Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Searching for Where the News Can Be Found

Or a Personal Quest for Journalistic Quality

I've always been fascinated by history and current events (which is simply "live" history), seeking out knowledge wherever I could.  This dates to the stone age before the Web, back when we had to read newspapers, magazines, books, and watch Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News. Eventually, as cable finally made its way into our family life, there was the news addict's dream made real by CNN and then the quick fix provided by CNN Headline News.  Heady (or headliney) times, it couldn't get better than this! 

Of course, it wasn't easy to get some of the quality newspapers as The New York Times and The Washington Post were only available at the library. But I did have a subscription to Newsweek for a couple of years that I treasured.  That fell by the wayside due to a lack of money brought on by disability, but in the early 1990's I purchased my first computer, a Packard Bell 486SX-25 with a 2400 baud modem in it.  After perusing bulletin boards on dial-up, I received one of those unavoidable America Online floppies in the mail.  I joined the service and began to find news in virtual print once again.

Watching Less, Reading More

In the meantime, various cable news networks had popped up and while available on satellite TV, I felt there had been a decay in quality slowly becoming evident.  By the mid-90s, format changes were making it all feel more tabloid like, more entertainment and personality driven.  Cable news hit its zenith during 1991 when covering Operation Desert Storm and never quite hit that level again.  I watched it less and less.

So I turned toward content I could find online, though it wasn't easy or convenient to find.  The Web came into being and I dipped my toe in the water via AOL's built in browser.  As internet service became available locally, I signed up to the very primitive connectivity in my rural area.  After giving up on it and returning to AOL, the service finally became reliable and I signed up again using OS/2 Warp's Web Explorer to crawl around the new web.  I remember that new place called Yahoo just starting up, then Netscape taking the web browser to a whole new level.  By that time the OS wars were over and I was stuck with Windows95. At last came a new piece of software that looked like it would fulfill all my dreams of news gathering in one place.

A News Junkie's Dream

That program was called Pointcast and it was wonderful!  I could set it up to download the news from all sorts of sources, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.  It all flowed into the program in the background when I was dialed into the Net and I could read it once disconnected.  That was needed, because even a 56k modem in 1996 took awhile to get any content off the copper wires.  It was bliss, news nirvana, and I couldn't stop extolling it to others I knew.

Of course, it didn't last.  The infrastructure wasn't there yet for so much data being downloaded at once, it was overloading servers in business environments which were the main users of Pointcast.  Missed opportunities and the rise of Yahoo killed the endeavor within a few years.  I mourned that software's passing almost as much as OS/2 Warp's.

Signs of the Times

Thankfully, the newspapers and news cable stations had discovered the value of the Internet by then.  It meant I had to read while online, but the content was still there.  However, I started to see the same symptoms of rot that I'd seen with news TV.  The New York Times in particular was becoming less a journalistic bastion of integrity than a source of polemics.   By 2003, the Jayson Blair scandal broke and I wasn't surprised, as my trips to their website had gone from multiple times a day to once daily. The rot had become visible. At that point, it was a slow road to infrequently visiting the once venerable institution.  These days, articles are written the same way as editorials and there really is no difference.

At least The Washington Post kept it's integrity, I told others. For the most part, it did until the 2004 election drove it over the edge.  While not going into the absolute free fall that has turned the Grey Lady into a very bad joke, it did become more openly partisan.  Of course it was always a left wing newspaper, but a very respectable one.  After John Kerry's loss in the Presidential race, the paper began to go down the same road as it's New York rival.

This was unpleasant to recognize, because I didn't feel like I had much in the way of alternatives.  Oh there was the rising blogosphere, but that wasn't developed enough at the time.  Talk radio never appealed, because it is primarily personality driven with a penchant for theatrics.  NPR is possibly the best antidote for insomnia, between its nonstop leftist slant and gray drones speaking in the academic cadences of those who've never really lived life. 

Signal Degradation

What of cable news?  Infotainment at best, rarely any journalism present these days.  Sensationalism is the main content, with talk radio style theatrics thrown in. Not a surprise as many shows are hosted by talk radio hosts. Most cable news networks are far left, with MSNBC on the lunatic fringe side of the spectrum and CNN catering to the left base.  Fox News is still tabloid in style, which I despise.  At least they report the stories the other networks refuse to, since that is where the ratings and eyeballs are. I feel as if I am praising Fox with faint damning's. The other networks are more concerned with being an active component of the Democratic Party than in being journalists. That includes the tattered remnants of the once proud broadcast network news shows.

A New Media:  Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss?

