Friday, April 29, 2005

in the beginning... there were questions

And thus I enter the world of blog. I would like to point out that my generation of X-ers were among the first to publish on-line journals courtesy of our university servers back in 1996. At the time there was considerable resistance from certain peers who viewed our personal homepages as a pathetic attempt at personal ads. Obviously they didn't see the potential, and e-mail was more "all the rage" at the time.
Anyways here we are and why it's taken me so long to get back into the on-line journal I can't really say. I do feel that we, as intelligent beings, should be contributing to a greater discourse regarding the current state of affairs and so here is my attempt. I should also point out that I have no idea how to cull the good blogs from the various "junk" out there. Is there a place where blog abstracts are listed by quality of discussion? I hope someone will get back to me on that. It'd be nice to be a part of a good idea-exchange. Additionally, what's the best medium to incorporate RSS and XML technology? Currently, I am using MyYahoo! but the ads and other crap is distracting to say the least. For that matter, is capabale of RSS feeds and such? Thanks for offering feedback, I am quite the blog-novice - as information technology changes, we are all continually having to learn new protocols but alas,
the "mind-race" is never finished.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

NY Times delivers anti-democracy propaganda

Letter to the NY Times Ombudsman April 26
...with response by Ombudsman Byron Calame

Dear Editor,
I read Juan Forero’s article, "US considers toughening stance toward Venezuela," of April 26 with great alarm. The US government is proposing financing private foundations and businesses with tax-payer dollars for the sole purpose of undermining a fellow democratic government. This has happened in the past and is not too shocking to see it again, but what is most alarming is that the Times couldn’t put any names to the American official quotes or provide details about which organizations will be receiving the money. In essence, this is our tax money being diverted to covert operations to undermine democracy with no accountability. You report, " A multiagency task force in Washington has been working on shaping a new approach, one that high-ranking American policy makers say would most likely veer toward a harder line." Why do you not mention any of the task force agencies? How can you not name any of the high-ranking American policy makers or describe what "a harder line" could entail? You take pains to avoid criticism of US administration policy, "United States support for groups that Chavez supporters say oppose the government has been a source of tension in the past. Under the plans being considered, American officials said, that support may increase." Who are these tension-causing groups? Is it so secret you can’t mention them on the pages of the New York Times? Better yet, do you think these groups may have something to do with the cold relationship endured by US ambassador William Brownfield? Isn’t it telling that a sympathetic Congressman, Rep. Delahunt, who respects Venezuelan sovereignty, enjoys multiple visits with Chavez himself while Bush appointees can hardly get their foot in the door? Alas, your lack of substance continues, "Already counternarcotics programs have suffered, American officials noted." What do you mean? Describe which counternarcotics programs and how they’ve suffered! Which American officials should we direct our concerns to?
To finally drive home your GOP-pandering propaganda, your photo and caption has absolutely nothing to do with the article. The story focus is about the US considering financing operations to disrupt a sovereign democracy in response to not getting what the Bush Administration wants; but the editors have allowed a photo of Venezuelan soldiers - which spins the story completely around to make it appear that Chavez is preparing a threat for the US. A complete reversal! Read the headline and look at the photo – it should be US black-ops training in the jungle! How awful of your editors to let this version of a story print. Let us not forget the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The threat is here in our own "elected" government but according to the Times, it has no face and we might never know who’s trying to overthrow Venezuelan democracy. Democracy-loving people everywhere must be pleading - you cannot let this kind of deplorable "journalism" appear on your pages.

On May 24, 2005 Public Editor Byron Calame writes,

I'm sorry for the delay in responding to your e-mail. I became the public editor on Monday.
I share your frustration with the lack of named sources and players in this story, which makes it difficult for you as a citizen to hold them accountable. But I don't think it panders to the Bush administration.
The Times is continuing to search for ways to reduce the number of anonymous sources in the paper and online. A re-reading of your message suggests that there was enough information in the article to confirm you already-held belief that democracy in Venezuela is being threatened by U.S. actions--including some that may be covert. So it would seem to have had some value to you.
I'm unable to recall the online display of the story and the picture you mention, so I can't address that issue. I will pass a copy of this exchange along to a senior editor at to let them know you felt the picture showing Venezuelan military personnel was misleading.

Byron Calame
Public Editor
The New York Times

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Navasky is spot on...

