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Mark Stroup


You've nailed this one right on the head. Nifty rhetorical device which I must borrow some time.

sean mcdaniel


all things considered...don't you think there are bigger issue to take the PG and big government to task on?

seriously, you heard about that little conflict going on iraq? or do you think that the terrorists have already won if we give into to government enforced smoke free restaurants?

yeah, i know it's your blog. but after all this back and forth about subsidies, anti-smoking leglislation and the rest, how can you ignore what's really important today (aside from the fact that you're beyond prime military draft age and don't have to worry about fighting the next war in iran)?

i've said it before...i'll subsidies forever, for just about anything...before i let the government send my kids to the middle east (and afghanistan), where american are dying for reasons that seem to be beyond reason or belief.

Sam M


You apparently don't think it is important if Pittsburgh's "paper of record," which fancies itself "One of America's Great Newspapers," adopts pet issues and uses misleading, exaggerated and poorly written editorials to support them. I do think it is important, because I have faith in the power of the press. And I think it is a terrible shame when people abuse that power, especially for something as ridiculous as this.

Keep in mind that in most cases, my posts on the subject merely respond to the PG. They bring it up. So I eagerly await your letter to the editor taking them to task for it.

At the same time, I do see your point about geting all fired up about small issues. I mean, you should have seen this comment I got the other day. It was full of f-bombs and other sorts of vitriol, all because the city's bike paths are made of gravel. Or something like that. Check it out... third one down:


sean mcdaniel

yeah, that was me with the f-bombs. that's what happens from mixing tanqueray and wine.
i thought this room played blue after dark
as for the PG, it's one of america's sillier newspapers. all i know about it is what i read here. not sure what your fascination with it is. probably the same thing that makes me obesses about your musings.

and sam, please do hold your breath on the letter to the PG editor.

sean mcdaniel

sam says that he has "faith in the power of the press" and hates to see that power abused. actually, sam, that power could be a poster child for abuse and neglect. hell, isn't controlling that power one of the reasons many, if not most, newspaper owners are in the business (aside from the pretense of making money)? Do you think the Scaife and McClatchy families really give a damn about any so-called responsible use of power?

as for the frivilous fights the PG takes on, i agree. as i said, i gave up on the PG long ago (and never gave the trib a first look, even when i got it FREE for 13 weeks, twice). The PG is a paper, for sure, a paper tiger. hate to mix allusions and metaphors, but can't you find a better wind mill to tilt at? (sorry for the ending preposition, professor.)

Sam M

The Fourth Estate, like all the others, is far from perfect. But it's the best we got.

Moreover, I have no proble with the Scaifes or the Gores or anyone else buying themselves a mouthpiece. The press has always been that way. Especially on the editorial pages.

And I clearly have no beef with opinion journalism. I used to work for Reason, after all.

I think there is a place for National Review and The Nation and the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and CNN and Fox News, etc.

My probem with the Post-Gazette is that the editorial board seems to be filling its role so poorly. And I don't mean by not agreeing with me. I mean by doing sloppy, sloppy work. By not challenging the editors' opinions in even the most cursory manner. By not even doing basic checks on the facts that back their opinions.

That's not true all the time. But it is on the smoking issue. Which becoes a problem across the board. What other issues do they give short shrift? I just happen to know something about the smoking thing, so I can see when they are talking nonsense about it.

But I am not so current on other topics. Are they pulling the wool over my eyes about some things? I honestly don't know.

Trust is important. Not trust that they see things the way I do. But trust that they will take an honest, open look at things before telling me what to think.

Well, I happen to know that the paper does not do that. At least not across the board.

Which sucks. When they offer an opinion about a hockey arena, can I trust them? Taxes? Developent?

No. No. And no.

They shot their credibility. Not on civil rights or education. On the fact that they don't like smokey bars.

That is a terrible shame.

Seriously, if I was teaching opinion Journalism 101 and student had handed in those editorials about smoking, I would have failed them. Not because they run counter to my opinion, but because they are incomplete, poorly written, poorly reasoned and completely lacking in curiosity.

