Northern Valley Beacon
Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Anatomy of some lies
I owe a debt of gratitude to South Dakota War College for putting on a demonstration of what I discuss in the previous post. I cited SDWC because the blog endorsed a lie. Creating a falsehood through a dishonest paraphrase and by isolating a comment or question from the context it references is lying. A false paraphrase is not a matter of interpretation. In this case, it is a matter of turning a rhetorical question into an assertion in which the paraphraser inserts his/her own words and meaning. Changing a question into an assertion is a deliberate act of altering grammatical structure. . It is intentional and overt. No more evidence that a deliberate distortion has taken place is needed. No matter how hard the Ministry of Truth strains to justify it.
The paraphrase of my comment posted on South Dakota Politics does not restate the original facts or ideas fully and clearly. It substitutes words and infers meanings that are nowhere suggested in the original comment.
In the field of editing this tactic is called subreption.
Subreption is calculated misrepresentation through concealment of the facts and making inferences drawn from such misrepresentations. Professors and journalists are fired for it. Students are failed for it. Bloggers flourish on it.
I called out SDWC on the basis of the false representation of what I said in a blog comment. I know that SDWC thinks of itself as the stone tablet of campaign tactics. I know that SDWC flies into indignant outrage at anyone who does not take its "advice" as scripture and divine law.
I have been involved in political campaigns for more years than, I think, the author of SDWC has lived. I have been involved as a journalist who has covered campaigns and issues. And although my positions as a newspaper editor and then a college professor prevented me from taking a partisan stance, I was involved in the Republican Party as an issues analyst and campaign strategist. SDWC insists that I don't "get it." The author presumes that I am a retired professor possessed of an elitist attitude who cannot connect with the idea of what it takes to win an election. He says my concern is about asserting my "intellectual superiority" while his concern is about winning.
That is another way of saying that his focus is bitch fights. Mine is how to implement democracy in the State of South Dakota. And that gets into a very fundamental and huge difference between the political philosophies we embrace.
SDWC belongs to the professional athletic brand of politicking. It believes that candidates are at fault if they do not regard the voters as conditioned organisms just waiting to be given the right stimulus to trigger a desired respone. Candidates lose elections because they are not adept a manipulating the preconceived prejudices and gratifications of the voters.
I do not believe that politicians lose elections because they have not deftly manipulated the conditioned responses in the voters. I believe that voters are given the opportunity to exercise rational choice. When they vote for certain candidates and rejects others, they are exercising their choices. They are not merely reacting to stimuli that they have been conditioned to respond to. So, voters generally get what they want. And they, in a democracy such as ours, are ultimately responsible for what they get.
SDWC sees politics in terms of slogans that fit on postcards. We see politics as issues that require exhaustive study and debate. It is exceptonally patronizing to the voters to think that ultimately they only respond to and remember phrases and slogans. Patronization is the ultimate insult.
This is not to say that a considerable number of people do not vote according to misinformation, prejudice, and seething bigotry that political operatives stimulate as the basis for the way they vote. Yes, there are people out there who are like Pavlov's dogs and they salivate on command.
SDWC's philosophy on political campaigning is borrowed from consumer advertising. It is the philosophy that sells toothpaste by promising more and better sex with its use. It is the philosophy of tying one's messages to the prospect of gratification, not to the effort needed to make democracy truly work. The advice I got from SDWC was that I should not make statements that might upset some people's perceptions of themselves and their communities. Rather, I should wrap myself in meaningless platitudes and grovel and fawn. I do not question that the tactic works. It is the basis for one-party government in South Dakota.
I do not question that character assassination and personal attacks with patent falsehoods, subreptions, and distortions do not work. They got John Thune elected.
These are the factors that make South Dakota rank in the bottom of states for the basic qualities that define democracy. It ranks last for open government and citizen access. It ranks last for justice in its labor laws. It ranks at the bottom for its rate of poverty. It ranks last for what it invests in scientific and academic research. It ranks last for what it pays teachers. It hovers near the botton on the way it funds education. It has the lowest average wage in the nation. And the list goes on and on. And people vote for this status quo.
