Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Will the Real John Edwards Please Stand Up? Probably Not

John Edwards seemed a little greasy in the 2004 election, but these days he makes the performance three years ago look positively principled and decent.

Everybody knew that Edwards made his fortune as an ambulance chasing plaintiff attorney, and his pleadings on behalf of the country’s poor came across as a shallow effort, but the once and present candidate either isn’t a quick study, and didn’t learn anything on that score, or he figures that people really don’t care about such things.

But some of us do care about things like hypocrisy, and John Edwards seems up to his neck in it. Edwards’ poverty center was up and running during the 2004 campaign, and that seems appropriate for someone who claims to want to help the poor, right? Business Week magazine tells us, however, that the center was housed in the same office as his political action committee. Convenient, eh? What’s more, the nonprofit center reportedly spent an astounding 70 percent of the money it raised for the poor to fund a speaking tour for Edwards, and on staff salaries for folks who, it turns out, not long thereafter signed on with the Edwards presidential campaign. Real nonprofit organizations operate on a fraction of their funding, rather than on most of it, and real nonprofits don’t funnel employees to political campaigns.

Edwards gave a speech a few days ago at the University of California, Davis, titled, "Poverty, the Great Moral Issue Facing America." So, Edwards continues his work to help the poor, right? Maybe not. News reports tell us that he received $55,000 for the appearance, and that the poor students who attended were charged more than $17 a ticket.

Further, during the 2004 presidential campaign Edwards told us of his humble beginnings in a little house he grew up in that was all his mill worker father could afford. Once again, however, the truth is a different story than the one Edwards tells. Yes, he did live in that little house, until he was a year old. After that, mom and dad and Johnny found themselves movin’ on up, thanks to his father’s promotion to a management position and enough of an increase in income to keep the Edwards forever above the poverty line. Funny, we didn’t hear about that in the campaign ads. Now, John and Mrs. Edwards tough it out in a 28,000-square-foot house with six bathrooms and ignore the poor folks in the mobile home park across the street as they pass by.

So much for John Edwards, the politician and hustler, whose pandering to the poor has shown him as unfit to be President of the United States. But as tawdry as his poverty pimping is, that’s not the worst of it. Just last week Edwards gave a major foreign policy speech in which he labeled the war on terror a bumper sticker slogan. With this absurdity John Edwards separates himself from reality. Not only is Islamic terrorism a very real threat to his country, but he seems to have forgotten how adamantly he supported the war on terror in 2004, when he complained that the Iraq war was distracting us from fighting terrorism.

Seems like the overriding concern in what John Edwards really stands for is how many votes it will get him. That isn’t unusual in politics, even in presidential politics, but those aren’t the people we want to elect.

So we should bid John Edwards a fond a swift farewell from the political arena. He doesn’t have what it takes.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

An Interesting Column I Found While Surfing

I came across the following piece while surfing blogs, and thought I would pass it along to those who might also find it interesting. It is from My View from the Center, the webmaster of which identifies himself as "whymrhymer" (although he does have a real name).As usual, comments are welcomed:

Pick Your Poison: Ron Paul

When Ron Paul uttered his rationale for the 9/11 attack on the U.S. (”They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.”) it may have woke up some Americans to the possibility that our country has done some very ill-considered things in the name of ‘making the world a better place.’ Some people, however, refuse to wake up! Look, for instance, at Rudy Giuliani’s reaction to Ron Paul’s statement: ” I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.” And, as unlikely as it seems, that may be the truth! Who, in Giuliani’s circle of friends and supporters, would even consider that saving the world from itself was not the correct thing to do and who among them would ever believe that someone could hate you and attack you for doing the right thing?

As I see it, Ron Paul is at least partially right; one of the basic principles of how the world works is: Every “good” act will be perceived as bad by someone!; but he is wrong to completely ignore the social, political and religious aspects of that hatred. In any event, creating an enemy is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you create enemies you must be prepared to deal with them.

Keep in mind that some things MUST be done in the name of survival and America’s involvement in the Middle-East just may have been one of those things. No one outside the ‘circle of power’ in the White House knows for sure but I’ve always assumed that we (the U.S. Government) had a very sound, strategic, survival-related reason for our active involvement in Middle-Eastern politics and I also assume that one day, when some dead politician’s memoirs are published, we will find out what that reason REALLY was. You can be sure, however, that whatever the reason we went into Iraq, we didn’t go into Iraq with a clear understanding of the consequences (the cost and the number of U.S. casualties).

Now Forget What You Just Read! It’s Not Relevant!

What IS . . . IS!

Today, it doesn’t matter WHY we got involved in the Middle-Eastern mess, all that matters is that WE ARE THERE and we have to take a next step.

Pick Your Poison!

In the very unlikely event that Ron Paul became president in 2009, assuming he sticks to his current ’script,’ we will probably see a massive troop withdrawal from around the world. It is not likely we will go completely ‘isolationist. i.e., close all overseas military bases and completely abandon close allies, but you can be sure we will be out of the Middle-East and other war zones.

