Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I don't want to brag . . .

Okay, yes I do.

My youngest sister has been trying for a Navy ROTC scholarship, and on Tuesday she got it.

It's $100,000.

Oh yeah. She rocks.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Extreeeeeeemely Light Blogging Notice

Today will be the last day for ergular or semi-regular updates until January; I'm going home for Christmas break, and my parents have dial-up. Don't get me wrong, it's a good connection; it's just slower than I'm used to. Besides, I want to spend my Christmas break with my family, not staring befuddledly at an odd humming box (as my computer-averse sister once described it). Anyway, I'll try to pop in from time to time and catch up a little, but until January 8th, it's going to be sporadic. More than usual, I mean. So go have fun this holiday season. Don't spend Christmas cooped up with your computer, surfing the Internet and never talking to an actual human being. Go spend time with your family. If you don't have a family, crash with one of your friends; I'm sure they'd be willing to share. And I know everybody says this, but don't drink and drive. Heck, just don't drive at all on New Year's Eve. WE make a point of it at my house: No driving around New Year's unless absolutely necessary. The crazies come out early 'round that day. Stupid nine o'clock drunks. Anyway, that's enough of a rant from me. Have a wonderful season, be safe, stay warm and call your mother. Try to get there in person, though. She'll appreciate it. So to my readers out there (all two of you): Until I get back, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

An Announcement

Your attention, please. Attention.

Thank you.

I would like to begin by thanking the makers of Blogger for providing an outlet for so many people to express themselves. Computers are a marvelous tool, and I am not ungrateful for their presence. That said: A computer ate part of my final project last night, and now it's taking forever to burn the rest of it onto a CD. I'm already twenty minutes late, and it's taking its sweet time finishing. I hate computers.

That is all.

Gun Porn

Oh. Heck. Yeah. This is the coolest machine gun I've seen all week. Turn up your speakers, but not too loud--and if you're at work, you may want to wait until you get home to watch this unless you have headphones. It's a little . . . loud.

I like it loud.

What a Twist!

In light of this story, I'm going to link to this story, first brought to my attention by my retired Air Force officer uncle, who sends me these things from time to time. And by time to time I mean twice or thrice a day. It's good stuff, too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Oy, Vey.

News fresh from Iran, and troubling no less: Tampered Iraqi ballots from Iran intercepted and Iran's president denies Holocaust. Again. Keep in mind, this is on top of Iran's rapidly advancing nuclear program. While his Holocaust comments drew censure from France and Germany, Europe (esp. Western Europe) seems largely ineffectual against Ahmadinejad. You'd think they'd have some practice in handling power-mad dictators by now. You'd be wrong.

I'd like to say that I don't understand Europe's fascination with appeasement, but I can't, because I do. The European elites, from what I can see, fall by and large into the "peace at any price" category. If the world was a playground, Iran would demand Old Europe's lunch money and O.E. would gladly fork it over to avoid getting beaten up. America (the popular, rich, successful kid that the others resent) and Israel (the skinny kid with glasses that everyone tries to push around until he gets mad and reveals that he's been taking tae kwon do since he was four)eventually get tired of Iran's shakedowns and beat him up by the flagpole. Old Europe promptly runs to the U.N. (the playground monitor) and says "Teacher, those kids are fighting!" America and Israel get detention for "starting trouble" and Iran, sporting a shiner and split lip, goes back to swiping quarters from the second-graders until he works up the guts to go after Europe again. I'm not sure where New Europe fits into this analogy; probably they're the decent kid who just wants a turn on the swings and, very politely, won't back down until he gets it. China stays in the computer lab during recess, downloading songs off the Internet.

I always find it interesting that the people who want peace at any price are the same ones who get upset if their latte is cold, or if they have to wait in line somewhere. I have to wonder how well they'd hold up under an occupation, especially by a country like Iran. Trust me: they'd lose more than their lunch money.

An Observation

Last week, one of my coworkers at the paper saw me reading something online between working on stories and pages. "Even when you're not reading, you're reading?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "When I was little, my mom took away my books as punishment instead of TV."

He replied, "I heard somewhere that copy editors can't enjoy reading anything."