The task of political candidates is not to see how obsequious they can be in the hopes that a negligent electorate might put them if office. It is to address the quality of democracy. And of course the party that has put the state in the condition it is takes offense when anyone points out that the state has problems that need fixing.
SDWC has designed a postcard that features quotations of mine. All of them are presented in the same way. They contain no reference at all as to what occasioned them or what subject they are addressing. They are all models of the act of subreption.
SDWC explains that this postcard is what an opponent of mine could send out. I give my reponses.SDWC promotes and endorses repression
The quotation from me cited was, "However, that tactic still works in McPherson County, which a campaigner from the last election says is a hotbed of intolerance and repression."
Even people in remedial classes would ask, "What tactic? What is being talked about?" SDWC assumes no one will ask that.
The post from which this was taken was on the use of deceptive, hate-inspiring terms in trying to define the opposition. It was made by explaining why voters in McPherson County voted overwhelmingly for an ultra-regressive in the primary. It quotes a campaign worker. It comes out of situation in which campaign workers refused to go into McPherson County because of aggressive abuse they received there. They were called baby-killers, anti-lifers, and the death squad. To me, it is important to identify pockets of this kind of activity. It is important to let people know what kind of reputation they have earned. And it is important to let other voters know the quality of thought and expression coming from an area.
Most of the letters-to-the-editor of the meanest, nastiest sort in our local newspaper emanate from McPherson County. People who want honest campaigns and workable democracy have a right to know who is working against them. They have a right to know that they have candidates who do not cater to that kind of politics.SDWC advocates for closed, secret government
"Democracy is failing, and Aberdeen is a case study of how and why."
I am not sure of where this quotation was taken from. I can't find it in the NVB archives, but I have notes from a presentation on open government in which I stated this.
The point was that the essential principles of open government of the people, by the people, and for the people are being violated in America. South Dakota does not have laws which require open government. Rather, it has laws that make closed, secret government possible.
Aberdeen has had a series of incidents in which the workings of city government have been kept secret. It had some personnel crises in the police department in which personnel who were wrongly fired were bought off. It had a murder investigation in which a ruling of suicide made and all evidence involved in that ruling was suppressed. An elected official claimed that the taxpayers of Aberdeen were told all they need to know. It has non-profit agencies supported in part by taxpayer money that do not file reports of their activities or financial statements where people can review them.
Why would someone who expressed a concern about closed local government be considered controversial and inflammatory? Well, the people who want government closed and secret might find it to their benefit to keep it that way. I think it needs changing. Fast.SDWC defends racism
"People will go where they can realize the promise of America. Where does that leave Aberdeen?" This is another quotation of mine.
It is from a post regarding the fact that people came to an open meeting about rezoning some land in Aberdeen for a beef processing plant and protested the kind of people it might attract to the community. The protest also was expressed through some neo-Nazi postings on a newspaper discussion board.
My point leading up the quotation cited is obvious. When people have a choice, they will not come to communities that discriminate against them and oppress them. What is so outrageous about calling attention to racial attitudes and their adverse effect on the development of community?
Beats me.SDWC wants to drive off scientists and promote incompetence.
The quotation cited by SDWC is: "The Homestake Goldmine story is one of the most fucked-up accounts of what is going on with taxpayer money that George Orwell or Forest Gump could imagine."
Yes, I borrowed a term from the military vernacular that some people think is naughty. The quotation comes from a lengthy two-part posting on Homestake.
First of all, I am for Homestake's conversion into a Deep Underground Science and Engineering laboratory. You can go to the DUSEL webpage and see I am listed among the original supporters. I work with scientists in preparing technical reports and scientific papers regarding their research. The conversion of Homestake was orginally proposed by scientists and hundreds of leading scientists signed on to achieve that conversion.
