National Public Radio fires Juan Williams

NPR posted to Facebook today that they have fired Juan Williams because of comments he made about Muslims on the Fox network.  What do you think about this?

I love NPR.  I haven’t ever liked Juan Williams that much.  Still, this story surprises me a little.  Williams was on the O’Reilly Show identifying himself as a Fox news contributor (NPR has previously asked him to stop using the NPR name when appearing on the O’Reilly Show) when he said, 

“Look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. . . .But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

However, he “also warned O’Reilly against blaming all Muslims for “extremists,” saying Christians shouldn’t be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh” (NPR).    According to NPR’s facebook link, “Williams’ presence on the largely conservative and often contentious prime-time talk shows of Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives.”  In a statement, NPR said that while Williams’ had made valuable contributions, his remarks Monday night “undermined his credibility as a news analyst.” 

There’s so much to think about here.  First, Juan Williams is no innocent, no deer caught in the headlights.  As a senior journalist, this isn’t someone who should have been surprised by the furor such remarks could raise.  He should have understood that anything he said on the Fox network could potentially affect his position at NPR.  Indeed, he had previously been demoted from staff correspondent to analyst after he took clear public positions (rather than remaining neutral) on policy issues. 

Second, what about the feelings Williams describes?  Williams refers to those “who are in Muslim garb,” people who are “identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims.”  People of faith (and others!) should beware of those who select one religious group or another to demonize.  Demonize:  to make a demon.  But is this what Williams did?  In the remarks I’ve read, Williams didn’t say that Muslims are violent, vicious or evil.  Does that make it okay?  What he did say was that he felt worried, that he got nervous, when people who chose to publicly identify themselves as Muslim got on the plane.  Fear is different from hatred and it is different from mistreatment, but does that make it unobjectionable? Not necessarily.  When is fearing others a problem?  Fearing when we have reason to fear may keep us safe and protect us.  However, irrational fear (irrational in this instance because most Muslims–including those who are easily identified as Muslim–want peace and abhor terrorism) not only makes our own lives unpleasant, it threatens the feared person or group.  Williams didn’t advise mistreating Muslims who identify themselves as Muslim, but fear often precedes mistreatment (see our internment of Japanese Americans during World War II).  We must be careful what we fear because fear is powerful. 

Third, a lot of people share the feelings Williams admitted to.  Many people are scared even if they think it’s wrong (and of course there are also plenty who are frightened and see no problem with that).  I think the interesting question is: What should we expect of people who have these feelings?  Is it okay to be honest?  Discussion can have either of two effects: it can lead irrational fear to evaporate or to intensify.  Although discussion can go both ways, I think we have to optimistically vote for sunshine (by which I mean openness, frankness in discussion) in the hopes that two minds together are less likely to go astray than one.  

This same frankness likely wouldn’t be desirable from the President of the United States.  If the president did fear Muslims, it wouldn’t be helpful for him to make this known or to discuss it.  The president can’t separate from his dual role as both spokesman and opinion leader.  In the absence of a credible threat, discussing his own fear would simply cause problems.  See for example, Vice-President Biden’s comments on plane travel during the H1N1 scare.  Helpful?  No.  

So, is the case of a journalist more like that of ordinary citizens, friends and neighbors, or more like the President of the United States?  Like the president, the journalist has a wider audience than Joe Citizen.  But like Joe Citizen, the journalist is not an opinion driver in the way that the President of the United States is.  When a journalist states a view he is not stating an official position.  With proper disclaimers, his audience need not assume that the views he expresses represent anyone other than himself.  He has only his own arguments and his own credibility to back him up.  That a media outlet gives a journalist a microphone does suggest that that outlet believes him to be serious enough to be worth listening to, and imparts some measure of its credibility to him.  NPR is apparently unwilling to impart its credibility to Williams any longer, because they apparently believe that admitting his fear (or is it having the fear?) undermines his stature as a journalist. 

Although I haven’t seen the O’Reilly factor program, it seems to me that Williams’ honesty about his fear might have actually strengthened his position in citicizing those who blame an entire population for what a few extremists do.  It might provide a space from which to convince others not to let their natural but misguided fear to get away from them and to avoid the conclusions to which a misplaced fear might lead.  Is his admission of fear so serious that this opportunity counts for nothing?   