If one of the leading Democrats takes office in 2009 the result will be pretty much the same except that our withdrawal of troops will be limited, at least initially, to Iraq.

If one of the Republican front-runners becomes president we may stay in Iraq until the Iraqi government and military are strong enough to survive without us or, depending on which Republican wins, we may see a similar scenario as we would see under the Democrats.

Personally, I believe that, for our own safety and survival, the radical Islamist movement must be destroyed — IF we can do that without fighting them in Iraq, we must do it; IF it takes another five or ten years to do it, we must do it; IF we can do it diplomatically, without open warfare, we must do it — I’m not a military tactician but I know that however it can be done it MUST be done, simply because we cannot coexist with people who feel that they have an edict from their God to destroy everyone who does not worship as they do and we MUST elect a president that understands that!!

While picking your poison however, don’t forget that the United States has other very serious problems besides the Middle-East. We have a government that is spending OUR money at an alarming rate; an income tax system that is too large, too complex and too inefficient; government regulations that strangle the free-market; existing and proposed legislation that puts the government smack in the middle of our private lives and personal business; and, of course, a still-unimpeded invasion of illegal immigrants who are, according to current plans, going to be allowed to continue draining our economy and destroying our culture.

Which of the current crop of candidates for President is likely to correct some or most of these domestic problems and still focus on the major international threat to our safety?

If the election was tomorrow, I would have to say that Ron Paul had the best chance of meeting that challenge . . . but I’m glad the election isn’t tomorrow . . . that I still have nearly 18 months to pick my own brand of poison.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Venezuelan Troops Fire On Protesters

Hugo Chavez, the socialist Venezuelan president so beloved by such Americans as actor Danny Glover and one-time singer Harry Belafonte, and whose big mouth and dearth of good sense has earned him the scorn of every decent American, is in trouble with his own subjects over the shutting down of the country’s only dissident TV station, RCTV, the most popular station in the country. And Chavez, ever the demagogue, explains that he took this action because he wants to democratize the airwaves by turning the network's signal over to “public use.”

Venezuelan National Guard troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of thousands of protesters angry over the shutting down of RCTV, which was critical of Chavez’ government. Recent reports say one person has died in the protests. Crowds of students demonstrated across Caracas, saying they fear for the future of free speech.

Maybe the students are right; none of the other TV stations in Venezuela carried news of the protests.

Chavez refused to renew RCTV's broadcast license because of its "subversive" activities and for backing a coup against him in 2002. The replacement public channel, TVES, launched its transmissions immediately after RCTV was shut down with pro-Chavez music, followed by an exercise program and a talk show, interspersed with government ads proclaiming, "Now Venezuela belongs to everyone."

Founded in 1953, RCTV regularly topped viewer ratings with its talk shows, sports, soap operas and comedy programs. But Chavez accused the network of helping to incite a failed coup in 2002, violating broadcast laws and "poisoning" Venezuelans with programming that promoted capitalism. RCTV's managers deny wrongdoing.

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Fred Thompson Remembers

To many, Memorial Day is just a day off work, or a day to laze around, or maybe work around the house and yard, or to get together with family and friends and grill out. But, of course, it's really about something more substantive, as actor and presidential candidate Fred Thompson notes:

"... Memorial Day is about remembering. It’s about remembering those who died for our country; but it's also about remembering why they believed it was worth dying for. Too many Americans, though, have never been taught our own history and heritage. How can you remember something that you’ve never learned?"

He's right. Too many people don't understand the heritage they have been born into, or that they adopted when they came here from another country. They don't know why the United States is such a great nation, even with all its attendant problems. They haven't learned the lesson of Pearl Harbor and, amazingly, they didn't learn the lesson of 9-11.

Our country has lost its unity, and is seriously, perhaps fatally divided. Maybe today will help draw us back together, as we honor the memory of all those that through the decades have given their lives to create and maintain our freedoms, and remember all of the good things about our country that are worth maintaining.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pap as News

I have to tell you that my patience is wearing thin with Fox News, due to the mindless pap I see too much of on the news channel.

Entertainment reporter (a contradiction in terms?) Bill McCuddy laments the effects Lindsay Lohan’s infantile behavior has on his young daughter, a very real concern, to be sure. But, Bill, do you not realize that people like you, who report on the entertainment industry, and networks like Fox News, that air this garbage hours every day, are the reason this self-absorbed, under-aged, semi-talented girl has the opportunity to affect young girls? And Fox News is not the only network guilty of indulging in this dishonorable activity.

I’m sick of hearing about Lohan/Spears/Hilton and their self-destructive behavior, and I’m sick generally of the degree to which our culture immerses itself in crap like this. Too much news of the entertainment industry and its many miscreants distracts our attention from truly important things, and occupies far too much valuable air time.