These days, the blogs are where to find information that the left wing media suppresses. Still, there is a huge amount of emotionalism to this new media and one has to sift them to get good information.  It reminds me very much of the yellow journalism days of the 1800's.  The idea of journalistic integrity is a late 20th Century idea and I often wonder if there ever has been such a thing.  But trying to obtain that illusion at least keeps things more grounded in reality and honesty.

Currently, society in the United States is fragmenting rather than uniting.  The rise of blogs is a good indication of that, with the constant wars fought between even those claiming to be on the same side.  Just search for LGF or LittleGreenFootballs along with the word 'banning' to see the kind of wars that get fought, as that blog goes further left.  Of course, that is an exaggerated example as that blog has turned into an intolerant, totalitarian cult-like place.  Once upon a time it was in my links on this blog, but hasn't been for some time now.

Looking Across the Pond

So where to find the news?  I suggest reading the full links from various blogs, getting the original articles in case things have been misinterpreted or spun. You have to work to find out the truth, don't expect anyone to deliver it to you on a platter. For traditional news that hasn't totally degraded, check out newspapers from the United Kingdom, such as The Telegraph and The Times. It was a link on Drudge that inspired me to write this post, as I discovered I was part of a trend.  Imagine that, me being trendy!

It appears that there are more than a few of us American news junkies reading the newspapers of Great Britain to get news about our own country we don't get in print here.  What a sad and alarming thing statement that is!  I don't think our newspapers are dying due to a lack of an audience, but due to becoming completely out of touch with the majority of Americans. 

The Death of an Independent Media?

Now there is talk of the government bailing out the liberal newspapers, consolidating the leftist message by turning them into possessions of the government.  Because the majority of the federal government is made up by bureaucrats, it doesn't matter which party is in possession of the Oval Office.  Those faceless feds tend to be very liberal, which means the papers will be semi-official organs of big government no matter what.

Pravda anyone?

Sadly, that question won't mean a thing to many too young to remember the Soviet Union.  When a government controls the news, there can be no freedom.  It is up to us, the American people, to prevent this from happening.  Do we have enough people willing to fight for their freedom in this fragmented society?  It isn't enough to defend the Constitution, we must make sure that a vibrant and independent media exists, otherwise the First Amendment is just words.

Me, I'm wondering if I'll have to keep searching for honest journalism in the future.  The fact I'm looking to British newspapers for news isn't good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Decline of Polite Culture and Other Items of Interest

I started this blog for the purpose of being something of a journal so that I could look back and see what was going on in my life.  Unfortunately, between being a private person and not having much of a life, I see most of my posting being about things outside of my control.  That is, politics and world events. 

Ah well, it beats being a narcissist, I suppose.

In case anyone else is reading, a few things that caught my interest while being quite ill the past two weeks:

Victor Davis Hanson has a wonderful piece on the decline of polite behavior that is well worth reading through.

If you want good insights into the problems of the Middle East, few countries embody all the difficulties faced more than Lebanon.  That's where Michael Totten's work has been invaluable and his account of meeting Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader is absolutely fascinating. Read the whole thing.

Drew Emmer at Wright County Republican has posted Gov. Mitch Daniels' (R-Indiana) op-ed on the coming reduction of tax revenues governors across the United States will be facing.  It is time for government to tighten their belts just like everyone else. There are a lot of people struggling financially right now, including me.

Facebook is not a secure or safe place to be, unfortunately not a lot of people know how to make it safer.  Several weeks ago, a young friend of mine had his laptop infected by a hostile ad on Facebook that took quite a bit of doing to kill.  Watch out for anything claiming to be an antivirus that spawns popups like crazy!

I Know Seminary Is Hard, But...

Also found this on Drudge today: a report on a Satan worshipping teen setting fire to a church in California.  It turns out the fire was set in the chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Orangevale.  Being a Latter-day Saint myself, of course it caught my attention.  Since the fire was set shortly after 7 AM and the girl is fifteen, I knew she'd done it during Seminary.

One of the best things about my church is the religious education program that encompasses more than just 'Sunday school.' Since I converted late in life, I missed out on two of the better ones, Institute and Seminary.  Where Institute is for college & college aged members, Seminary focuses on that most precarious of times in one's life -- the teenage years.  In a modern world filled with all kinds of self destructive behaviors pushed by our culture, it is a refuge for kids trying to make the shaky transition from child to proto-adult.

Every school day morning, teens go to seminary early in the morning, before public school classes begin.  That requires a real commitment by the teen and by their parents, who have to get up just as early to run them to Seminary classes.  Besides teaching the Gospel, this requirement of hewing to a daily routine teaches perseverance and the ability to make and keep commitments. Yes it is hard to make that daily commitment and see it through.  That's no reason to set a pew on fire, however tempting that may be in the throes of teenage angst. 