Fourth, is the real issue neutrality?  Although I want my news outlets to seek fairness, let’s be honest, neutrality is a myth!  Is Williams’ being fired for taking yet another public position (which would be “inconsistent with [NPR] editorial standards”)?  Or is he being fired for what his position was (“[his] remarks undermine his credibility”)?  If he had taken a very liberal position on some public policy issue, could he have gotten away with it?  Perhaps I’m not being fair to my beloved NPR, but I suspect this to be true.  As  Jim Mahon opined in comments on  the NPR blog The two-way, “NPR is as liberal as Fox is conservative.”  Unfortunately, the view from nowhere is no view at all.

Logan’s Mandarin Garden

I visited Cache Valley last weekend.  The #1 best reason to visit Cache Valley is to see my parents.  However, if you have different parents, the #1 best reason to visit Cache Valley is Tiny Spicy Chicken.  This is a review of the Mandarin Garden restaurant in Logan, but I can only comment on one dish: Tiny Spicy Chicken.  I never order anything else.  I read on Urbanspoon that they might have recently changed recipes (!), but it wasn’t true–I enjoyed the same chicken tiny spicy fans have adored for years.  The Mandarin Garden’s menu describes tiny spicy chicken as “deep fried chicken sauteed w/our FAMOUS spicy tangy hot sauce.”  I never thought of it as deep fried until I read that description just now.  Too bad.  Blot that part from your memory.  Don’t think about your health at a time like this!  Unless you live in Logan, you will only be able to indulge a few times a year anyway, so you are safe. 

I am a failure as a blogger because I was unable to get a picture of the Tiny Spicy Chicken for you.  Suffering from technical difficulties, I was eating with people who are unaccustomed to photographing every dish before they touch it, so I had to give up in order to be polite.  But here’s what I want you to imagine: Beautiful, beautiful food.  Food that makes you happy just to look at it.  How can boring bland pale old chicken be beautiful?  How can it be a feast for the eyes as well as the lips and tummy?  I don’t know, but the Mandarin Garden has figured it out.  The problem is, they aren’t telling.  Tiny spicy chicken, with its deep red color, its  just right hint of spiciness (I wouldn’t call it hot), its teasing, tantalizing zing, its perfect texture, can only be had in Logan.  They aren’t giving out the recipe, so you will have to make the drive. 

The best time to eat Tiny Spicy is a weekday lunch–the Mandarin Garden is well-known for its cheap lunch specials.  However, Tiny Spicy for dinner will only set you back $8.50, so don’t skip it just because it isn’t lunch time.  Do skip the dinner combo though, unless you have to have egg drop soup; the lo mein is not inspiring.     

Mandarin Garden

432 N. Main, Logan, UT
(435) 753-5789
Open every day but Sunday

Hours: 11-9:30 p.m (10:30 on Friday and Saturday

Mandarin Garden Restaurant on Urbanspoon

It’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween

Halloween treat: Lizard FabricsIt’s that time of year when expectations (the children’s) are high and I have to keep reminding myself: I don’t sew.  Then I gravely, carefully, explain to my babies that alas, I don’t sew, and that this has important (and likely negative) implications for their costumes.  Still, fanciful notions of many-headed hydras dance in their heads.  For some reason, these sweet babies believe that if you can imagine it, you can build it.  At one point, Duncan (age 6) was going to be a bat and due to my lack of catching the vision, he was going to make the costume all by himself.  All he wanted from me was some scissors, some fabric, and a grant of complete autonomy.  

That crisis averted, I now find that Amelia is in her last year of trick or treating and hoping for a costume whose awesomeness is equal to the weighty importance of that graduation.  Even holiday scrooge Moms (that would be me) can get sucked in by things like this.  I won’t list here the various holiday things I don’t do and how my children pine for them (or miss out on them with no idea of what they’re missing, as the case may be), but trust me, costumes are the Achilles’ heel of my cold Scrooge heart.  At breakfast the other day I found myself listing the various things Amelia has been for Halloween over the years: a clown, a raccoon, a flower garden, an elephant, Cinderella, a voting booth, a cave girl, Alice in Wonderland, and now ???  They are all sweet memories–possibly with the exception of the storebought Cinderella dress.  That wasn’t special.  [This is, of course, not a judgment on the Cinderella dress you bought for your daughter--just as you don't judge me for my lack of wreaths, Santas and Easter Bunnies, right?  We all need to find special traditions for our own families but we don't all need to find the same traditions special].  