The owner of the mine, Barrick Gold, balked over some liability issues and insisted that the state take responsibility for any clean-ups from mining acitivity that would occur. The first big screw-up came when Barrick turned off the pumps and let the mine start filling with water. That sent many scientist looking for other places to plan and conduct their research.
Then the Governor tried to salvage the project by promoting it as an economic development scheme. That drove off nearly all the remaining scientists in support of Homestake. They cannot work with business interests looking over their shoulders and pushing for research that can make money for them. Pure research does not work that way.
Many of the scientists who looked forward to working at Homestake found alternative places to set up their experiments. They will not come to Homestake. The mine is one of two now in contention for designation as the national DUSEL. Many people screwed up because they did not listen to the scientists. The mine has unique features that make it ideal for small particle research, but the attitudes of people involved make scientists wary. Colorado offers a much better social and intellectual climate. The kind of screw-ups that drove scientists off who were already committted to Homestake did not have to happen.
What is wrong about pointing out a colossal screw-up that the tax-payers have to cover? Oh, yeah, it might call attention to how that one-party government operates.
I do not think that SDWC advocates oppression, racism, secret government, and incompetent blundering. But in making subreptions of my quotations, he would define himself as opposed to correcting some very serious matters that degrade the quality of life in South Dakota.
And his statement about my not liking South Dakota is one he does not have the moral or intellectual right to make. There are things in South Dakota I do not like. There are many matters that need correcting.
Before problems can be solved, they need to be identified and defined. That is what democratic politics is about. It is not about false and inflammatory portrayals of individuals.
The political forces in power hold the state in thrall. They have a vested interest in keeping it that way, both for economic and political reasons. True freedom, equality, and justice is a threat to them. Political workers who advocate those democratic values are a threat to them. And so we get the kind of campaigns based upon slander and personal attack. It is in the interest of the powers that be not to let issues get brought up and examined.
Subreption is a form of lying. Another rhetorical question: Do we want a political regime that bases its power on lying, or do we want one that can actually build the state?
Monday, July 24, 2006
The Swift Boats are launched and the lies are a-flying
You can tell that the 2006 election campaign is underway. The Ministry of Truth (as Orwell called it) is out in full force to demolish the language by misrepresenting words and to exterminate any thoughts and ideas that do not conform to its party line.
Some comments I made recently concerning what the U.S. flag symbolizes became grist for the Ministry of Truth processes of distortion, fraud, and malicious misrepresentation that has become the official mantra of elements of the Republican Party. The blog South Dakota War College joined forces with with South Dakota Politics, an established leader in the business of defamation, to make some crude forgeries of language, which they attributed to me.
I am a candidate for the state legislature. That is the apparent motive behind the falsification of the comments I made in response to a posting on Clean Cut Kid’s
blog. I can envision the would-be character assassins slobbering over their keyboards at the thought of taking a real, live candidate out with their dishonest little missives. After making some points about the fact that a symbol, like the flag, is not the thing it symbolizes, I ended with what is an obvious rhetorical question to those literate and educated enough to read it:
“And if the flag represents what this nation has become under George W. Bush, well do you really want to salute it?”
The Ministry of Truth’s puppet at South Dakota Politics
transformed that question into this post.
“Newquist: Our Flag Isn’t Worth Saluting,” read the headline.
The comment, which did provide a link to my original comment, was: “David Newquist, Democratic candidate for the state legislature, questions whether the American flag is even worth saluting any more.”
While the comment provided a link, the false paraphrase was made under the assumption that a goodly number of the dupes who feed on degraded language and acts of verbal vandalism would not have the interest or integrity or the ability to read the original words in their full context.South Dakota War College
endorsed the false paraphrase.
My comment addressed the matter of whether the Bush administration has upheld the standards of liberty, equality, justice, and integrity that the flag is supposed to stand for. Deliberately misconstruing the question into the statement that I am advocating disrespect to the flag is a dishonest and grossly incompetent paraphrase. The basic rule of the paraphrase, no matter what venue it appears in, is that it must restate the original facts or ideas fully and correctly. Falsification through misquotation is a standard practice at the Ministry of Truth.