A quote by President Gordon B. Hinckley illustrate the simple blessings that can come from attending:

“We urge all for whom it is available to take advantage of it. We do not hesitate to promise that your knowledge of the gospel will be increased, your faith will be strengthened, and you will develop wonderful associations and friendships”
Sadly, it appears this young woman hasn't taken full advantage of what has been offered her, instead she has allowed herself to be led down a dark path.  When kids start worshipping Satan, there are major problems below the surface.  That's why I'm gratified to see how the local Church and authorities are handling this in a truly Christian way -- by requesting that she not be punished and that she be given the counseling she so obviously needs.

In dealing with such cases, we need to follow the example of the Savior on the cross who said of those who crucified him, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34

70 Years Ago in Poland and Obama's Appeasement Fetish

I was reading The Drudge Report today and ran across the following fact.

September 17, 1939, Joseph Stalin attacked Poland as part of a deal with Hitler to split the country.  How do you commemerate this day if you are President Barack Obama?  You sell out the Poles to the Russians again! Representatives from the administration are in Poland and the Czech Republic to tell them the missile defense shield is off, something Putin has been demanding for some time. For a newly elected president who was supposed to be so intelligent, so smooth, so diplomatic and knowledgeable, Obama and company have shown themselves to be utterly tone deaf in foreign dealings.

There is a chance this callous behavior isn't born of ignorance and stupidity, though.  News has come down that Russia will be assisting Venezuela in obtaining nuclear technology.  The same Chavez run socialist state that has given assistance to Iran, a state rushing headlong toward the atomic bomb. Meanwhile, recent diplomatic caving ins to Iranian and North Korean negotiating demands puts us in a very weak position regarding nuclear proliferation. The pattern of wooing enemies and alienating allies from Honduras to Poland suggests a desire to oppose everything America has stood for in the last century.  It appears to be a rejection of everything done to protect the United States in the last sixty years.

At one point, people thought Jimmy Carter was the worst comparison to Obama that could be made.  Right now, he's making Carter look good by comparison. We live in very dangerous times and weakness is the last thing we need to be showing right now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years from 9/11

I remember when the numbers 911 came in for emergency calls and it took awhile to adjust to that, but in the end they became a standard part of the language.  Those numbers took on a whole new meaning eight years ago today. Instead of "nine-one-one" the first thing I think when I see the numbers in "Nine-Eleven."  It is a simple but profound change that affected many others, I suspect.

So I will remember the lives lost that fateful day and most likely will watch United 93 on DVD again.  It is difficult to because of the anger it provokes, but I vowed to never forget that day. Sadly, too many people have fallen prey to insane conspiracy theories or moral relativism regarding the events that cost over 3,000 people their lives.  The evils of Islamic fundamentalism still exist and we are slowly becoming complacent again. The consequences of that will not be good.

ACORN Has a Problem with Prostitution

Yes, ACORN, those community organizers who once had President Obama as a trainer, have a problem with prostitution.  What is bad about that, you think?  All of us should have a problem with prostitution, after all it is degrading and dehumanizing.  Well, ACORN's problem isn't that they oppose prostitution, it is that they more than condone it no matter what they publicly say.

Two young journalists in training decided to concoct the wildest scenario they could and approach an ACORN office in Maryland with it.  The premise was simple: a young would be politician and his girlfriend/prostitute are looking for federal help in finding housing for her to use as a brothel for underage El Salvadoran girls brought into the country illegally.

That should have been crazy sounding enough to get them tossed out, right?  Or get the police involved at the very least. Instead, the ACORN workers went out of their way to show them how to use this all for a tax shelter while giving practical advice on how to avoid the fictional pimp harassing the "prostitute." They didn't bat an eye at child prostitution and exploitation either, advising them to only declare three of the girls as dependants for tax deductions.

So what, you say?  Just a couple of bad eggs in one office don't show a problem in the organization.

Well... the two young investigators went to an office in Washington, D.C. next and check out what happened there.  Big Government has done a great thing exposing this story.

ACORN is a profoundly evil organization and needs to be shut down ASAP.  The fact they are getting billions of dollars from the stimulus is horrendous given their behavior and voter fraud cases going forth in the courts. Good grief, they are encouraging child prostitution!  I can't think of a more evil thing.