And that last one...

That last one is a far ore serious charge than dishonesty.

The failure to be curious about ideas... the complete inability to imagine basic counterarguments to your opinions... and the complete unwillingness or inability to counter those counterarguments...

It is simply inexcusable, whether the issue is smoking or the war in Iraq or taxes or development.

It would be inexcusable even in a junior high school newspaper.

sean mcdaniel


just about every newspaper in america — including the new york times and the washington post — bought the WMD and yellow cake "proof" from the Bush administration...and look where things are now. should i not trust the times and the post because they blew their credibility in those areas (which are far more serious than the smoking "smoking gun" that lead to your distrust of the PG) ? or do i give them a pass because now they're trying to mend their ways?

as i said, the power of the press has been long neglected, and in case far more important on the smoking issue.

hey, i think john kerry is dead wrong on the gay marriage issue...and relied on faulty logic to state his case...does that mean i shouldn't trust him on any other issue?

as for the way the PG is written...it sucks...whatever the topic.

sean mcdaniel

as i said, the power of the press has been long neglected, and in case far more important on the smoking issue

what i meant to type is

the power of the press has long been neglected, and in cases far more important than on the smoking issue.

Sam M

I don't think the standard of trust is whether papers (or people) "get it wrong" regarding any issue. I think the standard of trust resides in whether they make a good faith effort to be fair and accurate, and whether they make a good faith effort to consider opposing points of view.

The WMD case was a good example. A lot of really smart and honest people read all the reports, listened to all the arguments and decided that Iraq had WMD. They were wrong. Now, were they duped? Or was everyone wrong? Hard to say across the board. So it's hard to criticize across the board.

But I do think thee are some position in that regard that you CAN criticize. That is, if someone had said, "I have always thought it would be a good idea to get rid of Saddam Hussein. And the WMD reason seems like a good one. Since it agrees with my position, I am going to dismiss any and all counter evidence, accept the reports uncritically and applaud anyone who agrees with me. Moreover, I am going to smear anyone who disagrees as unpatriotic, or insinuate that they are taking money from terrorists."

That is different from what the big papers did in the WMD case. Maybe they made some bad decisions, but they did nothing nearly that egregious. And if they did, they had the common sense to temper their rhetoric.

The PG has shown no such common sense. It has openly smeared everyone who disagrees on the smoking issue, insinuating that the only reason to oppose a smoking ban is money from Big Tobacco. That anyone who opposes a ban actively supports forcing bartenders to flirt with death. It has accepted the claims of government officials without question, even when recognized experts in the field--experts who support tobacco bans--have questioned those very reports.

In fact, Sean, can't you see a lot of parallels here? Wouldn't we have been better off if editors had been more skeptical in the WMD case? As such, isn't it important to take editors to task when they engage in hubris? Isn't it important to call them to account when they indulge their personal preferences? Again, not to make them agree with us, but to challenge them to be good journalists in whatever they cover?

Last, extending your logic, should all newspapers, blogs and magazines stop covering/debating/discussing sports? Surely the war in Iraq is more important than the Steelers.

And what about movie reviews? Surely the war in Iraq is more important than Beer Fest.

What about movies in general? Perhaps some documentaries about the war in Iraq could shed some light on things. Surely it is a terrible waste of time and energy to make any other movies.

The Forbes Fifth Corridor? How can that compare to the War in Iraq? We should strike any stories about it in the paper.

Comics in newspapers? Surely we could use that space for more coverage of the war in Iraq.

New season of the Sopranos? Who could be so callous as to watch that? Haven't you heard? There is a war in Iraq.

Having a beer with friends, reading a novel, or taking a bike ride? Surely our time would be better spent protesting the war in Iraq.

As a matter of fact, following your logic, shouldn't the war in Iraq be the only thing we discuss in any medium, be it movies or television or the family dinner table?

Or does that only apply to this blog?

Fred Mullner

Hear, hear.