Letter to the LA Times

Kudos for Victor Navasky's piece re: Objectivity is highly overrated (April 24). The public relies on journalists and the free press to make subjective sense of the facts. There’s simply too much information, let alone dis-information, being regurgitated by the press in the name of objectivity. Without journalists to make sense of the stories, the public is left with no greater insight than before the report of objective facts. It’s the journalists’ obligation to present subjective framework or context which make sense of the facts. Otherwise, the average American is too busy to fit the pieces together and the news ultimately means nothing. To be a democracy of quality we need quality of discourse. To be fair to David Westin and ABC, whose news programs could use more information and less sensationalism, his remarks seem well-suited to television news shows which currently hold very little informative value.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Conservative Christians - Always ready to annihilate their adversaries...

Letter to the LA Times

Dear Editor,
RE: Frist initiative creates Rift in GOP base, April 24. Why do radical Republicans in the Senate feel they must go nuclear instead of seeking compromise? In choosing to force controversial judicial appointments by scrapping the filibuster, 51 Republicans are representing the interests of whom exactly? I hear no one besides conservative Christian groups supporting the so-called nuclear option. I’m baffled by the severity of such drastic measures caused by a single powerful special interest. Surely there are enough good Christian judges who are qualified for the federal bench on which we can all agree? Why bring the Senate to destruction? Prior to the "Justice Sunday" simulcast featuring Senator Frist, I’m betting most of the church-going audience has very little knowledge about the nominees themselves or what their rulings suggest about their views. Judging by the nature of the broadcast (which was to portray Democrats using the filibuster against people of faith), I doubt if viewers will be anymore informed if just plain angry and ready to pledge money for TV ads supporting the nuclear option. This particular judicial matter has very little to do with religion however; the nominees seem more concerned with protecting inter-state commerce, relaxing environmental regulations, and eliminating social programs. So why are a few Republican senators trying to make this a religious issue? Is it simply because conservative Christians are their constituency? What’s puzzling then is why, in the same week they’re about to use the nuclear option, they feel compelled to reach out to their churches to portray the filibuster as an illegitimate liberal power-grab? Why would Senators feel they must explain the issue in such a manner? Why sling make-believe mud on your constituents so they’ll get angry at Democrats? Instead, why not share the nominees’ records of rulings and decisions? If they are so deserving of confirmation that Republicans would resort to "M.A.D." politics, why then, do most Americans know nothing about the nominees? Why aren’t Republicans announcing to the world the great jurisprudence of the nominees and encouraging healthy debate on their degree of activism? Instead they’re crying foul at the minority who waves a simple banner, "don’t tread on me." I am a Christian and I am ashamed by the Republican party.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

reform local news television

Letter to the LA Times

Dear Editor,
I must commend the Times and young Andrew Barr [Give them quality and they will watch, April 16] for pointing to real solutions for the dismal state of local television media. We the people desperately need quality media journalism in a medium that is easily absorbed and presents local in-depth coverage. Local television stations have powerful resources, which are too often squandered on sensational or emotive stories of little significance. Instead, television media should report stories related to local and regional economy, public health, and government. Please spend more time on these issues and even consider highlighting "municipality of the week." In choosing to cater to an information-seeking and community-conscious audience, local television can attract an untapped demographic which seeks to avoid sensational, sound-bite-ridden video news releases.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

GOP's "mainstream"

Letter to the Washington Post,

Upon reading your article by Ronald Brownstein, [GOP Pounces on Byrd Link to Liberal Group, Wednesday, April 6] I remain only confused by Brian Nick’s portrayal of Byrd as "out of the mainstream," for taking campaign money through the "out of touch" progressive organization. I’m wondering what Nick’s "mainstream" actually means. What is the GOP definition of mainstream, and isn’t it different from the Democrat’s? Isn’t America divided politically? Furthermore, how does Nick know what characterizes those people who would be "in the mainstream," or as he labels MoveOn, "out of touch with West Virginia?" Your article does not mention if Brian Nick has ever been to West Virginia. This GOP "pounce" is more of a knee-jerk response, and seems a rather pathetic attempt to portray MoveOn members and beneficiaries as "out of touch" with reality. It’s incredible to see Tom DeLay’s Republicans complaining about campaign donations from legitimate organizations. I wonder who’s really out of the mainstream? Could Republicans simply be jealous they don’t have an efficient organization to reach the masses? As an ordinary citizen who believes in Senator Byrd for taking a stand and being a leader of conscience, I was one of the 3,500 first-time contributors through MoveOn. It was average Americans like myself contributing less than $100 who raised the money for Byrd. Frankly, I can’t afford the $500 a head, no-press-allowed, fundraising dinners the Republicans expect from the "mainstream."