Ironically, the henchmen at South Dakota Politics took orgasmic delight when Professor Ward Churchill, a paragon of left-wing extremism in their eyes, was fired from the University of Colorado for misrepresenting material he cited in his work. Still, South Dakota Politics does not hesitate to engage in precisely the same acts of verbal fraud when it sets someone up for their dirty little verbal tricks.
The intellectual and moral deficiencies do not end there. They presume to portray my relationship and my regard for the flag. I am a veteran. I served under the flag of the United States of America. I served the republic for which it stands. And I am proud of that service. Too proud to let a couple of moral and intellectual incompetents denigrate my patriotism.
I served in Germany as a guided missile crewman and instructor. Our missile batteries kept 24/7 surveillance and readiness to respond to any threats to the NATO countries. Just as important as our efforts to meet any attack with immediate response was our work to cut through the propaganda clutter so that the messages of freedom, equality, and justice got through clearly on both sides of the Iron Curtain. That work is eventually what brought that curtain down.
On the NATO side of the Iron Curtain, we had two forces that circulated propaganda. One was a Marxist-based group that tried to foment revolution and the takeover of Europe by a Marxist regime through inspiring hatred of the U.S. through elaborate and nasty falsehoods. The other force was the remaining residue of Nazi Germany. Both groups practiced the same propaganda techniques. They directed contempt and derision at democratic leaders and democratic people. They characterized America as the source of all the world’s ills, much like the current crop of regressives in America and elsewhere do with what they regard as liberals. In order to give credence to their denigrations, they made false and inflammatory statements about American values and policy by making deliberate misquotations, taking words out of context, and substituting their own language and version of events for what was really said and what really happened.
It was part of our job to analyze and explain how the false representations were made. I never thought I’d be doing the same in the country that I served. The regressives in America have embraced the oppression, the bellicose nationalism, the dictatorial control, and the intrusion into private lives that characterize fascism. Constant ad hominem
attacks by the regressives serve that end.
South Dakota Politics and South Dakota War College are symptoms of the degradation of American politics. Issues cannot be examined and discussed. They can only demonstrate a vicious disrespect and a seething hatred for people who do not subscribe to their party line. They always meet opposing viewpoints with a rolling of the eyes and a defamation of personhood and personality. This is the politics of the lower order creatures clawing and pecking their way to a higher status within the dog pack or the chicken flock. It is the politics of the reptilian cortex. They stand for the opposite of the freedom, equality, and justice that are the driving principles of American democracy. I fought against these kind of political tactics in the military service. I fight against them now.
When a couple of petit-jihadists denigrate my patriotism and my service to my country through a contrived misconstrual of my words, they define themselves as enemies of what the flag truly represents. At least the flag that I served under.
The task facing America is to lift politics out of the intellectual dereliction into which it has fallen. Blogs such as South Dakota Politics and South Dakota War College demonstrate a massive failure in education. In the late 1960s and early 1970s we stopped teaching the principles of rhetoric as part of our college composition courses. Students, who were raging for “self-expression” found it boring and irrelevant. Most students coming out of high schools and colleges do not know or understand the moral responsibility of an accurate paraphrase or an accurate representation of other people’s words and thoughts. We educators caved in to the demands of our “market.” Blogs throughout the country show that many of our citizens have no concept of what comprises verbal integrity and rigorous discussion. That is why education, along with the issues of health care, environment, a sound economy that can sustain our own people, and social security needs addressing.
But education remains the first priority that makes creative solutions to the other problems possible. We still have to educate people to be capable of living in a democracy. Misquotation and taking words out of context are forms of lying. It isn't all that difficult a concept to grasp.
Friday, July 21, 2006
No, it's not a flock of ducks. The anti-abortion road show came to town.
The quacking got deafening.
They like to call themselves right-to-life because it sounds better than anti-personal-choice.
They came to town last week to drum up support for the anti-abortion bill in South Dakota that is the subject of a referendum on the general election ballot this November.