Please, for God’s sake, news networks, climb out of the gutter and limit the news to things that are worthy of my time.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Continuing the Creation/Evolution Discussion

What follows is a continuation of the previous article, Creation Museum Stirs Scientists’ Opposition, and is based upon a comment by Leo, a new commenter to Observations, which poses a thoughtful challenge to my original post. I chose to make the following exchange an article of its own because I think it will be interesting reading, and because it might have been “lost” if left in the Comment section. Leo’s comment has been slightly edited, and the unedited comment can be found among the comments to the original article.

Leo's Comment: I have a question for you, if you believe religious ideas of creationism are correct and you have faith in those ideas why attempt to falsely couch them behind the guise of science?

In other words, there are plenty of churches and Sunday schools where religious people are FREE to teach their children any theory of creationism they desire, so why would religious people feel the need to open a "museum" which is historically an arena reserved for purely intellectual/factual/secular teaching???

The only logical answer to this question that I can think of is that the said religious people wish to present their beliefs in a secular/factual type of setting in order to convey a false presumption that their beliefs are not based on faith, but on fact, which is backed up by science. In my opinion this is the same reason that some religious people want to tout "intelligent design" as a science instead of what it is, which is a purely faith based opinion/theory.

I'm sure you will not particularly enjoy my point of view on this subject, but before you jump to the conclusion that I'm some sort of atheist, I'll let you know I'm actually a weekly church-goer who has enough faith in my religious beliefs to feel comfortable continuing to use the mind God gave me to reason, and allow that while God created the universe there is plenty of evidence that evolution is factual and the Bible does not have to be taken completely literally when it comes to the seven-day time frame.

I think there is room in one's mind to believe that science and religion do not have to be diametrically opposed.

Response: First, it isn’t clear from your first sentence whether “you” refers to me, or whether it refers more broadly to believers. I frequently take science and scientists to task for its/their dismissive attitude toward people who believe in God, and quite frequently I am identified as someone who is a believer defending the position of believers. However, I actually am neutral in these arguments. This labeling of me as a believer with no more proof than a neutral argument is evidence, I believe, of the pro-science/anti-religion arrogance of many scientists and science advocates, and a hypersensitivity and hyper-defensiveness about their theory. Truth be told: I see the Big Bang/evolution theory and the Biblical account as compatible stories, not as mutually exclusive accounts in which one is right and one is wrong.

I haven’t seen the Creation Museum, so I cannot comment on whether or not it attempts portray religion as science, but I have to disagree with your characterization of museums as vehicles of “purely intellectual/factual/secular teaching,” as there are numerous types of museums: Museums of art, music, history, science, natural history, broadcasting, etc. I doubt that all of these are scientifically oriented, and the definitions of “museum” do not indicate this as a required characteristic. Therefore, the Creation Museum may be no more than a place where exhibits have been created to represent in concrete form the concepts portrayed in the Bible.

A couple of definitions of “museum”:

1 - A building or place where works of art, scientific specimens, or other objects of permanent value are kept and displayed. (

2 - A museum is a "permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education, enjoyment, the tangible and intangible evidence of people and their environment" (ICOM definition).

As for intelligent design, it is not a new theory, having its origins hundreds of years before Charles Darwin was born, so I do not regard it as some recent effort to “legitimize” a God-centered view of creation by trying to make a science out of it. Instead, I see it as a third view of how things began that, while centered on an intelligent being—a supernatural creator—that some regard as God, represents a view as different from the creationist story as it is from the evolution story.

So, I maintain my position that science, for whatever reason or set of reasons, desires to stifle the efforts of religious people to advance their beliefs in an arena outside the traditional, and limited, arenas of churches and religion-oriented schools and media.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Creation Museum Stirs Scientists’ Opposition

The argument between science and religion has raged for a long time, and it rages still. How did the world begin? How did man come to be? Science tells one story; religion tells another. The science version of things is taught in schools, public and private; the religious version is not taught in public schools. Hundreds of museums tell science’s version to the public, but no museums tell the public religion’s version. Where interaction with the general public and children is concerned, science has a big advantage, as people are routinely presented with the scientific story in compulsory schooling and in routine public activities, but they must actively seek out the religious version by attending church or a church-sponsored school, or through other means. So, with such a great advantage on their side, you might think scientists would pay little attention when one museum based upon the creation story sets to open. You would be wrong.

A Creation Museum, the first in the United States, is set to open this weekend in Northern Kentucky, and scientists have reacted negatively toward this project. The Museum presents the literal Biblical story of a six-day creation of the universe, and is the product of Ken Ham, the head of Answers in Genesis, and who arrived in Northern Kentucky from Australia in 1994 with dreams of building the Museum. "We admit that in this place, our bias, our starting point, is the Bible," Ham says. The Bible, he said, "is the word of God, who knows everything." His organization rejects one of the cornerstones of modern science - the theory of evolution, a key tenet of which is that all life on Earth descended from a common ancestor, a process that happened over billions of years.

Scientists are apoplectic: Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said, "Everything science has taught us over the course of the last 200 years teaches us that this kind of literal, biblical, creationist notion is misguided at best, and just plain false at worst." "When they try to confuse (kids) about what is science and what isn't science, scientists have an obligation to speak out," said author and Case Western Reserve University physics professor Lawrence Krauss. "There's no doubt these are documented lies."