I immediately knew what he meant: the implication is that if we read something--anything--we'll look for mistakes. And if we're not expressly looking, we'll still notice them. I kinda laughed him off at the time.

Tonight, I realized that it's true. I just now critiqued the on-screen text of a local car commercial. The worst part is, it's not the first time I've done it.

Thank God Christmas break is in just three days. Otherwise, I don't think I'd make it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Weekend Round-up

[This post is mostly for my mom, because she'll want to know this stuff anyway.]

I had a nice weekend.

Friday: I went to a girl's night/lock-in type thing at my church (which is, incidentally, where I live--I have an apartment upstairs). We watched The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which was much less painful than I thought it would be (typical chick-flick: take 1 part romance, 1 part coming-of-age and 1 part dealing-with-issues, stir. Serve with kleenex.) and The Polar Express, which was also less painful than I thought it would be. It got repetitive, though, and the Mick Jagger cameo was a bit much. No, I'm not joking.

Saturday, I went to Metamora ("Matamor" to the locals) with my roommates and one roommate's parents. Aside from a comment from her dad about Jews controlling the media, the day was pretty nice. I did some Christmas shopping (Metamora is a tourist town) and got some Amish cheese to eat with Amish bread. Yummers.

Sunday was Sunday. Nothing more to report here. The Colts won (12-0, baby!).

I don't know if this counts as part of my weekend, but I'm going to put it here anyway. Thursday I mentioned to one of my Creative Writing partners that I was a conservative. He said "You're a conservative?" like he couldn't imagine it. Later he started brainstorming a short story about AIDS (Thursday was AIDS Awareness Day) and came up with the idea of (fairly direct quote here): "A fourteen-year-old girl with AIDS [How does a 14yo kid get AIDS these days, anyway? They screen transfusions.--ed.] who wants to get her braces off before she dies, but no dentist will work on her so she dies with her braces on." When I mentioned that he might be better off setting the story 20 years in the past, he got really animated telling me about how medical personell will refuse to treat AIDS patients on moral grounds. "You know, doctors," here he leaned in really close to me and spoke a little louder (he was very earnest), "conservative doctors . . . " I didn't know what to say except that I hadn't heard of anything like that happening for years. Later it occured to me that I should have looked him in the eye and said "I'm a conservative. I don't eat babies, and I don't worship Hitler. I haven't sold my soul."

I passed him today at the library, and he barely made eye contact and sort of muttered a greeting. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and tell myself that he was thinking about something else when I saw him, but the real test will be how he treats me in class on Tuesday. Of course, at our reading he's going to present a poem that I like to call "I'm a self-righteous pharisee and you're all a bunch of superficial sheep." Oh yeah. Should be interesting.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Oh, Snap.

I just finished my ten-page (minimum) course paper for my media law class. For my topic, I picked the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act's effect on the Internet. Specifically re: blogs. The bottom line was that the BCRA (a.k.a. McCain-Feingold) was so restrictive of free speech that it could stifle political discourse online in the next election cycle. If a blogger's screed for or against a candidate or his position can be considered an "in-kind" donation, bloggers could be punished for simply expressing their views. See, if you make money off your blog, and then you use that money-making space to endorse something, that amounts to a donation in the eyes of McCain-Feingold. That was basically my paper. I've been worried about this ever since I heard about it last year and my fear was that politicians would use this act to silence people they didn't like. Most people I talked to thought I was pretty silly for worrying.

Told you so.

For those of you who don't want to follow the link, here's a quick rundown of the facts:

Two Seattle radio talk hosts had the nerve to say how they felt about an issue and then to offer more than lip service.
Their rants against a gas tax increase, as well as their efforts to raise money and circulate petitions, were determined to be in-kind contributions by a local judge, who recently reaffirmed his earlier ruling.
That meant the radio station had to put a dollar value on what the hosts had said. The estimate of that in-kind contribution of $100,000 of airtime was reported as a campaign donation under state law.
In other words -- in the name of campaign finance "reform" -- free speech no longer is free. If that ruling withstands appeal, especially if it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, it would have profound ramifications for media nationwide.
This issue is about more than two talk hosts who dared to exercise their right of free speech more than they should have, at least according to the government. As with most issues, the devil is in the premise, not the details.
If this ruling is not struck down, anytime anyone in the media (including the Internet) decides to speak out on an issue, it could be considered an in-kind contribution.
And if federal or state election laws limit the amount of money that can be donated to candidates or causes, the mere mention of an opinion could be estimated (by the government) to be worth the maximum dollar amount allowed to be contributed and thereby prohibit any other reference regarding the subject.
Everything will be fair game if the government, federal or state, disapproves of an editorial, talk show or blog.
If this scenario seems ridiculously implausible, think back to the free speech-rationing McCain-Feingold bill that essentially muzzled millions of Americans by placing strict limits on when the public could exercise its right of free speech. This was all in the name of limiting the appearance of undue influence in politics.
See what I mean?