The two workers in the first video have been fired, but the big media is refusing to report on this outside of Fox News, talk radio, and conservative blogs.  There is something very, very wrong with our country right now, when such evil is being protected by the media.  I doubt we'll see much in the way of punishment for ACORN, they are joined at the hip with the Democratic Party and especially Obama.

Just disgusting.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sick Yet Again

It started with a sore throat on Monday, that lasted a couple of days before moving into the sinuses and now chest.  Oh for an immune system that worked right!

The brain no worky, so the only thing I have to post is what may be the prototype for the ultimate cat toy: levitating mice!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Is the US Dollar Dying?

One of my regular reads is the online edition of the Daily Telegraph published in the United Kingdom.  It was interesting to see what the most read stories were today and I think you will see a unifying theme in them:

1. Barack Obama accused of making 'Depression' mistakes
2. China alarmed by US money printing
3. UN wants new global currency to replace dollar

Then on the other side of the page was Gold hits $1,000

With the Obama administration printing more green to buy government bonds because the Chinese won't, you know something is wrong.  Then you hear that the Chinese are moving slowly over to gold in order to keep their investments from deprieciating radically and off in the distance alarm bells begin to ring.  Finally, there has been talk between Russia, China, and India about starting a new currency because the dollar isn't looking sound, but hey, that's just a bunch of wannabe's talking, right?  Except now the UN is talking the same proposal a few week later.  Yeah, there is something seriously wrong with the US dollar when the biggest holder of US debt is publicly complaining and planning to move to something else.

Is the dollar actually dying?  Time will tell, but one thing is certain -- it is very, very ill.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Irony of Labor Day and Czars

One has to appreciate the irony of naming a holiday after work.  Yes, yes, I know that the holiday is a paean to the "worker" of Marxist theology, but it still is amusing.

Speaking of Marxists, Van Jones resigned from the position of Green Energy Czar this weekend.  If you are a reader of the New York Times or Washington Post, or an NPR listener, or broadcast networks viewer, you probably have no clue who he is or what happened. The media censorship on this has been profound, with only Fox News, talk radio, and bloggers (imaging that) covering his radical positions for the past few weeks.  In fact, the NY Times is still covering up what happened.

Essentially, Jones is a stated communist who has made racist statements against whites for years and when called out by Glenn Beck, had his organization start a boycott against Beck's television show. But what sunk him is he is a "truther," a person who believes the 9/11 attacks were either deliberately allowed by the Bush administration or were actually committed by the government.  Van Jones signed a petition indicating his belief in the first scenario.

Personally, I find his other beliefs far more appalling.  The following link is very NSFW (not safe for work or family viewing) but I feel he needs to be exposed.  This video Van Jones produced and appeared in shows what kind of people are being appointed as "czars" with no Senate approval by Obama. They are people who hate America and put on masks to gain power over the country.

Now another irony I find is that Obama and his fellow devotees of socialism are using the term 'czar' with great fanfare.  Lenin & Trotsky must be rolling over in their graves, that whole Russian Revolution thing must not be hip enough.  Instead, the modern Marxist in America is using the title of the dictator the Reds overthrew.  Doesn't get more ironic than that!

Oh the proletariat, what has happened to you?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

An Eggcellent Guide

There seems to be a strong streak of silly running through model builders, with an almost fanatical devotion to Monty Python quotes for example.  Another thing that makes modellers happy is books that feature an insane amount of detail about a given aircraft, tank, or ship. 

This is what happens when the two meet.

Demented silliness at its best and a tribute to the sillier kits that Hasegawa puts out: the eggplane.

Captain Al

Continuing a series of posts about my late friend, Al Ulven.

As I've written before, Al loved to have fun and was pretty good at making his own if there wasn't any already in sight.  That skill served his desire for entertainment well, even as it occasionally exasperated others. Some of my more exasperated moments came as a direct result of Al fulfilling his retirement dream of owning his own boat.

I can remember him calling to say he had bought a boat which turned out to be a used Bayliner 2155 21" cruiser with trailer.  My father and I went to see Al's dream and Al gleefully showed off his first command -- Captain Al had been born. He even had a captains hat with the golden scramble eggs. It didn't phase Al that he didn't know much about boating or safety regulations. What mattered is that he had his ticket to fun in the sun on the Mississippi River.

It was love at first sight when Captain Al found his Bayliner and he adored the vessel over the years he owned it, though maintenance was far from his strong point.  It gradually faded from its initial glory, as he didn't have enough crew to regularly swab the decks and Al was slowing down a lot. We ended up assisting him on that and my dad did most of the maintenance work, especially during the spring and autumn when the Bayliner was either coming out of storage or going into storage.