Ham noted that the vast majority of natural history museums and textbooks available to students are devoted to teaching evolution, "and they're worried about one creation museum? I think they're really concerned that we're going to get information out that they don't want people to hear."

"We're not talking about free speech. We would not protest the museum," Leshner said. "However, we are concerned that we not mislead young people inadvertently or intentionally about what science is showing."

Leshner makes one critical mistake: He operates from the position that the museum attempts to falsely portray a scientific theory, when in fact the museum is presenting a contrary theory to that of science. Leshner further appears to possess the arrogance that many scientists and science advocates possess, which results in a closed-minded belief that science is always right and every other theory is wrong. The fact is that even though evolutionary theory is widely accepted and believed true by a large number of people, it is incomplete; there are cavernous gaps in the theory that must be filled in for evolution to be an accurate and provable explanation for how things came to be as they are.

Scientists often gleefully ridicule religious adherents for hanging their beliefs on faith rather than fact, as if faith is inferior. Yet, being unable to prove their own theory of creation, scientists also are guilty of relying on faith.

The scientific community is indeed attempting to limit the free expression of people like Ken Ham. Perhaps this arises from arrogance, as I suggested earlier, or perhaps it arises from insecurity in the theory of evolution. It must be very frustrating for scientists to believe that their theory is correct, but be unable to prove it. But the upshot of all of this is that science is either correct in asserting evolution as the correct explanation of creation, or it is mistaken, and science is unable to prove absolutely that evolution is the correct explanation. So, objectively, the best science can claim is that evolution may be the correct explanation, and that is essentially the same argument that those who believe in God or a supreme being make.

So, if science and scientists are the objective truth-seekers they claim to be, they ought to abandon this humiliating effort to stifle contrary opinions.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Don't Think Press Bias Exists?

Here is but one of a multitude of examples of press bias in today's media, contained in a story by Associated Press Writer Deb Reichmann:

"President Bush, trying to defend his war strategy, declassified intelligence Tuesday asserting that Osama bin Laden ordered a top lieutenant in early 2005to form a terrorist cell that would conduct attacks outside Iraq — and that the United States should be the top target."

Just in case you didn't notice the bias, it was the phrase "trying to defend his war strategy," and the use of the term "asserting." That phrase and that word are not legitimate parts of a properly written news story; the phrase is the opinion of the writer, and the term is a loaded one, intended to give credence to the opinion.

Consider the sentence without those elements: "President Bush declassified intelligence Tuesday indicating that Osama bin Laden ordered a top lieutenant in early 2005 to form a terrorist cell that would conduct attacks outside Iraq — and that the United States should be the top target." That is a politically neutral and factual statement.

News stories should include nothing more than verifiable facts and information, and leave the consumers to determine for themselves what the information means. Was President Bush really "trying to defend his war strategy," by "asserting" that bin Laden did this or that, or was he merely making public information relevant to the issue of terrorist activity? Ms. Reichmann relieves readers of the responsibility of answering that question by telling them the answer: "Mr. Bush was trying to justify the Iraq war, and don't you dare think otherwise." Having delivered that message in the first sentence of the story, Ms. Reichmann has set the stage for readers to accept her premise that Mr. Bush is propagandizing the American people.

Now, Mr. Bush may indeed be attempting to sway public opinion to his way of thinking, and in fact I would be surprised to find that he wasn't. But if he is, it is not the job of a mere reporter to decide that for the rest of us, and both Ms. Reichmann and her editors are supposed to know better.

It would be perfectly acceptable, even responsible, for Ms. Reichmann to offer a contrary opinion from a legitimate source—a Democrat Congressman or Senator, say—and leave it to the consumers of her report to decide which side of the story they believe.

Doing that, however, may not produce the reaction that liberals in the media want, so dishonest reporters like Ms. Reichmann stack the deck in their favor by slanting the reporting. And if you think that there aren't many Americans who would be taken in by this tactic, you are flat wrong.

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Petition in Opposition to Amnesty for Illegal Aliens

Please read the petition below, and if you agree and want to sign it, go here.

To: The US Congress

We the undersigned, citizens of the United States, petition the US Congress to reject any immigration bill that offers amnesty or otherwise rewards people for illegal behavior.

The United States of America is a sovereign nation of diverse cultures living in relative harmony and producing some of the greatest gifts to the world. This nation, while criticized by some, is a beacon of hope for millions of people around the world who risk their lives and their life's savings for the opportunity of a better existence. No where on this planet is there a better place to live where people enjoy freedoms unimagined in most of the world.

This nation was founded and built by immigrants who came here legally in hope of a better future. Those immigrants, inspired by the freedom of this nation and unbridled by oppression helped make this upstart country become the leader of the free world in a fraction of the time that many nations have existed. In just over 200 years America has shown what people who are truly free can accomplish.