A local physician was invited to address the group of 100. The attack point is the Roe vs. Wade decision of the Supreme Court. The good doctor said, according to the local newspaper, that at the time of the decision, the Supreme Court justices ruled they could not determine when life begins.
That is not what the decision stated. It stated that if authorities in the fields of medicine, philosophy, and theology could not reach a consensus on when life begins, the judiciary was not in a position to make a ruling based upon sound data and reasoning.
The doctor says that there is a wealth of new scientific knowledge that clearly shows that life begins at conception. In 1973, the Supreme Court understood that a rudimentary organism was initiated when sperm attached itself to egg. The question is a matter of at what point that organism becomes a viable, sentient being. There has, in fact, been no definitive scientific determinations of when viable, sentient life begins. Rather, there has been a proliferation of the contoversy, much of it based on old religious dicta and voodoo science.
Then the doctor commented on the report from the South Dakota Abortion Task Force whose findings led to the abortion ban to be voted upon this fall. He said that many South Dakota doctors have voiced opposition to the report, but that the vast majority of those have admitted they read it.
Here is where the quacking gets ear-shattering. We wonder what scientific polling organization surveyed South Dakota physicians to determine how many doctors voiced opposition. How were the questions in the poll phrased to indicate how many admitted they had not read it? Or did the good doctor take this poll himself? Or is this another false representation driven by another mindless and dishonest zealot? Is "science" being represented by the likes of this doctor?
We did not poll South Dakota physicians. We had a conversation with one in which we asked if he had read the Abortion Task Force Report. He said he glanced at it, and when he saw that it was not writtten or intended to be a scientific proposition supported by a careful documentation of scientific evidence, he did not finish it. He put it aside because the fraudulent citations of scientific evidence and the deliberate miscontrual of the studies mentioned was sheer quackery.
The report consists of claiming testimony that supports its authors' position and refutes the validity of anyone whose views do not agree with the authors. It lauds the testimony of the anti-abortion witnesses and dimisses everything else. It makes no attempt at rational analysis. There is absolutely no review of the scientific literature and no critical balancing of the viewpoints cited.
And we, who have read the report, note that it is a classic example of logical fallacies, and the misuse of documentation. If anyone needs a good example of how to lie with alleged documention, the Task Force report is a prime one.
If what the abortion ban and its proponents represent is science, we have regressed back beyong the Dark Ages into the primordial mists.
The campaign of 2006 is going to be one of the 21st century against the 8th.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Serbia Deploys Peacekeeping Forces To U.S.
[Here is a piece from The Onion we could not resist reprinting.]
BELGRADE–Serbian president Vojislav Kostunica deployed more than 30,000 peacekeeping troops to the U.S. Monday, pledging full support to the troubled North American nation as it struggles to establish democracy.
"We must do all we can to support free elections in America and allow democracy to gain a foothold there," Kostunica said. "The U.S. is a major player in the Western Hemisphere and its continued stability is vital to Serbian interests in that region."
Kostunica urged Al Gore, the U.S. opposition-party leader who is refusing to recognize the nation's Nov. 7 election results, to "let the democratic process take its course."
"Mr. Gore needs to acknowledge the will of the people and concede that he has lost this election," Kostunica said. "Until America's political figures learn to respect the institutions that have been put in place, the nation will never be a true democracy."
Serbian forces have been stationed throughout the U.S., with an emphasis on certain trouble zones. Among them are Oregon, Florida, and eastern Tennessee, where Gore set up headquarters in Bush territory. An additional 10,000 troops are expected to arrive in the capital city of Washington, D.C. by Friday.
Though Kostunica has pledged to work with U.S. leaders, he did not rule out the possibility of economic sanctions if the crisis is not resolved soon.
"For democracy to take root and flourish, it must be planted in the rich soil of liberty. And the cornerstone of liberty is elections free of tampering or corruption," Kostunica said. "Should America prove itself incapable of learning this lesson on its own, the international community may be forced to take stronger measures."