While Al may have been slowing down physically, there was one thing he always liked:  moving at high speeds.  Fast cars entranced him, but were a little scary for him personally.  But the river looked open for miles upon miles and there he could race the wind.  At least until his deteriorating eyesite scared him one too many times.  More than once he had me get the Bayliner planing at high speed and enjoyed the ride, his face red from the wind and laughing gleefully the entire time.

On that image, I'm going to finish, for his various adventures on water require their own entries into the log.

Whoa! IRS to Run National Health Care?

The IRS will be the agency to determine who has acceptable health care under ObamaCare.

The IRS has been a loose cannon for a very long time, without any proper oversight.  Having them hunt down and punish people for having insufficient health insurance sounds great, doesn't it?  It would require a massive increase in personnel and power for this to be implemented.  Given their propensity to go after small fish and let the big ones off the hook when conducting audits, I doubt they would be any more fair dealing with health insurance regulation.

Does anybody rational think this is an intelligent idea?

The Creeping Cost of Bureaucracy or Baumel's Cost Disease

I'd never run into Baumel's Cost Disease before, but I find it most intriguing as it explains much of the runaway costs associated with healthcare, education, and government.  It also calls into question of how much we can cut from health care costs, especially when huge increases to the bureaucracy running it are proposed.  More paperwork means more labor, which means more money required, with any costs cut through other methods most likely negated.  Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if the increased costs of managing health care would dwarf all savings from streamlining other aspects. 

The intimidating thing about Baumel's Cost Disease is that it applies to education and all forms of government.  The more rules and regulations piled on will increase expenses that will never go down.  Eventually, you get to a place where you can't afford any of it.  Sound familiar?

Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

A Suprising Newspaper Promotion

You would never see this in the USA these days.  The Daily Telegraph is giving away a voucher to pick up a free 1/72 Revell Spitfire Mk. II kit in the Saturday editon and another in the Sunday Telegraph for a 1/72 Revell Hurricane Mk. 1!  This warms my heart as it should any scale model builder and I hope parents take advantage of this opportunity across the pond.  Those two fighters were the backbone of the Royal Air Force in WWII, so a great chance at a history lesson is there besides teaching the joys of model building.

If such a thing were done here, it likely would cause a bunch of gray haired gentlemen to fight over the newspapers, I'm sad to say. The loss of hobbies where boys use their hands has been one of the more distressing changes in our society, as more passive forms of entertainment have taken over. You don't see that many youngsters building kits, they would rather be playing video games or watching movies.

As soon as my room is repaired and everything moved back in, I'll be eagerly getting back to finishing some kits myself.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Getting Closer to Real Transformers

This is a portable shelter that sets itself up with a push of a button.  Interesting to see if they get the costs down, I can think of quite a few applications for it from disasters to military.  I particularly liked the idea of it as a classroom for disaster stricken areas.

A Truly Useless Idiot

Sometimes there will be a public figure that gathers a following with rhetoric and positions that sound reasonable, even if you don't agree with them.  Then at a later point, the mask will come off and they will be revealed as nutcases or evil manipulators of the truth.

I haven't decided which Pat Buchanan is or if he is both.  But it is clear that he has very strong fascist leanings with his continued attempts to rewrite the history of WWII and Adolph Hitler in particular. There are so many things wrong with his statements in this article that I barely know where to begin.

First off, Hitler did want war, trying to make him out to be a peacenik who was forced to invade Poland is utterly deranged.  The British escape at Dunkirk enraged him as a failure to crush his enemy, he didn't let the troops escape.  The only reasons he tried peace attempts with Britain was due to his plans to double cross Stalin and invade the Soviet Union -- Adolf didn't want a two front war because of the drain on materials and troops. His dream of succeeding where Napoleon failed drove his foolish attack on the Soviets.

Then there is the farcical question about the Luftwaffe only having twin engine bombers.  The Nazi scientists were working on and did have four engine bomber designs, but they were at a low priority.  Why?  Simple answer:  they planned on having captured airstrips to fly their bombers from thanks to the blitzkrieg attacks being so successful at taking land.  The twin engine bombers were perfectly suited to this, where the four engine bombers needed large airstrips, as the US Army Air Force found out in the Pacific and England. Hitler's plans were concentrated on continental Europe and I often wonder what horrors would have happened if he's only had the one front war he expected.

Buchanan is either an outright liar or insane to be pushing this garbage, though history shows that both conditions are not mutually exclusive.  What is apparant is that Buchanan is a neo-Nazi, not just a sympathizer, but the full blown fascist that haunted the 20th Century.

He should be accorded no respect and his viewpoints widely publicized so that people will know what he really is.