This nation is at a crossroad and the actions of the Congress will likely determine whether or not America will continue to thrive. Illegal immigration tears the very fabric of our society and destroys us from within.

Therefore, we demand that the Congress of the United States reject any immigration bill that grants amnesty or rewards illegal behavior. We demand that immigration laws be changed so that the law enforcement of individual states may protect their state's sovereignty by enforcing the immigration law. We recognize that proper enforcement begins with a secure border and therefore demand that the Congress enact laws that require the closure of the southern border of our country by means of a wall and provide appropriate means to do so as well as appropriate measures to secure the remaining borders.

Be it known that the below signed individuals, being citizens of the United States, vow to reject the reelection of any member of Congress, regardless of party affiliation, who votes to allow those here illegally to stay or be otherwise rewarded for their behavior.

One of the greatest gifts a person in America can have is the title of citizen. Do not cheapen this honor by selling that designation for political gain.


The Undersigned

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Berger the Burgler Makes News

News Item: “Clinton White House National Security Adviser Samuel Berger, who was convicted of taking classified terrorism documents from the National Archives, has agreed to surrender his license to practice law. In a written statement issued by his attorney, Larry Breuer, Berger, 61, said: ‘I have decided to voluntarily relinquish my license. While I derived great satisfaction from years of practicing law, I have not done so for 15 years and do not envision returning to the profession. I am very sorry for what I did, and I deeply apologize.’”

“Agreed to surrender” his law license? What’s that all about? And don’t you just love the apology? Notice he doesn’t apologize for pilfering irreplaceable documents from the National Archives by stuffing them in his pants until after he says, in effect, “Oh, well, I don’t need a law license any more, so I don’t mind giving it up?”

What a schmuck!

Berger's "punishment" was a pittance of a fine—although $50,000 sounds big, it didn’t put a strain on Berger’s finances—former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin has been financially ruined and sentenced to 12 and a half years for passing along far less-classified information to unauthorized third parties. I won’t bore you with tales of the inequities of the press coverage of these two cases, but take my word on it, Berger got a pass.

Berger ought to have had his license taken from him, and be in jail, to boot.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

On The Road Again

We left South Florida this morning headed back to the beautiful mountains of Virginia and I emerged from the darkness of my partial estrangement from the Internet. After we stopped for the night I learned three interesting things that I hadn’t seen on TV news, first that “megastar” Leonardo DiCaprio not only believes Al Gore’s picture of reality re: global warming, but Leo also has committed his ideas to film, as his hero Al did.

Well that seals it: If both Al and Leo think man causes global warming, it must be true.

While I think that both the actor and the politician have no clue what they are talking about, I do at least give them credit for having the courage of their convictions, although these days it takes little courage to advocate for the man-causes-global-warming theory.

The second interesting thing is that Internet censorship is growing worldwide, and 26 out of 40 countries block or filter political or social content.

The OpenNet Initiative listed six countries as "pervasive" filterers of political information: Myanmar, China, Iran, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam. They categorized seven countries, all of them Muslim, as "pervasive" social filterers: Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

What do you suppose the misleaders of these countries fear from unfiltered Internet viewing by their subjects?

And finally I read that former President Jimmy Carter says President Bush's administration is "the worst in history" in international relations, criticizing Bush’s pre-emptive war and his Middle East diplomacy. The criticism from Carter also included Bush's environmental policies and the administration's "quite disturbing" faith-based initiative funding.

It is easy to understand Carter’s motivation, after all, he is almost universally regarded as the worst president in nearly every category in the modern era, and anything he can do to shift some of that heavy load elsewhere no doubt has great appeal to him. But I expected a former President of the United States to have more grace than that. And then I remembered that it is Jimmy Carter that we are talking about.

Well, starting sometime tomorrow I’ll be back home and back to, hopefully, an atmosphere that will allow me to get back to conducting blog business like I prefer to do it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Great Read

Determined while on vacation in South Florida to read what I expected to be a fascinating book, I set out reading Eric Burns’ Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism even before we left last week, and it is proving to be a great choice. Burns is the host of Fox News Channel’s “Fox News Watch,” a weekend program I have watched as often as I can since FNC was added to our cable system a couple of years ago, and which I enjoy because it analyzes the modern media, a force in American life badly needing critical analysis.

FNW’s cast includes, in addition to Burns, four journalists that pretty much span the ideological spectrum from Left to Right representing various walks of journalistic life, and includes: Jane Hall, a moderate Left educator; Neil Gabler, a solid Left media critic; and columnists Jim Pinkerton (moderate Right) and Cal Thomas (solid Right). Burns moderates sometimes-spirited discussions of the way print and broadcast media handle events and issues of the day, and it is, as Fox News advertises, fair and balanced. Although you get a sense of Burns’ writing style from his spoken words, he is much more elegant in print than FNW allows him to be.

Infamous Scribblers is a substantial book, more than 400 pages, plus copious notes and the bibliography. My progress has been slow, so far, given the realities of vacationing in a place with so many distractions accompanied by a wife and three people 21 years of age and younger. I am barely one-fifth of the way through it.