I love looking at the pictures of our past Halloweens and reflecting on why we settled on the costumes we did and how we pulled them off.  I even enjoy some knowledge gained from experience.  Namely: 1. Costumes that feature sweats (e.g., flower garden or elephant) are warm and comfy.  2. Costumes built around boxes (e.g., voting booth) are uncomfortable and difficult to trick or treat in.  Now that it is past, I consider the travail that brought each costume forth fondly.  That is why I embrace the costume challenge despite my lack of skill.  Experience suggests it might all work out in the end anyway, and if prior results are a predictor of future returns, it might even be a lot of fun. 

So: it is beginning to look a lot like Halloween at my house.  The madly optimistic purchasing of supplies is almost at an end (surely Stitch Witchery will compensate for my lack of skills, and if I buy three different types of glues one of them will surely successfully bond styrofoam cones to fabric–right?) [ Lis saves money making homemade costumes. I spend it.]  The anxious, yet thrilling!, spray painting, cutting, gluing, and assembly is just beginning.  Don’t worry.  If our ambitions fail, I have an awesome spider costume back-up plan.  A request: if you happen to see Amelia this week, could you spare a few words in praise of spiders?

Halloween sewing cheats

Nice reply from The Chocolate

Check out the friendly, thoughtful reply from the owners of The Chocolate to the post and comments below.  It is always good to remember that businesses big and small, good and bad, are populated by real people with lives, hopes, and crushable dreams.  The nice thing is that for most businesses like The Chocolate, win, win is possible: make your customers happy, make yourself happy (in terms of business success).

The Chocolate: Slipping?

Photo of The Chocolate Caramel by Jonathan Canlas, from The Chocolate's blog

When I first visited The Chocolate, I loved it.  During recent visits though, a few things have bothered me: dirty carpets, a dirty drinking glass, and good, rather than fantastic, desserts.  (But the chocolate cupcakes with caramel frosting are an exception.  They are fantastic!  I sure wish I could figure out how to copy that frosting!)  On the other hand: I still love, love, love the concept.  Some reviewers complain that The Chocolate is expensive.  Hogwash, I say.  It may be expensive if you are buying dozens of cupcakes or a whole cake to go.  But that’s not why I like the Chocolate.  The Chocolate is a destination.  Compare taking a friend, child, or date to The Chocolate vs. a restaurant.  The Chocolate is cheap!  It is wonderful to have a place to go that feels a little bit elegant for a special treat that costs very little.  As I said, The Chocolate  is a great idea.  I love the building they put it in and I love the beautiful colors.  I love the music they play.  Some reviewers have said that the service is not good.  While I have occasionally experienced slow service or have had to stand in line, I have no complaints.  The workers have never been rude, and I go to The Chocolate when I want to relax.  I’m not in a hurry, so waiting a few minutes is not a big deal.   

I will continue to give The Chocolate second chances because I like the concept so much.  I really want them to get it right.  The Chocolate: I beg you: if you haven’t already, please wash or replace your carpets!  Never allow anything but the most scrupulously clean glass to leave your kitchen. I want to adore you. Please make it easy!

The Chocolate, a Dessert Cafe on Urbanspoon

Balky 3 yr old advice, anyone?

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Sweet Kate as Monster

How do you decide when to push your child to learn an essential life skill and when to stand back and let him find his own timing?  Although I have my generally wonderful 3 1/2 yr old in mind, this question arises for all sorts of ages and stages.  Is it appropriate to insist that a driving-phobic 16 year old practice driving?  Should a 6 yr old practice reading whether he is opposed to it or not?  Should a 5 year old be forced to wear tie shoes and practice tying them when she specifically states a preference for  velcro?  Should a 2 1/2 yr old be made to toilet train?  (Is it possible?!)  Does it vary from child to child or situation to situation?  What does it depend on?  Have you insisted that a child learn something and had it backfire on you?  What about the reverse: do you have any regrets that you weren’t the insistent parental authority your child needed? 

There are two things Kate doesn’t want to practice right now.  She won’t practice saying the “ST” sound (as in stop, stairs, star, etc) at speech and she refuses to try to write the first letter of her name at preschool.  Is it silly to worry about this?  Is it better to let it go?  What does it depend on?

Beware coincidence!