John Morris

Extreemism in the defence of liberty is not a vice!!! Boy was that a great line. Or how about "give me liberty or give me death".

To me as a pretty serious libertarian, I see all these issues as connected. The people, who see themselves as devinely entitled to tell people where to smoke are related to those who want to tell them where they can live ( zoning etc.. ) and where they can work and who they can love or what religion they should have. Each erosion of liberty creates the excuse for the next.

It kind of makes me laugh to see people now concerned about Bush now after not saying anything about the vast erosion of liberty that they promoted.

John Morris

Here is a quote from Ayn Rand that hits the nail on the head.

"Observe the nature of today's alleged peace movements. Professing love and concern for the survival of mankind, they keep screaming that... armed force should be abolished as a means of settling disputes among nations, and that war should be outlawed in the name of humanity. Yet these same peace movements do not oppose dictatorships; the political views of their members range through all shades of the statist spectrum, from welfare statism to socialism to fascism to communism. This means that they are opposed to the use of coercion by one nation against another, but not by the government of a nation against its own citizens; it means that they are opposed to the use of force against armed adversaries, but not against the disarmed.

Personally, I consider the initiation and or threat of physical force to only be justified in self defence. That rule extends to my political ethics. If you don't believe that using threats or force to get ones way in ones personal life then why does a different rule apply when one joins a group.

John Morris

Before someone jumps down my throat on this. Here is my opinion as it relates to subsidies as they relate to downtown. Since I will admit to at least considering them in some cases.

first-- I consider the use of all government favors and subsidies to be wrong and distructive. The one reason that i now feel they are in some cases morally justified is as a form of restitution.

The situation is similar to the issue of affirmative action, at least quite a while ago. Affirmative action becomes somewhat justifiable only because of the previous injustice of state enforced slavery and discrimination. Cities in America, have been the victims of barbaric and totally socialistic anti urban policies that are still continuing. It is those policies that makes one at least feel that putting the shoe on the other foot is fair. The whole discusion of mass transit is just to funny. People who drive on completly tax funded roads oppose "subsidies" for mass transit or the railroads. Isn't a 100% subsidy a subsidy?

sean mcdaniel

jesus sam, and i thought you were a one note singer. turns out you got plenty of silly songs to sing. seriously, i don't really give a damn what the city does about smoking. but i do know that second hand smoke makes my clothes and hair stink the next morning and makes my nose feel like it was used as an ashtray and thought my throat feels a little scratchy if i've been hanging out in a smokey bar. maybe that's not scientific evidence, but the reality shows that even a little second hand smoke can cause physical problems like the scratchy throat.you ever notice that?

John Morris

Then, I'm sure you love biking around all the Hummers? How a city this small and an urban area this low growth has managed to achieve such low air quality is a nice trick. I feel like I smoke a pack a day from just breathing on Butler St.

Guess that fits with the other potential slogans

Small town-- Big City smog ( which goes with the small twn Big city taxes.)

sean mcdaniel

actually, i can tell that i've probably passed 2 hummers in all the time i've been riding my bike around here. they really aren't all that plentiful. i imagine that honda civics in this area generate more emissions.

hey john, ever consider the amish life?

and sam, you might notice that j. potts manages to rail at local and national politicians and subsidies, examine issues concerning the war...and talk about the sopranos and more on his blog site. it just seems you're using up a lot of energy and time to whip that anti-smoking horse and subsidies. that's the point.

sean mcdaniel

to J. Morris...

you say..."the people, who see themselves as devinely entitled to tell people where to smoke are related to those who want to tell them where they can live ( zoning etc.. ) and where they can work and who they can love or what religion they should have."

yet, it if were up to you, you'd outlaw the suburbs or make it pretty damn tough for them to live outside the legal limits or a city...or am i misreading you and your distaste for mcmansion residing hummer driving suburbanites?

by the way, the few hummer drivers i've seen in the city don't look like the came from the burbs...if you know what i'm saying.

Sean says:

Scroll down. I write about a lot of stuff. Urban living. Rural living. Environmentalism. Housing. Education. Drinking.