Infamous Scribblers is not my first foray into the origins of journalism; that came about when I began pursuing a masters degree in communications, a goal I abandoned when the opportunity to publish a newspaper came along. Nevertheless, Burns has added substance to the sketchy beginnings of American news journalism I had studied: It was a ponderously slow evolutionary process that began in 1690 with a single publication created not from a drive within the publisher to inform the public, but as a means of earning a living, and it was the product not of people schooled in how to objectively and fairly present essential information to a needy public, but of people looking to advance a personal agenda and make a buck in the process. And if you think about it, it could not have been otherwise, given the circumstances of the times and the state of journalism brought to the colonies from England. Unfortunately, efforts to increase readers, and thus advertisers, meant that early news organs were often sensationalistic and not infrequently blatantly untruthful, and more than three hundred years of practice has not moved the profession very far in that regard.

Today’s news journalists are mostly the product of J-schools and communications programs where the evolved state of the journalistic art includes a set of ethics and standards intended to instill objectivity, honesty, forthrightness, fairness and balance in their students, qualities that did not exist, and could not have existed, in Colonial American news journalism. It is disturbing to find so great an inability of reporters and news organs to adhere to those standards today that so resembles news journalism in the years after 1690, when no standards yet existed.

But regardless of the poor state of journalism today, Burns’ Infamous Scribblers gives an interesting view of the days prior to the first newspaper and the early developments, and his descriptions of the first colonial publisher, Benjamin Harris, and a later publisher named Benjamin Franklin, and a few notables in between, give us a lively perspective on the origins of our current media. I’m looking forward to the rest of the book.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Greetings From Smoky Florida

We came here as the result of a weird process. The private college where Diane works held a fund raising auction and some of the Trustees had donated a week at their timeshare, and in order to help the school and also hopefully help us get a week in Key West, we bid on and won one of those. After nearly two years of trying, we were unable to book a week in Key West; apparently no one wants to give up their week there. So, we settled for a week in Pompano Beach, FL, where I had vacationed with my parents.

Well, we drove down Friday and Saturday, and checked into a nice room. We didn’t encounter any smoke from the wildfires at the Georgia border like we expected, but Pompano had a smoke cover until Sunday. Not so bad.

However, the facility wi-fi connection has been down the entire time, and they don’t know when or if it will be fixed, so communications from me will be sparse.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I Lost A Friend This Week

Long-time readers may recognize the nom de plume “The Windjammer.” The Windjammer preferred to remain anonymous to readers of Observations, and I shall respect his wishes for privacy.

I have known The Windjammer for 10 or so years, and liked him for his wit, his intelligence his good sense and his kind ways. We spent a good bit of our time discussing politics and we agreed most of the time, and we had a similar sense of humor, so we exchanged jokes, too.

Several days ago I emailed him to ask if everything was okay, since I hadn’t heard from him in a while. I got an email answer from his grandson to tell me that The Windjammer had died on Monday. He was with his family at the time.

He had told me of some ailments and problems, but I didn’t think much about it, since he was nearly 80 years old, and most of us have some physical problem or another, too. He didn’t tell me that he had cancer.

The world is a poorer place because he is gone, and I will miss him greatly.

Rest in peace, Windjammer.

Friday, May 11, 2007

TV and Kids

Back in the late 70s to mid-80s when I was teaching school, I was trying to figure out how to keep kids interested in what was going on in the classroom. By that time teachers been assigned the responsibility to motivate students to learn, a job I always thought was the parents’ responsibility. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying: Trying to make learning interesting has always been a proper role for teachers, and the good ones know how to do it. But making kids want to learn is not, or should not be, the teachers’ responsibility; that should come from the home. The teacher’s job used to be, and ought to be still, to present material to students and help them understand it, but things have changed dramatically in public education.

Over the last 40 years the American family has all but collapsed, with huge a percentage of kids being born out of wedlock and growing up in single-parent families. Many single parents—moms, mostly—trying to raise their children alone work hard to do it right, and some are successful, but for practical reasons many others aren’t. Still others don’t have a clue how to raise a child, and a lot of those don’t really care. Consequently, kids are not getting the training in the home that they need for when they go to school, and the schools have, depending upon your perspective, either been assigned that responsibility by government, or have taken it over with the acquiescence or encouragement of government. Those among us who worry about our freedoms being eroded ought to pay particular attention to this sinister approach: When the people don’t or won’t do what government believes they should do, government will do it for them. Our increasingly paternalistic government saw children unprepared for school, and instead of addressing the societal failure that produced that problem has instead stepped in to “fix” the problem by shifting the responsibility from parents to government schools.