Hurry, build some gas ovens, papa. The immigrants are coming
Some local business people have obtained necessary rezoning to build a proposed beef-processing plant at Aberdeen. As happened when Aberdeen was in the running for a turkey processing plant, a significant number of people have ranted and raged about the kind of people such enterprises would attract. The Aberdeen American News reported this reaction at a hearing on the rezoning:
Some audience members were more blunt. Jerry Mork of Aberdeen said the plant would create "a new underclass of citizen." The crime rate will go up and it won't be safe to walk city streets at night, Mork said. He said he recently moved back to Aberdeen from Grand Island, Neb., where a meat-packing plant has caused serious problems.
"If this foolishness gets approved...your (city) slogan needs to be 'Life was good in Aberdeen,'" Mork said, referencing the "Life is good in Aberdeen" motto.
Some very disturbed citizens have e-mailed me with a link to the Aberdeen American News discussion board, which contains a number of comments in a similar vein. When people on the board point out that such comments are racist and discriminatory, the commenters get indignant. They aren't racist, they insist, they are just concerned about the ethnic purity and the social conditions of pristine little Aberdeen.
I received the e-mails because I am a candidate for the state legislature and the writers expect their representatives, present and potential, to do something. The authors of the racist comments may be a minority, but they do succeed in coloring the whole community with a brush of intolerance, ignorance, and hatred. The ultimate issue arising from such a reaction is, as one correspondent put it, why any business would come to Aberdeen when its potential employees will be greeted with prejudice, malice, and discrimination. Having worked for consulting firms that have done attitude surveys in market areas, I say unequivocally that businesses do not come into communities where their workers will be subjected to ethnic and class discrimination. It affects productivity and quality and creates problems that savvy businesses know they have to avoid. So, even if the hatred exists among a small minority, shrewd business owners know it is an insidious force that can kill a business that is trying to get underway.
I come from immigrants. All of my grandparents came from Sweden. When I was a child, I heard every Polish joke cast as a Swede joke. The Swedes came to Moline, Ill., in droves to work in John Deere's factories, and they were charged with overrunning the community and creating an underclass that had difficulty with English, was inherently stupid, and did not wash their pits sufficiently.
South Dakota has a long reputation for its racial intolerance. Alexander McKenzie, once the boss of the Dakota Territory, attributed the Swedes with genetic mental defects. The author of the Wizard of Oz
, L. Frank Baum, wrote a couple of newspaper editorials in Aberdeen calling for the extermination of the Sioux. Hutterites and other German-speaking people were driven out of South Dakota during our conflicts with Germany. I still hear the terms "niggers" and "prairie niggers" coming out the mouths of people regarded as solid citizens.
There is not much a state legislature can do to cure endemic hatred and racism and malevolent bigotry. Legislation cannot eliminate ill will toward humans and the desire for ethnic strife and its ensuing violence. One commentator in the discussion thread suggested that the 2,500 soldiers who have died in Iraq did so to preserve his right to express his hatred against immigrants. Legislation can only indirectly counter this kind of thinking.
There are two major things that can work to identify and contain the sources of hatred. The first is absolutely open government. Legislation, as has been enacted in most other states, can require that every government activity that affects the people be done in the open and with public access to its records. Some people connected with government who are posturing for the Aberdeen beef plant are the very people I have heard in private settings make vicious comments about ethnic minorities and the working class in general. If all government functions were done in the open, the people would at least know what kind of thought processes and aspects of character were shaping their community.
The other matter that could use legislative help is education. Education has failed the people of South Dakota. It has failed because it is run by politicians who feel indebted to a power structure that really does not want public education and fails to give it adequate funding and adequate freedom for competent and dutiful teachers to do their jobs.
As for Aberdeen, I don't think any legislation can change the justified perception that it is a town held hostage by ethnic intolerance and is a backwater of mainstream America. The problem can be addressed by the community's journalists, its churches, and its schools if the teachers had the authority and support to banish the class discrimination and hatred from their schools. Anyone who is connected with education, whether as a teacher, a parent, or an alert observer, knows that social forces in schools are an obstacle to learning for some kids and is, in fact, creating a new class of alienated children and dropouts.
