the end of the world?  No.  I don’t have a lump under my arm.  I’ve got a great life, but it’s not the America I was comfortable with.

Bill O’Reilly disagreed with Miller and suggested that if Obama fails to turn the economy around, the liberal movement (social justice, secular progressivism) will collapse forever.

I think O’Reilly is wrong on two levels:

  1. Wanting America to fail.  His thinking sounds a lot like Rush Limbaugh saying four years ago that he hopes Obama fails.  I don’t want the American economy to tank just because this would reflect on Obama’s liberal agenda.  In fact, I plan to leave most of my saving in the stock market and will be hoping for a robust recovery that will likely inure to the credit of the liberals/progressives. 
  2. The ratchet effect.  Voters are typically averse to accepting any reduction in benefits once they have gotten accustomed to having them (the ratchet goes in only one direction).  That was essentially the thrust of Krauthammer’s column and Miller’s lament, and I continue to believe they are correct.  ObamaCare will become another component of a Europe-style welfare state that Americans will feel entitled to.

I don’t think America is going to fail.  Instead it will be fundamentally transformed, as promised by Obama.  The new majority will be proud of its heightened morality and refer back to Kennedy’s admonition to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”  But there will be no new Greatest Generation with great accomplishments.  This generation will instead be focused on the politics of dividing a diminishing pie. 

So sad.

March 11, 2012

Sunday Book Review #66 – Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 1:40 am
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Killing Lincoln was written by Bill O’Reilly (big font) and Martin Dugard (small font).  Although I had no reason for wanting to read a book by an O’Reilly ghostwriter about the killing of Lincoln, I decided to do so because (a) O’Reilly continually plugs the book on his nightly show, and (b) the book has been at the top of the NY Times book chart for months.  Furthermore, my reading of Glenn Beck’s book on George Washington turned out to be enjoyable and surprisingly informative, and perhaps the same would happen with O’Reilly’s book, too. 

Although Killing Lincoln was enjoyable reading, it caused me more than once to repeat my initial impulse – namely, why am I reading this book?  As a historical fact, the story could be condensed into a dozen pages or so instead of the 294 pages in this book, and, as a suspense thriller, I knew how the story would end. 

Killing Lincoln contained nothing insightful and provided only sketchy descriptions of the leading characters.  The only noteworthy information in the book was the rumor that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was a part of the conspiracy to kill Lincoln.  I don’t recall Doris Kearns Goodwin mentioning that in her Lincoln book, Team of Rivals, but perhaps I overlooked that tidbit amongst all of the other information that she provided.

In his “A Note to Readers,” O’Reilly says, “I thought I understood the facts and implications of the assassination.  But even though I am a former teacher of history, I had no clue….  You will learn much in these pages, and the experience, I believe, will advance your understanding of our country, and how Lincoln’s murder changed it forever.”  That, I submit, is false advertising.  While O’Reilly’s book provides docu-drama facts concerning the conspiracy, it does nothing to enhance our understanding of America and how Lincoln’s murder changed it.  His vice-president Andrew Johnson is dimly portrayed as a dumb, extremist drunk, but the book ends with the capture of Booth, so we never learn how Reconstruction proceeds under Johnson.  There is no way to understand how Lincoln’s murder changed everything without a discussion of what actually happened.

In the end, Killing Lincoln appears to be nothing more than pabulum churned about by O’Reilly enterprises to fatten his coffers and strengthen his connection with his constituency of viewers.     

 

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