So, while I was in the classroom teachers were expected to motivate kids to learn, in addition to helping them learn. It became apparent that many kids didn’t have anyone at home imposing discipline on them, making and helping them study at home and monitoring their free time, and that most kids spent a lot of time in front of the television. When I analyzed what happens when kids watch a lot of TV I realized that the act of watching TV arms their subconscious with a host of expectations. When you think about it, TV programs are designed to hold kids’ attention and they do that by keeping things moving; they are a constantly changing mélange of sight and sound, and the result is that kids become trained to expect this same “programming” in the classroom. But no teacher can duplicate that effect, and the kids with less self-discipline and less motivation lose interest after a few minutes. There is a fancy name for this: Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADD/ADHD). My opinion is that we have raised this learned response to the level of a psychological disorder, and it is a recent development paralleling the increase of television sets in homes and the tendency to use TV as a babysitter. Back when I was in school TV was relatively new and not everyone had one, and ADD/ADHD was unheard of. However, since I have only a little training in the workings of the human mind, along with my doubts I must allow that ADD/ADHD may be real psychological problems, at least some of the time.

I don’t know what the answers are to this. Hardly anyone argues that watching hours of television each day is good for children, and some of the stuff that is available for kids is pretty wild stuff and unacceptable for young minds. But in my opinion what they watch isn’t the only concern; that they watch has caused and is causing many problems. However, unless and until parents get a dose of responsibility, not much is going to change.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Weird Period of Time for Observations

The last few weeks have been crazy. I've been extremely busy and haven't had the time to spend on the site.

I'm headed out of town for a week or so, so this period of sporadic activity may continue through that period.

Please keep checking back, though, because I hope to get back to more regular posting soon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Woman Shot While in Her Car

Linda Burnett, 23, a resident of San Diego, was visiting her in-laws in Los Angeles and, while there, went to a nearby supermarket to pick up some groceries. Several people noticed her sitting in her car with the windows rolled up. Her eyes were closed, and she had both hands behind the back of her head.

One customer who had been at the store for a while became concerned and walked over to the car. He noticed that Linda's eyes were now open, and she looked very strange. He asked her if she was okay, and Linda replied that she'd been shot in the back of the head, and had been holding her brains in for over an hour.

The man called the paramedics, who broke into the car because the doors were locked and Linda refused to remove her hands from her head.

When they finally got in, they found that Linda had a wad of bread dough on the back of her head. A Pillsbury biscuit canister had exploded from the heat, making a loud noise that sounded like a gunshot, and the wad of dough hit her in the back of her head. When she reached back to find out what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brains.

She initially passed out, but quickly recovered and tried to hold her brains in for over an hour until someone noticed and came to her aid.

Linda is a blonde and a Democrat, but I'm certain that's irrelevant.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

International Cooperation Nets Capture
of Suspected Sex Offender

The 45-year-old man who is accused of raping his daughter and posting the film on the Internet, and one of American's most wanted sex offenders, has been captured in Hong Kong after a worldwide manhunt. Police say that Kenneth Freeman injured four Hong Kong officers as he sought to evade arrest at the city's main airport.

Federal officers received a tip-off from Chinese police that Freeman was in China but, as no extradition treaty exists between Washington and Beijing, they had to wait until he tried to leave before arresting him.

Freeman was first arrested in Richland, WA, on three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child in November, 2005. He was released on a $50,000 bond and later fled after additional charges were filed against him. He failed to show for a scheduled court hearing in Richland on March 23, 2006, and has not been seen since.

The US Marshals Service in Washington said in a statement that the video of the rape was one of the most downloaded items of child pornography on the Internet.

Two points:

First, we must allow Freeman the presumption of innocence until he is proved guilty, but his behavior seems to support his guilt. Creeps like this are some of the worst miscreants on Earth, and we need to add crimes like this one to the list of capital crimes. Since their crimes are so hideous and despicable, and since so many of them commit additional crimes after being incarcerated, there is no reason to keep them in prison. Try them, and if convicted give them an appeal, and if the verdict is upheld, put them to death, and the sooner the better.

Second, I don’t know just why China decided to help us apprehend this fugitive, but perhaps this is a sign that progress of developing relations with the Communist nation can occur.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Something Rotten at CBS?

Imus Fired: Take Two

Brief recap: Radio host Don Imus was fired a couple of weeks ago for doing what he always has done on his morning radio program. For this newly determined indiscretion Imus apologized. And apologized. And apologized, ad infinitum, ad absurdum, ad nauseum. And all for naught, it turned out, because his bosses at CBS and MSNBC determined that all of a sudden the radio fare that Imus had been turning out for three decades was no longer permissible on their air.

Imus’ attorney Martin Garbus told ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" that CBS Radio and MSNBC had delay buttons but didn't use them when Imus made racist and sexist comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team last month. Both CBS and MSNBC have denied they could have used a delay button. (Source)

But Garbus asserts that "CBS and MSNBC both knew the language that was going out, and both knew the language complied with (Imus') contract. ... It was consistent with many of the things he had done." He cited a contract clause in which CBS acknowledged that Imus' services were "unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial," and that the clause said Imus' programming was desired by the company and was consistent with company rules and policy. A $40 million lawsuit seems to be in the works, and if Garbus is correct about the clause in the contract, CBS not only knew the nature of the content of Imus in the Morning, but also wrote into the contract a clause that guaranteed that content would be aired regularly. Imus, in fact, would be in violation of the contract and subject to action for breach of contract if he had failed to produce the content that ultimately caused CBS to fire him.