Businesses will go where they can operate without social obstacles interfering with their operation. People will go where they can realize the promise of America. Where does that leave Aberdeen?(And, hey, SDP and War College, that is a rhetorical question.)
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Why blogs suck
We have received some inquiries as to why there is diminished activity on progressive web logs and if I plan to resume the frequent posting level we once did.
I have never believed that blogs are particularly valuable or effective. If one believes that playground bickering and insult and abuse is significant political discourse, then one might want to keep breasted on what is being said on blogs. The only people who believe that blogs contribute information and insights into political discussions are bloggers. They like to think that they comprise a nifty little sorority (or fraternity, if you prefer) of commentators that utilize the technology in ways that are revolutionizing politics. But most blogging commentary is the kind of thing one finds on public restroom walls or down at the local tavern when the hour gets late and brains falter.
This is not to say that blogs do not represent some political attitudes. They are probably more a symptom of political attitudes than they are a cause, however.
When the Press Project got its funding and personnel together after the election of 2004 to make a catalog of rhetoric from that election in the upper Midwest, the participants raised the question of whether blogs should be included. The analysts who did the collecting and classifying of rhetoric were largely professors and journalists. Initially, none of them wanted to examine blogs. They did not think the level of scurrility and defamatory content warranted serious consideration. The director of the Project decided they should be included and found that, at first, he had to do the work himself.
The section of the Press Project report on blogs affirms what many suspected. Blogs are more the products of adolescent egos than they are of mature, well-informed brains. Bloggers spend an inordinate amount of time stroking their own erectile little egos than engaging in real political intercourse. The audience, therefore, is limited because the vast majority of people do not enjoy watching others trying to get off or participating in a circle jerk.
The Press Project did a small survey as part of its analysis of blogs to see how informed, educated people regard them. Some points:
- While blogs like to claim that they are alternatives to the mainstream media, readers also realized that the information they present does not go through the fact-checking editorial process that the better media require. Although the media do make mistakes, readers think they attempt to be reliable and blogs do not.
- The lack of editorial process shows up in the writing itself. Bloggers tend to think they are clever, witty, and original--notions they would be disabused of if their copy went over the desks of competent editors.
- Most people think that reading blogs takes a tremendous amount of time to obtain a balanced perspective on an issue, and it is time wasted.
- Bloggers are offensively cliquish.
- The level of nastiness on blogs is the kind of politics most people wish to avoid.
Another factor is that most people do not like the on-line versions of newspapers and electronic media. They find they do not get a full version of the news--something that has gotten more pronounced as major media try to streamline and unclutter their web pages. And readers find pop-ups tremendously annoying and discouraging .
This is not to say that the readers are not very critical of the main stream media. They think that many smaller news organizations are no better than the blogs.
Blogs that received some good reviews from the public are Josh Marshall's "Talking Points Memo" because it tracks and develops the stories it chooses to emphasize. But in the upper Midwest, some of the web sites that received the highest confidence from readers were the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press pages. They wished that their local areas were covered as thoroughly as those newspapers cover Minnesota. They also cited the CNN, MSNBC, PBS web sites and the Google News summary as ones they frequented and found helpful and reliable. In South Dakota, educated people found Mount Blogmore a site of note. It is moderated by working journalists
Dr. Silas who oversaw the Press Project says that the mainstream news media may take much criticism from the public, but it still has a credibility factor that eclipses blogs. The publishers and producers of mainstream news organizations, he says, are missing the point if they try to compete with blogs.
The conclusion is that blogs will be with us, but that the Internet in many ways has complicated the process of disseminating information and is cumbersome and time-consuming. Busy people turn to the Internet when they want specific information, and they use search engines first.