Will this affect me as a blogger? I highly doubt it. This is a free account, for one thing, and unless the government puts a dollar value on my free time, I won't be making any money off it any time soon. I don't even have ads. But it could affect me if the BCRA people start going after the larger blogs, like the ones listed on my blogroll. If they start going down, we could all be in trouble. I'm sure you all remember that it was blogs who brought Dan Rather down last September. If the blogs are gone (or severly hobbled), then who's going to keep an eye on the big media dogs?

Say it with me now: They can have my laptop when they pry it from my COLD! DEAD! HANDS!

Nyah. |:-P

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Book Review: Bernard Goldberg's Arrogance

[I'm trying something new here, so bear with me. -ed.]

Imagine, if you will, a loose confederation of self-appointed officials in charge of disseminating information to the general public. Imagine that the people who run this confederation are so blinded by group-think as to be unteachable. Imagine that this organization penetrates nearly every home in the nation nearly every night, presenting propaganda as accurate, fair news. Except that you don't have to imagine it: shock of shocks, you just have to turn on the TV or pick up the paper. Yep. That's right. The news is biased. Who knew?

Apparently, Bernard Goldberg knew.

In his second book, Arrogance, Goldberg delves deeper into the groupthink culture of news reporting first exposed in his number-one best-seller Bias. While Bias was more academic in nature, Arrogance takes a slightly more rant-a-liscious tone, relying more on anecdotes and the author's personal experience to make its point. Early on, he makes this statement:

"Despite the overwhelming evidence, despite all the examples of bias that were documented in my book and others, despite the surveys that show that large numbers of Americans consider the elite media too liberal, despite all of that, the elites remain in denial. . . . They honestly believe that their views on all sorts of divisive issues are not really controversial--or even liberal."
You see, he explains, when you're surrounded by people who think the same way you do, you're eventually going to see your opinions as centrist (even if they're not). In Bias, he cited the example of a colleague who stated, in all seriousness, that she didn't know a single person who voted for Nixon. This was in 1972. Nixon won forty-nine states in 1972.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the last 50 or so pages, where Goldberg outlines a twelve-step program for getting rid of bias in the news (or at the very least, acknowledging it). From step 1 ("Face Up to the Problem," which contains the classic line "My name is Dan, and I'm a liberal.") to Step 7 ("Don't Stack the Deck") to Steps 11 and 12 ("Expand Your Rolodex" and "Stop Taking It Personally," respectively), Goldberg walks the reader through his ideas of what needs to change in the modern reporting landscape. Step 12 consists of only three lines, but it makes a good point:

Benjamin Franklin said it more than two hundred years ago, and his fellow journalists today need to take his words to heart: "Our critics are our friends, they show us our faults."
Goldberg's meaning is clear: instead of resorting to ad hominem attacks and outright lies to counter criticism, journalists need to be humble and self-evaluating.

Goldberg makes good points, but his tone may--scratch that, will be off-putting for a lot of readers. Goldberg wrote the book as a follow-up to the more sober Bias, and he lets loose a bit more often in this latest tome, calling fellow journalists out on the carpet for their unacknowledged prejudices.

Goldberg's testimony ultimately puts one in mind of the period right before the French Revolution: an elite class, increasingly isolated and introverted, fails to notice the rumblings of revolution until it's too late--and we all know how that turned out. With the rise of companies like Pajamas Media and the help of experienced insiders like Goldberg, hopefully the American people can make taking back the press a bloodless coup. Despite its sometimes grating tone, Arrogance will certainly help it along.