I really don't think that I have anything to add to the discussion about the war in Iraq. For instance, I found the whole Plame/Wilson thing to be fantastically boring. That doesn't mean I don't think it was imortant. I just didn't have anything to say about it. Kind of like sewage treatment plants. I am glad we have experts and all that. But just don't have anything to say about them. I suppose I could just yammer on anyway. But I choose not to.

sean mcdaniel

okay, sam, you spread the content around. i just think the smoking issue is frivilous.

and J. Morris...you're the guy that wants to tell people where they can (or should I say can't) drive and park their cars in downtown...and how they can commute to the city. so please don't start ranting about others dictating where a person can light up.

yeah, sam, i know it all starts with a cigarette...next thing they'll be kicking down doors to haul away the intellectuals to re-education camps. hide your glasses!

sean mcdaniel

please excuse the typos in the previous post.

Sam M

Not to speak for JM, but as I understand his argument,it is more complex than arguing that we should force people to live downtown, or even strongly encourage them through punitive measures.

Rather, he seems to be saying that we ought to stop punishing people for living in cities. And stop incentivizing them, through tax and other structures, to live in the exurbs.

So the parallel would be opposition to policies that actually encourage people to smoke. Which seems like a reasonable position.

As for frivolity, I guess we all have our limits. After all, is it really all that onerous to forbid protest marches downtown? Especially when there is a political convention going on? Is it really all that hard for the protesters to confine themselves to officially designated protest areas?

Well, in point of fact, it's not all that hard for them to do that. And in the end, does it matter? Does anyone expect that the politicians would change their minds if exposed to the sign-carrying masses? I doubt it. So come on. Who cares?

I do. Because the slipery slope is real. And in the case of smoking, we see it not just in the official policy, but in the hubris it breeds. Forget about the Post-Gazette's official position. Look at how they argue. In fact, they don't argue. They don't see any need. They distort and mislead and congratulate themselves for the saving you and I from our fat, stupid selves.

That's dangerous, no matter what the issue. Because it is not just arrogance. It is contempt. For me. For you. And for everyone else.

John Morris

Thanks Sam,

I guess you can speak for me in this case, since I agree.

I think that it's interesting that, that the main "golden age" of urban and small town life in America 1870--- 1940, pretty much coincides with the period that America came closest to having a free market. The "new deal"/ Robert Moses/ Big Millitary/ Big Government period ( which we are still in ) corelates to the growth of sprawl. This leads one to wonder if sprawl as we know it can be deemed a market trend.

It's also facinating that the place ranked at or near the top of the world's list of free market economies has virtually no sprawl. ( Hong Kong )

I also want to say that there is almost nothing that i have said that isn't almost sraight out of Jane Jacobs-- Death Life Of Great American Cities.

John Morris

I think just listing some of the chapter titles from the book makes my point.

The uses of sidewalks: safety

The uses of sidewalks: contact

The uses of city neighborhoods

The need for primary mixed uses

The need for concentration

The need for aged buildings

The need for small blocks

And get this one Sean-- Erosion of Cities or attrician of automobiles.

sean mcdaniel

To John Morris:

My point about cars and parking in cities is that it seems that you feel it's okay to limit auto traffic in the cities (thus limiting a personal freedom) while it's not so great to limit smoking (thus limiting a personal freedom). What's the difference...other that the fact that the auto ban is one that you support?

and by the way, how many times do i have to mention that i don't own a hummer, drive less than 5,000 miles a year and ride my bike about 3,000 to 4,000 miles a year — in the city?

sean mcdaniel

a few threads back J. Morris said this:

Personally, I consider the initiation and or threat of physical force to only be justified in self defence. That rule extends to my political ethics.

Hey, Sam, sounds like he doesn't think bullying is a positive force in politics...of course, frank rizzo threw his weight around too. did you applaud that muscle? i mean, rizzo did wipe out the black panthers in philadelphia, which a lot of citizens there — black and white — appreciated.

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