Is blogging on the wane? Not really. It is of interest mostly to bloggers, however. Some serious political operatives are looking for more credible ways to get their messages out and engage in discussion. But as long as there are people who believe in their own preciousness, there will be blogs.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Renewable energy? It's a matter of will
A Washington Post columnist says that global warming is an engineering problem, so we common folks can't do much about it. In my home state of Illinois, some engineers are trying to figure out how to turn the state's massive coal supply (it contains more energy that Saudi Arabia) into truck fuel. However, the process releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, which is the major cause of global warming.
Can we be energy independent in a short time? Yes. But the problem is that the solutions to economical, reliable, and abundant energy are tied up by people with schemes who are hoping to make a windfall.
In South Dakota, wind energy is a tremendous possibility. So, why is there no development? Because the policies governing wind energy favor corporations who want to put in mega-watt generators that tower in the air and require the leasing of private land. Then there is the transmission line matter and who would buy the energy produced.
As one engineer put it, we can build and maintain an interstate highway system, but we can't come up with a way to put up electric lines that can carry energy across the nation. The reason? Corporations. They want to control the lines.
There is a solution to wind energy that few people talk about. Instead of putting up mega-watt turbines that cost about $1 million a piece, there are smaller units that run between $50,000 to $100,000 and can run a farmstead with surplus energy sold to a distributor or they can run an electrolysis unit which produces hydrogen out of water. Here is how the National Renewable Energy Laboratory describes the possibility:
Renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics (PV), wind, biomass, hydro and geothermal can provide clean and sustainable electricity for our nation. However, some types renewable energy are limited by the fact that they have intermittent and seasonal energy production. One solution to this problem is to produce hydrogen through the electrolysis of water and use that hydrogen in a fuel cell to produce electricity during times of low power production or during peak demand or to use the hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles.
In South Dakota and in most places, the people in government who deal with energy issues are more devoted to helping corporations make profits from energy than in finding ways for small, independent producers to break their dependency on corporate-controlled energy and to become self-sufficient. Wind-hydrogen power could make farming profitable again.
This is a big issue facing South Dakota. It requires electing officials who have the will to build the state and help the people.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
The unfinished business of liberty
Independence Day is a time when attacks of intellectual nausea can be fatal. The smarmy, the fatuous, and the flat-out stupid (as Ron White says, stupid can't be fixed) use the occasion to make patriotism and the celebration of our nation's real virtues demented exercises. The Fourth of July is not merely a time of celebration, but is a time of reflection on how well the nation is living up to the precepts announced in the Declaration of Independence.
In 1852, an ex-slave and master orator, Frederick Douglass, gave a speech titled "What to the slave is the Fourth of July?" He acknowledged the force of American democracy in the world, but he also stressed that not everyone in America had the benefits of that force--in his time, particularly the slaves:
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.
He honored America, but with reservation because of its unfinished business in bringing liberty, equality, and justice to all its people. Today he would be called a traitor, anti-American, and all those other epithets used by the political Babitts to cram their calendar-art patriotism down the nation's collective throat. His words still ring true.
We, as did Frederick Douglass in 1852, hope the day will come when all Americans can celebrate America. But its business is far from done.
We are not so much interested in mindlessly flying the flag and talking about the advantages of our nation as we are in making those advantages available to all people. It is meet and salutary to celebrate our country.
But tomorrow we have to attend to unfinished business. And it will not be pleasant work. The enemies of freedom, equality, and liberty from within our country are as threatening as the terrorists from without. They attack, however, by insidious means. Read the neo-regressive blogs, if you must remind yourselves who must be included among the enemies of liberty. But be prepared for massive bouts of intellectual nausea.
Just as Frederick Douglass encouraged the fight against slavery and those who would deprive Americans of their inalienable rights, so we recognize the huge fight confronting us to take America back from those who see political success only in how many people may be maligned and oppressed.
We have a chance to finish the business of liberty with the election of 2006. And that is what we are reflecting on today. Tomorrow is time for action.
Happy Fourth of July. May it be really happy next year.