This legal morass will wind up being sorted out by the courts, if a settlement is not reached first. But if Imus’ attorney is correct, CBS messed up in caving into pressure from activists and advertisers.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Call It What It Is: Illegal Immigration

No beating around the bush here. No deliberate obfuscation, or euphemistic niceties to protect feigned sensitivities, and no effort to circumvent unwarranted outrage, people who come into this country without following the proper procedure—that means illegally—are going to be called what they are: Illegal aliens. They aren’t “undocumented workers” or “undocumented immigrants,” they are illegal aliens, plain and simple. Period.

This is a simple enough concept that nearly anybody can understand it: Title 8 Section 1325 of the U.S. Code, "Improper Entry by Alien," says that any citizen of any country other than the United States who enters this country without following the prescribed procedure has committed a federal crime, punishable by criminal fines and imprisonment for up to six months. Repeat offenses can bring up to two years in prison.

Every country has not only the right but also the duty and responsibility to control who comes in and who goes out. It is just amazing that so many people in the U.S. either don’t realize this fundamental principle, or disagree with it. We should have learned something on 9-11 about sloppiness in determining who gets in and why they want to be here, and about keeping track of those we let in. We also should have learned that there are people in the world who hate us and our way of life and are determined to put an end to both. Unfortunately, the well justified concern we should have about prospects for our future survival and existence has melted away in the heat over George Bush winning re-election in 2004, over an unpopular war that our Congress approved, and over misplaced sympathy for folks in other countries who are less fortunate than we.

Not all illegal aliens are bad people, of course, but not all illegal aliens are good people, either. They all share one big negative, however: They broke the law to get here. It doesn’t matter what the motive is for any illegal alien in this country. It doesn’t matter if they are terrorists seeking to do us harm, or if they are salt-of-the-Earth people from south of the border coming here to make a better life, or if they are drug smugglers from South America trying to ply their trade, they are all the same in the eyes of the law if they came across our border illegally, and we had better wake up to that reality.

The question isn’t what do we want our country to be like? It isn’t whether we want X percent of our population to be this or that, or whether there should be more of one sort or another. No, the question really is who decides what our country is going to be like? Will it be the citizens who were either born here or legally emigrated here from another country and adopted our culture as theirs? Will it be those of us who are citizens and who have a stake, a vested interest, in maintaining the fundamental society given to us through the revolution more than two centuries ago?

Or will it be those who come here from another place they didn’t like, or that couldn’t meet their needs, who came here not to become Americans but to remain who they are and expect us to adapt to them? Will it be people who actually want to fundamentally change our society to suit their needs and wants while we just sit and watch, or worse, through ignorance or neglect or warped thinking help them?

The following story came in the email the other day. I think we ought to heed its message:

I bought a bird feeder. I hung it on my back porch and filled it with seed. Within a week we had hundreds of birds taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food. But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio, above the table, and next to the barbecue. Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table...everywhere. Then some of the birds turned mean: They would dive bomb me and try to peck me even though I had fed them out of my own pocket. And others birds were boisterous and loud: They sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed at all hours of the day and night and demanded that I fill it when it got low on food.

After a while, I couldn't even sit on my own back porch anymore. I took down the bird feeder and in three days the birds were gone. I cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had built all over the patio. Soon, the back yard was like it used to be...quiet, serene and no one demanding their rights to a free meal.

Now lets see...our government gives out free food, subsidized housing, free medical care, free education and allows anyone born here to be a automatic citizen. Then the illegals came by the tens of thousands. Suddenly our taxes went up to pay for free services; small apartments are housing 5 families: you have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an emergency room doctor: your child's 2nd grade class is behind other schools because over half the class doesn't speak English: Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box; I have to press "one" to hear my bank talk to me in English, and people waving flags other than "Old Glory" are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free liberties.

Maybe it's time for the government to take down the bird feeder.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust!

The follow-on operation in Iraq is definitely not going well, which is evident even in those unusual times when we get to hear both sides of the story. But every so often something very positive happens that even the biased media can’t keep quiet. Such an event happened yesterday when according to news from Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in an "internal battle" between militants. Al-Masri has led the group, which is blamed for or has claimed some of the bloodiest insurgent attacks in Iraq, since June 2006 when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a US air strike. While it isn' t certain that al-Masri is dead, we can certainly hope this story is accurate, and until otherwise known. let's assume he is.

These incidents are notable for a couple of reasons, first that another senior al-Qaeda operative has been eliminated, and second that they occasionally get their just desserts despite the fact that these cowardly leaders send out brainwashed men, women and children to do their dirty work for them.

This event is noteworthy, but it isn’t cause for true celebration. It’s true that another brutal thug who doesn’t care who or how many people he kills has met a fitting end, but the reality is that some other punk will soon take his place.

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