Netizens beware: It is a small world after all.  The strangest thing happened to me this morning.  As is my (bad) habit, I was doing some early-morning blog reading when I came across a truly startling photo.  My friend related that her family had seen a rainbow while on a drive.  She pointed out the left side and then asked where the other side had gone.  Her husband humorously replied, “Oh, you always think there’s two sides to every rainbow.”   Funny, huh?  Well, not nearly so funny to me as the photo she posted to illustrate the reported conversation.  There was a photo of a rainbow ending at . . . my house?!!! 

To understand why this is bizarre, you need to know that although we both now live in Utah County, I haven’t visited her home since she lived in Berkeley, CA  about a decade ago!  I don’t think she has ever been to my home either here or in Berkeley.  Apparently, she snapped the photo because she loves rainbows, but she had no idea that it was my home.  So,  we are Facebook and e-mail friends, yes, live at most a  few miles from each other, yes, but real-life house visiting friends? well–not yet.  (I’m  not opposed.  I’m  a regular reader of My Imaginary Blog because her children are beautiful, charming, and witty.  Not to mention Zina herself). 

So, er, if you are going to post pictures of someone else’s house, car, child etc., I recommend including with it a rainbow , a unicorn, or a puppy dog, NOT  disparaging remarks, because you know, it is a small world after all.

PSA: Hand-me-downs

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Do you have hand-me-downs stored away for a younger child? Could it be time to try them on again?  I was surprised to find that although Kate had been wearing belly-button baring shirts for a while, she actually had a substantial wardrobe at the ready. Oops.  Better late than never though–at least she hadn’t outgrown much of it yet.  While my reasons for saving some obviously unattractive things were mysterious, I found several things I really liked.  I’m glad that I passed on the Christmas dresses at the store–what was in the box was better!

White Collar

Thanks to Hulu and Netflix I have discovered a TV show I really like.  The premise is that con man Neal Caffrey persuades the FBI agent who captures him (Peter Burke) to allow him to stay out of prison.  Caffrey dons a tracking anklet with a two mile radius and becomes a special consultant, helping Burke and the FBI to crack their toughest white collar cases.   

Suspension of disbelief is crucial to enjoying the show.  Caffrey’s expertise in the world of white collar crime is Macgyver-like in its perfection.  Caffrey and Burke always succeed and they make it look effortless every time.  Once you manage to suspend your disbelief, however, watching them bring down the bad guys is 40 minutes’ leisure’s great pleasure.  

One thing I appreciate about this show is how clean it is.  Because of its white collar crime focus, the violence, gore and disturbing subject matter that characterize so many crime shows is left behind.  Women will love this show.  Neal Caffrey is undeniably pleasant to watch, but also the women in the show are smart, beautiful, and important.  Agent Burke’s marriage receives a surprising amount of screentime.  Peter loves his wife Elizabeth.  He goes to her for advice and a listening ear, and is always seeking new ways to please her.  They have a stable, loving, long-term marriage–far too rare on television.  Neal is not a different story on this front.  Although he is a huge flirt, the overarching plot in seasons 1 and 2 is driven by his devotion to Kate and his desire to get her back.

White Collar will resume its first-run episodes on the USA network next January, but until then, there’s always Hulu and Netflix!

Little Purple Pansies

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Pansies: plant now!  According to the Temple Square Gardening book, October Conference is the perfect time to plant pansies.  They don’t mind the cold and snow.  Despite their name, pansies are tough. By the time spring comes around their winter root growth makes for great flowering–so much better than if you’d waited for spring to plant.  I tried it two years ago and couldn’t believe how huge and wonderful my pansies were as a result.   Sadly, last year I didn’t get organized in time.  This summer I found myself raving to my mother about how great my winter-grown pansies had been, and suddenly I realized: why don’t I plan when I will buy them and when I will plant them now?  Surprisingly, that worked!  Our pansies went in, per plan, last week.   I’ll be putting pansy planting on my calendar from now on!

P.S.  What do you call a husband whose wife buys $40+ of pansies and (because she is suddenly ill) then plants them all by himself?  Saint Pdad.  Thanks sweetheart!

P.P.S.  I always plant purple pansies.  Purple flowers are my passion (judging from the yard at least) but I think it may also have to do with early indoctrination from the primary song:

Little purple pansies touched with yellow gold/growing in one corner of the garden old/We are very tiny but must try, try, try/Just one spot to gladden, you and I